Friday, December 28, 2012
Well its that time again, the most linked, visited, and popular posts of 2012 on Word Around the Net.
After the shooting in Connecticut, a huge debate online arose over mentally ill people getting guns and who is responsible for dangerous lunatics on the streets, which led to my Common Knowledge post on Ronald Reagan and the homeless getting seriously hammered for weeks - it is still getting a lot of attention and forwarding around through emails and facebook. The sad thing is, you probably know someone as crazy as that shooter, they just haven't snapped and done anything awful, and probably never will. And you can't throw someone into confinement on the fear they might do bad.
It was just a quick throwaway post because I thought she was cute, but my post on the woman who plays Wendy in the latest ads - Morgan Smith Goodwin - has been consistently popular and high ranking in my stats ever since I posted it. It appears I'm not the only one that thinks she's cute. She's married, guys.
Other Common Knowledge posts that got plenty of notice are the one I did on Kitty Genovese, Hurricane, and the Titanic. That series has been pretty popular all year, and I still have more to post on it.
The series I've done on surviving economic depression continues to get plenty of attention, as people continue to have the sinking feeling things just aren't quite right despite the reporting we get. Every so often I get a big spike from the Songs I Like series, as people read one then start going through the long list picking out songs they know and are curious about.
And as always around this time of year I get plenty of links to the King Star post I did about the star of Bethlehem based on Rick Larson's extraordinary work.
Other honorable mentions are the Faux Hate post on faked hate crimes, a post on "food deserts," and my overview of Ayn Rand's philosophies. Posts I wish got more attention this year include the one on the Treaty of Westphalia and the one on Celebrity Culture. There's a chance I'll start reposting stuff I think got over looked or insufficient attention next year.
Have a happy new year everyone.
Friday, December 21, 2012
CHRISTMAS AMID TRAGEDY
Fix in us Thy humble home;
Rise, the Woman's conquering Seed,
Bruise in us the Serpent's head.
Adam's likeness now efface:
Stamp Thine image in its place;
Second Adam, from above,
Reinstate us in thy love.
Hark! The Herald Angels Sing
Glory to the Newborn King.
-Hark, the Herald Angels Sing
It was interesting reading various blogs around the net this week as people reeled in shock and horror from the insane shootings of kindergarteners and first graders in Connecticut. Many people have tried to make a political point or advance their agenda with this event, to one degree or another, and I suppose that is inevitable. But one theme that kept coming back up is how the events made it hard to celebrate Christmas or talk about the holiday season because of sadness, mourning, or just shock.
And that's really quite sad to me because it reveals how much our culture - even many Christians - have reduced Christmas to giving gifts, parties and decorations instead of what it is really about. I suppose that's why there are all those "reason for the season" comments and pictures around this time of year, but really, Christmas should be celebrated all the more in the face of tragedy and horror.
The entire point behind Christmas is to celebrate the birth of Christ, that's what the -mas suffix means (we don't use it for anything else these days, but a lot of birth events were celebrated like that in medieval times like Michaelmas). Now, before you yawn and move on to the next page, think about that a moment.
The birth of Jesus Christ was about salvation, grace, joy, peace, and hope. Not campaign slogan hope, not hope as a cliche, but real hope for real glory and peace. The birth of Jesus Christ was because of things like the evil murder of children.... however old they happen to be. Jesus himself was the target of a demented evil murderer as a child, and his family fled to a neighboring country to survive. King Herod, desperate to stop the rise of a foretold king he thought would replace him (or his children) murdered every child of 3 years and younger born in Bethlehem.
See, when the wise men visited Herod, following a celestial event, they asked about a king born in the region, and knew it had happened about 3 years previous to their arrival. No, the wise men weren't there for the birth of Jesus the Christ, they were there years later, in the winter. When Herod heard about this, he became alarmed - a king born, with a celestial event that attracted scholars and masters of astronomy from a thousand miles away? This had to be dealt with.
So Jesus' life started with horror as babies were slaughtered all across an entire region just to prevent a rival king from rising up from the Bethlehem area. It didn't work, but the thing Herod - and most people of the day (and even some today) didn't understand is that King Jesus wasn't born to conquer regions and rule an earthly realm. He wasn't there to fight oppression and bring Israel freedom, he was born to deal with the problems behind why oppression and terrible things happen.
This is the main flaw with many reactions to the Connecticut shootings. Many people are crying and praying to the government to fix everything, if only there was a law against shooting children in schools! It would stop such an event! There are calls for gun bans and gun control and people in other nations, ignorant of guns and America, are mocking the country and baffled anyone would want to be able to protect their kids from murderers with their own weapons.
The problem is, banning guns doesn't do away with psychotic murderers. It just makes a certain method of killing more difficult to obtain. If there was a sudden rise of killings with potatoes, banning potatoes would not solve that problem. The problem isn't with the tool, its with the motivation behind the deed.
And that's why Jesus Christ was incarnated, why He came to earth to begin with. Jesus was born to deal with what's behind the evil in the world, not its symptoms or actions. If you have a brain tumor, the aspirin might bring relief from the headaches, but its not going to save your life or deal with why you get the headaches to begin with. What you need is something radical, risky, and shocking to be done. You need that tumor out of your head.
And that's the scope we're dealing with on earth today. Putting away murders or banning guns, arming teachers or home schooling kids won't get rid of the evil in the world. What's needed is a savior, someone who will bring an end to sin, to what makes the evil happen to begin with. Behind those horrific acts through all of history is a cancer of the soul that all humanity suffers from; that cancer is sin. We all rebel against what is right and good and true and beautiful because we are sinful by nature, it is part of who we are.
What we need is someone to save us from that sin, not its consequences and results. The briars and horrors of life are because sin exists within us. There is no "noble savage" living in peace and harmony apart from the corrupting evils of civilization; we can't run away to a better place or time because we bring the evil with us. Its like a horrific plague we carry, wherever we go, that horror lurks within us all. Bad people don't happen because of bad surroundings or culture. The bad is inside them - and us - waiting for a way to manifest its self.
Jesus Christ was born to live a perfect life of absolute sinlessness so we could have a hope of salvation. That perfect life is what is needed, that's what justice demands: no sins. And because we have sinned, justice demands punishment as well. So Jesus came not just to live on earth but to die. And the doing and dying of Jesus Christ fulfilled that justice and brought a hope, a hope that we can finally be without sin, finally find peace, finally find justice, finally see an end to tears and sorrow and loss and death.
I've gone into much more detail explaining this in the Emptiness and Light piece I linked above, so you can read that if you're curious what exactly I mean by all that but what's significant here is something few people stop to consider.
Every religion on earth but one teaches you save yourself. You either work your way to salvation and paradise through specific deeds, such as the seven pillars of Islam, or you detach yourself from the world and embrace your insignificance and the illusion of life such as in Buddhism and Hinduism, or you keep commandments like in Judaism, and so on. They all boil down to one thing: law; you do this and you achieve nirvana or get your virgins in paradise, or what have you. All religions, everywhere on earth, but one.
Christianity teaches that it was done for you, by someone far greater, in your place. It teaches us that all we bring to our salvation is sin, all we offer is our lives of rebellion and pleas for mercy. Because we are incapable of saving ourselves. We can't reach that bar, its too high. When the standard is perfection, any deviation whatsoever means you fail, and since you can't do better or more than perfect, there's no extra credit to make up for the difference.
Because the sin is within us, we are inherently unable to do what we must to be saved, and can only rely on another in our place, a representative to do what we cannot, for us. And that someone was the baby Jesus, born in a manger with legions of angels exploding into a cold night to celebrate before astounded shepherds.
We all want to fix things our way, we all want to have some credit and do our part. We all have so much pride and certainty we're right that we figure we can make it all better if only given a chance. So much unbelievable evil has been done in the world in that very name, from the inquisition to communism and beyond. We wrap up our horrific deeds in a pretty package of well meaning and pleasant slogans, but the bones jut out and the blood leaks out onto the floor. You can put a bow on the whole thing, but you can't keep the flies away.
Christianity is the truth, and the way - Jesus is the truth and the way, the only way. Our only hope came to earth in the form of a tiny helpless baby who, despite the words of Away in a Manger, did cry. That hope gives us a chance of salvation, like a drowned man lying on a beach has only one hope: resuscitation by someone else.
And once saved, our lives should, and over time do more and more, reflect the amazement and gratitude for what has been done. Not because we're ordered to be gracious, but because we respond naturally to it, like a human responds naturally to resuscitation by breathing. Yes we fail, yes we stray, yes we are "prone to wander" away from the God we love, as the hymn puts it. But Christ lived the life we fail to and died for that sin, too. And washed clean by the blood of the lamb, we stand before God like a child weeping that we've failed our beloved father once more and forgiven once more to try again. O, to grace how great a debtor daily I'm constrained to be.
And each day we live in the hope that one day we'll rest from our sins, finally find peace from that struggle against what we know to be wrong, and celebrate in a time when tragedy ceases, joy abounds, and we finally see the glory we've long known was out there but could never find on this earth.
Celebrate Christmas in the light of tragedy? That is absolutely the best time to do it.
Monday, December 17, 2012
COMMON KNOWLEDGE: Civil War
The American civil war - or the war between the states, depending on who you ask - is one of the most contentious and divisive events in the nation's history, even today more than a century later. If you ask most northerners, or people in the west, they'll say the war was fought over slavery, to set the slaves free. If you ask southerners, they'll say the war was fought over the right of states to self govern without federal interference.
Abraham Lincoln is another divisive topic. He's either a saint who held the nation together and freed the slaves, or a monster who raped the constitution and a tyrant who ruined the country. To this day, people get into fights over the topics that tore the nation apart over 100 years ago, and it shows no sign of lessening over time.
What's right here, what's wrong? Who has the truth on their side? How can we weed through this? The truth is... both sides are right, and wrong. The truth is a bit more complicated and subtle than is usually presented by film or debate.
To understand the origins of the American Civil War, you have to go back a long time before it started. The south was largely settled and populated by two groups: immigrants from the British Isles and Ireland who tended to settle further inland (the mountains, mostly), and landed nobility who purchased and settled large farms and plantations. Younger sons of nobles in England, Scotland, and Ireland would come to the US to find their fortune, and kept their nobility in mind.
While the north was generally more of a mix of ethnic backgrounds and of more diverse class structures, the south tended to be more blue blood. They were often very wealthy, very powerful, and very convinced of their superiority. To this day, many Scots and other UK residents who visit the area are more comfortable with the culture and accent, finding it more homely and familiar than the rest of the US. It isn't that there were no poor or other groups of people, its that the culture, leadership, and most powerful people in the region tended to be these wealthy aristocrats.
With that perspective of noble background and wealth came a tendency to reject not just authority, but the idea of democratic rule. They didn't oppose voting and representation and all that, they opposed the rabble telling them what to do. And further, they opposed a central government including other states' representatives having any say in their actions.
When the US Constitution was being written, not a few people from the south wanted no federal government at all, simply a loose coalition of sovereign states. The fight to get the constitution written and finalized was a very difficult one, and included actual real violence in the process. That story is a pretty big one in its self, and I recommend digging into it more fully.
One glimpse into the history behind that battle is the 3/5ths compromise, where southern and northern states battled over how slaves should be represented in congress. The south had many more slaves than the north, although both had slaves (as did the rest of the world at the time; Africa included). The south saw a potential for greater power by counting all the slaves for representation. If they could load up congress with southerners based on their slave population, then they would have more power over the federal government. The north didn't care for that and wanted more power for themselves.
And then there were folks who pointed out that slaves could not vote, had no voice, and hence were not being represented in any way so they shouldn't be considered for the purposes of congress at all. And yes, there were people calling for slavery to end back then, too. I've written more extensively in the past about the 3/5ths compromise, but it was basically a way for the two regions to find common ground and get a constitution passed to begin with.
The founders such as Jefferson, Washington, Adams, and so on all were opposed to slavery in principle, although most kept slaves. They knew that they couldn't end the system and have any hope of building a nation that they dreamed of, so they worked toward a future when it could one day happen. The south, heavily dependent on slaves for agriculture, would have simply refused to have any part of a nation which banned the practice.
The south continued to rebel against federal control, even after the constitution was signed and the nation formed. One of George Washington's first acts was to put down the "whiskey rebellion" in which southern bourbon distillers rebelled against the federal tax on liquor. Southern states insisted on the right of "nullification" which essentially was the power of states to ignore federal laws they consider unconstitutional.
Nullification came to a crisis under Andrew Jackson, who on the whole was for small and limited government and states rights. South Carolina's economy was suffering and they blamed a tariff applied by congress to trading with England for their problems. The state's legislature passed an act that permitted them to simply ignore the tariff as unconstitutional, and the federal government responded by passing a law allowing the federal government to use the military to enforce law. South Carolina backed down, this time, but the tariff rates were lowered as well.
However, the animosity and concern over encroaching federal power continued. Southern states were very strong on the principle of state sovereignty, the idea that except in matters of foreign trade and interaction between various states, the federal government had no power whatsoever within states. This is, incidentally, the position the founding fathers took in both the Federalist and Anti-Federalist papers, and one I happen to agree with.
Also, the growing anti-slavery movement made southern states very uncomfortable. They still relied on slave trade and labor for their livelihood (or, at least, the level of wealth they liked) and saw each new state added to the union which banned slavery a threat to their future. Each new area which had congressmen in the federal government which opposed slavery meant one more that might eventually ban the practice in America overall.
Further, the southern states tended to be independent overall. They didn't care to pay taxes to a federal government, and any new tax was met with great resistance. They didn't like northern states having any say at all in what they did. Frustration, animosity, and conflict between the two regions built over the years and little was resolved.
This is something to be very clear on; the civil war didn't spring out fully formed like Pegasus from Zeus' head. The seeds for this conflict were sown before the revolutionary war, as two very different regions began to clash in ideology and principle. Surprisingly enough Wikipedia has a pretty good timeline of events that show how the conflict built over the years.
By the time the southern states met in South Carolina to discuss seceding from the union, this struggle had been going on for over a century. The core of this fight was over slavery, but the general theme was of states' rights versus central federal control. Its like an argument a married couple has over a personality clash, but it takes focus on something specific, like the toilet seat being left up. The argument is over the toilet seat, but the background is something else unresolved.
In this case, it was southern states wanting to be more self governed, but it took focus over slavery because that was the lifeblood of the south's economy. Here are a few stats from 1860, the year it all blew up:
- U.S. slave population in the 1860 United States Census: 3,954,174
- Total US population: 31,443,321, an increase of 35 percent over the 1850 Census
- About 20,000,000 citizens lived in the north
- About 8,000,000 citizens lived in the south
- 26 percent of all Northerners live in towns or cities
- 10 percent of Southerners live in towns or cities
- 40% of the Northern work force works in agriculture
- 80% of the Southern workforce works in agriculture
The south and the north had very different cultures, and very different concerns. Each had their say in congress, but the overall momentum of the country was against slavery and against the south's system of agriculture, and they were outnumbered more than 2:1 in general population, which is how Abraham Lincoln won the presidency in 1860 despite winning no southern states. Although the Republican Party platform declares that individual states are allowed to form their own "domestic institutions" the south can see the writing on the wall. The federal government will inevitably declare slavery illegal and end it, despite having no constitutional power to do so. The northern states already were refusing to extradite escaped slaves, which were considered lawful property of southern owners.
Every state in the union had already outlawed the slave trade (although South Carolina started it up again for a while). The federal government had only the power under the constitution to prevent slave trade between states and importation of slaves, it could not tell individual states what to do within their borders, not legally. But the southern states could tell that was on the way.Read more »
Wednesday, December 12, 2012
TINTIN COMES ALIVE
Ever since my brother brought home Tintin books from his French class in high school, I've loved the comic (both it and Asterix comics). The art was wonderful, the stories loads of fun, and the settings fantastic. Tintin was like a junior James Bond, traveling the world and having amazing adventures.
Although technically a reporter, Tintin rarely showed any real evidence of his work, giving only the impression of being a globe-trotting adventurer. He was never wealthy, but always had as much money as he needed. His age was never clear, although he looked like a kid (and was called one) he was also treated as an adult and lived on his own, could drive, and so on.
Written and drawn by a Frenchman named Georges Remi, who wrote under the pen name of Hergé, the Tintin comics spanned six decades, with the first being printed in 1929 (and it was the pulp era that the comic stayed in, all those years). The comics have been translated into 60 languages and sold over 200,000,000 copies over the years. Although less instantly and broadly well known as Superman or Spider-Man, Tintin is a comic giant.
When Spielberg took up the idea of making a Tintin movie, I had mixed feelings. The stories fit Spielberg's skills well, and they would translate well to cinema (all comics can). However, movie translations often go horribly wrong, especially when not treated with respect and appreciation of the medium, such as the ghastly Electra and Catwoman movies.
I finally saw The Adventures of Tintin last night, on Netflix. The company had just added the filmi and I had wanted to see it for quite a while. Tintin is animated, but done with such lush, complex and true-to-life animation that it was sometimes easy to forget it was animated at all. The characters were not quite true to life, and not quite cartoons, but were a functional and acceptable blend of the two that worked well in my opinion. My only problem was that Captain Haddock's schnozz was a bit too pronounced.
The film blended several different comics together, sort of a best-of-Tintin blend of events and bits tied around elements of Red Rakham's Treasure and some other comics. The overall effect is a fun, often slapstick, often tense adventure that I enjoyed greatly. It isn't great cinema, but then most of what people call great cinema isn't either. Tintin was a fun experience of watching his adventures come to life and was very entertaining in the process. I came into the movie thinking I'd have fun, and I did.
The storyline was simple but progressed well, without contradictory or nonsensical moments (there are absurd situations, but nothing that violates logic or consistency of behavior). The animation was amazing, and although there were a few "Look, its 3D!" moments that were intrusive, the director and writers took very good advantage of animation to do and stage things that would be very difficult or impossible in real life. Captain Haddock's unfortunate but comical experience with a plane propeller is one that springs to mind. Another was a sequence of sword fighting cranes that has to be seen to even be comprehended.
The film didn't do terrifically well in the US, although overall it has earned more than $300 million worldwide. The Aventures of Tintin cost about $150 million to make, and in Hollywood terms, doubling your money is not a huge return (don't get me started on hollywood accounting again). Still it made enough that a sequel could be seen, and it certainly was set up to have a sequel at the end of the film. I'd like to see one.
My only real problems with the film were the Captain's nose, the odd choice of giving the blatantly and famously French characters UK accents (??), and the slight notice given to Tintin's moral character. He's a huge boy scout, a guy who always does the right thing, no matter what it costs him and stands tall because of it. The Adventures of Tintin didn't have much evidence of that at all, instead he seemed to be driven by his job and curiosity more than anything else, and that's too bad. Still, a very great movie that all ages can and should enjoy. I recommend it, especially if you already know and love Tintin: 4 stars.
Tuesday, December 11, 2012
SO WHAT CAN WE DO? Pt 2: Yes
So we're in an America in decline, with economic disaster looming over us all, in an economy far worse than the federal government or press cares to admit, watching our culture, heritage, and future collapse. What can we do? Can it be saved, and how?
The short answer is: no. I know that sounds awfully defeatist and depressing. The Tea Party Oregon facebook page keeps putting out stuff like "will you fight or surrender" as if that's what we're faced with. They won, and there is no question of surrender, its over.
Consider the history of the United States. America was discovered and settled by Europeans who were self sufficient adventurers, men and women of courage, virtue, and strength who were willing to leave the comforts and ease of civilization to start completely over in a land with nothing but raw materials and hostile locals. Imagine today leaving your home, your computer, your car, your lights, food, television, cell phone, everything behind, to go essentially camping... for the rest of your life. In an unknown place, filled with unknown threats, even hostile locals.
That's what the pioneers and settlers of America did. They deliberately gave up what they had so they could have more. They abandoned the old comforts of home to build a new, better home for themselves. Only the strong, the self-determined, the responsible, the hardy, and the bold could even consider such an act. You want a house? Build it. You want food? Grow it. You want protection? That's you. You want roads? Clear them out. You want fuel? Gather it yourself. From the land, and back then, you had to do it without machinery or technology we recognize today.
The people who did this did it because they wanted to face life themselves, to carve out a new life in a land so open and rich that they could be anything they were strong and determined enough to be. They left behind a world that was safer and more comfortable, more regulated and predictable, for a life that was freer and had more opportunity.
The new world represented a place without kings, without lords, without oppression and taxation. The people who came to the new world wanted a world where they didn't have to bow and tug a forelock to every lord, where they could own land and hunt, where no man could kill and abuse them without consequence or their ability to fight back. The new world meant a world where a man could stand up and build his future, rather than kneel as others did instead.
And the people who were left behind? The followers, the people who lived off others, the pampered and the people without vision, boldness, ambition, or drive. So America was based and built on people who took chances, stood on their own, and valued freedom. And the heritage, the tradition, the history of America was forged in the crucible of facing terrific hardship and conquering it all. The sacrifice and hard work of our ancestors built the mightiest nation the world has ever seen.
THE LONG MARCH
While that was the core of America, the majority, we kept building and growing and doing. But for about 100 years, the left has been working to corrupt and undermine all that, to build a world where nobody has to take risks, where nobody can fail, where nobody gets more than others, to create a concept of justice that is not just and fairness that is not fair. They've worked through the education system, the judicial system, the entertainment community, the political system, even labor and religion. And as a result, the people who take risks and stand on their own have become fewer and fewer.
Now, the people who built America, the traditions of America, the culture of America are all outnumbered and eclipsed. The country has gone from the land of opportunity to the land of people with their hand out, expecting big brother government will take care of us all, and those rats who have more than us will pay for it all.
So that's a quick rundown of how we built the nation and how we got where we are now, and it helps explain the basic problem with where we are now. We can't leave the takers and the leeches behind. There is no new world to flee to where there's liberty and opportunity. There is no America left to run to. Canada right now is moving more toward freedom than America, but it is very limited in its nature and won't last. Their movement is an elastic reaction to the excesses of the left, but in time people will tire of the tilt and run to the other side again.
And that's why I say there is no stopping this. Because the entire system, the entire culture is filled with the people who oppose everything we stand for, believe in, and want to see. Our dreams of liberty and opportunity are considered unjust and horrible to them. Their ideas of justice and fairness are repulsive and tyrannical to us. The twain will never meet, and now we're buried in their power.
It isn't just that they have the positions of power, its that they've convinced people not only that taking and depending is superior to making and personal responsibility, but that its evil and awful to think otherwise. It isn't just that they are the mainstream establishment, its that they've convinced everyone that they are hip rebels and outsiders in the process, so its cool. Its like how Apple, putting out a phone in several ways inferior to Nokia and other devices, became a huge seller based on how cool it seemed. Logic doesn't even enter into this, they appeal to a gut level emotional reaction and have convinced people that logic and reason are like, boring and lame, bro.
However, all that does not mean there's nothing at all we can do. It just means that we can't do anything to stop the disaster. The two trains full of nitroglycerine are full steam on the same track toward each other. The only thing to do now is to get to cover. So that's the first thing to do.
By "get cover" I don't mean run away. I mean you need to be ready for when things start to fall apart. We take many things for granted that may not necessarily be there for us in the near future. Things like regular, reliable energy and internet, things like safe streets and cops, fire departments who show up swiftly and for free, things like the freedom to say what you want and go where you want.
THINGS BREAK, DON'T THEY?
To survive the coming times you need to learn how to fix and care for what you have, be more self sufficient, form networks to get what you need, and how to stay out of the attention of people in charge. I don't expect to see a massive dictatorship arise, but I do expect to see a system of rewards and Chicago-style dealing become standard. If you work with them, you'll do okay. If you buck the system, well paperwork gets lost and regulations we usually ignore get noticed. If you make too much money, or you pay cash too often for purchases, if you don't hire the right people or shop the wrong places, well things might get a bit tough for you.
In 3 years, the Obama administration added 106 new major regulations and over 10,000 new rules. Cops say you can't drive across town without breaking a traffic law, you can't live without violating at least one of these rules. There are laws that are only enforced to give cops a handle by which to grab bad guys: if your wheels touch the center line, that's illegal and they can ticket you. If you don't go 100 yards before changing lanes, that's illegal and they can ticket you. On and on it goes. These laws are ignored most of the time because police view their job as keeping the peace, not mindlessly enforcing every rule and people make mistakes. But when they want to, they have those laws around to use.
Now think about the federal government, which is intrinsically hostile toward you and further is driven by a system of favors and deals. A government which helps people that help them and punishes those who fight against them. A government which investigates and sends the IRS against major donors to their political opponents, which tells businesses to violate the law because they'll pay for fines, that ignores electoral law about foreign donations and election places. The kind of government built around the concept of scratching backs in return.
Now, you're unlikely to get noticed if you are just an individual. If you don't blog, don't have a major business, don't rock the boat, and don't have a high profile, you're basically invisible in a sea of 300 million faces. But ask Microsoft what it was like to just run your business and not need to lobby. Ask them how it turned out under the Clinton administration when they were targeted by Republicans in congress for daring to not give out their tribute to congressmen. Now they lobby and donate to politicians like good boys.
Another thing to do is to maintain your culture in the midst of an increasingly alien one. The truth is, crosses and all Christian references and images in the nation are going to go away. In time, any religious symbolism in even graveyards will be sued and torn away. The establishment clause! they will cry; it makes me feel bad, you're oppressing me! they will claim. Keep the things you hold dear to yourself, for yourself and your family.
Think of how Jews lived in hostile cultures - and still do - for over a thousand years. They kept their traditions, quietly, to themselves. No more merry Christmas in stores? That's okay, say it to each other. No more crosses displayed in public? You can wear one under your shirt. No more praying? You can pray in private. That gun an offense to have visible? Keep it under cover. Cut out the bumper stickers and the facebook posts, keep quiet when people attack and slander you, you know what is right and true inside. Survive and wait for the future, when you will prosper rather than survive.
And work, work hard. Produce, do the best you can. Be good at what you do, quietly and humbly. If you make shoes, make the best shoes you can and sell them for a fair price. Eventually some people will hate you for it - just ask Jews about that. But in the meantime you're building a future, setting things aside, and preparing for when Israel returns. That's what the Jews planned for: some day they would have their home. And that's what we have to do, work toward our own Israel.
Thursday, December 06, 2012
A LITTLE BIT OF POWER
If you have paid close attention to WATN the last week or two you've seen something happen in the comments. There has been a commenter who posts anonymously who got upset because I deleted his comment, then began to hammer the comments with complaints about it which were increasingly frustrated and abusive.
Now, in the past I left everything in place unless it was obviously spam (except in the Comment Types thread, where spam sort of fits the theme), because I was interested in reaching out and trying to change things. I've pretty well given up on that, and just post things I think about rather than any real attempt to convince or persuade.
And this commenter isn't new at WATN. I remember him from back when I was reading and posting at World Magazine's comment section and when he used to post here. He tries to present himself as reasonable and thoughtful, but always finds something to pick at and criticize, to undermine and attack. I wrote about that kind of comment as the Cherry Picker, the kind of comment that ignores the bulk and purpose of a post, and focuses on one point to attack the writer rather than their point.
His tone is passive-aggressive, coming on with thinly veiled contempt and attacks on someone's integrity and intellectual capacity, then backing off when confronted and claiming that he just wants to discuss matters. Whether that is due to frustration or feeling guilty for being so hostile, or because of a personality quirk, I don't know. You can see some of his commenting style in a post a few years back I did on President Obama's alleged Christianity.
But I refuse to engage that on my blog any longer, I've had enough of debates and arguments to last me two life times. And nothing really comes of it in the end but a sick feeling in my stomach and my nerves on end. I might not seem like it but any time someone criticizes or confronts me it makes me go away full of doubt, upset, and even feeling sick. I try very hard to do what is right, and while I fail a lot and get things wrong a lot, I do my best to learn and pursue the truth. There's really only so much of that anyone can take. So for my sake, I don't care to get into that any more and I don't want to clutter up the blog with what are essentially trolling posts demanding attention. It seems to me the best way to deal with a troll is to ignore them.
However, despite the bearer of the message being someone I don't want to engage, the questions asked were pretty good and if it were someone else I trust or know is in good faith - my friend Lance, for instance - I would have been glad to answer them. So I'll give it a shot here in case some readers were wondering about it.
The main question was this: doesn't the utter failure of your political ideas to win in the election make you stop and think you're wrong? Never in my life has conservatism really been given a real shot to fix things in Washington DC, despite a brief period in the 90s where the House of Representatives led by Newt Gingrich gave it a shot. Everything they accomplished has been totally undone by the Democrats now. Conservatives can win but never in numbers or positions enough to even attempt to implement their ideas.
The answer to that question is three fold. First of all, as I noted above, I always question and doubt what I've said, even if it doesn't come across that way. I lay awake at night with my guts churning wondering if what I said or did was right. I pray and read and study to try to see if what I thought was correct. I used to read leftist blogs regularly to get the other side's take on matters. So yes, I do stop and think.
Second, I used to be a leftist. I was terrified Ronald Reagan would kill us all in nuclear war. I thought he was an evil man for creating so many homeless and heartless for cutting welfare. I thought we could have peace if only we'd get rid of nukes, all that stupid nonsense. I know what the left thinks, all my visits to sites like Talking Points Memo and Huffington Post simply confirmed what I figured they would say, from my past. I changed my mind based on the facts and evidence before me, and grew up. So I did change based on the world around me.
Third, truth and right is not based on electoral votes. If every person on earth except me voted that we should skin babies alive and drink their blood, that wouldn't make me wrong for opposing it. The positions I take and the ideas I hold are based on objective truth and what little wisdom I've gained over the years to examine the facts. Majority rule does not determine truth. A vote does not decide moral right and wrong. It simply doesn't matter how many people hold to something or how few in this context. What matters is whether they're right or wrong.
America has, as I've taken some pains to point out here, come to the point it rejects what's right and true and good and embraces foolishness. That doesn't make the position of the majority of Americans somehow right, it simply means there's a lot of people who want short term happiness and to feel cool rather than to make hard choices. That's too bad for the nation and too bad for the people in it, but that doesn't somehow change the truth.
Tuesday, December 04, 2012
SO WHAT DO WE DO? Pt 1: No
Everybody knows things are bad. It's a depression. Everybody's out of work or scared of losing their job. The dollar buys a nickel's worth, banks are going bust, shopkeepers keep a gun under the counter. Punks are running wild in the street and there's nobody anywhere who seems to know what to do, and there's no end to it.
We know the air is unfit to breathe and our food is unfit to eat, and we sit watching our TV's while some local newscaster tells us that today we had fifteen homicides and sixty-three violent crimes, as if that's the way it's supposed to be.
We know things are bad - worse than bad. They're crazy. It's like everything everywhere is going crazy, so we don't go out anymore. We sit in the house, and slowly the world we are living in is getting smaller, and all we say is, 'Please, at least leave us alone in our living rooms. Let me have my toaster and my TV and my steel-belted radials and I won't say anything. Just leave us alone.'
Well, I'm not gonna leave you alone. I want you to get mad! I don't want you to protest. I don't want you to riot - I don't want you to write to your congressman because I wouldn't know what to tell you to write. I don't know what to do about the depression and the inflation and the Russians and the crime in the street.
All I know is that first you've got to get mad. You've got to say, 'I'm a human being, God damn it! My life has value!' So I want you to get up now. I want all of you to get up out of your chairs. I want you to get up right now and go to the window. Open it, and stick your head out, and yell, 'I'm mad as hell and I'm not going to take this any more!'
I want you to get up right now, sit up, go to your windows, open them and stick your head out and yell - 'I'm as mad as hell and I'm not going to take this anymore!' Things have got to change. But first, you've gotta get mad!... You've got to say, 'I'm as mad as hell, and I'm not going to take this anymore!' Then we'll figure out what to do about the depression and the inflation and the oil crisis.
But first get up out of your chairs, open the window, stick your head out, and yell, and say it: 'I'm mad as hell and I'm not going to take this any more!'"
-Howard Beale, Network
Last week I wrote about the state of America, how the culture has overwhelmed common sense and virtue, leading to a mentality of "eat, drink, and be merry, for tomorrow we die." Faced with the challenge of fighting through the difficulty of tough times and the responsibility required to rebuild the nation, people are fleeing it and seeking the last few moments of pleasure they might find.
So we're faced with this basic set of problems: a nation slumping into disrepair, an economy in shambles about to crash into the rocks, a culture that has lost its virtue, a people who are so immature they reject hard work and personal responsibility, and a political class that has abandoned all restraints of honor and law to achieve power and whatever goals they might desire.
And that's just the beginning. When I watched the build up to November's national election I was fascinated by the campaign being run by the Obama team. It was the worst campaign in human memory, a strategy that had absolutely no chance of winning politically. They continually played to their base, who should have already been locked in. They were insulting and offensive to everyone except certain specific identity groups small in number. They wrote off the biggest voting blocs in the past, such as married couples, elderly, and middle class whites. And they picked the stupidest talking points and topics to hammer. An old man claiming his wife got cancer because of Mitt Romney. The claim that Republicans were going to take away contraceptives. Big Bird. Binders of women.
It was so stupid I just shook my head. Who would be stupid enough to fall for that crap? Well now we know: most of America. Listening to the stories about people discussing the election is simply depressing. Women claiming Romney would ban tampons. Young people claiming the Republicans would outlaw contraceptives. On an on it went, with the stupidest, most blatantly false and ridiculous claims taken with absolute seriousness. Only an idiot, someone devoid of reason and critical thought could possibly believe this crap, and millions did.
And that was the strategy all along. Obama knew he couldn't possibly win an election on politics. His campaign wasn't about winning, it was about keeping the base on track, getting them to show up. The actual campaign to win was waged in the popular culture, academia, and media. President Obama didn't really even have to campaign. The teachers and professors in education shaped young minds and told the lies they believed. Popular culture pushed the lies about Romney, ridiculous nonsense that felt hip and trendy. The news media just blatantly covered up the absolutely horrific stuff that was going on with the Obama administration.
And while this has long been the practice of the left, the country has slumped to such a low of cultural and intellectual nadir that it worked very well indeed. Mitt Romney ran one of the best campaigns I've ever seen, but it didn't matter because that's not what anyone was paying attention to. To be sure his tone hurt him too.
Campaigning on hard choices, personal responsibility, achievement, and stories of how great he was because of his business and personal acumen all made Jersey Shore America feel bad about its self. Every tale at the RNC of someone who made their way without government help made leeches and takers feel disgruntled and annoyed; dude you're making me look bad.
The left has succeeded not only in taking over the culture and becoming the establishment, but in presenting that establishment as revolutionary and exciting. That's right, the man thinks he's the revolutionary. And what's more astounding is that real revolutionaries, real outsiders and counter establishment types are considered the staid old establishment.
In a nation like this, what can we possibly do? What can we hope for? Well I know what wont work.Read more »