Wednesday, November 3, 2010

California's Spare Change

I love California.
I do.
Though I no longer live there, it holds my past in its hands.

I grew up in the gentle sunshine; waking to the smell of salty sea fog and spicy eucalyptus trees.

I roamed the crumbly cliffs of Gaviota and Goleta; spent my summers among the vineyards and valleys of Northern California wine country, and learned to drive through the golden hills and orange orchards in the southern cities.

I remember spending Christmas Day on the beach in Santa Barbara playing volleyball while the Santa Ana winds blew warm air around me.

And my summers knew no boundaries.
I love the excitment of beach festivals and Los Angeles theater.

I love avocados, fresh seafood and the endless variety of taco stands.
I love the misty mornings of early summer and the sometimes wild wet winters when El Nino visited.
I love the dramatic change of mountain and desert; bustling city and sleepy seaside towns.

...but all this abundance of beauty, fun, and sunshine has a downside.

How could anything possibly go wrong when life ambles along so comfortably?
When disaster strikes, yet the surfboard is still waiting to catch the perfect wave?
When a job loss means more time to enjoy the sun?
It's a difficult thing to be a pessimist in California.
It's very easy to believe that no matter how dismal the economic forecast evolves, how great the unemployment numbers soar, how chaotic the civic structure becomes as illegal immigration takes its toll...the sun will still shine, the avocados will still ripen and the beaches will still offer up their waves in compensation.

But it doesn't...not really. All the fun in the sun merely puts off the inevitable.
And inevitably I became a Christian. Then, a Conservative.
I valued life and I valued liberty as I never had before because I learned to love the Author of life and liberty--Christ.
There are places in California where church life thrives and those places vote conservative.
As Ronald Reagan once said: "Freedom prospers when religion is vibrant and the rule of law under God is acknowledged."

But there remains a stranglehold on politics which places only moderates on the ballot box year after sunny year and conservatives have no choice but to vote for them if they're going to vote at all.
And after awhile, people began to believe no true conservative can win in California.

I disagree.
Truth is truth. It stands on its own and needs no 'moderation' to make it palatable.
The thing is--in California politics--timing is everything.

Living in another state for the past few years has given me some perspective on what my home is doing politically. The demographics shift and change continuously, but it is too large a state and much too diverse to ever pin down with a generalization.
It is a complicated place in some ways, and very simple in others.

But it isn't communist quite yet.

When Obama was elected with his "hope and change", many of my family and friends were horrified. They knew, as I knew, that this ominous "change" Obama repeated endlessly, would not make our country better.
The change we were hoping for had nothing to do with massive trillion-dollar bailouts and a nationalized economy.
It had nothing to do with communist organizing and a foreign policy reducing America to bowing and scraping to our enemies.
And we watched as a moderate America turned a blind eye to the liberal behind the curtain, and we waited as our fears became a reality.

...and then something extraordinary happened.

I began to realize what a blessing it was that this radical progressive implemented his version of utopia. We finally got to see it unravel.

Massive government expansion and welfare, governing against the will of the people, plunging millions into poverty for years to doesn't work.

And the Tea Party emerged.

And it reminded the rest of us that we have a voice in government. That the hypnotist who pacificed our wills with visions of prosperity, peace and the very earth tamed beneath his benevolence...was all an illusion.

What has any of this to do with my beloved California?

Last night the voters of my home state had a chance to put a moderate in the senate and fiscally responsible business woman at the helm of a sinking economy.
They chose not to.
Now my state is going to be run into the ground by a moldy hippy governor with the policies of a lunatic, and an arrogant, ungrateful incumbent will remain the sour Senator Boxer.

Even with one of the highest unemployment rates in the country; industry strangled by environmental hooey, and an education system down the rabbit hole...California was too scared to vote for moderate change and so kept the spare change of Obama's liberal promises.
I find it not a little ironic that voters struck down the proposition to legalize marijuana...with Governor Moonbeam at the helm, I imagine it would have eased the pain of the coming fiscal nightmares.
But that's okay.
Let the moderates go home and let the liberals reign.
I'm still an optimist.
You can take the girl out of California...

Timing. Is. Everything.
And California needs this time to wear itself out.
It falling, but it hasn't hit bottom.
So let these liberal dinosaurs have their way with my beloved home state.

California will survive.
It will not be all it can be. But it will survive.
And when the real deal--the true conservatives arrive--Californians will be ready.
Just as the Tea Party was ready.

The truth will defend itself.
And that means a conservative doesn't need to be moderate to win in California...they just need to be there at the right time.

The time when Californians tire of seeing their lovely state sink into the welfare hole.
Tire of watching their once-vibrant cities and towns decay and disappear under the heavy hand of static and stupid environmental laws.
Tire of listening to the lies about their broken education system when their children grow up illiterate and unmotivated.
Tire of unemployment and the rising crime that accompanies it.

And then they'll raise up the real conservative who believes California is as exceptional as it looks and as American as the rest of the country. They'll recognize the tried and true policies of tax cuts and a business-friendly sweep of deregulation to inspire economic growth.

And my fellow Californians will finally take out that spare change and toss it aside.
...then grab their surfboards and head for the beach.


Sunday, September 19, 2010

Is Life a Game?

When you picture a gamer in your mind, who do you see?

A pale, pudgy adolescent who never sees the light of day and speaks with a binary accent?

An indolent young man living in his parent's Dorito-strewn basement, saving his part-time work money for the newest game?

Or maybe something darker; more extreme?
...or maybe something wonderful.

Who are gamers?

I asked myself this question because I have six boys.
Now, I make no claim to any special powers of observation, but over the last two decades of raising boys...I've noticed some things.

But first a little personal history on video games:
Electronic gaming blossomed with my youth.
First it was "Pong", then "Pac-Man", and then it got a little more exciting with "Space Invaders". We saved our quarters and went to the local arcades, which were popping up all over the place (plug for capitalism here).
The boys went to compete for the highest score and the girls went to compete for the guys.
It was grand.
And along the way, I found out I loved to play the video games more than the social games.
I like them mostly because they offered me some autonomy.
Of course, I didn't process it quite that way at the time, but now it makes sense.
I won or failed all on my own.
I liked that. That was the challenge.
The appeal was that failing was not a catastrophic event...just humiliating if your friends were packed liked sardines around you and you missed the record for the all-time-high score by one lousy missle.

But I digress.

I loved video games from their inception...and I still do.
By the time the home-gaming system was perfected enough for me to afford it, I was married and having kids. When my boys got older, we bought a Ninetendo 64 and became BFF's with Mario and Co.

We raced with them across beaches and deserts; we jumped, kicked, flipped and woo-whooed our way through a castle full of flames, funny creatures and tricky illusions to find those golden stars. We defeated the Bowzers--each one harder to fight than the last.

Then Sega made some inroads and we discovered the darker world of "Vectorman" and the super-duper speed of "Sonic the Hedgehog" (I still think they made up a speedy hedgehog to play with gamer's minds)
Both those games took it up a notch for sheer survival.

Suddenly, Mario's leisurely strolls past giant pixel-eating flowers could no longer compete with cool-looking, segmented Vectorman who battled underground slugs with laser guns or self-detonating explosions.

And Princess Peach in a race car, trying to avoid banana peels, just didn't have the same punch as revving up the blue hedgehog and watching him spin his way through loops and twists with super-sonic speed, or bounding across platforms high in the air. But the thing we liked the most about Sonic was his survival capabilites. To defeat the "Boss" in a Sonic game, you had to simultaneously hit your nemesis and avoid his slings and arrows, and each level increased the slings and arrows.
Soon we forgot about high scores and focused on survival.
How many levels can you survive?

After a few missteps, the digital disc made its way into our lives and changed everything about gaming. The possibilities were endless. The graphics jumped light-years ahead of the clunky cartridge's two-dimensional character movements.
Plus...discs were so much easier to take care of and store (the mom-side speaks).

Over the ensuing years, I had more babies and new games developed more or less under my radar. I turned from surviving Bowzer and Dr. Robotnik to surviving child-birth and child-rearing in the midst of an unfortunate marriage.
Though I had a great love for Christ, the years of chaos were taking their toll. I began to see God as less merciful than He really is.
So in my effort to be the Christian I erroneously saw in other Christians...I fell into fundamentalism and forgot about grace.

Rules ruled my life.
And in turn the lives of my sons.
Video games were the first to go.
"Did you hear Johnny's mother lets him play that M-rated video game?" Gasp.
"Did you know they have witchcraft on that one video game? They have stabbing, shooting, blood...they have curse words!"
"Did you hear those kids who shot up their school played video games all day?"
"Did you hear...?"

Oh, yes. I heard everything.
I lived in fear on a daily basis, so this was grist for my fear mill.
Were my fears exaggerated?
Of course they were.

There are people who will take eating vanilla wafers to the extreme.
Human proclivity for extreme behavior is built right into our DNA. It's going to happen.
I can't imagine video games are exempt.
And there did appear to be a time of adjustment when game developers went through their stupidity-stage and created gratuitously gross and aimless stories which captured no one's imagination and fed the ever-widening culture gap.
I mean...did these guys actually think the kids were buying their games?

But there's a learning curve in everything, and the geniuses who really loved to play realized who gamers were...or who they were trying to be.
And despite my best and worst effort to build a perfect life, which would have done so much better left in the Lord's capable hands...I never did throw away the video games.
I just packed them up and waited.

Life ebbed and flowed. More babies were born.
Then something changed.
It was summer. I had just come home from a month-long stay in the hospital and had to recover from a catastrophic illness.
There was no homeschooling.
There were no trips because the air-conditioning had gone out on our car.
And in the high desert, you just don't go anywhere during the summer without air-conditioning.
So we were home all summer.
And a new video game came out.

It was called "Halo".

Fast-forward years later to September 14, 2010.
My oldest son (he doesn't eat Doritos, but he did save his money for the game), is waiting in line at midnight for the release of the Long-Awaited "Halo Reach".

Our lives have all changed since that first "Halo" game.
God called me back to live under His grace...and I'm more than willing to listen now.
And my sons are gamers.
And "Halo" is a part of our lives.
And when I'm tempted to stress-out over the opinions of others on the whole gaming thing,
I just remember who my God really is...and who I am to Him.
Now, I've taken a closer look at what this means--the impact of gaming on a generation.

Why is it so huge? Why is "Halo" so much a part of it all?
And I think I've seen something promising, encouraging even, beneath the surface of the gaming culture.

A little background info on "Halo":
The first game was introduced in 1999 and improved on when Microsoft acquired the developer, Bungie. They marketed the video game to go with the new XBox 360 console...and the star that is the Halo franchise was born.

Two more Halo games followed the first, each with more success than the last.

"Halo 3: ODST" came out in 2009, and the storyline, set between events in the first two Halo games, was an instant success.
The whole franchise has changed the way gaming is influenced and I've followed it enough to know why.

It's the story.

Yes. The graphics are amazing.
Yes. The action intense and realistic.
Yes. The weaponry is state-of-the-art.

But it's the story that has turned millions of young men and women into gamers, and those gamers into a new generation of heroes-to-be.

The story centers around a group of supersoldiers called "Spartans" who battle a theocratic alliance of alien races known as "The Covenant".
The Covenant declares humanity an affront to their gods and begin a systematic extermination of the human race.

The story is much more complicated as it evolves through each "Halo" game.
Gamers following the story would spread the word each time a new game was released and the lines and waiting-lists got longer.
The story had captured their imaginations.

On September 14th of this year, "Halo Reach" grossed $200 million at its launch.
It set a record in the gaming industry.
But why?
The story itself is already known. It's a prequel.

Reach is the name of a planet under attack by The Covenant.
The gamer assumes the role of "Noble 6"--part of a six-man team known as The Noble Team.
The team is dispatched on a mission to Reach to find out why a relay station is off-line.
They soon discover The Covenant has sent its enormous military resources to wipe out the inhabitants.
As the story progresses, each Spartan member of The Noble Team makes a choice to sacrifice their lives in an ultimately futile effort to halt the Covenant's attack.
By the end, Noble 6 (the gamer), leaves his cracked helmet on the ground to record the last moments of his life.
He goes down fighting.
The last shot in the game shows the helmet lying on a grassy plain in the now-restored colony of Reach, and the Noble Team is eulogized by the narrator.
They are credited with victory over the Covenant, bringing the story full-circle in the Halo trilogy.

Why did millions of young men and women line up at midnight to break gaming records for a prequel in which they know the entire team is doomed?

Because "Halo Reach" is all about sacrifice.

When I watched my sons play, I saw their faces grow grim and resolved as each of the Noble Team characters died. They knew how the game would end...and still they did their best.

There is something that speaks loud and clear to the human heart when it comes to sacrifice.
We know what it means.
We know it is justice.
We know it is love...the greatest love of all.
"Halo Reach" is a story which is ages old.
It's a story millions of people yearn to be a part of.

On September 15, the day after "Halo Reach" made its debut, a man named Brian Wood, gamer and game developer for Relic Entertainment, was driving his car with his pregnant wife at his side. When an oncoming vehicle abruptly swerved into his lane, Brian made the split-second decision to turn his car so as to take the full force of the crash onto his side in the hopes of saving his wife and child.

He died instantly.
His wife, Erin and their unborn child survived.
Even now, gamers who played "Company of Heroes", the game Brian developed, have banded together with a memorial fund for his widow and child.

Who are the gamers?
They are heroes waiting to happen.
They are men like Brian Wood who know the true meaning of love.

Is life a game?

I think it's the best game there is...and gamers play it to win.


Saturday, September 11, 2010

I Remember

I woke up on September 11, 2001 and fixed myself a cup of tea before getting our school room ready for the day's lessons. Heavily pregnant with my sixth child, I sat on the couch for a few moments to enjoy the peaceful morning before waking up the boys.

I remember, as it seems the whole country did, how beautiful and clear the day had begun.

We lived in the Mojave Desert at the time, a few minutes drive from Edward's Air Force Base. The boys loved living next to it. Every day they would dive out the door at the sound of a sonic boom and try to identify the aircraft flying overhead. We even took a tour of the base some months previously and got to see the new Osprey hyprid up close as it was taking off on a test flight.

The skies of the desert were a constant hum of jets and airplanes, helicopters and huge carriers, until the noise blended with the every day sounds of life in the desert.

But that morning was strangely silent. And I didn't notice it until I received an early morning phone call from my neighbor across the street.
Her voice sounded shocked and frantic.
"Did you see the news?" she asked.
"I just got up," I responded. "I was getting ready for school...what's going on, Anna?"
I waddled over to the television, my heart suddenly pounding with anxiety.
Anna continued. "A plane hit the World Trade Center in New York!" she gasped. "There's a huge hole in the building, Julia! They don't know how the plane could have missed it by accident...some people are talking about an attack!"

I watched the screen while Anna kept talking. The two enormous towers of the World Trade Center were easily seen even though the shots were far away. I clicked from channel to channel and every single one had a camera focused on those buildings.
Suddenly I saw a close up of the tower that was hit.

It showed a huge, ragged slash, like the mouth of hell spewing black smoke with orange-red glowing from the interior. My breath caught.

"Anna," I began. "What..."
My thought was interrupted as the camera panned back unexpectedly and caught the streamlined shaped of another plane careening toward the second tower.

"Oh God!" I whispered.

In those three heartbeats before the plane hit, I knew.
I knew America would be changed today.
I knew we were under attack. I knew it was terrorism.

George W. Bush had only been President of the United States for ten months.
I had read an interview he did with a homeschool magazine the month after his inauguration.
It was a good interview and I read it with the strong feeling that we had elected a man who loved his country and had a great optimism about it.
But the last question the interviewer asked President Bush and his response, gave me a chill.
"What is the one thing that keeps you awake at night...the one thing you are most concerned about for America?"
"A terrorist attack on U.S. soil," President Bush answered.
His answer to that question right after he took office stayed with me. I couldn't forget it.

As incoming President, Bush was privy to all the intelligence information in preparation for his taking office. I remember how difficult the transitions was after the voting debacle in Florida. I remember how it prevented Bush from taking office, and the uneasy feeling that our country was rudderless during that time.

I also remembered how I felt during the Clinton years when terrorism began to occur with increaseing frequency. His milquetoast response to the terror attacks frustrated and angered me. I didn't want him to TALK about it. I didn't want to hear he would "go after those responsible" for the tenth time. I wanted him to DO something.

And after the U.S.S. Cole, when the country was begging Clinton to dispense with the crocodile tears and get on with "going after those responsible", he lobbed a missle at an aspirin factory and declared some kind of victory.
But in reality, the pot had bubbled over while he was busy with...other things.
And on that clear blue morning of September 11, America paid the price.

As I watched the skyline of New York fill with smoke, as Anna and I gasped into the phone, unable to speak; unable to hang up, all those things I remembered congealed in a lump in my throat.
Terrorists had finally struck on U.S. soil.

Anna and I both realized at the same time we needed to talk to our families.
We hung up and I dialed my sister's number.
She lived a few hours north in Santa Barbara and I wasn't sure if she knew what had happened until she answered the phone in the same shell-shocked voice I would hear from everyone else that day.

As my sister and I tried to absorb what was happening, the television flashed. We both stopped talking as the news camera panned across the Pentagon, showing another enormous smoking-black section of the building, the roof caved in; emergency vehicles flashing lights everywhere.
The report came in that another plane had possibly hit the Pentagon.
My sister I and both started talking at once.

"How many planes have been hijacked?!"
"Do you know anyone on the east coast?"
"Who's doing this to us?!"

The television flashed again, back to the World Trade Center.
The close-ups were unbearable. Smoke billowed around the tops of the towers, while the beautiful blue sky showed an incongruent background.
Then the cameras on the streets followed the people escaping from the towers.
It showed crowds standing, everyone's eyes fixed upwards on the burning tower. Many people had their hands clapped over their mouths in shock.
Disbelief was on every face.

My sister and I were silent while the cameras moved around the ground recording everything-every horrified voice, every frantic word of witness.
Suddenly the cameras panned back to show the two towers, and it seemed to me something even more terrible was about to happen.
From the couch where I was sitting three thousand miles away, I heard the rumble and roar of the North tower of the World Trade Center as it collapsed.
I saw the terror awaken on the faces of those on the ground and the cameras shaking as everyone began to run for their lives.

The tears finally came for my sister and I.
We both burst out weeping, crying as we saw the tons of steel crushing the lives we knew were still in that tower.
And as we cried "No, God, No!"
Then the South tower collapsed.

In the next few hours, the television images became a blur even as details emerged.
And out of the details, we learned names and places we would never forget:
Osama Bin Laden. Al-Qaeda. Afghanistan. Muslim Terrorists.

And later I saw the numbers of the hijacked flights:
United Flight 93. American Flight 11. United Flight 175. American Flight 77.

And the name of one of the hijackers:
Mohammad Atta.

At the end of the that terrible day, after I had put the boys to bed, I went outside and listened.
All flights had been grounded.
The silence in the desert hurt my ears.
It seemed to throb with the ghost of flying aircraft.
Like an amputated limb I thought was still there.

I prayed...for everyone and everything.

When I went back inside, I turned on the television again...unable to bear the silence.
President Bush was addressing the nation.
And he broke that horrifying silence with words I remember still:

"Today, our fellow citizens, our way of life, our very freedom came under attack in a series of deliberate and deadly terrorist acts."

"These acts of mass murder were intended to frighten our nation into chaos and retreat. But they have failed. Our country is strong. A great people has been moved to defend a great nation."

"Today, our nation saw evil, the very worst of human nature, and we responded with the best of America,"

"We will make no distinction between the terrorists who committed these acts and those who harbor them."

"America has stood down enemies before, and we will do so this time.
None of us will ever forget this day, yet we go forward to defend freedom and all that is good and just in our world."

For the full text of this address:

I remember how I felt after I heard President Bush.
His message made me feel stronger, safer, prepared for the next thing.
He was a real leader.
He would put the full resources of this country into our protection.
In the plain words of a man who could discern good and evil, I knew he would take care of business.
And throughout it all, our President reminded us what a strong and capable people we are.
We are free. We are good. We are a beacon of light in this savage world.
We will not bow to our enemies. We will stand up to them.
We will now cower in the face of this attack. We will respond with "a quiet unyeilding anger" to the "evil, despicable acts of terror".

Yes. I remember.

How could half the country forget?


Friday, August 20, 2010

The City in the Clouds--Conclusion

(continued from part two)

Many years passed.

The archway was removed and the new leader proclaimed the inhabitants of the Battle Lands enemies no longer.

A new stairway was built, broader and unguarded.

And the clans from the Battle Lands poured into the City in the Clouds.
And all staked a claim as the greatest clan in the city...all that is, except the remaining Eagle Clan.
Fights broke out.
Those who still pledged their allegiance to the Law of Eagles were hunted down by the Wolf Clan and cast out of the city, down the new stairway...back to the Battle Lands.
The Bear Clan built prisons for those refused to work for them.

The Snake Clan spied for the Wolf Clan and routed out the people who hid their loyalty to the Eagle Clan.

One day, as the City went about their business, they felt a great tremor.
Buildings began to topple.
People screamed and scattered in fear.

The new leader rushed to the balcony of his newly-built palace. He watched in horror as a great rift appeared in the clouds that supported the city.
More and more clouds thinned and parted, opening in wider gaps.
And the city with all its inhabitants fell through the gaps to the Battle Lands below.
When the dust settled, the people looked up to the sky and gasped.
The dome of clouds which had held the city together for centuries…had disappeared.
The sky darkened. The people wailed in despair.
They ran for the hills, and scattered throughout the valleys.
The City in the Clouds was no more.

The former leader, now bent with age, his eyes watery with grief, watched the buildings crumble and crunch against each other as they rolled down the valleys and into the great lakes.
His eyes followed the people as fled for their lives into the darkened land.
He turned his back and made his way slowly up the mountaintop where his ancestors had once asked the wisdom of the eagle.
He saw an eagle flying high above and cried out for help in a feeble voice.
The eagle floated down to the old man and spoke.
“Why do you cry out for my help?” the eagle calmly asked.
“My need is great, Mighty One,” the former leader said.
“Tell me of your need, then,” the eagle said.
“We had a great City in the Clouds,” the old man said. “But now it is crumbled to dust. How do we rebuild it?”
“You cannot,” the eagle replied. “For you have forgotten the Law of Eagles…and without the Law, you cannot live free in the clouds.”
“I did not forget the Law,” protested the leader. “And there are others who did not forget.”
“Why did you not soar in vigilance then?” asked the eagle. “You chose your leadership carelessly; you allowed the flocks below to grow greater than you and they cast you out. You did not own the sky as the eagles do. You became ashamed. That is why you can no longer live free in the clouds.”
“What if we started anew?” asked the former leader in desperation. “What if we gathered the Eagle clan together and built a new stairway and promised to keep the Law? Could we build a new City in the Clouds?”
The eagle inclined his beak toward the sky.

The old man followed with his eyes.
The dark expanse of evening showed the new starlight clearly.
Not a wisp of cloud floated in the midnight sky. It was crisp as a newly washed sheet. All traces of the City in the Cloud and its majestic beginnings...wiped clean.
“The dome of clouds is gone,” the eagle said. “It will not return for many generations.”
“But it will return one day?” the former leaders voice quavered with faint hope.
“Perhaps,” said the eagle. “In the meantime, what will you do?”
The former leader looked over the cliffs to the valleys below. Devastation met his eye at every turn. No one could be seen among the ruins of the once-beautiful City in the Clouds.
“I will teach the Law of Eagles to those who will listen,” he said. “Then maybe one day, they will be ready to rebuild when the clouds return.”

And he thanked the eagle, walking slowly back down the mountain to the Battle Lands below.



The City in the Clouds--Part Two

(continued from part one)

Down below in the Battle Lands, the war intensified.
For all the people of the clans had heard that the City in the Clouds was a place of true freedom and prosperity, where no man lived at the whim of another.

The Bear Clan kept their slaves from escaping by building a stone wall to surround them. They beat the people who rebelled and took their children to raise as loyal Bear warriors.

The Snake Clan did not have the strength to keep their people from escaping, so they crafted rumors to spread among the clan.
They said the City in the Clouds was really a trap for those who were foolish enough to go.
They said no one could survive in the clouds and those who did were really demons.
They said anyone who dared to enter the archway to the city was immediately captured and eaten at their feasts.
And the tribes of the Snake Clan trembled in fear of the City.
But still their people escaped...risking everything for the chance to live free.

The Wolf Clan was enraged. They did not want the City in the Clouds to exist at all.
They remembered well the loss of their best warriors in the battle to win the stairway.
They howled their anger and vowed revenge.
To this end, the Wolf Clan made plans to infiltrate the City in the Clouds and tear it down from within.

They discovered the Eagle Clan allowed refugees into the city merely by making a promise of loyalty.

So, the Wolf Clan decided to send their spies to the archway. They would enter the City in the Clouds by taking the Eagle pledge…but it would be a lie.
For the Wolf Clan would always remain the Wolf Clan, no matter what pledge they spoke aloud.

The years wore on.

The City in the Clouds grew. The refugees became part of the Eagle Clan and helped to build the city bigger and better than before.
But the spies from the Wolf Clan prospered also. And they taught their children and their children’s children that they must never forget they were not really Eagle—they were Wolf, and their duty was always to their Clan.

The day came when a new leader was chosen from among the people. Many came forth to claim the title of leader to the City in the Clouds. Each of them eager to serve as their Eagle Clan ancestors had served.
One man, however, stood taller and prouder than the rest. His voice was like honey, sweet to the ears of the gathering crowds. He made such promises and his eyes glowed with such fierceness, that the people were dazzled.
They cried out for this man to be the next leader.
One voice rose in warning. It was a former leader, who lived his days in less honor than of old. For the people of the City had begun to tire of the Eagle Clan ways and many adopted the new ways of all the other clans.
"We do not know this man," he protested. "From which clan does he descend? All the leaders of the City in the Clouds must be Eagle Clan."
The crowd hushed him. Some told him to mind his own business. Some said it made no difference anymore, for there were so many different clans now. And it was right and good that a leader should be from any clan. After all, were they not all residents of the City?
The former leader again raised his voice in protest. "He has not the wisdom of age."

But the people had grown careless and thought this new man wonderfully well-spoken and able to lead their beautiful city better because of his youth and vibrancy.
The voice of the former leader was drowned out by the eagerness of many.
And the tall young man with the shining eyes became the new leader of the City in the Clouds.
The Wolf Clan secretly rejoiced. For they knew the young man to be a descendent of their clan.
They knew he did not really love the City in the Clouds, and despised the ways of the Eagle Clan.
The new leader stood high above the crowds and declared an end to the evening readings of the Law of Eagles. An uneasy silence spread, for though the people no longer gathered to hear the Law...still, it was tradition, they mumbled.
The leader spoke instead of all the contributions made by the other clans.
Every night, he spoke of the Bear Clan's great strength; the Snake Clan's great wisdom; and the Wolf Clan's noble heritage.
Soon those descendents of the Eagle Clan began to lower their gaze whenever the leader spoke. Soon they stopped coming to the gatherings...and their shame grew. Many moved to the outskirts of the City to escape the glowering looks from other clans at the evening oratory.

At the end of the year, the new leader replaced the guardians of the archway with men specially chosen from the Wolf Clan.
Men from the Bear Clan removed the monument at the bottom of the stairway and required all citizens to submit their ancestry papers if they wanted to leave the City in the Clouds.
The Eagle Clan no longer told their neighbor from which clan they descended.
Fear and suspicion darkened the clouds of the city.

One day the former leader of the city, desired to go down the stairway to pay his respects to the fallen of long ago. The guards refused him.
“Why?” he asked. “I have made this pilgrimage to the bottom of the stairway every year on the eve of the Last Land War. It is my right as a free citizen of the city.”
“The monument is no longer there,” said one of the guards.
“What!?” gasped the former leader.
“It was dismantled at the request of the people,” the guard smirked. “The new leader asked if they really wanted to remember a war in which they oppressed so many in the Battle Lands.”
“But we were not the oppressor!” protested the former leader. “We were the liberators!”
“That is not what the new leader says,” the guard yawned.
“It is written in the archives!” the former leader shouted. “You can look it up!”
“You look it up, old man,” the guard waved the former leader away with a flick of his hand. “No one goes down the stairway anymore, except with approval from the new leader.”
The former leader strode angrily to the city archives. He would bring out the written account of the battle and read it to all the citizens. Then they would demand the new leader put the monument back.
But when he arrived at the library, the entrance was barred.

He could not go in.
“All archives are sealed by order of the new leader,” the librarian said.
“Those archives belong to the people of the city!” the former leader cried. “I demand entrance!”
“The people have asked the new leader to seal the archives,” the librarian said.
“Why?” the former leader felt nothing but dread by now.
“Because they do not want them read aloud anymore,” said the librarian with the confidence of one born to the Snake Clan. “It embarrasses the people of the city. The Eagle Clan was so oppressive.”
The former leader backed away from the building, stunned and confused.
“…but we were the liberators,” he whispered.

( be continued in part three)


The City in the Clouds--Part One

(a parable in three parts)

Once upon a time, in a great and beautiful land, there lived many people and they named themselves after the animal that best symbolized their desires.

The Bear Clan was the largest and most powerful. They grew proud and fierce and desired the subjugation of all the other clans. The Snake Clan was also large, but not so powerful and they learned to survive through subtlety and deceit. The Wolf Clan was the most feared, because they hunted the other clans at night, in packs, killing those who would not pledge their allegiance to them and enslaving those who did.
But the Eagle Clan desired only to live free; to work and raise their children in peace and safety.

And so the once great and beautiful land was torn and laid waste through centuries of war, and it became known as The Battle Lands.

Now the Eagle Clan knew they would never have peace and safety within the Battle Lands. They gathered the wisest of their leaders and made a journey up the tallest mountain where the eagle lived to seek wisdom from their namesake.
They found the eagle soaring high above the mountaintop and called desperately for his help. The eagle heard their cries and calmly floated down to greet the leaders.
“Why do you cry out for my help?” asked the eagle.
“We have a great need, Mighty One,” a leader said.
“Tell me your need then,” the eagle responded.
“We desire only to live in freedom, but the inhabitants of the Battle Lands will not let us,” said another leader. “They refuse to make a treaty so we may all live in peace. What are we to do? Our only choice is slavery or death…and that is no choice at all.”
The eagle turned his head this way and that to stare at each of the leaders. Finally he asked a question. “Why do you name yourselves after the eagle?”
“Because we desire to live free as you do. We want to spread out, as you spread your wings and soar among the clouds.”
“Then build your city in the clouds,” the eagle said.
The leaders looked to the dome of clouds above them. “Is it possible?” they asked each other.
“Of course it is possible,” the eagle continued. “But once you attain your freedom, what will you do to keep it?”
“What do you do to keep your freedom in the skies?” the leaders asked.
“We learn at first hatch of the Law of Eagles,” it said. “The sky is ours, but only if we use it.”
“What does this mean?” the leaders asked in puzzlement.
The eagle patiently explained. “If the eagle does not soar above the other birds, they must give way to them, for they are many and we are few. If we did not soar among the clouds in constant vigilance, the other birds would gather in great flocks and cast us out. You must always be on guard. Your city in the clouds will not survive if you do not use your freedom daily.”
“We understand,” they said.
The Eagle Clan leaders thanked the mighty bird and left the mountaintop to tell their tribes the good news. They would build a city in the clouds.

The first thing the Eagle Clan built was a massive stairway of stone.
Up and up it went until it reached the clouds.
An archway of granite was put in place above the stairway and inscribed with the wise words of the eagle: “Soar in vigilance.”

But the Bear Clan, the Snake Clan and the Wolf Clan all heard about the stairway to the city in the clouds, and they sent their warriors to claim it for themselves.
The Eagle Clan prepared for the attack, digging a deep gorge around the stairway and covering it with leaves and dead branches. When the advancing army charged, the ground opened beneath their feet and they fell to their deaths at the bottom of the gorge. But the remainder of the army fired their arrows and though the Eagle Clan had armed every man, woman and child, many still lost their lives. The battle lasted through the night, and when the dawn rose, the warring clans realized they were decimated and fled.
They did not attack again.

A monument to the fallen was placed at the foot of the stairway.
And the battle was named The Last Land War, for the Eagle Clan vowed never to fight in the Battle Lands again.

When the seasons had moved in a full circle, the City in the Clouds was ready.
The Eagle Clan had a great ceremony at the archway, swearing allegiance to the City and the Law of Eagles.
They agreed to choose one man to lead the City.
He would be old enough for wisdom, but young enough to serve the people for ten years.
He would read the Law of Eagles every evening.
He would choose guardians for the archway to the City and when he had served his time as leader, he would live out the remainder of his days in honor among the Eagle Clan.
It was decided by the people to allow asylum for those who escaped from the Battle Lands.
The guards placed at the archway asked the refugees for a pledge of allegiance to the Eagle Clan and a promise to follow their ways. The people who made it to the archway, eagerly pledged their loyalty. They were grateful for the chance to live in such a place of freedom and called themselves the Eagle Clan with great pride.
The City in the Clouds prospered as the people worked hard and raised their children in peace and plenty. They kept the Law of the Eagles and guarded the archway with vigilance.

( be continued)


Sunday, May 2, 2010


In the Old Testament, God commanded the Hebrews to build altars in memorium to momentous events.
He knows the struggle our minds and souls go through to wipe out the pain of the past.
Our memories can be an anesthetic at times, numbing us to reality; distorting our perceptions.

Our memories can also be a inspiration, helping us to overcome a life-time battle against whatever seeks to enslave us.

God wanted the Hebrews to commemorate freedom, so they would never forget to be vigilant.

When we feel safest, when we are prosperous, the memories of battle fade and we come to believe we never have to fight for our freedom again.

I have no reason to post fear.
But that is why this video needs to be posted.

Ft. Hood
Christmas Day Bomber
May Day Car Bomb in Times Square
No amount of bows and scrapes by our President to the enemies of freedom has made us safer.
Our greatest danger now is the distortion of our memory and the lack of will to fight.