Sunday, June 16, 2013

A watch list for superheroes?

As I type this, it has been eight days since my wife, Marcy, passed away. I felt the need to medicate myself through the sadness of this weekend by engaging in one of my favorite, recently-adopted pastimes: watching all six “Phase One” movies of the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

While watching the final installment, I was struck by a snippet of dialogue that previously had been merely a source of amusement. Now, it holds far greater relevance and poignancy in light of Edward Snowden’s revelations about activity by the National Security Agency as well as the release of the Department of Homeland Security’s Key Word list.

Shortly past the mid-point of “The Avengers,” in the scene where the movie’s heroes are arguing after the discovery of S.H.I.E.L.D.’s weapons development program, Mark Ruffalo’s character, Bruce Banner, utters a line (which I’m mildly paraphrasing) that aptly describes the present state of our government: “Captain America is on a watch list?”

Of course, on the surface it is puerile to point to a superhero movie for drawing parallels with present violations of constitutionally protected rights. While the notion of invoking superhero storylines in discussing such a serious topic as unconstitutional surveillance may seem preposterous, let us not forget there was a time in America when the notion of such rampant surveillance by our government was considered equally as preposterous.

This is where our nation is at in the 21st century. Idealists who believe in the rule of law and justice derived from it are – in ever-growing circumstances – likely to be victims of unlawful collection of personal information. The greater the prominence such an individual may hold in the public eye (or, in the case of Captain America, physical power), the greater the likelihood they’re being centrally scrutinized.

Whatever his purpose may have been when director Joss Whedon penned that portion of dialogue while drafting the movie’s screenplay, he successfully illustrated (accidentally or deliberately) how ridiculous the situation has become in our society.

Today in the United States, whether you’re an impassioned advocate for liberty, an outspoken critic of government activity, or even Captain America, rest assured Big Brother is watching you.

Monday, May 27, 2013

On Memorial Day...

Let's remember that today is set aside to honor our fallen veterans who served their country.

Those of us who made it back home and are still alive-and-kicking, we will get to enjoy our own day in five-and-a-half months.

I wish to take a moment to bring attention to my dad, Ben Francis Kissick, who served in the U.S. Army during World War II and almost lost his life while on the front lines in France. Dad passed away January 31, 1999.

On my mom's side of the family, before gaining American citizenship my grandfather Earnest Seager served in the Canadian army during World War I.

My great-grandfather, Benjamin Franklin Kissick, served in the U.S. Army during the Civil War era.

May you and all our other fallen -- be it on the battlefield or later-on in life -- be at rest in God's arms.

Sunday, May 26, 2013

From the Faith & Liberty series: Will I cast God's love overboard?

Parables are among God’s most illuminating gifts to us.

Jesus used them with unfailing skill to help His apostles understand the importance of their efforts in His name as well as reveal to us all His calling for us as faithful disciples.

I am a firm believer that a number of the events described throughout the Bible – especially in the Old Testament – are not literal instances in world history but parables God has handed-down to us through His prophets.

Several of these parables involve intense storms.

Take it from one who knows: storms are easier to ride-out when you’re not alone while doing so.

Two years ago, my wife, Marcy, was diagnosed with leukemia.

For much of 2012, it seemed as if this particular storm finally was passing-through in our life. The winds were easing. The seas were calming. She was in remission. And, it appeared we could raise our sails again for the journey of life.

This year, however, this tempest has gathered new strength. Marcy relapsed and the diagnosis showed us her leukemia is a particularly aggressive form of the disease. This development led the crew at the James Cancer Hospital to conclude a bone marrow transplant is necessary for her to survive it. Unfortunately, the process for leukemia patients in receiving a transplant potentially can be just as fatal as the cancer itself.

For months before she finally was diagnosed with leukemia, Marcy’s health was in steady decline and the fight to find-out why was taxing in and of itself. It was during that trying stretch of time when I began to re-examine my faith in God and eventually rediscover it.

Praise be to God: my faith is stronger now than at any other time in my life.

One question that has circulated in my mind at times is a most important one: how long will this focus on faith last? This led me to a deeper, more personal examination of God’s use of parables.

Sometimes He brings periods into our lives which are meant to serve as our own individual parables from which He expects us to learn.

Such a parabolic instance in my life stems from a relationship I was in two years before I met Marcy. That person and I were together just under a year before she and I broke-up. However, regular interaction with her afterward was unavoidable due to mutual friendships we both had. It also didn’t help that I continued to struggle with the breakup well after it happened.

After a few months, she found herself in a harsh fight in the courts with her ex-husband over custody and visitation of their children. He was an individual who was skillful in using fear and intimidation to maintain control in their relationship and marriage and the prospect of facing him in that manner was a frightening one for her.

Eventually, she turned to me to stand with her – to help see her through this personal storm of hers.

I accepted. I stepped-in to help keep her ship navigating through the turbulent waters.

The tide began to turn in her favor in that visitation battle, before long, and her storm was steadily easing. Soon after, however, she renewed her standoffish attitude toward me that she exhibited when the relationship had ended.

When her own rough waters began to ease, she chose to toss me overboard.

One could read this far, stop, and wonder: why would I dredge-up the past like this. That is not my intent here.

A key component over the last few years in restoring my relationship with God has entailed significant reflection on my life and look for the ways He has steered me toward my current path with Him.

When I remembered this particular development, the parallel to my struggles today jumped-out in a powerful epiphany.

I recalled how, during that time several years ago, I felt a hurt with which I was unfamiliar. I felt used: not financially or in any other material manner – just emotionally.

If and when Marcy makes it through this latest trial, will I de-emphasize my relationship with God? If the transplant is successful, Marcy is cured of leukemia, and she survives the entire ordeal, wouldn’t it be easy to set faith aside and move forward without Him?

When that happened in my life, I felt used and misled. And, it hurt.

How should I expect God to feel toward me if I do the same to Him?

After all, if I believe it was wrong when that happened to me, how would that not be wrong if I do that to God?

That was the importance of the parable He inserted into my life before I met and fell in love with Marcy. There was going to be a time – such as now – when I would need Him like never before. Just as important as bringing God back into my life is keeping him there at the center of it.

These realizations made finding forgiveness for a perceived past transgression easy – better late than never. More importantly, they also reinforced for me the truth that God does not simply come and go in our lives. He always is there – even when we don’t seek Him.

Still, once we have sought – and found – God, any trial can be endured so long as we stay in and hold onto His light.

Life is better when we trust Him with the helm. Be sure not to throw overboard the One Who has been sailing with you all the while.

From the Faith & Liberty series: Let me tell you about the greatness of God

Originally published Sunday, February 3

This is the second time within a year that I have found myself under what seemed like a crushing weight on my mind, my heart, and my soul.

On the morning I learned my wife, Marcy, has relapsed with leukemia, I was calling out to Him with yet another of countless prayers that morning: begging Him for forgiveness in all the ways I have let Him down; begging for healing for Marcy; begging him for strength in this most desperate time of spiritual need.

And that was when I felt, literally felt the weight within me lightening and the tightness in my face that was pulling my mouth in such an intense downward arc ease: right when I concluded my last petition to Him with, "In your Son, Christ Jesus' name, I pray, amen."

Almost a year ago I was going through a similar moment while driving home from work. The stress was catching-up to me and I had gotten myself so worked-up from it all that all I could think about was releasing it in an angry tirade that was on pace to stew within me until I got home -- when it would have been all too likely I would have vented unfairly on Marcy once I got home.

My heart wasn't just calling out to God. It wasn't just crying out to God. It was screaming out to God.

The exact same calm swept over me. No explanation for it. There was no other possible source for it but from Him. At that time, one word entered my mind that also came seemingly from out of nowhere: "Temperance."

I was exceptionally tired that morning after work. And, those of you who know me well know that when I'm trying to make a point during a political or other similarly intensive discussion I'll get completely mentally roadblocked when I'm trying to express what's rolling through my head but can't find that precise word that makes the whole point I'm trying to make come together.


There was no majestic voice or other such hokey, pop-culture imagining that people ordinarily (or too often sarcastically) associate with the idea of such a moment. Just one word, out of the blue, that popped-up into my consciousness.

Fast foward to January 30, 2013, a very similar spontaneous calm washed over me right when I feared I was on the cusp of coming unglued.

To that, all I can say in response is, "Thank you, Heavenly Father."

Tragedy, horror, and the quest for words

Originally published on Sunday, December 16, 2012

There is no way to make sense of the horrors on Friday in Newtown, Connecticut.

My thoughts and prayers are with the community -- especially the loved ones of the victims as well as the parents who had to agonize during the wait before knowing they would be reunited with their children who survived the tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary.

We need to devote more time to remembering the victims: such as Vicki Soto, who died after saving her students' lives by hiding them in the classroom lockers and telling the gunman they were in gym class; and such as Dawn Hochsprung, who died after lunging at him when she spotted him.

This page is dedicated almost exclusively to politics: hence, why it is with no small weight that I am addressing this unthinkable act of savagery. If we can convince others of anything in light of what happened, at least try to steer their emphasis toward those acts of undeniable heroism and quick thinking for good.

My stomach turns at the notion of political discourse in the wake of that horrific day. Further nauseating is the sad truth of its inevitability.

On that regard, I am limiting my portion of such to three links from the Reason Foundation over the weekend, beginning with "4 awful reactions" made publicly later on Friday, a call to avoid knee-jerk legislative responses in the wake of tragedy, and an examination of what has happened elsewhere as a result of gun control.

Keeping discussions centered on facts instead of being overtaken by emotional direction is a challenge of indescribable proportions. With the victims consisting of small children and those who gladly took-on the vocation of shaping their futures, I begrudge no one for invoking their emotions in response to this post.

Finger-pointing, however (regardless of which direction it is aimed), is unacceptable and will be swiftly rebuked.

My response to The Lima News' October 27 editorial

Originally published on Monday, October 29, 2012

As many of you already may know, The Lima News announced Saturday they are endorsing my Republican opponent for the Allen County Commissioner race.

First and foremost, this response is not intended to naysay his endorsement by The Lima News. This is my second run for a partisan elected office and I know such developments come with the territory.

What compels me to write this is my position on the issue of zero-base budgeting was misrepresented.

It is true I believe now is not the right time to implement such a policy with Allen County's departments short-staffed.

However, when the subject has been raised I have consistently said I believe combing through the general fund budget is a legitimate task for a county commissioner to assume. To print that I ever so-much-as hinted at it being "too time-consuming for a new county commissioner" is factually incorrect.

The term "micromanaging" was our other opponent's choice of words. This was not adequately specified in the endorsement editorial – which insinuates it is my stance as well.

Furthermore, during the candidates forum with The Lima News' editorial board, I added (but these remarks were not printed) that I believe the best approach on this is for a commissioner to thoroughly examine budget line items and, when a red flag comes-up, bring the matter to the attention of the respective department and office, ask them to justify the expenditure, and proceed appropriately.

That is simply a common sense approach to tackling a $24.5 million fiscal year budget.

I also have consistently asserted that local governments exist to provide essential public services. As stated above, much of Allen County's government is understaffed for the workload it presently assumes. Those two points, when considered in conjunction, are highly relevant due to the fact Cory Noonan never once directly answered concerns raised over how much of the zero-base budgeting work would be delegated to Allen County's departmental staffs.

When (should he win) such endeavors trickle their way down through the county employee ranks – given they are stretched-thin already – the question that he perplexingly was never pressed to answer is how much will such additional work take away from those public services?

How long will Allen County residents tolerate such developments?

As I said at the debate hosted by the Lima/Allen County Chamber of Commerce, my prediction is if zero-base budgeting is implemented an impasse will be reached within two years: sometime during deliberations for the 2015 budget it will be abandoned altogether; or (an additional point I didn't have enough time to raise), Mr. Noonan will introduce a motion to either hire additional government staff for the narrow role of keeping zero-base budgeting alive or contract a firm to accomplish that.

Given the immediacy of Allen County's budgetary distress, such new spending – of potentially up-to $100,000 – for the sake of salvaging a campaign promise defies common sense.

Common sense can work in government. I simply ask my fellow residents to give it a chance.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Debating the Fair Tax: when the Progressive Left should quit while behind

I have been an advocate for the Fair Tax for almost a year.

(I used to promote a flat tax, but an explanation for that change of heart is forthcoming…)

In my occasional use of Twitter, a few weeks ago I mentioned the Fair Tax in a tweet (one of a series of tweets) to a conservative who was promoting Mitt Romney’s presidential campaign. Naturally, I was espousing the virtues of Gary Johnson.

A third individual – who enjoys trolling the “Twitterverse” for #FairTax mentions – using the handle @FilmCriticOne and goes by the moniker Mark DC injected himself into the exchange out-of-the-blue with a string of tweets. It was a rather spirited conversation (the link doesn’t display every single tweet, unfortunately), full of colorful commentary on Mark DC’s part. I thought I had managed to shake him loose, but it was only for a few hours.

By the time the cyber-dust settled, I had reasoned that even if his arguments are accurate and reliable regarding the specifics promoted by Fair Tax-dot-org, I still fully believe in the concept of a fair tax, even if it’s not the Fair Tax presently being touted.

But wait! There’s more...
What continued to linger in my mind in all my silent deliberations over the Fair Tax were the contents of a pair of Mark DC’s later replies to me.

He posted, “Those ‘provisions’ are 3/4 of it’s [sic] revenue...from city county and state ‘expenditure’ taxes.” and, “If you remove ‘those provisions’ you have to triple the tax rate.”

For a time after reading that specific portion of his feedback, I knew I was missing a very important point – and it would turn-out to be one he had unknowingly raised. While on the surface it may not seem reasonable to tax federal, state, and local government expenditures and the numbers he presented initially appear startling – making it an easy red flag for him to wave – the epiphany eventually hit me.

Disguised as outrage over a supposed “fraud” was his real driving force: fear that is intense enough to wedge his knickers into a knot.

What it boils-down-to
If Mark DC’s assertion is correct – that almost 75 percent of revenues generated from the Fair Tax as it is presently written would come from taxes on government expenditures – then the absolute last nugget of knowledge the Progressive Left in America wants entering the popular consciousness is this: public-sector consumption is outpacing private consumption three times over!

Of course, there is some truth in popular discourse over the fact Americans have become too accustomed to excessive consumption of goods: from electronics to automobiles to various novelties. And, we are reminded endlessly of the ruthless avarice of the corporate world.

But, if the Fair Tax were to be enacted and if the numbers being trumpeted by its opponents such as Mark DC accurately reflect the actual revenue streams, Americans would have statistical evidence at their disposal of how much government in general consumes in comparison to the overall private sector – to reiterate: three times the rate of consumption by government at all levels in comparison to consumption rates in corporate America and by individuals combined.

As that conversation would take-on a life of its own, we could expect to see a rise in the number of residents in almost every conceivable jurisdiction who begin to demand government spending be reined-in – as opposed to clamoring for higher state and local taxes to offset what would be due to the U.S. Treasury.

And, as public sentiment turns against Big Government, the libertarian movement will pick-up even greater steam.

So, thank you, Mark DC. As a Progressive, your impassioned criticism of the Fair Tax could be a Libertarian’s best argument for it.