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Solemnly, I remember the tragedy that unfolded at Kent State University in Ohio 40 years ago.  I've been on the Kent State campus several times.  Too many of us lazily compartmentalize what happened there by labelng the students "anarchists" or that they got what was coming to them.  With that shallow reading of that event, we shall never learn from it.  Allow me to try and put it in perspective...

First, it should be noted that the Kent disaster was precipitated by the war in Vietnam.  That war was elevated to major status under Democrat President Lyndon B. Johnson.  Much of the fault for that war lies in his decision-making.  There is enough blaming to be done on both parties, but LBJ was a Democrat.

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With the recent release of Laura Bush's new book, it brings to mind how readily we have overlooked the contributions of  First Ladies in the U.S.  Mrs. Bush has worked miracles in softening the harsh criticism of her husband.  Unlike Barbara Bush and her more hard-edged First Lady persona, Laura Bush brought a more feminine touch, a more school librarian understanding.  She is not alone in being underappreciated.

Think back for a moment.  Eleanor Roosevelt, Mamie Eisenhower, Jackie Kennedy, Lady Bird Johnson, and Hillary Clinton, each brought unique contributions.  Even Mrs. Nixon made Richard Nixon a LITTLE more tolerable at times.  Mrs. Truman,  Mrs. Ford, Mrs. Carter, Mrs. Reagan also brought forth some contributions, silently and/or more openly.

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Before we begin to make wild, wide criticisms of other races, sexes, religions, nationalities, cultures, heritage, races, etc., let us first ponder the many horrors from our own nation and group...

"The First Crusade...set off on its two-thousand mile jaunt by massacring Jews, plundering and slaughtering all the way from the Rhine to the Jordan.  'In the temple of Solmon,' wrote the ecstatic cleric, Raimundus de Agiles, 'one rode in blood up to the knees and even to the horses' bridles, by the just and marvelous Judgment of God!" -Herbert J. Muller

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In the polarized climate that exists in today's political world, it is astounding to remember that the Republican Party began as a political party dedicated to liberalism. 

Republican President Abraham Lincoln, the first Republican Party president,  took leadership in freeing the slaves.  He advocated for equality of all people in the United States.  He was a leader in introducing many liberal thoughts into American politics.

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The people who miss the point of a democracy most are the ones who see our nation as without faults or only minor ones at worst.  They seem to find their most comfortable bed partners with militarists.  They see themselves as so right that they will ram the barrel of a gun down your throat to prove the wonderful nature of their form of "democracy."  We meet them on the street everyday, they often have flags in their lapel, or some patriotic bumper sticker on their car.  Their bigotry is kept more hidden unless they can express it anonymously.  Like all cultures throughout history, the U.S. is flooded with them.  We can ignore their violent ignorance, but at what cost?

"The U.S. is having the same troubles as Rome in its search for 'defensible frontiers.'  " -Lord Curzon

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Each time the subject of taxes and budget deficits arises, many people immediately think of the waste in government spending on welfare frauds.  This knee-jerk response has been taught through propaganda from corporate interests.  Welfare fraud is not the reason we have budget deficits.  Repeat: so-called "welfare fraud" is not the reason we have budget deficits or high taxes. 

The leading official in the Pentagon has admitted that there is bloat in their budget.  And when there is bloat in the Pentagon, we are talking many, many billions of dollars.  In the pie charts of government spending, social services is miniscule compared to spending on the "bloated" military budget.  Few people would argue against Social Security.  Amazingly, even fewer people think we should use tax money to help elderly, infirm, disabled, veterans, children, etc.  But when it comes to spending money on the military-industrial complex, the sky is the limit!

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During part of my career I held an executive director's position in a hospital.  We had purchased a neighboring hospital, a nursing home, and were looking to purchase other hospitals.  I learned something about medicine in the U.S., and about how hospitals are run here.

 I learned that many hospitals in the U.S. were started by religious denominations.  These hospitals served in altruistic fashion and served unmet needs in many communities for many years.  Around the 1960s or so things began to change.  As more and more hospital boards of directors saw a change in membership, no longer were the boards made up of people dedicated to the specific religion or denomination that founded the hospital, but they began to see this as a business.  Some unscrupulous board members saw it as a golden chance to feather their own nest. 

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It appears to be almost impossible to think that there could be a return to cooperation between Republicans and Democrats in Congress.  The polarization has been so devastating to positive legislation, and the current manner of conducting politics is to state one side and totally demean the other side.  That way nothing happens.  Nothing useful.  Nada.  Zip.

A generation ago there was adult, intelligent disagreement on political issues.  The art of compromise, which is what politics is after-all, allowed for communication, disagreement, and then a coming together for the good of the nation.  Now both parties seem hell-bent on destroying the United States.  It is sad.

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One of my two graduate university programs of study was at Marquette University.  I received a Master's degree in history from the Jesuit institution.  Marquette has come a long way since the time when many of my graduate school classes began with the Rosary, or when a "permission slip" from the Vatican was read allowing us to read certain books.  Some of my classes had three priests, two brothers, several nuns, and me.  I have been proud of the changes that have taken place at Marquette, and that it did so openly and assertively.  Marquette became a 21st century university ...until a few weeks ago.

I have also served as a vice president of a Roman Catholic college, and I am clear about certain sensitivies in the realm of Church actions.  Though not a Catholic, I have interacted with priests from around the world, with bishops, archbishops. leading laity, ecumenical committees, abbots,  etc.  Now to the point of this blog...

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As a 7 or 8 or 9-year-old kid I used to play at the large veterans complex called Woods, Wisconsin or more commonly, "Soldiers Home" in the West Milwaukee-West Allis area.  We found many thngs to explore and discover on those huge grounds.  We ventured through storm sewers, looked in mysterious buildings, and just wandered around.  We also had many opportunities to interact with the military veterans there.  Some of the vets were suffering physical ailments and disabilities, some were obviously dealing with serious and long-lasting mental problems.  But I remember it generally as a positive experience.  As a street urchin who was totally left to his own resources at 8 years, I had a safe place to play at Soldiers Home.  Each Memorial Day I would watch the special events there, often from the bleachers at the baseball field.  On my own, I developed a great respect for our veterans.

Many years later, and far more currently, I was driving through Soldiers Home on a sort of remembrance visit.  Many things have changed, many have not.  As I drove through the huge veterans cemetary with the thousands of white crosses, I was startled as I came upon a young woman spread out, lying face down, crying uncontrollably on the grave mound in front of one of those white crosses.  A baby stroller was next to her with a little child just months old.  I stopped and surveyed the heart-wrenching scene.  I got out of my car and walked toward her.  I awkwardly asked her if I could be of any help.  Sprawled out on that grave face down, she turned and looked up at me, tears streaming down her cheeks.  She shook her head.  The baby started crying.  I asked her if I could take the baby in my arms and walk around close-by so she could see me with him, and remain silently with her loved one.  She nodded affirmatively.  I picked up the baby, and walked in a circle around the grave from about 15 yards or so away from her.

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