Category Archives: My Dad

Faith Camp, Bukidnon Youth Conference and the Future

Faith Camp is a one week long camp held for middle school aged students based somewhere in Vermilion Parish. There are currently two such camps held each year. While the kids are the focus it is an event that involves people of all ages. For many who participate in its various aspects it is both an optimistic and fun experience and a deeply spiritual one. The Catholic faith is celebrated in a context which is fairly complete and brings the Gospel of Jesus Christ and the experience of church into the lives of these young people in a complete way.

The last two weeks  before this posting there has been ongoing the 20th year of continuous Faith Camps. This ministry was founded by my sister Susanna whom I saw at Faith Camp last night. At the time she founded she and were regular prayer partners and she was in the area and living at Big Woods during the summer after having started her studies at the Franciscan University of Steubenville. It was a fairly small camp that year but I was deeply impressed with it and shared with her my own memories of a live-in conference  in Bukidnon when she was a child as one of my better memories and so the two things were linked in my mind at the inception although there was not much of a causal link.  Susanna wasalso a small child when the Bukidnon Youth Conference was going on around and near her in various manifestations in Malaybalay, Bukidnon on the southern island of Mindanao in the Republic of the Philippines. I haven’t been back since the 1980s but it was a time which I have always felt had a big influence on the rest of my life and other lives in the family. Many members of my family have played key roles in the success of the camp over the decades. This year a middle school aged child of one of the campers at the second camp was a camper at Faith Camp.


 This year my sister Sarah’s eldest daughter Alyse is the coordinator of Faith Camp as she was last year. This is one of the blog posts that I write that is not primarily driven by the news. It is more driven by  a series of important experiences, recollections  and feelings which resonate in my life. This is one of those posts which combines both some vivid recollection and some fading memories: But the hope one felt at key times continues. The possibility of really putting together a history of those years is a daunting and not a very promising prospect. But the prospect of trying to recapture some of the spirit of those times seems a worthy aspiration as it will help me to convey some thoughts about the current times and some of the times in between now and then. I went from New Zealand to the Philippines with my birth family when I was seventeen and arrived there around Christmas. The bottom right hand picture below is of the Maranatha Youth Group in St. Pius X Church Parish in Titahi Bay which I left behind there on those cool windswept coasts. We passed through Australia on the way there.The top set of damaged images are from my time in the Philippines as is my better picture of myself leading my sisters on the carabao. The bottom right hand corner isa picture of the wall of my Household at the Franciscan University of Steubenville.


 We were in the Philippines for a couple of years (or so I remember without checking) and Simon was born with difficulties associated with Prader-Willi Syndrome. That was also at Christmas and was at the time of my Bukidnon Youth Conference which is the real subject of part at least of this post. Due to Simon’s condition we came back to the United States. While there I completed my Freshman Year at USL — now the University of Louisiana  — in one semester and in the preceding summer worked in some college and youth ministries in the church. Then we all returned to the Philippines and I renewed my ministry for a while and in the summer just after my brother Joseph was born and having overstayed my visa in a tense time in a country on edge and with a gift of a large and dangerous looking tribal sword I flew back alone to the United States.The picctures I took there for various reasons have not much been digitzed and the ones that were have not al made it into part of the cloud I can access. But the memories that I have of the Philippines are indeed plentiful and meaningful. Many of them were pleasant enough. Although the images in the pair below do not show the day to day life there as I justified that life they do show some of the rewards of the experience. Visiting the sick westerners in trouble, prison ministry, speaking to dozens of groups and working with college ministries all filled most of my days. But the Bukidnon Youth Conference was perhaps the  peak of my ministry there.  Being a 52 year old, divorced, childless near indigent was not the future among many possible futures which I saw as most likely in those days. But the journey since has certainly been a complicated on and rich too in color and texture and that sense of richness makes me feel like an expert on almost everything on some days. While that is not fair to much of anything neither or the days entirely fair when I feel that my onIy efforts to communicate come from having little else to do that is fulfilling and that I only ever feel that I  am well qualified to be a sage because I appear not to be qualified for anything else. My life has not been laser focused in a single direction and my time in the Philippines was not either. I like Faith Camp and I liked the Bukidnon Youth Conference in part because they touched many aspects of life from the arts to sport to socializing over dinner. This reminds me of one of my first Facebook notes when I wrote about  some of the extracurricular activities and hobbies that have enriched my life  and divided them into the big three categories of Faith, Science and Sports which I  chose to denominate as easy issues for that early Facebook note. These Easy Issues are not to be confused with the Easy Essays written by Peter Maurin of the Catholic Worker Movement. His essays were easy,  because he easily guided the reader through the complexities of political philosophy to a simple and cohesive approach which would provide the framework fo the movement he and Dorthy Day were founding. In my Facebook the subjects are easy because of my tremendous insights into the very narrow experience I had in each of those fields — I did not concern myself with the larger picture. There was some tongue in cheek in the use of there terms and words but Faith Camp and the Bukidnon Youth Conference were also founded to give young people a real body of experience that they could claim as their own. A small window of controlled positive experience from ehich to see the world.

During those years when ministry was part of my life I did a lot of work preparing to work . One thing  or another or many things must be left out including almost all my regular Catholic  school time but I now note  the religious education I received. Some I received within the context of the schools mentioned. However, I also took a set of remote preparation confirmation classes in the Diocese of Lafayette within the Come Lord Jesus Program and the brief imediate preparation course at a Parish in the Archdiocese of Wellington, New Zealand. I was confirmed by a cardinal. In the Diocese of Lafayette I also completed instruction in and was commissioned for Evangelism as a Lay Evangelist of my native dicoese. This was also where after college I was certified as a catechist. Beyond those things, I completed the Life in the Spirit Seminar, the Cursillo de Cristiandad (en Ingles), a basic Lector’s training, Prayer Group Leaders Training Course, a salvation history micro course and stdied as a journalist the English translation of the Prelature of Bukidnon’s Alagad course which was a successful lay leadership course. I also read and discussed the Documents of the Second Vatican Council many times and in many contexts. Susanna who founded Faith Camp completed here degree in theology while continuing to build up this ministry. The two things have in common that they communicate to the kids from a depp and well laid foundation.

Like a lot of activity among Christians it is designed to provide an opportunity for a personal spiritual experience. The importance of personal spiritual experience in America is more evident than in some countries. One of the reasons for that comes from a man who was not a Christian but had a profound influence on the Christian and other populations of these United States at a critical time — the Revolution. Thomas Paine, one of the great thinkers of the American revolution basically stated that one of the profound problems with revelation as a basis for any law or covenant is that as soon as it is written down or described rather than existing as a perceived miracle or apparition or Messianic epiphany it becomes mere tradition. Three things can be said about that idea that miracles and revelation become traditions:

1. It is somewhat true and worth keeping in mind.
2. If God, the universe, the gods and Divine Wisdom were communicating with humanity they might not excuse people who said “Well, I needed that direct Apparition your Highness — didn’t get it so it’s your fault not mine.”
3.In places and times such as existed in the Charismatic renewal there was a renewal within the person which was seen to confirm the written Word and the received tradition. It is out of that third connection with the renewal of the background music and lifestyle of our family that the Bukidnon Youth Conference (BYC) and twenty years of Faith Camps have come. The Bukidnon Conference was less part of the Charismatic Renewal than was some of my work in those days and the current Faith Camps only remind one of the renewal. But the tradition is there.

St. Augustine is credited with two sayings that mean a lot to me as far as faith goes. One is “Seek not to understand that you may believe. Seek rather to believe that you may understand.” That saying is not perfect and is easily misconstrued but it remains profoundly true and truly profound.The second saying I will allow to explain itself and to be interpreted without me. St Augustine wrote “The best and the worst men in the world live in monasteries.” The idea that these young people come together to find understanding and to explore a fully lay spirituality does not mean that none will later become monks, priests, scientists or theologians some do and those around usually rejoice.  But the experience is of a different focus of informing a growing faith and living for Christ in the world.

That Filipino journey  in which the Bukidnon YouthBconference was born was one  which only temporarily ended just after the conference itself. But after returning with them from my time at USL and in this region I did not stay but went to enroll at the school where Susanna was studying when Faith Camp was founded.  I returned a bit early and went to live that summer with my paternal grandparents in a larger than most two storey house beside a park. That  is where I lived in that intervening summer have lived at other times and is also where I am living  now as I type this but I have only been here for a few months this go round. Then I enrolled as a sophomore at the Franciscan University. The summer after my sophomore year I returned to the Philippines to visit and overstayed my visa yet again by only a few days and flew home alone. I left school in mid semester for complicated reasons including some to do with problems in the Philippines related to those whom I had invited into the region to help me with the Youth Conference and  shortly after leaving school I met my parents returning to Abbeville where I currently reside. All of that was along time ago and I took a break to do some more ministry and other things before enrolling again at USL and finishing my degree there. Thousands of picture taken during those and subsequent years are unavailable to me here and now on this blog. But the family on the bottom left hand of the set below are the son of Abbeville friends and his wife who have been FMC missionaries where we once served for more than a few years now. The picture on the bottom right hand corner shows my brother Simon and my parents at an FMC Donors Dinner. He clearly survived the ordeals surrounding his birth as did we all.


Of the  actual BYC as an event I have no photos to share and never had many photos. Indeed of the conference itself very little documentation was made and far less survives. But there are a few things and here are a pair of snippets of that time. The newsletter Resounding Praise which defined so much of our communication with the rest of the world had a feature on the conference. This gathering so distant in time and space is still near to my memory and sensibility. The sense and vision behind the conference was one of bringing young Catholics and some not sure they were Catholics together to celebrate the gospel and to deal with the real challenges not only of their personal lives but of Islamist and Communist pressures from groups which in several cases were profoundly hostile to their Catholic Christian commitments.  There was also a real openness to finding what could be improved in the generally pro-American, Catholic, free market synthesis that informed the conference. There was not a tone of xenophobia or paranoia but of relatively optimistic participation in the world as it was  for young Catholic Christians. There is something in Faith Camp’s tradition that has always reminded me of that event.



There are bigger events in the world than Faith Camp or the Bukidnon Youth Conference but bigness is not everything. Nonetheless as America approaches it participation with other countries in the Rio Olympic Games I am reminded that the New testament is full of references to Olympic events. Paul wrote of racing, boxing, archery and of the disciplines of training as well as the glories of victory in those ancient games. For those going to the Olympics who are Christians while they should respect the games and the diversity there it can be both a mission and a spiritual experience in Christ.

A few years ago London prepared to see the wedding take place in Westminster Abbey there was a lot of suffering and pain in the world. Truthfully, there is almost always a lot of suffering and pain in the world.  Whatever their role may be in adding to the sum of distress in the world, the British royals do quite a bit to lessen the sum of woe and that was not the less true in a year when they were planning a royal wedding . That  set of outreaches to those in need is an effort that  is well documented. Prince Charles, Camilla Duchess of Cornwall and Prince William (the bridegroom this weekend) all have long supported a variety of charities benefiting humans, animals, ecosystems and cultural groups in distress.Prince Charles has a substantial income as Duke of Cornwall and donates a great deal of the income to charities in such a way that it leverages and is leveraged by other charitable donations. While it may well be that not a direct penny of that family’s efforts and gifts will go to help those hurt by the tornadoes whch ripped through the South last night it is also true that they are part of a philanthropic community around the world in which helping is informally circulated almost everywhere. Two babies (at least) ago the United Kingdom and the British Commonwealth celebrated on the 29th of April 2011 The wedding of Prince William and Catherine Middleton. This expensive and extravagant occasion was also a Christian ritual and gathering and an expression of faith. The scene was truly extraordinary and the elegant venue and the well prepared  liturgy and preaching were all rather impressive even for those who are not so easily impressed.  The sermon of the Anglican Bishop of London is one which I have found to be a worthy sermon to address our times:

“Be who God meant you to be and you will set the world on fire.” So said St Catherine of Siena whose festival day it is today. Marriage is intended to be a way in which man and woman help each other to become what God meant each one to be, their deepest and truest selves.

Many are full of fear for the future of the prospects of our world but the message of the celebrations in this country and far beyond its shores is the right one – this is a joyful day!

It is good that people in every continent are able to share in these celebrations because this is, as every wedding day should be, a day of hope.

In a sense every wedding is a royal wedding with the bride and the groom as king and queen of creation, making a new life together so that life can flow through them into the future.



The future does flow through families and gathering and weddings and the like. Churches and other communities have an obligation, it seems to me to prepare young people to be conduits of the grace of God and the hope of the future into new generations. They need to be prepared for the task. All married couples, all celibates and many other classes of not mutually exclusive kinds of people have to be educated in that complete humanity. For Faith Camp that is a Catholic Christian experience An I like that best but it also speaks to those not with us in that community. I am not a young optimist and my own view of life can be pretty bleak often enough. But while  I am sorry that when caught up in nearly apocalyptic events I often already have declared myself to have been involved in a number of calamities — sorry but not very repentant. these conferences and other things have not made me boldly cheerful in that sense. But each Faith Camp and its predecessor to my view  have in fact reminded me that how one engages with life may change over the years  but faith filled engagement  and courage remain necessary.  I know that I  was at one time more fully engaged in meeting the world and the changes going on around me with gusto and energy than I am now. I beilieve that some of those now enthused will persevere in doing good but will not have the same zest when they are my age as they do now.  The world is no stranger to my dire assessments and prognostications regarding my own life and future but the truth is I am still in the fight for the same causes and so are some of those who fought with me under that old distant BYC banner. So also is Susanna and her early team.

Faith Camp prayer - 8   But there is a time and a place for looking back on all that has happened in ones life and that place is this blog. The time is spread out over many posts and pages. The truth is that I was not always quite so late middle aged, directionless and chronically despondent as I am now.  There were times when I aspired to other and more things in daily life than a differing serving of a perpetual mix of the routine, the impossible and the trivial. I was working hard at BYC but perhaps nobody got more out of it than I. I rejoice in the legacy I see although nobody else may see it the same way exactly.

The outgrowth of my various involvements and labors over the years are not all that easy to track, however there has been an institution which has grown out of all that activity in one sense or another and which is also dear to my heart for various reasons…  My brother John Paul was the head coordinator longer than anyone else so far I believe. It is also interesting that this year’s head coordinator Alyse Spiehler has a brother who although he only went to the first camp and was abroad on his birthday during the second camp has celebrated his birthday at Faith Camp several years and probably will again. In fact all of my sibling except Simon and my deceased half brother have served ads head coordinators or coordinators although I never have. I did of course at BYC which I consider to be an ancestor of Faith Camp. The family tie is a real one with my family but there are many other family ties as well. This does not make the focus more narrow and our family does not embody any analogous local set of privileges to those that shaped the hosting of the large wedding in London mentioned before. But the family story is part of the Faith Camp story.


That is, with everything else already mentioned and many other things not mentioned here  — the ongoing work of Faith Camp. That is the distant legacy of the BYC. And in some way it is the universal call of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. We are called to be the Body of Christ as Church and to celebrate the mystery of the fullness of life Christ came to offer and assure. All of that is part of the Faith Camp Story.

faith camp week 2, 2016 - 4 faith camp week 2, 2016 - 2 faith camp week 2, 2016 - 1

Fathers Day, Poverty, Harsh Reality & Sports

Last night I watched LeBron James lead the determined Cavaliers against the super professional Steph Curry and the Golden State Warriors. The beloved King James who had seen his jersey burnt in Cleveland when he signed to play in Miami was not quite in the land of ordinary men. He was  crossing over a bit into legend on that moment.  It was Fathers Day and a lot of American Fathers (and other fathers too) are sports fans. It seems likely that for many families in Cleveland this was Fathers Day they are not likely to forget.  Of course for the Curry family and the fans of the Golden State Warriors it was a bitter disappointment. The moment one team and one man and one city flirted with legend was the moment that another story fell short the best regular season in NBA history ended with a hard fought  seven game finals but it did not end with the championship.

Competition is not the only value worth having and really is not the central value of my own life. But it is part of life for all of us and it is part of male identity. This Sunday Americans celebrated Fathers Day. I had an enjoyable time with my father.  I brought him gifts and we enjoyed drinks at the Riverfront restaurant in Abbeville and a beautiful meal that my mother had prepared. During this occasion most of the attention goes to the stories of fathers bringing up children in pretty good situations.  But fathering is done in many parts of the world that are far from ideal. The sense of struggle is almost endless for many people and many of them are fathers too. The Syrian refugees, the destitute in camps, homeless shelters,  and squatting in sites around the world — many of these are fathers as well.  This is one very compelling study about what is happening in the world.  It does not focus on the whole world but on one part of it very specifically, the world of a large group or class of Syrian refugees.  My Dad has spent a lot of time with those who were in trouble. We have lived and he has lived and visited regions where people were involved in the kinds of lingering and sporadic civil wars that were common in the twentieth century, places where mass migrations had strained local resources,  places recently devastated by hurricanes and places under various kinds of social change.

Being with him in some of those times  and places where the trouble and need which attracted us there were prevalent was not always easy. The path of a life in the missions was certainly not one without real challenges. The story of those challenges and the joys that go with them has been a story that has long been a part of my life itself — not just the events of the story but the telling and retelling of that story. Even the journalism I have made a little bit of a living doing from time to time and the fiction that has not yet paid any bills –even that is informed by the really extremely varied story of that life and those years especially spent together often dealing with crises.

Crises shape the community, hardship shapes a community and depression shapes a community.  So does the fear of violence. Americans are subject to a considerable amount of fear of violence and there is not that much agreement about how to deal with it. The cultural hostility to a person achieving any kind of self reliance whatever can be very much manifest in groups of people that inhabit many people and intimidate the family oriented, hardworking and insightful people trying to prevent those neighborhoods from turning to living hells or remaining such. A country like ours that is so dotted with riots and violence and punctuates it life with so many bombings and mass shootings is not necessarily a place that will not be crippled by more emphasis on disarming the citizenry . The Obama administration has often been criticized  here and so have  those around him who want an unarmed lawful citizenry. They are criticized in large part because I believe that they do not know how profound the savagery, disorder and decay is in its effects in destroying the quality of life in this country.  Limiting the arms of besieged American beset with violence, chaos and resistance to public advancement on many sides will certainly increase this sense of a society where it is not safe to try to survive and thrive. Here is a story about these matter in terms of what American guns mean to maintaining a balance of terror. The bad guys will not be disarming much any time soon.

My Dad is a gun owner. He is not a big preacher of the value of an armed citizenry and in many rough places where we lived we could not keep weapons at home. In addition the radical nature of our involvement with those in need  required us to risk a level of vulnerability  — but my dad is, as I have always been, a man who knew and used guns and respected and enjoyed them.


But the arts of shooting and killing like many other things have not been the only part of his life that we have shared. Family, ministry and other values and themes of life have really been much more important without undervaluing those things.  There have also been times visiting tourist sites, wealthy friends and relatives, living in neighborhoods near stable work and hanging out on the beach.


But I think back on my life as life in which the moments victory in dark places and hard times mattered a lot. Compared to opening a new harbor facility, a new factory or a new large piece of permanent public infrastructure a lot of the victories our family shared were kind of fleeting and heard to define. Life the elated Cleveland fans who must go back to the problems that their city faces tomorrow. But Cleveland is building back in many ways over the last twenty years. Form the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, to the improving Browns, to American Splendor and  the story of King James and his knights of the round ball — Cleveland is a gritty place in a gritty state looking for and finding some real meaning and hope.

I never forget the connection between the Saints winning the Super Bowl and the devastation of Katrina and Rita. Things are far from perfect now but the Super Bowl did help to keep people who stayed in the struggle in the struggle. In America a lot of fathers watch sports and find a little hope in their own struggles from the struggles of sports. That happened to us when the Saints won it all.

Whatever come in the coming year that is difficult and challenging I am sure tha watching the game last nigh after getting back from Dad’s will not be my favorite memory. I am not a huge NBA fan really. But I am also sure that it is a Father’s day even that has some meaning. It is a moment in time that many will treasure  as dads and with their dads.

Looking at 2016: the Next Phase

The elections at the end of President Barack Hussein Obama’s second term are likely to be very significant. Yet, that is not provable in the same way as one can prove rainfall or other natural occurrences after the fact. We also know that elections are held when the person’s term has not yet happened. The incumbents are running on a record but still one does not know what the term will be like and it is not so clear how much one’s vote will impact the outcome.  However Democrats, Republicans and lots of groups and organizations are very concerned about and aware of the elections. So we who live in this system and this country look at the days ahead and those remaining until the next election and we presume that we will follow it with interest and be involved in some way.  Not every one votes. Entire communities, religious groups, classes of felons and expatriots without real poll access really never can or do vote. Others do not start thinking about this so early and in fact this year we have governors and senators and all of the House of Representatives being elected. In my state all to these three important offices will be on the ballot.  We also have lots of other elections and votes before the presidential election.

Many of our most important issues and best stories are related to these other elections.  I probably will write about them. Yet I will choose to write about the presidential elections in this blog.

The amount of spectacularly impressive and heavily reported crime in the United States is definitely up since Obama has been elected. Fort Hood One and Two, The Navy Yard, the Aurora, Colorado movie theater, Sandy Hook, the Boston Marathon, the Sikh Temple, Oikos University, the Carson City IHOP, the North Carolina Nursing Home,  the Congressman Gabby Giffords shooting and many other events form a fabric together in a society long troubled by mass killings I have  proposed a new approach under a changed legal system.  that recognizes this crisis. But I also have an axiom I will bring to bear as I decide how to vote:

Pro- crime Legislation exists although it is not announced as such.

1. Where there is an established conflict between the law-abiding and criminals outlawing anything used in that conflict is a great benefit to the criminals.

Violent crime and other forms of homicide affect all of our lives and not just our votes. All of us have to deal with them and not only vote about them. But I will want all officials and the President to be thinking in ways I can respect about our problems. Because as hard as these problems are to solve we have to face them bravely and those in office who do not face problems like the many acts of mass violence all over the country may prevent others from reacting to these problems. that brings me to another principle which applies in other areas of politics as well.

The Dog in the Manger Fable Applied …

2. The one who takes responsibility and protects his office but does not fulfill his responsibilities very well often makes the problems he was supposed to solve much worse than if nobody was responsible.

American and other citizens of countries which vote do not just sit around and wait for elections. Life is pretty fully absorbing  most of the time. This post is about politics. It is about what is going on in my mind as I look at the next presidential election.  It is about region and regions play a big role in presidential elections. It is about healthcare and that has played a big role recently and will for a while longer. It is about voting behavior.  It is a post about my life and how I look through this life of good and bad at the next election for president.  I have far more than enough to do without looking at future politics and in many ways should not take the time and energy. So if I am so far from fully engaged now and yet not doing what I need to do why am I thinking of elections in November of a future year?

Well elections are not the whole solution to any problem I am concerned about but they are part of what I can do to address those problems.  It is worthwhile to be voting and electioneering along with many other activities. I have a political principle related to that as well.

A Map is a Map …

3. Having a simplistic model of a complex situation is often helpful. Acting as though the simple model is the complex situation is often evil.

The truth is that even in politics there are many things I do and others do besides vote that have some political impact. Town hall meetings, correspondence and this blog are all ways I reach out to make a difference. But I do vote a lot although I missed the most recent library tax vote in Vermilion Parish despite my strong interest in that institution. May is a very busy time and there are elections nearby but not for me and when I checked the online official calendar for my precinct on May first I found no scheduled elections this month and was a bit disappointed. But despite my interest in small and local elections we all know what the big elections are in our current system and the next one is getting nearer in time.  America is in the process of building up a number of new tensions in anticipation of the 2016 election. The future of this set of contests which decide the occupant of the White House is seriously important to us and the world but it is also a focal point for a vast variety of trivial inquiries. But if as I have already written I believe that I really I have far more than enough to do without looking at future politics and believe that in many ways  such concerns distract me from all the things I have to do why am I posting this? If I am so far from fully engaged now and yet not doing what I need to do why am I thinking of elections in November of a future year?

Prisons are full of those who believe they are innocent….

4. Just because you do not believe in evil does not mean you are not evil.

I do not expect the next President of the United States to agree with everything I think is important in terms of policy. Oddly enough I find it very important that he or she can evaluate themselves in some sense more real and meaningful than by whether or not they feel good about themselves and their pals and followers like them. Such integrity can be costly but it is important as well.

It is hard to know how things will play out exactly in terms of what is remembered and what is not. Who will remember what about a given presidency.  I am not glad to have been involved in  the period of time  of this presidential administration in the way I have but certainly I have almost no connection to the administration itself. But I wrote about President Obama as recently as the Ukraine Crisis, not only once although he was not the central topic of my blog posts on that subject  his administration was highly relevant to my discussions of the subject. That foreign policy crisis is far from over now. I have a principle that I will hold in mind when voting in the next big election.  A principle related to foreign policy:

Lazy governments want to resolve conflict. A good one wants to make peace.

5.Conflict resolution and peacemaking are not the same thing.   Survival of all ecosystems including human ones and the balance of civilizations depends largely on unresolved conflicts.

I have written a lot about foreign policy and geo-politics in this blog. that subject is important to me. I have also written about other aspects of the Obama Presidential Administration here in this blog. Some of those posts date from early on in his years in the White House. Some are related to other foreign policy crises that have come up. I have commented on appointments and other matters that were made relevant for relatively trivial reasons. In addition I spent a lot of space and time and energy covering the BP-Macondo Oil Leak  and sometime I discussed his response and my comments on him and his choices which are mostly negative elsewhere were often favorable in this context  though some were disparaging, the links here would put you in among the many varied posts for trying to figure out what I was writing about then. I also wrote about race in America in ways responsive to the facts of Obama’s administration.

The Peter Principle is it…

6. Very often in many civilizations important decisions are made by those certain to do the worst possible job.

 But most of my blog posts have not been much related to the Presidency. A large exception is that the Obama administration has drawn me into writing a set of model constitutions.  That is a bridge crossed and burnt behind me. Whatever the next administration is like I will forever be someone who honestly and seriously proposed changing the system a great deal. Of course the political system, my politics and all things political do not cover all aspects of my life or anyone’s life.

This is being written in May when my nephew Oliver has a birthday, My brother Joseph turns 30, my sister Sarah has a birthday, some of my family  have anniversaries and most of all my niece and godchild Anika graduates from high school. Coming up soon is the ordination of my second cousin Charles William Massey to the permanent diaconate. With all of those distractions and my father’s current ill-health  and many recent surgeries and medical procedures I am busily engaged in many things that ought perhaps to take all my attention off of politics. While healthcare has been a big political issue lately it is not  only issue. Sickness, health and medicine  are very much issues in my daily life in recent months. Mostly this is through my father’s experience.  Family which is tied to love, sex, marriage, relationships and the like has a lot do with defining and shaping human life. I care about that and it affects my voting. I have a principle I keep in mind:


A star quarterback is not also coach, referee and commissioner…

 7. Beautiful young women of all types play a very important role in any healthy human culture but are not supposed to invent and police the entire role they play all by themselves.

Going back in time through April my father’s health has formed the content of my status updates on  Facebook. I reproduce a few here:  May 1 I wrote: Dad went to sleep here last night and woke up here this morning. He walked a bit around the property looking at blackberry bushes to assess the ripeness of the berries. He is not doing great but seems better.  April 30 I wrote: I just spoke to my mother. Sarah was with them, they have been discharged and on working their way homeward. April 29 I wrote: I stopped by the hospital and dropped off some things for my mother and father. I also prayed with Dad and told him I cared. I am off schedule right now and trying to feel my way through the day. This goes on for a long time as the main or a principal theme of my Facebook timeline: April 27 Dad is spending the night in the hospital tonight. They are treating him for symptoms of blood loss.  This was a readmission after he had already come home from the last of quite a few different surgeries and procedures. Thus on April 24: My father is home. He is not exactly well but hopefully is recovering. I am off to run some errands and to drop a boiler, spices and a tank of propane off with my sister Susanna and her hubbie Mike and their family. Having done some cleanup this morning and returned another tank unused I am finishing up the holiday weekend. We had all gone crabbing at Rockefeller Refuge on a day when Dad was most recovered from one recent surgery and going in for another one.  So, I could not even get set up for Obamacare before the deadline and my life is largely interrupted by other people’s healthcare and medical needs but although I am alienated from DC and its solutions and protests I am thinking about them. Why  if I am so far from fully engaged now and yet not doing what I need to do  then one asks why am I thinking of elections in November of a future year?

I have a foreign policy principle that I also apply to the politics of healthcare. I hope there will be some good  recognition of the principle in the next reace for the White House:

Never use a hammer to kill the mosquito on your friends forehead  and never seek to be seen as the cowardly bully … 

8. Maximum concentration of force is always bad policy. One want to use exactly the smallest force in any war which will achieve all desired objectives. The secret is not to have so many ideas based on false optimism and bad applications when estimating what is needed.

This week has already been a double feast week. Mom made the Mexican chicken tacos for lunch we seldom eat anymore in honor of the  Cinco de Mayo and after numerous failed collaborations to achieve the goal she bought and treated the rest of us to boiled crawfish on the weekend of the Breaux Bridge Crawfish Festival yesterday to raise funds for the speech team at the school where my niece and godchild Anika  attends which is Abbeville High School. Both the crawfish and the tacos were very good. I have had the chance to think about education and opportunity and family and foreign relations with many of America’s most significant foreign partners including Mexico.

In this region a good number of us eat frozen crawfish tails all through the year and  eat boiled crawfish throughout an ever expanding season. But this first weekend in May is a special time for crawfish among other things. In any given year for those in the region or who could get here the Breaux Bridge Crawfish Festival and VC-Carmel May Festival in Abbeville are held on the first weekend in May, which was this past weekend. Both different and both worth attending. I will not be getting to either one I suppose. I have been to the May Festival more often to support two local Catholic schools and associates of various kinds who go there but I would have to say the BBCF is one of the premiere product-related festivals in the state and the country. King Crawfish is a good documentary for people from far away to access all that BBCF celebrates. This link is for the school I attended for the longest time in my life although not by as large a margin as some former classmates who were quicker through undergraduate and stayed all nine available years at MCES or those who just did those nine years and high school.  The May Festival as far as I know has had crwfish for sale as well as other items like steak and burgers for most of the most recent decades. As I wrote earlier,  I enjoyed some crawfish to benefit the Abbeville High Speech team and Anika’s trip to two national league championships (CFL and NFL) but once again did not get to promote the sale in advance as I was not sure about the time and location etc. The last few weeks and the next few weeks are certainly challenging in unusual ways and yet many Americans equally busy or busier are starting to think of politics.

Alongside school fundraiser and church sponsored events the festivals are important to all aspects of society in this state and region. On the last evening of April I was involved in buying flowers, dressing up and  listening to Anika and the AHS speech team. I attended Anika Claire’s final speech team performance in the Abbeville High School auditorium and also the rest of the Speech Team extravaganza. I also saw the distribution of recognition and other things. I was very pleased to be there and happy with all she has accomplished.  This month already crammed with distractions also had Star Wars Day on the Fourth of May. “May the Fourth be with you!” and the same day was Audrey Hepburn’s 85th birthday. Audrey Hepburn what a movie star she was.An old acquaintance and former colleague, supervisor and  urged the greatness of her comeback movie as Robin Hood’s (Sean Connery’s) lost love in Robin and Marian. Personally, I missed that film and do not doubt that it was very good. But I know  “Gigi“, “Roman Holiday“, “Breakfast at Tiffany’s“, “Funny Face“, “The Nun’s Story“, “Sabrina“, “Wait Until Dark“, “My Fair Lady“, “War and Peace” and “Charade” are well worth watching largely because of stellar performances by this actress. In addition she has the distinction of  being discovered by a novelist when this young Belgian girl was selected to play the title role  Gigi in the film adaptation of the novella of the same name by a  Francophone female writer. She was to become deeply attached to America and Hollywood.



But from the French speaking Hepburn to the  next day flips the table on French connections in my calendar. Surely almost no Americans are unaware of the historic significance of the Mexican victory over the French forces at the Third Battle of Puebla in 1862 where French Empire acted with the support and authority of the Spanish and British and the Tripartite Alliance formed by these powers. Zaragoza’s Republican army defeated a larger European invasion force despite the economic crisis, civil war and fiscal problems that encouraged the enemy to invade in the first place.Oh wait a minute — some Americans might be fuzzy about a few details. I spent some time in Puebla which is most famous in Mexico for having 365 churches where one could go to mass at a different church each day of the year. It is a pretty place with good food music and scenery.
This holiday is barely celebrated in most of Mexico except in bars that cater to Americans and more generally in or around Pueblo itself and in a few other circles. Mexico had achieved independence long before the battle remembered today but was possibly going to lose it in one of many wars in the history of our southern neighbor. It makes virtually no sense that we remember this day so much in the USA except for reasons I will not get into. However, If I had the chance to eat lots of Mexican food and drink a few to many margaritas on any Fifth of May  I suppose I would. Feliz Cinco de Mayo . . . All of this seems like a lot doesn’t it? There are a lot days in my life worth marking that are not election days at all. I have a political principle related to those facts that will be on my mind when I vote in the nest election.  It is a foreign policy principle but it also has applications for politics itself and has to do with remembering who and what people are:

Those who always speak  in serious absolutes seldom say worthwhile things …

 9. If war is not a game then do not expect anyone to win, don’t expect time out, rule discussions or referees. If war is not a game it is just slaughter and it is hard to understand what that really means — but I do.

Of course my life is not only celebrations and calendar based events even this month. I work a great deal many days to keep this house and make this yard presentable and functional. Work outside is harder when I do in the mild drought we are having than it would be with more rain. Sometimes this dry weather which diminishes what I would do means that I am here at home half glad that the lack of rain served as an excuse not to do things I had planned to do after some small rain first predicted for a recent day and the previous night. I often turn to blogging, may wide reading and correspondence. But my life is neither very lucrative or satisfying and I often  hope to end my evening in the same slower than usual pattern occasioned by the forced semi-idleness brought my the dry weather and the lack of resilience it brings to soils and plants.

I also have spent a lot of time with small children and I keep thinking about them and those who care for them. I also take care of horses in the winter as well as the lawn and garden. All of these things matter to me and I have a political principle related to these connections that I will bring to the polls in 2016:

 “Let the little children come unto me. For of such is the Kingdom of God…”

 10.  Many people do not ever want to be reasonable — not ever. However, none of those people are children.

 So far I do not know who will be running and I will have a lot more to say over time. But this is my first look in this blog at the 2016 elections. So if I am so far from fully engaged now and yet not doing what I need to do why am I thinking of elections in November of a future year?

Maybe because there is a lot on my mind to consider and I want to see that it all forms part of the process for me at least.


Real Politics, the Politics of Reality and Me

It is an interesting time for politics for those who have time and energy to keep up their interest in politics. This may include me sometimes more than others. What could be more compelling than watching the news and expatiating on is implications? Well quite a few things in point of fact. For me just now my father’s cancer has me well distracted from the problems with Obamacare, same sex marriage, the Afghanistan situation, the low rates of labor force participation in the United States, the ongoing BP leak situation, the nightmare of water management in the country, the escalating tensions with Russia (related to Ukraine, Snowden, Syria, the EU, East Asia and other matters), the North Korean missile tests, the downsizing of the U. S. Army and the vast unrest joined to isolated misanthropy which is gripping our country. Yes it is a good time for political speculation but it is not the only thing worth thinking about. In fact it is true that most Americans have little connection to many of these political issues.

My father has received results of a biopsy from an area where he had a previous cancer that there is cancer, that cancer has recurred or that it is present. I am sure Mom will post some news eventually. This afternoon he will meet with an oncologist and Mom will be with him.My father has had at least two full-fledged cancer surgeries and some treatments for each. My grandfather Chief Justice Frank W. Summers, his father died of cancer as did one of his two brothers and the other might well have done so had he not succumbed to other maladies of the same organs in which some have said cancer was starting. Many of our relatives and some of his siblings have had cancer.

My father has been blessed in the years since his first cancer to see his mission company and legacy grow and he is still deeply devoted to following the progress of both. He and my mother have celebrated their fiftieth wedding anniversary. His mother was born in a hospital and he was close to his grandfather who was a physician. I have often heard him express gratitude for the medical and allied treatments and care he has received. For him there is no doubt that his work and family life have been extended by the efforts of his professional care community.

I hope that all will remember him in thoughts and prayers and if you see him or my mother will offer such sympathy and encouragement as you can find to offer. I went with my father to New Orleans several times when he was first sick with prostate cancer and since then my direct involvement has diminished over time. My father has also recently been diagnosed with a different health condition which may complicate all of this. He and Mom may choose to disclose more about all this at different times but those who know me know of his health struggles to some degree and it would not be right for me not mention it and pretend this is in any way my life. Nor is it a secret that he has struggled for a good number of years in the cancer arena with remissions etc. I am attaching a post I put on my blog when he went for the biopsy. The picture doesn’t frame well on FB but is better at the other site.

But although I am not holding a placard nor able to do what I might think fitting the problems with Obamacare but I am aware of the crises people are experiencing. All of the social, constitutional and political issues raised by  same sex marriage and the trigger happy federal courts in this country  are on my mind  — at leas most of the issues are on my mind. I am well aware of all the many blows to morale which are accumulating so that the next 9/11 attack would have vastly more impact on the USA. I am aware of all the obstacles to readiness and  recruiting in a crisis which are accumulating. It is in that context that I view the sense of surrender that can frame the evolving  Afghanistan situation. I am deeply aware of the dangerously the low rates of labor force participation in the United States, the fact that minimum wage and Obamacare and social policy and migration patterns all feed this crisis. I am well aware of ten different trends I regard as potential threats revealed by or evident in the evolution of the ongoing BP leak situation.  The BP mess has me also more aware of the nightmare of water management in the country with issues form Eastern flooding to Western droughts, industrial abuses and the horror of the Bayou Corne/ Assumption Parish Sink Hole and Texas Brine.

I am well aware of the world we live in every day of our lives. I am aware of the North Korean missile tests,and the vast resources connected to that small part of the force they represent. It is a serious concern not in itself but as a symbol rallying many other forces. It concerns me.  So does the sense of strain I detect in many of our institutions and the vast unrest joined to isolated misanthropy which is gripping our country. Sure there are always bad times but they are also always threatening. Once must overcome them to survive.

But all of these real political concerns are not the most important factors we face. I hope to devote a whole post soon to the escalating tensions of the USA with Russia (related to Ukraine, Snowden, Syria, the EU, East Asia and other matters), .It is a reality that we can really mess this up. It is not a joke. There are in fact ten wrong answers for every passable one. Yes it is a good time for political speculation but it is not the only thing worth thinking about. Nor is all speculation created equal. My solutions seem radical to many but they are moderate in my view. We must chart a sound course and do so very soon or there will be bad and serious consequences.  In fact it is true that most Americans have little connection to many of these political issues. But America has the resources to handle its crises — but not the luxury of a huge margin for error.

Again there will be more later. . . I hope.