Archive for May, 2012

A recent story was run in the USA Today that grabbed my attention. It was about a program that is being used in major metropolitan areas, namely Baltimore, New York, and Chicago.

            The programs go by different names in different cities, because thankfully they are run by the cities and not the federal government; and hopefully it will stay that way. But despite the different names they all have the same goal: reducing violence on the streets.

            And by all accounts it has worked. This isn’t some miracle worker, violence hasn’t vanished magically, but there have been significant reductions since the implementation of the programs, especially in the Chicago program, which is the flagship and the originator.

            The founder of Chicago’s program, called Ceasefire, is Gary Slutkin an epidemiologist at the University of Illinois-Chicago. He says the idea came to him out of his experience to curb cholera and tuberculosis in Somalia and in his fight against AIDS. When he returned to Chicago he developed and pushed his ‘violence-as-disease’ concept.

            And it is this concept that I both praise and criticize. In execution it is excellent, especially as it uses former convicts as its frontline fighters to prevent violence.

It wins on three accounts: 1. It gives a job to former convicts (though it doesn’t pay high enough for what they do in my opinion), unlike how our broken “justice” system just pushes out ex-cons into the world, with no opportunity to provide for themselves, thus helping to perpetuate the vicious cycle of crime and imprisonment.

2. It uses the particular skills that these former convicts possess to prevent violence (and I am not referring to criminal activities, I am referring to their observation and information skills; as well as the connections they have with the local populace to keep on the up-and-up on what is going on).

3. Those employed by the programs use their “foot soldiers” to persuade those considering violence towards opportunities in furthering their education or getting a job.

And it is this last point of praise that also brings up the criticism I have with the program: it is the Social Gospel.

For those of you unfamiliar with the Social Gospel, it basically states that the reason anything is bad is because of societal ills, not personal decisions to do evil things. The reason for all our problems is because the economy is bad, or the system disfavors the poor, there are not enough employment opportunities, or the system or society discriminates against certain groups of people. All of these are cases that the Social Gospel makes and says will be solved if only everyone has everything they need, then no one will covet and crime will eventually disappear.

But the fact is the social gospel does not work, one need only to look at Greece and France. These are governments that are (although now they are to a lesser degree) “Social Democracies” that still allow their populace many political freedoms, but not as many individual freedoms. These governments rely heavily upon the teaching of Karl Marx (as do most western and westernized countries), and use his teaching (directly or indirectly) to help bring forth a society without want. But, as it has been seen, the policies pursued by these two countries (and by others, although they haven’t felt the full brunt of their actions like Greece and France have) have failed to bring about a society without want. They simply do not have enough money (and haven’t used it wisely enough) to fulfill all the wild promises they made to their people. As a result, the people showed their appreciation by rioting, part of which is justified, most of it not.

So national governments fail in this goal, but can private or local governments succeed? Can these programs like Ceasefire and S.O.S. turn the bad and unfortunate situations of people around, and stop crime? The answer, unfortunately, is no. It can however do what it is doing, making things better. And for that, as I have said earlier, I salute the programs for, and I am glad they are continuing to pursue their goals of stopping street violence.

But the program will never reach its full potential if they keep following Mr. Slutkin’s thesis of “violence-as-disease” as based upon societal ills. Mr. Slutkin is correct in that violence is a disease, but his diagnosis as to the source of the disease is wrong: it is not societal ills; it is an individual’s flawed choices.

Now some may scoff at this “religious” statement, but no statement of any particular religion or faith has been made. I merely make this statement from the contradictory views the Social Gospel espouses. As Abraham Maslow said in his book Motivation and Personality, “Sick people are made by a sick culture; healthy people are made possible by a healthy culture.” Or as Carl Rogers said “…experience leads me to believe that it is cultural influences which are the major factor in our evil behaviors.” (Cited in David Noebel, Understanding the Times)

But what is culture? Is it not as the dictionary says: “the sum total of ways of living built up by a group of human beings and transmitted from one generation to another.” (Random House Webster’s College Dictionary copyright 1997)

Thus culture is a collaboration of individual humans coming together and producing a society. Or as the dictionary says: “an organized group of persons associated together for religious, benevolent, cultural, scientific, political, patriotic, or other purposes.”

The key phrase is “an organized group of persons associated together”. A society, which is the word being used by Maslow and Rogers, is made up of individuals. But the statement that Maslow and Rogers are saying is that bad society is what makes individuals do bad things.

Are you beginning to see the problem here? It is a classic case of circular reasoning. Individuals do ‘evil behaviors’ because of a ‘sick culture’, but a culture of any sort is made up of individuals coming together for some reason.

The argument of the Social Gospel (and the humanists who think similarly) cannot work, it is flawed, no argument that resorts to circular reasoning can stand; it is in fact not even an argument. It only persists because people want it to; they cannot accept a philosophy that exists beyond themselves, so they must make one up with pure materialistic reasons to rationalize their existence.

But as you can see, even their best laid plans are made null by their own words. They only persist they are right because they refuse to be wrong, for to be wrong means that what they are doing is violating some moral code of some sort, and that they can’t live their lives as they see fit; but that is another subject to touched upon at a later time.

So in conclusion, what do I think of programs such as Ceasefire?

I think they are great, and I am ecstatic of the progress they are making and I hope they continue to make inroads. These programs need to get more media attention and more support. But their impact will only be as great as their faulty view of the world can carry them, all of society’s ills cannot be solved with an education and a good paying job. If that was all that was needed, kings wouldn’t covet other people’s lands, CEO’s wouldn’t embezzle money from main street humanity; But they did, they do, and they will continue to do so rampantly if we continue push a flawed message that the problem is not us.

But that’s the scary news, the news Mr. Slutkin, Maslow, and Rogers don’t want to deal with: we are the problem.

But as I said, that is another subject for another time.

I wrote this poem because I felt the need to do something more for the city of Joplin, I only took the time to volunteer twice, and the tornado affected me so deeply I continue to feel the need to help these people who went through such a terrible tradgedy. The poem is 162 lines long, one for each person that was killed in the tornado, and the poem is filled with imagery from the Joplin area. I sent this poem to the Joplin Globe, Joplin’s newspaper, in the hopes that they would distribute it to the local community. Alas they haven’t done so, so I appeal to you, that if you know anyone affected by this tornado, please send them this poem, it was made for them. Thank you and I hope it encourages you.

 

Joplin: City of Hope

Written by Aaron A. Schlegel

Cars drove slowly on the Central City Road

The pleasant humming of the town was all that was heard

At the break of day the air was full of the song of the bird

All was well from Range Line to the Globe

But all too soon the dark sky swirled on a spring day

Forever to be remembered as the twenty-second of May

In the year of two-thousand and eleven

As many eyes turned upward to gaze into heaven

Asking in their hearts the reason why

But no answer could take away the tears from their eyes

At five eleven the first siren gave her piercing call

Calling her sisters to join in song twenty minutes later

Stealing from good people the sounds of laughter

As darkness slowly began its ominous fall

A battle of giants took place upon the clouds

Coming together as one monstrous titan

Slowly lurching forward intent only upon destruction

Its breath and fists struck the landscape with merciless pounds

As the clocks ticked past five forty-one

The town of Joplin was never again the same

Thirty-two minutes passed with so much gone

The emptiness only to be filled with agonizing pain

Words were taken away as old man Davis exclaimed

That what he saw was “A fist coming out of the sky”

Never such devastation was seen before by those alive

In tatters their dreams seemed to hang

Eight-thousand splinters flew through the air

As a thirteen mile trench was dug through the heart

The howling train of wind no one would spare

Just as student’s lives were about to start

With scroll in hand and hat on head

Smiles could be seen on every person’s face

As the future slowly took to the stage

But in a moment everyone’s life seemed encaged

As the town where they were grown looked like a different place

Cheers were quickly replaced by sorrow instead

But time would not allow these refugees to linger

For the work of sorting through the pieces had only just begun

So many were now covered in unrecognizable debris

Their loved ones worrying where they could be

Hope had seem to desert them like the rays of sun

Tatter flags waved weakly being thrown through the ringer

The Apostle John wept as he shifted four inches

And Sir Duquesne raged against the monster taking three-fourths of his land

Master Franklin shook his head for his school’s loss

But Dr. Freeman had no time for recollection

As five hundred patients walked into his home that night

The task would not have been finished but for fellow doctors and nurses

Whose constant struggles were not a part of the original plan

But they decided to push through the hours no matter the cost

Their sacrifices we now honorably mention

And Dr. Freeman who in tribute kept burning through the dark a light

This light served like many others, a beaten but standing memorial

Many makeshift crosses and flagpoles dotted the broken town

Mirroring the scarred but resilient spirit of people around

What was once considered mundane was now the special

An iron cross which before was often passed unnoticed

Became a symbol of hope and healing for all to focus

Upon the good in life and that which they had

To remember that they could find hope in the arms of the Healer

Whose caring love could make broken hearts once again glad

For surely goodness and kindness come from their Creator

It was in that moment of tragedy hearts were reminded of what was important

Love for fellow man laid no longer dormant

But was put in proper place on the front of every mind

The last thing wanted was to waste anymore time

As soon as the maelstrom had past the recovery did begin

To show the world that terror and fear do not ultimately win

Through the fires of tribulation the bond was made only stronger

Between the people and the place they called home

Even though twenty-two hundred future world-changers were displaced

Commitment to their duty teachers would not falter

Although the task before them seemed akin to the Battle of the Somme

They would not allow their learner’s futures to be erased

So hope like a rising eagle was launched to start their endeavor

Not leaving anyone in the darkness alone

But put instead in a spot of hope that is where their hearts were placed

Even though the souls of these scattered few were still burdened with grief

They would not be shaken from their long-standing beliefs

Knowing that faith, friends, and family would be the key to peace

Still an outlet was needed to let forth the great tide of emotion

Built up into a great mass that seemed as wide as the ocean

Also a need to remember and honor those now fallen

A place of comfort where faces need not be so sullen

So Mr. Taylor with his usual generosity opened his home to those in need

To give them opportunity to remember and grieve

Mr. Taylor invited his dear friend Reverend Brown to speak

Some kindly words to soothe the raw and ravaged souls present at this place

The words that came forth exuded strength even though most felt weak

The thoughts of pain and sorrow abounded but all that was preached was grace

The cloaked figure in the back of the auditorium retreated from the words that were said

“Death does not get the last word,” Reverend Brown declared with great confidence

“Death does not win. Even when you think it does, it does not. Life wins.”

He appealed to the Suffering Servant as an example to not give in

Life does not promise us an existence of peace and goodness

But as Reverend Brown reassured those assembled with the words just read

He reminded us that our Savior will ever be beside us when his love is needed most

Not only do we have Him, but the Father, as well as the Holy Ghost

To walk alongside us on this narrow road that we call life

To carry and lead on our battered souls in these days of strife

And though we walk this road never alone

We often feel as solitary as a castaway stone

But this was not to be the case for Joplin, now a diamond tarnished

Though hearts may have felt heavy as they left Mr. Taylor’s

Unity was forged in the fires of tragedy and despair

While those who had lost everything found shelter with Leggett and Platt

Those who sought their own agenda polluted the scene with usual garish

But soon those shameful passions were quieted and goodness was in store

Gone were the things that divide us, that we are all human was the only care

Slogans went up left and right, but were not mere words made up at the drop of a hat

“Teams Unite for Joplin” and “One State One Spirit” reflected what the outside felt

They wanted to help with the bad hand Joplin had been dealt

People from all around the country gathered at this one place in the heartland

They came together to piece back the fragments scattered abroad

From all walks of life they came and spearheaded a renewal campaign

Death and destruction would not win but hope and life would be the victor

United in one Way and American to the Corps they came with a plan

Pushing away the rubble with seventy thousand hours effort, caused despair to abscond

Retaking the post of hope and showing the world that indeed Joplin was not the same

But not different for the worse, but given a new foundation to make something better

Three weeks was all that was needed to fight back the tide

But though the battle was over the war had only just begun

So fifty-four thousand soldiers of charity answered the call

And in two months helped this town whether the task was large or small

Two-hundred sixty-two thousand cheers were raised that day with the setting of the sun

As hearts once again began with God and others to confide

In one hundred days, greater than any president’s work had been done

As the debris that had come to define Joplin’s existence was now gone

The rubble was swept away and the renewal of a town could begin

But revival had already started with the things that mattered, the things within

Soon frames for new buildings would been seen across a landscape

Replacing the terrible and desperate images that flashed across the TV screen

Putting forth a new future brighter than even the best of the past

For when on those needed days help came we realized that we play a part in an universal cast

Weaving together the lives of so many to create a beautiful tapestry of a story unseen

Presenting a great testimony of what we can do united by our humanity and faith

Love for 417 was undeniably in the air as Joplin got an Extreme Makeover

By a quarter of a million people just like you and me

Who felt that sitting on the sidelines and doing nothing was not meant to be

Braving the elements, economic pressures, and other excuses to provide shelter

But this salute does not end here for only those who came and gave their sweat and tears

Gratefully receiving their dues are all who helped allay these good people’s fears

Whether by gifts or service all help was and is gratefully appreciated

By your help Joplin has become once again a loved place

Happily with open arms embracing all who come with love and kindness fully initiated

Into this broken funny group we call the human race

Ever stumbling, ever weary, ever in need of God’s grace

Knowing that one day despite our troubles we will see His loving face

And like that hope we have hope to see another

The faces of those who on that fateful day were lost

Brothers, sisters, mothers, and fathers

These words were written so we would not forget the cost

Not so that we could wallow in the sadness and darkness of that day

But so that the memorial flame of those now gone will never, ever be extinguished

Their lives give us hope so that when our curtain falls they can say

“You lived a better life for me making sure I was never forgotten, fulfilling my only wish”

Let us fulfill that wish by living life to the fullest

For them, for God, so that our world shall never again be the same

As long as we remember, and our words and actions remain

A thousand times a quarter of a million soldiers of charity will rise up with passion and zest

Spreading eternal love and hope here and abroad making old wounds soften

Ensuring that what happened here will heal but never be forgotten

Outcast Publishing copyright 2012.

This was my first poem that I completed, covering my struggle with addiction to video games. As this was my first post, I thought it was appropiate that I should publish this poem, I also thought it would help any who don’t know me personally to get a glimpse into my mind. Showing that eventhough I am a Christian, I still have my struggles and I’m not better than anyone else, and that I don’t think of my self that way; as some people who call themselves Christians do.

 

Dead in Fantasy

 

Staring at the glowing tube

My mind is numb from this drug

Trying to experience emotions all anew

All the while looking so smug

Because I don’t use what the mainstream does

To check out of life for a time

Yet using a different needle for a similar cause

That turns me into a Phariswine

I’m not addicted to a rush

But to simple fantasy

For I want to feel important without doing much

Instead of working on something for all to see

 

Only the binder of the heavens can give me purpose

I must shake off these chains before my life ‘comes worthless