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It will not hurt to drive slower, but it will definitely help

Are so many of us harried, in a hurry, a bit frayed around the nerves and feeling out of time?

Yes. This frenzied lifestyle is common.  It is a sign and way of our time now, where life does not stand still for a second. Smart phones, GPS, email, texting, everything is happening real-time, right now, and we MUST respond and act. We are scheduled by the minute.

Adrenaline junkies like it, and everyone else stays laser focused to the exclusion of much else, goal oriented all the way.

This modern anxious existence is a form on tunnel vision, and it can be witnessed anywhere there is a red traffic light, a stop sign, a pedestrian cross walk, a parking lot, heck even a school pick up zone.

These locations are choke points, places where cars and people tend to gather, and where prevailing traffic must slow down. But a lot of drivers do not slow down in these areas, either because they have tunnel vision or because they are desensitized to congestion. Like everything else, they just plow through it.

Daggone, drivers are in a HURRY to get to that next stop sign, or the next red light. If they would pay attention to the vehicles around them, they’d see that blasting from one light to the next does not advance their cause, but it does eat up their gas and increase the risk of hitting someone.

Parking lots are the biggest buggaboo I see and experience, where drivers just go way too fast. Parking lots are relatively small areas and there is little room for error there. If a driver speeds, driving fast in a parking lot during business hours, there is a real possibility of a pedestrian or two walking through to their car but meeting up with the speedster, instead.

Let us ask some simple questions: Why are we hurrying in these small, tight, confined spaces? What actual time saved are we hoping to bank, a second, two seconds?

What is that miniscule amount of time worth against the life or health of another person, who may be walking nearby? What is our time savings worth when we hurt someone, and then suffer the consequences along with them?

It won’t hurt to slow down. It might even help, because accepting the terrible fate of losing a few seconds of time can become a form of Zen relaxation.

Try it, you will like it.

 

Dr. Wil Steger, My Friend, My Hero

Dr. Wil Steger sat next to me on a domestic flight, up in Buffalo, New York, I think, in 1994.

By the end of the flight, I was a big admirer of his, among a long line of admirers around the world. We maintained a relationship up until today, when he died peacefully in his sleep, surrounded by family.

A former employee of the RAND Corporation in the 1950s, Wil and his wife Sheila started their own analytical service provider, CONSAD, in Pittsburgh, in the 1960s. Wil’s PhD in economics from Harvard shaped the way he saw government policy and decision making, and it allowed him to remain objective and aloof from the messy politics involved. As a result, Wil’s dispassionate and insightful research was sought by private and public customers around the world.

Wil was an economic and policy advisor to every president from JFK through W, and he showed me his blue “WHITE HOUSE” cap with pride. He had been in the White House a lot; more times than he could recall.

But you would never know that Wil was so smart, or so successful. He was humble, and self-effacing, and funny. He and Sheila were committed to their Pittsburgh community, to financially needy families, to educational institutions, to friends, and to family.

Some of my best adult memories are of sitting in their Squirrel Hill living room late at night, with a glass of wine or a tea in hand, talking about whatever with both Sheila and Wil, and then with just Wil after Sheila left us.

Bye, old friend. Your advice and professional guidance helped me make a lot of careful decisions that shaped my career, personal life, and my family, and I am forever indebted to you for your kindness and good way. May you rest in peace.

The service is Monday, in Squirrel Hill.

 

Drugs are destroying the next generation

Over the past weeks, the stories in the press and among friends and family about destructive drug use are overwhelming. Overwhelming in number and in sadness, these reports spell a problem for the next generation.

Young people in their teens, twenties, dying from drug overdoses. These are otherwise together and with-it young people, who looked forward to fulfilling careers and family life. Or going to jail, as did one young man I have known since he was born.

My own two older kids report back on their brushes with “casual” drug use, describing to their mother and I with some hilarity the carefree antics of their fellows using hard drugs and “recreational” drugs, like marijuana.

But nothing is funny about this. It is terrifying.

Yesterday I read that 33,000 Americans died from drug overdoses in 2015. This is not your grandfather’s “pot”; rather, it is an unknown witches’ brew of various toxins and addictive drugs all mixed together. Usually these mixes are designed by drug dealers to get people hooked, so they come and buy more drugs. But these mixes are killing a lot of people, or destroying their careers and their families.

At the Middle Paxton Township building this morning, I saw a flyer for an upcoming community meeting about opioid abuse. So many regular families have it.

Yesterday I sent two emails to my two daughters:

“Girls, I love you both so so so much. All your lives I’ve stayed up late comforting you when you were sick, or when you were anxious about social situations, or about school. Doing that is what fathers do, and I wish I could do it again now, because I am scared.

Now you are young adults and independent, living out of our home, and free to make even fatal decisions. Your mother and I are not near you to warn you, watch you, or stop you from making bad decisions. When your mother and I  were young, very few bad decisions we could have made carried serious risk. Smoking marijuana was smoking a dried up leaf, and it either made you feel sick, or stupid.

Today, the risks from bad decisions are huge because the outcomes are so fast and are irreversible. Someone offers you marijuana and you think “what the heck, it’s just one puff,” but you don’t know what’s in it.
You know what is in so many marijuana cigarettes today? HEROIN.

HEROIN is bad by itself, but today not even heroin is heroin. Now it’s laced with other drugs.
You can’t only “try” heroin ONCE, because that ONE TIME leaves you an addict. Your life is over after you become an addict. There is no recovery.

Everything you do after “trying” heroin and cocaine is to try to get more drugs to satisfy the craving.
Your life goes downhill immediately after you try heroin. And cocaine.
I’m writing to you right now because story after story after story is coming in from news reports and from family and from friends about how the “little” drugs led to more powerful drugs, which led to the end of someone’s life. People we know, kids like you.

Kids who felt indestructible.
Bulletproof.
Indomitable.
Healthy.

On Friday I spoke with an old friend of mine. She’s a lawyer. She’s now a drug addict, getting divorced, losing her home, losing the man who loved her, losing her profession.

She said “Josh, I am so so scared. I have nowhere to go.”

The result of trying cocaine and heroin is either death, or drug addiction so powerful that the young person can no longer function at a professional or self-sustaining level.

Life is about making wise choices, smart choices. Drug use, illegal behavior, risky behavior like driving fast or walking alone, and sexual behavior have never before carried so much potential to destroy everything you and I have worked for, for your own success, so quickly.

DO NOT EVEN TRY DRUGS. There is no benefit to them at all.

NO DRUG IS COOL.

NO DRUG IS SAFE.

LEAVE THE COMPANY OF PEOPLE WHO USE DRUGS.

These people will pressure you to join them in their stupidity and misery, and your life will forever be over in the one second it takes for you to “just try” it.

MAKE SMART DECISIONS.

I love you both so very very much.
-Dad”

 

The things that make life fun

Music, family, food, friendship, art derived from craftsmanship, Nature, aesthetics, and so on are things that make life fun.

The best things in life are free, and aren’t really things: Love, friendship, trust, integrity, honesty. We can have as much of these as we want, and very often they only require giving a little to get a lot in return.

I am not Italian, but when I used to hang out with Italians, I finally learned what “food” really, truly is. Restaurateur Andy Zangrilli of State College trained me in two of his restaurants as a line chef, from salads to sautee, when I was fresh out of high school. Andy owns Gullifty’s and other landmark restaurants around Pennsylvania, and prided himself on making all of his food from scratch, including pickling and smoking his own pastrami and corned beef, as well as making his own prosciutto and some cheeses. It had to be done just right, or not done at all. And when the food was done right, it was like hearing angels sing. As a dad and husband who enjoys cooking, I try to bring some of Andy’s amazing recipes to life in our own home. No complaints yet!

Today’s news was just filled with all kinds of rich targets: RyanCare vs ObamaCare, news that an Israeli teenager has been arrested for committing the lion’s share of the email and phone threats made against Jewish institutions across America over the past months (and NOT “white supremacists”), my old Penn State chum and good friend Seth Williams being indicted for bribery as DA of Philadelphia, and so on.

Never at a loss for words or strong opinions, I would naturally have more to say on these subjects than I should. And you know what, this is also the PA Federation of Sportsmen’s Clubs spring conference, too, and I will be going to that. So I guess that is where I am going to let the mind and written word go next.

Wildlife biologist Ben Jones of the PA Game Commission will be speaking tomorrow night, a can’t-miss opportunity for those of us who love nature, wildlife, and conservation. I will be joining a lot of friends and colleagues this weekend at this gathering, and that’s what I am going to focus on here:

Enjoy your friends and family, my friends. Life is so precious and yet so tenuous. At my age, we all too often see good people gone in a blink of an eye. People who brought us smiles, and laughter, joy and love, warmth and companionship. These are treasures, though we cannot weigh them out or count them. Yes, there is a time for ego, debate, values, culture, and possessiveness, and anger, and hurt, and revenge, and so on, but this weekend….for me it’s about friendship.

It is one of those “things” that make life worth living. For a tiny price, it can be had in truckloads.

Why are there syllables in my bread?

The other day I made the mistake of looking at the the ingredients label on the bag containing a loaf of sliced bread I brought home from the Giant store on Linglestown Road.

Can you believe the chemicals and additives and preservatives that are in that loaf of bread, according to the label? These are seriously long, serious-sounding, polysyllabic words that I have trouble pronouncing, no matter how long I have to spell them out slowly.

Words this long do not belong in the human body.

It made me wonder, Why are all these syllables in my bread?

Shouldn’t bread just be something like flour, water, salt, sugar, eggs, baking powder, maybe some fresh yeast, plus fire? For the past five thousand years, bread has been successfully made with slight variations on this theme of basic ingredients.

One of my kids has a health issue, and for most of her life it was treated with scary chemicals.

One by one, the chemicals stopped working. We were left with few options.

Then a researcher in Israel began a study, where kids with this health issue would go on a basic diet: No processed food, no canned food, no frozen food except what you freeze yourself. Everything fresh. No soda, no powdered drink mixes. Etc.

Guess what? She went into remission. It was attributable solely to the lack of processed food and the attendant polysyllabic chemicals she was otherwise ingesting when she ate “food.”

Today our friend Roberta came over, delivering Girl Scout cookies that only our boy can eat (well, I could easily eat them, but my body needs no extra calories or fat). We caught up in the kitchen over fresh coffee. Turns out she has changed her diet, and is feeling a lot better than before, plus she is lean and feeling energized.

What is her diet? No processed food.

Seeing that bread label got me thinking. Seeing my beloved child get better from a serious health issue got me thinking. Talking with our family friend of nearly twenty years got me thinking. Here is what I am thinking:

Syllables and food do not go together, unless it’s Italian. Certainly not in English.

Chemicals and food should not go together.

Chemicals are not food.

Chemicals and body health probably do not go together, except as a treatment for a serious health issue.

I just ate a pile of fresh carrot sticks. They were not nearly as satisfying to me, as they don’t taste great, as something processed. But it’s the beginning of something good. And it reminds me to start preparing seeds for the summer garden.

And one more thing: Giant also sells freshly baked bread. This bread lacks the preservatives of the bagged bread. It’s my new go-to bread, and as I do most of the food shopping for our family, it is what we are going to have going forward.

Maple syrup thoughts

Yes, I enjoy metaphors, and no, this is no metaphor.

Each spring I and my willing victim family members undertake a ritual that might just be the most labor-intensive goal you will ever take here in modern America.

We make maple syrup.

We tap the maple trees in mid January, using traditional buckets, and now also using the plastic spiles and tubing. Then we gather the sap into a big tank in the back of a pickup truck. When we reach about 15-20 gallons of sap, we boil it. It takes a long time, a lot of energy, a lot of propane.

Here are some season-end thoughts, as the last batch evaporates outside in a shed right now:

  1. Sap production can be erratic, and there is no explanation. Mostly driven by nighttime temperatures, some trees can be just pumping out sap like gangbusters for two to four weeks, and then kind of go dead, or nearly dead. Our late-season taps are the biggest producers right now, while the early taps have mostly dried up. I don’t know why this is, but it is frustrating. We did not get a lot of sap this year, and though I felt uncertain about beginning to tap so early, I am glad we did, because we would not have gathered enough had we not started back in mid January this year. Rumors are Pennsylvania’s maple producers are having a bad sap season, too.
  2. Cans and plastic tubing each have advantages and disadvantages. Cans get bugs galore, and the lids can get beat up by high winds. The plastic tubing drips down into a container, which can attract curious deer, raccoons, etc, and they can mess with the stuff. Next year we will continue to do both types. One thing, though, we do need bigger containers for the tubing and plastic spiles; they can easily produce a gallon of sap overnight. I hate to see sap spill out on the ground. Almost a Biblical thing…
  3. From what I read, a lot of syrup producers will not use cloudy sap. Well, we use everything we get, cloudy, clear, bugs swimming about, and we eventually filter out the bugs, wood bits, etc. Regardless of how cloudy it is, when it evaporates down to syrup, it tastes amazing.
  4. Finally, less is more. Used to be we’d wait until we got 30-35 gallons of sap in the tank to start boiling it, enough to make over half a gallon of syrup. Problem with that is it’s a lot of sap to boil, the way we boil it. We use two large outdoor propane burners under the stainless steel evaporator pan. If we used firewood, it might get hotter or evaporate faster. But then I’d have to cut more firewood, and because we already burn between two and four cords of wood a season in our wood stove, I don’t want to cut and split any more than we really need. So, now when we hit 15 to 20 gallons of sap, we start boiling. It takes about ten to twelve hours, so start as early as possible. This is a manageable amount of time for us.

OK, those are the thoughts for now. Surely as we go forward more will come and go. Here are some photos from the other day, above and below. The sap is boiled and evaporated in a big stainless steel pan, then the condensed syrup is moved inside to the stove top, where we carefully finish it off and pour it into old whisky bottles.

I love the smell of brown sludge in the morning

When I get a snoot full of that brown sludge in the morning, it brings back warm memories. Doesn’t happen all the time. Not as often as I would like. The period for brown sludge is often almost over as soon as it begins, though when I was a kid at Stone Valley Lake, the period lasted for a good eight weeks.

Memories of cold mornings, even cold nights, sometimes lugging a sloshing bucket by headlamp, stumbling through the brush, tripping over vines and branches, picking bugs out of the buckets. Sometimes the bugs concentrate in the buckets, drawn by the smell, and the taste. Trying not to spill it, good God don’t spill it! And then the long nights. Yes, you might start in the daylight, but at six the next morning you were up all night, running for the bucket every ten minutes, tired out, cramping, sleepy.

You see, modern maple syrup is nothing like it was. It is now a victim of technology. Where maybe just five years ago maple syrup producers used fire to boil maple sap down, now they have reverse osmosis machines, and spectrometers and spectrographs that tell the syrup maker how concentrated the sap sugars are, and thus when to start and when to wait longer. When to keep adding to the huge coolers, and freezers, and when to begin condensing.

In the big maple syrup production outfits today, the sap collection is mechanized, run through a spider web of tubing across the sugar bush. The sap is pumped, and gathered in big tanks, then stilled, separated, distilled, purified, filtered over and over, sterilized and then jugged. This is maple syrup today. How it is created looks nothing like how it was made for the past 15,000 years until very recently.

And frankly, as a result of this industrial processing, it no longer tastes like maple syrup. It tastes bland.

Sure, you can try to buy the old Grade B dark brown maple syrup. You remember, surely, the maple syrup that puts the phrase “maple flavor” in maple syrup? You can try to buy it, and some sellers will try to sell it to you. And it will indeed look amber-ish, with a hint of brown. Now they will disclaim it, or add some caveats, or sheepishly try to explain that it is dark for maple syrup “these days,” but it is not quite like what you remember from just a half dozen years ago, let alone your childhood.

And you will taste it, this modern creation, and you will not taste maple syrup. Instead you will taste Maple Product.

Maple Product is the result of the industrialization of even hand-crafted specialties like maple syrup. It is mechanized, industrialized, and heavily filtered, and it has very little real taste. No rich taste, for sure, not the unique and authentic maple taste you came for in the first place.

That is why we have been making our own maple syrup. It started out really small, like when I was a kid using plastic milk jugs hung on string from hand- cut wood spiles. Maybe a couple cups of syrup, and it lasted one day. A treat from Mother Nature, the whole family enjoying it, gathered round like families have over nature’s bounty since time immemorial. A natural and innately healthy moment.

Then I ordered a bunch of old maple buckets with metal spiles, and boiled lots of sap on the stove top. That was a bad idea because the whole house steamed up and smelled vaguely of damp earth. The small amounts of sugar in the steam hardened to a clear armor on everything in the kitchen, and cleaning with water just made it sticky. Getting closer!

Then I ordered a stainless steel evaporator pan from a young guy in the Midwest. Couple hundred bucks and worth every penny. With a threaded spigot and a valve on the end, it can release as much boiled down sap as I want to take to the next stage of boiling. The only filtering we do is from the big sap collection tank in the back of the pickup, through an old cotton tee shirt, and some skimming in the evaporator. Bits of bark, the occasional rogue ant, “stuff” from inside the maple trees is all skimmed off. But what we do not do is filter out the taste.

We gently and carefully finish off the concentrated brown sap inside on the stove top, and then pour the finished syrup into old whisky bottles with cork stoppers. This is real maple syrup, and it is so rich tasting it knocks your socks off. This is what maple syrup used to taste like, and it is what maple syrup is supposed to taste like.

So when I hit the bottom of one of those old whisky bottles because the syrup was mostly poured out over pancakes or hot cereal, then all that remains is the thick brown sludge. This is the stuff you could make maple candy from. My son and I pour cold milk into the bottle, swill it around until the brown sludge has turned the milk brown and slightly viscous, and we heartily quaff it down.

You just can’t beat it.

p.s. sorry we make just enough for our own family use, and we do not sell it. But you can make your own, and because you worked so hard to make it, you will truly enjoy every drop, every molecule, every rich taste you take.

How is sexualizing children “open minded”?

For about a decade proponents of “alternative” sexual identities have been increasingly promoting the ideas that sexual identity begins at age four, that government must use its coercive force to promote this, and anyone questioning it is a bigot subject to the greatest displays of public shaming since the Catholic Church’s Inquisition.

After our 2012 primary campaign for state senate, in which the PA GOP gerrymandered me out of the senate district at the last second, and the state supreme court put me back in at the last second, and we went on to do extremely well and change the outcome of the race, a lot of us spent time on FakeBook lamenting the outcome but enjoying the policy debate shift in our direction.

One of the policy subjects was sexual identity, which in that debate quickly was posed as a take-it-or-leave-it proposition by one side. Anyone who similarly stuck to their guns on the other side, usually due to religious beliefs, was mob attacked and accused as a “bigot.”

In that debate, one unanswered question kept coming up, and that was why so many activists believe it is necessary to discuss sex with little kids, tiny children, not their kids but the children of other people, who traditionally have been shielded from sexual subjects for obvious reasons.

This question is up front again, in light of a recent National Geographic magazine cover that invaded our home a few months ago, and in light of recent comments by reporter Chris Cuomo.

National Geographic magazine recently posed a small child on its cover, with the title that sexual identity is fluid and begins at a very young age. How this pertains to geography is a question unanswered by NatGeo.

Last week Chris Cuomo stated matter of factly on public television that if a twelve year old girl does not want to see a penis in the locker room, then “she is not open minded enough.”

Added into the mix here is the recently debated idea that men, women, children should all share the same bathrooms simultaneously, taking hold in some places and being soundly rejected in others.

I cannot help but ask: Why do children now have to be sexualized?

How is this being construed as being open minded?

Why is there no safe space for little kids to retain their innocence?

What does someone truly need in all this, or is it just an adult fantasy playing out as a legitimate policy issue?

Sexuality is powerful, it is potent, it is dangerous, and it can be toxic when misused. Why are some adults getting away with sexualizing our children in the name of being “open minded”?

And how are protective parents like me ‘bigots’ if we reject this notion as anything but poorly masked pedophilia?

I am a protective parent because I love my children. Like all children, mine deserve to be kids, to have kid thoughts, to be left alone from the adult world of politics, especially identity politics. Yes, I understand that many gay people felt different at pretty young ages, usually around twelve or thirteen, and I have two gay friends who did not know they were different until they were eighteen years old. But what does this have to do with someone else’s kids?

Do you really believe that your interest in my kid’s welfare is greater than my interest? And do you really believe that this entitles you to talk to my children about sex, graphic sex?

I have to admit that this whole idea makes me angry, because I feel like I am watching mass pedophilia unfold in front of my eyes, and the force of political correctness is so strong that normal, healthy, good people, good parents, are being damaged and mowed down by bullies in control of government force, while simply trying to protect their children’s (my children’s) innocence.

If a tolerant guy like me is starting to feel this way, then I can only imagine that a lot of other Americans are feeling a lot more upset. This does not bode well for true and honest tolerance for adult behavior among consenting adults, which has unfortunately become part and parcel of an open war against childhood innocence and on children. Either you stand with the kids, or you stand against them.

National Geographic and Chris Cuomo are against all kids, against my kids. Duly noted.

Milo for Prez

One of the enduring qualities of the opposition is they forget everything wrong, bad, unethical, immoral and illegal that their own people have committed, while aggressively holding their political opponents to the very highest standards.

Our side has allowed this unequal, asymmetrical relationship to endure for decades. It is like fighting with one hand tied behind your back.

Traveling in a car with a Democrat friend yesterday, he surprised us both with his admission that he was unaware that Hillary Clinton had cheated during the primary and general election debates. He did not know or recall that CNN staff had actually helped Clinton cheat, or that DNC leaders had helped Clinton cheat. He just honestly didn’t remember.

Not that he is a huge Hillary fan. But can you imagine a Republican presidential candidate getting caught cheating on his landscaping, much less during a presidential debate? My God the world would end, the calls for his/her incineration, termination, public execution at dawn etc would be overwhelming. How Un-Presidential would that be! But noot a chirp from the media or a mea culpa from Hillary, the DNC or her supporters. Nope, nothing but closed ranks in the pursuit of success.

Enter into our political contest the flamboyant, flippant provocateur Milo Yiannapoulos, an indefatigable champion of free speech, neon feathered boas, and deliberately push-button words and phrases meant to challenge toxic Political Correctness at every turn.

Milo has made his mark on American politics by fearlessly challenging stupid sacred cows and meaningless PC no-go zones. Everyone who believes the First Amendment means what it says owes him a big thanks.

Milo’s enduring qualities are not always his most endearing, in that he frequently chooses to be bombastic bordering on absurd. That opponents of free speech\ proponents of government speech control get wound up tight and publicly explode in fiery riots is evidence that Milo’s approach is correct.

Recently Milo gleefully made his usual off-the-cuff remarks about sex, including gay sex, that nearly sounded like he was endorsing pedophilia between men and teenage boys.

“Nearly sounded” because as Milo has pointed out, his words can be easily parsed to create that conclusion, which he says he rejects.  Naturally our political opponents are asserting that this is exactly what he meant, because they know that this is exactly what Milo’s own supporters cannot stand. It does not matter that the Left couldn’t care a whit about pedophilia and in fact promotes it at every turn. Take actress Meryl Streep’s recent public defense and promotion of child rapist Roman Polanski. Now THAT is promoting pedophilia, but Hollywood, the media establishment et al all rallied around her without question or remorse. But if Milo can be smeared with the accusation, it’s a huge pile-on, and not even Milo is enjoying it.

Hey, wake the hell up.

If we advocates of truth and freedom are going to be throwing our own soldiers overboard every time there is some sort of blood spilt in the battle, then we will lose the battle. David Horowitz pointed this out yesterday: Conservatives are always purging their own ranks at the slightest impression of incorrect act, while our opponents couldn’t give a hoot what they do (US Congressman Barney Frank ran a gay prostitution ring out of his home and possibly his congressional office, apparently involving underage boys, but never was even challenged by his own party for it, or even by the media, and thus he happily stayed in office for many years thence). And that right there is why they keep winning the culture war. They are in it to win.

We seem to be in it to pull the Monty Python public mass suicide act just before winning the battle.

I myself am in it to win for my side, which is the side of liberty.

I do not believe Milo is a pedophile nor do I think he condones pedophilia. I have kids and if I thought he advocated for pedophilia, I’d drop my support for him. Rather, I recognize that Milo is a major target of the Left, and they will seek to destroy him just as they destroyed General Flynn and are seeking to destroy other Trump supporters and staff. They use his strengths and weaknesses against him.

Forget it. We need Milo. he’s a good guy. Support him. I am.

The Pope is Your Man

If you live in Europe, North America, or South America, you are greatly influenced by the Pope in Rome.

Whether you know it or not, the Pope is usually going to bat for you every day. You don’t have to be Jewish to like rye bread, and you don’t have to be Catholic to appreciate and value the Pope, who fills a unique role for all humans.

While it is true that Roman Catholics have a special role for the Pope/Papacy in their theology, a role that non-Catholics find tough to accept, the fact is the Pope is the West’s leading voice on morality, charity, gentleness, kindness, and the other positive little acts that knit together our civilization.  At his best he is a public advocate for all the important little things between people that are right and true, necessary for happiness on our planet. In that way, the Pope is your man.

Over the past 1,500 years popes have played varying roles in politics and the advancement of civilization as we have come to know and treasure it today. Some were better or worse than others. A few were truly bad, and quite a few were truly great leaders.  The Church built much of Europe’s civilization (some of it built with money stolen through the Inquisition, the Church’s darkest time), and we all have gratitude for that stable society we now enjoy.

The pope we have today is pretty controversial, and I will admit I am not his biggest fan right now. Oh sure he says a lot of things that are important for all humans to hear, and I value that. But he also says things publicly and quietly does a lot within the Church that are contrary to how our civilization works.

Gentle critics ascribe this to his South American slum “liberation theology” and his Jesuit training. Harsh critics, including some of my most religiously observant Catholic friends, are much more blunt about their dis-satisfaction. I won’t repeat any of it here, but I will admit to missing very much the somewhat recently departed Pope John Paul, a really inspirational leader and powerful voice for goodness and right action across the planet.

Dear Pope, I hope you find your voice, because it is a voice for all of us. I am not Catholic, but I am a human who benefits from you when you are at your finest. Hurry up, please.