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Archive for March, 2017

Deconstructing the Pledge of Allegiance: What Does it Really Mean?

Deconstructing the Pledge of Allegiance:  What Does it Really Mean?

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The Pledge of Allegiance has been around since the 19th century, but it wasn’t officially recognized by the Federal Government until WWII.  The pledge has undergone a number of minor changes in its history, and the phrase “under God” wasn’t added until the the Eisenhower administration when Congress approved his request.  Aside from the contentious issue of “under God”, the pledge is brief, but packed with important phrases that are worth explaining further. 

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I Pledge Allegiance to the Flag

I, me, myself, make a promise to give my devotion, love, affinity and life to the flag.  Our flag represents all of the good that our country embodies:  Freedom, hope, opportunity, the ability to choose our own destiny and the occasional need to make personal sacrifices to defend these beautiful things.  We enjoy a blessing as well as an obligation to be good citizens, to participate in our government and to support our way of life. 

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Of the United States of America

We tend to forget that we are a union of independent states who have made a commitment to work together in order to support the greater good that makes the United States what it is.  While we place an unbalanced emphasis on the Federal Government, the reality is that we belong to sovereign states that have their own laws and rights afforded to their citizens. 

The Federal Government is supposed to be limited in power to handle big picture issues such as international trade, the economy, the military and the protection of our civil liberties.  Aside from the charged and divisive political environment that we live under these days, The Federal Government is still accountable to its citizens, and has an obligation to preserve state’s rights and the rights of citizens.  These powers are only limited by our collective willingness to give them away. 

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And to the Republic for Which it Stands

We have a participatory and representative form of government in which we choose who we want to speak on our behalf in Washington.  Our republic is in danger of collapsing as state’s rights are continually being encroached upon by the Federal Government.  However, it’s our right and our responsibility to participate in the political process and to defend the Constitution of the United States no matter the cost.   

Most of us recognize that we are losing a lot of our freedom to the Federal Government, but many people have trouble accepting that we collectively created the mess that we’re currently experiencing.  The government in Washington is a product of our collective apathy and indifference as a nation, yet we still have the ability to resist these encroachments and defend them if necessary, and the Pledge of Allegiance serves as a constant reminder of this truth.

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One Nation Under God, Indivisible

We are one nation despite the political, social, cultural and other differences that keep trying to divide and conquer us.  We are indivisible, unable to break apart, to cower in the face of adversity or to give up the fight to protect the freedoms and rights afforded to us all by the Constitution.  Under God means different things to different people, but its essence is that we are blessed and watched over by the Divine.  We are expected to treat one another with love and respect for the sake of lifting one another up for the greater good because it’s the right thing to do.  When we say the pledge, this is what we are promising. 

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With Liberty and Justice for All

Liberty is essential freedom and a right to live our lives as we see fit, as long as it doesn’t encroach on the rights of others.  We are meant to be free from intimidation, threat or the suppression of a tyrannical government.  This is our right, our way of life and the essence of who we are as Americans.  Yet, somehow we as a nation have voluntarily let a lot of our liberty die off by allowing the Federal Government to exert greater control over its citizens under the guise of freedom and fairness. 

Justice for all.  We have the right to be treated fairly, equally and have an opportunity to defend ourselves against those who do us harm.  Yet, justice is far from blind these days despite the fact that it is a foundational element of who we are as Americans.  We should never forget that, nor tolerate any incursions that tilt the scales in favor of those with power and influence. 

Above all else, The United States is a place where citizens can be self-sufficient and free to live their lives in peace.  This is what we do every day as we focus our efforts on being prepared, to developing skills that make us more self-reliant and free from the need to be subjects in our own country.  Consequently, the Pledge of Allegiance is something that echoes what most of us try to do every day, and it supports our efforts. 

Take some time to think about what the Pledge of Allegiance means to you, and what you are willing to do in order to defend those principles that we all promise to preserve and protect. 

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How to Make and Preserve Pear Honey

How to Make and Preserve Pear Honey

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Pear honey is not the first thing you think of when it comes to processing this hearty fruit, but the finished product is absolutely delicious.  As with most canning recipes, it doesn’t require a lot of effort, but it’s important to follow some basic guidelines.  Take a look at the following steps, and you can start adding this to your stockpile today.

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Getting Started

The first step is to select pears that are over-ripe, but not damaged or in poor condition.  You can cut out any bruised spots or defective areas, but try to avoid using pears that are well-beyond their “sell-by date”.  Peel the pears and set the peelings aside.  Cut the pears into chunks and place them in a stockpot along with the peelings.  Add just enough water to cover the items before bringing it to a simmer, and let the pears cook down until they are mushy.

The next step is to remove from heat before taking a potato masher, or similar utensil, and start mashing down the pears.  Return to heat and bring the pears and water up to a boil, cover and let cook for about 20 minutes.  When finished, carefully pour the contents into a large bowl by straining them through a large piece of cotton fabric.  Gently press down on the peelings and fibers of the pears in order to extract as much liquid as possible, but be careful not to get burned in the process.

Place the strained liquid back into the stockpot and add some sugar.  You want add about a 1:2 ratio of sugar (1 part sugar for every 2 parts of liquid), bring up the heat, and stir until the crystals have completely dissolved.  Make sure that you stir frequently in order to prevent the liquid from scorching or sticking to the pot.  Next, add a small amount of lemon juice, at most a quarter cup for every 10 cups of liquid you have along with a teaspoon or so of vanilla to taste.  Stir everything together and let simmer until the water starts to evaporate and the liquid begins to thicken. 

You will know when the liquid is thick enough after doing a spoon test.  Take a spoonful of the liquid and place it in the refrigerator.  You will be able to see how thick it is once it cools.  If it’s too runny, continue to cook down the mixture.  If it is too thick, add a small amount of water.  Experiment until you achieve the level of thickness you prefer. 

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Processing the Honey

Do not remove the liquid from heat when it reaches the desired level of thickness.  Rather, keep it at a very low simmer in order to avoid having it coagulate while you ladle the honey into your canning jars.  The next step is to start filling your preheated canning jars with the honey until about ¼ inch of headspace remains.  Wipe down the rims to remove any spills or gunk that may be present before attaching the lid assemblies and tightening them.

You don’t have to process the jars for medium-term storage, as the heat from the jars as well as the liquid inside should be enough to create a good seal.  However, if you prefer, you can use a water bath canner and process the jars for 10 minutes.  In both cases, allow the jars to cool to room temperature before checking the quality of the seals.

One important tip is to consider using pint or ½ pint jars for this recipe because once they are opened, the contents will need to be refrigerated or consumed right away.  Make sure to label and date the honey, and try to consume within 3-6 months for maximum freshness.  That’s it, now all you need to do is enjoy the honey.  It makes for a great spread, and you can use it as a nice, soothing balm for itchy or scratchy throats as well. 

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