A Photo From Instagram

One of my favorite photos from 2010. #powwow #dance #people #nativeamerican #ig_great_pics #colorful #awardwinningphoto #itw

Tomorrow Is A New Day…

As many of you know I have been blogging since July of 1997, which was five months before the term ‘weblog’ or ‘blog’ was even coined. I have used my personal website slobokan.com, and now michaeltbarrett.com, as a platform to write about issues that are important to me, as well as to display my photographic work. If you have read my blog, or you have followed me on Facebook and Twitter for any length of time, you know I am an Independent. I am not a Republican nor am I a Democrat.

fullsizerender-2We have just wrapped up the 2016 Presidential Election. Hillary Clinton lost the election and President Obama will be working with Donald Trump for a smooth transition of power. Although our system of government is setup to provide for that smooth transition, there is a lot of anger, pain, and disbelief circulating among everyday people on the Internet this afternoon.

Let’s talk about the consequences of elections…

In the run up to the election of 2008, I refused to jump on the Obama bandwagon and I was chastised by many people for that choice. Every time Barack Obama spoke he seemed to contradict himself and I expressed my worry. I pointed out those contradictions and I was called a racist. I researched each candidate extensively, like I always do, and the more I researched Mr. Obama, the more I saw danger in his proposals and ideas. I did not want to ‘dislike’ Mr. Obama, but with the exception of one sentence, he never spoke a word as a candidate or as President of the United States that I felt I could believe. If you do not believe me, look back on my posts from 2007 through 2009.

I warned my readers that Barack Obama was dangerous for America, and I was called paranoid. When Mr. Obama was elected in 2008, I spoke out about his policies and initiatives, because each one seemed to contradict one of his campaign promises, require a large increase in tax revenue to fund, or infringe on our rights to implement. Throughout this process I was a called a racist, a bigot, and a hater. Then came the “Affordable Care Act”, which I actually read. Did you? I wrote several blog posts about it. I analyzed each section, pointing out the huge increase in government oversight, costs, and policies that would infringe on our rights as a free people. I did my homework. I saw it as the train-wreck that we know it is today. I studied, and although I had valid reasons (all of which have been proven true since then) for refusing to support Barack Obama, I lost friends, I made enemies, I was labeled by my opponents, and I even lost my job.

Eight years ago, I was laid off from a job that I had for more than a decade because Barack Obama won the election. My employer at the time had warned all of their employees that if Obama was elected they were going to “scale back”. The details of the way I was asked to train two H-1B Visa recipients to perform my job duties before I was suddenly laid off comprise a story for another day. The bottom line is that I sacrificed a lot eight years ago because I refused to ignore the truth, and I will not ignore the truth today.

So here we are.

Many of the same people who called me a racist for not supporting Barack Obama are now calling Trump supporters racists because they voted for him. The same people who said I was bigot because I did not vote for, or support, Barack Obama are calling Trump supporters sexists because they did not vote for Hillary Clinton. The same people who called me a hater because I pointed out the truth and stood by it, are now hating on Donald Trump yet refusing to see the truth, let alone acknowledge it, in their own flawed (and failed) candidate. It is funny, however, that I do not notice Independents, Libertarians, or conservative “neverTrump” supporters attacking anyone this afternoon. Call it what you will, but attaching labels to people is never a good idea.

Do you dislike an individual if they prefer different food than you do? Do you hate someone who drives a different car than you? Would you attack someone simply because they supported the theatre rather than a sports team? I highly doubt it. Yet, people today are unfriending each other on social media, attacking each other, and pulling the racist/sexist/bigot/hater card simply because they supported one candidate over another. This is ridiculous… Again!

Let me make one thing very clear. I had no dog in this fight. I voted for Gary Johnson because I was hoping to further the effort to bring another voice to the national political stage in the next election cycle. I voted for Gary Johnson because I do not believe our government should be involved in ANY aspect of our personal lives. I voted for Gary Johnson because my conscience would not permit me to vote for the lesser of two evils, which is still a vote for evil no matter how you look at it.

With this said, I will now receive hate mail from some people telling me that it is my fault that Hillary lost because I “wasted” my vote on Johnson, even though my vote would not have made a difference here in Georgia. I will receive insults because I will remember the words and actions of Donald Trump from days gone by and use those words to point out his own hypocrisy and disdain for the truth if he crosses that line. I will be labeled with one of those cards listed above simply because I will write about the issues and our President-Elect while making reference to that one word that is vile and repulsive to many who debate politics and religion. That word is ‘truth’.

election-2016The truth is, I remained fairly quiet during this election cycle because I did not trust Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump and espousing the values of my own independent positions would have fallen on deaf ears. Now that he has been elected, President-Elect Trump will have to earn my trust, just like any other candidate. He will have to prove that his words during the election cycle were true. He will have to prove that he is the man he says he is today, and not the man he clearly was before the election cycle began. Most importantly, he will have to prove that he is different than Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton because I know the reasons why I could not, and do not, support them.

A little over eight years ago, on October 30, 2008, candidate Barack Obama promised to “fundamentally transform the United States of America”. That sentence, that sentiment, is the only sentence he has spoken since 2007 that I feel I could believe. He has fundamentally changed our country, there is no doubt about that. Attacks on personal freedoms (ie: religious liberty), our still broken healthcare system, and legislating through the use of Executive Orders are just a few examples. The past eight years have brought strife, turmoil, and angst to many Americans, but today there is hope for the future, but only if we work together to be a force for change.

Last night was a wake up call to America. The people made it clear that they want change. Real change. Will Donald Trump work to bring that change? I hope so, I really do. I think he did a great job last night with his victory speech, and truth be told, I feel a bit more optimistic today than I did in 2008. The one thing I know for sure is that America today has fundamentally transformed since 2008, personally I have fundamentally transformed since 2008, and I will once again optimistically look forward to tomorrow but I will not refrain from referencing the truth as we begin this journey into tomorrow!

Wise Up People!

Are you fed up with the choices you have this year as we ready ourselves to see who becomes our next President of the United States? The whole “two-party” system is a farce, and if you do not believe me, listen to the experienced words of our first President, George Washington:

I have already intimated to you the danger of parties in the State, with particular reference to the founding of them on geographical discriminations. Let me now take a more comprehensive view, and warn you in the most solemn manner against the baneful effects of the spirit of party generally.

This spirit, unfortunately, is inseparable from our nature, having its root in the strongest passions of the human mind. It exists under different shapes in all governments, more or less stifled, controlled, or repressed; but, in those of the popular form, it is seen in its greatest rankness, and is truly their worst enemy.

The alternate domination of one faction over another, sharpened by the spirit of revenge, natural to party dissension, which in different ages and countries has perpetrated the most horrid enormities, is itself a frightful despotism. But this leads at length to a more formal and permanent despotism. The disorders and miseries which result gradually incline the minds of men to seek security and repose in the absolute power of an individual; and sooner or later the chief of some prevailing faction, more able or more fortunate than his competitors, turns this disposition to the purposes of his own elevation, on the ruins of public liberty.

Without looking forward to an extremity of this kind (which nevertheless ought not to be entirely out of sight), the common and continual mischiefs of the spirit of party are sufficient to make it the interest and duty of a wise people to discourage and restrain it.

It serves always to distract the public councils and enfeeble the public administration. It agitates the community with ill-founded jealousies and false alarms, kindles the animosity of one part against another, foments occasionally riot and insurrection. It opens the door to foreign influence and corruption, which finds a facilitated access to the government itself through the channels of party passions. Thus the policy and the will of one country are subjected to the policy and will of another.

There is an opinion that parties in free countries are useful checks upon the administration of the government and serve to keep alive the spirit of liberty. This within certain limits is probably true; and in governments of a monarchical cast, patriotism may look with indulgence, if not with favor, upon the spirit of party. But in those of the popular character, in governments purely elective, it is a spirit not to be encouraged. From their natural tendency, it is certain there will always be enough of that spirit for every salutary purpose. And there being constant danger of excess, the effort ought to be by force of public opinion, to mitigate and assuage it. A fire not to be quenched, it demands a uniform vigilance to prevent its bursting into a flame, lest, instead of warming, it should consume.

In order for things to change, we have to be that change. Elections will not get better unless we step up and insist on making things better. One way to do that is to increase voting for third (and fourth and fifth) party candidates, so we balance the field and eliminate the power and corruption of the two main parties that take power and control for granted because they do not think we will ever rise up. It’s time people. Wise up, and rise up!

You can read more of George Washington’s Farewell Address from 1796 at the Avalon Project.

Purgatory Is Something That Happens, Not Somewhere We Go

I was reading an interesting article this morning, titled “5 Myths About Purgatory That Too Many People Still Believe (Maybe Even You!)“. It was a good read, but I got stuck on one point in the article that I feel needs a little clarification, if not minor correction…

Under the first myth, “Purgatory is a second chance at salvation”, the author writes,

Truth: At death, a person’s eternal destiny is sealed: he will either spend eternity in heaven or hell. Purgatory is a temporary place that people who are already assured of heaven may go to in order to prepare for heaven. So, once in purgatory, a person can’t alter their eternal destiny – there are no second chances after death.

The author quotes the Catechism of the Catholic Church, paragraphs 1030-1032, while describing the Catholic Church’s doctrine on Purgatory and is correct that there are no second chances after death, but makes an error when referring to Purgatory as a temporary “place” to be rather than a temporary “state” of being. Some may think these two things are the same, but they are far from being anything alike.

Once a person dies, their fate is sealed. Their eternal destiny is either Heaven or Hell, not Purgatory. Purgatory is not a “place” where someone goes for eternity. We must remember that Heaven and Hell exist outside of time and space, and once we die, so do we. While we all know that Jesus died for our salvation, we also know from Scripture that “nothing unclean can enter Heaven” (Revelation 21:27), so unless we die completely wiped clean of our sin, we must be cleansed before entering Heaven. How many of us can say that we have not sinned since the day we were “saved”? The Catechism of the Catholic Church, which relies on scriptural references, further defines the consequences of sin as well as the punishment and cleansing of those sins in paragraphs 1472-1473, which state:

1472 To understand this doctrine and practice of the Church, it is necessary to understand that sin has a double consequence. Grave sin deprives us of communion with God and therefore makes us incapable of eternal life, the privation of which is called the “eternal punishment” of sin. On the other hand every sin, even venial, entails an unhealthy attachment to creatures, which must be purified either here on earth, or after death in the state called Purgatory. This purification frees one from what is called the “temporal punishment” of sin. These two punishments must not be conceived of as a kind of vengeance inflicted by God from without, but as following from the very nature of sin. A conversion which proceeds from a fervent charity can attain the complete purification of the sinner in such a way that no punishment would remain.

1473 The forgiveness of sin and restoration of communion with God entail the remission of the eternal punishment of sin, but temporal punishment of sin remains. While patiently bearing sufferings and trials of all kinds and, when the day comes, serenely facing death, the Christian must strive to accept this temporal punishment of sin as a grace. He should strive by works of mercy and charity, as well as by prayer and the various practices of penance, to put off completely the “old man” and to put on the “new man.”

The Catechism makes it clear that every sin, even venial sin, carries some amount of dirt that leaves temporal “stains” on our soul that must be cleansed before we are truly clean enough to enter Heaven. This temporal cleansing can occur here on Earth before we die or it may occur after we die when we enter the temporal state we call Purgatory. Purification of our souls is something that begins to happen, as soon as we die, when we enter the state of Purgatory, not the place of Purgatory.

Some may argue that the state of Purgatory does not exist, because it is not mentioned in the Bible, to which I would add that the word “Trinity” does not appear in the Bible either, yet most Christians believe in the Trinity. I would also ask why the thought of such a state for the purification of souls seems so offensive? Scripture clearly indicates that people were praying for the dead just before Christ became incarnate on Earth, as well as after he began his Earthly ministry. 2 Maccabees 12:43-46 states,

“He then took up a collection among all his soldiers, amounting to two thousand silver drachmas, which he sent to Jerusalem to provide for an expiatory sacrifice. In doing this he acted in a very excellent and noble way, inasmuch as he had the resurrection in mind; for if he were not expecting the fallen to rise again, it would have been superfluous and foolish to pray for the dead. But if he did this with a view to the splendid reward that awaits those who had gone to rest in godliness, it was a holy and pious thought. Thus he made atonement for the dead that they might be absolved from their sin.”

I find great comfort in knowing that Purgatory exists, because I know there is little chance that my soul will be purely, completely, cleansed before I die, and once I make it there I know that I will be spending an eternity with the God who created me. 🙂