Cynical Synapse

Thu, 24 Nov 2011

Nothing to Be Thankful For? Think Again

Filed under: Behavior, Driving, holidays, Life, People, Roads — cynicalsynapse @ 12:07 pm

blessings we take for granted

A couple nights ago, I picked my car up from the dealership and was enroute home on the rain-soaked Interstate. Just 15 minutes into my trip, the car started losing power. I managed to work my way from the left lane to the exit before the car died along the side of the ramp. Fortunately, the dealer hadn’t yet closed and they agreed to come collect me. I’m sure, like me, they didn’t think the problem was related to any work they had done.

While I was sitting on the side of the ramp, I realized I’d been lucky this happened when and where it did and that I was able to get ahold of the dealership. Still, as is human nature, I couldn’t help thinking how this was one more trial in a year that seems to have more than its share of tribulations. At the very same moment, the police were working an accident scene just a few miles ahead on the same Interstate I had been on. A women had been struck and killed while attempting cross the highway.

My little problem saved me the aggravation of the traffic backups on the Interstate. More importantly, all of my problems pale in comparison to that young lady’s death and the tragic loss to her family, especially before the holiday. I’m thankful for my car’s acting up because that girl’s death has more significance to me. I have a heck of a lot of things to be thankful that I too frequently take for granted. Do you?

Enjoy time with family and friends. Be thankful for what you have. And have a great, safe, and happy Thanksgiving!

HT: Stealth Magnolia

Sun, 20 Nov 2011

Charity with Dignity is Worthy of Thanksgiving

Filed under: Behavior, Good job, Helping others, holidays, Life, Paradoxes, People — cynicalsynapse @ 9:44 pm

5 points of Calvinism

In West Michigan, the dominant religious tradition is Calvinism. Although born and raised there, I was not brought up with Calvinist beliefs. In fact, I confess I didn’t really know much of anything about Calvinism until today. At left are the 5 points of Calvinist theological doctrine.

What I do remember from my younger days is being told you can’t be saved by good works. It didn’t make sense to me at the time, but now I see it’s a fundamental element of Calvinism. Calvinists believe God knows everything, including whether you’ll be saved or not. They also believe you cannot fully make up for your sins and only the select will be saved. As I understand it, most Calvinists don’t see this as predestination, but a lot of non-Calvinists do.

Pacific Crossroads Church Boxes of Love

My religious foundation recognizes a graceful value in good works. If God is merciful and all loving, how could it be otherwise? Is it really plausible a merciful and loving God would condemn all non-Christians?

Imagine my surprise, then, when I ran across the article “How Calvinists Spread Thanksgiving Cheer” in Friday’s Wall Street Journal. Yesterday, Pacific Crossroads Church delivered Boxes of Love with Thanksgiving dinner ingredients to Los Angeles area underprivileged. The boxes contain ingredients for families to make their own dinners instead of having to line up at a soup kitchen. If that’s not an awesome good work, I don’t know what is.
 


 

Fri, 11 Nov 2011

Over 25 Million Served: Honoring Our Veterans

Filed under: Global War on Terror, Government, Heroes, holidays, Life, Military, Patriotism, Society — cynicalsynapse @ 4:18 pm

Veterans Day 2011

Today is Veterans Day, an opportunity to thank all who have served, or are serving, in our nation’s armed forces. The holiday originally marked the end of hostilities in World War I, taking on its 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month distinction from that role as Armistice Day. In 1954, the holiday’s purpose was expanded to recognize the service and contributions—sometimes ultimate sacrifice—of all veterans, living and deceased, who served in any branch of the US military.

Veterans Day is significant this year, not just for its 11/11/11 date. We mark the tenth Veterans Day since we began the Global War on Terror. It’s important to honor those who served in the nation’s longest war. Equally important is recognizing those who wore our military uniforms during wartime and peacetime going back through the centuries to the Minutemen, the Citizen-Soldiers who bore arms in defense of their neighbors even before our country was born. Their legacies are the freedoms for which we owe our veterans such gratitude.
 

Previously on Veterans Day:

Mon, 31 Oct 2011

In Detroit, Pumpkins Decorate You

Filed under: Detroit, Driving, Good job, Helping others, holidays, Humor, Life, People, Society — cynicalsynapse @ 1:41 pm

pumpkins littering I-696

Detroit has a long-standing tradition of beginning Halloween celebrations early; not always in the best light. This year was no exception as the holiday period kicked off, not with a famous act, or even an act of vandalism. North suburban Farmington Hills saw the arrival of the smashing pumpkins on I-696 last Wednesday, just in time for the morning commute. Drivers had to carve their way through the bouncing gourds which shattered at least one windshield but caused no injuries. According to Pat Carmichael, who witnessed the mayhem:

There are hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of these pumpkins… There’s [sic] three lanes that are just covered with smashed pumpkins. I’m just now getting toward Telegraph and the truck’s been pulled over by a police officer. The back of the truck has been sheared off.

damaged I-696 pumpkin truck

Police said the driver, Brian Rose, could be cited for having an unstable load, which carries a $150 fine. But, Rose said he was cut off and struck a bridge pier. Excuse me? Why didn’t he stop to see if there was any damage? How about a ticket for fleeing the scene of an accident? How about restitution for the cost of clean up? As you can see at right, Rose’s hitting the bridge pier was more than just a little bump or scrape.

Later that same Wednesday, Detroit Zoo animals began their own Halloween festivities. In an effort to stimulate their natural behaviors, they were given pumpkins filled with appropriate treats. Some played with or guarded their treasure gourds while others enjoyed dismantling them in one manner or another. The Zoo was also decorated for Halloween, including zombies, which are not part of the Zoo’s regular exhibits.

During the mid-70s to mid-90s, Detroit’s early “celebrations” saw out-of-control arsons, approaching around 800 in later years. In 1995, then Mayor Archer countered Devils’ Night with Angels’ Night. Over the last 15 years, the Halloween holiday has become one of Detroit’s safest. The Angels’ Night mobilizations, which take place over about a 3 day period, are a model of a community taking back its streets. Kids can go trick-or-treating; adults can go on their zombie walks; everyone can have a good time. This is the real D and this is where we’re headed.
 


 

Sun, 11 Sep 2011

9/11 Ten Years Later

Filed under: History, holidays, Life, Patriotism, Society, Terrorism — cynicalsynapse @ 12:10 am

9/11 commemoration

Outside of the United States, there is a widespread belief the US is not telling the whole story about the 9/11 attacks. In China, only 37% believe al Qaeda was responsible, despite Osama bin Laden taking credit for them.

The facts are 2,977 innocent people were killed on 9/11/2001 by 19 Islamist extremists, members of the al Qaeda terrorist organization. The attacks radically changed the world as we know it. A decade later, we have kids who weren’t old enough at the time, but now are able to form their own opinions. And we have adults that don’t understand 9/11:

Ten years later we find America in a state of confusion and disunity concerning the meaning and lessons to be drawn from the Islamist terror attacks of 9/11. This article is offered both as a remembrance of those who were killed by an act of war, and a plea for understanding the nature of the ideology that motivated the terrorists. The decision by a Sharia promoting imam to build a triumphalist mosque adjacent to the 9/11 site has highlighted a great schism in America. There are those who understand the threat posed by fundamentalist Islam and those among us who are unable to. Understanding the threat and confronting it effectively at home and abroad is one the of great challenges America faces today.

The quote comes from Remembering and Understanding 9/11. I encourage you to view the rest of the post, which I found a very powerful and compelling way to remember, honor, and celebrate Patriot Day 2011.

Previously on Patriot Day:

Mon, 30 May 2011

Remembering Our Fallen Heroes

Placing US flags at the tombstones of the fallen

There are 5000 reasons to remember Memorial Day as we mark 9-1/2 years in fight against evil we used to call the Global War on Terror. For Michigan, 197 service members died in this conflict, defending our freedoms and way of life. In recent years, Dearborn’s parade honors its fallen veterans without resources or family for their own burials.

I appreciate Gov. Rick Snyder (R) carrying on the tradition started by his predecessor, Jennifer Granholm (D), of lowering US flags to half-staff for Michigan’s military personnel killed in action. I understand he also calls the families. While we can never know what this means to them, I suspect it helps in some small way. There is formal recognition for the sacrifice of their loved one.

As a Michigan Army National Guardsman, I have 12 fallen comrades. Last Thursday, we held a memorial service for them. It moved me to post a note on Facebook, which I repost here as my 2011 tribute to those who gave their lives in our defense.

For several years now, the Michigan National Guard has held an annual memorial service to honor our comrades-in-arms who gave their lives in the Global War on Terror. These have taken place during the two-week Annual Training period on the day of the Memorial Parade and Pass-in-Review. There is a monument to the fallen heroes, along with a plaque bearing each of their names, outside the Camp Grayling chapel.

The services were started to honor the service of those who paid the ultimate price, as a means for their families to cherish the memories of their loved ones, and as proof to the families the Michigan National Guard will never forget them. When I was assigned to Joint Force Headquarters staff, I didn’t attend the memorial services out of respect for the families. As a Battalion Commander, I was invited to the 2010 service, and rightfully so. I never knew SPC Richard Goward or SGT Matthew Soper and both gave their lives before I assumed command of the Battalion of which their units are now part. But they are my Soldiers. And I particularly remember SPC Goward—he was the Michigan Guard’s first casualty in the Global War on Terror.

Michigan has decentralized how it conducts Annual Training, so the memorial service was moved to Lansing and conducted today, fittingly, right before the Memorial Day weekend. Since I work full-time for the Guard in Lansing, I was able to attend. While I wanted to be there, I did not expect the service to be as amazing as it was. You usually expect these to be solemn events at which you pay tribute and your respects. We did that today, but, for me, it was bigger than that.

Michigan gold star license plate

I don’t, personally, know any of our fallen heroes. Yes, two were from my Battalion and one lived where I live. That gives their paying the ultimate price a degree more connectedness, though all the other fallen since 9/11 are no less heroes. Today, my friend LTC Randy Brummette spoke about SFC Michael Hilton, who was killed in action while serving in Afghanistan in 2008. LTC Brummette commanded a small team, of which SFC Hilton was part, that also consisted of a Soldier I went to basic training with and another who was one of my company commanders when I took command of the 246th Transportation Battalion. LTC Brummette’s words were personable and emotional. And SFC Hilton is real to me even though I never knew him. I am truly fortunate for such an opportunity that most will never know.

Here are the Michigan Army National Guard Citizen-Soldiers who gave their lives in the service of their country and in response to the heinous, cowardly attacks of 9/11/2001:

  • SPC Richard A Goward, 32—14 April 2003
  • SPC Craig S Frank, 24—17 July 2004
  • SSG Ricky A Kieffer, 36—15 March 2005
  • SPC Timothy D Brown, 23—04 November 2005
  • PFC John W Dearing, 21—21 November 2005
  • SGT Spencer C Akers, 35—08 December 2005
  • SPC Dane O Carver, 20—26 December 2005
  • SGT Joshua V Youmans, 26—01 March 2006
  • SGT Matthew A Webber, 23—27 April 2006
  • SGT Duane J Dresky, 31—10 July 2006
  • SGT Matthew J Soper, 25—06 June 2007
  • SFC Matthew L Hilton, 37—26 June 2008

As the names of these brave Warriors were read today, I reflected on their contributions and the debt we all owe them, as well as all service men and women. But I also realized we have more fallen heroes than we typically consider.

In addition to SPC Goward, SGT Soper, and SFC Hilton, I also thought of SGT Anthony Burch. SGT Burch is an unsung fallen hero who committed suicide just 2 days into my command of the 246 Transportation Battalion. I never knew him, but he was an amazing person, by all accounts.

As a society, I suspect we take for granted and do not truly understand the value and worth our service members truly give and bring to the Global War on Terror. I’m sure it’s not callousness or lack of empathy. But for me, this has been personal since the beginning. I hope this helps you understand why.

SGT Burch is an unsung hero because his death is not attributed to combat. As an Iraq veteran, however, his family knows Tony Burch is no less a hero than those who died in direct combat.

Previously on Memorial Day:

Sat, 25 Dec 2010

Christmas Remembrances 2010

Filed under: Civil liberties, Global War on Terror, Heroes, holidays, Military — cynicalsynapse @ 11:36 am

Merry Christmas to all and may you enjoy every blessing.

Please remember our military personnel who have and are serving in harm’s way, and their families as well. Their selfless service is why we all are free to celebrate (on not) Christmas and the holidays according to the religious traditions of our choice. These freedoms are not free so I offer a Christmas blessing for the fallen warriors.

HT: Dewey From Detroit and theblogprof.

Thu, 25 Nov 2010

Gratitude and Gettysburg

Filed under: Behavior, Global War on Terror, History, holidays, Life, Military, Terrorism — cynicalsynapse @ 9:45 am

From Love, Life & Truth:

Thanksgiving. We all know it’s about more than turkey, football and kick-starting the holiday shopping season. As I mentioned last year, it’s about coming together with a spirit of gratitude – in good times or bad – in plenty or pain – in peace or war. Yep – even in times of war.

In fact, the first official Thanksgiving was celebrated in the midst of The American Civil War – only months after the pivotal Battle of Gettysburg, where more than 50,000 troops were lost or wounded in a three-day campaign.

Give Thanks – for War?

Lincoln Memorial

The link between Thanksgiving and war was established by President Abraham Lincoln, who, in October of 1863, issued a proclamation to “invite my fellow citizens…to observe the last Thursday of November next, as a day of Thanksgiving and Praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the Heavens.”

Then – only a week before that first Thanksgiving – Lincoln delivered the most famous speech in U.S. political history, during dedication ceremonies for the Soldiers National Cemetery at Gettysburg. His Gettysburg Address not only honored the fallen, but reframed the war, declaring:

…this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom – and that the government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.

And so the Civil War became recognized as a struggle for freedom from the oppression of slavery.

Gettysburg, Revisited

Earlier this year, I was honored to join fellow Guardsmen in walking the grounds of Gettysburg. It’s an unforgettable experience – not just for soldiers like me. The place instantly surrounds you with its solemn, historical gravity.

Not surprisingly, as Thanksgiving approaches, my mind is traveling back to that hallowed battlefield – as I consider the reasons why Lincoln intentionally connected the dots between war and gratitude. To say it seems counterintuitive is an understatement. Indeed, that juxtaposition of war and gratitude reflects the irony of human existence perhaps better than any poem or proverb.

Lincoln’s Legacy

The loss of life at Gettysburg was massive – but the war didn’t end there. The longer the conflict dragged on, the bloodier it grew, and the more tormented Lincoln became about mounting casualties. Two more years would pass before the Union defeated the Confederate Army. When the South’s slaves were freed, they celebrated with great thanksgiving. Unfortunately, President Lincoln never saw it, but eventually, our nation began to heal.

For most of my 53 years on the planet, our country has celebrated Thanksgiving in relative peace. But sadly, this isn’t one of those years. Today, we find ourselves at war with extremists in Afghanistan – in the most protracted conflict in U.S. history. We long for peace, just as Lincoln did. But peace is not at hand.

Even so, we’ll gather together this week to remember our blessings as citizens of the most prosperous country the world has ever known. In the face of uncertainty, we’ll give thanks for family, home and freedom – freedom to worship, to speak our minds, to dream big, and to pursue those dreams.

A Thanksgiving Prayer for Others

I hope that soon, we’ll see Afghanistan celebrate a new level of freedom and gratitude, as we help loosen the oppressive grip that terrorists have imposed on that region. Until then, we should continue fighting for this cause – just as Lincoln asked of us during the Civil War.

It may not be easy. It may not be quick. But it’s the right thing to do. And as long as we’re doing the right thing, we should feel blessed.

Our nation has faced similar challenges in the past. We’re likely to face them again in the future. After all, if history has taught us anything, it’s that there’s always a “bad guy” – always a bully aiming to exploit the world’s weakest, most vulnerable people. The enemy changes, but the cause of freedom does not. And wherever people live in fear of dreaded enemies, U.S. armed forces continue to be a beacon of liberty and hope.

Therefore, in the spirit of Thanksgiving, I thank all those Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen and Marines who serve the cause of freedom. And I thank the citizens who support them. May the work we do to “win the peace” bring favor to a grateful nation.

With prayers for a peaceful future.
Happy Thanksgiving!

– Jeff

Couldn’t have said it better if I had tried. Happy Thanksgiving!

Previously on Thanksgiving:

Thu, 11 Nov 2010

Veterans Day: Thanks for My Freedoms

Filed under: Citizen rights, Global War on Terror, Heroes, History, holidays, Military, Patriotism, President — cynicalsynapse @ 9:12 am

Veterans Day 2010

November 11th is Veterans Day. Originally established to mark the end of World War I—Armistice Day—the holiday has come to honor veterans and their families from all wars and conflicts. President Obama began this year’s proclamation with these words:

On Veterans Day, we come together to pay tribute to the men and women who have worn the uniform of the United States Armed Forces. Americans across this land commemorate the patriots who have risked their lives to preserve the liberty of our Nation, the families who support them, and the heroes no longer with us.

We pay tribute to veterans in a lot of ways, especially on Veterans Day. Many restaurants offer free or reduced price meals and other businesses extend military discounts. Others simply thank those in uniform or obviously veterans. I can tell you they appreciate it. Members of our Armed Forces serve year round, however, and more than 200,000 are serving away from their families. You could take a moment to show deployed military personnel you care by sending a letter or a care package.

Pres. Obama at Yongsan War Memorial

In the midst of his Asian trip, President Obama honored Korean War veterans at a memorial in Seoul. The President also thanked members of the military in his remarks to them at the US Army Yongsan Garrison in Seoul.

From those who took up arms in our first militias, before our country was even born, to those serving in harm’s way today, we owe our freedoms and way of life to veterans. They are true patriots and heroes. They stand up without reservation to defend us from all enemies, foreign and domestic. Salute them all.

Previously on Veterans Day:

Sun, 31 Oct 2010

Trick or Treat, the Lure of Free Candy

Filed under: Behavior, Greed, holidays, Life, Opportunists, People — cynicalsynapse @ 10:58 am

halloween candy

Some cities have official trick or treat times. In my area, they vary from only an hour to three hours. For the cities that “officially” allow trick or treating from 6 PM to 7 PM, have you noticed it’s not even dark yet? My city recommends 6 to 8 pm.

teen halloween

I have no clue where some people come from to trick or treat in my neighborhood. You see them get out of cars. I’m ok with that, but don’t ask for candy for the 3 month old or the sibling that got sick.

On the other hand, I don’t really like it when the big kids show up. You see, there’s an age when you’re too old to trick or treat. Just sayin…

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