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Showing posts from May, 2017

Memorial Day

On Memorial Day, the nation does well both to remember those who have died fighting the nation's wars and the importance of the citizen-warrior for preserving democracy.
Perhaps the greatest threat the nation faces is internal rather than external. In a New York Times commentary, retired U.S. Army Lt. General Karl Eikenberry and Stanford history professor emeritus David M. Kennedy expressed concern about the gap developing between Americans and their military(Americans and Their Military, Drifting Apart, May 26, 2013). They identified three components of the gap: The post-Vietnam War decision to replace the citizen-soldier Army with an all-volunteer force substantially diminished the tie between citizens and the military. Only 0.5% of the population now serves in the military, compared with 12% during WWII. Conversely, many military families view the military as the "family business," perhaps signaling the emergence of a military caste, something t…

Some possibly heretical views about Sunday School

Let’s be honest about Sunday School.
In my experience, clergy and laity widely regard Sunday School as an essential element of a congregation’s programming but equally widely hope that someone else will take responsibility for ensuring that Sunday School happens. This tacit disdain for Sunday School is evident in our delegating responsibility for Sunday School to newly minted and therefore inexperienced curates (in those few remaining parishes fortunate enough to have a curate) and fervent prayers that longsuffering volunteers will serve one more year. The proffered justification that youthful clergy will somehow instinctively relate better to youth and children lacks prima facie credibility. What that justification really communicates is that Sunday School may be necessary but is not one of the rector’s top priorities.
Sunday Schools began as a church-sponsored initiative to teach children to read and write in the days before universal public education. When publicly funded schools …

Fewer not more US troops for Afghanistan

The Pentagon has proposed sending an additional three to five thousand US troops to Afghanistan. The Trump administration appears likely to accept that recommendation. Sending troops into harm’s way and expending scarce government funds without a valid strategic goal is immoral. What possible strategic purpose will an additional three to five thousand US troops in Afghanistan serve? Fifteen years of efforts to train an effective Afghan army and police force have failed. Why should anyone believe that several thousand additional troops will be able to achieve that goal?After spending hundreds of billions of US dollars and the loss of the lives of two thousand plus US armed forces personnel as well as thousands of other casualties, Afghanistan still lacks a viable national government, genuine democracy, and protection for the rights of all Afghan citizens. Why should anyone believe that several thousand additional troops will succeed in achieving those goals?Taliban and other forces opp…

Lessons from a terminal diagnosis

Receiving a diagnosis of having a fatal disease shocked me last September. The experience underscored three truths: Few of us know when we will die. And, except in cases in which death is imminent (e.g., from illness), I would prefer not to know when I will die.The possibility of imminent death, always a possibility for everyone yet something that we invariably discount heavily to avoid becoming overly morbid and too risk avoidant, was undeniable. Moments became precious. Some South Koreans stage fake funerals to gain more appreciation of life by allowing death to become more of a reality.Upon being diagnosed with a terminal disease, I had no interest in shopping for healthcare even though I am fortunate enough to have healthcare coverage that often allows considerable choice of providers. What I wanted was a cure (something that is currently impossible) or treatment that would allow me to live as well and as long as reasonably feasible. I had a disease of which I had never heard, no …

Why won't Trump release his tax returns?

President Trump’s refusal to make his tax returns public is intriguing and troubling. The IRS routinely audits Presidential and Congressional tax returns. Yet former Presidents and most members of Congress have made their tax returns public. Possible explanations for Trump’s refusal include: His tax returns may reveal that he is not as wealthy as he would like for people to believe. Many real estate investments are heavily leveraged (i.e., mortgaged), so perhaps his substantial real estate holdings represent a relatively small net worth totaling in the hundreds of millions instead of billions.His tax returns may reveal that he derives a disproportionate share of his income from licensing his name instead of the successful real estate deals about which he boasts.His tax returns may reveal aggressive interpretations of the tax code that trigger repeated audits that are not always resolved in his favor.
If Trump’s tax returns would enhance his public image by showing that he possesses gr…

Aliens in a strange land

Aliens in a strange land
The focus of the Episcopal Café’s Magazine (a site to which I contribute a monthly essay – this is my April contribution) for April is captured in these questions: What is the relation of the Church, Government, and the American Experience? Where is the church called to be in these tense political times – a place of activism or a refuge from political rhetoric? Have we been hobbled by our declining influence or set free from our shackles to the establishment?
Those questions reminded me of William Stringfellow’s book title, An Ethic for Christians and Other Aliens in a Strange Land. I increasingly feel that I live in a strange land. Political polarization has displaced the mutual respect and compromise essential for democracy to protect the rights of the minority and the majority. Physical isolation with people connecting via social media has become the new norm, causing many communal organizations (including religious congregations) to wither and die. Growing…

The cost of saving a life

Today I researched on the internet the cost of the maintenance drug that I take to help extend the length of my remission. Although I could not find 2017 prices or the price at which the pharmaceutical company had sold the drug to the government in prior years, I did find lots of prices for the drug sold to individuals or non-federal healthcare providers in prior years. A reasonable estimate is that my monthly maintenance dose costs approximately $15,000. When that cost is combined with other treatment and healthcare that I have received because of having cancer, in the eight months since being diagnosed with cancer my care has cost more than $200,000. Ongoing care in years while I remain in remission plus additional costs related to forcing the cancer into remission a second and perhaps third time could easily drive the total cost of treating my cancer to well over one million dollars. Few Americans can afford to pay one million dollars to treat a catastrophic illness. On the other …