The War Within the States

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The sovereign people of these United States have spoken. Barack Obama has been reelected president of the Republic, and the Man from Kolob has been sent on his way. I would not have been much happier had Romney won. But Republicans may take comfort in the fact that they will have no responsibility for the next four years’ events, unless the Mayan calendar puts us all out of our misery on December 21. That might be best for all of us.

The problem is that our head of state is inheriting a bankrupt nation from himself—though said bankruptcy has been decades in the making. In such a position, governments generally either: a) inflate the currency; b) deflate it into a depression; or c) go to war. For reasons known best to themselves, modern rulers seem to prefer the last alternative. I fear that His Excellency may feel compelled to follow in their train—we’ll need a lot of bayonets and horses to break through to Tehran.

Infanticide and alternative matrimony shall become ever more prominent, and those who oppose such things will be increasingly uncomfortable. No doubt the Catholic Church’s struggles with the state will increase. Still, given that a majority of those claiming to be Catholic voted for Obama, it must be said that these worthies will reap what their predecessors in the purple sowed in terms of poor moral and political leadership.

“It is not merely the country as a whole that is severely divided. Each of the states is, too, and that does not bode well for the future.”

It is a gift from above that Obama defeated his rival handily in the popular as well as the electoral vote; otherwise it would be the turn of so-called “conservatives” to advocate abolition of the Electoral College. The left has long called for the College’s abolition based on the notion that it is undemocratic. It would have been sad to see historically ignorant Republicans embarrass themselves by echoing this rant. Since the 1913 change in the Senate’s makeup, the College has been the sole effective constitutional remnant of the states’ sovereignty.

Speaking of the states, the electoral map for 2012 appears to reveal the formula for a new War Between the States, with the Old Confederacy (save Virginia) and most parts of the Great Plains and Great Plateau states pitted against the Northeast and the Far West. But when you look at a map of how the counties voted, the pattern is more complex. The cities, together with rural counties of primarily black, Hispanic, or Indian populations, went for Obama. The white rural counties tended to go for Romney regardless of the state. It is not merely the country as a whole that is severely divided. Each of the states is, too, and that does not bode well for the future. The Republicans could reach out to minorities on social issues: In 2008, California’s mostly Hispanic Imperial County turned in the Golden State’s highest majorities for both Obama AND Proposition 8. But since the GOP’s leadership does not really disagree with the Democrats—whatever their base may think—this is a resource that will remain untapped.

Here in California, the 2012 election proved that all is well in this Happiest Place on Earth. Not only did our undead governor get his tax proposition passed, the Democrats won a supermajority in the state Senate and appeared about to do so (there are still three undecided seats) in the Assembly. Having over two-thirds of both houses will allow them to tax anyone or anything they wish with abandon. Still reeling over their ban on foie gras, I can only imagine what the legislators will do with their newfound freedom from restraint. Even if business continues to leave the state in droves, Sacramento will be a fun city indeed.

Los Angeles County had a few propositions of her own, of which the most exciting was Proposition B. Taking the porn industry under its maternal wing, the county under this measure requires that sex-industry workers wear condoms and that film sets are subjected to inspection by county authorities. Opponents replied with libertarian arguments. No one questioned the morality of the trade itself, since years ago a court ruled that while having sex for money without a camera was prostitution, doing it with one was not. One supposes that smart hookers keep their cell phones in photo mode. The proposition passed overwhelmingly.

So what are we to make of our deeply divided nation? The evil-minded would declare that we have become a country consecrated to infanticide, sodomy, confiscatory taxation, and foreign wars. The good and virtuous would maintain that we are an enlightened nation that has safeguarded reproductive and civil rights, are about to force the rich to pay their fair share, and are trying to spread democracy throughout the world. The separation between these two narratives grows greater every day. I fear the effect that national bankruptcy may have on these fault lines.

Countries and cultures come and go. It may be that the United States is on its way out, Mayan calendar or no. We leave behind some good—if not spectacular—contributions to world civilization: the Broadway musical, the Golden Age of Hollywood, and jazz come to mind. They’re nothing on the level of Roman law or Greek philosophy, but they’re worthy achievements nevertheless. There are worse things to leave behind, as the Carthaginians could tell you

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Heart and Soul

The heart beats strong for what it will
Yet still I seek to master
My thoughts within or outward spilled
Inviting sure disaster
The love I seek, or hope to keep
Isn’t mine to choose
The sweet delights and dreamy nights
Are only mine to lose
Our soul is but an open door
Through which flows passion’s fire
Though oft’ ignored, it stands much more
The beacon of my desire
The heart bestows on those who know
That love is never what it seems
The arrows flung from Cupids bow
Pierce the few and far between
Be still the beating of your heart
And to this verse stay true
The heart and soul both play a part
In bringing love to you

The Making of a Delinquent

Sheldon McAllister, the youngest of the three boys huddled beneath the west entrance awning of the church adjoining the schoolyard, was feeling almost dizzy with excitement. This feeling had been intensifying all morning, ever since Chris Sheppard and Matt Pike had approached him just before the start of school and asked him to join them during recess. He was far too excited during classes that morning to even consider the why of the invitation; it was just such a good feeling that they were finally including him in something. Anything!

While all three were altar boys, Chris and Matt had never shown any interest in Sheldon except as the butt of their private jokes. He had known them since they were all preschoolers together here at Mary Star of the Sea, but he had never quite fit in; they were both taller and stronger, while he was thin as a rail. Chris cussed and spit, even in front of girls, yet Sheldon was too shy to even talk, except when answering a nun’s question, which in and of itself was a rare event. Matt, meanwhile, was mean, but funny. Sheldon was polite and dull. But now all of that was finally changing…they had reached out to him. They needed him!

Now, here he was, right in the thick of it, keeping an eye on the nuns patrolling the schoolyard full of kids in their white shirts and blue-plaid uniforms. He was supposed to give a signal when Sister Mary Alice and Sister Jean slipped behind the rectory office to grab their forbidden smoke. But what kind of a signal? Should he whistle or cough? He had once watched a show on T.V. where the lookout for a group of men about to rob a store had whispered loudly, “Hey, morons…the coast is clear!” Yeah, that’s what he would do, minus the crack about the morons. But before he got the chance to practice the line in his head a few times, he heard his name almost shouted out. “Hey Sheldon, you freak, get in here!!”

Chris was already inside of the church door, holding it open for Sheldon and impatiently waving him in. Sheldon looked back at the rectory for any sign of the nuns, and then quickly ducked into the church. They weren’t’ supposed to be in here alone! Father Brendan had been quite clear about that this past summer when he had caught Richard Longworth, another of their altar boy clan, fishing quarters out of the metal offering box beneath the votive candle stand. This brought Sheldon back to his current situation. Exactly what were they doing in the church right now?

“Get over here, you putz!” Matt whispered with urgency. He was standing next to the 3 foot tall offering box at the foot of the stairs leading to the altar. Chris bumped him roughly from behind and Sheldon reluctantly went to join Matt at the front of the church. He’d say something about the “putz” comment later, he swore to himself, knowing full well that that was highly unlikely. He didn’t want to put his newfound “friendship” in jeopardy by making early demands for respect. Chris took up a position on the left side of the box, while Matt stood ominously to the right. “Reach in and grab the money,” whispered Matt, almost as a threat more than a dare. “What?” replied Sheldon as his stomach pitched sideways. “Your skinny ass arms are the only ones that can reach the bottom,” added Chris. “What?” repeated Sheldon, unable to put any other words together that would convey his growing panic. “Reach in NOW!” demanded Matt as he reached out and grabbed Sheldon by the elbow, physically pulling him to the opening on the top of the box.

“That’s stealing,” croaked Sheldon, his voice cracking, almost pleading. “If you don’t put your arm in the box right now, I swear I’ll break it!” warned Matt. And Sheldon believed him. This new friendship was not going as he imagined, but at this point what could he do? Slowly he reached into the top of the box, his eyes never leaving Matt’s glare. The front of the box opening sloped to the back, and there was a row of sharp teeth lining the edge before it sloped again back to the front. Sheldon could feel the metal teeth scratching his forearm, but by now he feared Matt and Chris more than he feared getting scratched up.

Sheldon’s eyes rolled upward, and in that moment he was looking directly into the sorrowful gaze of Christ nailed on a cross hanging over the altar. Ashamedly, he closed his eyes and continued reaching. He twisted his wrist around the teeth and reach down another few inches. He could feel the crisp bills against his fingertips. “There’s money in here!” he croaked. Matt giggled almost girl-like and suddenly Sheldon realized he didn’t really want to be friends with either one of them.

“Grab it!” yelled Chris, no longer whispering, all caution thrown out the window with the anticipation of the impending bounty. Sheldon wrapped his trembling fist around a couple of bills, and in that moment, the end of recess bell rang out loudly. Startled, he jerked his arm upward whereupon the jagged metal teeth dug deeply into the soft flesh of his arm. “Owww!” he yelped, astounded by the echo of his cry ringing through the Church. “Help me…I’m stuck. Ow!” he cried.

But Matt and Chris had bolted for the exit, leaving Sheldon impaled to the collection box at the front of the church. “Hey guys!!,” he yelled, “help me!”, but his newfound “friends” were already out the door and back into the playground. It was in that moment that Sheldon realized with a darkening sense of fear what was about to happen next. School mass followed morning recess and before the first tears could fully fill his eyes, the doors at the front of the church swung open, and his classmates began filing in.

Sister Mary Alice was the first to spot him. “What the hell!” she screamed. Sheldon could feel his knees buckling and the teeth dug in deeper into his arm. He could feel blood trailing down to his wrist. Almost floating in her long black and white habit, the red-faced nun bolted to the front of the church, grabbing Sheldon by the shoulder, and jerking his arm violently upward.

The last thing Sheldon saw before he blacked out from the mix of pain and fear was the gold cross dangling against her white starched collar.