Two Suggestions for a Better World (Don’t Hold Your Breath)

First, the NFL. (I hate football, by the way, and have never been a consumer of the NFL’s product.) Certain conscientious players will don black armbands prior to the raising of the flag. The anthem completed, they will remove the signs of mourning and go on about their business. When a svelte female sticks a microphone in their face after the game (funny how women seem so eager to assert their presence in the most brutal of all our sports), they will explain that they wish to honor their nation–but also to grieve publicly the loss of well over a million defenseless babies annually to abortion. (“They are fetuses,” snarks Answers.com if you use the “b” word.)

Then let’s see how the NFL reacts. Care to place a bet?

Now for health care. The abortionist’s comeback is always, “Well, you don’t care what happens to the fetus after it becomes a child…” which is correct, in a way–because it’s Mom and Dad who are supposed to care about the “fetus” both before and after it “becomes a child”, and too often neither cares at either time. Implicit in the comeback, you see, is the assumption that Mom will give her new baby one hell of a life. She already has six or eight other babies, and she hasn’t bothered to care for any of them. (Needless to say, Dad–or the dads–is/are nowhere in sight.) We, on the other hand, are supposed to care–meaning that we’re expected to keep ponying up tax dollars to buy every new child food, clothing, health care, and education. Mom doesn’t even trouble herself to look for a job: her job is to have babies and collect monthly checks for them. If one of the dads should decide to marry Mom, and if he should have a job other than sharing in the baby-bonanza, he chooses to keep the kids on Medicaid rather than buy into the group policy offered at work. So we continue paying…

If my wife and I had been able to keep more of our own money over the years, we could have adopted one or more children. We wanted to… but the process is costly and lengthy. Women are either aborting their unwanted babies (excuse me: fetuses) or else consigning them to Grandma and collecting Uncle Sam’s check. So… yeah, maybe some of us begin not to care much for this situation.

Here’s my suggestion: how about a box on the income tax return that you could check and then designate X dollars for the health care of babies born to parents illegally resident in the US, legally resident but unmarried and unwilling to practice birth control, or married and gainfully employed but unwilling to take the insurance offered at work? If “caring” in such circumstances appeals to you, then you can donate however many thousands you wish. Nancy Pellosi could easily manage six figures a year out of the millions she has garnered from marginally legal but patently unethical insider trading.

As I say… don’t hold your breath.

Finally, a stray thought: why is it that evidence of brilliance in our far-distant ancestors can only be explained by hypothesizing visits from extraterrestrials, yet the current generation is styled the most brilliant ever because its young use smartphones–the assumption being that all of them could assemble the circuitry or write the code for the software? Can any of them even average his grades without using the Math Ap or logging onto Blackboard? But, hey… we don’t build campfires, and we have nice teeth!

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Columbus and Hitler: Nothing in Common

I have read bloggers and editorialists complaining for years about our children being taught that the New World was an Eden invaded by white racist males… and I always took it with a grain of salt.  Maybe that happens in the schools of Chicago and Oakland and Seattle—surely not here in my back yard!

I was wrong.  My eighteen-year-old freshmen are fully persuaded that Columbus was a slaver and genocidist who anticipated Adolf Hitler.  I wonder if I might dare to point out a few disparities off the cuff?

Columbus didn’t play the demagogue, stirring the masses up against a defenseless minority in their midst.  He traveled a very long way at great personal risk and blundered into a situation whose parameters he was wholly incapable of measuring beforehand (or even, for the most part, after the fact).

Hitler vigorously encouraged the development of advanced weapons possessing unheard-of lethality, such as the V1 and V2 rockets and the ME 262 jet fighter.  It is possible that his team of scientists even succeeded in producing a small thermonuclear blast experimentally before the success of the Manhattan Project.  Columbus was attempting to pioneer a lucrative trade route.  He hadn’t the slightest notion of bacteriological warfare, of course; and to hold him personally responsible for spreading smallpox and other diseases unknown to the New World is as preposterous as blaming the sun for skin cancer.

Hitler’s imperialism started at home and worked outward.  His aggressions were fully planned and systematic.  Columbus—and indeed, the later conquistadors (who admittedly were no choir boys)–scarcely knew what part of the planet they were on.  Their numbers were few, their technology not so very superior to bows and arrows, their situation entirely cut off from the restraining cultural forces of Europe, their diet uneven, their health fever-ridden, their morale inclined to the paranoia of castaways.  Many of them behaved badly, perhaps most of them; but they weren’t being wined, dined, and sycophantically placated like the German chancellor.

For the record, too, the Aztecs and the Maya practiced human sacrifice on a vast scale, some of it indescribably brutal.  Hitler’s victims hadn’t been piling up the hearts of young virgins, ripped from childish ribs as they were still beating, for hundreds of years.  Frankly, a “civilization” that tolerates such things, and even considers them holy acts, richly deserves to go defunct.

We always get history wrong, though we may make a much more sincere effort to understand than one sees in American public schools today.  We weren’t there: we can’t know exactly how it was.  What bothers me more about the attitude of my freshmen than their wealth of misinformation is the ease with which they self-righteously condescend to their elders and to the past.  Where is their “life experience”?  Why do they so readily sit in judgment upon centuries of human struggle?  Why do they offer so few traces of humility?  Who has made them this way?

Of course, the answer is “we who are their parents”.  These children haven’t been well raised. The true deficit in their education—far greater than a diet of “fake news” (from which we all suffer)—is the mature adult’s reluctance to pass snap judgments on complex situations.  They will judge us harshly, too, I suppose—these smartphone whiz kids; and we, at least, will deserve it.

But what will their own children say of them for buying up solar panels that left a clear trail of cancer villages behind in Third World nations?  How will their own children judge them for creating and bequeathing a world so electronically artificial that its inhabitants forgot basic manners and couldn’t forge ordinary friendships?  What will those of the next generation who aren’t aborted say about this one for ignoring an Aztec-level slaughter of innocents—not to appease wrathful gods, but to indulge in carnal pleasures without incurring inconvenience?

You see, my dears, you also can be made to resemble Cortez and Pizarro.

Sayonara, Glenn Beck (Part Two)

I will think of a dozen utterances from the mike of Glenn Beck that really irritated me after I have posted these pieces; and, too, I will probably feel guilty about having given the man so little credit for his principled positions, such as his daring to resist the Trump Train on behalf of Ted Cruz. But the people you once thought trustworthy are the ones you least trust after a rupture, for the old habit of trust lurks a while and must be broken.

My point of no return arrived when Confederate monuments started being defaced. Beck has never so much put me in mind of the old saw, “With friends like you… who needs enemies?” We must keep those monuments, he argued, because they remind us of the Nazi stormtroopers in our own history—and Confederates, to Beck, were all hood-wearing, torch-waving KKK members. They allowed his uncle of some remove to starve in one of their concentration camps, so let no one suppose that he hates the South any less than the next man. (This might have been a great-great uncle, or more probably a great-great-great uncle: someone, in short, that even Beck’s grandfather likely wouldn’t remember had the man survived; and the cause behind the starvation, O Mighty Historian of the Fruited Plain, was that Union ships had blockaded all Southern ports and laid waste to the South’s most fertile farmland… yet the Beckster very nearly teared up when remembering hungry old, old uncle-to-the-third-power Chester or Phineas.)

I had noticed Beck’s tone to grow very short on earlier occasions when he would angrily chew some comment about viewers who write in to disparage Abraham Lincoln. Our Black Belt in American History wants nothing to do with the observation that Lincoln didn’t bother to emancipate slaves in Northern states where he might instantly have done so, or that Lincoln had printing presses destroyed and publishers imprisoned if his war effort were openly criticized, or that Lincoln had plans to pack the freedmen off to Panama lest they interbreed with American white folk. No counter-evidence, no reasoned and patient rebuttal: just a highly “pissed off” look (to use one of our luminary’s favorite descriptors) and a hasty transition to the next subject. Thank you for explaining your position, O Wise Mediator and Uniter of the Masses!

The “pissy” attitude was even more noticeable last week (my absolutely terminal moment of viewing) when Beck erupted in a by-the-way remark that became the shout, “Slavery was the cause of the Civil War [the italics a defiant nod at recalcitrant Tweeters and texters]—if you have any doubt, just read the Confederate Constitution!” Okay… so I read the Confederate Constitution. What leaps off the page is the authors’ effort to underscore at numerous points the states’ jurisdiction over matters not explicitly delegated to the central government. The emphasis—understandably—borders on fixation. As for slavery… the Confederate version of our founding document appears to eradicate instances in the original that were worded with sufficient vagueness to include indentured servants. The slaves referred to are definitely of the African variety. And… that’s about it. Did I miss something? Is this perhaps a bowdlerized version, Glenn, that Confederate apologists smuggled into the archive through the nefarious machinations of the KKK KGB?

In any case, the entire gesture in the direction of the Confederate Constitution is so patently irrelevant to the context in which Beck cites it that the maneuver suggests mental derangement. The farmboys who slipped on a gray uniform and grabbed a rifle neither read that document nor had any influence upon its drafting. The immense majority of them—over 95 percent—owned no slaves personally; and to defend the institution of slavery would, in their case, have been to extend the life of a system that deprived them of employment opportunities and created for them a gross disadvantage in the marketplace. Now, did their fighting on behalf of a Southern doctrine that included the preservation of slavery favor the institution’s survival? Obviously. That was the tragedy. Hundreds of thousands of young men lost arms, legs, eyesight, or life itself—good, long decades of life—to defend the principle of self-determination while it sat, contradictorily, on the rotten foundation of enforced servitude.

None of that even comes close to justifying the assertion that the war was fought on behalf of slavery, or that those who fought for the Southern side were proto-Nazis.

I don’t like Glenn Beck’s characterization of my ancestors. I’ve had to try to explain their position, as I heard it from my grandmother (and not from the ghost of Great-Great-Great Uncle Jebediah), throughout my adulthood to a society that increasingly considers my race, sex, and lineage sufficient reason to run me down on the streets. I have in fact been told in confidence on one occasion that I was eliminated from the applicants for a position because of my demographic profile. I’m not a laureated historian, or a multi-millionaire who has been able to buy up rare artifacts for “The Vault”; but I’ve read enough first-hand accounts of boys who wore the gray, like Tom Watkins’ Co. Aytch, that I know their motives from their own testimony. They were lauded as patriots as they went marching to what they presumed would be a month of hiking and camping… and then they were thrown into a fiery furnace—whipped, branded, or shot if they attempted to slip away after the year for which they had enlisted. And not a word about slaves ever appears in most of these testimonials, unless in a protest against the release from active duty of anyone who happened to own twenty or more slaves.

Yet beyond my extreme dislike of Beck’s riding roughshod over historical fact in order to indulge his ill-tempered impatience is a genuine astonishment at the ill temper. There appears to be something profoundly out of alignment in the psyche of Glenn Beck. His vitriolic hatred of certain groups that he has designated as free and clear of any restraint required by Christian scruples is a constant wonder to me. As if so much advertised and highly promoted reconciliation and sympathy had taxed his nature to the breaking point, he unleashes his rancor in specified “safe zones” the way he and his Blaze crew boast of burning hundreds of rounds on the target range. Apparently, if you invest something exceeding a critical mass of effort in publicly loving humanity far and wide, you have to compensate by keeping a bright red bull’s eye hidden away into which you can pump shotgun shells.

My ancestors are that bull’s eye for Glenn Beck. I wish him joy at his sniping. If I had a bronze of Stonewall Jackson, I’d send it to him for duty on an indoor, underground firing range. After all, I owe him something for years of occasionally informative programming.

Thoughts on the Las Vegas Gundown

I had planned to post my second half of a Glenn Beck ideological autopsy today, but the occasion demands a change of plans. I don’t have much time to waste… so here goes.

Could the primed-and-scented boneheads of the broadcast media please stop referring to these incidents as tragedies? The word for which you grope, Talking Heads, is “atrocity”. A tragedy occurs when a basically good person is hoist on his own petard through some ill-advised act of excess. An atrocity occurs when some animal in a human hide savages his fellow beings like a tiger in a goat pen.

As I wrote eons ago after the 9/11 atrocity, these events are in part due to the high-tech lifestyle. Huge aircraft sometimes come down in the wrong way—with huge consequences. Speeding bullet-trains sometimes jump the track. If the electricity upon which we depend for food, water, transportation, communication, and even defense should suddenly cease to work (as after an electro-magnetic pulse), our society would number about one-tenth its present size within a year, and the survivors would be living in the Stone Age. The catastrophic “ignition events” to these nightmare scenarios could be either manmade, as by terrorist act, or they could occur naturally. We’re simply living at too fast a pace, and without seat-belts. As we climb higher and higher up the ladder, an innocent slip of the foot or a wicked push from a partner will send us plunging from heights that are ever more certain to prove fatal.

Staging an enormous gathering under a high-rise of any sort is a very bad idea. If the building itself doesn’t fall, then an inexpert psychopath could use its height to pump hundreds of lethal shells down upon the massed crowd. High-velocity bullets that enter the body from above and travel downward are likely to rip apart many more arteries than shots that enter laterally; and in a panicking horde, a severed artery is guaranteed to mean that you bleed out before help arrives. The location of the Country-Western concert, though a local tradition, had become a very bad idea.

Now, this atrocity is scarcely twenty-four hours old, and what I’m about to write is almost pure speculation at the moment… but the specific circumstances surrounding this shooter remind me very much of James Hodgkinson’s profile—you know: the psycho who gunned down Steve Scalise during a softball practice. Both men were white males of middle to late-middle age who were furious at the election of Donald Trump. Both had money to spend and time to kill. Neither was particularly proficient with or enamored of firearms, but both apparently fantasized about the utility of deadly weapons for cleaning society of its inhibitive “scum”. Their outlook on life—and here I’m speculating on the merest of hunches, but I smell the old rat—was jaundiced by a meaninglessness reinforced by atheism, a nexus of shallow personal relationships, and a growing sense of embittered victimhood. Children of my generation, they had been told since their youth that progress was real, would come at an accelerated pace, and would satisfy all their selfish wants. Now they were seeing only stall and delay—all because of right-wing “fascism”.

Hayley Geftman-Gold, described as “a VP and senior counsel in strategic transactions” for CBS, was fired yesterday for tweeting taunts at the shooting’s victims because they were Country-Western fans, and… well, we know that most of those voted for Trump. The side that loves to fling “hater” across the aisle and insists that all of us fascist bourgeois nullities need to be disarmed manifests—if you haven’t noticed—a very real affinity for murderous hatred and for gunning people down. Those Ché tee-shirts they so affect are no accident: they think the Orkin approach to political opposition is entirely acceptable, and even commendable.

Could it be that this is why we’re seeing so many more indiscriminate gundowns of innocent people assembling for innocent fun—is the ideology that finds no innocence in Middle America not the real percussion cap in the atrocity?

 

Is a Five-Year-Old’s Tantrum Protected by Free Speech?

I’m getting a little tired of hearing about free speech this week from people who can barely talk. If a pre-schooler crawls up to the American flag and wipes his nose on it, you sit him down in time-out. If an adult does it, you call him a champion of free speech.

Glenn Beck seems to think that reverence for a flag is akin to goose-stepping nationalism—a position not devoid of merit, but very odd in a man who also styles Confederate secession a pure and simple act of treason. (The fine art of “becking” could be a subject for another day: you achieve it by savaging convictions or figures associated with your ideology yet unattractive to you for purely personal reasons, thereby showing your broad-mindedness to the far political polarity.) I’m not going to say that athletes who take a knee as the flag is raised are vile traitors. After all, I myself have refused to mouth the Pledge of Allegiance ever since I discovered that defrocked Baptist minister and rabid socialist Francis Bellamy composed it in 1892 to program school children into believing that individual states had no rights. Yet I still stand for the Pledge. I do so because I realize that others around me don’t know what I know, and that their act is thus intended to show devotion to constitutional government rather than rejection of self-determination. In the same way, I would be appropriately quiet if a group of Jews or Muslims among whom I might find myself were to engage in a quick prayer that made little sense to me. It’s a question of manners. Why go out of your way to make others feel awkward?

Exhibitionists do precisely this: it is their definitive characteristic. They don’t care if you notice them with admiration or contempt, as long as you notice them. They need to occupy center-stage.

And here’s why I cannot accept “knee-taking” as anything more than the attention-grabbing gesture of an obnoxious brat. Expressions without any verbalization—without actual speech or even the few words of a placard or bumper-sticker—rely heavily upon context to be interpreted. I might wish to fly the Confederate battle flag in my front yard to advertise my support of the Tenth Amendment… but, no, that would be a terrible idea, because so many KKK types have decided to commandeer the flag as a condensed advertisement of their claim to be superior humans by virtue of their DNA. Did you know that the word “swastika” is used in Sanskrit Vedic texts to convey a certain meditative posture? Yet neither you nor I would hoist a swastika to ask the household not to disturb us during our meditation time.

The American flag, at this point in our history, represents to the vast majority of us the idea that we remain united in our support of certain humane values, whatever our specific differences. In this context, refusing to rise for the anthem, turning one’s back on a flag-raising, fixing one’s hat firmly aloft while stuffing one’s hands in one’s pockets, and other such displays would be interpreted by 99.9 percent of the native adult population as overt contempt for those core values. The contemptuous should not be stoned or driven from the crowd. (One of our core values is that no one may be deprived of life, liberty, or property without due process of law.) Their message, though, is clear: they’re giving the bird to the notion of a transcending endorsement of principle, declaring instead that some specific circumstance or other has exploded the principle’s credibility. They’re “saying” as much in semaphore, though they may say something else in speech or print after the fact. I can’t torch an emblem in public and then claim later that I wanted to show my warmth of feeling for what the emblem represents. Nobody would interpret my behavior that way, and I would be a) insane if I truly expected otherwise, or b) a slippery hypocrite if I argued otherwise.

Childish brats, I suppose, don’t fully qualify either for insanity or hypocrisy. And since five-year-olds can’t write, you can hardly expect them to pen an op-ed; or since their vocabulary consists of about five hundred words, you can hardly expect them to go public about legal or social dysfunction and enunciate a plan to address it. Even so, a child who was truly upset about an environmental condition would throw a fit intended to highlight the condition rather than himself. He wouldn’t wait for a very public, very solemn moment and then roll on the ground screaming.

What we have here is a crisis of boys raised without fathers. They passed their juvenile years acting out so that some adult might notice them and impose limits upon their lives… which never happened. Now, apparently, they’re going to spend the next two decades of their biological manhood playing the same game.

 

The Toxicity of Linear Time

A subject that has increasingly preoccupied me in recent years is time. This isn’t just because I’m getting older; or, rather, my aging probably is a major factor–but only because I begin to understand more of what’s happening around me, not because my own hour-glass is running short of sand.

I perceive, for instance, that people become less concerned about their moral duty as they become more convinced in the relentless linearity of time. Today is soon yesterday. You’re not the same person now as you were ten years ago (as cliché thinking would have it), and ten years from now you’ll be yet another being. Promises therefore fall by the wayside quite naturally–for how can a butterfly be held responsible for the commitments of a caterpillar? And you are supposed to grow wings, aren’t you? Isn’t that a good thing–to change and grow, to “evolve” in your thinking? You’re caught in a circle if you’re not moving in a line; but as long as you keep moving forward, there’s a chance that you’re also moving upward…

And so on, and so on. I’ve come to find these truisms very tiring. They’re excuses for so much duplicity, cowardice, and slovenly thinking that I’m near to declaring them void of any truth at all. That wouldn’t be fair, of course; but the “morally evolved” person, even when he sees that his perspective of yesterday was short-sighted, continues to stand by promises made yesterday upon which others depend–or else he accepts the penalty for not doing so without complaint. How many people of that sort do you see around you right now?

The linear/progressive view of time, by the way, hasn’t always been around. In fact, it’s a very recent arrival, characterizing none of human pre-history and perhaps one tenth of our recorded history. A far more natural perspective (to judge from its statistical dominance) has been that of conforming oneself to the values and examples of one’s ancestors. An ethos collects from the practices of several centuries; it has been refined by the process of trial and error and has withstood the “test of time”. Why should we assume that we can break with precedent and suffer no consequences? On the contrary, only a fool ignores the directions of those who have preceded him down the road of life.

For much of the Christian era, we of the West have adopted a fusion of the two views. We were no longer looking back over our collective shoulder at the Heroic Age, but forward, rather, to the end of earthly time and the fulfillment of our identity in a loving, purposeful god. We struggled to put the Old Man behind us and live in the New Man; yet that New Man was ascending to complete a circle whose first movements were embedded in our basic nature, not “boldly going where no man has gone before” in an indefinitely extending exploration of the physical universe.

Science has thrust us upon this Star Trek trajectory wherein change may either have little sense or may, indeed, end in disaster, since it is no longer magnetized to a transcending, metaphysical objective. We morph into multi-sexual beings who no longer reproduce: that’s “progress”. We fuse with robots to reduce our susceptibility to disease and prolong our material presence: that, too, is “progress”. We introduce our hybrid selves into solar systems far from our own but not endowed with any property that will prove more salutary to the soul than was Planet Earth; and that will be styled progress, as well… but I wonder if it might not be eternal Hell by any other name?

Linear time can become a toxic drug. We would do well not to pay too little attention to ourselves today as we await the new-and-improved beings we imagine ourselves becoming tomorrow.

The Most Frightening ET Could Be the One You Voted For

It has been almost exactly three years since former Lockheed engineer Boyd Bushman delivered a now-famous (or infamous) deathbed confession on video, the gist of which was that he had many times been funneled alien technology from Area 51. Bushman’s tour de force included photos of little gray men like the one above, as well as accounts of his telepathic conversations with the strange guests of Motel 51. De mortuis, nihil nisi bonum est dicendum, and all that… but Internet commentary that reverse-engineers the Bushman Bombshell into the ultimate prank is easy to come by. My own greatest problem with the “confession” is that, as I have long maintained, extraterrestrial visitors would almost certainly have to be robots or bio-robotic hybrids. Even if an alien race discovered a quick way to reach us through (say) a wormhole, infections, depression, quarrels, consumption of food and water, sleep, and a host of other problems would confront any carbon-based life-form.

So in the Bushman case, we have the long-sought smoking gun of ET visitation… or else we have a dying old man’s last bid to shaft his employers or just enjoy a good laugh. Possibly, too, we have a pack of clever lies that was meant to be exposed as such, and thereby to discredit the entire conspiracy industry surrounding ET activity. In that case, Bushman might be the ultimate company man who served his masters faithfully even unto his final breaths. The Soviets were well known for grinding out disinformation of this variety. You make it eminently credible, secreting a couple of ruinous inanities in layers of splendid intel; then when the whole package explodes, the one-time believers are caught up in such a disillusioned letdown that they want to hear nothing whatever related to the subject for the rest of their lives.

There remain enough plausible accounts of UFO’s, however (such as the Phoenix Lights incident, witnessed by hundreds and recorded by dozens), that no thoughtful person dare rest satisfied with a “business as usual” conclusion. Something is being hidden from us. Quite possibly, an immense amount of Space Age gadgetry—a new universe of technological options completely fantastical in the eyes of currently taught and published physics—hums away a mile underground or in hangars around the desert Southwest. Here is what bothers me and has always bothered me about the situation: our “dark government”. How many unelected covert operatives funded with cataracts of off-budget wealth are planning the future… and whose future is it? Are we to believe that it’s ours, when Kim Jong Un is allowed to toy with nuclear weapons though a zippy little Frisbee might annihilate him and his staff with a laser beam? Are these ultra-high-tech gurus also responsible for running up our national debt to unsustainable and suicidal levels? Are they the same geniuses who have left our power grid unprotected while Russia and China secured theirs? Is part of their plan for future prosperity to overrun our society with immigrants who reject its language and customs and want only to bleed its social welfare programs dry?

Perhaps the real question, then, is this: what’s the relationship between the Washington ruling elite and the “black ops” white coats? How many senators know what’s going on in the bunkers? Two? Five? Forty-five? Eighty-five? Are they destroying the nation because they’re pompous idiots who can think no further than the next election… or are they destroying the nation because they plan to be in those bunkers as all the architraves come crashing down, drinking champagne until it’s safe to re-emerge à la Dr. Strangelove?

We don’t need to be asking what visitors from another planet intend to do with, for, or to us; we need to be asking just how much covert knowledge is in the possession of the oligarchy that arranges our lives—and exactly what purpose is being served by that knowledge.