Constitutionally Right

The only way to predict the future is to create it.

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Location: Yardley, PA (Bucks County), United States

Monday, November 21, 2011

Integrity's Ground Zero - Philly Burbs

It became very clear throughout the Marine Corps Marathon weekend in DC and Virginia that attending/participating is an annual requirement whose importance seems to grow each year. The examples were endless and I’d like to list some in chronological order along with their respective meaning.
Some of my Marine Corps peers were Marines, in effect, even before the initial training. Others, like me, had to learn how to behave and need constant reminders on proper Marine Corps conduct. We refer to our role models when we stray who continue to lead by example just by being themselves (whether in body or spirit).
One of those Marines is Travis Manion whose parents set up an amazing Foundation shown at www.travismanion.com who serves others in the theme of the leadership demonstrated by their son. I had mentioned to a young Naval Academy grad, who was sitting at my table at the Foundation’s pre-race dinner, that my first race was the 2009 Marine Corps Marathon which was inspired by the outreach for runners/fundraisers and have embraced the running lifestyle specifically because of them. He was very taken by that, but then he ran the Marathon the next day with only 6 training runs, 2 of which were “long” and finished in around 4 hours. That pretty much blows away anything that I’m capable of, but it was his unshakable interest in others that made the most profound statement and defines Marines with ultra clarity.
Marine Corps Silver Star Recipient and remarkable UFC professional fighter Brian Stann was the Guest Speaker. His discussion embodied the Marine Corps spirit better than anything I’ve ever heard. His message was on how we affect others at work, home and our communities. Do we go through the motions or do we bring a positive vibe with a lasting impact on others? Do we spend as much time as possible with our families and how do we get involved in our communities to get things done for real. Do we step forward when needed or do we assume that others will get it done?
If you like, Brian’s book is titled “Heart for the Fight…” and my copy’s on order. My guess is that it’s got everything one needs to know about leadership and accomplishment from someone who’s actually been and is there. I’ll have it completed by the time of this print and will comment if you like.
The Marathon and 10K were the next morning and it was at the finish where example #3 sprung out. New 2nd Lieutenants were awarding medals to all runners as they funneled off of the track. It took 15 minutes or so to work through to the end so we could clearly see the medals being individually awarded. Every single runner literally had their own presentation ceremony by a Marine Officer. It was really stunning to see as a big deal was made of every runner.
Now the race was on to get checked out of the hotel and on the road to not miss a minute of some Halloween festivities. One of the non-runners was trying to work against the crowd to get to the Charity Tent area and asked me where it was. I kinda pointed, said “good luck” and went on my way. It struck me 45 minutes later, while navigating to the highway, that I’ve strayed. My Officer Candidate School Staff would have destroyed me for not making sure that person got to where they needed to be (since I think only runners were allowed to pass) especially in light of those currently serving who are away from their families for a year or more. I did something similar in OCS 25 years ago and was made a relentless example of for 2 weeks beginning with all of my belongings (including my bed, wall locker and foot locker) thrown upside down into the stairwell.
I’ve still not internalized being a Marine, but maybe it’s not too late. The one quality that was constant among all Marines (including the hundreds of support personnel on the course) was that they all put the spotlight on others even when it was they who were in the spotlight. The higher up they were on the “superstar” scale the more they shined the light on the other person.
The foundation of leadership is a simple one, easy to grasp and sometimes challenging to remember. It comes with a clear understanding of what’s important and what isn’t and how to maintain your character at all times. And when we fail we can get back on track by saying that we were wrong and will do better next time.
Fortunately we have some permanent examples to refer to when needing guidance. The price of integrity is much less than the cost of not having any and, if you get a chance, spend the weekend in DC during a Marine Corps Marathon where you’ll be surrounded everywhere you go. Do so, if you can, and you’ll see what I mean.
See you next year and I hope I don’t screw up too much between now and then.

Monday, November 14, 2011

The Jewish American Democrat - Philly Burbs

I’d like to discuss with pure objectivity why American Jews overwhelmingly vote Democrat no matter what. This seemingly reflexive behavior is one that often confuses and I’ve not yet heard a compelling case from anyone.
This topic has been on my mind for awhile and discussed at length by many. The main goal is to clarify my own thoughts and possibly encourage some positive discussion.
Being a politically Conservative Jew can be pretty lonely at times. Running for public office in a predominantly Jewish town takes it to another level. One of my fellow Jewish Conservatives sensed my inner turmoil, took me aside and said (with a tone of seriousness), “Don’t worry about it. These people would vote for Hitler if he were a Democrat.”.
I was initially stunned by that comment, but then took a closer look. Was there any truth to that taboo sentiment? Hitler was appointed (and not elected) in 1933, but what was the support to his façade of “for the good of the people” legislation?
What was the Jewish community like before WWII and what was it like after that period? Has it changed and, if so, how?
This brings us back in time to some of the uprisings in the Vilna forests, the Warsaw Ghetto itself and the Treblinka Death Camp. Each of these areas is a separate discussion, but they had the common theme of a turning point where unawareness became awareness. They were places where leaders like Mordechai Anielewicz understood that passive obedience could have devastating consequences. They were all places where salvation could only be found through violence.
Although most died many did so on their feet and not on their knees. What would have been if 6,000,000 Jews had resisted the easy path of obedience? Easier said than done, but the Nazi environment didn’t happen overnight. One of the most honest historical perspectives can be found in “The Ominous Parallels” by Leonard Peikoff. I read it several years ago before my comprehensive abilities kicked in and it’s next in my cue to read (again).
Having traveled the world a bit I’ve seen firsthand how societies have evolved from specific actions of years past. Jews were exterminated, in many cases, in a hierarchy of independent thought. Those who questioned authority were often the first to go while those who were the most “useful” were kept around a little longer.
My Jewish Community has now evolved without the influence of intellectual honesty (which we seem to fear and avoid) regardless of how many advanced Ivy League degrees we have. We saw for ourselves what can happen when authority is questioned. In all fairness our primary duty is and has always been to our families, but we have to shake ourselves into understanding what our real Jewish values are and how to truly preserve them forever. Fortunately we now live in a nation where the authority is every citizen, but many fail to realize this foundation of the American fiber. We still, sadly, have big-government ingrained into our consciousness. It’s as if we promote equality in weakness as we seek the easy approval of others who also lack the courage to question.
If I’ve accomplished anything it’s in presenting a message that must begin at home. Our synagogues have to be restored to places of God from their current state of golden-calf-worship and intolerance that are morally obscene and spiritually bankrupt. There’s a definite reason why synagogue membership is down to 30% of the Jewish population or less. Our very survival depends on reawakening our integrity and rediscovering who we really are as Americans and as Jews.
History can be a terrible thing, but ignoring and repeating it is worse. “Never Again” means never-again and not again-and-again.