Monday, June 29, 2009

Monday Musings

Today Bernie Madoff was sentenced to 150 years in prison. My hope for him is that he has a very long life to fully enjoy the accommodations provided for him so that he can reflect on the ahem, ‘joy’ that he brought into so many people’s lives.

His assets have been completely seized with his wife being given ONLY 2.5 million dollars. If she didn’t know about this scheme I’d be surprised and, being the generous soul I am, I’d be happy for her to enjoy similar accommodations to her husband. As for as I am concerned, the 2.5 million dollars she received is about 2.5 million more than she ought to.

One person you have to admire is Jenny Sanford. She is (rightly) mad as hell and she is perfectly capable of letting people know that she’s angry. She has been, in my opinion, up front and delightfully blunt as to her feelings and thoughts. I do believe she’d like to save her marriage, but she will not allow herself to be victimized by this. She is a really strong, brilliant woman.

The Mets have been devastated by injuries. I think if Marv Throneberry was still alive they might sign him... Yes, it’s that bad. And if you don’t know who Marvelous Marv was, you aren’t a true baseball fan.

Iran decreed that the recount proved that the Presidential election was valid. The Ayatollah Katherine Harris has assured everyone that the election was properly held and all the votes were properly counted.

An autopsy of Michael Jackson showed that he weighed 112 pounds, had excessive scarring from badly done plastic surgeries, and he had lost mostly all of his hair. I have no words....

Pet peeve term: “Reverse racism.” Racism is racism no matter which direction it comes from. There is no such thing as reverse racism; there is only racism. If you hate another race, you are a racist. Period.

Pet peeve term: Decimate used as if it means devastate or totally destroy. To decimate a people is to kill 10% of them or to destroy 10% of a place. This word is so misused that people do not know what it means any longer.

Pet peeve term: Disinterested when a person means uninterested. A person who is disinterested is a person who is impartial and neutral. A judge is disinterested. The judge has to make judgments based upon law and fairness and now on how the judge feels or thinks about a situation. Uninterested is having no interest in something.

I truly do not understand Justice Clarence Thomas. In the recent strip search case on a school strip searching a 13 year old girl in Arizona searching for Advil, the court ruled 8-1 that this was an improper search. It is a convergence of law and common decency. At least it was for 8 of the justices; Clarence Thomas ruled that it was okay that they did the strip search. His opinion, in my mind, makes no sense whatsoever. None. Zip. I do not understand how he came to the decision he came to. I even read when he wrote and his logic defies my imagination. If for no other reason, common decency and common sense can tell us that this was wrong. Wrong!!!!

Pope Benedict decreed that bones in the Basilica of St. Paul in Rome are definitely the bones of St. Paul. He said scientific data helps prove discovered bones belonged to apostle St. Paul. "Tiny fragments of bone" in the sarcophagus were subjected to carbon dating, showing they "belong to someone who lived in the first or second century," the pope said in a homily carried on Italian television. "This seems to confirm the unanimous and undisputed tradition that these are the mortal remains of the Apostle St. Paul," Benedict said in Sunday's announcement.

Maybe they are and I am just being cynical, but I am hard pressed to embrace that dating bones and making a declaration as to who the person was is credible evidence. If Paul was living on a deserted island and they found the bones, I’m all ears. But Rome?

I am guess that the dental records weren’t available.

This kind of stuff annoys me. I am a huge fan of St. Paul and think his letters and his witness are peerless. Trying to ‘prove’ his bones appears to be a trite and potentially comical endeavor in our approach to this great man. It is moments like this that often make Christians look silly.

Authorities arrested former Gainesville Mark Musselwhite and charged him with public indecency last weekend after state Department of Natural Resources officers found him sitting nude at his Rabun County campsite.

Officers had received a complaint about a naked man walking along a nearby road earlier in the day, but the 43-year-old Musselwhite said he was not the same man.

Musselwhite, a Republican, was elected to the Gainesville City Council in 2000, where he served for six years, including a stint as mayor. He lost a bid for a state Senate seat in 2006.

At least there were no concealed weapons charges....

Elliot Spitzer was on television this morning giving his input on financial decisions, regulations, etc. There is a really evil joke in here somewhere concerning a very aggressive guy who went after ‘escort’ agencies with vigor and became a client----and from what they said, a nasty client. And now he’s on television as an expert. Wow.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Random Musings

I am not going to mention ‘he who should not be named.’ I’m tired of all’ he who shall not be named’ on the news.

I have no idea on what we should do (or not do) concerning Iran. Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is a nutcase, a lunatic, and a liar. Other than that, he’s probably fine. I suspect that they never even counted the votes; he was the choice of the ‘Supreme Leader” and that’s about all that one needs to know. The good news is that there is great unrest in the country. I am not sure we can be helpful. Our credibility in Iran, long term, is bad. I suspect there are some issues nations need to work out for themselves.

I have a creeping sense that nothing significant is going to change concerning health care. It won’t be until price controls are in place and malpractice limits are given, than any progress can be made. I don’t really think anyone has the testicular fortitude to actually make the difficult choices on this.

The ‘family values’ crowd is not doing very well these days. Unless I have misconstrued, however, and forgotten what families they ‘value.’ Of late, it’s looking like the Hefners, the Flynts, and the Gucciones...

I watched Mark Sanford the other day and actually did feel for him. Seriously. In listening to him and his wife, it is obvious that there is a deep and painful chasm in their lives. I also suspect that these people are, at heart, good people. This saga does not have a happy ending. I strongly suspect that by summer’s end he will not be the Governor of South Carolina and that the Sanford marriage is over. It is painfully obvious that his heart is elsewhere. It is painful to watch.

Speaking of painful to watch: Jon and Kate. Let’s see, Jon has hired a shark for an attorney and is looking at $3000.00 a month apartments in New York City. Why do I get the impression that he is no longer going to be on the show and that his desire to be with the children is all talk? I suspect that he is going to vanish from the lives of his children----and this is horrible. Dreadful. Despicable. I hope I’m wrong about him-----but I doubt I am.

Sarah Palin has been engaging in a battle of wits with virtually everyone these days. I feel badly for her going into all of these battles unarmed...

Bernie Madoff has to forfeit EVERYTHING. So, raise your hand if you feel badly for him? .....I don’t either.

NBC showed President Obama going to a 5 Guys for burgers. It was filmed like this was spontaneous. Sure.

The Mets gained ground on the Phillies while playing very badly. That means that the Phillies played worse. The NL East is stinking up baseball.

The best all time political ‘excuse’ for misconduct still belongs to Senator Larry Craig and his ‘wide stance.’ Before that it was Bill Clinton’s parsing of ‘is,’ but Craig’s line belongs in the annals of great political bogusness.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

The Problem with Anecdotal Evidence and Labels

There is a problem with anecdotal evidence and labels. It seems that people who love labels seem to love anecdotal evidence. Using anecdotal evidence is like this. One makes a statement and gives examples of how that statement is played out. An example, "There is a war on Christmas in America!," and you give three examples of events that are, or appear to be anti-Christmas. What did this prove? It proved that there were three events that were, or at least appeared to be anti-Christmas, no more and no less.

Often people make judgments based on these statements and the anecdotal evidence that goes with them. What people often fail to grasp, however, is that most of these statements are hypotheses and a hypothesis, no matter how well argued, is not a fact until it has been proven. Anecdotal evidence, no matter how compelling, is not really proof.

Of late the usage of the label 'socialist' is on the rise. There are lots of anecdotal statements to this effect. Interesting thing, however, Atlantic did some research and discovered that this might be overstated. As the chart indicates, .21% of business assets have been nationalized leaving 99.79% of business assets in the hands of the free market.

I do not know if we are moving in the right direction or not. I do know this, however. Having one group of people yelling "Socialist!!!" all the time and offering no viable alternative plan is not going to help the discussion. For one, it's a use of a cheap label (sigh!) and, additionally, it is untrue.

My great rant on all of this does not come down to debating direction; I think that debating direction is important. What my rant really is comes down to the incessant need for people to place labels on ideas and thoughts with little thought as to what is actually being discussed.

I am linking the article from Atlantic.

Monday, June 15, 2009

David Letterman Apologizes

David Letterman apologized. He gave a real live apology----a good one and a real one.

Sarah Palin professes herself to be a devout Christian. A significant part of Christianity is the issue of reconciliation and forgiveness. Letterman owed her a sincere apology----he went way over the top in his comments. He gave a half-hearted apologia more than an apology last week, but today issued a real live apology and took the entire blame. He came around and did the right thing.

This is an interesting moment for Sarah Palin. Her faith is now being put to the test. The right thing to do, spiritually, is accept the apology in the way it was given, sincerely, and move on. We shall see if her faith commitment is real or political rhetoric by her response.

Friday, June 12, 2009

David Letterman Versus Sarah Palin

David Letterman and Sarah Palin are feuding.

It started with Letterman when David Letterman crossed the lines of common decency. And he did cross the line in a big way.

What has not gotten enough ‘press’ so to speak is the usage of the word ‘slutty’ in reference to Sarah Palin’s makeup. He inferred that she was using comparably slutty makeup to flight attendants. This is insulting to both flight attendants and to the Governor.

A larger picture is at play here, however. Sarah Palin uses makeup as do many women. Actually, women who do not use makeup are held up for scrutiny as well as those who do. I would say that using makeup for professional women, even more so as they get older, is the norm. If one were comparing professional men to women, men do shave every day and often dress in a professional or business casual kind of way. Much in the way men shave each day, many professional women apply makeup. It is certainly out of bounds to refer to any professional woman as slutty. What Letterman did was sexist and totally inappropriate. Sarah Palin has every right to take offense at this.

But Letterman is a comedian who has always pushed the envelope and finds great humor in saying mean things. It is part of his routine. He went way over the top when he used overtly sexual humor in referring to Sarah Palin’s daughter.

In watching Letterman, I think that he and his staff made a huge mistake. Bristol and her younger sister Willow look a great deal alike. When they are not with each other, I cannot tell them apart. I suspect that Letterman was making jokes about Bristol who is 18, whereas the daughter who was actually with Sarah Palin was Willow who is 14. In knowing Letterman’s humor, he was mocking Bristol’s so-called abstinence tour while blindly missing that fact that it was not Bristol at Palin’s side, but Willow.

In reality Letterman was not funny at all. His semi-apology was an effective apologia to the premise that he was referring to Bristol and not Willow, which is very believable, but the painful reality of this is that he should not have been joking about either daughter. I do not buy that Bristol Palin is on ‘tour’ for her abstinence only education and that makes her fair game. Whether one agrees with Bristol or not, or whether it is wise for her to do this or not, does not make her fair game for comedians most especially with sexually charged comments like Letterman made.

Letterman was majorly offensive and the Palin family was a victim of his bad taste.

I am not a fan of Sarah Palin and I am not a fan for a variety of reasons. There are three, however, that are paramount.

First, Sarah Palin seems to have an only passing acquaintance with truth. This happened over and over again where things that she would say would not be grounded in reality. Her little ‘bridge to nowhere’ narrative turned out to be rather brutally dishonest but she would not relent in using it until it became painfully obvious that everyone knew her words were bogus. I found a person who said she was grounded in her faith who was so obviously shading the truth with falsehoods to be rather unseemly.

Secondly, Palin did not know what she was talking about much of the time and she blamed her ignorance on others. She reminded me of a high school student who would whine that tests were unfair because she did not know the material. The material the students did not know was out there the entire time----other students knew it. If Sarah Palin wants to be taken seriously by more than a few, then she needs to get over blaming the world for her ignorance, and actually study.

Thirdly, she plays a very cynical game of trying to demonstrate that there is a ‘real’ American and a ‘not real’ America. This kind of overt cynicism and divisiveness is crass and wrong.

I say this because her response to David Letterman and his truly offensive comments have been, in kind, offensive.

First, she is repeating that he was speaking about Willow. He obviously was not. Everyone, except perhaps a poorly trained chimpanzee in the Bronx Zoo knows this by now. His words about Bristol were and remain truly offensive, but he was not referring to a 14-year old, under-aged minor. Her repeating of this, over and over again is part of why I do not appreciate her. At least allow your outrage to be honest. His comments about Bristol, and they were about Bristol, are offensive in their own right. He was not making an inference to statutory rape and Sarah Palin knows this and will not even acknowledge this.

Secondly, her usage of the East Coast/West Coast versus ‘real’ America is blatantly offensive, most especially in light of her insistence that Letterman was referring to the sexual behavior of adults with minors. She was inferring that people on the two coasts would not be as offended by this kind of behavior as people would be in the middle of the country. I personally found this to be offensive----very offensive. People all across the nation are offended by this kind of talk and behavior. Do not use the offensive remarks of a comedian to conclude and to state that this is representative of how people are divided in the nation.

Thirdly, she is blaming the universe on there not being the same outrage for her children as there would be on the children of President Obama. The Obamas have been different in how their children have been seen in public than the Palins have been. I have no criticism of either approach in the least. I was offended by the early treatment of the press of the Bush daughters, I was offended by how Rush Limbaugh referred to Chelsea Clinton. I am offended by Letterman’s comments. The children are not fair game. Period. I think most people, even in the news media, will respect this.

This should end soon. I think that two things need to transpire.

The first thing is that David Letterman owes the Palin family a sincere apology. His explanation about which daughter he was referring to is helpful, but he needs to apologize sans further explanation. I am sorry. I was offensive to you and your family and I deeply regret this. No excuses, no further explanation, just a simple and sincere apology is in order.

And the Palin family, for their part, ought to accept the apology and move on. She appears to be attempting to make political hay out of this and this is the wrong thing to be doing right now. Accept the apology and move on.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Evil Came Our Way

James Von Brunn was a disaster waiting to happen. He was a man of hate and he got his wish. He was able to murder an African American man in the Holocaust Museum. He killed a black man and he hated black men. He killed in a precious place to people within Judaism because this museum forces people to remember a dreadful and evil event that James Von Brunn did not believe happened.

Steven Johns, a guard, opened the door for an old man and was shot in the chest for his kindness. Johns, a guard, was on the front line; totally vulnerable. Thankfully for so many, other guards were able to shoot Von Brunn before he could kill some more.

On this day, Jeremiah Wright was quoted as saying “Them Jews” won’t let President Obama talk to him.

The Holocaust Museum is the place in our nation’s capital that receives the most threats of violence and threats of vandalism. To say that this is shameful is beyond comprehension. To question the very existence of the Holocaust is to have the ability to suspend belief in reality. The extermination of Jews, by the Nazis, was an event the Nazis maintained careful and detailed records of. They were PROUD of what they were doing.

Dwight Eisenhower made the American troops take a great deal of photographs, preserve the records, and film what they saw. Eisenhower believed that there would come a day when people would deny the atrocities of the era. Little did people realize how wise Eisenhower was.

Von Brunn was a right-winged extremist, not to be confused with a person who considers himself or herself conservative. Von Brunn hated pretty much everyone. He took conservative positions on things and perverted them to make them all aspects of hate----and he was a man who hated. He was not a man of ideologies; he was a man of name-calling and hatred till the point of becoming a lone gunman in a one manned vendetta against the world.

People ought not be trying to make political hay about this. It would take a person of despicably low character in order to do so. Thus far the only person I have heard was, of course, Rush Limbaugh he argued that Von Brunn was actually a leftist, a point so bizarre that it is laugh out loud funny. But Limbaugh tried to make political hay out of it which, of course, seeing his level of character, is no surprise. Of course, Wright’s words coming out today, though somewhat unrelated, are equally bizarre and despicable. As a person who once greatly admired Jeremiah Wright for the good work he once did, I grieve about what he seems to have become.

It strikes me that anti-Semitism is not confined to political ideologies. People seem to find their own unique reasons to hate our Jewish brothers and sisters. I do not understand it and frankly, I do not want to understand it.

My hopes and prayers for this world are that the Von Brunn’s of this world are kept away from everyone else, and that the families of those who have died are consoled in their grief, and that the rest of us truly learn how totally evil hating others is.

Tuesday, June 09, 2009

Sermon for Sunday June 7th

Here I Is!
Text: Isaiah 6:1-8
Rev. Dr. John E. Manzo
June 7, 2009

When I was a child when of my favorite things to watch on television were the old Little Rascals shows. I grew up watching Spanky, Alfafa, Buckwheat, Darla, and their dog Petey. In one episode they were playing Romeo and Juliet and the response to “Romeo, oh Romeo, wherefore art thou Romeo,” turned out to be “Here I is.”

For a while I didn’t get that this was funny. I hadn’t realized that “Here I is,” was an improper use of the infinitive ‘to be’ and that the correct response would have been, ‘Here I am.”

All of which makes you wonder what this has to do with these lines from Isaiah speaking of the call of Isaiah in the year King Uzziah died. King Uzziah, one of the kings of Judah, died about 750 years before the birth of Jesus and the first of three prophets named Isaiah speaks of his call.

The call of Isaiah is fascinating, dramatic, and very atypical of most call narratives in the Bible. It’s a ‘here I is’ narrative in terms of the fact that Isaiah does something no one else does. He says, “Here I am, send me.”

Most call narratives, be it Moses, Peter, second Isaiah, or Jeremiah, generally have the person called not wanting to be called. Jeremiah’s call was, ‘I am too young; get someone else. Moses proclaimed that he was too inarticulate----get someone else.

But here is Isaiah, ‘Send me!!!’

This issue of saying, “Here I am,” accepting God’s call is a big deal. There are things that go along with this.

First, God calls everyone to something. We often make a mistake in church in relegating God’s call only to clergy. Everyone is called to serve God in some way.

In St. Paul’s First Letter to the Corinthians , Chapter 12, he writes that there are a variety of gifts that are given by the Holy Spirit to people within the church. Different people have different gifts but no one is exempt from God’s gifts.

Last Sunday was Pentecost Sunday, a day we celebrated the coming of God’s Holy Spirit into the Christian Church. With the coming of the Holy Spirit, however, there comes gifts that people have. And everyone has them.

In my second church we had a man, the Sexton or custodian or building engineer of the church, whatever you wanted to call him. He was more than any of these things; he was the resident miracle worker. There was more than one Sunday we had Worship not because I was there, or because the choir was there, or the organist was there, but because he got the furnace going or the lights on or something with the plumbing fixed.

One Sunday he performed a particular miracle getting the furnace going. He was the one and only reason we were able to have Worship that Sunday.

I recall looking out at the congregation that morning and he was sitting next to his wife and his children and grandchildren were around him and he was quietly praying with his eyes closed and his head down. It struck me that he was just a quiet, humble man who served God by caring for the building.

I was still young and cocky enough to take myself very seriously, but he struck a chord that day. Everyone is called and everyone has gifts.

Secondly, people ought to listen to God’s call with great humility.

The author, Phillip Yancey once visited an Amish home in Lancaster, Pennsylvania and had dinner with them. He learned how it is the Amish call a pastor.

Now this is a different universe than the one we live in. The Amish, customarily only attend school until the 8th grade and so one who pastors in an Amish community has more than an 8th grade education, and has no college and no formal theological training.

They also do not seek outside of their own community or circle. It is always going to be someone from their own congregation----and it’s literally a congregation of people because they Worship in each other’s home. They do not have church buildings.

The Amish gather and each person votes for a man, in their tradition it is only men, and then all the men who get at least three votes are invited to sit at a table.

Hymn books are passed out randomly to the men and inside one of those hymn books is a card telling that person that he is now the pastor.

Yancey asked, “What if the person selected doesn’t feel qualified?”

The Amish man simply said, “If he did feel qualified, we would not want him.”

There is a marvelous theological premise that says that God does not call the qualified; but qualifies the called. God does not choose people to serve because they earned that right; God calls people and challenges people to live up to that calling.

Moses, when he stood in God’s presence, was told to remove his sandals because he was on holy ground. Indeed. We all need to serve God with that kind of humility.

Lastly, we serve not knowing what life brings us.

Yesterday was the 65th Anniversary of D-Day when the Allies invaded France to liberate Western Europe from the Nazis.

I watched a program, recently, where two men were interviewed. They were elderly men and both survived that day. One was an American soldier who came ashore, and one was a German machine gunner.

They both had a lot in common. They were both loyal to their countries and were fighting for their countries and felt called to do so. They were both devout Christians. And they were both terrified.

Both men recounted the horror of the day and both men said that they did two things while firing their weapons. They prayed constantly and could not stop crying.

Two men. Faithful Christians and loyal to their country and both terrified for where they found themselves.

Being called is not unlike this. When we put our lives in God’s hands, when we listen to a call and try to live it out, we never know where we are going to end up and what situations we will find ourselves in.

God calls and we are invited, like Isaiah, to say, “Here I am.” But remember, it might even be better to be a little incorrect and say, ‘Here I is,” because we never quite know where it is we are going to go.

Monday, June 08, 2009

Confessions of an Elitist

I have learned that I am an elitist.

I have read, numerous times, that I am part of the ‘educated elite.’ I ended up being an elitist because I have advanced degrees, both a Master’s degree and a Doctorate.

I have read that I am part of the ‘northeastern elite’ because I was born and raised in the northeast. My New Jersey roots have come back to haunt me.

I think it might be time for the word ‘elite’ to find its way into the hopper. It is being way over-used and it’s being over-used in some majorly unhealthy ways.

First, speaking about the ‘educated elite.’

This makes education sound like a bad thing and woe to us when education is seen as a bad thing. Woe to us big time.

In diminishing education as the domain of the ‘elite’ we are saying to science that scientific thought is less important than it used to be. It is saying that when science discovers things we do not like or wish that science hadn’t discovered these things, then we are moving down a dangerous path. When we say that we do not like history as it reads, so we are going to make some ‘adjustments’ to the story, then we are not acknowledging reality.

I have grown weary of scientific thought rejected because it does not match people’s interpretation of the Bible. Often the science is correct and it’s the Biblical interpretation that is off. If education helps people come to a more correct answer than a desired answer, so be it. Simply calling people ‘elite’ because they bothered to actually read founding documents in their totality instead of picking and choosing lines; or people who have studied the Bible in its totality and its context and dismissing them a liberal elitists because they did hard work is bogus.

Education is not elitism. Most people who have earned doctorate degrees will make the same confession that I am going to make. A doctorate degree does not make you elite and it does not necessarily signify that you are smarter than everyone else. (Though you may be more educated which is different from smarter!)

It does demonstrate, however, determination to do the work that was required. Doctorate degrees are not sprints----they are marathons. It is a difficult and grueling process that is achieved not be being elite or even smarter than anyone else. It’s achieved by determination more than anything else.

The fact that I did this does not make me a elite. I am not part of the educated elite; I am part of those who are educated and that is all.

Then there is the northeast. The northeast is largely Democratic these days and people make some really interesting presumptions about the northeast. Elitists. Hah!

My Dad repaired televisions for most of his career. He graduated from a vocational high school and went to radio school and learned to repair televisions in the days of tubes. Later in his career he became a field supervisor at General Electric product services where he oversaw other repair people. It was his only white collar job and he was so incredibly proud of that achievement.

My Mom was a stay at home Mom for a long time and then worked in offices as a typist. Her secretarial skills were limited to typing----on typewriters.

I grew up with my brother and sister in a modest home. We delivered newspapers and got other jobs. I worked for two years unloading grocery trucks and pushing shopping carts at a grocery store. My parents, neither of whom had education beyond high school demanded we all go to college. And we did. On all sides of the family, my generation was the first generation to attend college.

We were a blue collar family in a world that had white collar people and blue collar people. Many people belonged to unions and many people did not.

In that world it was interesting. The blue collar world was largely Roman Catholic; the white collar world was largely mainline Protestant. It was the mainline Protestant congregations that were more educated and were mostly Republican. The people raised Roman Catholic were mostly Democrats. If you called most of the blue collared, Roman Catholic Democrats liberal, they’d laugh in your face and you’d deserve it.

As the Republican Party grew more and more in the Evangelical movement, the mainline Protestant people moved over to the Democrats. The largely blue collared, Roman Catholic Democrats look at people from the Religious Right like they are from another planet.

The northeast has a diverse, highly concentrated population. Because people all live on top of each other, and because the region has always been ethnically incredibly diverse, it is a region that is, out of necessity, highly tolerant.

What is often perceived of as ‘liberal elitism’ is really just a natural tolerance for diversity and largely Democratic. It has never really been as ‘liberal’ as people like to believe it is and if you called people who grew up in the many blue collared regions that permeate most of the northeast ‘elite’ it would be the funniest thing they have ever heard.

My elitism confession is this. I have never been an elitist. The only people who have presumed this so are too willingly ignorant to recognize this.

My thought, more and more is that the word ‘elite’ is a word that needs to find a nice place to rest until people learn what it actually means.

Friday, June 05, 2009

Horror and Hope

President Obama, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, and Holocaust survivor Elie Wiesel all visited Buchenwald together. In quoting from a news source, it was written:

The president called the camp where an estimated 56,000 people died the "ultimate rebuke" to Holocaust deniers and skeptics. And he bluntly challenged one of them, Iranian President Ahmadinejad, to visit Buchenwald.

"These sites have not lost their horror with the passage of time," Obama said after seeing crematory ovens, barbed-wire fences, guard towers and the clock set at 3:15, marking the camp's liberation in the afternoon of April 11, 1945. "More than half a century later, our grief and our outrage over what happened have not diminished."

It speaks well of our world that a sitting American President, and a sitting German Chancellor can visit this place with a Holocaust survivor like Wiesel.

It is a stunning reminder of horror. It is the horror of human hatred. Buchenwald, like so many other former Nazi Concentration Camps remind us that there is human evil and human horror. The freezing of the clock at the hour of liberation, however, reminds us that goodness still also prevails and lives in the hearts of people.

In a way, this place is a living reminder of horror and hope.

Tomorrow, June 6, 2009 is the 65th Anniversary of another day of horror and hope. It is the day when American, British, Canadian, and French soldiers stormed the beaches at Normandy France to begin the liberation of western Europe from Nazi occupation. Omaha Beach was a place of bloody and brutal horror; yet out of that horror sprang hope for the people who were liberated.

These places remind us of horror and hope and challenge us to always face, confront, and challenge evil which brings about horror----and invite the world to have hope.