Monday, May 28, 2012

Memorial Day Thoughts

Madonna and Lady Gaga are no strangers to controversy. Now they are providing an almost parallel case study of tolerance by two of the worlds great religions, Islam and Judaism. Lady Gaga had to cancel her June 3 concert in Jakarta, Indonesia, after fundamentalists railed against her as a devil, not being in the best interest of Islamic morals. Violence was threatened. 

Madonna, meanwhile, has been targeted by Jewish extremists. Her concert in Tel Aviv Thursday is still on but there's no guarantee she will not submit to religious pressure, too, or that protests could mar the event.

FYI, Lady Gaga has scheduled a Tel Aviv concert for August.

On another religious note, here's something I overheard in a car full of teenagers last week: “Why is the devil evil if he punishes bad people?” Feel free to discuss among yourselves.

One of the most emailed stories from The NY Times last week profiled Robert Page, the founder and CEO of Replacements Limited ( Replacements is a host’s salvation for filling in missing or broken pieces of discontinued china, crystal and flatware. 

Page outwardly supported opposition to the North Carolina constitutional amendment to ban gay marriage, a position that has hurt Replacements’ business. Page is gay; with his partner of 23 years he is the parent of 13-year-old twins adopted in 1999 in Vietnam.

I've known Page since 1991 when my magazine profiled him as an Entrepreneur of the Year selected by Ernst & Young. About 10 years ago I visited Page in his showroom outside Greensboro, N.C. He couldn’t have been more gracious and proud of his company.

I know all the reasons businessmen avoid taking public stands on controversial issues. Here are two comments posted on The Times Web site about the story. They pretty much capture the sentiment surrounding the plus and minus of speaking out: 

“Any smart business person will tell you that picking a public political fight is almost always bad for business. Good intentions rarely bring profits,” said Robert from Tuckahoe.

On the other hand, Rob from New York City said, “How sad more people aren't like Mr. Page and stand up for what is right. ‘All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing.’” That quote is from Edmund Burke.

I wonder if Sen. Richard Lugar of Indiana believes in that quote. Recently defeated in a Republican primary by a conservative candidate who has openly said he would not compromise with Democrats (actually, Richard Mourdock said his view of bipartisanship entails Democrats acceding to GOP positions), Lugar told CBS’ Face the Nation with Bob Schieffer Sunday he has no plans to campaign for Mourdock. As part of his explanation for being defeated, Lugar opined, “A large portion of the Republican Party of Indiana believed, apparently, in the idea of individualism as opposed to community, a sense of compromise, or a sense of talking across the aisle."

Fair enough, but if he were truly a patriot, Lugar would campaign against such narrow-mindedness. He’d put country over party. If he truly believes Mourdock and those similar to him, who have taken control of the Republican Party and turned it into a bastion of individualism versus community, how could he not support candidates who would embrace compromise, even if they are Democrats?

It’s taken me two weeks to get to it, but I’ve started to fill out the crossword puzzle from the May 13 Sunday NY Times Magazine. Lo and behold, I’ve uncovered an anti-birther bias. The correct answer to the clue for 41 Down, “Obama’s birthplace,” is “Hawaii.” 

Take that, you skeptics, including the secretary of state of Arizona (who just dropped his threat to keep Obama off the ballot if he couldn’t verify his birth certificate), Sheriff Joe Arpaio of Arizona who has fielded a voluntary investigation unit into the matter in Hawaii, and Donald Trump who once again is stoking the fires of disbelief Barack Obama was born in the United States and qualifies to be president.

Ah, well, it’s Memorial Day, a time to reflect on the service and sacrifice men and women provided our country in support of the liberties we hold dear, including the right to challenge reality. Last evening Gilda and I had the pleasure of spending time with a veteran of World War II, Herb Bilus, and his family. Herb served in the Coast Guard and was part of a landing craft team that ferried troops to the shores of Normandy on D-Day. At 91, he’s slow afoot but still sharp as a tack. 

Memorial Day weekend has special significance for our family, as well. Twelve years ago, at the national collegiate Ultimate Frisbee championships in Boise, Idaho, our son Dan started dating Allison. Six years later they married.