That I will pour out My Spirit on all flesh;
Your sons and daughters shall prophesy,
Your old men shall dream dreams,
Your young men shall see visions. - Joel 2:28
At first glance, he was nothing to look at; just an old man, stoop-shouldered, frail, wizened. Leaning precariously on a metal walker and sucking oxygen through a clear plastic tube, he paused to survey the landscape before embarking on the long walk across the parking lot that he wouldn't have given a second thought to in his younger years. We've all seen him, wherever we live. And usually, we pay him no mind. Let's face it, his time has passed. We know it. He knows it too. One foot in this world, the other tentatively in the next.
I saw him get off the bus. You know, those mini-buses that ferry our aging senior citizens on various sundry excursions? The grocery store, the mall, church, senior centers. These ubiquitous transports have dotted our landscape since the word retirement came front and center into the lexicon of the 20th century vernacular.
On this day, he was descending the steps of the mini-bus with his metal walker in the parking lot of the local Baptist church. He came out to vote.
I noticed how he refused any help. Several of his more able-bodied companions offered to assist him with his walker - which, in fact, proved to be significantly cumbersome. Others offered to help him walk across the parking lot to the polling place. He waved them all off.
I was helping myself to the traditional free doughnuts and coffee that are part and parcel of most churches - particularly the conservative evangelical variety, of which the Baptist church is one - and watched as his fellow seniors brushed past him to get in line to exercise their constitutional ballot-casting right in this latest mini-drama of slick media consultants and savvy political pitchmen.
I was about to follow the crowd as the line was by then growing to considerable proportions, but I couldn't tear myself away from this elderly octogenarian. He made slow and steady progress toward the polling place, but I couldn't quite figure out what it was about this grizzled old man that held my attention. Then it caught my eye. It was his baseball cap.
Emblazoned on the front of this red cap was the eagle, globe and anchor of a United States Marine. And so I made the acquaintance of one Irwin Kunkle, formerly of Gary, Indiana, most recently of Upland, California - a proud veteran of the 28th Marines, and a bona fide member of the greatest generation. He hadn't missed an election since 1946, he told me, and since this one figured to be his last, he wasn't about to miss it either.
We stood in line together, and I noticed that his hands and arms bore the fading scars of what appeared to be significantly severe burns. I realized men of his generation didn't give away much. They held their life experiences close, particularly their wartime service. Believe me, I know it very well. I walked the beaches of Normandy in 2004 with the veterans of that campaign, and while they were forthcoming with their personal accounts, they gave them up grudgingly.
Still, I had to ask. And Mr. Irwin Kunkle enriched me with the short version of the exploits of Lance Corporal Irwin Kunkle, USMC in the sulfurous interior of an island in the Pacific called Iwo Jima.
He led an impromptu charge with a flame thrower - a piece of equipment he was neither familiar with, nor trained to use - against a Japanese pillbox that was pouring fire on a platoon of Marines trapped in a series of shallow shell holes. He simply stripped the gear off the dead Marine whose task it was to man the burn unit, strapped the fuel tanks on to his back, pointed the nozzle in the direction of the pillbox and charged.
The problem was, when igniting the flame units of that time, the operator had to be prepared for the kick. The nozzle bucked back at him when he ignited it on full burn, and while he incinerated the pillbox, some of the fuel also splashed back on his hands and arms, inflicting first and second degree burns. He effectively turned the Jap flank and prevented a platoon of Marines from being gutted by automatic weapons fire. He wasn't even written up for a Purple Heart, let alone any decoration for valor.
It was that kind of time. Pain, suffering and sacrifice simply went with the territory.
Standing next to him, I realized Irwin Kunkle was about 5' 7. Not an imposing figure by any standard. The greatest generation didn't grow to great size. They suffered from varying degrees of malnutrition as children in the Great Depression. But looking in those blazing blue eyes, I beheld the heart of a lion and the soul of a warrior.
So we chatted about various things as we waited in a line that never seemed to move. We both enjoyed the summer-like weather that only California seemed to be blessed with this late in the season. He told me he'd gone to UCLA (oh well, nobody's perfect) on the G.I. Bill after the war. And since his wife died, he'd taken up residence in an assisted living facility in nearby Claremont. We did not discuss the election, or for whom we were planning to cast our respective ballots.
Throughout our conversation, I sensed, in the tenor of his voice, and his proud but frail demeanor, a realization that the suffering he endured and the sacrifices he made were all for nothing. He truly has lived too long, and in that moment, I believe he finally realized it. This was no longer his country.
This is that kind of time. Brimming over with arrogance and contempt, for the Irwin Kunkles of this world, from people who despise the country and everything it stands for. And they do it with impunity.
And so ends the noble experiment.
What began in the conference halls of Philadelphia Pennsylvania, Williamsburg Virginia and Boston Massachusetts died last Tuesday. What was paid for on the bridge at Concord, during the freezing night at Trenton and on the Yorktown peninsula, long ailing, has expired.
I suppose it was fatuous to expect the democracy of which we are all a part to be immune from the vagaries of history. Such governments have come and gone during the centuries since Eve ate the forbidden fruit and mankind was cursed. And once lost, there is no restoration.
The enlightened Greek democracy disappeared into the dust bin of history, never to return. The radical egalitarian experiment of the 18th century vanished in a sea of blood that was the French Revolution. The rational liberalism of 19th century Europe exploded in the catastrophe of the First World War. Europe was plunged into half a century of barbarism, never to return to its glory of the previous century. And now it stands on the threshold of being absorbed by a flood tide of radical Islam.
How could we be so arrogant to think America would be immune?
And so the secular media hails Barack Obama as did Yahoo! News today - "Finally, A Global President." And why not? When a country loses its identity, it loses its soul. The president-elect is simply a reflection of the culture that produced him. Subtle, sophisticated, a man of the world, at home all over the world. The liberal media trumpets how respected his is among world leaders. No doubt he is. When values mean nothing, respect comes from having none. When standing up for principles draws the contempt of the world, standing up for nothing merits the world's praise.
I suppose it was inevitable. Freedom requires an eternal vigilance most human beings cannot maintain. All freedom comes due in blood - something the Irwin Kunkles of the world know very well. In the craggy volcanic interior of Iwo Jima, manhood perished not. It took future generations to fail where previous generations carried the burden of leadership and endured.
What will come when the Obama regime seizes power? I have no idea. I refuse to engage in the hysteria that is currently burning up the servers and comm. lines of the Internet. Obama may very well be the avowed socialist he has presented himself to be, bent on redistributing the wealth of the nation, and readjusting its values. He may indeed, fold our tent and bug out of the Middle East. He may abandon Israel, thus setting up the fulfillment of Ezekiel 38. He may even be the Antichrist.
I've heard it all, and it is yet to be revealed. What is certain is that what emerges in the wake of the Obama leadership will not resemble the republic that has graced these shores for the last 232 years. That government is dead and the soul of its citizens along with it.
It died because men are weak, self-indulgent, expedient and mean. It was betrayed for lack of interest, lack of commitment, lack of dedication. Irwin Kunkle knows full well the evil inherent in the human heart. He's seen it up close and personal. He knows it is not an aberration. His character was forged at a time when life was understood to be hard, cruel and short. We live in an epoch that assumes life is a fair, just and right, and we expect to be fulfilled with a sense of gilt-edged entitlement.
So the events of last Tuesday make sense, given the underlying assumptions of life in the 21st century. If we sell our souls for what we believe we are entitled to, Barack Obama is the inevitable result.
I cast my ballot in the late afternoon. I voted for Alan Keyes, whom I was surprised to find on the California ballot. I'm through supporting the lesser of two evils. That's what brought us to the point we now find ourselves in. I don't care what comes in the wake of that decision.
- And because lawlessness will abound, the love of many will grow cold. But he who endures to the end shall be saved. And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in all the world, as a witness to all the nations, and then the end will come. - Matthew 24:12-14
But there is no mention of America in the eschatology of the Bible. Maybe we're beginning to see why that is so. The country has been long down the road to becoming just like everyplace else in the world. Call it a consequence of cultural as well as economic globalism. The process cannot be reversed, regardless of who occupies the White House.
- He who testifies to these things says, 'Surely I am coming quickly.' Amen. Even so, come Lord Jesus." - Revelation 22:20