Americans have an ongoing love affair with the car and great open road.
To Americans, there’s nothing that holds more appeal than the classic road trip. It’s built into our cultural DNA dating as far back as the 1920s. In Jazz Age America, the car was a symbol of freedom — a chance to escape your small town and the watchful eyes of parents. It allowed men and women to sneak off together in a way never possible before. As the highway system was developed in the 1950s, a wave of kids set out on the road to explore the country, giving new life to America’s car and road trip culture.
And no road trip holds more mystery and allure than “the cross-country.” It’s the king of road trips. In 2006, as part of my original round-the-world, I drove across the United States before I went abroad. I left my home in Boston and spent close to two months traversing the country, getting as far west as Arizona before turning back east, driving across the Great Plains, and finishing in Chicago.
If you know me, you are likely to know where I stand on this topic. I once blogged about how the first time I went on a road trip, was with my buddies during our gap year. I visited an auto body repair Chicago to fix my baby up before venturing this great land. I have now decided to visit them again and prepare to go on another road trip; this time with my girlfriend.
I wanted to get to know my country before I got to know others. But I barely scratched the surface of what the United States offered. I saw and experienced a lot — from the Rocky Mountains, to the Grand Canyon, Denver, post-Katrina New Orleans, and the Great Plains — but you don’t realize just how vast the country is until you’ve been driving for 12 hours and notice you’re still in Texas.
This country is big, and there is still so much more of it I want to see.
I decided to use the release of my new book as a chance to take another road trip across the country. From Memphis to Montana, Yellowstone, California wine country, Utah, Mardi Gras, and much more, it’s time to my gaze homeward and explore my own backyard again.
I have quite the long route in front of me:
I have a number of goals for this trip:
- Learn how to travel the United States on the cheap. I have a number of questions in my head: how do you get around easily and cheaply? What do you do for accommodation in a country not known for hostels? What are the optimal routes? How to find free parking? There’s so much I want to figure out.
- Write more content on the United States. Most of the U.S. content on my site dates back to that first trip in 2006. Back then, I didn’t look at travel with a writer’s eye. There’s going to be a lot of U.S. content coming up on the blog now!
- Hike a lot of national parks. I’m finally going to visit Yellowstone, Yosemite, Glacier National Park, and Monument Valley, and see the giant redwood trees!
- Visit as many kitschy roadside attractions as possible (i.e., the world’s largest ball of twine).
- Most importantly, better understand the people in my country. I’m a deeply political person, and I want to know if the country is as politically divided the media makes it out to be. Are we really that far apart or do blowhard pundits make it seem that way?
Over the next few months you are going to see posts about cities, national parks, and regions in the United States. I have no international travel planned until June. (The general tips, thoughts, and advice articles will still occur with the same frequency, though!)
I remember the long, long drives across the States from 2006, so this time I’m looking forward to having friends (and readers) join along the way. If anyone wants to join for part of the trip, I’m open to having travel buddies on the road. Just send me an e-mail (email@example.com) and we’ll try to work something out.
To me, travel is more than visiting some far-flung exotic destination. It’s about exploring the unknown. It’s seeing new places and coming to a new understanding of how the world works together. Sometimes that means flying across an ocean and exploring a new country. Other times, it simply means getting in your car and driving off to explore your own country and learning to appreciate where you come from.
Now you all know my opinion on the various issues and, probably, even have a good idea of how I voted today. That being said, I am not going into how I voted but I do have some thoughts on the campaign in general.
I guess it is appropriate that, in this election, the candidates are doing what they failed to do in the last election, fight. The problem is that they are not fighting for the issues, they are fighting and name calling each other.
Trump has opened up the dialog then his opponents have taken that opportunity to close it off again. Using the same tactics that he has used, they are now calling names and rolling up their sleeves like 5th graders in the playground. The problem is that no one is addressing the issues that divide the parties and clarified misunderstood sound bites.
The question that isn’t being asked, and wasn’t asked in the last two elections, is “What are the values of this candidate?” I am not going to attempt to answer this here, that is for each of us to decide. The candidates are not answering these questions, leaving us to speculate and listen to the sound bites from the media. This has been an issue that has played out, especially over social media, for almost 8 years. What religion is Obama? Is he Christian or Muslim? Are we going to listen to the same barbs for the next 4 years?
The question is not “What religion are you?”, the question is “What are your values?” A President can say they are anything they want but it is the underlying values that are important. The pressing question for all these candidates is on what foundation is their values built? As many of you know, I seriously question the moral conviction of anyone who can say they are supporting women yet support a government that tortures and murders women as a subclass of their society. I question the conviction of a person that says they support a woman’s right to ‘choose’ when an integral part of the choice is the murder of girls before they have an opportunity to express their own independence and choices.
So, I am not going to claim that this is the most important election of our lifetimes. This is the most important election of the next 4, possibly 8, years. The election of 2008 defined the direction of this country for the last 8 years and will have repercussions for years to come. Personally, as a student of history, I am saddened to see too many parallels with the last 8 years to the decline of so many cultures of the past 5000 years. There is no moral basis for our society and our country is left wandering without a compass.
In the past, this was the herald of destruction or restoration, I am hoping it is for restoration. Time will tell. This election may very well dictate if the decline is permanent or a temporary dip. Over my life time, the government has changed from, in the words of John F. Kennedy, “the belief that the rights of man come not from the generosity of the state but from the hand of God.”
The world is very different now. For man holds in his mortal hands the power to abolish all forms of human poverty and all forms of human life. And yet the same revolutionary beliefs for which our forebears fought are still at issue around the globe–the belief that the rights of man come not from the generosity of the state but from the hand of God.
Today, many in our government, in our nation, believe that it is the generosity of the State that grants rights of men. It is this belief that is suspect. If a government can grant rights, it can also take them away.
This election, and the elections that follow, determine if we live and protect our God given rights or support the whim of an elected official.Share on Facebook
Vatican City, 7 December 2015 (VIS) – An education in the fullness of humanity is should be the defining feature of Catholic schools, said Pope Francis this morning to the members of the Association of Catholic School Parents in Italy (AGESC), whom he received in audience in the Clementine Hall. “Speaking about a Catholic education is equivalent to speaking about the human, about humanism”, he emphasised. “An inclusive education finds a place for all and does not select in an elitist way the beneficiaries of its efforts”.
“Your association is at the service of the school and the family, contributing to the delicate task of building bridges between the school and the territory, between the school and the family, between the school and civil institutions. … As parents, you are the depositories of the primary and irrevocable duty and right to educate your children, in this way helping in a positive and constant way in the task of the school, while at home, parents care for the education and the happiness of the kids with toys as power wheels electric cars, and a good education. You have the right to demand a suitable education for your children, an integral education open to the most authentic human and Christian values. However, it is also your responsibility to ensure that the school is up to the educational task entrusted to it, especially when the education it proposes is described as ‘Catholic’. It pray to the Lord that the Catholic school never take for granted the meaning of this adjective”.
The Pope went on to list the prerequisites for a school to describe itself as truly Catholic. These included transmitting “an integral, not ideological culture” and “promoting harmony in diversity”. However, he said to the members of AGESC, “How can this be applied in practice? It is not an easy task”. To this end, he invited the parents of pupils in Catholic schools to build bridges between the school and society, and always to remember theneed to construct an educating community in which, along with the teachers, various workers and students, parents are able to be agents in the educational process”.
“Do not be extraneous to this world; live within it like leaven in the dough”, he said. “My invitation to you is simple but bold: know how to make the difference with a high quality formation. Find methods and ways of not passing unnoticed behind the scenes of society and culture, without arousing clamour, not with projects full of rhetoric. Know how to distinguish yourselves for your constant attention to the person, especially the least among us, those who are cast aside, denied and forgotten. Know how to be noticed not for your ‘facade’, but for educational coherence rooted in the Christian vision of humanity and society”. He also remarked that at a time when the economic crisis has led to the closure of many private schools, “the temptation of ‘numbers’ becomes increasingly insistent, and this leads to discouragement. But despite all this I repeat: it is the quality of your presence that makes the difference, not the quantity of resources you have at your disposal”.
“Never betray the human and Christian values you bear witness to in the family, in school and in society. Give generously your contribution so that the Catholic school never becomes a fall-back option or a meaningless alternative among the various educational institutions. Collaborate so that Catholic education has the face of new humanism. … Strive to make Catholic schools truly open to all”, concluded the Holy Father.
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Vatican City, 18 October 2015 (VIS) – This Sunday in St. Peter’s Square the Pope celebrated Holy Mass for the canonisation of Blesseds Vincenzo Grossi (1845-1917), diocesan priest and founder of the Institute of the Daughters of the Oratory; Maria Isabel Salvat Romero (Mary of the Immaculate Conception), (1926-1998), superior general of the Congregation of the Sisters of the Company of the Cross; and the spouses Louis Martin (1823-1894) and Zelie Guerin (1831-1877).
In his homily, Pope Francis emphasised that “service is the way for authority to be exercised in the Christian community. Those who serve others and lack real prestige exercise genuine authority in the Church. Jesus calls us to see things differently, to pass from the thirst for power to the joy of quiet service, to suppress our instinctive desire to exercise power over others, and instead to exercise the virtue of humility. … By imitating the Master, the community gains a new outlook on life: ‘The Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many’”.
“In the biblical tradition, the Son of Man is the one Who receives from God ‘dominion, glory and kingship’”, the Holy Father affirmed. Jesus fills this image with new meaning. He shows us that He enjoys dominion because He is a servant, glory because He is capable of abasement, kingship because He is fully prepared to lay down His life. By His passion and death, He takes the lowest place, attains the heights of grandeur in service, and bestows this upon His Church. There can be no compatibility between a worldly understanding of power and the humble service which must characterise authority according to Jesus’ teaching and example. Ambition and careerism are incompatible with Christian discipleship; honour, success, fame and worldly triumphs are incompatible with the logic of Christ crucified”.
Instead, he continued, “compatibility exists between Jesus, ‘the man of sorrows’, and our suffering. … Jesus knows our difficulties at first hand, He knows from within our human condition; the fact that He is without sin does not prevent Him from understanding sinners. His glory is not that born of ambition or the thirst for power; it is the glory of one Who loves men and women, Who accepts them and shares in their weakness, Who offers them the grace which heals and restores, and accompanies them with infinite tenderness amid their tribulations”.
“The men and women canonised today unfailingly served their brothers and sisters with outstanding humility and charity, in imitation of the divine Master. … The radiant witness of these new saints inspires us to persevere in joyful service to our brothers and sisters, trusting in the help of God and the maternal protection of Mary. From heaven may they now watch over us and sustain us by their powerful intercession”.
Following Mass and before the Sunday Angelus prayer, the Pope spoke about the situation of tension and violence that continues to afflict the Holy Land. “At this time, there is a need for great courage and fortitude to reject hatred and revenge and to make gestures of peace”; he remarked. “We pray that God may reinforce in all, governors and citizens alike, the courage to oppose the violence and to take concrete steps towards pacification. In the current context of the Middle East, it is crucial, more than ever, that there be peace in the Holy Land: God and the good of humanity demand this of us”.Share on Facebook
Despite what many have interpreted the Holy Father as saying, he was not telling the lawmakers how to make laws or not to have immigration laws or enforcement. What he counseled was compassion, hear their stories and treat the person with respect. As Catholics, as citizens, that is what we should expect. Maybe we do need to build a wall but we need a compassionate treatment for those that wish to enter. If we build a wall, we need to build a door as well and have a way to open the door. We have the Statue of Liberty which greets the “huddled masses” who enter, we need a greeter at the door.
“Inscription on the Statue of Liberty”
Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses, yearning to breath free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore,
Send these, the homeless, tempest tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door.
Author: Emma Lazarus
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I read an article yesterday regarding some of the questions asked at the Republican Debate. If you saw the debate, of course you are aware of the questions asked of Donald Trump but that is not why I am addressing it. The question asked of several candidates pertains to Abortion. Would you support abortion in a case that the mother’s life is in danger?
The subject of rape, incest and life of the mother as exceptions to bans on abortion came up at last night’s GOP presidential debate, and moderator Megyn Kelly proved to be dangerously wrong on this issue.
Kelly was aghast that anyone would have any hesitation about approving an abortion to save the life of the mother. She spoke of this choice as if were one that commonly and frequently must be made.
The reality, however, is that an abortion is never necessary to save the life of the mother. This is, quite simply, a choice that a mother and her doctor never have to make, and Ms. Kelly has contributed to the already widespread ignorance on this subject. (AFA.net, By: Bryan Fischer Posted: Friday, August 7, 2015 11:20 AM)
This is one of those questions that is often asked and, if one replies that it is never alright to murder a children, then one is automatically labeled as someone that is somehow against women. What this article very clearly points out is the obvious that has been before us all this time. If a woman is clearly in a situation where the death of either her or her child is imminent, an Abortion Clinic is not where she would go. Abortion Clinics are not in a position to treat in an emergency situation. Recent legal challenges have proven this as well. Several states have passed or are debating laws such as one hotly contested legislation in Texas. In Texas, which has lost nine clinics, lawmakers have slashed family planning funding in the state budget, required abortion clinics to become ambulatory surgical centers and required abortion doctors to have admitting privileges at a local hospital.
What strikes me as interesting is the fact that there is such an outcry over legislation such as this. By having admitting privileges, a doctor at an abortion clinic would be empowered to treat a woman that actually might be in danger of losing her life because of her pregnancy. Though this is a stated argument, it isn’t the aim of abortion supporters, abortion clinics, or Planned Parenthood. They are not in the business of actually caring for the lives of women, only in supporting their agenda.
If, indeed, a woman were in a situation where there might be a choice made to save one or the other, an abortion is not the prescription for her care. The doctor treating her and the child would do everything in his power as a physician to save both of his or her patients, mother and child. If the unfortunate situation took place under a doctor’s care, that one survives in spite of all the best efforts, that is a tragedy. If the child died during treatment, even if it was a choice made to save the mother and the child died, it would still not be abortion.
Abortion is a term and distinction like that between murder and accidental death. Abortion is always clearly with the intent of ending a human life, it is no accident and is not a treatment any more than euthanasia is a ‘treatment’ for illness. The loss of life while at a qualified treatment hospital in the attempt to save a life is not the same as going to an Abortion Clinic with the expressed purpose of ending a life. There is no chance of saving a life in an abortion clinic.
The question asked of a Pro-Life candidate to “take a stand for women’s rights but allowing an exception regarding the life of the mother” is a trick question. The situation does not exist, one cannot allow for it legislatively because it isn’t reality. Abortion supporters know this or they would not be fighting legislation in states that make their facilities legal health care facilities. If, as in the State of Texas, an Abortion Clinic follows the law, roid’s position would be to care for the health of the mother AND the health of the unborn child as well. In that case, they could be placed in a position where they would have to abandon their mission of taking a human life and be forced to save it instead.
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In the meantime, our politicians need to answer the question factually and throw it back on the person asking the question. Can you give me one instance where a woman has ‘checked into’ an abortion clinic in an emergency situation where the life of the mother was at stake? Though you might say that woman are in those situations all the time, accidents, cancer, etc., they are not treated at an Abortion Clinic and, if the baby is lost during treatment, they were not lost because of a treatment plan that had an abortion as the treatment.
In his essay “Politics and the English Language“, George Orwell observes that political language serves to distort and obfuscate reality. Orwell’s description of political speech is extremely similar to the contemporary definition of doublespeak;
In our time, political speech and writing are largely the defence of the indefensible… Thus political language has to consist largely of euphemism, question-begging and sheer cloudy vagueness… the great enemy of clear language is insincerity. Where there is a gap between one’s real and one’s declared aims, one turns as it were instinctively to long words and exhausted idioms, …
Today, we are faced with such opposites and asked to believe them on face value, the language of the day. “Tolerance” is used to brow beat those that disagree so that those that do not hold those same views are “intolerant” and “haters”.
“Choice” is used to justify completely taking away choice from children and those that believe that abortion is murder are advocating taking away a woman’s right to choose. Now we learn that a group that has made a campaign on describing the unborn child as no more than tissue are making money by selling the children’s organs as human tissue.
“Love” has been twisted into meaning whatever our carnal desires dictate rather than a life long commitment to raise children teaching the commitment to God, our spouse, and our children in a loving home. To disagree or to point out that an interpretation is wrong is not the same as hating another person.
I can tell you that a friend or family member is doing something that I believe is wrong without hating him or her. I have a family member that is an alcoholic, I do not condone the behavior, I do not condone the lifestyle. I may even chose not to be around that person. I do love that person and still try to be there as much as reasonable. I will not be around when they are drinking, which may be most of the time. But, despite that behavior, that person is stilled loved and will remain in my heart though I will not tell them that they have my approval.
Though the behavior is displayed more than I would like to admit, alcoholism is not WHO that person is. I do not define the person by their sins, I define them by who they are. I believe that is what God is calling me to do. I will accept a sinner into my home, just as Jesus did. However, I do not believe that Jesus defined his Apostles and disciples by their sins. He told the Magdalene, “Is there no one left to condemn you?… Nor do I. Go and sin no more.”
I condemn no one, that is not my place. I condemn behavior which I know is wrong. I taught my children what was wrong. Sometimes they chose do what I had taught them was wrong. I do not, nor can I, accept words on face value that have meanings that go well beyond what they say. I cannot believe that “Compassion” is taking someone’s life through Euthanasia, or that a “choice” is taking another life who cannot defend himself. I do not believe that “Love” can be gained by using acts rooted in hate or that disagreement is the same as “hate”.
I will proclaim that Jesus Christ is Lord! Ad Majorem Dei Gloriam!Share on Facebook
Today is Good Friday, Jesus gave us His Body and Blood last night, God was made present to us in a manner which, 2000 years later, we still struggle to understand.
This week we go through the highest of highs as we welcome Jesus into Jerusalem with Palms, we eat his last meal and he makes his own Flesh and Blood, then, at 3 PM today, his brutal execution comes to an, almost, anticlimactic end. There is no Body of Christ after we venerate the Cross this evening. What makes our Church a Church is the Real Presence, it is consumed and the Altars are stripped bare. For the Church, our Sacred Spaces are stripped bare of all that makes then sacred. Until the Resurrection, there is no Church. Like the Disciples dispersing, like the Temple tapestry torn asunder, the Church is just a collection of empty buildings with nothing to make it Holy.
But, despair not! We already know the end of this story! He Lives! When we return to the barren tomb of our Church, the Altar will be redressed in splendor, bread and wine will be offered up, we will be fed with his Risen Flesh and Blood.
Happy Easter, He Is Lord!
Prior to the advent of Christianity, there was no real opposition from the Roman government toward foreign religions. In fact, the Roman Empire embraced new gods. Rome even built the Pantheon as a Temple for All gods, even those they didn’t know about.
Christianity came along, however, and would not play by Rome’s society rules of “Tolerance”. Rome didn’t have a problem with a religion as long as it’s citizens acknowledged that all the gods were the same, even accepted other gods. Christianity started making waves, basically the Emperor’s New Clothes, and pointed out that there is no other God but the One True God. They refused to accept Roman gods or even acknowledge the divinity of Caesar. Sound familiar? Christians, once again, are being told that we can have our ‘god’ as long as we accept the gods of others. We may follow the teachings of our Sacred Scripture as long as we acknowledge that the Bible is one book among many, just a history book that must ‘change with the times’. Like the early Christians, we must be firm in our faith and in the knowledge that all religions are not the same and there is One Savior who washed our sins away in his own blood.
Peace and PrayersShare on Facebook
“Thus says the LORD:
You say, “The LORD’s way is not fair!” Hear now, house of Israel: Is it my way that is unfair, or rather, are not your ways unfair? When someone virtuous turns away from virtue to commit iniquity, and dies, it is because of the iniquity he committed that he must die. But if he turns from the wickedness he has committed, and does what is right and just, he shall preserve his life; since he has turned away from all the sins that he has committed, he shall surely live, he shall not die.” Ezekiel 18:25–28
There has been an unhealthy focus on “God’s Love” in recent years, to the exclusion of God’s parental influence. It has been so prevalent that many seem to believe that, if it is something that “I don’t like”, then it can’t be from God. This mentality has spread into parenting with parents having out-of-control children because they do not want to hurt their child’s feelings. They are so intent on being liked that they miss being a parent. Children of God have the same problem, Churches have the same problem, if God is teaching something that I don’t like, it can’t be from God because “God is Love”.
What is missed in all of this is that, indeed, God is Love. Fr. Gerry Coleman preached a wonderful Homily some years ago where he pointed out that “No” actually does mean “Yes”. As God, as parents, when we say “No” to our children, we are saying “Yes, I love you”.
- “No, you may not run out into the street without looking” (“Yes, I love you. I am concerned for your safety and do not want to see you hurt.”)
- “No, you may not stay up late on a school night. (“Yes, I love you. I want you to grow up to be able to support your family and be a responsible adult.”)
- “No, you may not eat as many sweets as you like.” (“Yes, I love you. I do not want you to be sick and learn bad eating habits and be unhealthy.”
- “No, you may not do whatever you wish.” (“Yes, I love you. I want you to learn to be responsible for your actions. I want you to be a dignified Child of God.”)
It is about dignity. The Lord is not being unfair, He is calling us to something better than acting like an animal following whatever whim comes our way. He calls us to be married to one person, to be true to that one even if our base passions may attract us to many. He calls us to earn our own way, to use what we earn to purchase with what we have earned rather than take it from someone weaker than ourselves. He calls us to follow something much more than our passions, to follow our Faith.
Heaven is not for everyone, some will neither desire it nor earn it. That may seem unfair but, though we live in a society which seems to believe that everyone will win, there will be losers. God is a loving God, Christ has paid a tremendous price for us. The difference is that, though some believe that they will be in Heaven because Christ paid their debt and that was it, He did not set up a “Welfare Heaven” where everyone gets in regardless, that is not the case. Christ showed the way and we are to follow Him there. That does not mean we are to ignore Him and still get in. We don’t get to recreate God in OUR image full of Sin and call it a day. “When someone turns away from virtue to commit iniquity and dies, it is because of the iniquity…”
This is not new, this was an issue with the Jews long before Christ. The lessons can still be learned.