PUTIN VS. PASSIVITY

In the year 2000, Russia elected Vladimir Putin because the Mafia and a few Oligarchs ran basically everything in the chaos of post Soviet Russia and the people wanted a break from the corruption. My family and I lived there 1998-2000 and I witnessed it personally.

2008 – Putin invades the Republic of Georgia and takes what he wants. President Bush verbally rebukes Putin, a man he said he trusted after “looking into his eyes” while hosting him at the Bush estate in Texas.

2014 – Putin invades Crimea and takes what he wants. President Obama scolds him for this forceful annexation after being caught on a hot mic sending a message to Putin in 2012 that he would “have more flexibility” in military negotiations “after [his] re-election.”

2021 – Putin secures China’s blessing and their economic support to militarily annex Ukraine, as long as they agree to do it after the conclusion of the Olympics so as not to disrupt China’s moment in the sun. Days after the Olympics, Putin invades and China remains squarely on his side.

2022(?) – The Democratic West (USA, UK, Germany, France, all of NATO and others) must absolutely annihilate the economy of Russia and destabilize the country as punishment for their authoritarian invasion of Ukraine. We should also threaten the economy of China as an accomplice to this crime while we still have some leverage or another Cold War/World War could easily break out with the Axis Powers of Russia, China and Iran VS the Allied Powers of USA, UK, Germany, France, and others. 

Having many friends in Russia from my time there in the 1990’s, it is hard to say these words knowing Russian citizens who oppose the war will also suffer under these sanctions. However, I don’t see another viable exit ramp. The international community has to make it as miserable in Russia via economic sanctions as it is in Ukraine under military bombardment, and we have that ability if we can find the courage to execute on it. Plus, Russia is very large geographically, eight time zones wide, so if the economy goes into free fall it will be very hard for an authoritarian leader to control demonstrations across all of that territory and remain in power, even a leader as ruthless as Putin. Otherwise, Putin takes Ukraine and sets his eyes upon Moldova, and then prepares to take on NATO.

This issue is complex and of major import and will affect more than gas prices in our future. If you want to hear some very intelligent analysis of where we are and how we got here, I highly recommend this podcast by Bari Weiss where she hosts a roundtable of great minds looking for the right answers.

Don’t Judge me Bro!

If our society could list one virtue as above all the rest, it would definitely be this . . . Don’t judge! On the face of it, it sounds rather noble. But for any thinking person it sounds absolutely ridiculous. I think the confusion comes in because people confuse the word condemnation with the word judge. In this confusion they step in and demand that no one every judge anyone else for any reason. That kind of thinking is simply comical in its futility.

“Why?” you ask? Because we all judge everyone, all the time! We must do this to survive. For example, I judge my children’s friends, as some are better than others. I judge local pastors to decide where to go to church. I mean, do you really want a pastor of low moral character? And if you don’t judge him, how do you know what kind of character he possesses?  How do you know unless you judge? In day to day life, I judge subcontractors before they work on my house, asking if they are honest or dishonest, hard working or lazy, etc.  It is called references, an entire system built around the reality that we all judge people all the time for our own safety. Give me three references so I can call and have them judge you so I can judge you before I hire you. It is a necessity of life.

I judge my dentist, he needs to be a man of integrity because I can’t see a thing he is doing back there and there is real financial motivation to do additional work, right? I judge my doctors, wanting to understand if they are both competent in their area AND trustworthy. I judged the teenage girls who used to babysit for us, I judged their families before I even asked them to babysit. You get the point.

There is even an entire website, ratemyprofessors.com, where the generation of millennials, who swear they never judge anyone, all go online and judge their professors, rather harshly from what I hear.  I have often wanted to hack into the site and post a message that said, “Don’t Judge!”, to see if they could connect the dots and shut down the site. Would they stop?  NO, judging helps them, it actually helps the professors if they are on any merit based system. In fact, judgement helps everyone. Otherwise we have to make every decision about every other human being with absolutely no historical information, which would be horrific.

I could go on with more examples than one can count, but I think that is plenty to show that this whole cultural lie of “I don’t judge,” or “It is not my place to judge,” is laughable and untenable in reality.  We all judge, and in fact, we all have to judge in order to survive.  

So given these facts, why is our culture so obsessed with the ethos of don’t judge? Don’t judge me bro, only God can judge me, you are not my judge, etc.  My theory is that we are reticent to admit that we judge others because our sloppy thinking cultural icons have dictated to us that they don’t want to be judged by anyone for anything and therefore, all judging of another person is now wrong. Well, I am judging their logic and analytical abilities and my personal judgement is they lack both.

So don’t get sucked into repeating silly mantras that are verifiably false just because they are the slogan of the day. Be courageous, be different. The condemnation of another person as totally irredeemable and unforgivable belongs to God and God alone, but judging another’s character is no sin. In fact, it is highly recommended because liars lie, cheaters cheat, thieves steal and manipulators manipulate, and you can’t afford to be constantly fooled by them! As Jesus stated 2,000 years ago, “You will know them by their fruits . . .,” meaning you will know them by their actions. (Matthew 7:16) So go ahead, judge me bro, just be careful to use the same standard on me that you want used upon yourself.

What is a “Linthead?”

I’ll never forget the first, and only, time I was called a Linthead. I was leaving the home of my high school girlfriend and her father was not my biggest fan. I certainly don’t blame him, as I didn’t give him any reason to think well of me. He worked at the local Goodyear plant and lived on the other side of town. My family was all from the Dwight Mill Village, which was built around the massive cotton mill which had only been torn down twenty years earlier.

As I was leaving that day, he said something about all of us being “a bunch of lintheads.” When I arrived home, I asked my dad about it and he explained it to me. He told me about how all of his parents worked in the cotton mill and at the end of every shift, which were often double shifts, they would exit the plant and have lint spread all over them, and especially in their hair, from all the spinning wheels that ran constantly. And this is how it was that they came to be known as Lintheads to those outside the mill village. I assume it began as a disparaging term for these common factory workers, but I also know at some point us “lintheads” embraced it as an identity of toughness and hard work.

As for me, this one instance was my only personal experience with the term, though I now wear it as a badge of honor. It reminds me of my mill village roots, it reminds me that my grandparents worked double shifts in horrendous conditions in order to give me the tremendous opportunities I have been afforded. It reminds me how much I owe to those in my family and community that came before me.

What about you? Do you have a collective or personal nickname that started out as a disparaging label but was eventually transformed into a badge of honor? If so, let me know in the comments below.

Pre-Death Premonitions

I walked into a board meeting the other day and as a friend entered, he immediately said, “Hey, I read your book. Tell me more about when your best friend died while you were in high school.” I started recounting the story that makes up the majority of the chapter entitled, “Death’s Uninvited Entrance.” But what he was really interested in was how my friend seemingly had some type of pre-death premonition. It was subtle, but it was real.

My friend’s name was Jason and we were sitting out in a barn behind his house as eighteen-year-olds, drinking a few beers while talking about nothing and enjoying the afternoon. Then, out of the blue, Jason looked over and said, “Hot Dog (my nickname at the time), let’s go to church this weekend.”

“Church?”, I replied. “Yea, let’s go to church this Sunday. Sure wouldn’t hurt either one of us.”

“Sounds good,” I said sheepishly, and then we moved on to the next subject. It was strange because we had been friends for years and had never discussed anything substantive about church or faith, and at that time neither of us really attended, though Jason had some church background while I had none.

That had to be on a Monday or Tuesday, and on Thursday he was dead. He had been accidentally electrocuted by a faulty device in the prime of his life. I don’t remember how long it was before this sixty second exchange came back to me after witnessing his death, but it was certainly days, not weeks. Now, thirty years later, I still don’t know exactly how to interpret that event other than to know that either consciously or subconsciously, Jason turned his eyes towards things eternal just days before his death. I often wonder if it was also spoken for my benefit, to provide me with a small glimmer of hope in the midst of the tragedy that was coming my way as I buried my best friend. Perhaps it was all of that and more, or perhaps I am infusing too much meaning into it? Regardless, it happened and it had real impact in my life. It still does.

Now back to my friend who brought it up at the recent board meeting. He was asking because he had a best friend in third grade who was tragically killed in a car accident. Just one week before this eight-year-old child was killed, the two friends made a pact that if either of them ever died, the other would come to their funeral. My friend said he still remembers going to his friend’s funeral just one week after this extremely unique conversation between two third graders.

So what does it all mean? I certainly can’t explain it, but neither can I explain it away. Our translation from this earthly body out into eternity is a cataclysmic event in God’s eyes and I am sure it creates a ripple effect both before and after. And in instances like the above, it reminds us that eternity is not a far away concept that is only relevant at the moment of death, but rather “God has placed eternity in the hearts of men” (Ecclesiastes 3:11), and we often see and hear it in our day to day lives if we are paying attention.

What about you? Have you had one of these experiences? If so, please comment below or reach out to me personally and tell me about your experiences with pre-death premonitions.

FROM THE AUTHOR'S Desk

Pre-Death Premonitions

PUTIN VS. PASSIVITY

Don’t Judge me Bro!

What is a “Linthead?”

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