Monday, December 22, 2014

Emotional Leadership Style of NYC Mayor De Blasio offends his 'thin blue line'


It feels like eons since I heard the expression 'the thin blue line' until, during the end of the year's tragedies in the news, New York City Mayor Bill De Blasio mentioned it in an effort of public respect for his police force that he treated shabbily in late-December days leading up to the murders of two on-duty officers.

Then, the mayor finally spoke from his head, with reason and thought. He said, in effect, that the [blue-uniformed] police are what hold the thin line between civilized society and anarchy.  

Unfortunately, he had not spoken from his head when he earlier used personal comments about his bi-racial son and his own fear of how NYC police might treat him. That remark cut, and it reflected the worst of leadership, when emotionalism and personal fears overrule good judgment and, therefore, effective leadership. It's too easy to come up with remarks that show empathy that favors one 'side' over the other.

Mayor De Blasio's personal sympathy for those who disrespect police undermined his relation with the highly trained men and women in blue who risk their lives every day they work. Many do not take even any appearance of back-talk or resistance for good reason: theirs is a dangerous job.

I know someone who wished a Baltimore city police office a good day, after he pulled her car and discussed a suspected violation. He took her final remarks, her good wishes, as sarcasm and arrested her, took her to jail, and put her in jail. She is a white woman with a good steady job, a mother, sister, and friend; she helps people wherever she goes. The police officer did not know those things, and did not need to know. He only knew that he had a job to do and it included no back talk. I don't agree with how he handled it; his 'perp' today laughs about it and holds no grudge against an officer for whom approaching strangers anywhere is serious business. Maybe her good wishes to him came at the wrong time, after his having a rough day heaped with sarcasm and worse. Maybe to him any possible suspect's having the last word is a sign of disrespect and, therefore, another violation. 

Whoever realizes the importance of the Thin Blue Line's presence in our communities will take them more seriously. In New York City, two police officers were sent to the neighborhood where they eventually were shot and died, in the police car, no guns drawn. Their wives and the surviving children will never see them alive again.

When arrests are made, the story is only beginning. there are lawyers, often free ones, to defend; there are laws to be followed, and processes. There is recourse. All of this procedure came through thought-out, if imperfect, experience and improvement. The law is designed and intended to be dispassionate, to weigh facts of true statements and records. It moves slowly; that's true.  

Who has not felt pain, helplessness, and anger over perceived or real injustice or delay of justice? Who has not wished to take the law out of the hands of those responsible for it or to ignore the law in order to exact citizens' justice? It is basely human to have such feelings; it is illegal to act on them.

What alarms this writer is that the hate speech of protesters in the streets of New York City continued on the days the assassinated police officers were buried.The protesters were 'encouraged' to keep down the harsh rhetoric. Who allowed hate speech toward police go on parade through the streets in the first place?

The NYPD's Thin Blue Line has lost forever two of its own. Who takes their places? And among the rest of us, how many are willing to support the thin line of slow, honest reason and justice that pushes back against citizen revenge?

Saturday, December 20, 2014

In a Tough Spot?

Matthew Henry's thoughts on reading in Psalm 31:
Instead of yielding to impatience or despondency under our troubles, we should turn our thoughts to the goodness of the Lord towards those who fear and trust in Him. ... Let not any yield to unbelief, or think, under discouraging circumstances, that they are cut off from before the eyes of the Lord, and left to the pride of men. 
I could not dare to quote the comments above if I had not seen the Goodness of the Lord in the Land of Difficulties and Troubles. The secret way of access into God's Goodness, I discovered, is no secret at all. It is found and used through fear of the Lord and trusting Him. Fear in this case means Awe. It means Amazement at the Wonder of the Love of God for all who desire its comforting, providing embrace. 
Awe of God yields trust in Him. When we see no way forward in times of need, we trust. How often I have reaffirmed, in a conversational and intense way, " God, I trust You. I have put all trust in You, and You have promised that You will not fail me in good or desperate times!" I have dared to leave it there and wait, reflect, and trust in the Lord. He has never failed me, although sometimes the answers were surprising or so practically normal- seeming that I felt amazed at the ways God works to meet the needs of anyone who loves Him.
Maybe the difficulties lie at home, or maybe at work or not having enough work. Maybe they are financial, or the expectations of others. We could name a long list of possibilities.
It is the need or worry of now that seems to be drowning us in such times. I recall, as I write, a true story in the news after a California earthquake. Rescuers searched for any possible unresued survivors of a crumbled, leaning apartment building. It was the third day they had been searching. Suddenly, they found an old lady, alive, in what had been a third or fourth floor apartment home. Her greeting to them was, in effect, "I knew you would come. I knew the Lord would not leave me here." 
They noted immediately, of course, that she was weak, thirsty, and hungry; yet she was also calm. They had water and food bars with them, and immediately gave aid, checked her out, and began to execute the plan to get her safely out of the rubble and dangerous situation. No one knew if another quake or after-shock might come at any time.
For three days and nights an old woman had escaped panic and fear, trapped among  the detritus of her former haven-home. She had prayed, trusted, and prayed and trusted more. Whatever happened, she was not alone there, hoping and waiting for the help she was confident would somehow find her.
God knows every need, everything large and small that is important to us. I sometimes wonder how many more wonders of His care I would have witnessed and experienced if trusting Him even more.
One said to Jesus, "Lord, I believe; help my unbelief." Jesus taught that faith as small as a mustard seed is powerful with God.
Lord, I believe. Help us all.

Saturday, December 13, 2014

God's Love in Simple and Strong Music of the Years

As a child I loved to play along a creek behind home. When I got older, I went on family trips to the mountains of North Carolina. As a teen, I was one summer a church camp counselor in a large wooded setting; when I returned home my mother said she was amazed that I not only liked to see nature but to live within it.

Mother encouraged me to play the piano and managed for me to have one at home, and I have that piano in my home now. When I concentrate, I can play a few old songs on those keys.

The love of God, for me, resounds through nature, music, and giving, caring people.

I have chosen to include today a few special old songs that I found on YouTube. The first choice is intentional. It tells of the cross that stands over the world of history and faith; I like the presenter's photo that contains the words--for Lift High the Cross--and shows a stream of people crossing a city bridge. In the outdoors, with  nature's sky above, it speaks of the assurances of God that lift the mind and spirit.

Another selection, For the Beauty of the Earth names facets of nature, and this peaceful yet strong hymn was one of my favorites when I was a child. There are at least two music compositions for this song, and I chose this English one because John Rutter has put beautiful photography with it. It speak of love and nature, and both lift my heart to God..

Some of the most secure music memories for me include the voice of George Beverly Shea, whose rich, round tones and phrasing carry so well this message of God's love. "Beyond the eyes horizon, there's more, much more," he said during this singing. If you want to hear him sing at nearly age 103, here is the link. You will not be disappointed, I think. YouTube has many selections from his much younger days.

What more should I add now? Perhaps the great faithfulness of God, with whom we are never lost in loneliness. This song has reassured me on many an occasion when it seemed too easy to think discouraging thoughts. God is with us through "the valley of the shadow of death" and in every joy, sorrow, testing time and resting time.

Whatever is going on in our lives in these days, remembering the love, faithfulness and beauty of God moment by moment is our great strength for the day. And the love shown on that Old Rugged Cross  signifies the perfect payment for everyone who believes this, so that freedom is there from sin and iniquity of the world. The version here was sung and signed by Johnny Cash.

Wednesday, December 03, 2014

The Precipice of an Age ~ Demagoguery

There is this concern that free civilizations, whose survival has depended on firm principles adopted in the past, have reached a precipice. What lies below the precipice is air; one may hope for a saving ledge to stop the fall, although people of western nations have avoided wrestling hard or fast enough against the hold of emotional and moral relativism.

The established boundaries of moral reason in the past were marked by fact plus devotion. This helped guide to a form of reliability in freedom. This pursuit now appears to be buried beneath soft grass of what feels right, now, and whose words sound the best. Right does not mean good or moral anymore, but is somewhat defined by emotional drive that evades the tough questions. 

To question this place at the precipice goes against the tide of popular thinking; its pull works like a magnet. How to recognize the pull of the precipice? Look for signs of less value placed on the lives of some than the value placed on the lives of others; this is as true today as at a prior precipice, the one that hid behind rhetoric that fooled nations before World War II.

Demagoguery accompanied the 1930s rhetoric that enslaved nations. Demagoguery wears a face of humanitarian concern; it springs up from different soil to disregard prevailing moral and ethical views, which it twists; it hates dissenting voices and thrives on fear. Its category has an example in the words of atheist of the day, Richard Dawkins, and his claims of devotion to reason and science and disdain for those who refuse to be manipulated by claims of superior thinking.

Religious freedoms and protection of free speech in an arena of competing ideas and motivations were  basic settled rights of the promise of civilized community in recent history. To speak freely means, in theory, absence of pressure to accept or to deny current trends.  The danger near the precipice is the rising of an effective demagogue voice within any formerly free place. Demagoguery has an air of confident ridicule. God, in such a setting, is either denied or quoted, as suits the purpose.  

Who garners the trust sought by demagogues? To recognize the threats requires informed diligence, of which each of us is capable. Those whose reasoning and belief run counter to the prevailing tides of opinion need to protect their minds, including their ways and means when solving problems. Hope to find a saving ledge below the precipice is not enough.

Civilization is not inherited; it has to be learned and earned by each generation anew; if the transmission should be interrupted for one century, civilization would die, and we should be savages again.--Will and Ariel Durant10