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New Year’s Auld Lang Syne Print E-mail
by Wes Riddle    Tue, Dec 27, 2011, 08:18 AM

Old times and ‘the good old days’ of one’s youth, etc., is what is meant by the Scottish phrase auld lang syne.  It has been a custom, probably as long as the years have changed, to run over in one’s mind the things of the past and to consider one’s hopes for the upcoming year.  The custom of auld lang syne involves fond sharing of memories with friends, usually around a table with some convivial drinking—and as the New Year rings in at the stroke of midnight New Year’s Eve, to lift a toast to the future and wish each other well, and the very best part, to share a memorable kiss with the one you love.  It’s a good and healthy custom if you have your designated driver and adhere to moderation, or celebrate at home.  The purpose isn’t a drunken stupor or blackout after all!  Instead, the occasion—as the old year wanes and the new one starts, as Father Time figuratively leaves the scene and a baby takes his place—is all about fellowship, about sharing laughter, about enjoying a little levity.  Which is ironic, because memories sometime involve pain and regret, if nothing else because ‘time stands still for no man’ and every succeeding year brings changes—including the change of getting older.  But Father Time doesn’t just drop off a cliff.  Like an old soldier, so to speak, he doesn’t die—he just fades away.  The sound of the song “Auld Lang Syne” is sad, but the customary indulgence of those notes is not a long cry in your beer!  Rather, it is to quickly dry your tears if you have any, and to accept the inevitable moving on from the past.  The rationale is this, no matter what your situation: life ain’t over til it’s over—and I ain’t given up yet!  The American is a boxer by nature and by choice, a scrapper in the field of dreams.  Hence, the American custom of auld lang syne is ultimately an accentuation on the positive, an appraisal but an optimistic one: taking stock good and bad, but making every plan for progress and doing better next year.  The goal is around the next bend; we’ll have it someday for sure, and we’ll understand every single pothole in the sweet bye and bye.  

When I was a youngster, I recall the adults on one occasion shortly after Christmas looking at the coins in their pockets.  They would read the date off a penny or nickel or dime and try to recall what that year had meant to them—where they had been, what they had accomplished.  “I remember the man whose head is on this dime—FDR led us so well and gave us renewed hope—I always think of him like a man on horseback riding at the front of a column, bringing us out from the desert of despair and Great Depression into the Promised Land!”  “Kennedy’s half-dollar is so beautiful—I wish he’d been able to accomplish all he wanted—oh God, I remember where I was November 22nd, 1963 like it were yesterday, don’t you?”  “Oh this was the year we attended the World’s Fair in New York City and had so much fun.”  On and on, I heard the grown-ups talk about years fifteen and twenty years removed, dates before my birth—times for which I had very little understanding, times for which the backs of pennies and nickels were sometimes different.  Their descriptions helped me build my mental impressions of the olden days.  But the reality of time before one’s own experience is always a leap of faith.  I mean you know it must have been, but you weren’t there.  Likewise, the future is a leap of faith.  The sun will come up tomorrow, you can bet your bottom dollar.  I reckon you could lose that bet, however, and millions of years from now somebody will but what the hey!  Auld lang syne is about taking those leaps of faith, backwards and forwards, and reminding ourselves there’s continuity in this universe and in our lives.  Continuity implies purpose and design, and there’s a comfort knowing as we look behind and yonder, the pathway lies forever.  Possibilities are endless and crooked paths made plain.  A line from horizon to horizon curves to form a cosmic smile in the distance, with all the colors of a Rainbow.  Happy New Year, and Godspeed.

____________________

Wesley Allen Riddle is a retired military officer with degrees and honors from West Point and Oxford .  Widely published in the academic and opinion press, he serves as State Director of the Republican Freedom Coalition (RFC).  His newly released book, Horse Sense for the New Millennium is available on-line at www.WesRiddle.net and from fine bookstores everywhere.  Email: This e-mail address is being protected from spam bots, you need JavaScript enabled to view it .  

 

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White Socks for Christmas Print E-mail
by Paul Perry    Fri, Dec 23, 2011, 07:59 PM

’Tis the Season, as they say. For most of us here, we celebrate the birth of Christ. I do. My Christianity, as imperfectly as I may represent it at times, is my core belief. I don’t remember having one of these zapped by lightning or Eureka moments in my travels as a Christian. I just remember a belief in Jesus Christ as my Savior, even as a small boy.

I remember my mother making sure I made it to Sunday school and worship at the old red brick First United Methodist Church in Midlothian before it was torn down. Later I was baptized at the church that still exists on Mountain Peak Road. My father attended sometimes, but he worked weekends and late shifts because he was a Dallas police officer. I remember praying that my father would make it home safely.

I am thankful. I should be.

For some who doubt or do not share the outright belief in the birth of Christ, the themes of the Season can still cause reflection, just as they should for a believer. Are you thankful for what you have? Many of us have challenges or even disabilities in our lives, but are you thankful for your next breath?

At this time of year, do you focus on the relatives or friends whom you may not get along with? I have to admit there are times when that has tempted me. How about you? Really? You never have? Wow, you must be special. Perhaps you should be thankful for you. At this time of the year, some reflection on what is really important is often useful. Maybe you should be thankful that you have people in your life.

Are you thankful if someone bought you a present? I remember receiving a pair of white socks during a Christmas gift exchange in grade school. I am not sure such things are even allowed any more in our public schools. I was about 7, and I remember I wasn’t very happy about the gift.

I thanked the boy who drew my name, but he probably sensed my disappointment.

The ride on the school bus home that day was a real bummer.

After all, I had carefully selected and purchased a toy as my contribution to the exchange. Something was wrong with the Universe! Your great aunt might give you socks for Christmas, but not your classmate! What would Charlie Brown have done? Lucy would have hurt him!

When I got home, Mom and Dad pointed out that they were really good socks. They both talked about how I could use them and that they looked warm and that they were well made. When we came back from our Christmas Break (we called it that back then), I remember thanking the boy for the neat socks. Funny, I still remember that made him happy. It felt right.

Maybe in some ways, the sock story is my own personal Christmas story. It seems it always goes through my mind at this time of year. In a way, it is a redemption story. I don’t mean spiritually, but I bet you get it.

Merry Christmas.

This column was also published in the Waxahachie Daily Light

 

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Golden Rule Print E-mail
by James Reza    Wed, Dec 21, 2011, 02:57 PM

“Do to Others as You Would Have Them Do to You” — Luke 6:31
 

A few weeks ago I got a good laugh when I read in my local newspaper a piece titled, Principal retires amid inquiry into comments.”  Seems that Arlington (TX) school officials reprimanded a principal, Mr. John Walkinshaw, of Bebensee Elementary, when he made comments that it was unfair to offer bilingual education to Hispanics only.  Mr. Walkinshaw stated that he wanted to expand the bilingual program to include:  Asians, Muslims and other ethnic groups who have not been offered the same type of bilingual programs Hispanic students have access to.

After I read the article I felt like calling Bebensee Elementary School and request Mr. Walkinshaw’s phone number, or his email address.  But, I opt not to.  Some of you might wonder what I wanted to discuss with Mr. Walkinshaw. Folks, I wanted to convince Mr. Walkinshaw and plead with him not to pursue his quest for expanding bilingual programs to other ethnic students.  If anything, I wanted to tell him that his school would better serve and educate minority students with the exception of Hispanic students whose parents want it, if they were never in a bilingual program.

Since its inception, at the apex of the Great Society, bilingual education act of 1968 passed congress without a single dissent.  Americans, however, have spent the past 40 years debating what it was meant to accomplish.

As an American Hispanic I, for years have written, debated on radio and TV with educators, politicians and Hispanic groups on the dismal track record of bilingual education.  One bilingual program that showed promise here in Fort Worth was Immersion (a method of language teaching that involves teachers and students using the foreign language, in this case, English, at all times).  The same method the nuns used on my fellow Hispanic students and me at my Catholic school back in the 50s that worked extremely well for all of us.  Sadly, the Immersion Program was discontinued.

According to the New Century Foundation (a nonprofit organization that studies immigration and race relations), Hispanics drop out of high school at three times the white rate and twice the black rate.  Even third-generation Hispanics drop out of school at a higher rate than blacks and are less like to be college graduates.  From 1992 to 2009, Hispanic illiteracy in English rose from 35 percent to 44 percent.  The average Hispanic 12th-grader reads and does math at the level of the average white 8th-grader.  Some white, black, Asian, etc. individuals reading these dismal stats of Hispanic poor scholastic achievements might wonder, “Why should I care about this bilingual nonsense?”  My fellow Americans of all stripes, these are YOUR hard earned tax dollars being ill spent in our public school systems throughout our country!  What a waste of money and minds!

In 2010, a study by the Center for Education Policy Texas Public Policy Foundation educator, Christine Rossell, PhD, revealed that as practiced in Texas, bilingual education is the practice of keeping students with Hispanic surnames, whether they know English or not, in segregated classrooms where they receive no opportunity learn English.  The result is a massively high dropout rate, and the complete inability to learn.  The study further revealed that bilingual education is more expensive than better bilingual programs such as English immersion and is the least educationally effective.

A few years ago, a dear friend, and Ft. Worth School Board Administrator, Dr. Robert McAbee, my Print Shop instructor when I attended Tech High in the 50s, called me.  Dr. McAbee asked me if I would go to Metro School in my old neighborhood in North Fort Worth to speak to the students. Metro School was a school that tutored and counsel high school students with poor grades from quitting school. I agreed to help Mr. McAbee and arriving at Metro School I was shocked at the makeup of the students I was to address.  Most of the 30+ students were Hispanic.  I began my talk by asking the students where they lived.  Most said they lived west of N. Main St.  I then asked the boys if they ever went to the Boys Club on the west side of N. Main.  Most said they did.  I then told them that when I was a young boy, I, along with their parents were not allowed to rent or buy a house where they now live and Hispanic boys were not allowed to join the Boys Club.  Also, many restaurants just a few blocks from the school did not serve Hispanics.  Their parents nor mine were not allowed to be postmen, police officers, firemen, nor work in city and state government jobs other than as custodians or maids.  Thus, they worked at packinghouses, pick cotton or other crops, worked in hotels or cafes washing dishes, cleaning rooms, or cooking.
 
I went on by telling them that if our parents finished high school or went to college many jobs were not available to them, which is no longer the case today.  Hispanics can now work, live, and eat wherever they want. But, if you’re not educated, I assured them that Hispanics will continue doing the low paying jobs our parents and grandparents did no more than 40 years ago.  I instructed the boys to spend more time studying math and English instead of working on their worthless low rider cars.  I also told the girls that in a few years many would hopefully be married and have kids.  I asked them, “Girls, who would you rather marry, a guy with a Lexus or Mercedes or one whose car goes up and down?  Would you want your husband to make lots of money to support you and your kids plus buy you and your kids clothes at Macy’s or one who gets minimum wage and  buy your kids and your clothes at the flea market or garage sales?”  All the girls said they wanted their husbands to be successful and educated much to the disgust of the boys.  Leaving Metro School, some, but not all of the students said they were going to study hard, finish school and hopefully attend college.

It is my hope that educators like Mr. Walkinshaw will learn to teach minority students as the wonderful nuns taught us Hispanics in my Catholic school and do unto to them as the nuns did unto us.  Which is, to teach them English well to give them a better chance to succeed in the Good Old USA!

 

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Christmas Joy Print E-mail
by Wes Riddle    Mon, Dec 19, 2011, 06:06 AM

When I think of Christmas, I think of joy: joy at what the holidays bring; and also Joy for what the Christ Child means.  Some of my fondest memories are of Christmastime when I was a child.  There is the family Christmas tree and the ritual of picking it, setting it up and decorating; and hours and hours of enjoyment looking at the decorations and lights on the tree, squinting to produce still more effects.  Listening to the beautiful carols you can’t play enough, because they only come out once each year; contemplating the bright, paper-wrapped packages beneath the tree and wondering what the smaller, bulgy knick-knacks at the bottom of stockings hung might be.  For me there were also favorite trips we took that time of year—to snow-covered peaks of the Rockies in Colorado, to the frosty wood of the Ozarks in Arkansas.  I remember the love of family and the cheer of the whole community at Christmas time, and the smiles and salutations from total strangers—because our joy sprang from Joy of another kind.  That Joy was the knowledge of Jesus Christ and our collective celebration of His Birthday. 

The fact of the Virgin Birth meant God not only knew about us on earth, but He also cared for us supremely.  He sent His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.  Jesus awakened the soul in man, activated his conscience, and made him aware of the eternal aspect of his nature.  After Jesus, there were no excuses—but there was hope.  God would not leave us lost or abandoned; but instead He sent Jesus, the Way-Shower.  Jesus’ Birth signaled that physical conditions and limitations were no object, that we might follow Jesus in overcoming the world.  For God the Loving Father—omnipresent, omniscient, omnipotent—the One who fills all space, is all knowing and all-powerful dwelt among us, not only as the invisible air we breathe but also as another human being we could see and touch and hear.  God visited us in Person through His Son, and His presence changed the world that was.  History would never be the same.

Jesus ransomed the world, even after betrayal and unspeakable cruelty—but these experiences of Jesus’ worldly existence would come later.  On that first Christmas morn, however, it was simple: a moment of complete and unadulterated Joy.  The angels sang, and men from the East followed the Star to Bethlehem to find Him there, dressed in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger; and they laid their gift offerings down beside the greatest Gift of all. 

God picked the lowly to frame His surroundings, the pure in heart to witness a miracle and keep Him company on that Day.  And ever after, the world’s perspective changed: Love became the highest virtue; and every man felt the worth of his soul as never before.  Indeed, our freedom would spring from that singular moment and the knowledge that came from it.  Jesus demonstrated by His example and teaching, the moral worth of every single human being.  Everyone was a chosen people through adoption.  No more waiting—man would have to regard the Father and to consider Eternity in his calculus, its import and implication for life on earth. 

Jesus would furnish many examples of the material yielding inevitably and evil submitting involuntarily before Him.  But what is amazing is that God would voluntarily submit Himself to be human, that is, to experience the frailty, pain, temptation and all which human condition entails.  Perhaps we read too much now into that Nativity Scene—all that’s implied, the growth of a boy, the blossoming of a man, the unparalleled career of the Great Teacher, the Friend and Master of man; His crucifixion and glorious Resurrection.  For now, He is a Baby—sweet, undefiled, innocent; and one imagines happy, playful, curious, smiling.  For the moment, nothing in the world impinges upon the utter happiness: of Mary the most wonderful Mother, Joseph the model stepfather; and of animals and every creature blessed to behold and gaze upon the sight.  There is only Joy, in other words.  King Herod has his evil intent and design to try and kill this Child, but for now there’s no threat, no element, no evil thought can penetrate the stronghold of a palace-manger, where the King of kings heralds Good News.

May this Christmas be a time of joy, and Joy.  May it please your every sense, including your spiritual sense: to smell the scented candles, the crisp outdoors; to taste the cookies and fancy meats; to listen to a choir singing; and to feast your eyes on colors and soft firelight; but also to feel His Hand in yours, and rest your faith and hope in Him.  Amen. 

____________________

Wesley Allen Riddle is a retired military officer with degrees and honors from West Point and Oxford.  Widely published in the academic and opinion press, he serves as State Director of the Republican Freedom Coalition (RFC).  His newly released book, Horse Sense for the New Millennium is available on-line at www.WesRiddle.net and from fine bookstores everywhere.  Email: This e-mail address is being protected from spam bots, you need JavaScript enabled to view it .  

 

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The Wisdom of Bastiat Print E-mail
by Wes Riddle    Wed, Dec 14, 2011, 11:45 AM

Frederic Bastiat was Ronald Reagan’s favorite philosopher.  Bastiat was born 200 years ago in France to a merchant father.  Bastiat was orphaned, however, at age nine and brought up by his grandfather and his aunt.  At seventeen, Bastiat went to work in his uncle’s accounting business and spent six years there.  Then he inherited his grandfather’s farm and became a farmer.  From the farm, Bastiat became active in local politics and started to write pamphlets on political and economic topics.  Indeed, the last six years of his life witnessed his pouring forth, a most remarkable series of writings—right up to his untimely death from lung infection on Christmas Eve, 1850 at the age of forty-nine.  Today Bastiat is regarded as a first-rate political theorist and economist.  His peculiar gift of argument was his method of exaggeration, which he used to expose inherent fallacies in the logic of socialists and economic protectionists. 

For instance, if a proposed new railroad from Paris to Madrid should have a break at Bordeaux, in order to force passengers to stop and shop and thus benefit that city, then why not break the railroad at a dozen or so other cities?  Indeed, have the railroad consist of nothing but gaps—a negative railroad if you will!  Wouldn’t that help everyone along the route by the same logic?  His supreme jest was the petition of the candlemakers.  In it, he asks the Chamber of Deputies to pass a law requiring the closing of all openings by which the light of the sun can enter homes and businesses.  That way, you increase the need for artificial light—France consumes more oil and other industry-related products; ergo, thousands of ships will now engage in whaling.  In short order, France will have a great fleet to uphold its honor and to gratify its patriotic longings!  In Latin this kind of argument is called reductio ad absurdum, and I think Bastiat would have a field day today.  He’d have less competition too, since there are so few talented politicians to engage with him in mental joust. 

Alas, you’d think a country of over three hundred and seven millions could do a little better than the hundreds of mediocre representatives and senators we have!  Elected officials, as well as the electorate, would do well to become familiar with the profound wisdom in Bastiat’s writings.  Bastiat speaks clearly to our day (‘he that hath an ear, let him hear’), and I quote:

 

On Freedom and Harmony

 

              Society is composed of men, and every man is a free agent.  Since man is free,

he can choose; since he can choose, he can err; since he can err, he can suffer. 

I go further: He must err and he must suffer; for his starting point is ignorance,

and in his ignorance he sees before him an infinite number of unknown roads,

all of which save one lead to error.

 

This explains man’s necessarily painful evolution....  Two very different

masters teach him [his lessons]: experience and foresight.  Experience teaches

efficaciously but brutally.It instructs us in all the effects of an act by making us

feel them, and we cannot fail to learn eventually, from having been burned               ourselves, that fire burns.  I should prefer, in so far as possible, to replace this

rude teacher with one more gentle: foresight.

 

  

On the Market Economy

 

            By virtue of exchange, one man’s prosperity is beneficial to all others.

              Capital has from the beginning of time worked to free men from the

yoke of ignorance, want, and tyranny.  To frighten away capital is to rivet

a triple chain around the arms of the human race.

 

Property, the right to enjoy the fruits of one’s labor, the right to work, to

develop, to exercise one’s faculties, according to one’s own understanding,

without the state intervening otherwise than by its protective action—this

is what is meant by liberty.

 

On Law and Justice

 

            It is not because men have passed laws that personality, liberty, and

property exist.  On the contrary, it is because personality, liberty, and

property already exist that men make laws.

 

Law is the organization of the natural right to legitimate self-defense; it is the

substitution of collective force for individual forces, to act in the sphere in

which they have the right to act, to do what they have the right to do; to

guarantee security of person, liberty, and property rights, to cause justice to

reign over all.

 

On State Intervention

 

            The state tends to expand in proportion to its means of existence and to live

beyond its means, and these are, in the last analysis, nothing but the substance

of the people.  Woe to the people that cannot limit the sphere of action of the

state!  Freedom, private enterprise, wealth, happiness, independence, personal

dignity, all vanish.

 

The State is the great fictitious entity by which everyone seeks to live at the

expense of everyone else.

____________________

Wesley Allen Riddle is a retired military officer with degrees and honors from West Point and Oxford.  Widely published in the academic and opinion press, he serves as State Director of the Republican Freedom Coalition (RFC).  His newly released book, Horse Sense for the New Millennium is available on-line at www.WesRiddle.net and from fine bookstores everywhere.  Email: This e-mail address is being protected from spam bots, you need JavaScript enabled to view it .  

 

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