Monthly Archives: July 2011

Theft by any other name…

Some readers may not know that I also write a gardening blog: charamongarden.wordpress.com – soon to become “West Texas Gardener.”  I work really hard to write informative posts about raising vegetables in our challenging conditions (dry climate, alkaline soil, wind, and these days triple-digit heat).  I also read and subscribe to other organic gardening blogs. More and more I am seeing something that, when I was teaching, would have earned my students an automatic failing grade: plagiarism.  The practice of stealing someone’s research, writing, etc., and posting it in your blog without giving credit is reprehensible.  It’s simply another form of theft.

Recently, I read a blog and realized that the contents probably couldn’t have been the words of the blogger.  So, I took a suspect phrase, entered it into Google and voila!  There it was under the original author’s name.  Further digging revealed that several bloggers had made unauthorized use of the same article!  I re-read the blog I had opened just to make sure I had not missed the reference or the credit and, regretfully, it was not there.

To write informative blogs, we all have to do some research.  It is only right, however, to give credit to the sources of research quoted.  In the above case, the thief merely cut from the original author and pasted into his post as if it was his own work…no quotation marks, no footnotes, no nothin’.  I call it dishonest and lazy.

I read voraciously about organic gardening, especially if it deals with gardening in hot, dry climates and alkaline soils.  Information gleaned from years of research gets stirred up in my little gray cells, blends with my own experience and comes out in my writing, sometimes within the hour, sometimes years later.  But one thing I will promise you: I will not knowingly quote someone’s research without giving credit.  And, I certainly will not “cut and paste.”  That just wouldn’t be right.

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Filed under Blogs & Blogging, Good & Evil, honor, Integrity, morality, Quotations, Respect, Trust, Writing

Heroes and Heroism

When Army Ranger Sgt. First Class Leroy Petry received the Medal of Honor recently, it set me to thinking about heroes.  You may be aware of the actions that caused him to lose his right hand but save his fellow-soldiers. As Fox News reporter Justin Fishel wrote, “Shot once in each leg and laying wounded behind a chicken coup (sic) in an insurgent compound, Petry saved the lives of two fellow Rangers when he sacrificed his own hand to throw away an enemy grenade that could have killed them all.”

So, I asked myself, what is heroism?  Though probably not exhaustive, I came up with this list of characteristics of heroism.

Selflessness: This is one of the basic characteristics of a hero and drives most of the other characteristics.  The hero is selfless to the point of personal sacrifice, cost, inconvenience and suffering.  Heroes don’t stop to consider the personal cost of their actions, they just act.  A hero thinks first of others in a crisis.

Awareness: The hero is not off in his or her own little world.  They are aware of the world around them and its challenges and needs.  They automatically take note of opportunities to serve and assist and do so without hesitation.

Perseverance and persistence: the hero does not give up until forced to do so.  Only then does the hero quit.  Heroes have to eventually ask, “Can I accomplish anything more in this situation?”  They know that the time eventually comes when one must pray Reinhold Niebuhr’s prayer, “God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change; courage to change the things I can; and wisdom to know the difference.” 

Initiative: The hero does not wait for others or to be asked or forced to act.  The hero sees the challenge/problem and responds with his own gumption.  This describes Petry’s response perfectly.  According to Karen Parrish, an American Forces Press Service reporter, he described his action this way, “I immediately knew it wasn’t one of ours, because we haven’t used ‘pineapple’ grenades in quite some time,” he said. “[My] immediate reaction was, get it out of here.”

Courage: This almost goes without saying.  This is the impulse that drives initiative.  Heroes do not hesitate to act in the face of danger, hazard or peril.  Their response is reflexive.  It is a “knee-jerk” reaction where guts overrule logic.  They charge machinegun nests, they storm beaches, they run into burning buildings, they go back under fire to carry out wounded buddies and, of course, they deal with enemy grenades.  Without hesitation they get involved in the troubles of others.  They pick up wee hour phone calls to comfort and encourage.  They stop to help.  They shell out cash to questionable strangers.  On and on we could go.

Integrity: True heroes will always choose the high road, the moral course, even in the face of temptation and opportunity to do otherwise.  We are all sinners, and heroes are no different.  But, faced with a crisis their inward righteousness prevails.

As you will notice, physical characteristics have nothing to do with heroism.  One of my favorite authors is the late writer of western novels, Elmer Kelton.  When asked why his characters were not the movie-star-leading-man type (John Wayne comes to mind), Kelton replied, “Those are seven feet tall and invincible.  My characters are five-eight and nervous.”  Well, I’m not quite that short, but “nervous” sure fits.  I believe a realistic hero is an ordinary person behaving in an extraordinary way.

As I was composing this article, I came to realize that I am married to a hero.  Every characteristic of heroism fits my beloved Brenda like a glove.  She is all these things in spite of a compromised immune system and subsequent frequent illnesses.  As I watch her frequent suffering, I have to wonder how I would conduct myself in similar circumstances.  Her life, like all heroes, is a beacon and example in this often difficult and troubled landscape of life.

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Filed under Afghanistan, Altruism, Awareness, Courage, Current Events, Hero, honor, Initiative, Integrity, morality, Selflessness, Suffering

Where is the Love?

L
GOD
V
E

If love can’t be found among God’s people – where can it be found?  In the gospels and letters, Christians are admonished over and over to love one another and our neighbors. Love is our identity.  It is how we are recognized as followers of Jesus.  It is the badge that marks us as Christians.  It is the quality that sets us apart from the dog-eat-dog culture of materialism and greed.

What an unmitigated tragedy when the lack of love is noted among congregations of self-proclaimed Christians!  It is so contrary to what we should be that it even occasionally makes the news.  Most of the time, however, it is merely observed and noted.  The results are ugly.  People are driven away from such hypocrisy.  I am always reminded of what Gandhi, who lived and died a Hindu, had to say about the Christians he observed, “I like your Christ, I do not like your Christians. Your Christians are so unlike your Christ.”  Yes, some unfriendly observers may be looking for something wrong – but we make it too easy for them.  Lovelessness is always starkly obvious and always a source of ammunition for those who oppose any form of faith.

Recently one such unfriendly website chronicled the story of a young couple who dared to question leaders of their church about the expenditure of funds (to which they had contributed) and the lifestyle of some of the leaders (who lived off these funds).  If their account is credible, they became the object of scorn, anger and denigration.  Ultimately expelled from their church, their faith took a fatal hit and they are no longer practicing believers.

I really can’t verify this account but it is too much like some of my personal experiences and stories from others over the years to reject out of hand.  And, if true, what a repudiation of the love we should embrace and practice!  We have handed a gun to Satan and asked to be shot.  We have presented a sword to our adversaries and asked to be run through.  Truly, we are our own worst enemy.

I repeat: if love cannot be found among the people who purport to believe their God is the personification of love, where will it be found?  No matter how wonderful we think we are, without love we are nothing.

People killin’, people dyin’
Children hurt and you hear them cryin’
Can you practice what you preach
And would you turn the other cheek?

Father, Father, Father help us
Send some guidance from above
‘Cause people got me, got me questioning
Where is the love?

—Black Eyed Peas, “Where is the Love?”

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Filed under Altruism, Atheism/Theism, Attributes of God, Christlikeness, church, Community, Devil, discipleship, Faith, Good & Evil, Hypocrisy, Love, morality, Religion, Respect, Satan, Scripture, Songs

Blasé to a Fault

I just watched another of those “Flash Mob” videos…truly amazing.  I have never been in one of those favored locations but I have watched a half-dozen or so on my computer screen.  What a kick to be in the midst of an unexpected performance by a dance group, choir or band!  I hope it happens to me sometime.

What has impressed me each time is that some of the shoppers continue shopping as if nothing were happening.  It almost seems as though they are stubbornly resisting being impressed or even interested.  They just go right on looking for an item of clothing or examining the eggs or pricing the butter.  What’s wrong with these people!?  What will it take to impress them?

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Filed under Adventure, Humor, Life, Meaning of Life, Music, Random Thoughts, Singing, Thinking