Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Endeavoring to Begin...Again.

Man, you guys had to come out with some bang-up intros, didn't you?  I seemed to miss the mark, so I'll endeavor to begin the begin again, but with brevity, so I can address your Bush comments as well.  Here's a bit more of an introduction:

Hi, my name Is Paul.  I'm married now for nearly twenty years and have two wonderful children, and that is all that is special about me.  I call myself a "recovering evangelical", for which I'd refer you to The Isle of Mulling for clarity (it's there, somewhere).  I also call myself a libertarian leaning conservative, which is nothing more than a Reagan Republican on governance and economic issues, and one who defers to personal liberty in everything.  In light of the Bush era, I believe that makes sense.  I'd say I have a hyper imagination and live in a constant state of flux (I flutter about in my interests) , which irritates the crap out of my family.  And that is the sum of everything one might need to know about me.

In regard to the posts, Endeavoring to Persevere:A Good Title for a Blog Entry and Why I Would Party With GW (Now), I thought it might be wise to qualify my own perception of Bush 43.  And I shall keep these comments short as well, for there isn't much to explain that hasn't already been said by brighter, more knowledgeable minds than my own.  The bottom line is Pres. Bush was no conservative.  Outside of the campaign rhetoric used to solidify his base support, there doesn't seem to be anything else to qualify him as one.  In a side-by-side comparison of the first term of the presidents since 1964 (Bush Beats Johnson: Comparing the Presidents), no one spent more money than George W. Bush.  He increased discretionary spending with each pork laden bill that came his way, increased entitlement spending with the Medicare overhaul, and spent enough money to destroy the budget surpluses he inherited from the Clinton era.  That just ain't conservative.  When you throw in the hubris by which the Bush Administration handled the weapons of mass destruction intelligence debacle, it's kind of hard for a conservative to hold his head up high when saying he voted for Bush (twice).  At the time, one might think Bush was the best of the two candidates running, but in hindsight, a conservative might wonder.

With that said, I can understand when you say you "don't have anything really nice to say" about Bush 43, Leon.  There are some nice things, but they can be overshadowed by the not-so-nice.  Cody, I can certainly agree with the "love-hate" aspect of your post.  I'm with you on that.  I'd like to contend that his presidency was better than the potential reigns of the other two guys, but the Clinton era seemed to turn out more conservative than Bush's, at least in my humble and uninformed mind.  Since perception is everything in politics, I guess that counts for something.

OK, now that should about clear things up, wouldn't you say?  (Yeah, clear as mud!)

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Endeavoring to Perservere: A Good Title for A Blog Entry

Okay.   This is my first entry on the Opine Apparatus for a number of reasons. 

And these are in no particular order.

I had a tough and busy week back after vacation.  I had a sermon to write.  I had to interview two potential new staff members for my church. And I couldn't think of anything worth saying.  Or maybe I just couldn't think.  It was one of the two or a combination of both. 

Anyway.  I am at a Panera Bread in Lake Mary, FL waiting for my a movie to finish.  I have twenty more minutes to wait.  My 15 year-old son and his girlfriend are on a date and they wanted to see the new Shrek movie.  I drove them.  It was too far to drive all the way back home so I came here. My kid told me that he "owed" me for doing this.  I figure he "owes" me for originating his life and putting up with his teenage crap.  This one I did out of love (he and his little girlfriend aren't going to see each other for a month and change) and the opportunity to throw it back in his face if he does something stupid, which is inevitable.  He's a teenager, after all. 

Ah, he's a good kid.  I'm sort of happy to help him out--even though the thought of him making out with a girl while watching Shrek in 3-D makes my stomach hurt.

I suppose I should introduce myself.  My name is Leon Bloder.  I usually blog at Presbymergent Musings and I also do some podcasting and other assorted stuff at my own Website.  Here's my "bio" from my blog:
Leon Bloder is a preacher, a poet, a would-be writer, a husband, a father, a son, a dreamer, a sinner, a former fundamentalist, a pastor, a fellow-traveller and a failed artist. He is talentless, but well-connected. He stumbles after Jesus, but hopes beyond hope that he is stumbling in the right direction. 
I am the pastor of The First Presbyterian Church of Eustis, which is in the scenic, small town of Eustis, Florida, which is roughly 40 miles from Orlando and 40 minutes from anything cool.  I take that back. There is a 5 Guys Burger going in the new Publix shopping plaza right around the corner from my house. This has made my year. 

I have been married for 19 years to my high school sweetheart.  I have a 15 year-old son (aforementioned) and a just turned 6 year-old son and one son that is set to enter the world in August.  My wife and I are 41 and having a baby.  We are insane.  In a good way. 

I've been blogging for a few years now---mostly reflections on sermons that I am writing, book reviews, the occasional movie review, social commentary or just weird rambling.  I review books for Thomas Nelson publishers and Tyndale Publishers.  They give me free books, which I dig. 

I know Paul through his blog and also through his wife, who I graduated high school with many moons ago when I used to be a fundamentalist Christian.  I wasn't a very good fundamentalist Christian though, because I read the Bible and asked questions.  I also hated church. 

Ironically, I became a pastor. 

I still read the Bible and I still ask questions, though. 

By the way.  Read the book on the left.  It explains a lot of things that have made me happy over the years.  

I also don't have anything really nice to say about G.W. Bush.  He got us into a horribly expensive war (Iraq) that has cost way too many of our brave men and women their lives.  And he couldn't pronounce nuclear. 

I also don't care too much for President Obama, but I did like it when he said he wanted to kick someone's ass over the oil spill.  I did vote for him, though, but only because my candidate didn't win the Democratic nomination.  Hey, I still think Hillary would kick WAY more ass than Obama. 

Why I would Party With GW (now)

by Cody Kilgore

I have kind of a love/hate relationship with G.W. Bush. Sorry: the proper and due respect requires that I call him former president G.W. Bush. He deserves that; he did go through all the machinations of winning that office twice—despite my votes—and his having held that position dictates at least that much respect. But (getting back to the relationship mentioned), I hated his administration and love that it is over.

To correctly portray my feelings on FPGWB (I have to abbreviate, sorry), I have to go back to when he was first thrust into the spotlight as a potential candidate. I have long been what many call a liberal, even though I think of myself as a moderate liberal, and was such when he emerged as the new darling of the Republican party. At first he seemed intriguing, almost like a breath of fresh air leaking out of the conservative closet. He seemed likable, and I had a healthy respect for his father, who I viewed as sort of a kinder, gentler antithesis to Reagan. By proxy, FPGWB got my reserved judgment.

However, as we approached the election, a different version of FPGWB came into focus. I imagine it was inevitable; politics and campaigns just can’t seem to be accomplished without extremes these days. But the FPGWB I was seeing didn’t agree with me, and so I threw my support (read as “voted for") into the other camp. Needless to say, I was disenchanted with the way that whole thing worked out, and like every election where I am not on the winning side, I tried to find some sort of peace and resolve that helped me accept the results.

At first, what I told myself was that he was really fulfilling a role for the party as a likable figurehead, a down-home boy face for (warning: opinionated adjectives here) the uptight, somewhat mean-spirited Republican party machine. I looked at his running mate and thought I was seeing a team assemble around him that was comprised of intelligent and sensible people. I had a favorable (believe it or not) view of Cheney at the time, still impressed with his previous service in previous administrations. Silly me.

But, as his presidency wore on (and on, and on…) the gaffes just became too much, and it became too easy to laugh. I lost a lot of respect for him, because it seemed more to me like he had been duped into his role. I didn’t see a man who recognized he was not sharp enough for the decisions and surrounded himself with bright minds; I saw a man manipulated by a machine that needed his electable popularity to set their designs in motion.

Then the relationship between me and FPGWB turned even worse, as I not only began to see him as a front man, but also began to see him as someone actually believing in and participating in the crap that was being spewed into the air all around him. Where before I saw him as simple, home-spun, and able to connect with people, I now saw him as condescending, willing to cost young men and women their lives, and  able to make decisions that seemed to lack any empathy. I almost felt as if he turned angry and inward, and in that anger could only hear the poisonous whispers of close advisors, whose advice was less about what I saw as right and more about what might be right for politics and special interests. I could almost picture FPGWB sitting in the oval office, Rove and Cheney at his side, barbarians outside the gates of 1600 Pennsylvania, and FPGWB issuing the directive of “Let them eat cake!”

And, for a long while, that was my opinion of the man. I thought he disconnected, from me, from everyone else, and even the world at large. It was as if he isolated. Even worse: he took the country there with him.

One of the worst things I think his presidency did for us, as world citizens, was to fully demonstrate that renowned American ego, where we believe we know all that is right for the world and that everyone is lucky to have us on the planet. We’re notorious for it, and not just in our politics. As we move around the globe and visit other cultures, we have a tendency to expect others to accommodate and come to us, even understand our language, instead of us learning a little of theirs and acting as gracious guests.

During that time, we bullied our way around the world, making policies and decisions that served our interests (more aptly said, our special interests) with seemingly little care about other cultures, or countries, or people, or lives, or liberties, or rights, and opinions. “This is what we are doing, and what everyone else thinks be damned,” was what I began to see as the administration’s mentality, and it became easier and easier to buy into that as I saw FPGWB shrink smaller and smaller in that oval office, and Cheney and Rove loom larger and larger.

It was a shame. We lost face in the global community. I remember FPGWB had just won his second election not long before I visited some friends in Italy, and I got a glimpse into what I already suspected was the opinion at large in Europe. Everywhere I went, people were very willing to express the sentiment that amounted to something like “A second time? What the hell were you all thinking, anyway?!” I was embarrassed for us.

It wasn’t until Obama was elected that I think we regained a little faith from most of the global community. After that election, I didn’t have to go through that exercise of coming to terms with the results. As an American, I felt a little redeemed with the world.

That warm and fuzzy feeling must have carried over into my thoughts about FPGWB, because nowadays I seem to dislike him less, and see him more as that simple man again. He seems to have retreated to his place in Texas, and he pokes his head out from the door of the ranch house very little. I wonder if he is there at the ranch, sometimes sipping a cold margarita with his wife Laura on the back porch under the Texas stars, and wondering what the hell it was he’d gotten himself involved in for eight years.

That’s the picture I have of him these days. I like it better than that one I have of him in a suit.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Still Discussing the Intelligence Of President George W. Bush

An interesting exchange took place in the Coffee Shop forum of Blogger's help forums (a forum where bloggers ostensibly share their blogs and chat about blogging).  It started when this statement and question was posted;  All I know is that Bush seems to be a bumbling idiot. How is that he got elected to be president for eight years?  At first I thought it obviously passé, but was still intrigued that the question still lingered this far beyond the Bush White House, especially since the advent of the Obama era of enlightenment. (And don't get me wrong, I appreciate the fact that we now have an articulate and well respected president, so please don't think me merely sarcastic here; I'm well intentioned, just given to general cynicism when it comes to politicians.)  The comments throughout the thread were actually complementary.  I found myself picking a knit over a minor difference and probably came across as an ardent Bush apologist which, though generally conservative, would not be true.  Like many conservatives I was not enamored with the Bush presidency for a plethora of reasons, of which I will not enumerate here.  Yet, I thought it interesting enough to look into a little deeper.

My contention on the thread was most people were duped by political spinmeisters who capitalized on the infamous "Bushisms" of George W. and made him to look like a dunce, when in actuality he is an intelligent and capable leader.  Then I pondered the prospect that maybe I was the one duped into believing the opposite by conservative spinmeisters.  So I took a look.  Of the many articles I found online,  I thought two particularly informative, one from Slate.com entitled The Misunderestimated Man; How Bush chose stupidity, and Too Smart To Be Dumb on Weekly Standard.com.  Though the Slate.com article was acrimonious and belittling to Bush, there were still some good points made.  What I found telling were the quotes from people close to Pres. Bush, including his wife's, that were less than complementary.  The article on Weekly Standard.com took an interesting tact in one point that suggested that since he didn't relate to the intelligentsia of Washington that he was considered uninformed and unintelligent.  Many other salient points were made in both articles and I would suggest you read them.  Both articles offered an abundance of food for thought in considering the intelligence of our Former President.

George W. Bush has noted that, "Smart comes in all kinds of different ways."  That's true and it takes different types of "smarts" for different types of situations.  I will admit that I could have been misled by the Bush apologists in regards to his command of the issues facing our nation.  Could he have been handled by the neo-cons in his administration when it came to the decision to go to war with Iraq?  Could have been.  I'd still say he exhibited strong executive leadership and an uncanny ability to relate to the American people, for which he couldn't have been dumb.  And, although I  wouldn't put him up against Pres. Obama in a debate, I think I'd still side with Pres. Bush on the ideals and principles we should use to govern our nation by.

Monday, June 7, 2010

Begin the Begin

by Cody Kilgore

Hi. My name is Cody. I am a single father, a runner, and a writer.

All of that may, or may not, matter no more to you than anything else you read here, and it barely scratches the surface of any description that aptly portrays me. If I were to add some depth to that, I guess I would also say that I am a lifetime Midwesterner, still in my forties, solidly upper-middle income earner (what the…?), a thinker, well traveled, and liberal.

There. That’s a little better. I could probably go on with a great deal more, things that I would like you to know about me, but I won’t for now. It’s not that important at this particular moment.

The reason why I give you all that is to give you a basis for understanding my perspective, and perspective is key here. When Paul (The Muller) and I first discussed the idea of this group blog, what we had in mind was a conversation by people of different backgrounds and perspectives. We thought it would be interesting to discuss and read what different people might say on a given topic as viewed through their own personal prism.

My personal preference, which is so because it is the central theme of most of my writing, is that we would be writing about the human experience, the things I believe are common to many, if not all of us, but are experienced and viewed only slightly differently from each other because of our unique experiences and perceptions. But, I think we are going to hit on a wide range of topics, within and outside of that range I intended, and I think that will be just as interesting to read and discuss as well. No sense in limiting ourselves.

My experience in blogging is but a few months old, and was out of necessity more than anything. I had a relative who refused to get on Facebook—where I was publishing all of my essays—and they asked me to find a more public outlet where they could read my work. So I started a blog, which is simply a mirror posting of those essays from Facebook.

But, in looking around at the work of other bloggers, I came across Paul, who is also a contemplative person (a muller!) and expresses himself and his thoughts well. Soon, we were connected on Facebook, commenting on each other’s posts, and growing as friends. I think we discovered things we had in common, things other than our writing. But that’s my take; Paul may tell you differently.

I have met others in blogosphere, most of whom are casual acquaintances, but connections nonetheless, and when I think about Paul and those others I have met, I begin to understand why it is I have gotten more involved in blogging than I initially intended, and in this project. It is a way for me to connect. And I am betting that same thing motivates so many other bloggers as well.

We are naturally social creatures. Without the nurturing that human contact offers us, we can be deprived of the stimuli necessary to enrich and develop us, and thus become very base and even cruel creatures. Solitary, we cease to care for ourselves and care for others in any balanced manner. We marginalize people (and other living things), dehumanize them. Things get out of whack. Hence—in my humble opinion—the explosion of social networking and blogging. It’s people reaching out to people, not simply people wanting to be seen. The internet has made it that much easier.

One of the things I have learned in my study of literature is that the writer always has a motive, and the most primary motive of all is that of connection with the reader. It takes many forms; it can be manipulative, guiding, explorative, enlightening, provocative, insulting, supportive, or simply amusing. But, there is always authorial intent in some form or fashion, and never is that intent to distance the reader from the writer. It is always intended, in the end, to connect.

People whose blogs are seemingly only a peek into their daily lives are doing much more than that; they are sharing their experience, hoping that it is of enough interest to you to at least take the time to read it. And each and every comment they receive in response to their writing is an affirmation of their life they are allowing you into, and a shared and common experience between you. It is fulfillment of that implied contract between reader and writer, where the two meet mutually in thought and experience. One validates the other.

So I no longer snub my nose at the blogosphere. I understand. And I understand because I took the time to try, which is one of the great hopes I have for this little experiment we have started. I was once given some great advice from a friend who quoted to me “seek first to understand, then to be understood.” Those few words have been important to me in my recent years. They have helped me learn a great many things about others, but, even more importantly, they have helped me learn a great many things about myself. I look forward to this blog being an opportunity for me to see some things through the eyes of others. I think it will be interesting.

I hope others will find it interesting as well, and that some will find it interesting enough to want to join in. I think the architects of this experiment (I dare only to speak for myself) hope that we can welcome in others, of any faith, sex, sexual preference, background, socioeconomic status, geographic location…anything that defines us and our experience. Diversity is the spice of life, and I hope this blog reflects that.

So many words for such a small purpose. Let’s go back.

Hi. My name is Cody.

Why Do It?

I've had people ask me, "why do you blog?"  In most cases the person will ask because they can't believe I'll spend valuable time doing something that seems so nonproductive.  And it really is nonproductive because I don't get paid to do it and it does take up quite a bit of my time (just ask my family!).  If you were to Google that question you'll get several different responses, but I think it's because it makes the blogger happy.  That's not just my anecdotal assessment, a study was done on the subject as well (Can Blogging Make You Happier?).   So, I guess the real question is, "why does it make you happy?"  Glad you asked.

There's really three reasons.  First, I like the creative outlet it provides.  It's my contention all people need some form of creative expression.  That doesn't mean people need to sculpt or be a musician or write, but people do seem to inevitably find some way to express themselves in non-conventional ways.  Just ask a fisherman if he thinks there's an "art" to good fishing, the non-curmudgeony ones will tell you there is.  I think listening to music is another form of creative expression, albeit indirectly, in that there is often a visceral reaction people have to music.  Another creative outlet would be writing, and judging by the shear numbers of blogs out there, many people would agree.

Another reason I blog is for the opportunity to express my thoughts and opinions.  Do I think I've anything to offer in the way of talent or expertise that others would care to read about?  Heck no!  What I do have is the desire to express myself, that's it.  As you know, everyone has a butt and opinions, and both stink! (I cleaned that up a bit)  Funny thing is, people still like to share their thoughts regardless, and I'm no exception.

The third reason I blog is for the discussion it leads to.  Why do we share our thoughts unless we want the dialogue it leads to?  If I opine it's because I want to know your thoughts as well.  It's the discussion that really brings me to the keyboard, much like a provocative question with friends is used to jump start a good chat.  It's through the discussion that we open up and share and allow others to get to know us better, and in turn get to know others better as well.

It's really as simple as that.  Oh, and I do it because it's fun.  Blogging that is.  And if I was to blame someone for introducing me to blogging, it would be my fellow contributor, Leon.  I happened across his blog one day and thought, "That looks like a lot of fun!"  Thanks for the intro man, and when I get in trouble with Lori (my lovely wife, and your friend) for blogging, I'm blaming you. Blog on!