Cashing in on Grief for a “Better Tomorrow”: More Than a Little Sick

Love! his affections do not that way tend;
Nor what he spake, though it lack’d form a little,
Was not like madness. There’s something in his soul,
O’er which his melancholy sits on brood…

Hamlet III.i.163-166

It was almost exactly a year ago that a “shooting incident” struck my institution… sort of.  The alarm turned out to be false: someone had dropped a book down a stairwell, and hyperactive imaginations with no real-world experience of a gunshots phoned in the “active shooter” report.  What followed was a fiasco.  Some trembling functionary or other entered my class, interrupted my lecture, and communicated to me in whispers that we needed to evacuate at once.  The hush-hush attitude as we urged students to leave their books and file outdoors “in an orderly fashion” was meant to avert panic, I suppose.  In fact, it naturally induced everyone to picture the worst-case scenario.  Fingers worked feverishly on iPhones.  A few women were almost in tears.

I myself started walking home from the parking lot (having previously gathered up my books as I was advised not to do).  Others told me later that somebody with a bull horn ordered them into an auditorium.  Really stupid idea.  What shooter would have any success trying to run down targets in a vast sea of cars?  But if even a single entry to a crowded interior space were improperly secured… fish in a barrel.

Obviously, there was no coherent plan.  (The original evacuation certainly contradicted the instructions for lockdown posted at every classroom’s door.)  What with the eventual arrival of state troopers by the dozen, all in riot gear and with weapons drawn, I suppose you could say that the event was traumatic for many.

But there was no shooter.  And here I will extend an observation to the Parkland shooting a month ago: for the vast majority of students, the trauma grew out of initial panic and later confirmation that seventeen students had been slain… but more out of the former than the latter.  You’re shocked when you hear that a friend has died in a car wreck—but life on earth is made of such shocks.  Whatever special trauma was stirred into the situation for most came from the mounting suspicion that this wasn’t just another fire drill.

Most students were not shot at.  Quite a few would not personally have known any of the victims in so large a high school.  Nobody who “looked down the bore of the shooter’s rifle” would have been upright to tell Marco Rubio, mere hours later, that his presence inspired the same sensation.

I don’t recall the student’s name who uttered that fatuously theatrical remark on national television, and I’m not going to look it up.  He doesn’t deserve the publicity.  There seem to be two, in fact, whose youthful mugs keep occupying our screens with the same “scolding nanny” look of prophetically monomaniacal dedication.  They’re beginning to annoy me.  I say here and now that their response is an affront to anyone who truly wishes to grieve.  Their immediate and highly rehearsed—sometimes even slur-laced—diatribes are not the normal reaction of someone who has met mortality head-on around a tight corner.  We’re so insulated from life in our various artificial alternatives to it that we no more know the face true mourning wears than we know how to distinguish between a gunshot and a falling book.  A mourner looks into the void.  He has no words… and then too many.  He asks God why the horror happened, why it happened to this one and not that one, and why anyone—in the dark dawn of such nonsense—should believe that there IS a god.  He becomes profane, perhaps.  He rambles.  He remembers.  He weeps.  He shouts furiously and incoherently, accusing the clock for not running backward.

He doesn’t uncork cool, sarcastic indictments of the NRA and its lobbying activities.

This is crap.  I’m sorry, but these two over-exposed young brats have been fed with it by their parents and other handlers… and now they’re spewing it back on cue.  That’s all I see.  Call me insensitive to the grieving process: I’ll see you and raise you in that game, because you’re being inconsiderate of true grief by indulging such a charade.

One more thing—and this is perhaps the main thing.  I have written often before that people opposed to the murder of adolescents in schools should also be opposed to the murder of babies in the womb.  This past month has led me to recognize my error: there is, in fact, no inconsistency of position here.  My confusion arose from identifying  the sentiments expressed with a concern for individual lives.  No such concern exists in the progressive mind.  To make an omelet, you have to break some eggs.  Specifically, X millions of fetuses must die so that, at long last, we may have a society freed of the nuclear family’s retrograde influence.  The state must guarantee women the right to “evacuate” the consequences of rash sexual behavior rather than draw men into a tangle of personal responsibility and investment in the future.  When and if a woman decides to bear a child, the state will raise that child.  Fathers are not needed.  Mothers, indeed, may soon be unneeded as the blueprint grows more Huxleyan.

In the same way, I have done the anti-gun crusade an injustice in assuming that its minions do not imagine scenarios where a woman must endure a brutal rape or a parent cower with the children behind a flimsy door as home invaders rifle the premises.  The gun-banners don’t lack imagination: they just don’t care.  Their imagination is riveted on the higher vision of a futuristic society where only uniformed, designated enforcers carry deadly weapons.  To get from here to there, yes, many women will have to be savaged helplessly and many children abducted and sold into slavery or murdered for the joy of bloodletting.  That’s how you make an omelet.  Eventually, as more and more guns are rounded up and more and more malefactors forcibly donate their sick brains to science, Earth’s one society will make a great leap forward.  Next stop: Mars.

That hard, unblinking stare of the smooth-browed, slick-haired snot who has now become the poster child for firearm round-up says it all: “You egotistical self-defenders deserve to die.  You’re standing in the way of progress!”


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.

Why Are Aliens Represented as Morally Superior?

Patient Seventeen, recently uploaded to Netflix, is the only documentary I’ve ever seen that succeeded in shaking me up over the subject of alien abduction—and I’ve seen a few such flicks, as well as many an interview.  Most abductees leave me uncharitably thinking in categories of a) the female wallflower of a certain age who has sexual fantasies, or b) the nerdy male straight out of a Gary Larson cartoon for whom playground bullies have assumed supernatural stature in his traumatized memory.

And some such “victims” surely fall straight into these categories, along with the more vanilla one of attention-seeking hoaxer.  Then again, if real victims of extraterrestrial home-invasion exist, one can well imagine why they would not come forward; for my categories, as I say, are not very charitable—and neither are they exclusively mine.

Patient Seventeen, however, doesn’t fit the pigeonhole.  He’s a strapping fellow who rides a motorcycle to his construction jobs, and who wants very much to believe that the minute metal fragment in his leg does NOT have an unearthly origin.  Once the late Dr. Roger Leir removed the object, though (whose entry had left not a scratch that Seventeen could recall), the tests were conclusive.  A total of thirty-six elements had combined to form the alloy, many of them extremely rare on earth and several quite dangerous to manipulate.  Zinc isotopes, furthermore, were present that not only could not have originated in our solar system, but could not even belong to our corridor of the galaxy.

Seventeen is never named.  Dr. Leir died within weeks of operating on him, and the lab technician entrusted with the fragment has oddly vanished; so he appears to be facing a future of psychological battles more or less alone.  I think he just might make it: he’s a fighter.  In fact, the most impressive part of the film for me was Seventeen’s confiding to the camera that he had succeeded in physically resisting his abductors during the most recent assault and came very close to smashing in some extraterrestrial skulls.  “They’re alien gangsters,” he responded when asked what he would like to tell them.  They break into people’s homes and lives unasked and treat them as insects (he used the image of wicked boys employing a magnifying glass to smoke ants).  They deserve the same reception that any other home-invader invites: a bullet.

This attitude was as refreshing to me as Seventeen’s raw account was unnerving.  I’m sick of the assumption, so often floated in popular serials like Ancient Aliens, that otherworldly visitors must automatically be considered our superiors in every way.  Though I’ve learned some interesting and useful facts from following AA (I now know a smattering about Gobekli Tepe and Puma Punku), segments frequently conclude with starry-eyed claptrap on the order of, “We have to make contact with our visitors so that we can discover our destiny.”  Umm… what?  As much as you lot might like to account for all gods in all mythologies by having recourse to ET’s flight log, these beings are not gods.  If they conduct the sorts of experiment that surviving victims like Seventeen describe, they’re much closer to devils.

Why do we believe that a smarter being is a better being—or why do we believe that physics and engineering are the only kind of “smarts”?  Among our terrestrial scientists, we no longer tolerate whimsical, invasive tinkering even on Rhesus monkeys or white rats… yet our godly visitors are wantonly kidnapping us and filling us with toxic transmitters. Is that really the sign of a superior being?  Assuming that such things are happening in any of the reported cases, they do not bespeak an advanced moral intelligence: quite the contrary.  If we ever manage to verify that abduction is a real phenomenon, then the next order of business must be our figuring out how to make the perverted little bastards behave themselves.

One of Steven Greer’s veiled interviewees (in another documentary) insisted, I recall, that the US government was staging abductions so as to have panic at a constant simmer and ready to be brought to a boil.  That I can well believe.  If “ufology” teaches us nothing else, it proves that our elected officials are lying to us on a massive scale.

It could also be that our uninvited guests are playing “doctor” with us because they are inflexibly programmed robots and, therefore, are incapable of fine-tuning their manners to the particular situation.  If that is so, then… then maybe we ourselves should go running a little less hastily into the embrace of the “transhuman” hybrid said—by Ray Kurzweil, Al Gore, and other crazed prophets of the dark side—to represent our future.


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.”


Fear: Age’s Constant Bedfellow

For the most part, I’ve learned to settle Fear down as I prepare for bed.  She’s always there under the blanket beside me, but I can usually manage to dope her up well enough that I avoid insomnia.  Melatonin doesn’t particularly help, since it assists a good sleep only after one drops off.  My evening meditation probably helps a little, since it forces things to withdraw into perspective.  I reiterate my devotion to the God of transcending goodness who has no terminal objectives in this world—the God who doesn’t go crazy if every disease isn’t cured, every child fed, and every weather event mellowed out; the God for whom we do not HAVE to accomplish this, that, or the other, or all is lost; the true God.  He doesn’t tell me that none of my family will die tomorrow, as some people claim of their supernatural wizard; but He assures me that what is truly alive in us doesn’t die when our bodies wear out amid the swirl of “things that must be done”.

Still, the compromise with Fear is none too stable.  I’m not a mystic living on a Himalayan mountaintop: I’m an aging man nearing retirement with a son trying to start a career a thousand miles away.  I worry about closing down my 501c3, which hasn’t enough money to operate and has become a millstone about my neck: I worry because the government documents necessary to terminate it seem to shift with each website I visit, and because I can’t afford a lawyer.  I worry because the home my wife and I are building four states away has veered way outside its budget thanks to county regulations and is way behind schedule thanks to incompetent, uninterested employees at Georgia Power.  I worry that the maneuvers I had to make in order to extract my son’s inherited investments from the corporations selected by his uncle may involve all kinds of penalty; and I worry that the kid can’t seem to sell an old car in Denver because local government requires so much paperwork and so many fees to produce a Colorado title in his name.  I don’t really worry about Social Security.  I’ve long since reconciled myself to the probability that nothing will remain for me there in a few short years.

One way and another, it strikes me that government at some level underlies virtually all of my worries.  It’s intractable, arbitrary, incomprehensible, and very jealous of the power it enjoys over us.  I hate living like a medieval peasant farmer just waiting to see what Visigoth or baron will come riding out of the forest next—for whether he speaks my language or some alien tongue, he’ll be waving a sword, and he’ll want my cow.

I’m a white male.  I’m one of those who is supposed to have been born and raised in coddling privilege.  I wonder if the incendiary Marxist/feminist professors who would like to see my kind shipped out to death camps ever see Fear sharing their bed when they gripe about my taxes not paying for their pills and condoms.  They don’t have children, so there’s no source of worry from that quarter.  They have cushy tenured jobs, so they seldom worry about next year’s contract; and if they participate in any extra-curricular organization, you can bet that it’s well funded and has a fleet of attorneys on staff.  They don’t live on my planet.

Others who hate “my kind” because they see me as tapping into what’s rightfully theirs… do they have to lull Fear to sleep the day before they collect a government check?  Do they worry that they may not have enough weed in the cookie jar to get through the week?  If they don’t even have a driver’s license—and if their city forbids law enforcement from “harassing” them—then I don’t suppose they would fret over buying or selling a car without papers.

Being “privileged” sure does wear a man down.  I don’t think I can stand the “royal treatment” much longer.  My strange bedfellow is a light sleeper.


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.