Friday, May 31, 2013

Hit from the blind side

A few months ago, when we got tremendous footage of the meteor that crashed in Russia, I learned that we got that footage because a large percentage of Russian drivers have dashboard-mounted cameras. It seems that Russians are not particularly adept drivers, there are lots of accidents and in a society without a well-established rule of law (corrupt police, a patchwork court system, etc.), it is sometimes quite helpful to have video evidence on your side when there has been an accident.

Having said all that, I'm grateful for the video camera that recorded this little collision between a Russian vehicle and what appears to be a medium-sized brown bear. I'm not sure why it amuses me so, but I bet I hit the "replay" button 10 times after I first saw it. I particularly love how the bear walks away. Enjoy.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

I may have to rethink my bias....

My mother is from Nebraska, and for part of my childhood, I had an uncle living with us who had attended - and later taught, I believe - the University of Nebraska. As a result, I had to listen to tons of "Go Big Red" crap when I was growing up. Rather than indoctrinating me, it had the opposite effect, making me a huge fan of the Oklahoma Sooners, who back then served as Nebraska's biggest rival.

Over the years, I just reflexively root for whatever team is facing Nebraska. Now that the Cornhuskers have joined the Big Ten, that's a bit of a problem, since they often line up against other teams - Wisconsin, Iowa, Michigan - that I'm also conditioned to dislike.

But this might change my perspective. At the recent spring football game in Lincoln, the Nebraska coaches took time to insert Jack Hoffman into the game.

7-year-old cancer patient Jack Hoffman

Little Jack is a seven-year-old cancer patient, who apparently has an affection for Nebraska football. He suited up, trotted into the game and, well, you can watch the rest by clicking below.

Good job, 'Huskers. I can now root for you when you play Wisconsin.

Sunday, May 26, 2013

Memorial Day, 2013

Every Memorial Day weekend, I've tried to write something in honor of those we need to remember, but this year, words fail me. I just read this article at National Review Online, and watched the video that it references. I'm not nearly a good enough writer to improve on the story, so I'll just leave it for you to read, and post the video for you to watch. Enjoy, and spend time this weekend remember those who died to keep us free.

By Lee Habeeb
National Review

It happens now and then. You hear a story so sad, so beautiful, so filled with loss and pain and grief and love, that it makes you cry. Really cry.

Two years ago, I was making a grocery run for my family on Memorial Day when a story came on the local NPR station in Oxford, Miss. It was about a father whose son had been killed in action in northwest Afghanistan. The father was Paul Monti; his son was Sergeant Jared Monti. Jared died in Afghanistan trying to save the life of one of his men. Jared was 30 years old when he died, and was awarded the Medal of Honor posthumously for his heroism under fire. But that was small consolation to his father: The son he loved and admired was gone, forever.

We then heard from Jared’s dad. His grief was palpable, as he told the NPR reporter some stories about his son. Stories of how his son was always helping people, especially people less fortunate than himself. His father nearly choked up telling a story about how his son once took a brand-new kitchen set he and his buddies at Fort Bragg had just purchased for their home, and gave it away to a fellow soldier’s family.

“One day his buddies came home and the kitchen set was missing,” his father recounted. “And they asked him where it was and Jared said, ‘Well, I was over at one of my soldier’s houses, and his kids were eating on the floor, so I figured they needed the kitchen set more than we did.’ And so the $700 kitchen set disappeared. That’s what he did.”

His dad told the reporter that his son shunned any kind of notoriety or attention. “All of his medals went in a sock drawer,” Jared’s dad said. “No one ever saw them; he didn’t want to stand out.”
Then came the part of the interview that hit me hardest: It was the moment when Paul Monti talked about his son’s truck, and why he still has it, and still drives it.

“What can I tell you? It’s him,” Jared’s father explained, nearly choking on his words. “It’s got his DNA all over it. I love driving it because it reminds me of him, though I don’t need the truck to remind me of him. I think about him every hour of every day.”

I was already tearing up before that story about Jared’s truck. But as the details piled up — the truck was a Dodge 4X4 Ram 1500 with decals on it that included the 10th Mountain Division, the 82nd Airborne Division, an American flag, and a Go Army sticker — I lost it.

And there I was sitting in my car in a Walmart parking lot on a sunny Memorial Day in my hometown crying hard. Crying like a child. Crying as if I’d lost my child.

I wasn’t the only one in a car crying that day. It turns out that a Nashville songwriter named Connie Harrington was in her car, too, listening to the very same story. Moved to tears, she pulled over to the side of the road, scribbling notes as the story proceeded.

She wrote down detail upon detail, everything she could remember. When she got back home, Harrington couldn’t get that story of the soldier’s father and his son’s truck out of her mind. So she did what writers do, and turned the words of that grieving father into a song. With the help of two co-writers, the finished product found its way to singer Lee Brice, who recorded the song called, aptly, “I Drive Your Truck.”

Last month, the song reached No. 1 on Billboard’s Country Airplay chart. The YouTube video has nearly 5 million views. If you watch it, bring a stack of Kleenex tissues. It is that moving.

But this remarkable story didn’t end there. It turns out that Jared’s father got a message on Facebook from a woman whose son had died in the same battle Jared died in.

“She sent me a message that she had heard the song,” Paul Monti told NPR last week, “and that I had to listen to it. She knew I drove Jared’s truck and she drove her son’s truck.”

Paul Monti told NPR that he remembered not being able to get through the entire song. “I’d get into it a few bars or so and kind of welled up,” he explained.

But he still didn’t know that it was his interview — his own words — that inspired the song. That the song was about him and his son and his son’s truck.

Meanwhile, Connie Harrington was doing everything she could to track down Paul Monti and let him know that he was the song’s inspiration. But she was having a hard time finding him. After many hours searching on the web, she finally found his name, and got his phone number. And earlier this month, Paul Monti flew to Nashville to meet the people who wrote that song, and to celebrate the song’s meteoric success.

“I Drive Your Truck” captures in painstaking detail the grief of Paul Monti, with the kind of emotional honesty that has made country music America’s music. If you don’t know them, here are the opening lyrics to the song about a truck that’s moved a nation:
Eighty-nine cents in the ashtray
Half-empty bottle of Gatorade
Rollin’ on the floorboard

That dirty Braves cap on the dash
Dogtags hangin’ from the rearview
Old Skoal can and cowboy boots
And a “Go Army” shirt folded in the back

This thing burns gas like crazy
But that’s all right
People got their ways of copin’
Oh, and I’ve got mine

I drive your truck
I roll every window down
And I burn up
Every back road in this town
I find a field, I tear it up
Till all the pain is a cloud of dust
Yes, sometimes, I drive your truck
If ever there were words written that captured the universal grief of a parent coping with the loss of a fallen son or daughter, that opening verse and the chorus contain them.

What the song does not do is describe how Paul’s son Jared lost his life in Afghanistan. In June 2006, Jared’s patrol came under fire from 50 enemy fighters. One of the soldiers who served under him was wounded and needed help. Despite the blistering firefight, Jared responded to the call not once or twice but three times. It was that last try that got him killed.

That was the way Jared was hardwired. His father explained that his son was the kind of man who never gave up on people and always tried to do the right thing. “The right thing was trying to save this young private who was alone, out in the open, injured and calling out for help,” Paul told NPR last week.

The subject then turned back to the loss of his son, and the truck he had talked about almost two years ago in that first NPR interview. He said this: “You know, I think it’s important for people to understand — or at least try to understand — what Gold Star parents go through. Your child is your future and when you lose your child you’ve lost your future, and I think one of the reasons so many Gold Star parents drive their children’s trucks is because they have to hold on. They just have to hold on.”

The grief Jared’s father feels will never go away. And he’ll probably drive that truck of his son’s for as long as it will run. And longer.

The last verse of the song says it all:
I’ve cussed, I’ve prayed, I’ve said goodbye
I’ve shook my fist and asked God why
These days, when I’m missin’ you this much
I drive your truck
On Memorial Day, this most sacred of all secular American holidays, gather your family around the computer screen and watch that video of “I Drive Your Truck.” Cry a little bit. Cry a lot. Cry together. And then reach out to a soldier. Reach out to the parent of a soldier. And thank them for everything they’ve done. And are about to do.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

"We swear by Almighty Allah we will never stop fighting you."

Those were the charming words of this man,speaking into a video camera moments after stabbing and hacking to pieces a British solider on the streets of Woolwich, England. Armed with knives and meat cleavers (because the British, you know, have very strict gun laws to make everybody "safe") he and a partner attacked the off-duty soldier, killed him and then took time to pose for a video. According to the Daily Mail, he spoke in a "soft London accent," telling the people of London "You will never be safe."

England, of course, has been slowly committing societal suicide for years by encouraging the immigration of Muslim populations from Asia and Africa, without making any effort to ensure the assimilation of those immigrants. The surrender to political correctness has been so complete that there are entire Muslim areas of London where police dare not go, and where Muslims have been allowed to set up their own courts, governed by Sharia law.

It's lunacy, of course, to believe that Western culture can co-exist with the genocidal strain of Islam, and England continues to learn the lesson the hard way. Those who think the Atlantic ocean is a barrier that will prevent this type of jihad from coming to America should pay a visit to Dearborn, Michigan.

The great Jay Nordlinger once interviewed a Holocaust survivor, and asked him what he had learned from the experience. He said, "When someone says they want to kill you, believe them."

Instead, I suspect the West will continue to bury its head in the sand, and carry on with the fiction that Islam is compatible with Western civilization values such as free speech, freedom of religion, equality for women, gay rights, etc.

In the meantime, I'm anxious to read about the "meat cleaver control" laws that are sure to be introduced soon.

Friday, May 17, 2013

Don't worry, the government only wants to know what you're praying about

The IRS scandal currently engulfing the Obama administration is, as fighter pilots like to say, a "target-rich environment." There are so many different abuses, so many lies and attempted coverups that it's difficult to single out which is the most egregious.

But I have a candidate for the worst offense.

A pro-life group in Iowa known as Coalition For Life of Iowa had applied for tax-exempt status. As we now know, the IRS' Cincinnati office was charged with reviewing such requests, and since at least 2010 the IRS was targeting conservative groups who made those requests, delaying their applications, asking illegal questions and harassing many of these groups to the point where they abandoned their applications.

Some IRS employee in the Cincinnati office reviewed the application of the Coalition For Life of Iowa, and decided they needed a little more information. They sent the Coalition a laundry list of requests, but one stands out above rest. It's the IRS response to the Coalition's mentioning that it held prayer meetings:

"Please explain in detail the activities at these prayer meetings."

That's right, folks, an employee of the Internal Revenue Service thought it was absolutely proper to ask people what they were praying about.

Lefties love to sit around and laugh about what they consider right-wing tinfoil-hat paranoia about "big gummint," but when the government decides it has a right to know what goes on between you and God, there is no longer a Constitution, no longer a Bill of Rights, only a huge, tyrannical bureaucracy that wants you to only think thoughts the government approves of.

What we've learned this week only scratches the surface, and this scandal is going to keep on getting worse and worse and worse for all the utopians out there who believe that letting the government do everything for you is a nifty way to run a country. Stay tuned.

UPDATE: Here's a screenshot of the actual IRS letter:

Monday, May 13, 2013

Proud moment in Chicago

My grandfather - Henry Droogsma - was a very devout man who, with my grandmother Anna, raised eight children on a farm outside of Princeton, Minnesota. He spent his entire life attending the Christian Reformed Church of Pease, Minnesota - a place I wrote about here - and I'm told that he had hopes that someday one of his children might feel a calling to the ministry. That didn't happen, although I believe my father and all of his siblings served in various church capacities over the years....Sunday school teachers, board members, elders, deacons, mission trip leaders, etc.

Those eight Droogsma kids produced 30-some offspring - my first cousins - and again, while many of us have served the church in various ways, none of us ever went so far as to attend a seminary, obtain a divinity degree and enter the ministry. Sorry, grandpa.

Todd and Erin
The next generation, however, has done right by Grandpa Droogsma. My cousin's children - and I can't even generate an accurate guess as to how many people that encompasses - have found a remarkable number of ways to be involved in Christian ministry. My own daughter, Erin, graduated from North Park University in Chicago with degrees in both Youth Ministry and Bible and Theological Studies. But we've never had an actual seminary graduate - a Master of Divinity - until this past weekend.

Penny and I were able to go to Chicago this weekend and watch Erin's husband, Todd Spieker, graduate from North Park Seminary. A bright, personable kid from Colorado Springs, Todd graduated with honors, and he and Erin are currently in the process of interviewing with a couple of different churches that are considering calling Todd to be their pastor. I found the graduation ceremony to be a very moving experience, with about three dozen young men and women accepting their degrees and accepting a charge to go out into the world and preach the love of Christ. I admit to choking back a few tears, and having a lump in my throat, more than once.

 And while I realize that an "in-law" is not a direct descendant, I have to believe Grandpa Droogsma would have enjoyed the moment very much.

Friday, May 3, 2013

May 3, 2013, the day on which I make my triumphant return to the blogosphere

Hello everyone - First of all, an abject apology for what has become several months of blogging silence. I wish I had a great excuse, like I was busy in the lab curing cancer, or Bobby Hull called and wanted to hang out for a few weeks, or I was hot on the trail of Nicole and Ronald's real killers, but the fact is I have no excuse.

Despite my slothfulness, I continue to get emails and phone calls and friends poking their finger in my chest, all saying, "Start writing again." And so I will. I promise. But not until after I simply post this picture, which I stumbled on to tonight and which gives me great pleasure.

See you soon.