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A young French woman was asked why she felt justified in protesting the government’s plan to raise the retirement age from 60 to 62 years. She replied, “Because we’re French and we do things differently.”

But then, that’s the problem. The French aren’t as different from the rest of the world as they’d like to think they are. They, like the Greeks and the rest of us, have to pay the piper. Wish though they might, there ain’t no free lunch.

The recognized retirement age in the United States stands at 65 years. Most European countries are similar: Britain-65 men, 60 women; Germany, Netherlands, Belgium-65; Austria 65 men, 62 women; Switzerland 65 men, 64 women, Norway and Denmark, 67. All of these countries are considering raising their retirement age in order to deal with deficit budgets.

Spanish citizens recently protested officials’ plans to raise their retirement age from 65 to 68 years. Greece made international news earlier this summer with riots protesting government budget cuts including changing their retirement age from 58 to 60 years. Italy bests them all with a retirement age of 57 years, 56 for manual workers.

This is all well and good, except someone must pay for the benefits being dispersed and, given global economic downturns, 35-40 years of pension contributions cannot now handle the expectation. So who pays?

The protesters would have us believe a) governments are stealing and/or hiding money, b) pension managers have mismanaged funds (which may to some extent be true because they aren’t infallible, but it’s not the root of the problem), c) the government can simply increase debt and take care of the challenge for now, or d) if you live in America, increase taxes.

Some of the French I’ve heard interviewed act as if an early retirement age is a birthright intrinsically French, that it’s been around forever and how dare anyone suggest anything different. But the French 60-year retirement age was adopted in 1982 by the socialistic government of Francois Mitterrand. His legacy is an indebted, burdened society.

Of course increasing debt or continuing unfunded benefits simply passes along the cost to pension-holders’ children and grandchildren.

The French think they’re different, but they have to pay for services rendered too. They, and many Americans, want to live beyond their means, which translates to live off the next generation. If we don’t change the path we’re on our legacy will be an indebted, burdened, possibly backward future for our grandchildren.

Retirement is not immoral, but it’s neither a biblical mandate nor an ideal. If you can afford it, more power to you. But the operative word is “afford.” If you or we can’t afford it and we forge ahead anyway we’ve got our heads buried in the sand. The French seem to be walking the beach ahead of us.


© Rex M. Rogers – All Rights Reserved, 2010

*This blog may be reproduced in whole or in part with a full attribution statement. Contact Dr. Rogers or read more commentary on current issues and events at or follow Dr. Rogers at


Then there’s Bill. He was a guy who lightened the load no matter what was going on. I don’t remember Bill’s last name. I knew it then, but it never mattered. Everyone in Small Town and far beyond simply knew him as “Bill.”

To put it bluntly but still kindly, Bill was the Small Town Drunk, very much like the fellow Andy Griffith regularly tossed into the Mayberry tank “to sleep it off.” This was back when the word “drunkard” or “drunk” was used and people knew what you were talking about.

As many people know from harsh experience there are “Mean Drunks” and there are “Happy Drunks.” Bill was a Happy Drunk. In fact, I’m ashamed to say it, but Bill was a Hilarious Drunk, partly because he was funny to begin with and when he got just a little sauced, which was about every other day, he’d let loose with gut-splitting comments about everything from presidents to preachers to people close by.

I recognize that Bill’s addiction is a sad thing and that it plagued him through the end of his life. So I don’t celebrate his inebriation. But as a character he was classic. He was the kind of guy that looked for ways to get out of work, yet everybody liked him. He told raucous stories but never mean-spirited ones. He loved baseball, had I don’t remember how many wives, kids, and grandkids, and thoroughly, infectiously enjoyed life. People, even hard cases, brightened whenever they got within twenty feet of him.

I smile as I remember Bill but am saddened by the fact that this fellow who possessed great charisma and a Reagan-like sunny disposition still found it necessary to fill the hole in his heart with what used to be called demon-rum.

Bill and I talked a few times about spiritual things. He knew I was in Christian college, knew what I believed, and could talk his own basic Christian-knowledge, yet he stopped short of embracing the Lord. He took this stance primarily, I think, because he thought he’d have to quit drinking. I told him it wasn’t about drinking—it was about the Lord—but still, he didn’t or couldn’t trust the idea he could come to Christ without first discarding his bottle.

I feel for Bill now even as I remember. I’m glad I knew Bill, but his life, to me, is one of those over which you write “What could have been.”


© Rex M. Rogers – All Rights Reserved, 2010

*This blog may be reproduced in whole or in part with a full attribution statement. Contact Dr. Rogers or read more commentary on current issues and events at or follow Dr. Rogers at


While I gained my earliest invaluable work experience on Grandpa’s farm, in the spring of my senior year it was time to try my wings. Beginning part-time in April and full-time the summer after I graduated from high school in 1970 I began working for Cashway (now Carter) Lumber Company. The company was located—still is—on  the edge of town and the experience turned out to pay much more than a paycheck. For the next four summers I helped work my way through college slinging lumber and doing inventory (counting each piece of molding in the bin) for two weeks each Christmas break.

I made good friends there. And, believe it or not, I thoroughly enjoyed the physical work the first two years “in the yard,” tossing lumber off boxcars and helping customers fill their orders.

The last two years our manager—“Mr. Horne” to his face and “the Boss” when he wasn’t around—moved me inside behind the counter. I’m not sure why he did this. To my recollection he never said. I do remember he and a couple of other fellows tried to persuade me to opt for a career in lumber, but by that time I was thinking education.

Behind the counter I met more customers and learned more about the human race. I came to understand that most people are pretty nice if you pay any attention to their needs.

I also learned that a few people are jerks no matter or in spite of what you may do for them. Actually, I eventually figured out the jerks are often insecure and unhappy with themselves, not with you, so they’re never satisfied and it’s a no-win situation. For them you Get In, Get Out, and Get Away as soon as you can. Still true with people I periodically meet today.

Four of us lined up behind the counter to receive-all-comers/customers. Saturdays were the most fun because it was non-stop, wall-to-wall all day. I was placed second from the end, Tom on my left, Sherman on my right. Tom was a bit older than me, but young, smart, and on the way up. He later ran the outfit.

Sherman, or “Sherm” as he was called, was maybe 110, or at least it appeared so to me, a college kid. Sherm was skinnier than a telephone, no flag, pole. He knew every builder in six counties and he wrote left-handed, slowly, with precision on our B.C. (Before Computers) order pads. I used to pride myself in how I could process three customers to his one—until I figured out that I was filling orders and he was serving people. Sherm taught me customer relations and he taught me the lumber company business.

True story: Middle-aged man walks in one day and says to me, “I want to build a garage.” I say, “O.K.” He looks at me, I look at him. Then I say, “What do you need?” He says, “I want to build a garage.” That’s it. That’s all he knew. He wanted to build a two-car free-standing garage, and he wanted to purchase everything from foundation up that he needed to get the job done—but he had no clue what materials were what or how much (in truckloads) he was talking about. Now I could sell product but build a garage? My salvation was Sherm. He leaned over and said, “Can I help?” For the next two hours the Sherman-ator and I (mostly writing down what Sherm said) filled this guy’s order, tallied one of my largest sales, and sent the guy away happy. Great Sherm story with a moral that lives on.

Customers can be funny. And we’re laughing with them not at them. Of course we are.

Lady says, “I want to buy a board.” I say, “OK, what kind?” She says, “I don’t know. My husband just told me to come buy some boards.”

Another poor faithful spouse says, “I want to buy 10, 8-foot boards.” I say, “What kind?” She says, “I don’t know. Are there different kinds of boards?”

Back in the day before Map Quest or GPS, directions were even more fun. Customer says, “Tell the truck to go 4 miles down Old Barn Road off Route 20, then turn at the big tree.” Or, “You count 3 red barns and 2 white ones and turn left. Can’t miss it.”

I say, “What’s the name of the road on which the delivery truck should turn?”

“I don’t know. It’s paved.”


© Rex M. Rogers – All Rights Reserved, 2010

*This blog may be reproduced in whole or in part with a full attribution statement. Contact Dr. Rogers or read more commentary on current issues and events at or follow Dr. Rogers at


We attended high school during the peak of the 1960s counter culture. Scholars have since described our high school years as some of the most socially volatile in American history.

The Counter Culture Movement, generally dated 1956-1974, reached its zenith between 1965-1972. Our high school years were 1966-1970.

We were part of the post-War Baby Boom, among some 70 million teenagers in the 1960s. This many youth, this relatively affluent, and this able to access education was something the country had never experienced before. We were post-Sputnik (1957) teens, the older generation’s hope for defeating the Soviets and “godless communism.”

We witnessed the Space Race. In 1963, our own Col. John Glenn, who we proudly noted grew up in a village not far from Small Town, became the first American to orbit the earth. By the time we got into high school we watched with the rest of the world while Apollo XI orbited and Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin walked on the moon July 20, 1969. Months later during our senior year we watched in tense anticipation as the “successful failure” of Apollo XIII played out on national television April 11-17, 1970.

We watched the Civil Rights Movement change society forever. We got to see and hear one of the greatest speeches ever delivered, Martin Luther King’s Jr’s “I Have A Dream,” from the steps of the Lincoln Memorial August 28, 1963. We experienced the landmark passage of the Civil Rights Act, 1964, and the Voting Rights Act, 1965. We winced at pictures of violence during the Selma Marches and the Watts Riots in 1965. We grieved with the nation when MLK, Jr. was assassinated April 4, 1968 and RKF was assassinated June 5, 1968. In the midst of it all we learned to say “Black” instead of “Negro.”

Our years in high school were peak years, if peak is the right word, of the Viet Nam War. It was a difficult time not only for the American personnel lost—58,267 KIA, 303,644 WIA, 1,6711 MIA—but for our rapidly declining faith in the capacity of national leaders to tell the truth. We endured the back-to-back presidencies of Lyndon Baines Johnson and Richard Milhous Nixon, two of the most morally shallow men ever to occupy the White House.

The military “Draft” still existed, ending later in 1973. It was a lottery that determined the order in which people could be called up for military service based upon when their birth date had been chosen.

In 1971, my number was 138. My cousin’s was 365. Go figure. Up till that point in time anyone with a number as low as 138 was going to get called. I was in college by then and wanted to stay there. Ultimately, I wasn’t called because I benefited from Nixon’s “Vietnamization” program, his process of gradually pulling our troops out of Viet Nam while turning over to the South Viet Nam military the responsibility for the war.

Viet Nam dominated the news while we were in high school. And it got worse. Just before the end of our senior year, May 4, 1970, members of the Ohio National Guard fired into a crowd of students on the Kent State University campus. In 13 seconds, 67 shots were fired, 4 students died, and 9 were wounded. This set off student protests across the nation forcing the closing of hundreds of college and university campuses and eventually influencing national politics.

A lot happened in those years that rank as stressful. Some things rank as silly. Mini-skirts, Go-Go boots, men’s hair getting longer by the week, wide collars, Nehru jackets, ever wider ties that eventually featured 5 inch wide bibs masquerading as ties, Afros, bell-bottom pants that got broader each year, Motown, Rock emerging from Rock and Roll.

Small Town escaped a lot of this, initially, but eventually change came calling.


© Rex M. Rogers – All Rights Reserved, 2010

*This blog may be reproduced in whole or in part with a full attribution statement. Contact Dr. Rogers or read more commentary on current issues and events at or follow Dr. Rogers at


After wrestling with my conservative inclinations I’ve come to the conclusion the U.S. needs to get out of Afghanistan—the sooner the better.

To date, War in Afghanistan casualties include some 2,162 Coalition personnel, including 1,342 U. S. service members who've given their lives in Afghanistan. They gave the ultimate sacrifice for what initially was a justifiable military response to 9/11 but what has since become a mish-mash of objectives few national leaders can articulate with clarity or passion.

Beginning October 7, 2001, just weeks after 9/11, the U.S. launched Operation Enduring Freedom. The goal? To find and capture or kill Osama bin Laden, the perceived leader responsible for 9/11, to destroy Al Qaeda, the terrorist group that sponsored 9/11 assassins, and to remove from power the Taliban regime that provided safe haven for bin Laden and Al Qaeda.

Within weeks the Taliban regime was deposed, Al Qaeda seemed to be on the run, and bin Laden had gone to ground. Now it’s nine years later and the situation in Afghanistan has not appreciably changed or improved. In fact, some would argue it’s worse.

It is true that the Taliban is no longer able to enact nationally its strict legal system and arbitrary punishments, including cruel and unusual ones in which people were executed publicly for a variety of religious offenses. It’s also true that bin Laden is no closer to being found and brought to justice.

At any given time civilian and military leaders in both the Bush and now Obama Administrations have communicated a vast array of convoluted, confusing, and at times conflicting objectives for the war effort. No one, even the President, can provide us with a clearly stated, brief “elevator speech” describing why we are there and what we are trying to do.

Nation-building, at first rejected by President Bush and his neoconservative staff, later emerged, sort of, as a goal for our engagement. Meanwhile, the U.S. has lost international credibility, continues to drain its economy, and cannot say when we’ll leave because we don’t know what it looks like to “win,” if indeed we’re trying to win.

Afghanistan is not Iraq in the sense that it is a country where tribal culture still persists. Consequently, a surge of troops will not necessarily result in less violence. Insurgency continues rooted in centuries of local politics.

In addition, the financial costs of the War in Afghanistan are staggering. We’re spending about $200 billion per year in direct and indirect costs. That’s $1 million per U.S. soldier or $3,947 per family of four per year, approximately $101 million per day.

It’s time to ask Why? Are we appreciably safer than we were five years ago? If the Taliban is now little more than a confederation of ill-equipped tribal groups and if NATO is willing to include Taliban leaders in peace talks, whom are we now trying to subdue? If, as many sources allege, bin Laden is in Pakistan, why are we fighting in Afghanistan? And none of these questions raise the specter of civilian collateral damage for which we are responsible, something we’re not willing to examine or admit.

The Soviets met their Waterloo in Afghanistan. I don’t want us to meet ours. President Obama won office largely on his claim he voted against the Iraq War and would end it if he were elected. Iraq was Bush’s war, so Obama could sling mud without fear of getting any on himself. Now, though, Afghanistan has become Obama’s war and he’s repeated many of Bush’s actions in Iraq.

Bringing U.S. troops home doesn’t equate with abandoning Afghanis to their fate. We’re involved financially now and could be involved in more targeted ways with financial aid in the future, at far less cost than we’re paying now.

It’s not that I’m against military action when it’s necessary and important. It’s that I’m weary of military action that has no goal. I think the majority of the American people feel the same way. We’ll fight when we need to and we’ll fight to win. But we don’t like to fight when we don’t know why we’re fighting.

For more on the Taliban, see James Fergusson's Taliban: The True Story of the World's Most Feared Guerrilla Fighters.


© Rex M. Rogers – All Rights Reserved, 2010

*This blog may be reproduced in whole or in part with a full attribution statement. Contact Dr. Rogers or read more commentary on current issues and events at or follow Dr. Rogers at


My freshman year I served as a writer for our high school newspaper and yearbook. I don’t know how I got this job, except maybe that I could type faster than most boys and a lot of girls. Whatever it was I value the experience because it’s one of the earliest memories I have of participating “officially” in the writing craft. I loved to read and I loved newspapers then and now, so writing was an unplanned but logical next step. It wasn’t a lot, but it was a beginning.

This was pre-Internet and pre-everything else. We learned lay out by physical cut and paste, which was a better education in geometry than I got the next year in Geometry class.

I can’t remember my Geometry teacher’s name. Odd, isn’t it? This person who dominated my sophomore year and I can’t remember her name. I do remember that she was the kind of teacher we liked to make jokes about. She was smart and probably a fair teacher, but she was also extremely thin, talked with a squeaky voice, and had what to us were antiquated ideas about how to behave. All that is undoubtedly unfair to her but such is the mentality of sophomores.

Geometry was scheduled after P.E. class just before lunch. One day for reasons I yet don’t comprehend, at the end of P.E. class I changed clothes and I got locked in the Locker Room. Just me, locked in a stinky locker room. I spent the entire next period contemplating life in prison because either no one heard me yell or no one cared to liberate me. So I missed Geometry class.

With the coming lunch hour someone re-opened the Locker Room and I made my escape. I went straight to Geometry class and told Mrs. Thin where I’d been and why I’d missed class. She didn’t believe me and told me so. I did all the things one does in proclaiming ones innocence but to no avail. She eventually gave me a poor grade for that day and I had to like it or lump it.

If I ever needed therapy it wasn’t for being locked in a Locker Room. Maybe if it’d been all night in the dark, but it was 45 minutes in late morning. No, if I ever needed therapy it’d be because of Mrs. Thin's squeaky voiced lack of confidence in my moral compass. I got through that class but didn’t like Geometry then and don’t like it now.

High school offered different kinds of highlights. Us teens knew the best places to go to make out, which I won’t identify just in case these hideouts are still in use. Of course, back then, making out was about all anyone ever did, except obviously the one girl who got pregnant while we were in high school. She was a beautiful girl who hung out not only with the wrong guy—a loud-mouthed tough—but with the wrong crowd. She paid a sad price for her misjudgment, and sadder still, I’m not sure he ever paid any price. While she was permitted to remain in school until she "showed" this was still a scandal in those days, a far cry from the lack of concern, lack of shame, and lack of common sense that passes for teen sexuality today.

We were blessed to go through high school without hearing about our self-esteem, inner self, finding ourselves, being true to ourselves, or you owe it to yourself. We did, however, hear about selfishness and self-starter, the former bad, the latter good. Though it was the end of the 60s, Small Town high school was still insolated and thus insulated from the winds of cultural change that were blowing down establishment ideas and institutions across the nation. The Me Generation was yet to come. We still believed in individual responsibility and social consequences, and for this I am grateful.


© Rex M. Rogers – All Rights Reserved, 2010

*This blog may be reproduced in whole or in part with a full attribution statement. Contact Dr. Rogers or read more commentary on current issues and events at or follow Dr. Rogers at