Polarization Can Be Good… But Not in Cases of Magnetic Fraud

My wife insists that the whippoorwill fond of cranking it up every dawn outside our window isn’t the real thing—that she recalls the song’s full range from her childhood, and that this strident alarm clock doesn’t have it down properly.  Interesting.  You can believe me or not… but cardinals no longer sound the same as they once did.  I realize that we’ve moved much farther east, and that birds have dialects; but even when we yet lived in Texas, and even for years before I was married, the cardinal’s repertoire had been much reduced from what I distinctly recall as a boy.  For some reason, I have a very good aural memory (to compensate for my poor retention of faces).

What could explain this phenomenon of the bird world—the equivalent of great-great-grandfather Feathers handing down the line, “The wind, it bloweth where it listeth,” only to have the contemporary generation produce, “Wow, breeze comin’ from everwure today!”  We humans (or those few of us who remain alert to such things) understand that cultural impoverishment occurs when a population disperses over too much area too rapidly.  I dimly recall that Ortega y Gasset wrote an essay about how badly the Latin language decayed around the Empire’s peripheries during the second and third centuries.  Is it so far-fetched to suppose that bird populations have been similarly stressed by human activity?  They’ve had to spread out rapidly and resourcefully, just to survive.  In the process, the songs that they transmitted to the next generation were truncated, simplified, and—in a word—impoverished.

This doesn’t mean that our world will end in twelve years, or that we can stabilize the avian repertoire if we will only drive hybrid cars.  Yet I find in it a measure of how risky our high-tech, progressive, ever more urbanized habits of living have become.  We’re mutilating a quality of life constantly whose former richness we don’t begin to suspect.  I used to observe to students that Edgar Allen Poe’s Monsieur Dupin (the forefather of Sherlock Holmes) could direct a friend’s gaze to the Andromeda Galaxy from the streets of Paris without drawing a cry of “foul” from Poe’s readership.  These days, you’d need a pair of binoculars to locate the same one-degree swirl of stardust out in the boondocks.  Now, Poe never actually traveled to Paris… but the point is that his claim seemed plausible a little less than two hundred years ago. Our skies were once incredibly clean.

Am I somehow being a “defector from conservatism” to volunteer such concerns?  That would be an odd association of ideas, inasmuch as I’m speaking on behalf of conserving our natural environment from tasteless, needless, often poisonous artifice.  Yet so it is, in our lunatic present.  Because the Green movement has been kidnapped by One World Order types who want a central government to peer into every facet of our daily routine, any protest against commercialist exploitation that leaves forests or plains in ruins (such as wind turbines, may I say) is a kind of closet-Marxism. At least that’s what I’m given to understand in certain quarters that consider their right-wing bona fides irreproachable.

I’ve recently been “tweeting” (in notes far less lyrical than a cardinal’s) with a veteran of the armed services about the extreme inadvisability of the Pompeo-Bolton campaign of saber-rattling in Iran’s face.  Our own border is under assault—and we’re trying to ignite a powder keg halfway around the world because… because we wish to preempt the evil influence of Islam on global peace and create a terrestrial paradise.  I thought we’d worked—or I thought the putative Right had worked—through such utopian delusions during the two terms of the junior Mr. Bush.  Yet I’m a traitor, in some eyes, for not wanting to send Xenophon into Persia with ten thousand Spartans.  Wasn’t Mr. Trump supposed to have been elected in large measure because our society had had quite enough of such adventurous meddling in foreign affairs under Bush and Obama?  (And, for that matter, isn’t a solidifying of relations with Russia, drawing her away from our real and ultimate enemy—the PRC—a much more rational path to world peace?  And how will stirring up things in Iran extend an olive branch to Russia?)

About a month ago, I posted a piece about my change of heart on capital punishment.  I initially thought it a rather boring scribble—but few things I’ve ever published have drawn more fire… or, I should correct, “spirited exception”.  I’m of the opinion that the sore spots I apparently mashed exist because those opposed to the death penalty don’t mince words about what ravenous animals their adversaries are.  The discussion on this issue, as on most other national issues, has grown so polarized that a flag of truce soliciting a conference is immediately mistaken for the battle flag of a charging phalanx.

This past week, my adoptive state of Georgia and her immediate neighbor Alabama have drawn the ire of various Hollywood ghouls and media darlings for pushing back the highly permissive limits surrounding legal abortion.  My position is pro-Tenth Amendment.  Since abortion isn’t a right guaranteed to all Americans under the Bill of Rights (and, no, there is no Abortion Amendment implied in the Fourteenth’s ban of slavery, contrary to Hollywood analysis), let individual states set the boundary where they deem it appropriate.  Similarly, why may not the marriage ceremony be purged of any civil (read “tax/insurance”) significance and returned to its pristine religious dimension?  Faiths or denominations that choose to bless the union of two men or two women—or a human and a dog—may do so.  I don’t have to subscribe to them.  I shouldn’t even be required to say pleasant things about them in public… but the law prevents me from hurling rocks through windows or delivering dead cats to doorsteps.  That’s the nature of a liberal (i.e., free) society.

How “right-extremist” is the previous paragraph, and how “left-anarchic”?  I wouldn’t say that it was any of either… but it depends upon whom you ask, doesn’t it?  Invisibly, imperceptibly, a checklist of necessary positions appears to have evolved for either “side”—and I must throw quotes around “side”, because I myself see no very coherent line separating the rows of boxes, but only an insane zigzag.  If the Left’s hyperventilating hysteria over the “Trump Phenomenon” has any degree of validity, it must center upon the abject devotion registered by the man’s followers… you know, like that pledged so often on the Left to their endless stream of Peerless Leaders, Big Brothers, and Dear Friends.  Yeah, that worries me, too: wherever I see it, it worries me.  I very much doubt that Mr. Trump himself has ever before thought deeply about some the crises suddenly confronting him (hence his being persuaded to trust people like Pompeo and Bolton).

I’m not going to finish by writing, “Maybe we can all just calm down a bit.”  I’m not calm.  I have a son living in Denver, whose space-cadet town council seems intent on legalizing every hallucinogen known to shaman or rockstar.  I wish we could be “uncalm” in a consistent manner, however.  People of principle get worked up about behaviors that shred their principles; people of uncomposed mind get worked up about anything whose appearance in their peripheral vision startles them.

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Who Must Police the Police? Concerned Citizens

Perhaps four months ago, I wrote a couple of pieces in response to Episode Six of the Netflix series, The Confession Tapes.  I wasn’t entirely prepossessed by these documentaries on extorted, distorted, or abused confessions.  Oh, I was outraged, like everyone else, at how two college boys were manipulated in Canadian sting (illegal on this side of the border) into admitting that they had brutally bludgeoned to death the family of the younger lad… but then, I also didn’t understand how both could have been left utterly without adult supervision.  The black D.C. teenagers convicted of gang-raping and murdering an old woman simply played one-by-one into the suggestions of the police interrogators; that story repeats itself almost every day, for reasons that the blanket “racism” explanation obscures more than elucidates.  Then there was the bizarre case of the father whose foot twitched on the gas pedal: he was able to extricate himself and his wife from the car as it sank into a river, but his three children went down.  As a father myself, I couldn’t understand caring about life as much as this man does after having lost all my children through some klutzy accident.  The fellow was not simpatico.

I don’t know why the Buddy Woodall case nagged at me as had none of the others.  They all bothered me, all right… but my “bother” threshold had perhaps been somewhat surpassed, as well.  The other cases had left me feeling jaded. It was all just too much… all those dramatized injustices on top of others that Netflix and the Hollywood/Newsroom elite have wanted very much to keep out of the news.  I sensed that I had been watching our “justice” system melt down for a long time. I had watched it send soldiers away for twenty years because they defended themselves in an Afghan wasteland or snapped a shot of a submarine to share with the kids… watched it export thousands of deadly weapons to Mexican cartels in a covert bid to subvert the Second Amendment… watched officers of that system destroy subpoenaed evidence with bleach and hammer even as their cronies were writing up a full exoneration… watched a dedicated cop with a spotless record be jailed for life because a feminist district attorney found him too masculine… watched a distinguished general take a plea after being “stung” (yes, those operations are supposed to be illegal) by the goons of a Special Counsel who promised to target his son if he resisted….  I’m getting sick all over again just in reviving the memory of a few cases from the past six or eight years.

Our justice system is crap.  I don’t trust it any more.  I just want to grow walnuts, pecans, sweet potatoes, and beans on my twenty-five acres.  Screw the system.  The republic is collapsing in the acid byproduct of overheated brains reared on iPhones, weed, kinky sex, and long conversations with “comfort” animals.  Screw it all, and stay off my land.  “Keep out: dangerous old white guy here.”

So what made Buddy Woodall any different?  To this day, I don’t really know.  He wasn’t a spoiled frat boy, nor was he a black kid from the inner city.  Either of those environments is as far from me as the other, and I feel powerless in both.  It is that feeling of powerlessness, perhaps, that makes one morose and defensive.  Buddy’s world, however, was not so very far from mine, either geographically or demographically.  And I didn’t detect the presence of pompous, virtue-signaling political theatrics in his prosecution (as in the West Coast tale of the two college students) or a media-fed rush to clear a sensationally lurid case (as in the D.C.P.D.’s ramrodding of several black youths through the system).  Nobody involved in the Woodall case seemed to be particularly malevolent.  There was just too much carelessness—too much laziness.

Laziness: Tocqueville noticed almost two hundred years ago that it is a distinguishing characteristic of us Southerners.  The climate is somewhat responsible, no doubt (for every Southerner did not have a slave, contrary to an assertion made in one of Tocqueville’s many rhetorical flourishes: not one in ten owned a slave).  So Buddy Woodall serves three life sentences because… because likeable but lazy detectives didn’t follow leads, and because a probably quite likeable but plainly lazy jury didn’t ponder the evidence put before it.  Everybody just dozed off.  Yeah.  A friend of mine back in Texas once lost his business because the judge dozed off during the critical portion of the testimony.  It happens a lot down here.

I wanted to see if other people of approximately my socio-economic, political, and religious profile would react to this case as I had… and so I assembled a kind of panel (whose exchanges required much editing, just because all of us passed long days devoted to other pursuits).  You can see the result of this nearly three-month experiment at Amazon.  The e-book is titled, Anatomy of a Murder Trial: A Citizen Autopsy of Buddy Woodall’s Conviction for “The Labor Day Murders”.  I hope my sometimes intrusive engineering produced a fairly readable text.  I’m far too close to it to say if the thirty-two chapters of analyzing trial transcripts are riveting or suffocating.  I only hope, like Hippocrates, I have done no harm in my groping efforts to do a little good.

I’ll leave off by advancing this remark, which reprises one I made in this space perhaps a quarter-year ago.  One of my respondents expressed his surprise that the prosecution seems to model leftist rhetorical tactics: specifically, that it employs “moral equivalency” (e.g., “You say our opening remarks alleged facts never offered in evidence.  Hypocrite!  Why, you also say that the defendant was sweated by interrogators for half a day!”  You’d have to be there… but the “facts” at issue were not remotely proved, whereas the period of psychological pressure was arranged by the interrogators themselves to extend beyond the tight room at the station.)  This recalled to me a remark I’d made about how courtroom dramas on TV have shifted from the defense attorney’s to the prosecutor’s table.  It’s true.  In the Fifties, Hamilton Burger represented Eisenhower America: hardworking, decent, upright, gray-flannel-suited… and also apt to stifle creativity or discount anomaly.  Perry Mason’s clients were innocent but slightly off-beat—society’s free spirits or ne’er-do-well’s who were in the docks for straying from the Standard Deviation.  Perry was the guardian of liberalism, that beloved American creed that licenses the individual to go his own way.

Now the political Left occupies the other side of the room: it is—or would be—the new orthodoxy.  All must condone gay marriage, late-term abortion, gun bans, ungendered pronouns, Sharia communities, hatred of white privilege, and anti-hate speech codes.  All must wear the gray flannel suit.  Though all may not think in the prescribed manner, they must speak and behave according to prescription.  Liberalism is dead.  The foolish, tardy Right hasn’t even abandoned the well-worn habit of defaming the word, although defense of the liberal is precisely where the conservative should be pitching his battle.  Profiting from this fatal confusion of his adversary, the leftist progressive proceeds to pound society into clones with the force of SWAT teams and stiff prison terms that the system has placed in his fist.

I don’t say that Buddy Woodall is some lovable, misunderstood beatnik: I say this, however, to my brethren on the Right in the aftermath of Buddy’s conviction.  Do not support police activities unconditionally just because the kneeling at NFL games and the wicked caricature of honest cops patrolling risky neighborhoods outrages you.  Police are but human beings, like you and me, and they are also minions toiling under the authority of a complex hierarchy.  If ordered one day to break down your door or my door and search our house for guns or porn or books about Nazism or liter-bottles of Coke or plastic straws or a garden glove that has dried in the “okay” sign, most of them will execute the order.  We need to protect the human being within the uniform, lest the uniform compel him to discard his humanity.

Don’t let these witless lines in the shifting sand blind you to the immutable presence of abstract moral issues.

Are Social Media Elevating Insanity to Ideology?

Twitter.  The name has always been an immediate turn-off to me.  After all, its initial syllable is “twit”—and I can’t say that the accident creates an inappropriate expectation.  Yet I have persisted in my “tweeting” (a verbal form scarcely more reassuring: what kind of bird-brain wastes time pecking a very constricted number of characters on a keyboard?).  My objective is, and has always been, an indirect publicity campaign: a projection of my views into the great wide world, that is, in the hope of attracting a few curious eyes to my Amazon author’s page.  I’m a perfectly lousy marketer—always have been.  Garbling or botching publicity is one of my special talents.  But on the surface, the objective seems both logical and respectable.  If you like what I say, try some of the productions where I speak at much greater length.

At the same time, I have grown aware of certain seductions in Twitter that could lead someone off the path whose aim was a little less monomaniacal than mine—and I myself don’t always resist, either.  The dozen-word bon mot is sometimes too ready-at-hand and the target too fat and stationary.  Yet sitting about an e-salon while languidly launching barbs at hippopotamus-sized news events doesn’t lead to a very productive morning.  It’s a pastime fit for twits.  Of course, people need a certain amount of amusement, perhaps these days more than ever; so the argument might be made that one lifts the spirits of one’s neighbors in making light of the fools who would rule us… and then, it’s such a great way to attract followers!

On principle, I have desisted from keeping tabs on how many e-disciples are tagging along at my winged heels.  It’s not healthy: it distracts you from speaking truth—it inclines you to probe after the popular.  I need hardly moralize about what hyper-sensitivity to polls and focus groups has done to our political system.   Don’t want the same thing happening to me personally.

There’s a much darker side to Twitter, as well.  Yesterday I noticed one of the public figures I admire most in the world dropping an f-bomb… on Twitter’s head, actually—and Facebook’s, and Instagram’s.  The occasion was a fury over how social media filter opinions not to their progressive-utopian taste and brand them “hate speech” (a phrase, speaking of words, that’s always struck me as implying a kind of caveman syntax: “Ug… me no like… make me mad… hate… hate speech!”).  How do you respond to insufferable idiots who gag and pillory you because you fail to parrot their drivel?  I can well understand the impulse to squeeze an “f” out through the gag… yet, in a way, it concedes the battle to the idiots.  Rather than clubbing the caveman back with a bigger limb, maybe you should just stay out of caves.

Probably half of all posts on Twitter are photos (invariably called “pictures” in these cavernous days), “memes”, or short videos.  A picture’s worth a thousand words—especially for a person who doesn’t know a thousand words.  So we gape at each other’s pictures, someone starts an avalanche of “opinion” cascading (“caption this” or “what’s that in her hair?”), the barbs fly, the tweaked hearts dispense “likes”… and some kind of communication, apparently, has just taken place.  What kind?  Not entirely sure; but I do know that its species defines our brave new world… our e-cave.

I’m both amused and saddened when I hear people say, “Looking back on our time, historians will write….”  No, historians will write nothing—not if no one can read, and certainly not if no coherent sense of historical connection remains (i.e., of the indissoluble complexity of human choice as opposed to “memes” and “pics”).  What I see in Twitter—illustrated helpfully, if unwittingly—is the progress of cultural and intellectual collapse favored by all electronic media, more or less.  The compression of judgment into a few words, the subservience of those words to cliché and jibe, the equivalency of word to image, the instantaneity of word and image alike… it’s all making us dumber by the year.  Look at our dumbed-down college grads, who believe that currencies can be resuscitated by running Xerox machines, that human evil is produced by deficient melanin in the epidermis, that Nature bestows either one set of sex organs or the other upon individuals (including squash plants), that nations must never have borders yet that momentary residents must enjoy the full rights of citizenship…. Where did these analytical featherweights come from who nourish a cultic conviction that less than half of one one-hundredth of one percent of the atmosphere will suffocate life on earth in about a decade—while the same gaseous substance, before our eyes, is feeding a revival of green vegetation….

How is it that we can transform bright young minds into generators of imbecility and lunacy?  What force is driving this incredible degeneration?  It would have to be something that causes views to be embraced because they seem flashy in their extravagance… something that shoulders aside patient reflection… something that awards points for immediate effect rather than for enduring substance.  It would have to enlist its users in a veritable competition to one-up each his predecessor, as in exchanges like this: “The capitalist market is racist.  Oh, yeah?  Well, the entertainment media are [“is” in current parlance] also racist!  Oh, yeah?  Well, grocery stores are also racist!  Oh, yeah?  Well, door knobs are also racist!”

Now, what do you see on the current scene that would elicit such a degree of abject idiocy—unique in the history of the human race, and likely unknown even to the very practical caveman—from millions of young people fresh from college?  What in our society could possibly inspire such unnatural and self-destructive behavior?  An oldtimer like me can gather plenty of clues by visiting Twitter… but study your preferred medium.  Where do you see anything approaching cautionary care and recourse to principle rather than applause in our means of communication?

Of the wide array of drugs killing our society from within, the one that “brings people together” is ravaging us with inestimably more ferocity than all the others combined.

“Reparations”: A Tribal Drum Calling Human Beings Away From Responsibility

I tend to write either upon a subject that has fermented in me for a while or upon one that breaks down my psychic door, even though I would as soon concentrate my attention elsewhere.  Today a door has come off its hinges, so… I yield to the necessity of cleaning up the mess.

I have grown irritated at several thoughtful people who write against the propriety of “reparations”—i.e., the monetary indemnification of people with X amount of melanin for the ordeal endured by their slave-ancestors.  The bright but annoying types with whom I’m peeved will protest, “I’m white, but my ancestors had nothing to do with this outrage.  They arrived at Ellis Island in 1890”; or perhaps they tender the version, “My ancestors were German farmers and Italian craftsmen who emigrated in the 1850’s and probably contributed children to wear Union blue.”  The implication is that the demand for “reparations” is itself not unjust or unreasonable, but that the writer in question shouldn’t be liable for paying a dime.

I could shred this argument on its own terms if I wanted to.  I actually have little doubt that slaves lived in the households of my progenitors on both sides—not hundreds of slaves to work vast plantations, though Hollywood would have us believe (and has duped most of us into believing, apparently) that no other kind of slavery existed.  Rather, among my ancestors as among most slaveholders (“most” as in 95 percent), there was a groom, a cook, maybe a girl to wait the table and tend the nursery, maybe another man to oversee heavier chores about the house: three to five adults, in total.  These people were employed in the same work given primarily to indentured white servants before the early nineteenth century.  Why the gradual shift from indenture to slavery?  Because Northern slavers found it profitable.  Arabic raiders plundered villages in northwestern Africa, and Yankee schooners from Long Island or Boston or Baltimore shuttled them across the Atlantic to Southern slave markets.  The North had no great need of slavery—or indenture (though the myth that no Union state practiced legal slavery during the Civil War is an ignorant falsehood).  With its far more industrialized economy, the North favored allowing competition in its populous towns and cities to drive down the daily wage and impose no burden of room and board on the employer.  The South, being far more rural and sparsely populated, was ripe for exploitation by the slave trade.  Slavery was an ugly business, all the way around—but it was a business from which the North drew a handsome profit.

It isn’t the sanctimonious hypocrisy of the, “My ancestors didn’t do it!” argument that most irritates me, however.  No… and it isn’t even the utter absence of historical awareness visible on all sides—but I’ll mention that in passing.  Were some slaves whipped, raped, separated from their families?  Unquestionably.  Slavery was a wicked, horrid institution—as were many institutions of the day.  The British Navy manned its fleet by “impressing” young men wherever it could find them.  The raids of its press gangs upon American merchant vessels, in fact, were one of the causes of the War of 1812.  This practice was essentially enslavement with a fairly high probability of mutilation or death in the aftermath.  Another example: in many parts of New England, drunkards and rioters were pilloried or otherwise brutally punished.  Farther south and west, feuds between families frequently produced a bullet in the back along a lonely road.  Thieves of a relatively petty variety were hanged.  Dueling was not uncommon.  Life was rough.  Women not uncommonly died in childbirth.  (And yet, for all the cruelty of the times, a newborn whose mother had no means of support would leave it at a church’s doorstep rather than, with the doctor’s help, cram its face in salt before shifting it to the dumpster.)

For all that, many slaves were considered part of the family.  The church which my wife attended as a child preserved evidence of a wall down its middle, created to divide slaves and masters.  In the Christian family, there should be no such division, to be sure—but here is solid evidence that the slave attended worship along with the owner (something that would never have happened up North).  My grandparents and their parents grew up playing with children of color.  The photo at the top of this piece was taken in about 1900 by a member of my father’s father’s family.  You can tell that black and white children, squeezed together (with the tiny tots of darker complexion in the middle), are playmates.  Brutality, in other words, was not universal nor even the norm—or perhaps only on large plantations, whose owners (often speculators and profiteers from the North) were typically despised by smaller, much more numerous farmers and had political interests inimical to most of their neighbors.  May I ask, in closing this digression, what Sherman’s ravages of the South did to keep either white or black children from starving, or how a “reconstruction” which abruptly ended in a couple of years left freedmen in a fit state to feed their families and make their way?

All of this aside—and it’s a lot to shove aside, for the willful stupidity of imbibing all one’s knowledge of the mid-nineteenth century from Django infuriates me—but all of it aside, the true outrage of “reparations” is the moral outrage of holding children responsible for their parents’ deeds.  The crazed immigrant who pushed a little boy over a rail to almost certain death in the Mall of America… should his children pay monthly compensation to the victim for the rest of his life, if he survives?  What if the would-be murderer claims that the rabble-rousing “hate speech” of Liz Warren, Kamala Harris, and other unscrupulous flame-throwers of the Left incited him to attempt a killing?  Should the Democratic Party pony up for the bereaved family two or three generations from now?

Should I refuse to let my son marry your daughter because your grandfather wore a Nazi uniform?  I believe Ted Bundy left a son behind; perhaps that child should be monitored for signs of schizophrenia… but should we place him in a classroom all by himself?  Alexander the Great was a marvel to his contemporaries for, among other things, not slaying the sons of his political adversaries when resistance reached open hostility.  Do we, too, now marvel at such restraint?  Does it no longer make any sense to us?

I know the my-ancestors-didn’t-do-this crowd hasn’t fully weighed the implications of its half-hearted objection… but weigh them, please.  Consider what you’re not saying as well as what you’re saying.  The “reparations” canard (and I have refused to use the word outside of quotations to signify my contempt and disgust) is evil.  It’s not a dumb idea or an impractical proposal: it is evil at its foundations.  The basis of any true morality—i.e., any that is not cultural conditioning masked as unquestioned goodness—must be individual conscience.  Each single person must be presumed capable of choosing his or her acts… and held accountable, by the way, for not choosing when he or she just goes with the flow.  Such a presumption is the foundation of our free society.  If we reject it and assume, instead, that people are infinitely programmable robots who do the bidding of their tribes or their demagogic leadership, then why have another free election?  Why accord the individual the right to defend himself from deadly attack?  Program him, rather, to die passively: he can be replaced by another robot, and the malfunctioning robot who slew him can be dismantled back at the factory.  Why allow couples to conceive, bear, and raise their own children—for the real thrust of the “pro-choice” movement is to regulate the production of new humans according to some master-plan of population density and racial composition.

Notice that all three of the preposterous positions just outlined—overhaul of free elections, suppression of the right to self-defense, and state-sponsored eugenics through abortion—are fast becoming leftist orthodoxy. There is no room in the progressive state for troublesome individualists who delay the march of progress. Our individual lives have no meaning: meaning is conferred upon them only by the ascendant vector of tomorrow’s golden dawn.

Megalomaniac leftist ideologues understand that “reparations” are completely consistent with their broader vision of a deterministic, inhuman apehouse whipped into line by their own superior inspiration—they, our insane prophets sent from some inscrutable, blank-and-pitiless heaven.  Most of their allies in our currently sitting Congress, I am convinced, no more embrace this depraved ideology to its last letter than people on my side of the fence oppose “reparations” simply because of a family-tree exemption.  Democrat presidential candidates, rather, are competing in offering bribes to a base that (they hope) can be bought.  Even among that base, few whose palms grow itchy at the thought of a “reparations check” in the mail, I imagine, seriously believe that they have no power over their lives—that the cards determining their destiny were shuffled 150 years ago.  They just want the “free stuff”.

But what will the next generation believe?  Once we raise its members totally immersed in the poisonous vapors of tribalism and determinism, what else will they believe but that you are only and always your DNA signature—that this man must be my enemy because of his skin tone, and that I must pray to this god and love this music because my ancestors did so?  Those who write the checks, and those who accept them, will be responsible in a higher reality for corrupting human society with a sordid scam.  And you, too, my brothers “whose great-grandparents weren’t here at the time”… your hands will not be entirely clean.

For God’s sake, call the Devil by his name.

Spiritual Rebirth: The Contemporary Mind’s Arch-Enemy

The scribble I had in mind for today will keep for another week.  I’ve decided to offer something more appropriate to Easter Sunday, 2019.

It is difficult to sense an infusion of new life when one casts one’s eyes about the current scene.  Debate has long been terminated on the subject of abortion.  It is considered gauche, or sexist, or racist, or some such reason-throttling chunk of mud-sling, to observe that most women really needn’t get “notably pregnant” at all against their will.  They may abstain from sex; they may abstain a mere three days each month from sex; they may patronize any one of a dozen cheap, accessible varieties of contraception; or, all of the above having failed, they may at least discharge their loathsome burden in the first trimester.  What we have before us, instead, appears to be a species of woman that has sex at least once a day with no regard for the consequences and despite hating males categorically and on principle.  Briefly, the “debate” shifted this year to whether or not one might actually murder a baby already born… but now the air is once again as thick with slung excrement as Gulliver’s Forest of the Yahoos.  A significant portion of our neighbors refuses to have a civil discussion about the impropriety of infanticide.

Paris is burning… well, part of it has been burning, anyway.  I don’t believe even Adolf Hitler had designated Notre Dame Cathedral for demolition as his occupying troops withdrew—but let us cede the point, for argument’s sake, that the conflagration was accidental.  It remains nonetheless undeniable that the “religion of peace” continues to make huge, heavy strides through Western Christendom.  One must observe, in fairness, that Islam does not condone abortion: it certainly has the diseased relics of “Christendom” beat on that and a few other fronts.  Similarly, one should not attribute directly to Koranic teaching the hideous practice of Female Genital Mutilation, which is morally superior to the Aztec manner of female-body-part excision—but only just.  Yet neither are Islamic leaders outspoken in their condemnation of the ritual sadism to which young girls in their faith are often submitted. In that regard, their “tolerance” has a disturbingly Western/postmodern odor. I read yesterday that nineteen states—approximately two-fifths of our union—permit these degraded, barbaric operations to proceed unmolested by the law.  That’s pretty typical of the Christian caricature which we have become.  Christ didn’t “judge”; therefore, we mustn’t “judge”, either.  Slice away.  God bless you… and how long will racist members of Congress oppose funding FGM through Medicare?  How dare they?  If they were really Christian…

I think I prefer my Yahoo excrement straight in the face rather than kneaded into my bread. To be impassive to atrocity is to be “tolerant”; to be indifferent to the outrage of fundamental decency is to be “Christian”. Nowadays, every word of the English language is apt to have a value diametrically opposed to its original intent.  One can no longer utter the simplest sentence without its leaving the taste of the latrine in one’s mouth.  Our words have been stolen from us, or in some cases (the worst cases) returned after mutilations as nightmarish as the mad scientist’s who grafts wings onto a rabbit.  To write nada or loco is cultural appropriation if your skin isn’t the right color.  (I’ve never been able to determine just what that color is: even the original Spaniards were part Moorish in many cases—and it turns out that Portugal is home to a particularly high concentration of Neanderthal DNA!)  To employ a “gendered” pronoun is to risk professional termination, fines, and perhaps incarceration not just in our ally nations, but in our own topsy-turvy academic world.  To protest against the idiocy of it all is to manifest the deplorable “white privilege”, suspicion of which crime precludes any effort at defense and carries a minimum mandatory sentence of social ostracism for a day.  “The baby beats the nurse, and quite athwart goes all decorum,” as a white-privileged patriarch once opined.  Did that bard, prophetically, diagnose our abortion culture, perhaps?  Too many babies… the twenty- and thirty-somethings are unwilling to surrender their diapers to new arrivals that might compete for attention.

In the midst of such lunacy, Hope appears to have retreated to the Moon, left vacant by the descent of our dominant ideologies.  What does the dawn of this day in 2019 promise, other than a deeper plunge into disgrace and inhumanity?

I will attempt just a very brief answer.  As I age, I grow more aware that virtually all of our spiritual confusion arises from an intellectual (or pseudo-intellectual) confidence that we understand time.  Specifically, time in all of our constructs is linear: a “timeline”.  The times are suffocatingly depressing because, for those of us with sufficient memory, they so clearly describe a nosedive into arrogance, petulance, self-absorption, self-indulgence, absurdity, and outright stupidity.  The “Darwinian staircase” scaling upward on the shoulders of Homo Erectus, Cro-Magnon, and Homo Sapiens has now reversed its motion as precipitously as an amusement-park slide.

Yet why do we suppose that the image of time forced upon us by our human understanding is ultimately valid?  We should know, thanks to the operation of our same faculties, that we are incapable of fathoming the utter truth of things.  We are compelled by “logic” to believe both in a First Cause and in the dependency of every cause upon a previous cause as its effect.  We are compelled, likewise, to believe that every event contains causative events within it and also that no event could possibly happen if there were not an atomic, irreducible, “buck stops here” micro-event at the bottom of it all.  (Twentieth-century science latched on to the speed of light in order to keep the system from collapsing upon itself—but “C” is a mere conceptual convenience whose truth is under serious question in current physics.)

What, then, if all of our timelines are indeed illusions?  What if “then” is also “now”?  Frankly, I feel crucifixion happening all around me every day.  Why not resurrection, as well?  For the ascent from death is as inescapable as the terrestrial impact of a falling apple—or as the germination of the fallen apple’s seeds: they are all held together by an inviolable metaphysical force in a single expanding time.  Our linear timelines are constantly bombarded from right angles by the pressing reality of this superior, immutable time.  Our “progress” is constantly being knocked off course by inklings that our imagined destination is illusory—that we are “here and now” in an ultimate truth whose focal gravity our silly designs vainly struggle to resist.  What good is a promotion if we buy it with lies and betrayals?  What good is a glistening new palace erected with dollars extorted from the meager savings of our dupes?  We fight and fight against the winds blowing contrary to our “advance”, the wind that bloweth we know not whence.  We detest that interference.  We curse it.  Yet it draws us and draws us back to the simplicity of the child—the dwelling in the “here and now” which we abandoned when we decided to “make something of ourselves”.

Do not, please, misread my remarks in the light of a recent piece I dedicated to “the power of now”.  “Now” is not a renunciation of past and future: it is a reclaiming of the past and future as properly belonging to the Real, the Right, the Good.  As we fight to postpone the reign of goodness over our daily compromises and calculations, we fight ineffectually, futilely.  We may resist rebirth into the light of the true day; but to do so, we shall have to suffocate our soul, willfully and persistently, after it is already drawing breaths on its own.  Souls don’t die in the womb.  Only suicide kills them.

Why I No Longer Support Capital Punishment

Netflix has decided that any documentary about psychopaths and serial killers must be a 98% match with my interests.  Thanks, algorithm.  All I want is something to run in the background while I do my daily workout… and now you’ve got me so depressed that I’m back to running 30-year-old video cassettes.  On the other hand, I suppose I profited from learning something about Ted Bundy.  (I originally thought I was opening a serial about the Unibomber—got my Teds confused.)  The sea change that my attitude about capital punishment endured wasn’t anything I’d remotely anticipated, but I’m no doubt the better for it.

My reaction to the serial’s first segment was one of irritation.  These dramatic profilings… “a misfit in school… wasn’t popular… kept to himself, a loner… classmates described him as peculiar….”  Well, that might as well have been me.  I’d better start digging up my back yard—maybe I’m such a psycho that I have a split personality and don’t even realize what carnage I have wreaked over the past half-century.

(Seriously, the yearbook chronicling my final dose of high school has a random photo of me sitting directly behind a young girl and peering forward under my then-heavy brows.  The caption reads, “John Harris contemplates violence.”  I tossed that book and all of its brethren in a dumpster within a few days of reading the caption, which I know was intended humorously and so taken by everyone but me.  After a seven-year diet of such humor, though… and, no, the remarks of all those years were not humorously intended.)

Also not appreciated: the harping on Bundy’s early activism in the Richard Nixon campaign.  You’d have thought that Woodstock was healthy America going about its anodyne business and that Charles Manson, meanwhile, was rooting for Tricky Dick from solitary confinement.  Oh, yes: Nixon, I’m sure, is the key to understanding Ted Bundy!

But to cut to the chase… by the end, I was particularly disgusted to learn that Bundy had brutalized and murdered a twelve-year-old child.  That final atrocity put the hellish gilding on his monstrous psychological deformity.  You can see the contradiction, though, can’t you?  No man was ever more convincingly, inhumanly insane—and we don’t punish a human being who freakishly acquires the soul of a shark.  We lock him up tight for life, but we don’t handle him as though he truly understands what he has done. If ever a man were incapable of distinguishing between right and wrong… in fact, from my psychologist’s armchair, I would hazard the guess that Bundy genuinely believed himself innocent of the crimes. I imagine him so schizoid in his identity that he could not recognize the ravening beast (some of his victims actually bore deep bite-marks) as the suave, smiling grad student in the mirror.

Yet this dangerous lunatic was not only condemned to the electric chair; he was permitted by a clueless judge to defend himself in court.  No doubt, we should be grateful that the client had such an arrogant, unfocused attorney in this case, because the evidence was circumstantial: a competent defender might well have put Ted back on the streets.    Our judicial system, one must conclude, reached the right verdict for the wrong reasons, proving to me yet again—and my recent work has buried me in painful examples—that justice in America is a crap shoot.

If the guilty verdict was the correct one, however, the sentence essentially executed our mutant shark for being hard-wired to attack where he smelled blood.  Yet my newly acquired reservations to the death penalty aren’t primarily a matter of concern over undiagnosed insanity.  I have two observations at this point.  One is that, were I the father of that twelve-year-old girl, my daughter would not have been restored to me by seeing Bundy fry.  Her restless spirit would not have been somehow placated, as if the old videos of opening presents under the Christmas tree were now easier to watch because the animal’s brain had sizzled beneath a lightning strike.  No, I think my girl’s ghost would have been better satisfied to know that this one-in-a-million blunder of personality were being preserved under glass for further study, perhaps thereby reducing the possibility that another girl would have her vital thread cut by such a freak.

Somewhere at the bottom of the shrunken pit that had once contained Bundy’s soul, as well, lingered a spiritual ember.  I believe that, based on the testimony of the FBI agent who passed much of Ted’s final night with him.  To have that ember fanned until it warmed again into something human, and to know that the creature who savaged my and thirty-some-odd other daughters of grieving fathers would spend the next fifty years grieving with them—with us… that would have offered a far more pleasing sacrifice to my girl’s spirit than the scent of scorched flesh.

For Bundy, and the all too many of his ilk among us, is something like us.  He is not us… but he is not completely not us.  He is not the anti-human.  The seed of his depravity travels through human societies on a breeze that strokes all of us.  We deny this at our utmost peril.  We cannot exile that evil inspiration from the darkest reaches of our hearts by seizing upon someone in whom the seed has germinated and boiling him in oil.  The loathing we display in annihilating the darkly flowered plant is too emphatic in its obvious wish to nullify the species.  We run the risk of not recognizing that baleful sprout if it should happen to nudge up through the detritus of our own lives.

I’m not going to decry, from here on out, the proponents of capital punishment as worse animals than those whose lives they would terminate.  I am not going to mark out a morally superior high ground for myself.  I’ve occupied the other side of the line for most of my life, after all.  But I’ll finish with this.  If the spate of recent revelations about predatory males has revealed anything to us, it’s that the strange, quiet boys with dark eyes haven’t necessarily matured to be the men whom women should most avoid.  The fair charmer, confident and cajoling, may just be the last fellow whose sports car you’d want your daughter to enter at two in the morning.

To extirpate the poisonous plant entirely, you would have to vaporize the human race.

The Power of Always: Feeling Fine vs. Serving God

I stopped reading Eckhart Tolle’s Power of Now before quite reaching the halfway mark.  I wanted very much to see what had electrified my son about this bestselling book that seems to have enthralled the elder brethren of his generation (it was first published two years after he was born, in 1997)… and, okay, most of what I thought I knew about that generation stands confirmed.  Its members are traumatized by crass materialism, deadend carnality, and much social and economic pressure to dive into the oily soup of career-chase.  They crave a truce, a few moments of peace: a bike ride in the park, a joint… a slug of pop-Buddhism.

I admit that the introduction Mr. Tolle appends to my edition did not prejudice me in his favor.  His obvious delight at being selected for Oprah’s book club gave me a pain—and not just because his liberating higher consciousness should be impervious to such delights.  Oprah is just another of our culture’s tiresome frauds, as her recent efforts at race-baiting on behalf of Stacey Abrams prove.  This man is not in good company.

More significantly, the theme of “we must save the world from imminent self-destruction—children should be taught my lessons in grade school,” also appears as early as the intro, if memory serves.  Now, I at once acknowledge that Tolle later condemns progressive utopianism for the ravages wrought by Stalin and Mao.  He’s not the fool for whom I had originally mistaken him (the fool, for instance, that we have in Oprah).  Licking one’s chops in anticipation of Never Never Land’s Golden Omelet merely elicits millions and millions of ruthlessly broken eggshells.  So glad you saw that, Mr. Tolle.

Nevertheless, as a fellow anti-utopian, I do not delude myself that the world may be massively redeemed through re-education.  Any guru worth his salt should know that enlightenment comes one soul at a time, and often one small ray at a time as spiritual sunrise chases away darkness over a period of years.  You can’t teach vast numbers of people to “think right” in a single programmatic undertaking—and you certainly can’t awaken these people while they’re still learning the fine points of toilet training.  This vein of messianism clouds the book repeatedly.  In someone who would appear to oppose the collectivist and the totalitarian, it looks as odd as a snake with wings.

And the Snake, you know, lies at the heart of the contradiction: original sin.  People don’t make others and themselves miserable through greed, envy, lust, scorn, and pride because their intellectual light burns too dim: they do so because of an essential attraction to wickedness insufficiently fought down.  The very surrender to the present which Tolle’s book recommends might readily be suborned to serve egotistical ends (an insight which, I’m very happy to report, my son accessed without help from me).  A person who refuses to be sucked into the rat race may have committed his life to higher things… or he may simply be displaying laziness, or even cowardice.  He may be taking a stand against vulgar, corrosive materialism… or he may be refusing to take a visible, vocal stand against immoral powers that deserve to be resisted.  The fox, with his clever capacity for rationalization, had no difficulty persuading himself that the grapes he couldn’t reach were sour.

Yet more than anything, the topos that became unendurable to me was the “no reality but now” claptrap.  To claim that the past has dissolved forever in vain memory and that the future is forever waiting to be born in its gilded haze is a truism worthy of a fortune cookie.  Is this really the face that sold a million books—a Charlie Chan’s mimicking Confucius with skeletally bare clichés?

From one perspective, the present is in fact the least real of our times.  “N” is already a memory before I finish pronouncing the “w” of “now”.  Nothing is ever truly present; time, a moving object, cannot be restricted to a single point.

From a more spiritual perspective, however—which should be the more appropriate one here—no act is banished from the present, though its date of arrival nestle far back in calendar time; nor is the future “not yet” to a person of vision and resolution, for he knows that he will stay the rightful course regardless of circumstance.  Linear time is indeed the great enemy of spirituality, perhaps the greatest of all.  As an athlete, my son knows that certain complex maneuvers cannot be performed if attention is awarded to each micro-motion: the whole sequence of connected movements, rather, must be thought of as one.  So for life.  The sense of things resides in an awareness that what you did before has meaning, and that what you will do must acquire meaning by conformity to a righteously chosen course.  This is the life of principle.  The course, naturally, may be adjusted.  Given the fallibility of us human beings, it must be so—constantly.  The adjustment is made on the basis of lessons learned from the past.  The principle, the transcendent goodness, rests eternally and immutably above our scrambles in a perpetual Now… but as an abstraction, it requires us to live in its moment by making an ongoing succession of twists and turns.

I consider God to be the source of that goodness, and my communications with it to be the operation of the spirit within me (or the Holy Spirit, if you prefer a translation into more orthodox terms).  I do not consider God or highest reality to be that “now” when I pause over my rake or shovel and study a flight of birds returning north for the spring.  Such an instant of spiritual “exhalation” (as in release from particular, very finite concerns) can undoubtedly be uplifting.  The intellectual orientation required for tapping into the inspiration of goodness must certainly include recognizing the puniness of specific endeavors.  (This can often be identical to a sense of humor.)  Living in the spirit does not end with releasing the strains that daily challenges place on our psyche, however.  A man might achieve such release after refusing to stand up and protest on behalf of his falsely accused neighbor.  In that case, he would not have liberated his spirit from worldly concerns, but enslaved it to worldly anxiety with the narcotic of self-hypnosis.

I applaud Mr. Tolle insofar as he has lured some hundreds or thousands of young people from a despair common in our post-believing society.  I should prefer, though, to see them exposed to a belief that valorizes their individual soul and gives direction to each new day rather than sedating them into an omphaloskeptic coma.  That the messengers of a profounder faith have generally not put their good news before this generation is, of course, hardly Eckhart Tolle’s fault.