Month: November 2013

We should be thankful for religious freedom on Thanksgiving Day (Opinion from Pepper Bryars)

As Alabamians gather today to watch football and feast on fried turkey, we should also remember the words written by President George Washington in his proclamation establishing "a day of public thanksgiving and prayer" in 1789 that eventually became known as Thanksgiving Day. "It is the duty of all nations to acknowledge the providence of Almighty God, to obey His will, to be grateful for His benefits, and humbly to implore His protection and favor," Washington wrote. He added that the day should be "devoted by the people of these States to the service of that great and glorious Being who is the beneficent author of all the good that was, that is, or that will be." Washington thanked God for many specific blessings – the revolution, the peace of the union, its prosperity, and the religious freedom they established. He also asked God to forgive the nation's "transgressions" and to "enable us all, whether in public or private stations...to promote the knowledge and practice of true religion and virtue." The tradition of presidential Thanksgiving Day proclamations continues, but there's a noticeable difference in the overall theme. Where the first focused entirely on thanking God, the most recent editions focus more on expressing appreciation to other people and organizations. Washington's proclamation mentioned God no less than 15 times, for instance, while last year's presidential proclamation contained only four references to God – and one of those was a quote from Washington's version. That's all well and good. We need to…

Rush is right: Kids should know the real story of Thanksgiving (Opinion from Pepper Bryars)

Rush Limbaugh has an annual tradition on his radio program when he retells what has become known as "the real story of Thanksgiving," and this year the tale is being carried to a younger audience through his new bestselling children's book, "Rush Revere and the Brave Pilgrims." "Thanksgiving is actually explained in some textbooks as a holiday for which the Pilgrims gave thanks to the Indians for saving their lives," Limbaugh said when telling the story in November of 2012. "That's not what it was." The beginning of Limbaugh's retelling is familiar: The Pilgrims came to the New World seeking religious liberty, he says, and half died during their first winter. The Indians taught the survivors how to live off of the land that following spring. That's when the commonly known story ends and the "real story" begins. Limbaugh explains that, according to their leader William Bradford, the Pilgrims had originally established a commune system of government. All of the colony's property and productivity -- its houses, crops, game, clothing, etc. -- were equally owned and accessible by everyone, regardless of their individual productivity. "Long before Karl Marx was even born, the Pilgrims had discovered and experimented with what could only be described as socialism," Limbaugh said, adding that Bradford soon "recognized that this form of collectivism was as costly and destructive to the Pilgrims as that first harsh winter." With no incentive to work harder than anyone else, many Pilgrims failed to produce their fair share and the colony…

Libertarians should take a seat at the Republican Party’s table (Opinion from Pepper Bryars)

Libertarians did it again. Earlier this month their party's nominee received nearly seven-percent of the vote in Virginia's governor race. Not enough to win, as usual, but plenty to fracture the limited government vote and hand victory to Democrat Terry McAuliffe even though 52-percent of the state's voters wanted someone else. What's more troubling than the standard spoiler story is that the Libertarian candidate, Robert Sarvis, was allegedly financed by a top fundraiser for President Barack Obama. The donor's money helped pay for the petition that earned Sarvis a spot on the ballot. In the wake of all this, Libertarians should reflect on the election and its results: Their candidate was used as a trick by the opposition and now a liberal Democrat will run Virginia for the next four years. That's an outcome no limited government advocate wanted. Many conservatives share the libertarian movement's principles and greatly admire some of its leaders. John Stossel and Nick Gillespie are powerful spokesmen and have educated millions on the benefits of limited government and individual liberty. But as a force of change – winning elections – the Libertarian Party isn't only ineffective, it's counterproductive and even self-defeating. Perhaps it's time to consider a new strategy. Rather than a political party that fields losing candidates, perhaps libertarians should recast themselves as an ideological caucus that helps steer the direction of the Republican Party. As an electoral choice, libertarians are only capable of playing the spoiler. As a movement within the Republican Party that…

Veterans’ Voices: Veterans Day is a perfect time to record family history

It's been said that a picture is worth a thousand words. I hear many whenever I look at the fading photographs of my great-great grandfather, a farmer in Baldwin County who was a soldier in the Civil War, and my grandfather, who sailed out of Mobile Bay aboard Liberty Ships during World War II. Those pictures show vibrant young men, full of hope and pride, living in harsh and troublesome times. While their pictures are cherished heirlooms that indeed offer a thousand words of description, I still wish their experiences had been written down. Oral history is a pastime in the South, so I know their stories were shared with the family (my grandfather told me some before dying when I was young) but they simply won't survive through the generations unless they're on paper, not just in pictures. On this Veterans Day, those of us fortunate to have veterans in our family should take a few moments to help them record their stories. They may think their experiences are too uninteresting or perhaps too emotionally difficult to share, but consider the value of even the simplest description of an ancestor's life, and how future generations could learn from how they overcame the hardships of war. "In their rememberings are their truths," wrote Studs Terkel, author of the book "The Good War: An Oral History of World War II," a compilation of stories told by veterans and their families. Terkel's book was a bestseller because it retold the stories of…

Tuesday’s election isn’t a referendum on the right-wing (Opinion from J. Pepper Bryars)

The results of Tuesday's special Republican primary runoff in Alabama's 1st Congressional District is being viewed nationally as a referendum on the party's right wing – historically labeled "movement conservatives" and recently called "tea party" voters. "There is a war raging between establishment and movement conservatives for the soul of the Republican Party," wrote Jessica Taylor for MSNBC under the headline, "Will it be ruin or resurgence for the tea party in Alabama race?" "The contest may show how harshly voters are – or aren't – blaming the tea party for the shutdown," Taylor wrote. "And whether the Republican establishment can – or can't – successfully push back on the party's extreme right." CBS Evening News and Time magazine sent reporters to a debate last month in Baldwin County hoping for a firsthand account of the ideological clash between the candidates: frontrunner Bradley Byrne, who some call a mainstream conservative, and Dean Young, who claims the tea party mantle. The reporters failed to uncover differences between the candidates on the issues – they vehemently agreed that spending should decrease, taxes should fall and Obamacare should be repealed – but CBS still called the race a "battleground" in the fight over the party's direction. Nonsense. I'm from the area; born, raised and educated in Mobile from kindergarten through college, and my family settled in Baldwin County before statehood. I know these voters, and after working for the state's Congressional delegation and its governor, I know the district well enough to guarantee…