An Armed Citizenry or a Totalitarian State: No Third Option

One reason for the Second Amendment remains constantly (and deliberately) unmentioned—but it should be brought fully into the open.

Citizens have the right to bear arms because an armed citizenry is far less likely to be overrun by a national police force (such as Barack Obama yearned after in his vocalized daydreams) or a military machine turned against its own populace.

Ironically, the leftwing mistrust and detestation of “racist, trigger-happy” cops recedes beyond the vanishing point when the issue of gun control arises.  So, too, the Left’s formulaic nightmare (realized only in Hollywood’s infinite reenactments) of a military coup led by bullet-headed fascists: it’s a nightmare only if the uniforms adorn the cause of nationalist traditionalism.  Let them be worn, instead, by progressive totalitarians, and a dictatorship or police state suddenly becomes the first stage of Nirvana.

The contemporary Left, you see, stands for anything but liberalism.  Its adherents salivate at the prospect of suspending individual liberties permanently so that “experts” and “the enlightened” may have exclusive say in how the ship of state is navigated.  Gun confiscation stirs the left wing so passionately today precisely because progressives know that forcible takeover and subjugation of the entire nation will be all but impossible until we are disarmed.

The Left’s much-advertised concern for children is pure crap—and I treat it here with the contempt it deserves.  Numerous common-sense and immediately feasible strategies for defending our schools have already been advanced.  Imbeciles like the English teacher who quipped, “I wouldn’t expect a security guard to walk in and teach Shakespeare, so I shouldn’t be expected to carry a gun,” are perhaps sincere in their complete misconstruction of the issues (nobody is proposing that all teachers—or any teacher—be required to bear arms); but the ideological puppeteers behind these wooden-witted Pinocchios know exactly what the endgame is.  Once the United States is reduced to Mexico (a hell of political corruption being fled by its terrorized citizens), then the next Barack Obama can steer the state wherever he likes.

I own no assault rifle and have no plans to buy one.  I don’t see myself, at my age, mowing down stormtroopers from my bunker with a fifty-caliber machine gun.  But I’ll admit that I am pleased to have such types sown about the neighborhood secretively, just as I’m glad to know that some teachers are packing on my campus, though I personally am not.

Frankly (since I am being very frank today), I incline to believe that securing our individual freedom is already largely a lost cause.  I have written many times before of the “Phoenix Lights”: a UFO incident in 1997 for which I have personal confirmation, which was viewed by thousands, and which was “camcorded” by dozens.  It has nagged at me for years.  If only it were an air show staged by extra-terrestrials… but I draw ever closer to the conclusion that our own “black ops” were testing us in some way.  The extreme carelessness of unleashing so many craft to execute “impossible” maneuvers over a major city has always particularly bothered me as nonsensical… unless, of course, the whole display was fully intentional.  Why would ET come out of the woodwork suddenly after staying so well hidden as to render himself an urban legend?  But why would our military make the same gaffe?  I don’t know… to see how we would react, maybe?  To see just how panicky people would become, how quickly the panic could be managed, how cooperative the media would be in deriding and then dropping the story, how soon eye-witnesses would shrug and drift back into their daily routine?  If such was the purpose of the “blunder”, then it must have yielded answers that mightily pleased its designers.  Verdict: the American public could be overrun by force majeure in discrete locations without breaking into full-scale riots, and the media machine would ensure that the rest of the nation drifted back to sleep within days, if not hours.

If anti-gravity technology coupled with speeds of Mach 20 or 30 already exists on off-the-grid airbases, then whether you or I have an AR 15 doesn’t make a whole helluva lot of difference to staving off the imminent police state.  I guess the only remaining question of any consequence is whether the uniforms on that airbase belong to nationalist or progressivist totalitarians… and I’m not at all sure that the answer would, in fact, be consequential.

But it would be something—a last hurrah, if not a last hope—if our spoiled-brat children and useful-idiot educators and policy-makers could at least see the noose being knotted for their necks… or could, at the very least, abstain from volunteering to slip it over their heads.


The Next Generation Is NOT Our Salvation

We’re in trouble… or maybe the die is already cast, in which case we’re beyond trouble and deep in the garbage dump.

Our young people, as was borne in upon me this past week, gather virtually all of their news from… not CNN, not Yahoo’s sidebars, not Facebook, but… Twitter.  Yeah.  Virtually everything they know about the world comes to them in bursts that cannot exceed 240 characters.

Either that, or they tune in to unfunny puppet shows staged by the Kimmel buffoon and whoever succeeded what’s-his-name’s mock newscast.  (Sorry… but I’ve never watched any such fare and don’t care enough about its purveyors to track down their handles.)  After all these years of hearing that the professoriate was responsible for radicalizing and lobotomizing our youth, I now realize (and I had long suspected as much) that it really ain’t so: students are too absorbed in their “smartphones” to be programmed by any professorial bloviation.  It is through the incoherent flickers of those devices, precisely, that they see and “learn” everything.

I had dismissed several classes of freshmen (or “beginning undergraduates”) for one class meeting so that they could go research a project, though I showed up at the usual place and time myself just in case some few should wish to discuss any issue informally.  Much to my satisfaction, two of my most thoughtful students were waiting in an otherwise empty room during two of these periods.  So I had two stimulating private conversations… whose lasting impression on me, nevertheless, was quite depressing.  Here is some of what I “learned”:

That all CEO’s everywhere have simply pocketed Trump’s tax breaks for businesses in the form of salary increases;

That private industry operates only to maximize short-term profit, whereas the public sector is staffed by people who are dedicated to helping humanity;

That the rightwing fear of gun legislation’s proving a slippery slope toward universal confiscation is mere paranoia, whereas the progression from gay marriage to man-boy and three-party marriages now evident in Germany can simply not be happening (though I’m the one who actually reads German, my sources must be wrong);

That the NRA is massively underwriting political resistance to new gun bans, whereas the talk of George Soros’s underwriting the race riots in Jefferson (for instance) is an utter canard;

That the NRA donated three million dollars to Marco Rubio last year (the leftist Guardian puts the figure at $4,950);

That the Second Amendment was intended only to put meat on the table back in frontier days;

That shooting a spray of bullets into a crowd is essentially the source of all our mass-murder incidents, and that well-aimed single shots are not a concern;

That, contradictorily, Britain’s ban of handguns has eliminated school shootings and should be emulated;

That Britain had a rash of such shootings before the ban;

That the machete attacks in Xinjiang province a few days ago which killed at least thirty and wounded over 130… wait a minute… say what?

I could go on.  These, I repeat, were two exceptionally intelligent young men.  You see what’s happened: not that some evil conspiracy has filled young skulls with mush, but that the accidental result of our massive shift to e-communication has bred a generation that hasn’t the patience to double-check dubious assertions and shows an insatiable appetite for prepackaged info-morsels, especially when these latter are soaked in a worldly cynicism sure to make their regurgitation sound “mature”.

For some reason which I’m at a loss to understand, my Facebook page has lately been bombarded with “friend requests” by Nigerians, Arabs, and residents south of our national border.  Am I becoming big in the Third World, I asked myself (skeptically but hopefully)?  Well, if Americans don’t want to listen to me, I’m only too happy to preach elsewhere.  Then this morning the truth (or part of it, at least) came crashing down on me.  Most of my requests come from young people—and most of these are trying to hook up with someone.  No, they’re not interested in my columns; they’re doing what my students do during class—looking for love and adventure.  And in that, too, they are utterly clueless.

My friends, I leave you with this cold gust of grim reality.  Any course we attempt to chart into the future must assume that the youngest generation of voters is held thrall by utter claptrap (e.g., the young libertarian enthusiasm for socialist Bernie Sanders).  If we save them, it will have to be done in spite of their best efforts to destroy us all.  We’ll have to hide the lifeboats somewhere… obviously, not on the Internet.

Orwell Has Arrived

A German woman of a certain age named Mona Maja published an impassioned plea on YouTube last week for her fellow citizens to join her in a peaceful demonstration.  The emotion in her voice was driving words out at a rate I couldn’t quite keep up with—and my German is none too perfect, anyway.  On top of that, she was filming in a suburban back yard, apparently, that admitted frequent streams of background noise.  Yet this much I can assert: there was no incitement to violence whatever in her speech (unless anxiety over the high probability of being spat on, raped, or knifed on the city sidewalk is incitement in the form of a call to self-defense).

Nevertheless, YouTube removed the video after it had attracted about 150,000 views on the grounds that it was “hate speech”.  (The video was republished on Facebook, where it has topped half a million views: we’ll see how long it is allowed to run there.) If your daughter is murdered by a Turkish “refugee” and you organize a march to protest the passivity of the police, then you are a hate-monger and rioter in today’s Western world.  That’s the Orwellian society that is threatening to overtake us on this side of the pond, as well.

Netflix has lately been trying to force down my throat a documentary blaring the praises of feminist ambulance-chaser and courtroom stormtrooper Gloria Allred.  Also salient on the docket of recommended choices are opinion-flicks featuring Michael Moore and Robert Reich about how to repair the capitalist system they so love (hint: it begins with outlawing the profit motive).  Something called Dirty Money keeps trying to run a trailer every time I log on; the series tag promises to reveal how corporations are laundering money for drug cartels and otherwise outbidding Satan for the rule of Hell.

That’s all fine and dandy… but I’m still awaiting the exposé about how Eric Holder’s DOJ covertly ran guns to said cartels in order to get so many innocents slaughtered that the public would cry out for the Second Amendment’s repeal.  (The gambit was partially successful; a dozen kids were murdered with the guns at a birthday party in Juarez, for instance.)  My eagle-eye is still cocked, as well, for the bold new docu-drama that will follow a progressive-utopian Secretary of State as she abandons her personnel to an overseas mob and later sells massive amounts of uranium to a nation whose leadership once vowed to bury us.

Still on the lookout, too, for the first of Dinesh D’Souza’s many documentaries to make the Netflix roll call.  Still waiting for ANY of them to appear.  D’Souza, you may recall, did hard time over an unwitting violation of an obscure law governing political contributions for whose infraction only minor fines had been levied before. Courtesy of that forementioned lion of justice, Eric Holder.

Last month we were told to lament and deplore the repeal of Obama-era codes claiming to enforce “Net neutrality”.  Let’s see: YouTube is closed to any non-progressive point of view, individualist appeal, or inconvenient news flash: Netflix… closed; mainstream television… closed; Facebook and Twitter… as apt to close suddenly as the Symplegades.  But the Internet remains dangerously reflective of actual public opinion.  It’s lopsided.  Views that garner about 15-20 percent approval on a good day do not receive a “fair”, half-and-half manner of exposure.  Yeah, we really need to fix that—to “netfix” it.  And anyone who says otherwise should be indicted for hate crimes and sent away for a couple of years to rethink his position.

Welcome to what we called, in my youth, the Free World.


Reason Not the Need: In Praise of Vagueness

One more time, I’m going to cheat a little by pasting into this space part of an intro I wrote over the weekend for a section of my collected poems.  The introductions are getting almost as long as the stuff they’re supposed to explain!

That my introduction to this final section is proving far and away the most difficult to write may, to a cynic, indict the essential fraud of all history: the more distant a sequence of events becomes, the tidier its description grows. An alternative explanation may be that, since this period ends only because it cannot extend beyond the present moment, it has the most artificial and arbitrary of endings—not a true terminus imposed by real change; and yet another perspective might be that I’m becoming more confused as I get older.

For my money, the last explanation is the most valid. I seem to have lived much of my life in reverse, so a curious failure to find the tranquility of acquired wisdom in my silver years fits the puzzle perfectly. If I was more gloomy as a young man, I also dwelt deeper in the isolation of a very concentrated and (I will admit now) comforting gloom. Now that I have found ways to push back against the world somewhat, I feel less exiled and nullified—but I also see the challenges to civilized life growing much more complex (largely because we who face them appear to be growing more simple-minded). I am less disposed now, as well, to withdraw into that old self-imposed exile and more inclined to get impatient or disgusted. I expect to see more effort made—effort to understand, to reevaluate, to prepare for necessary action, to act at the ripe moment—since I myself was able to grind a not-so-bad life out of very unpromising circumstances; yet what I observe, instead, is an escalating flight to “plug-in drugs” and “virtual reality” as well as to the more conventional hallucinogens and “artificial paradises” (in Baudelaire’s phrase) so popular in my youth.

I have a good head-start on being an angry old man. I am not a Luddite; yet I am deeply distressed, not so much that young people don’t know what a Luddite is (I didn’t, either, at their age)—but that they don’t care to find out, will recur to some handheld “device” if forced to find out, and will have forgotten what they found out five minutes later. Hell, the device is still there! “Why don’t you get your own, if you have a question, and leave me alone?”

The profits that the private sector harvests from such high-tech addiction have finally and fully merged with the manipulative designs of the public sector upon e-voters of the future, their I-Brains and I-Tastes determined by the paternalistically “helpful” software of I-nfo and E-ntertainment. Nobody seems to care; everybody seems to be happy. Corporations have more money, politicians have more power, and citizen voter-drones have more leisurely escapism (all the way to the slaughterhouse). I’m sounding now like some Sixties radical—the type whose self-serving antinomian protests I deplored as a young man and even referenced in some of my first poems. Have I again clumsily shifted gears into reverse: am I becoming more “liberal” in my old age, contrary to the cliché? Or has the true basis of liberalitas—the insistence on individual liberty—that was caricatured in Sixties hedonism become the critical issue of our onward-and-upward, “accept digital centralization or die” version of progress?

Within such anguish, George Shirley was born. Under this pseudonym, I composed many of my final poems for Praesidium. The name was drawn from the South Carolinian branch of our family tree. I imagined in George a polite but mildly jaundice-eyed country gentleman who, as a matter of strict principle, hated to offend—but who found a broader body of reverend principles impelling him to mount a resistance against the annihilation of liberal (read “freely speaking and thinking”) society. The lover of the soil and the gentle things she produced had a tincture of the rebel in him, and he wasn’t above sneaking the mare from his weathered barn for a night raid on the depot. As my poetically encrypted attacks under this guise grew more and more narrowly indexed to political trends, in fact, I became more and more puzzled and uneasy. One late edition of the journal quasi-apologized, “If George Shirley’s poetry continues to become more political, it can only be because politics continues to intrude upon our private lives.”

I’m not sure that the prominent appearance of natural images in the midst of so much diatribe is an accident or an oddity. I have always felt a vital need of nature, just as I need oxygen and water. Yet for George (and for me through George), nature isn’t identical with oxygen and water: one doesn’t protest the escalating mechanization of the times, that is, because one’s all-important health may stand in jeopardy. The motive there is not negligible… but the real benefit of nature to life that doesn’t perish (i.e., that doesn’t need oxygen and water) is its purposelessness. The woodpecker I hear outside my window just now could drop dead this instant without disrupting the smooth operation of the cosmos. In that regard, he is like art—like my poetry, I hope: he is marginal, an outlier. As we strive ever more vigorously and effectively to make everything around us contribute to an identified goal or objective (and in what other endeavor do we show any vigor and efficiency at all?), we draw ever closer to fusion with robots. Many of us consciously hail this impending union as Nirvana rather than a marriage made in Hell: that’s how dumb we’ve already become. A few of us “cling to green” (since we’ve destroyed the open-endedness of art, reducing it to an evolutionary history of the oppressed) because something in us persists in crying out for an exit, a window on airy infinity… but our political handlers are quick to exploit that longing. We must vote for them, they warn, if the moon isn’t to fall; and we must contribute more of our squalid salary to their newly formed, state-of-the-art Bureau of Lunar Salvation.

My cousin George fully comprehends what crap this all is. Hence the more he turns his wry smile upon our “saviors”, the more he turns away from any hope offered by this world and heeds the woodpecker. And the woodpecker’s message? I think it’s this: “Live not in life but through life. Seek in everything that you are at the moment—in every circumstance that defines your current parameters—a voice transcending specific need or use. Always seek in what you see more than what’s visible just now.”


The Electronic Thumbs-Down Operates With a Lightning Trigger-Finger

I was shocked to receive notice last week that a book I have self-published through Amazon, Hitting Secrets From Baseball’s Graveyard, has been nominated for the 2018 Larry Ritter Award.  I hardly see how anyone can even have heard of the book, since it wasn’t distributed through a major publisher.  Maybe somebody at the Society for American Baseball Research simply Googled the word “deadball” (since the award goes to the year’s best book about the early twentieth century’s so-called Deadball Era) and came up with a short list.  It would have to be short.  Almost nobody cares about the subject!

Nevertheless, I was riding pretty high for a while… for about six hours, to be exact.  Then I logged onto Amazon to order the volumes that the judges would require—and I found that the first online review had been posted.  A meager two stars.  I had to read the review at that point, even though I scrupulously avoid all reviews when I can.  This one had fallen directly across my path, and I couldn’t suppress a craving to know what had rubbed its author the wrong way.

I still don’t know, honestly.  The post claimed that my title and press release were completely misleading—that the book was only about me and my son, and that it presented us both as brilliant baseball material that should have ended up in the Hall of Fame.  In short, my book was just an exercise in incredibly self-indulgent egotism. Not a word did this caustic critic spare to Ty Cobb, Tris Speaker, Eddie Collins, Honus Wagner, Napoleon Lajoie, Sam Crawford, Fred Clarke, Babe Ruth… to any of at least two dozen figures who were analyzed quite minutely in my hundred thousand words.  The thumbnail thumbs-down could only be referenced to three or four chapters in the short introductory section; and even there, I found it almost incoherent.

The first chapters had explained that the inevitable guinea pig in my method was myself, since I could ask no young person successfully playing the game right now to throw all his conditioning out the window and experiment with radically different techniques; and I’d added that a balsa wood plane in a wind tunnel can assist the designing of a Space Shuttle, lest anyone imagine that I considered myself more than a scrap of kindling.  This initial testing on tiny prototypes is standard engineering procedure (unless you’re a Soviet rocket scientist, in which case you just build the whole thing to scale from scratch and see how many bodies rain to earth).

As for my son, he was mentioned only in the context of my arguing how severely hampered young people are by a coaching system that refuses to acknowledge the past and arrogantly assumes (along with the rest of our society) that latest is best.  I was especially irritated that he was tossed onto the target range.  The imputation of egotism to me might have been a simple misreading (I did, after all, refer to “my brilliant career”—a phrase whose irony was cliché in my day, but surely lost to kids who are mystified by the reference in “the emperor’s new clothes”).  To garble the part of the presentation where my son figured, however, began to look like willful distortion to me.  And to think that this person, having skipped about 85% of the book, felt licensed to publish such things before prospective buyers!

Frankly, I don’t know how I got two stars from him.  The final line of his “review” almost seemed faintly penitent… which further leads me to believe that he had a personal axe to grind.

I have suspicions about this person’s identity—and I’m certainly not going to counter-attack, even though his “revenge” may cost me sales, because he may feel that I began the battle by challenging the way he and his buddies play the game.  If my suspicions are correct, I actually feel badly for him, because he’s not getting the deeper message: poor coaching probably cut him off from his potential at least as much as it did my son.

In any case, I’m very used to baseball insiders—and academic insiders, and really every kind of insider—treating honest, curious inquiry with contempt.  “You don’t know what’s going on here, idiot!  Go back to your side of the line.  You have no idea!”  (Professors send the same message in more syllables.)

The broader moral to this tale, it seems to me, has much to do with our electronic age of quick information and hair-trigger eagerness to voice an opinion.  I remember a parting of the ways with Alipac’s William Gheen in spring of 2016 because, in his expert opinion, Heidi Cruz’s having once worked for Goldman Sachs completely disqualified her husband Ted from seeking the presidential nomination.  Same magnification of a virtual irrelevancy; same ready imputation of sordid motives where there was no objective evidence; same cocksureness in the conclusion’s propriety.  Don’t slow down, don’t look deeper.  You know this one’s an egotist, that one’s a narcissist (two very popular words whose street definition simply equates with “jerk”).  You know because you’re worldly-wise, and nobody pulls any wool over YOUR eyes!  “I see what you’re doing there!  I see what you’re up to!  You’re just working your own angle, dude!”

Yes, twenty-first century Mass Man, you are far too bright for me!  Now, why don’t you move on to your next election, your next book, and leave me to stagger about in the dark looking for the audience of yesteryear?


How Does a True Conservative Stay Out of Holes?

If I have to read or listen to one more commentary about Trump’s coprologism for corrupt, impoverished Third World nations, I’m going to eject something malodorous from the other end of my digestive tract.

I’ll say this much, though, about the so-called conservative contempt for living close to nature: it isn’t conservative at all, and it has made my own alliance with the political Right very unstable at times.  Face it.  There’s a very vocal strain in “conservatism” that wants to burn energy and build highways the way any normal person would relish describing in front of a snowflake how he killed a squirrel.  (Squirrels eat baby birds, by the way, dearie: that’s why mockingbirds hate them.)  In other words, certain self-styled conservatives are reactive.  They say and do things because they know the other side will be ticked off.  Rush Limbaugh leaps to mind.  How many times has he discussed smoking his cigars, turning on all the lights in his mansion, and driving about in a gas-guzzler just for the joy of making his political adversaries change their diapers?

Now, I don’t know if the president made the specific comment attributed to him or not.  I know, however, that many who have sprung to his defense leave me feeling a little skittish with their implied judgment that life without cell phones and Netflix must be hell on earth.  The ancient Stoics viewed a man as free and true to his natural purpose to the extent that he could eliminate his ties to material needs and assert the superiority of his will.  I have always deeply admired that perspective.  To my mind, it comes very close to describing the essence of manliness (a word which literally translates the Latin virtus).  That’s one reason, by the way, why I have never found it very masculine for men to go chasing addictively after women: that is, if they can’t control themselves, then they deserve to be considered something more on the level of a dog pulled on an invisible leash behind any pooch in heat who wanders through the neighborhood.

Part of the independent life is being able to supply most or all of your needs for food, shelter, and defense.  There was a time when certain parts of what we call the Third World were very good at such self-sufficiency.  True, most of those places have since been transformed into hellholes; but they have been so courtesy of the USSR, the PRC, and—yes—sometimes the USA piping sophisticated weapons into the region and enabling (unintentionally or otherwise) tinpot dictators to subjugate their populace.  I am NOT willing to brand such spots the anal sphincters of the globe just because farmers have to use their hoes manually and don’t have iPhones in their pockets.

Any real conservative, on the contrary, would be very concerned about the inroads that frivolous high-tech is making into the lives of our children.  When a teenager plunges into deep depression and withdrawal syndrome just because he or she is deprived of Internet for a week, then we should not be proud of the new kind of dependency we have permitted to corrupt a once-independent citizenry, even if it “creates jobs”.  If said teenager were truly using the device to become better informed about the world, then a case might almost be made for the addiction… but remember where this ramble of mine started: in a news cycle that hasn’t for a week been able to let go of one badboy comment uttered in a supposedly private conference.  Meanwhile, China is sentencing a blogger to twenty years in prison and water has been incontrovertibly discovered on Mars—but who has time for that?

We don’t need more jobs: we need more nut-bearing trees, more hands that can turn sun and rain into potatoes, more minds that understand how to get an egg from the chicken to the table: that would be a conservative’s view.  But no, let’s all just keep piling into our own urban hellholes.  That’s the approach, by the way, which is drawing all the Third Worlders here—and the loss of traditional skills and social structures in their own homelands is what’s driving them to emigrate.


Depression: Part Two

Looking back on my youth, I realize that I frequently fought through bouts of what would now be designated depression.  There were times when I wanted my life to end; and there were one of two times when I wanted it very much not to end, but was almost terrified that I would be unable to keep myself from pulling the plug.  I never asked for anyone’s help at any such moment, partly due to pride, to shame… perhaps mostly that.  But I also think I was aware that any meaningful, durable solution would have to come from my own wrestling with the invisible tormentor.  No one could wage that battle for me.

Of course, we now know (italics of irony) that depression has no ratiocinative component: it’s just a hormonal imbalance. Silly me! Thinking never causes anything or resolves anything. We’re just bags of DNA and enzymes.

Not too long ago, I was treated to a round of contemptuous hoots from several coeds when I made an off-hand, jocular reference to suicide in class.  One would have thought that I had drawn an obscene cartoon about Muhammad on the wall of a mosque while worship was in progress.  Today’s young souls “in jeopardy”, from where I stand, are indeed rather wimpy in their approach to the subject.  Above all, I should say that they want to be noticed.  They want their issues of depression and suicide to be taken very, very, VERY seriously… because when they feel down, it’s a result of their being non-entities among their peer group—and the world’s appropriate response must be instantly and utterly to stop everything else and notice their crisis, thus remedying the potentially fatal attack of negligence.

I can’t help harboring a certain callousness here.  By the grace of God, I managed to crawl through Hell and back when I was the same age as these drama queens, and my isolation was several exponents more intense than theirs.  No one cried for me, and I sought no one’s tears.  In fact, being noticed in such a state would have disgusted me—with myself most of all, but perhaps a little with the Good Samaritan who offered consolation.  I’m not saying that my sentiments were healthy ones; I’m saying that I cannot recognize the youth that I was then in the young people I see today.

Something else I might note along the same lines: my distress was fundamentally rooted in the collapse of every traditional value—courage, honor, honesty, self-sacrifice, humility—that I observed proceeding apace all around me.  Romantic love and torrid sexual adventures were indistinguishable; attention to personal grooming lest one inflict discomfort on one’s neighbors was considered a sell-out to bourgeois hypocrisy; plangent insistence that one’s selfish needs be served did not seem to stir any accompanying sense of shame.  I could see no open path to being a young man of honor and principle in the era of Woodstock, reefers, and shack-ups.

In contrast, I see today’s vulnerable youth as hitting rock-bottom when they fail to catch onto the coattails of some bypassing trend.  For a while, having too few friends on Facebook—or getting lit up by one of them in a posted comment—was clear grounds for hara kiri.  Maybe it still is… but my hunch is that the angst has largely shifted to “social media” venues like Instagram about which I know nothing.  The problem now isn’t that there are no more Mohicans and the ways of a past you worshiped are all desecrated; it’s that you can’t acquire enough feathers in time to join the latest tribe.

Suicide is suicide: no wanton waste of a life is ever trivial.  But at least the battle I fought was one to exist as an honest, adult human in an evolving world of counterfeit, vulgarity, and even bestiality.  I don’t see these distressed kids around me as being in the least concerned about claiming an identity in God as the toxic swill of the world soils their shoes: they simply seem to want to be Bubble Number 89 in the malodorous froth.

And, yeah, that gets me depressed, to this very day and hour.  If you can’t even have the dignity and sense to feel blue about something worth worrying about, then you’re not evidence of a social trajectory that would inspire optimism in a thoughtful person.