Will There Be Fireworks in Your Heart

ThinkerWhat does your heart tell you?

This weekend, we will gather with friends and family and fill up backyards and picnic grounds. Smoke from barbeque grills will waft through neighborhoods. Distinctly American food will cover the tables. Hamburgers, hotdogs, baby-back ribs, corn on the cob, baked beans, potato salad, watermelon and ice-cream. A lot of fun will be had.

Americans will once again enjoy their gift of freedom and their lives of abundance. When the sun sets on the land of the free, crowds of perfect strangers will stand together and watch celebratory fireworks displays. Together, they will ooh and ah to the visual gratification of brilliant, but momentary, flashes of exploding fireworks. What will they feel in their hearts? When the fireworks end, there will be a dash for the parking lots so as to get home ahead of the traffic. As fast as this day wrapped in red, white and blue arrived, it will be gone. Like Christmas, the true meaning and purpose of it likely not considered.

With bellies full and senses satisfied, the populace will grudgingly concede that the holiday is over and tomorrow will be just another hum-drum day of drudgery. Another day spent doing the job, if they are among the group fortunate to have one, which feeds the family and provides the economic fuel for our country.

Will the meaning of this day cause a fireworks display in their collective hearts? Will there be an internal and thankful celebration of Independence Day? Will we collectively have given any thought to the real meaning of this day? Will it inspire us to grab hold of all that is good about the United States of America? Will we insist that no man may take from us what God has provided?

How long has it been since you have read the Declaration of Independence? It may be the appropriate time for it. And contemplate its meaning. What does it mean to you personally? If you do that, it may light the fuse to that internal fireworks display. Written in the classical English of the day, one often has to pry out the meaning of the words. You may not read it as I do or take away from it the same meaning, but give it your own try. It is difficult to defend, or if you are so inclined to attack, what you do not comprehend. I can remember shying away from reading the Bible in my younger days because I knew that when I opened it up there would be a big finger in my chest reminding me of my shortcomings. I assure you, it is more akin to a fatherly arm around your shoulder. Read our founding document with that thought in mind and add some urgency to the words.

I find the statements in the document incredible. It declares right up front that all men have a separate and equal station to which the laws of nature and of the nature’s God entitle them – separate from, but equal to every other man. In other words it describes individual liberty. It repeats that thought again when clearly declaring that these laws of nature to which we are entitled manifest in the self-evident truths that all men are created equal and that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights.

The signers declared unequivocally that the unalienable rights to which all men on earth are entitled are the laws of nature, the laws of nature’s God, endowed to us by our Creator. Our Creator who is also nature’s God. They declared that the unalienable rights to which men are entitled came with God’s creation and are not any creation of man. With that opening statement the founders set the corner stone to our national foundation.

It goes on to explain that governments are instituted amongst men with the consent of the governed for the purpose of preserving these unalienable rights. The government that we form and the people we select from among us to govern have no purpose other than the preservation of our rights. Whenever the government becomes “destructive of those ends”, in other words when they attempt to remove rather than protect those unalienable rights, then it is our right to send them packing.

…when a long Train of Abuses and Usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object, evinces a Design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their Right, it is their Duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future Security…

The signers of the Declaration of Independence affirmed their belief in their purpose with this closing statement.

And for the Support of this Declaration, with a firm Reliance on the Protection of DIVINE PROVIDENCE, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes, and our sacred Honour.

The United States of America is the only country on the planet founded on the principle of God given unalienable rights to which men pledged their lives, fortunes and sacred honor to protect and defend. Nowadays, we can barely find men who are willing to make the following pledge to these enduring principles.

“I pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America and to the republic for which it stands, one nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.”

Whenever you feel like asking God to bless America, think of the freedoms and abundance that we are allowing to slip away. Then remember that God has blessed America. Maybe it is high time that we returned that blessing.

© 2010

A Leadership Failure

ThinkerI have had some time to digest all of the spin on General Stanley McChrystal’s lapse in judgment. I am reading now that conservatives are lamenting that he was a political liberal and that he banned Fox news from his headquarters. That he might be a political liberal should not surprise anyone. Politically liberal Commanders in Chief are prone to appoint Generals who share their political views. This is not about political leanings. It is about leadership. It is about leadership failure and on more than one level.

Soldiers like to complain about things. Usually their complaining is limited to their own circle of influence. Privates complain to other Privates. We used to kid that if Soldiers were not complaining, they were not happy. Within General McChrystal’s circle of staff, some grumbling about issues would be expected. Anything else would mean a leader who was surrounded by non-thinking yes sir men, which is certainly more dangerous than grumbling about methods. It is when the grumbling makes its way outside the circle and especially when it makes its way outside the organizational family that it is serious. It is a leadership failure and a symptom of bigger problems.

If General McChrystal had a subordinate commander or members of the commander’s staff publicly criticizing his leadership or the prosecution of the mission he would have pounded that commander into the dirt. His duty would require that he do it because such conduct destroys unit cohesion. Without a cohesive effort, missions fail. When he and his staff became publicly critical of the Commander in Chief, it was to the same affect. The General knows this. He is after all a General and would have known that his actions would lead to his becoming a dirt dart.

Why did he do it? The answer to that question is at the root of everything. There has been much conjecture, but only the General and maybe his closest staff can provide the answer. You will not hear those answers, however, until the retirements are final and the first pension installments are deposited into the bank. There is certainly evidence of a low level of confidence in the President and his staff and a high level of frustration with the mission.

There has been concern expressed about the Rules of Engagement (ROE) with the enemy for the Soldiers deployed in Afghanistan. In a nutshell, they dramatically increase the danger to our Soldiers while having the opposite effect on their battlefield enemy. I was always curious about whether they were actually General McChrystal’s ROE. Talk is they were and I have no evidence contrary to that, but I am a cynic and leaders do not generally endanger their Soldiers with unnecessary rules. There is precedence for politicians becoming overly involved in such matters. Vietnam.

There is a problem with operations to win hearts and minds. There is no question about the importance of gaining the support of the indigenous population in defeating an enemy. You can find accounts of us fighting hearts and minds battles in Vietnam. We would go into villages to help them by day and the Viet Cong would come back and kill the village leaders by night for accepting that help. It led to the expression of the time that said it is only when you have them by the balls that their hearts and minds will follow. That was the Viet Cong approach. Until we are prepared to seek out the enemy wherever he is and destroy his will to continue the fight, we will not win any hearts and minds. Instead, prepare for the video feeds of helicopters evacuating the embassy.

According to the media, firing General McChrystal was the President’s Truman moment. They likened it to Truman firing MacArthur during the Korean War. There is no comparison. MacArthur publicly opposed President Truman’s policies. The same media and politicians, who publicly savaged General Petraeus as “Bush’s General”, are now insisting that the President’s putting him in charge of the Afghanistan war is a stroke of leadership genius – brilliant. I am grateful that I do not have to live inside of any of those duplicitous minds.

If General Petraeus does not get what he needs and if he is bound by politics rather than the principles of war and if he has the same indecisive and dysfunctional leadership he too will fail. Most sadly, the United States of America will fail.

© 2010

Political Marsupials

ThinkerI had it in my mind today to share some thoughts about getting to the root of problems and then solving them at the point where they began. It is that type of critical thinking followed by action that our Washington politicians greatly lack.

I started my problem list with the oil spill, for example. Find the root of that problem if you are interested in such a drill. Pun not intended. Start by asking why we are drilling for oil a mile beneath the surface of the ocean when there are many completely safe places to drill for it. Then work your way back from there. Eventually, you will arrive at a stalemate between ideology and common sense. Unfortunately for us commoners, those of us who actually rely on a productive carbon fueled economy, the politicians are rarely on the side of sense, common or otherwise. They live at a dogmatic juncture where utopian ideals are frequently overcome by reality and where problems are never solved.

As you can see, my self-diagnosed attention deficit disorder kicked in and my mind side tracked a little, or maybe, depending on your perspective it tracked.

Snarky little men perched on a dais looking down upon others, asking them questions that should be directed into the mirror and feigning outrage toward the television cameras are frankly incapable of solving problems. By their actions, I must conclude that their objective is something other than solving a problem. Any problem.

The “damned hole” will never get plugged by even ten thousand sessions of Congressional Kangaroo Court, especially when Washington’s marsupials are only interested in how to benefit politically from the real human suffering that the disaster produces. (Kangaroos are marsupials, not the typical political order of Rodentia found in Washington, but I’ll get to that in a minute.) Certainly, by their method they will never find their way to the root of the problem and then solve it.

In the President’s Oval Office address on the oil spill he summed up the challenge of moving our nation from carbon based energy to green energy by stating, “Even if we’re unsure exactly what that looks like. Even if we don’t yet know precisely how to get there. We know we’ll get there.” Let me interpret that into English. We are on a trip. We do not know the destination. We do not have a map. But, we are going there as fast as is politically possible. That is typical political problem causing rather than problem solving. I am not a czar of any kind, but I believe I can fill in the blanks for the President. If we hold hands and leap from a tall building, we know we will get to the bottom. I am also fairly certain that we know what that looks like. I also believe we will know it when we get there, even if it is for only a tiny fraction of a second.

Marsupials are interesting critters. They give birth to immature young and then have them fully develop in a pouch on mamma’s belly. Political marsupials are much the same. They have their pouches full of what is the beginning of many major problems. One must only look around to see the matured ones. A failed energy policy, Fannie and Freddie mortgages, labor unions, financial crises, out of control budget deficits, etc., etc. The mamma marsupial turns her mature offspring out when they are ready to care for themselves. The political marsupial nurses his immature problems along until they develop into calamities. Then he starts wagging his self-righteous finger while glaring from the dais across the top of his glasses and demanding to know why the target of his ire is unable to solve the problem he created. It makes perfect sense.

Let’s see now. What was I talking about? With all of the grand examples we have of ethical men of integrity solving our Nation’s problems that is on display in Washington, I want to wish all of you Dads a Happy Father’s Day.

© 2010

Wanted: Leaders

ThinkerWanted: Leaders. Must know who deserves a pat on the back. Inquire at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, Washington, D.C. Possible multiple openings soon.

A lesson I learned quite early is that tough talk is not a positive leadership attribute. Good leaders, actually just adequate leaders, realize that all of the led need an occasional pat on the back. The target of those pats is a little higher for some than for others, but each is delivered with the same level of respect for its recipient. Regardless of the location it is delivered, the purpose of the pat on the back is to provide positive direction. A leader does not need to convene a seminar of so-called intellectuals to tell him who deserves a pat on the back or to advise him if it should be a high or a low pat.

A leader, who is a true leader, delivers his message in positive tones. Tones that are firm and honest and are meant to inspire action not place blame. A leader is not concerned with who gets the blame or who gets the credit. A leader is concerned with outcomes.

A leader knows where the blame lies and he does not need a commission to figure that out for him. He does not dwell on who is at fault because it is wasted time better spent on solving the problem. He knows where the responsibility lies because his first step toward identifying the cause of a problem in the entity that he leads, whether it’s an Army squad or a nation, was a long look in the mirror. If the culprit cannot be identified after some honest introspect, then he broadens the search by increasingly larger circles around himself. Most often the cause for problems is close by and failing to look there first is a fatal leadership flaw.

Identifying a major problem does not require much thought. Just flip on the 24/7 news and the problems will be everywhere. Being the pivot man in a circle and wanting that circle to determine for you where to place your boot, whether it’s on an oil company’s neck or on its CEO’s hind end, does nothing toward solving the problem. You just come away looking immature, wholly unqualified to lead anything and well, small like a community organizer. A person who has always been more focused on trying to build his stature by placing blame on others rather than offering solutions.

A leader’s job is to move his organization from problem identification to problem solution. It is not to place blame or issue what may be construed as a physical threat toward those who might solve the problem. The leader’s job is to tell the led what the fixed problem looks like and then ensure that they are focused on the goal and resourced to solve the problem. The leader does not have the time or energy to dedicate to low level back pats delivered to the incompetent. A mature leader simply thanks the incompetent person for their try and replaces them with someone else. For a reference on how this is done research Abraham Lincoln, Civil War, Generals who couldn’t get the job done.

I have encountered a lot of tough talkers in my life. My experience has been that action talks and bovine scatology walks. If you are capable of delivering the promised A-kicking you do not posture, spin, and blame and threaten, you deliver. In Washington, there is not much delivering going on these days.

Happy Birthday to the Warriors of the United States Army who have always delivered for us!

© 2010

Happy Birthday United States Army

June 14, 1775. Thank you.

The Army Goes Rolling Along

March along, sing our song, with the Army of the free
Count the brave, count the true, who have fought to victory
We’re the Army and proud of our name
We’re the Army and proudly proclaim

First to fight for the right,
And to build the Nation’s might,
And The Army Goes Rolling Along
Proud of all we have done,
Fighting till the battle’s won,
And the Army Goes Rolling Along.

Then it’s Hi! Hi! Hey!
The Army’s on its way.
Count off the cadence loud and strong (TWO! THREE!)
For where e’er we go,
You will always know
That The Army Goes Rolling Along.

Valley Forge, Custer’s ranks,
San Juan Hill and Patton’s tanks,
And the Army went rolling along
Minute men, from the start,
Always fighting from the heart,
And the Army keeps rolling along.

Then it’s Hi! Hi! Hey!
The Army’s on its way.
Count off the cadence loud and strong (TWO! THREE!)
For where e’er we go,
You will always know
That The Army Goes Rolling Along.

Men in rags, men who froze,
Still that Army met its foes,
And the Army went rolling along.
Faith in God, then we’re right,
And we’ll fight with all our might,
As the Army keeps rolling along.

Then it’s Hi! Hi! Hey!
The Army’s on its way.
Count off the cadence loud and strong (TWO! THREE!)
For where e’er we go,
You will always know
That The Army Goes Rolling Along.

%d bloggers like this: