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BACKGROUND: For 7 years (November 1, 2010 – June 2, 2017), I posted one of my own photos with a funny title and caption at, either every weekday (for the first 5 years) or every M-W-F (for the last 2 years).

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Start date for this present blog: July 1, 2017

[Click on the “Older Posts” link at the bottom of the page to see ALL the posts on this new site, from the beginning.]

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This Week’s Words

This is something I wrote in 2004.  It somehow seems timely this week.—J.A.R.

Our Capacity for Atrocity

In 1984 the highest aspirations of the civilized world were focused on the athletes competing in the XIV Olympic Winter Games in Sarajevo, Yugoslavia.  The best of the best had gathered in this European capital to push the limits of athletic achievement.  In six short years, Sarajevo was a city under siege in a war of ethnic cleansing, a place where ordinary citizens had to dodge a hail of snipers’ bullets just to cross a key intersection connecting two parts of the city.

How do we explain this?  What causes an entire ethnic group to descend into unspeakable horror?  On an individual level, how do we comprehend the motivations of a serial killer like Jeffrey Dahmer or of a mass murdered like Timothy McVeigh?

After a half century of pondering the fragility of civilization and the breakdowns in the socialization of specific individuals, my conclusion is this:  The capacity for atrocity is in all of us equally.

I did not say that we are equally likely to commit atrocity.  It would be absurd to eye the kindly old woman who lives across the street with the same suspicion generated by the arrival in the neighborhood of a self-professed Neo-Nazi.  The key word here is “capacity.”  My personal belief as a Christian is that this capacity comes from mankind’s fall from grace, but I don’t need to depend on a Christian world view to explain the reports of atrocity that confront us hourly in a 24-hour news world.

When I was growing up in the 50s and 60s, moral education was supported by the four-legged stool of  home, school, church, and community.  If not all of these influences were up to the challenge, a three-legged stool could still stand.  A two-legged stool cannot.  Remove enough supports for a moral upbringing, and we witness a crash.

My focus here is on the morality that permits civilization to work—a basic understanding of right from wrong and an understanding of such concepts as “Self-Control,” “The Common Good,” and (one completely out of favor now) “Self Denial.”

On its simplest level the morality that permits a civilized society hinges on the Golden Rule, a recognition that generally what is best for oneself is what is best for others.  It seems that for many people today the only rule is either “I will do unto others because I can, or “I will do unto others whatever gives me pleasure.”

The recent focus on the 60th anniversary of D-Day reminds us that human beings are also capable of heroic self-sacrifice.  Those tens of thousands of soldiers on the landing crafts approaching the beaches of Normandy knew that thousands of them would die once they landed.  What they were about to do offered them little or no personal gain.  Their driving motivation was “freeing the world of Nazi tyranny,” or, more specifically, “freeing Europe.”  I’m not sure that I would have had their courage, and I’m not sure that we would prevail on a D-Day today, but even the most selfish among us recognize that those soldiers weren’t fools.

The atrocities of the last few decades–including the horrific massacre in Rwanda just ten years ago, the more-recent school shootings, and the ethnic cleansing in Sudan at this very hour—should put to rest any notion that mankind is on some upward spiral of progress.  Given the lack of moral controls, and given the right stimulus, we are quite capable of slaughtering each other.

The capacity for atrocity is in all of us equally.  Remembering this might help us keep our anger from escalating into a murderous rage.  Forgetting this, as history has shown time after dismal time, lets all Hell break loose.

Copyright © 2004, 2017 by John Arthur Robinson

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This Week’s Words

I wrote this for a friend whose husband was experiencing several life-threatening medical crises over many weeks.  She has given me permission to reprint it here.

A Salute to The Beleaguered Caregiver

You are a Champion, even when no anthems are played,
a Rock. It is not just your Loved One who needs you,
but it is also The World, for The World needs to know that
Champions walk among us, Heroes unsung, Heroes unheralded,
who take to The Battlefield each day with no promise of Victory,
no Certainty that The Battle will ever end,
or that they will outlive The Battle.

With no Relief in sight, you Determine to get through each day
with your Courage intact—against Legions upon Legions of Nightmares
overtaking your Path. You Defy the Darkness, one small Act of Duty
at a time, followed by Another, followed by Another;
this is your Armament–-your Helmet, Sword, and Shield–
for the Battle must be won INSIDE.

No other Troops to Muster, you March On, and On,
and you fight the Remaining Fight against All Odds.
You are a Champion.

Copyright ©  2015 by John Arthur Robinson

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Available as a beautiful framed print or greeting card. [Click on image]

This Week’s Photo

The Photo shows the shadow of the Bavarian Inn Lodge in Frankenmuth, MI.  It won 2nd Place in the Inn’s annual photo contest for 2006 and hangs somewhere in the Inn in a framed collage of that year’s winners.  (Possibly the last time I can use “in the Inn in” in a sentence.)

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