Archive for August, 2010

Do we believe in America's freedoms?

After fundamentalist Muslim terrorists attacked the United States on Sept. 11, 2001, murdering nearly 3,000 people and destroying the World Trade Center’s twin towers, we Americans asked ourselves: Why?
Why do some Muslims — in this case from countries that are our allies — want to destroy us?
Some Muslim American clerics and scholars tried to answer that question forthrightly while at the same time condemning the attacks.
Imam Abdul Rauf was one of those. In a now widely quoted excerpt from an interview on CBS News’ “60 Minutes” on Sept. 30, 2001, Rauf said, “I wouldn’t say that the United States deserved what happened, but the United States policies were an accessory to the crime that happened.”
When I first heard this, I was incensed.
But it turns out that the statement was, as is so often the case in such debates, taken out of context.
It is now being used by opponents of Rauf’s plan to build an Islamic cultural center near Ground Zero in Manhattan, to suggest that he was sympathetic to the terrorists.
“Fanaticism and terrorism have no place in Islam,” Rauf said in that Sept. 30, 2001 interview with Ed Bradley of CBS News’ “60 Minutes.”
Bradley also noted that many Muslims in the Arab world are angry about America’s unwavering support of Israel against the claims of Palestinians, economic sanctions against Iraq and other aspects of our foreign policy in the region.
Rauf said some of the anger is “a reaction against the policies of the U.S. government” in which we espouse principles of democracy, but then support oppressive regimes and actions that result in the deaths of innocents.
“Are you suggesting,” Bradley asked, “that the United States deserved what happened?”
That’s when Rauf gave the answer you just read about our foreign policy being “an accessory to the crime.”
Yes, even in that context, it is an offensive statement, but Rauf was trying to explain honestly that our policies may have something to do with radical Muslims’ anger against the United States.
But many in the fall of 2001 didn’t want to hear that. Instead, the politicians’ and pundits’ simplistic answer was that these fanatics want to destroy our way of life because they “hate our freedoms.”
From the way they’re acting, you would think that many Christian and secular Americans hate our freedoms.
We say we believe in property rights, for example, but some Americans don’t want a group of Muslims to build on property they own two blocks away from the site of the 9/11 attacks.
We say we believe in freedom of religion, but some Americans think that right should not apply to people whose religions are different from their own.
President Obama recently waded into the controversy over the community center (it isn’t really a mosque, although it will include worship space), by affirming the principle of freedom of worship for all Americans.
“This is America. And our commitment to religious freedom must be unshakable. The principle that people of all faiths are welcome in this country and that they will not be treated differently by their government is essential to who we are.”
That is similar to what his predecessor, President Bush, said soon after 9/11, when he said spoke out strongly against scapegoating ordinary, moderate Muslims for the actions of religious fanatics.
America counts millions of Muslims amongst our citizens, and Muslims make an incredibly valuable contribution to our country,” Bush said, adding that Muslim Americans — most of whom were as outraged by 9/11 as other Americans were — must be treated with respect.
I believe that includes respecting their right to worship and their right to use their own property for legal, peaceful purposes.

Reading the tea leaves in Tuesday's election

John McCain pulled out a landslide Tuesday night in his re-election bid/AP Photo

After Sen. John McCain’s big win Tuesday for re-election over former U.S. Rep. J.D. Hayworth in Arizona’s Republican primary, one has to wonder if the tea party may be losing steam.

McCain won by a 2-to-1 margin over Hayworth, the conservative talk show host who was the tea party favorite, but he had to spend $21 million to do it. If Hayworth had succeeded, it would have been the biggest victory yet for the anti-incumbent, libertarian movement that has swept the country in the last year. McCain, although he calls himself a Reagan conservative, isn’t well-liked by the tea partiers because of his past moderate stances on issues like immigration and campaign finance reform — and the fact that he lost the 2008 presidential race to Barack Obama. But in this race, the old Republican establishment showed that it may have more staying power than many thought.

The real question for McCain now is can he steer the Republican Party away from the tea party’s right-wing extremism?

In other races Tuesday, the results were better for tea party candidates. In Alaska, Republican Sen. Lisa Murkowski, was trailing Joe Miller by a large margin about 4:30 p.m., according to Miller, who had the backing of former Gov. Sarah Palin, was boosted by his support of a parental notification measure for teens seeking abortions. That issue drew many late deciders to the polls in what would have been a low-turnout primary. In the weeks leading up to the election, no poll showed Miller with  an edge.

In Florida, another tea party candidate, millionaire health care executive Rick Scott, pulled out a surprising win for the Republican nomination for  governor, beating the Republican Party’s favored candidate, Bill Collum, with a campaign that included a get-tough approach to illegal immigration.

In Florida’s U.S. Senate race, Marco Rubio easily won the GOP nomination, defeating two lesser-known challengers, but in November, the ultraconservative candidate will have to face Gov. Charlie Crist, as well as a young African-American congressman, Kendrick Meek, in a three-way race. Crist, a moderate Republican, became an independent candidate after his embrace (literally) of President Obama  and his federal stimulus for Florida drove many conservatives into the arms of Rubio, who ran Crist out of the party.

As an independent, Crist, who was considered as a possible running mate for McCain in 2008, hopes he can hold onto enough of his moderate Republican base and siphon off enough of Kendrick’s more conservative Democratic voters to take the Senate seat in a state that is sharply and almost evenly divided along partisan lines. My guess is that he’ll have a good chance.

I will also venture to say that if the GOP continues to pick ultraconservative tea party candidates, it will drive more swing voters in some states toward the Democratic candidates. This would be more likely, however, if the Democrats would nominate more moderates and even Blue Dog conservatives instead of liberal candidates.

In  Kentucky, it’s unlikely that Jack Conway will win, even against someone as radical as Rand Paul. But if Paul were running against Congressman Ben Chandler, or someone in the mold of Virginia’s Jim Webb or Indiana’s Evan Bayh, I believe Paul would take a drubbing in November.

It seems, however, that in both parties, it’s always the candidates on the fringe who get the nominations, while the voters who decide the elections are the independents and moderates in the middle.

Editor’s note: It’s now official: Miller is the Republican nominee. Read it at

Gandhi on seven deadly social sins

Mohandas Gandhi

Gandhi’s Seven Deadly Sins

Mohandas Karamachand Gandhi, one of the most influential figures in modern social and political activism, considered these traits to be the most spiritually perilous to humanity.

  • Wealth without Work
  • Pleasure without Conscience
  • Science without Humanity
  • Knowledge without Character
  • Politics without Principle
  • Commerce without Morality
  • Worship without Sacrifice

To learn more about Gandhi, watch this 5-minute video biography on Videopedia.

Distinguished Young Women better name than Junior Miss

2009 America's Junior Miss Michelle Rodgers

When I first read that the America’s Junior Miss program had changed its name to Distinguished Young Women, I think I must have groaned.
Usually, when a group that’s well-recognized by its name changes it, it makes about as much sense as a phenomenally successful company like Coca Cola changing its formual after a hundred years or so (that actually happened briefly in the 1980s before Coke changed it back).
But there are  exceptions. In the case of the America’s Junior Miss program, Michelle Rodgers of Winchester, a distinguished young woman in her own right, convinced me that this name change was for the better.
Michelle, the George Rogers Clark High School graduate who is the 2009 America’s Junior Miss, spoke to the Winchester Kiwanis Club Wednesday about her great experiences of the past year representing Kentucky and the program around the country.
One thing that wasn’t so great was that when she introduced herself, many people who weren’t familiar with the program just shut down. “We aren’t interested in beauty pageants” was a common response.
But it is not a beauty pageant program. It is a scholastic program that raises millions of dollars a year to give outstanding young students scholarships so that they can have opportunities to make a difference in their lives and the lives of others. Michelle, for example, is studying theater at Northwestern University and wants to have her own educational theater company for youth. That seems like a good career goal.
While I’m on the subject of this program, I want to congratulate the new Clark County Junior Miss, Jordan Martin, who this month won the title to succeed Hana Tran, another distinguished young woman who has represented our community well.
And Donna Fuller, who heads the program here in Clark County, deserves a commendation for her excellent leadership and advocacy.
America’s Junior Miss, now Distinguished Young Women, deserves all the support it gets from businesses and others. It has greatly helped many deserving girls in fulfilling their dreams.

Randy Patrick is the managing editor of The Winchester Sun. Comment at world/

Rand Patrick for Senate

My Fellow Americans:

On Monday, the filing deadline for independents, I officially threw my hat into the ring as a candidate for the United States Senate. I want to take our country back — to the 18th century. Here is where I  stand on the issues:

1. Repeal the Constitution and replace it with the Law of the Jungle and the Sea.

2. Social justice is for sissies. No more handouts to old people, poor children and invalids.

3. Immigration policy. Build a wall around the entire country and revoke citizenship for those whose great-great-grandparents weren’t born here.

4. Health program: Don’t get sick.

5. Education program: Accredit only the School of Hard Knocks.

6. Defense policy: Withdraw from the UN and NATO and all international commitments. Make the military an all-volunteer border patrol force.

7. Drug policy: Legalize it.

8. Agriculture program: Grow marijuana and coca, but without price supports or conservation rules.

9. Energy policy: Build more Chernobyls and turn the Appalachians into the Eastern Plains.

10. Second Amendment: Encourage every able-bodied American citizen to join an anti-government militia and own an assault rifle and grenade launcher.

Thank you, and may Aqua Buddha bless the United States of America!

Please don't super size the kids

A strawberry glazed donut is not a good substitute for Cheerios and strawberries.

When I was 17 and working as a grill cook at Druther’s, a small Coke was 12 ounces, a medium was 16 and a large was 24. A Big Mac was considered a big sandwich, and a blueberry muffin was the size of a tennis ball.

Today 24 ounces is a small Coke at Wendy’s, not a medium or large, a big sandwich is a Hardee’s Thickburger, which has as many fat grams as you need in a lifetime, and a Starbucks muffin is the size of a softball on steroids.

Like most kids in the 1960s, I grew up eating junk food, but I didn’t eat it every day.

It was a thrill to get a cheeseburger and onion rings at Big John’s in Camargo after church on Sundays because it was so different from what we ate the rest of the week, which included — you won’t believe this, kids — vegetables!

Human beings are primates, which means we’re herbivores. We’re not canines, although some of us are pigs.

On the Sun’s health page Monday, I read that 34 percent of Americans are obese, which is defined as “extremely fat” or “grossly overweight.”

And yes, I resemble that description, and I’m not proud of it. But I didn’t get that way until I was an adult. Now kids get fat before they can even spell “spaghetti.”

On the news last night, the lead story was about an epidemic of early puberty among girls. Doctors think it’s caused in part by weight gain and inadequate exercise.

After dinner, I was looking over the Clark County school lunch menus, and couldn’t believe what I was reading. Options for every day included things like pizza, biscuits and gravy, nachos, cheeseburgers and chicken nuggets.

Fattening junk food should not be in your child's lunch box — or among the school lunch options.

Are they crazy? You can’t let children eat what they want! Parents shouldn’t, and neither should schools.

A friend who’s a young mother has a good rule. Her little boy eats whatever she cooks for herself. If he doesn’t want it, he doesn’t eat. That isn’t being mean. It’s loving your kid enough to be the parent.

I’m not saying a child shouldn’t have a hot dog on the Fourth of July or Chuck E Cheese on her birthday, but a kid shouldn’t have a steady diet of junk. Otherwise, we’ll end up with a generation of obese children.

Moms and dads used to tell their children, “If all the other kids jumped off a bridge, would you do it?”

Today, if you have the right equipment and skills, jumping off a bridge is less likely to lead to an early demise than years of sitting on the couch playing Nintendo and eating Doritos.

Please, parents, be mindful of what your children eat, set a better example yourselves and tell our school officials you don’t want them serving anything in the school cafeteria that isn’t nutritioius.

The Ireland that we dreamed of: land of saints and scholars

Street scene in Dalkey, summer 2010. Photo by Randy Patrick

This speech by Eamon de Valera, taoiseach of the Republic of Ireland, was given on St. Patrick’s Day, March 17, 1943, in recognition of the 50th anniversary of the founding of the Gaelic League (Conradh na Gaeilge), a group that promotes the Irish language and culture.
On this occasion, he set out his vision for an Ireland that was Jeffersonian in that he desired a traditional, agrarian society in which the Catholic Church would have a central cultural role. His dream is a far cry from the secular, post-industrial “Celtic Tiger” of the 21st century, but I think perhaps it is the better vision for Holy Ireland.

By Eamon De Valera

The ideal Ireland that we would have, the Ireland that we dreamed of, would be the home of a people who valued material wealth only as a basis for right living, of a people who, satisfied with frugal comfort, devoted their leisure to the things of the spirit — a land whose countryside would be bright with cosy homesteads, whose fields and villages would be joyous with the sounds of industry, with the romping of sturdy children, the contest of athletic youths and the laughter of happy maidens, whose firesides would be forums for the wisdom of serene old age.
The home, in short, of a people living the life that God desires that men should live. With the tidings that make such an Ireland possible, St. Patrick came to our ancestors fifteen hundred years ago promising happiness here no less than happiness hereafter. It was the pursuit of such an Ireland that later made our country worthy to be called the island of saints and scholars. It was the idea of such an Ireland — happy, vigorous, spiritual — that fired the imagination of our poets; that made successive generations of patriotic men give their lives to win religious and political liberty; and that will urge men in our own and future generations to die, if need be, so that these liberties may be preserved.
One hundred years ago, the Young Irelanders, by holding up the vision of such an Ireland before the people, inspired and moved them spiritually as our people had hardly been moved since the Golden Age of Irish civilisation. Fifty years later, the founders of the Gaelic League similarly inspired and moved the people of their day. So, later, did the leaders of the Irish Volunteers.
We of this time, if we have the will and active enthusiasm, have the opportunity to inspire and move our generation in like manner. We can do so by keeping this thought of a noble future for our country constantly before our eyes, ever seeking in action to bring that future into being, and ever remembering that it is for our nation as a whole that future must be sought.

Emerald Isle: Earth's most precious jewel

Much of Ireland's Wicklow Mountains area lies within a national park. Photos by Randy Patrick

Have you ever seen something so beautiful it makes your heart leap or brings a tear to the corner of your eye?
On a few occasions, I have. Once, while traveling along the winding Antrim coast of Northern Ireland in an old blue bus, someone in our group spotted a rare phenomenon: a double rainbow. We stopped and got out to take pictures, but film couldn’t do it justice.
The two rainbows were so vivid, they were like lasers. One end of each spectrum stretched over a steep cliff to the stormy Irish Sea whose waters were a palette of gray, purple and turquoise. The other ended in a lush field of kelly green where sheep grazed peacefully beyond drystone walls. And in the middle, framed by this technicolor light show, was a brilliant whitewashed country church, a steadfast symbol of the faith of Patrick and Bridgid.
I was awestruck.
It was all the convincing I needed that there is a God and that he is an Artist.
The ancient Celtic Christians told of “thin places” where the veil separating heaven and earth is as wispy as the lace curtains one still sees on windows in Dublin. This was surely such a place.
On the same road, however, we came around a curve, and there, far below us in an emerald valley was, of all things, a trailer park. It marred a beautiful rural landscape that was otherwise undisturbed by development for many miles.
If it had been a farmstead or a quaint village, it wouldn’t have looked so out of place. But it was out of place.

Hiking the headlands on Howth Island.

One of the charming things about Ireland is that unlike other ethereal landscapes — that of Kentucky’s Bluegrass Region or England’s Cotswolds, for example — it is not ruined by rampant development. For the most part, people live in cities or towns, and the countryside is left to farmers, who receive heavy subsidies to conserve the country’s natural beauty.
That is beginning to change, however, as the economies of both Northern Ireland, which is part of the United Kingdom, and the Republic of Ireland grow and modernize.
Last week when we were in Dublin, my traveling companion noted that the roads were clogged with many more cars than when he was last there, and freeways are beginning to stretch from the capital into the countryside. What will happen to the character of Ireland’s quaint villages and rural areas when these places that were once hours away along country lanes are only a short drive?
Not all change is good.
Ireland’s population is about the same as Kentucky’s, and only a tiny fraction of neighboring Britain’s. But it has the highest birth rate and lowest death rate of any nation in Europe. Consequently, it is a very young country.
And not many young people these days are inclined to continue farming — especially not when the Celtic Tiger offers so many more lucrative opportunities.
During our stay in Ireland, my friend and I went hiking along the high cliffs of Howth Island. It was stunning. South of Dublin we could see the Sally Gap in the Wicklow Mountains, where we would travel the next day. In the far north, we could see the Mountains of Mourne.
The trail we walked wound through dense flowering foliage — heather and gorse, Scottish thistle, red fuschia, dandelions the size of silver dollars, and, of course, shamrocks. Over the rocky coast flew seagulls, cormorants and magpies, and in the harbor, we watched seals trailing the fishing boats.

Ruins of the Glendalough monastery from across a stream that runs through a peat bog in Wicklow.

Later that day, on the train to the elegant seaside village of Dalkey, I read an article from the Irish Independent about the growing controversy over rural development. The columnist, Joe Barry, argued that it is time to treat food production and conservation as separate issues and support farming in environmentally sensitive areas.
Many Irish farmers, he said, are having a hard time making ends meet under welfare and environmental constraints that don’t apply to most of their global competitors. The Irish government and the European Union, he said, could continue to subsidize conservation on some farms, while allowing intensive farming (read: big agribusiness) or development on others.
I would hate to see that happen, because I’ve seen how that approach has ruined so much of the Bluegrass and other special places.
One thing I would like to see is the designation of more largely undeveloped places in both the Republic and Northern Ireland as national parks. Unlike in the United States, people live and work in national parks in Britain and Ireland, but there are strong restrictions on development.

While traveling to Glendalough in the Wicklow Mountains last Thursday, we passed through a vast national park that preserved the area’s stark beauty. In Northern Ireland, the government is also considering national park status for the rugged Mountains of Mourne.
While I want Ireland to be prosperous, I don’t want to see it become another Germany or Ohio. Ireland is an attraction to tourists and an inspiration for poets and artists because of its natural beauty and its country charm.
I hope it will always remain lovely Erin.

St. Patrick's lament: Ireland is losing its religion

Christ Church, Dublin, has become a museum of Christianity. Photo by Randy Patrick

On the grounds of St. Patrick’s Cathedral in Dublin, a simple plaque marks the site of the well where the bishop for whom the great church was named is said to have baptized converts in A.D. 450.

Although there were a few Christians in pagan Ireland when Patrick, a former British slave, returned to the land of his captivity as a missionary, it was he who kindled the flame of faith that quickly spread throughout the country.
And when darkness covered Europe following the collapse of the Roman Empire, it was Irish monks who evangelized the continent and saved civilization and Christianity.
Patrick. Brigid. Columba. Brendan. Aidan. Kevin. The names of Ireland’s saints are familiar to those who know even a little about the heroes of Celtic Christianity.
During our vacation in Ireland last week, a friend and I visited the Hill of Tara, site of the ancient pagan kings. It was on the nearby Hill of Slane that Patrick, in defiance of the high king of Tara, lit the paschal fire that signaled to the king and his druids that the light of Christ had come.
After nearly a millennium, that fire is only an ember.
If history is alive in Ireland, Christianity is dying. In a book I bought in a secondhand shop, “Empty Pulpits: Ireland’s Retreat from Religion,” journalist Malachi O’Doherty of the BBC argues that Ireland is losing its faith far more rapidly than any other European country.
Unlike Spain, France and Russia, which have anticlerical traditions, Ireland — until this century one of the most devout nations in Europe — went the way of the English, gradually becoming indifferent to religion. But whereas the English lost their faith in two generations, the Irish have lost theirs in one, O’Doherty says.
According to a survey by the Iona Institute and the Evangelical Alliance of Ireland, only one in 20 young adults between the ages of 15 and 24 can tell you what the first commandment is, and one in three can remember the name of the town where Jesus was born.
Church attendance in Ireland is still higher than in most of Europe, with 46 percent, mostly Catholics, attending weekly, according to the Iona Institute.
And a 2005 Eurobarometer poll showed that 73 percent said they believed in God, compared to 38 percent in Britain and 34 percent in France.
But how deep that belief goes, or how much it matters in an increasingly secular culture is harder to quantify.
Ten years ago, when I was on a mission in Belfast, I met Catholics and Protestants whose efforts to end the Troubles in Northern Ireland were motivated by an abiding faith. But I didn’t experience anything like that this time.
O’Doherty says the “new atheism” of Richard Dawkins, Sam Harris and other popular authors is gaining strength in Ireland and making it more acceptable to offend believers.
We saw evidence of that on our visit. One of our tour guides, a man who appeared to be in his mid-30s, made several disparaging remarks about Christians.
Another guide asked if anyone believed in spirits. Not a single person in the group raised a hand.
In The Quay, a pub south of the Liffey River, two musicians performed songs by the Dublin rock band U2, who are almost unique in that they are charismatic Christians in a culture that has little experience of that tradition. But the crowd was its most enthusiastic when it was singing along on R.E.M.’s “Losing My Religion.”
I had heard of deconsecrated churches being turned into pubs, restaurants and art galleries. Still, I was surprised when, returning from a soccer match, we saw a beautiful old church that had been converted to a retail outlet for lighting fixtures. Another old stone church is now the tourism center for Dublin.
From the window of our hotel room, we had a magnificent view of Christ Church, the great cathedral founded by the Viking Sitric Silkenbeard in 1028. But the medieval church had become a museum — a memorial to the faith.
The same was true of St. Patrick’s. We went there for the Eucharist on a Sunday morning, only to be turned away at the door because we were a few minutes late. They didn’t want any tourists wandering around inside during the service. But later, when we went back, we were charged five euros at the door and were astonished to see the back end of the nave had become a gift shop where visitors could buy coffee mugs, calendars and Celtic cross key chains made of Connemara stone. No one appeared to be praying, not even in the chapel reserved for private prayer.
There were many signs in Dublin of outright hostility to Christianity. One Lebanese restaurant we found was called Sinners, and its logo was a picture of a naked Adam and Eve. And I saw a man on Dame Street wearing a black leather jacket with a Devil’s Disciples logo.
My most disturbing encounter, however, was with a muscular, bald, middle-aged man who was dressed in black from his collar to his boots. Around his neck he wore a silver necklace with a pentagram, and in the middle of it was a goat’s head — both symbols of Satan. I took it that he was probably a Satanic priest.
I believe that if ever there was a need for another evangelist like St. Patrick in Ireland, it is now.

August 2010
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