What is the public’s responsibility with regard to extreme sports?

The other night, I watched The Crash Reel, a documentary about the traumatic brain injury snowboarder Kevin Pearce received while practicing for the Olympics on a halfpipe with 22 foot walls.  It’s an excellent documentary, which tracks Pearce from his carefree, careless youth; to his injury; to his challenging recovery (when he still wanted to snowboard); and, finally, to his mature acceptance that his days as a snowboarder are older — a decision that delights his family, including his brother David, a young man with Downs who wears his heart on his sleeve.

The most difficult part of the movie to watch isn’t Pearce’s own crash.  It’s the “crash reel” showing crashes suffered by people in extreme sports such as snowboarding, freestyle skiing, and dirt biking.  Watching the bodies get tumbled about by momentum and gravity is stomach churning.  Intermixed with these images are interviews with Kevin’s friends who speak about broken bones (one 23 year old had more than 20), multiple concussions, serious soft tissue injuries, etc.  All of them say that it comes with the territory, but that the thrill of their sport keeps them coming back.  One of the ones to say this was Sarah Burke, who died last year of a traumatic brain injury.

The documentary makes the point that all of these extreme sports have gotten more dangerous in the past few years.  When snowboarding on halfpipes began, the walls were 6-8 feet tall.  Now they’re 22, which means that someone (Kevin Pearce, for example), can fall from as high as 40 feet.  The athletes interviewed say that these daring escapades are what the public wants, and that the sponsors pay big time for giving the public what it wants.  Before his accident, when he was only 17, Kevin Pearce was earning hundreds of thousands in endorsements.

Since this is an HBO documentary, the film subtly implies that corporatism is at fault — big corporations are paying blood money to keep their products in the public eye.  It’s certainly true that the corporations fund what are manifestly dangerous activities.  But these young people engage in them voluntarily (and the documentary makes clear the enthusiasm with which these adrenalin junkies keep pursuing bigger highs), and the American public tunes in reliably.

I’m a libertarian, so I think that people who are of the age of consent should be allowed to engage in stupid activities.  And I believe that corporations should be able to sponsor people to be stupid.  That’s the marketplace, after all.  Likewise, we should be able to watch this stuff.  For these reasons, I oppose legislation banning these sports.  I’m also opposed to legislation putting the squeeze on football.

To me, this is not a question of marketplace or legislative issues.  It’s about morality.  In centuries past, people got their jollies watching gladiators, watching Christians and other malfeasors being fed to lions, watching cock fighting and bear baiting, assembling for public executions (hanging, evisceration, beheadings, etc.), and generally being spectators to activities we now consider repugnant and beyond the moral pale.  It seems to me, though, that watching young people kill and disable themselves on motor bikes, snowboards, and skis is very closely analogous to watching gladiators duke it out in the Colosseum.  Whether the entertainment is based upon two people fighting each other to the death, or athletes engaging in death-defying sports, our thrill comes from watching the entertainers defy death — and we get a horrible, but bizarrely compelling, frisson of excitement when death wins.

If the public tuned out, these sports would go away, without legislation and without corporate blame.  Do we have a moral obligation to tune out?  And if we do, how do we go about educating the public as to this obligation.  Let the extreme sports enthusiasts test themselves, but we don’t have to encourage them by watching.

(Incidentally, I have a theory about extreme sports:  in the old days, life was thrilling enough for young men, whether the thrills came from warfare, hunting and farming for food, or just engaging in the ordinary sports that increasing numbers of schools are abandoning.  Nowadays, our young people are cushioned from all risk.  That works for someone like me, who needs very little stimulation to be happy, but for other people, especially health, testosterone-rich young men, life is a bland nothing without some risk.  Because our society has shut risk down, they go out and seek it.  I’d rather they did something constructive, like enlist in the military and defend our nation, but that’s their choice, not mine.)

Nailing the heart of Benghazi

I wrote a lovely post, right here, last night.  Cheerfully hit the “publish” button and went to bed — only to wake up this morning to discover that the post not only didn’t get published, it vanished entirely.  I’m not sure I can replicate it, but I’ll try.

The point I was trying to make was about the morality that can or should undermine political systems.  I’d had a talk with a very mature, thoughtful teen, whose parents raised her to revile capitalism as an evil system that needs to be tempered by big government.  I said that it needed to be tempered by morality.  I pointed out that Adam Smith came up with his “invisible hand” theory at a highly religiously moral time, when it was inconceivable that any government would exist in a moral vacuum.  He knew, of course, that there were hard, cruel people who had no truck with morality, but it was also probably inconceivable to him that there could a paradigm without an overarching moral sense.

Texas booms, I suggested, not just because it’s capitalist, but because it’s in the Bible Belt.  China has slave labor, practically slave labor, and tainted goods (melanin in foods, antibiotics in bees, etc.) because it’s capitalism without a moral paradigm.  The State has no room for morality and when the state is the only thing Left, morality leaves society.

The next day, I read Darren Jonescu’s scathing indictment of the particular brand of evil that Hillary and Obama exemplify.  I’m quoting a lot, but there is a lot more to read, and I urge you to read it all:

In the first months after the Benghazi attack, the most urgent question, and one only rarely asked, was “What were Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton doing during the seven and a half hours between the initial emergency communications from Benghazi and the final American deaths?” A negative answer was provided in February by Leon Panetta: they were not engaging with their subordinates; they were not contacting anyone to discuss options; they were giving no orders for action; they remained entirely uninvolved.

We are left to speculate about the positive answer to that question. Were they sleeping? Curled up by the fire with a good manifesto? Playing poker with Huma and the gang? Practicing jokes for a fundraising speech? Your guess is as good as mine.

And none of these guesses really matter in the end, compared to the looming horror that attends any of thepossibilities, namely this: the president and secretary of state of the most powerful nation on Earth are impervious to shame. They can do — they have done — what you hope you could never do, what you pray your children will never be able to do, what psychologists fill academic journals attempting to explain. They were informed that their countrymen — their appointees — were being attacked, were issuing repeated cries for help, and, if nothing were done to intercede, were likely to be killed. Knowing this, and knowing, further, that they had at their disposal the most powerful military in the world, no risk of personal harm, and many subordinates prepared to leap into action at their word, they blithely walked away from the desperate men pleading for their help, and carried on with whatever they happened to be doing that night. They let other men suffer unto death without lifting a finger to help, or even indicating a moment’s regret for their inaction after the fact.

They demonstrated a cold lack of interest in the suffering of others — not the abstract, theoretical suffering of collective interest groups, such as “the poor” or “gays” or “women,” but the real physical pain and mortal terror-style suffering of individual human beings in mortal crisis.

Walking home one evening, you hear men across the street shouting for help, as they are in the process of being overwhelmed by a gang of thugs. You walk away, unconcerned with their cries or the sounds of bats smacking down on their flesh. You do not call the police or volunteer any assistance. You go to bed and sleep well. The next day, and each subsequent day, you carry on with your life of fun, friends, and self-indulgence, never giving a second thought to the men who died because you did not care to help. If a neighborhood reporter asks you about the crime, you put on your gravest voice and say, “Gosh, that’s so sad; I hope they find the creeps who did it.”

Right.  What he said.  Both Hillary and Obama claim to have been raised religiously.  Hillary showed up for church in her days as First Lady, but doesn’t seem to bother to do so now.  Obama gave up the pretense of religion the moment was elected.  For both, there are only two Gods:  the state and their particular political needs at the moment.  Neither has a sense of right or wrong independent of their particular pragmatic concerns at any given time.

I’ve mentioned before a year 2000 movie called The Contender, about an upstanding Democrat woman whom the evil Republicans falsely accuse of group sex to derail her appointment to fill a vacant Vice Presidency.  The most interest part of the movie comes when the woman, played by Joan Allen, makes her statement to Congress, a bastion of wholesome Democrats and foul Republicans:

And, Mr. Chairman, I stand for the separation of Church and State, and the reason that I stand for that is the same reason that I believe our forefathers did. It is not there to protect religion from the grasp of government but to protect our government from the grasp of religious fanaticism.

[The Founders could not have made it more clear that Freedom of Religion, which is contained in the First Amendment, protects religion from government, not vice versa.  The Amendment's language is unequivocal:  "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion." There's nothing in there mandating that no religious person can serve in Congress or have a say in America's government.]

Now, I may be an atheist, but that does not mean I do not go to church. I do go to church. The church I go to is the one that emancipated the slaves [that would be the Republican sect of the church], that gave women the right to vote, that gave us every freedom that we hold dear. My church is this very Chapel of Democracy that we sit in together, and I do not need God to tell me what are my moral absolutes. I need my heart, my brain, and this church.  [And there you have it -- President Obama's creed writ large:  "I do not need God to tell me what are my moral absolutes.  I need my heart, my brain, and this (Progressive) church.]

While it’s not government’s role to advance morality, it’s also not its role to advance immorality *UPDATED*

Libertarians have it right when they say it’s not the government’s responsibility to legislate morality.  It’s the people’s responsibility to be moral.  Government’s job is to have “few laws, but unbreakable,” all directed at a stable, just (not fair, but just), constitutional society in which citizens have the best opportunity to live free and, one hopes, moral lives.

The fact is that, way too often, once government starts legislating morality, those efforts backfire.  Prohibition is the perfect example of this backfire.  By the second half of the 19th century, America was awash in liquor, and it was becoming a terrible problem, especially for the poor.  It wasn’t at all uncommon for the family breadwinner, whether male or female, to drink away earnings and then die young from alcohol-related diseases or accidents.

Dry movement

Faced with this epic disaster, society responded with a vast Temperance movement aimed at getting people to stop drinking.  This was a social movement — a grassroots movement, long before that term was invented.  Young men swore temperance oaths and young women swore that “Lips that touch liquor shall never touch mine.”

Bootleggers

By the time WWI started, vast swaths of America had voluntarily gone dry.  Prohibition wasn’t the leading edge of Temperance, it was the tale end, and what a disastrous tail it was.  Those who didn’t want to drink had already stopped.  And those who did want to drink instantly became criminals for engaging in an activity as old as humankind.  Worse, prohibiting a popular activity, even in its most reasonable form, created a giant vacuum that sucked in every two-bit criminal and big-time hood in America.

We want beer

When alcohol was outlawed, only outlaws drank, brewed, and sold the stuff. Not only did Prohibition fail to legislate morality, it undid much that the previous Temperance movement, which relied on peer pressure and moral suasion, had achieved when it came to convincing Americans to temper their drinking.

Just as bad as legislating morality is legislating immorality, which is where today’s American governments, local, state, and national go.  I stumbled across this fact when I tried to go online to renew a prescription for one of my children and was told that I couldn’t have any access to my child’s medical record, including prescriptions.  In California, when a child turns 12, he or she can keep secret his or her record.  My kid can’t get her ears pierced, can’t go paint-balling, can’t ski, and can’t get a salon tan without my input, but your daughter and mine can get the Pill or an abortion without your being the wiser for it.

Birth Control Pills

As it happens, the Pill, which some schools hand out like candy, is anything but innocuous.  To begin within, it’s ridiculous to think that you can feed nuclear-powered hormones into a prepubescent or pubescent girl without have some effect on what should be her natural development.  In addition to that, those side effects you hear about the Pill are real.  Girls are worried they’ll gain weight if they go on the Pill.  What they should be worried about is strokes, blood clots, or vomiting themselves to death.  I’ve known people who have suffered from all of these side effects although, thankfully, all survived.  This is the last thing that loving parents should allow the state to determine for their child without parental input.

Ask your average liberal why this is so, and he will tell you a terribly sad story about a girl growing up in a horrible home who was raped by her uncle, or her mother’s boyfriend, and, when she turned up pregnant, was beaten or turned out onto the street.  That is an affecting tale but how common is it, really?  I don’t have statistics at hand, but common sense tells me that the vast majority of parents love their daughters.  If a girl wants to have teen sex or shows up pregnant, these loving parents want to be involved — and their involvement is the best thing that can support a child who is about to make or has already made a bad decision.

Getting my ears pierced

These hard luck stories mean that we have created a tyranny of the minority.  Liberals will say that the beauty of America is that it protects the minority by drafting legislation protect those minorities.  But this isn’t how it’s supposed to work.  America protects the minority by assuring that every member of a minority group (whether defined by race, religion, sexual orientation, country of origin, etc.) gets the full benefit of available constitutional rights and is not subject to prejudicial laws or conduct.  It does not mean that 90% or more of the country has its rights stripped away because some girls come from backgrounds that  see them mistreated.  Maltreated girls are tragic situations that a moral people should want to remedy, but that a government should never address with legislation.  It’s not government’s job to try to legislate away the human condition.

So next time a liberal tells you that he’ll never vote Republican because Republicans try to legislate morality, you might want to tell that person that the problem with Democrats is that they consistently legislate immorality.  A good opportunity to make this point might be when one of your liberal friends is outraged that his daughter was confronted in a public restroom by a naked man with fully functioning physical equipment who claimed that his presence there was perfectly legal because he self-identifies as a woman.  Or you could advance this point of view when your liberal next door neighbor calls from the ER to ask for your help because his daughter went septic from an abortion — and he didn’t even know she was pregnant.  Or perhaps you’ll throw it into a conversation with the woman at your office who is counting her lucky stars that her teen daughter will recover from the stroke she got after the Pill, which Mom didn’t know she was taking, caused her to have a blood clot.

UPDATE:  Earl left a comment pointing out that it’s not nice to lecture people about politics when they’re facing a life crisis.  He’s absolutely right.  I was making a rhetorical point and got carried away.  I also live in a community where everybody thinks everything that happens is an opportunity to inject politics, so I’m a little bit touchy.

As it is, were I to raise the subject at a sensitive time, I’d raise it sympathetically:  “Oh, my God!  That’s terrible.  I can’t believe she almost died.  You must have been so shocked to discover that your daughter had an abortion.  How did it happen that she was able to do it without you?  Really?  The law just let’s her?  That’s bizarre.  I know you guys ignore her.  This is something you would have wanted to discuss with her.  It just doesn’t seem right for the law to kick you out of the relationship….”  That kind of thing, trickled out over many conversations.

 

Libertarians and moral judgments

My dear friend Don Quixote retired with his beloved to warmer climes.  I miss him a great deal.  I especially miss our lunches together.  We still talk on the phone, but it’s not the same as the wandering conversations we had about politics, morals, philosophy, law, Dancing With The Stars, computer games, and whatever else seemed interesting on a given day.  One of our most memorable conversations was about government’s role in morality.  Don Quixote is more of a libertarian than I am, although I consider myself fairly libertarian.  I don’t remember the details of the conversation, but my takeaway was that government legislation should not be hostile to traditional morality, but it’s not responsible for morality either.  Citizens are responsible for morality, through peer pressure and, yes, shame.

I still believe that today, so I was very gratified to read Nick Gillespie’s post about libertarians and morality.  What prompted Gillespie’s post was a New York Times piece, by Richard Reeves, a liberal writer, that had a throwaway line about libertarians being, not immoral perhaps but amoral.  In many ways, Gillespie agreed with Reeves, who agreed with me, albeit from a liberal perspective.  Some shame is necessary to curb teen pregnancies.  So Reeves, Gillespie, and I are all in sync.

Where Reeves parts ways with Gillespie and me, and where Reeves inspired a masterful post from Gillespie is the bit about libertarian amorality:

Libertarians might want a world without moral judgments, in which teen pregnancy carries no stigma at all. And paternalists might want the state to enshrine judgments in law — perhaps by raising the age of sexual consent or mandating contraception. True liberals, though, believe we can hold one another to moral account without coercion. We must not shy away from shame.

Wrong, wrong, wrong, Mr. Reeves!  I’ll let Nick explain why:

I submit to you that few statements are more wrong than saying “libertarians might want a world without moral judgments.” From my vantage point, one of the things to which libertarianism is dedicated is the proliferation of moral judgments by freeing people up to the greatest degree possible to create their own ways of being in the world. To conflate the live and let live ethos at the heart of the classical liberal and libertarian project with an essentially nihilistic dismissal of pluralism and tolerance is a gigantic error. It’s like saying that because religious dissenters want to abolish a single state church that they are anti-god.

Really, you should read the whole thing.

It’s the culture

Nobody seems to want to admit it, but it’s our culture!

School shootings aren’t new. But, Americans have owned guns aplenty for more-than 200 years of nationhood and it seems that we’ve never had school shootings as we have experienced in the past few years. Neither has the rest of the modern world, but school, church and shopping mall attacks have been occurring even in countries with the strictest gun controls (e.g., Scotland, Germany, Norway, Japan). What has changed?

How about “that which must not be named”?

The old-guard leftists of the Frankfurter and Antonio Gramsci (you can “wiki” those names) school knew that to fundamentally remake society, you first had to destroy the church, society and the family. I would say Gramsci and Frankfurter school alumnae have had a pretty good success record.

Ever since LBJ’s 1960s “War on Poverty”, families have been disintegrating. It started with the most vulnerable (inner city blacks, where now 70% of children have no fathers) and has now spread to white, non-Hispanic families (close-to 30% of children born out of wedlock). Often, children in such families are left largely unsupervised, grow up without good male role models and enjoy ready access to the most depraved pornography, graphic violence, weapons, drugs and other vices through the internet and their peers, starting at a very young and formative age. One can try to prevent their kids’ access to this at home, but how does one prevent them from going down the street to a friends’ house?

I couldn’t help but notice that the first media reports of the shooter (whom I refuse to name and help make more famous) mentioned a mother but didn’t mention a father. Sure enough, the latest reports by a British news outlet, The Daily Mail, are of a boy traumatized by a three-year old divorce. Why did he single out his mother as the first victim? We may never know, but I suspect that the divorce may have had something to do with it. We are also learning that (surprise!) the shooter was a compulsive violent-video gamer.

Youth and adolescence are a time when kids should be learning communication skills and how to interact with adults and peers. Instead, too many kids appear to be devolving into lonely social outcasts and losers (a non-PC term I use for emphasis only). Throw in mental illness, they can become dangerous (the source of much of this mental illness is a worthy topic in and of itself…but think about what hours and hours of sitting in front of a screen does to the developing brain of a young child?). These are the years when their neuro linkages are being formed.

The mass media and punditry immediately started talking about this shooter’s “obvious” mental problems, thereby anointing him a member of “victim” class and providing absolution for his sins. I don’t buy any of it. I can understand someone crazed with rage shooting their mother in the heat of the moment, but the premeditation and time the shooter needed took to travel to a school after killing his own mother and destroying young kids’ lives in psychopathic cold blood point not mental illness but a willing pact made with evil. It is evil, pure and simple, nothing less. At one point, this shooter was confronted with a choice and he chose evil. Why did he make that choice? Here’s a thought:

What are the cultural messages that get hammered into young kids’ brains today? There is no reward in elevation, but there is reward in depravity. Our mass media hammers into their developing brains, over and over again, that to be depraved is to be “famous”, a powerful siren’s song for lonely outcast kids. These kids know that the quickest way to fame and even fortune is to act depraved and to be guaranteed that their depravity will be broadcast widely over the internet and throughout the global media. Some of them grow into mega stars (I’m thinking of Rapper culture, Madonna, Lady Gaga and Jerry Springers as just a few examples), further amplifying the siren’s song. The mass media, vigilantly on the lookout for breaking news 24/7, is complicit in this, for it is the internet and mass media that provide monsters their 15 minutes of fame. Remember that the next time you look at how our TV screens extol depravity. Btw, if you doubt me about just how depraved our culture has become, then Google [game kindergarten killer].

Sorry to have to use the word “depraved” of course. In our Gramsci-Frankfurter culture, such terms are soooooo judgmental and we don’t dare to be judgmental, do we? Why, other people might not like us, a sentence worse than death for too many adults that never outgrew their adolescence.

So what do we do about it? We can start by focusing on our own kids, knowing that our obligation as parents is not just to love them but to build them spiritually into good citizens and to armor them against the bad influences in our imperfect world. We can extend support to single parents, especially those trying to work jobs simply to survive, and we help provide guidance to their kids. These are the days when wolves stalk a land in which too many people have forgotten how to recognize wolves for what they are. And, if you decide to have children, get married and stay married, so that you can nurture, protect and educate your children into solid citizens together. My very brilliant spouse, a middle-school teacher, tells me that she can tell right away when her students’ families are trouble by the way that the kids lash-out in school. She has already lost too many of her former students to drugs and suicide.

Rely on our churches? Maybe, but so many have become such weak tea. My own Episcopal church…part of the Anglican Communion that produced such great theological thinkers and moral stalwarts as C.S. Lewis (our patron saint, in my view)…has been complicit in this. It is so terrified of being perceived as “uncool” that it doesn’t dare attack popular culture or elevate its members above the culture…unless, of course, it is a soft target, such as those really uncool, nagging, square conservatives (a minority group of which I count myself a proud member). The sad fact is that my church, sadly dominated at the top by Frankfurter-Gramsci disciples, spends far too much of its time and effort huffing and puffing to keep up with the latest social trends in its frantic effort to appear cool and contemporary while pushing its “social justice” agenda. I don’t recall my church’s leadership ever raising a peep of protest against the depravity of contemporary culture. Excuses, yes. Protests, no. Quite the opposite.

One of my FB friends just shared an electronic ad from our church’s head bishop that includes scatological epiphets to get the message across. Soooo, soooo cool! So with it! Some churches are great builders of spiritual armor. Not this one. It prefers to be complicit with a depraved culture. It follows, it does not have the courage to lead. You may ask, of course, why I don’t leave this church, so I will answer that: because it is precisely there that I am needed. There are many good people there. I and others do speak out and try to nurture and strengthen our children with spiritual armor.

Is the solution to force honest citizens to surrender their weapons? That is thinking with the heart rather than the head. I am so, so totally against this. The solution to an outbreak of wolves is not to defang the guard dogs. In this age of the wolf, we need more guard dogs, not less.

The Connecticut school shooting could have been stopped right away had there been one or more people on premise with guns, a circumstance that today would land any would-be guard dog in jail without passing “go”. Chances are that, had the shooter known that the school was protected, he would never have dared go there. The only real defense against a gun…is a gun. Mass murderers tend to be cowards that seek out soft, undefended targets like schools and churches. Guns, like drugs, will always be available to psychopaths, criminals and terrorists. If not guns, there are always knives, automobiles, poison gas, molotov cocktails or fertilizer bombs. Taking guns away from civilians only creates a larger pool of defenseless sheep available for slaughter. One of my FB friends also suggested that only government and police should have weapons. Scary thought. Look around the world today: now, that is one very scary thought. Government and law enforcement magnets for wolves. But, then, this is how people who have never had to confront wolves perceive the world. Like the Hobbits of the Shire, content to eat, drink and be merry, free of cares. But, reality eventually intrudes and we cannot magically “wish” wolves away into oblivion.

Finally, there is one particular aspect of this that really, really bothers me: young kids for decades have been getting gunned down, knifed, beaten to death, suffocated and raped in our inner cities. But, other than perfunctory hand-wringing, we never saw an outcry against this compared to what occurred after this most recent shooting in a well-to-do middle class community. Gee, what could the reason for this be? Yup, you’re right.

We won’t change what appears to be happening with increasing frequency to our society until we decide that we will stand up and dare to speak out against the increased depravity of our culture. Definitely “uncool”, but we must do it…for all families, for the kids and for our future. Otherwise, it can only continue to get much, much worse. It is the age of the wolf.

The moral space in between

America’s First Sergeant put up a post that perfectly addresses my last two attempts to figure out Mike McQueary’s inaction.  The first post I wrote looked at McQueary’s alleged youth, which I contrasted with the even youthier youth of a few Medal of Honor recipients who didn’t hesitate to act.  The second (with lots of help from jj) examined the prevailing moral relativism that gives a pass to all conduct (except, of course, for voting conservative).

If you read A1stS’s post, which reprints portions of a speech that Colonel Barton S. Sloat gave, you will see a perfect statement about the moral compass each of us should have and that, in an unbalanced age, many are missing.

Because for me it’s always about politics, I’m going to drag poor old Newt in here for a minute.  In a normal election year, I don’t think Newt, with all of his undoubted baggage, would have a snowball’s chance in Hell of winning.  But 2012 won’t be a normal election year.

Past elections have seen the candidates fighting each other in the middle — a little tax more or a little less; a little more foreign aggression or a little less; a little of this and a little of that.  Obama’s presidency, however, ripped America from her long-standing economic and foreign policy moorings.  It also swept away the warm, fuzzy media manipulation that had prevented ordinary people from seeing the Left up close and personal.  The result is that the 2012 election isn’t taking place in the middle.  It will be a profound ideological war about America’s identity.

In 2012, we will not longer be talking about a tax tweak here and a battalion there, although those concrete details matter to America’s survival.  Instead, we are talking about the moral space in between:  Are we a country guided by a traditional morality that lives in each citizen’s heart and soul, or are we a vast government conglomeration with faceless cogs entirely controlled by bureaucratic powers?

In this heated ideological environment, will victory go to the candidate who is pretty darn conservative and whose life is a model for moderation and purity (that would be Romney, who may flip-flop, but he’s still to the right of the political divide), or does it go to the candidate who comes with more shackles attached than Marley’s ghost, but who can spell out in lively, fluid, accessible prose what we stand for as a nation?

I suspect that whether Newt or Mitt becomes president, we’ll see a situation that will be six of one and half dozen of the other in terms of governance.  However, when it comes to defining us as a nation, and perhaps helping us determining how we want to fill the moral space in between, Newt may well be the 2012 candidate we need, even if we don’t always want him.

Post Script:  If you want to see the vapidity the fills those spaces during evil’s off hours, check out The Mellow Jihadi on the Kardashians.

Mike McQueary — poster child for moral relativism?

I had in my car two fourteen year olds and one thirteen year old.  All were familiar with the Sandusky case, so I wasn’t exposing them to sordid information they didn’t already know.  None of them, however, knew about Mike McQueary’s involvement, or lack thereof.  I gave them a simple multiple choice question:

You walk into a room and see a 50 year old man raping a 10 year old boy.  Do you (a) attack the man and try to drag him off the boy or (b) sneak away and, hours later, ask your parents what you should do?

The roar from the back of the car shook the windows:  “I’d rip him apart!”  “Of course I’d attack him!”  “I’d kick him the balls!”  “That’s a really dumb question.”

As the response from these very young people demonstrates, McQueary’s young age (28) is no defense to his action.  Young people can and do know right from wrong, and child rape is wrong.

How to explain McQueary then?  I think the problem isn’t his young age, ’cause he, at 28, was no youngster.  The problem was his old age.  He’d been around long enough to be fully indoctrinated.  All those liberal pundits who are apologizing for McQueary’s behavior by pointing to his youth, his tribal loyalties, and his lukewarm, delayed response are hiding the ball.  For liberals, the uncomfortable truth is that McQueary probably didn’t act because, after a lifetime in America’s public education system, his moral relativism training had completely erased any absolute moral standards that might once have populated his pre-academic brain.

I was starting to compose a post on just that point, when jj saved me the effort.  Let me quote here his astute comment, written in response to an earlier statement I’d made about the law’s “reasonable man” standard for reacting to a situation:

The “reasonable man” standard?  The trouble with that particular fairy-tale is simple, obvious, and the same as it’s always been: who gets to define “reasonable?”

I’m afraid I’ll need to take a little issue with that.  Since the discovery of political correctness — which in my life first reared its head in the 1950s — the law not only expects us to conform to entirely unreasonable behavior, it requires us to, all day every day.

If you’re a rancher within reach of the Mexican border, you’re not allowed to defend your property or, come to that, yourself.  You can, however, be arrested for trying to do so.  “Reasonable?”  You not only can’t guard your property or yourself, you’re supposed to stand quietly by and watch your country be overrun, your way of life be buried and lost, and all that you believe defecated on.  “Reasonable?”

Snookie, or Pookie, or Moochie — or whatever the hell his name was — Williams was a murderer and founder of a collection of organized offal who have spread everywhere, cost society millions, and murdered a good many people.  Flushing him should have been a routine, reflexive act requiring no thought whatever, carried out with the same alacrity you’d flush anything else floating in the toilet.  Of course it wasn’t.  We — or I should properly say “you,” California — went into full coronary angst mode to spare his worthless life.  This was “reasonable?”

In Scotland not long ago the cops pulled over a speeding car.  The driver’s defense was that he was a Muslim, running late getting from wife #1 to wife #2.  The bewigged and ball gown-equipped jackass on the bench (and if he was a High Court jackass, he gets to wear a red ball-gown, woo-woo!) decided that this made it an excusable offense and dismissed him without a stain on his character, or even a speeding ticket — thereby putting paid to a thousand years of Anglo-Scottish law and custom.  “Reasonable?”  Even for a judge?

We are wound about with laws and enmeshed in requirements that are antithetical to our customs, beliefs, way of life, and the way this country was set up to be that I’m afraid I have to find the “reasonable man” standard laughable.  We have our own ball-gowned jackasses making it up as they go along, and referencing Bulgarian law, or Ukrainian law, or maybe Martian law to decide what our Constitution means when it suits them — Ginsberg outstandingly — and this is “reasonable?”

Instead of shunning NAMBLA spokesmen and placing them firmly beyond society’s pale, we invite their opinions on Oprah — because after all, don’t they have a right to be heard?  Dr. Phil engages them earnestly for his (large) audience of the brain-damaged, and sadly regrets that while he cannot agree, he does understand.  “Reasonable?”

So here we are, scrupulously multicultural, transnational, non-judgmental, standing for nothing — and everybody’s shocked when this McQueary kid doesn’t know what the hell to do when confronted by the situation that confronted him.  Everybody here turns into a militant ass-kicker, in no doubt of what we all would have done in the same situation.  (And if we’d done it, Sandusky would have lodged a suit for assault against us, and, win or lose, would have f***ed up our lives forever.)  “Reasonable?”

We won’t — and don’t — defend our culture and way of life.  We won’t — and don’t — defend the fundamental bases on which this nation was founded.  You’re surprised McQueary found himself paralyzed?  Why?  I’m sure he had a nice, politically-correct upbringing — I’m surprised he even reported it.  Who the hell knows what constitutes “reasonable” any more?

If my sampling of three youngsters has any validity at all, it shows that 13 and 14 year olds haven’t yet been infected by moral relativism, while a 28 year old man living in a university environment is utterly incapable of distinguishing right from wrong.  Let’s pray, long and hard, that we regain our cultural balance before the next generation of kids turns into ineffectual, self-doubting amoral McQuearys.

Dakota Meyer; or who carries the seeds of greatness?

Navy One brought my attention to the fact that America’s 1st Sergeant once served with Medal of Honor winner Dakota Meyer.  I quickly headed over to the link, anticipating some reminiscences about Meyer.  Am’s 1st Sgt didn’t include any.  Instead, he repeated Meyer’s own words, spoken after the fact:

I didn’t think I was going to die, I knew I was. I was just going to keep fighting until they got me. I wasn’t going to sit there and lay down and let them win. That was the only thing on my mind was how to get those guys out. I would’ve done it again.

I was a little disappointed not to learn more about Meyer himself from one who worked closely with him.  This silence on  Am’s 1st Sgt’s part got me wondering what I was expecting to read.

Did I want to hear that, from day one, Meyer was marked by greatness, so that those who served with him felt it was inevitable that he would be awarded the nation’s highest military honor?  Reading things like that helps one come to terms with being ordinary.  “Hey, it’s okay that I’ve never done, nor will ever do, something special.  The ones who do something special are already tagged by God.”

Or perhaps I wanted to hear that Meyer, up until his moment of bravery and self-sacrifice was an ordinary Joe, just another good ol’ boy in the Marines, and that, while everyone liked him, nobody ever expected those vast reserves of raw courage.  That’s also a good one, because it says that, until we are tested, we don’t know who or what we are.  Sure, I’m just a stealth suburban blogger, hiding my true identity from those around me but, if push comes to shove, I too am capable of stepping outside my own fears and limitations.

These aren’t just random thoughts.  They actually started a few days ago when I saw this video:

The video shows an accident scene in Logan, Utah.  A motorcyclist plowed into a car, his motorcycle burst into flames, and he slid under the car, unconscious.  The burning motorcycle made the entire scene dangerous.  The bystanders, instead of running away, investigated the scene, analyzed the risks to the motorcyclist (refrain from moving an injured man lest one causes worse injuries or run the risk that the car will explode) and then, having decided that immolation was the greatest risk, in one huge frenzy of energy, flipped the car over and dragged the motorcyclist out.  They saved the motorcyclist but, at the same time, each and every one of those bystanders risked death or injury.  None of them, I’m sure, went to work that day assuming that they’d be faced with that kind of decision-making.

In England a short while ago, it was a 22-year-old woman who showed physical and moral courage.  Two drunken thugs were brutally beating a man in public.  People drove by or watched.  Twenty-two year old Aimee Yule, a taxi dispatcher, chased the thugs away, administered help to the injured man and, when the thugs returned, actually used physical force against them.  Ms. Yule’s own thoughts on the subject bear noting:

She said outside court: ‘I couldn’t believe no one else was stopping to help him, there were loads of cars going past.

‘People were stopping and calling ambulances and the police, but no one came over. He got knocked out and there was blood coming out of his mouth.

‘When I approached they moved away, but they kept coming back to kick him.

‘One of them ran towards me and lifted his hand but I stood still and told him to leave. Luckily, he never hit me.

‘I was just sitting with him trying to stop them. I said “that’s enough, he’s had enough, please just leave it.”

I couldn’t believe more people had not stopped, cars had to swerve round them and some had stopped at the other side of the road to watch, but nobody came to help.’

Miss Yule said the incident left her badly shaken. She added: ‘I wouldn’t normally get involved with something like that, but I just thought, that’s somebody’s son being stamped on in the middle of that road.’

Bravery, then, seems to be an amalgam of moral courage and low brain function.  Think too much, and it’s all over — you can always talk yourself out of the risk.

The Logan scene notwithstanding, crowds also seem to inhibit courage.  I became aware of this several years ago when a crowd of people stood around and watched as a deranged man stomped his two-year old son to death on a public road.  The bystanders all seemed to be watching each other for cues.  Each was apparently wondering whether s/he was reading the situation correctly or was running the risk of public humiliation through overreaction.  And each person, by worrying about the others’ responses, stood paralyzed as a child died.

These stories are one of the reasons I love MMA.  I’d like to think that if, God forbid, I’m ever confronted with the need to act, I’ll have drilled sufficiently that I’ll be able to dive in without thinking.  It’s the analysis paralysis that worries me, since I’m an over-thinker at the best of times.   I work hard so that I’ll do the right thing, instead of berating myself later for failing to act at all.

Moral figures without moral authority

There is a story that Josef Stalin, hearing mention of the Pope, asked dismissively ““How many divisions does the Pope have?”  The quotation, if true, is compelling, because it perfectly illustrates the Leftist viewpoint that the only power is that which comes at the point of a gun.  The notion of moral behavior and moral authority is utterly alien to the statist.

An interesting question, therefore is what happens to a figure of supposed moral authority who is the product of a statist society?  JKB sent me the answer to that question, which is that the person recognizes that moral dimensions exist in a given situation, but is utterly incapable of believing that there is a way to use his authority to enforce that morality.  The following quotation comes from a long, stream-of-consciousness description a British man of the cloth wrote about the riots in Salford:

My clothes stink of smoke and I want to weep with rage at a society that has disenfranchised so many for so long whilst brainwashing two/three generations of children to want, want, want!  I can still hear the sheer joy in that lads voice, ‘X-boxes! iPhones! You can get whatever you want!’  All of his empty dreams being fulfilled – well temporarily anyway.

I also feel a kind of empty, shocked sorrow that I heard young children being taught to hate the police as they arrived, that parents would send them into dark, dangerous buildings to loot to feed their own greed, happy to teach them that stealing and looting and robbing and mindless waste and destruction are ‘funny’, because if I heard that once I heard it a thousand times tonight.  ’I just think it’s funny!’

I saw the faces of police personnel, hardened with concentration for the task at hand, while people laughed at the potential damage they would inflict on somebody else’s wife, son, daughter, mother.

The trouble is, we do have a two tier society without a doubt, and while bankers have been allowed their bonuses having stitched us up every which way, we will continue to pay for this in more ways than one, and tonight is just one of them.  With the cuts aimed primarily at the poor and the needy and the disenfranchised, things can only get worse.

And what will we do?  Continue to promulgate the values that have created this deadly cocktail of haves and have-nots, faithless, hopeless people who have been taught that consumerism is a recreational right and all moral and religious education completely nonsensical?  Surely THIS is nonsensical?!  [Emphasis mine.]

I don’t doubt at all the despair or moral decency of the person who wrote that plaintive cry.  What concerned JKB, and what concerns me, is his helplessness. Even as he carries on him the smoke from his burning country, and even though he is a man of the cloth, he sees the problem solely in statist terms.  While he mentions the words “moral” and “religion,” he doesn’t seem to see either morality or religion as answers.  Instead, the problem, in his mind, is the usual pap about “haves and have-nots,” with the answer being to use his moral authority, not to inculcate morality, but simply to decrease consumerism. Without inculcating values in people, though, the only way to decrease consumerism is the Stalinist way — at the point of the gun, and we’ve seen lately just how well that works.

 

On honor and being a Jew

I admire my blog friends.  They are people I know only through their writing, but their writing has convinced me that they are intelligent, thoughtful, informed, and that I admire and often share their moral principles.  I am always happy to recommend their work.

Sometimes, though, my blog friends, who always write and think well, write something that is even more than usually wonderful.  That’s the case with Bruce Kesler’s latest outing, What my grandfather taught me about honor, a post that combines Jewish values, honor, education and Leftism, all in one short, almost lyrical essay.

On adultery and politicians *UPDATED*

Roger Simon uses the Strauss-Kahn affair to say something very profound about a society that condones cheating:

I won’t get into the sad details, but some time ago I had an affair with a married French woman — I was single then — that went on for a couple of years.

I’m not proud of it in the least. It was stupid, immoral (yes, that) and eventually sheer emotional Hell. Besides hurting other people, most of them innocent, it drastically affected my work in a negative way and made me a liar on frequent occasions. In sum, I was despicable, weak, selfish and destructive of myself and others to do it.

But I did learn something about the French. Pace Edith Piaf and Yves Montand, there is nothing chic or hip about their adultery. After all the shared Gauloise and baiser volé, it’s just cheating. People don’t respect each other. People don’t trust each other. Indeed, they begin to hate each other. Life is wretched. It’s like a game of ritual self-and-other torture played out by a significant sector of their society — particularly in the elite classes — into oblivion.

I’ve long said that the trust issue, not the morality issue, is why we care about our politicians’ affairs. If our elected officials think nothing about lying to and cheating on those who are, presumably, nearest and dearest to them, what are we to expect when it comes to the politicians’ relationship to us, the public?  That is, a politician’s immorality is a personal matter that goes to each politician’s relationship with his family and his God.  But the lying — that’s about character, and that should matter to the voting public.

UPDATE:  Jonathan Tobin has more on how the French system enabled a known sexual predator to rise so high.  (Of course, the Arkansas/America system did too, but at least we Americans were shocked when we learned about it.)  I guess the bottom line, always, will be that, if you’re a politician helping the right people, you can trust them to turn a blind eye whether you’re committing minor peccadilloes or major crimes.

Virtue requires constant exercise — and Big Government leaves us morally flabby

Don Quixote and I got together for lunch today, and the conversation drifted to innate human goodness.  Neither of us believes in it.  We both noted that, if people are rich and powerful enough to do so, significant numbers of them readily abandon ordinary morality, with sexual debauchery usually heading the list of their moral collapses.

Monogamy (or even four wife polygamy) is good for the “little people,” but if you’re a president or a movie star or a ridiculously rich person, why limit yourself?  Unless you’re as unlucky as Tiger Woods was, your money and power will insulate you from exposure, and you can abandon middle class virtue with impunity.  Virtue, apparently, isn’t hard wired.  Instead, not only is it learned, but it’s kept in place by constant external pressure and constant internal vigilance.

The same holds true for kindness.  Anyone who has ever raised children knows that children are innately selfish and brutal.  (Red of tooth and claw, if you will.)  Only arduous socialization, put into place using carrots and sticks, and operating both within the house and outside of it, shapes children into civilized beings who can engage in the minimal altruistic behavior that makes society function.

Don Quxiote and I both commented on the fact that even now, in our middle age, we must constantly work to be “nice.”  I mean, really, why should I stand in line or pay for things I want or be constrained by speed limits or speak politely to idiots or hold a job (which includes being pleasant and responsible), or do any of the other thousands of other things that I daily do against my instincts?

Why do I do all that?  I’ll tell you why.  Because I have to eat.  If I revert to my two year old monster self — that is, if I don’t make the effort to conform my behavior to normal societal constraints — I will lose my job, I will lose my family, I will lose my home, and I will lose my food.  In a moderate climate, one can manage marginally well without shelter, but once you start betraying your food sources, you’re really screwed.

There are rewards for good behavior other than food, of course.  Living in a society that promotes individual virtue, morality and altruism means that you’re living in a very good society indeed.  Everyone is on his best behavior, because there are fundamental survival rewards for that:  Food, shelter and, if you’ve got some free time on your hands, procreation.

What happens, though, when people in a socialist society get food, shelter and sex (but no babies) without having to make the effort?  I’d posit that these people lose their incentive to be moral, virtuous and altruistic.  On a vast scale, their sociability reverts to a toddler/lizard brain behavior level.  Look at Hollywood, look at JFK, look at Bill Clinton, look at England — absent the hardcore morality police in, say Iran or North Korea, if there is no benefit to morality and altruism, people abandon those behaviors.  They are not hardwired, they are learned, and we must practice them constantly to maintain them.

In other words, absent morality police armed with acids and the threat of concentration camp, socialism destroys morality and altruism by removing the external pressures that force people to practice these virtues.  Do you agree?  If so, speak up!  And if not, please explain why not.

Cross-posted at Right Wing News

The Bookworm Turns : A Secret Conservative in Liberal Land,
available in e-format for $4.99 at Amazon or Smashwords.

A writer who understands how the Left operates

I’m reading a very enjoyable novel right now that is completely tuned in to the way in which the Left operates, especially when it comes to the media and academia.

The writer is completely tuned into the name calling that substitutes for informed debate. For example, when the book’s protagonist, Paul, learns that Leftists starting submitted articles to a magazine that contained misstatements of facts in an effort to shift political sentiment (a la Climategate, although this book predates that effort), the following dialog ensues between Paul and Bill Weider, the magazine’s editor:

“But – Bill, why don’t you publish the story you told me? Just as you’ve told it to me? Let your readers know. Let the public see what is happening.”

Weidler’s frown came back. “You know what will happen? There will be a campaign against us. We’ll be called fascists, war-mongers, American imperialists, witch-hunters.”

“You’ve forgotten to add ‘hysteria-inciters,’” Paul said, smiling. “Strange how often they’ve been using hysteria recently – almost hysterically, in fact.”

On the subject of claims about hysteria, my sister, much impressed, sent me this Glenn Greenwald article deriding American hysteria about the Flaming Panties bomber.  I wrote her back that Americans would be less inclined to be hysterical if the Administration would identify and focus upon an enemy – that would be radical Islam, by the way. As long as the Administration (and this goes for the past Administration too) refuses to identify the enemy, all Americans are suspect, and all must be exposed to searches, stupid restrictions, and other limitations on civil liberties.

In a charming aside, the book tackles the root cause question. When the book’s heroine, Rona, and her sister, Peggy, talk about an unpleasant acquaintance, they have this to say:

“She isn’t a friend of yours, is she?” Peggy was now very much the elder sister.

“Not particularly,” Rona said, which was a miracle of understatement. “Scott says she’s a product of her environment,” she added.

“Strange how we never use that phrase when we are describing pleasant people,” Peggy said….

Do I need to remind you that one of the first things Obama did after the Flaming Panties bombing was to emphasize the poverty in Yemen? Yes, it’s true that poor, corrupt countries are great hosts for radical Islamists, but there is no doubt but that the bombers, whether they’re the fabulously wealthy founder of Al Qaeda, young dilettantes flying airplanes into the World Trade Center, ordinary Yorkshire youths blowing up British subways, educated psychiatrists shooting soldiers at Fort Hood, or fabulously wealthy Nigerians setting their underwear on fire are products of only one environment, one that the Left never dares to acknowledge: Islam.

Using a conversation between Paul and his friend, Jon, a professor, the writer has a long riff on the way in which the Left deliberately targets universities and newspapers – indeed, all media of mass communication – as a way in which to manipulate the public:

“You’re in education, Jon. Do you think propaganda is a powerful force? Could it be dangerous? Supposing an enemy of this country had its sympathizers carefully planted here? Supposing these propagandists were trying to infiltrate such businesses and professions as radio, the press, films, schools and colleges, the theater, publishing?”

“That’s a damned silly question,” Jon said almost angrily. “You ask how dangerous it might be?” He looked at Paul, unbelievingly, but Paul kept silent. “This is the twentieth century, with communication easier and more powerful than it’s ever been. The trouble with those who see no danger, who think we are perfectly safe if only we invent more hideous bombs is that they are still living with a nineteenth century idea of peace. Wars haven’t changed much except in bigger and better holocausts. But peace, as we are going to see it in this century, is something quite altered. A lot of new dangers are going to stay with us permanently just because we’ve invented a lot of peacetime conveniences that make life so interesting. It isn’t only armies we have to fear today: it’s words, words abused and corrupted and twisted.”

Still Paul said nothing.

“You see,” Jon went on patiently, “a hundred years ago, fewer people could read, fewer people were educated, and fewer people thought they could argue about international conditions. Also, in those days, propaganda spread more slowly and less widely. But now we’ve got a vast public who read their papers, discuss books and articles, go to the movies and the theater, listen to their radio, watch television, and send their children to schools and colleges.”

“And a public,” Paul interposed, “who have enough to do with arranging their own lives without analyzing all the things they read or hear. They’ve got to trust the honesty of those men who deal with the written or spoken word. Just as the journalist, or the movie director, or the teacher, has got to trust the honesty of the businessmen and workers whenever he buys a refrigerator or a car or a shirt. Isn’t that right?”

The above was written before the 2008 election – before the media completely abandoned its role of reporting and became an institution devoted to advocating a single party in an election. And, as Paul predicted, the public bought it hook, line and sinker, trusting as they did in the honesty of the written and spoken word pouring out over the airwaves. Nowadays, big lies get promulgated with warp speed, in myriad media, and they live forever, corrupting political discourse.

The author recognizes the way in which the Left is hostile to any wars that might conceivably advance American interests. In speaking of a college campus, she says:

“The colleges and universities were full of pickets with placards saying it was all an imperialist war. The students and faculties were deluged with leaflets denouncing war-mongers and reactionaries. Speakers were appearing on the campus, haranguing us all not to fight.”

There’s a universality to that description, since it aptly describes the Left’s anti-War tactics in 1940, 1968, 1991, 2003, and today. To the Left, the possibility of a good war, a war to maintain the line against totalitarianism and preserve freedom, is always impossible to imagine – and the easiest targets for that failure of imagination are colleges students, since it is they who must be convinced that they are fighting for something worth defending.

Speaking of fighting for something worth defending, the writer has no truck with the Leftist habit of moral relativism. Here are Rona and her boyfriend Scott having a debate about a guest at a party who Rona believes has a tiresome habit of painting everything in Left of center politics:

“His line is so old! Two years ago, or three, he could manage to get away with it. But not now.”

“What do you mean?” Scott looked across the room.

“Just that he wasn’t the least little bit the original talker he likes to imagine he is. He only succeeded in annoying most of our guests.”

“Because he thinks differently from them? Se we must all talk the same way, think the same things?”

“No, darling!” She rose and came over to him. “I don’t believe two of us in the room echoed any point of view, except in a general way – well, of believing that right is right and wrong is wrong.”

“That’s all relative,” Scott said. “Depends on each man’s frame of reference.”

“I don’t believe that,” she said, “except for the small things in life. You can find them as relative as you like. But in the big things, you’ve got to decide what is right, what is wrong. Or else you’ve no moral judgment, at all. Like Murray. He’s just a parrot, that’s all he is.”

Moral relativism, of course, is a chronic talking point for the Left, and a chronic problem for those educated and controlled by the Left. In the War against Islamists, for example, moral relativism is tightly entwined with the whole “root cause” that both the author and I mentioned above. After all, as Michael Moore said, one man’s freedom fighter is another man’s terrorist. The Left never seems to understand that, while the act of fighting may be the same, the reason one fights determines whether one is morally right or wrong. Fighting for individual liberty is a good reason to fight; fighting to subjugate the world to a misogynist, homophobic, antisemitic, anti-Christian, completely totalitarian religion – well, not so good.

In the last section of the book from which I’ll quote, the writer also tackles the Left’s habit of targeting individuals by appealing to their sense of victim hood. Multiculturalism isn’t a means of preserving what’s special about a group’s ethnicity. Instead, it’s a political tool aimed at dividing Americans from each other, and making them dependent on the Left as their only savior.

While today’s victims are mostly blacks, Hispanics, gays, lesbians, women (when it’s still useful), Muslims, etc., in the book, the man targeted to be a victim who can be saved only by the Left is a Jew:

“I’ve a battle on my hands right now. They want us to keep different, and I’m telling them the hell with that, we’re Americans. That’s what we are. Stop building a wall around us, stop emphasizing differences, that’s what I keep trying to tell them. And they look at me as if I were some kind of traitor.” He looked at Jon Tyson. “But I’m building no wall, and no one is going to persuade me to do it.”

Obviously, I’ve been playing coy with you, keeping secret the book’s author, title and date of publication. Those of you who know my weakness for Helen MacInnes’ Cold War novels might already have figured out that I’m quoting from one of her books. The book in question is Neither Five Nor Three, published in 1951. It focuses on the Left’s infiltration of the media world and college campuses.

This was the beginning of the Cold War, of course, so Helen MacInnes couldn’t look ahead and realize how that infiltration would be completely successful. While we were challenging the Soviet Union abroad, it was taking over our institutions at home. And now, as Leftist Professor Ward Churchill would say, “The chickens have come home to roost.” All of the nascent tactics MacInnes described then – the moral relativism, the victim-based multiculturalism, the name-calling, the anti-Americanism – have become permanently entrenched in America’s media and education cultures. In those days, people saw these things and remarked upon them. In these days, people believe in the message and approve of the messengers.

Neither Five Nor Three Cover

When God closes a door, he sometimes opens a window

In the wake of Sarah Palin’s appearance on the national political scene, some Obama supporters made some pretty deranged statements about the Palin family decision to go ahead with a pregnancy when they knew that the baby would have Down Syndrome.  There was a lot of eugenics-type talk about the social utility of handicapped children (none) and the societal wisdom of destroying them (huge).

To those of us who have been paying attention for periods longer than this political season, these ugly outbursts weren’t surprising.  After all, Pete Singer, “dean” of American ethicists (with a chair at Princeton), and founder of the American animal rights movement, has long advocated that it is ethical to give parents a 30 day window after a child’s birth within which to destroy the child should the parents deem it defective.  Singer, like others with his statist views, have a peculiarly Utopian view of the perfectibility of humans, one which depends, not on moral growth, but on government force.

And yes, you’re not imaging it — Hitler did in fact put this ideology into effect.  Aside from trying to kill entire races he deemed defective, such as Jews and Gypsies, he was also big on genetic management, which involved prostituting German women to SS forces to make “perfect” Aryan babies and, on the flip side, killing those Aryans he deemed defective.  My uncle on the Christian side of the family was gassed because he was a manic-depressive.  This is what happens when the state makes decisions because, as I’ve said before, the state has no conscience.

The most clear and recent statement of this principle came from yet another famed “ethicist,” this one in England (emphasis mine):

Elderly people suffering from dementia should consider ending their lives because they are a burden on the NHS and their families, according to the influential medical ethics expert Baroness Warnock.

The veteran Government adviser said pensioners in mental decline are “wasting people’s lives” because of the care they require and should be allowed to opt for euthanasia even if they are not in pain.

She insisted there was “nothing wrong” with people being helped to die for the sake of their loved ones or society.

The 84-year-old added that she hoped people will soon be “licensed to put others down” if they are unable to look after themselves.

Her comments in a magazine interview have been condemned as “immoral” and “barbaric”, but also sparked fears that they may find wider support because of her influence on ethical matters.

Lady Warnock, a former headmistress who went on to become Britain’s leading moral philosopher, chaired a landmark Government committee in the 1980s that established the law on fertility treatment and embryo research.

In the statist world, it is impossible for those the statists deem defective to have any value.  It’s the one gaping hole in their identity politics world view.  Everyone has a protectible identity except the handicapped who are either very young (fetal and infantile) or very old.

I mention all this for a reason.  Don Quixote forwarded an email to me about Paul Smith.  Have you ever heard of Paul Smith?  I hadn’t ’til now, but I think meeting him and his work is very important as we tremble on the brink of becoming a truly statist state, with the same universal health care that led the “moral philosopher” of Britain to advocate the mass slaughter of Britain’s helpless elderly.

Here’s an abbreviated version of Smith’s bio from the Foundation set up to honor him and his work:

Paul was born in Philadelphia on September 21, 1921.

Although severe cerebral palsy kept him out of school, it didn’t prevent him from having a remarkable life.

Never having a chance as a child to receive a formal education, Paul taught himself to become a master artist as well as a terrific chess player.

[snip]

His incredible visualization and calculation skills helped to make him a formidable chess player. Paul would stop doing just about anything else when he had a chance to play a game!

When typing, Paul used his left hand to steady his right one.

Since he couldn’t press two keys at the same time, he almost always locked the shift key down and made his pictures using the symbols at the top of the number keys.

In other words, his pictures were based on these characters …

@ # $ % ^ & * ( ) _

Across seven decades, Paul created hundreds of pictures. He often gave the originals away. Sometimes, but not always, he kept or received a copy for his own records.

You should read the whole bio, which you’ll find here.

And what work are we talking about? The incredible pictures he created using ten keys on an old fashioned typewriter.  You can see those pictures here, at the Paul Smith Foundation’s Web Gallery.

Are they the greatest art in the world?  Nope.  Not even close.  The Louvre or the Met would not be interested.  Nevertheless, they are extraordinary and very pleasing to the eye — and that’s entirely separate from the awe one feels when one considers the physical work and the mental vision that went into creating them.

I’m no saint.  I give thanks daily that, despite being an older mother, both my children were born without Down Syndrome or any of the other genetic diseases nature tosses out.  I’d like to think that, had something bad happened, I could have handled it, but I simply don’t know.

I do know, though, that I’m am finding increasingly horrifying the open-faced calls from the statists demanding the death of the imperfect.  I’ll therefore end this post with a slightly modified version of Pastor Martin Niemoller’s famous poem (versions of which you can see here):

First they came for the Communists,
- but I was not a communist so I did not speak out.
Then they came for those born with handicaps,
- but I was born without handicaps so I did not speak out.

Then they came for the Socialists and the Trade Unionists,
- but I was neither, so I did not speak out.
Then they came for the Jews,
- but I was not a Jew so I did not speak out.
And when they came for me, there was no one left to speak out for me.

It’s frightening how neatly my little interlineation fits into that poem, isn’t it?

(Right now, the gallery links aren’t working, but you can still get an idea of his work just by going to the gallary main page.  I’ll contact the gallery and see if they can fix the problem.)

UPDATEMore on those gifted lives that the raving Left now freely discusses snuffing.

Getting subliminal messages to our kids

What our kids hear, day in and day out, is moral relativism.  It’s the top note to their lives, whether it comes on TV, in cheesy movies, on the news or, most commonly, at school.  That might not be the only lesson they’re learning, though.  The other lesson, the subliminal one, might be about good old fashioned values of good versus evil, and the need to save the former by fighting the latter.

As you may recall, two years ago I wrote a lengthy article about the moral lessons in the hugely popular Lord of the Ring, Harry Potter and Narnia books and movies.  Others have caught the strong whiff of Christianity in the last Harry Potter book, and I have noted that, while Rowling has announced that Dumbledore, an almost saintlike character is gay, the unhappy personal history she gave him is not an advertisement for the free and easy gay lifestyle.  In other words, each of these hugely popular literary and movie franchises advances profoundly conservative values.

In keeping with this theme, Andrew Klavan has now opined that the new Batman movie, The Dark Knight, is a powerful moral tale supporting Bush’s often lonely battle against Islamism:

There seems to me no question that the Batman film “The Dark Knight,” currently breaking every box office record in history, is at some level a paean of praise to the fortitude and moral courage that has been shown by George W. Bush in this time of terror and war. Like W, Batman is vilified and despised for confronting terrorists in the only terms they understand. Like W, Batman sometimes has to push the boundaries of civil rights to deal with an emergency, certain that he will re-establish those boundaries when the emergency is past.

And like W, Batman understands that there is no moral equivalence between a free society — in which people sometimes make the wrong choices — and a criminal sect bent on destruction. The former must be cherished even in its moments of folly; the latter must be hounded to the gates of Hell.

“The Dark Knight,” then, is a conservative movie about the war on terror. And like another such film, last year’s “300,” “The Dark Knight” is making a fortune depicting the values and necessities that the Bush administration cannot seem to articulate for beans.

Perhaps it’s no surprise that these conservative messages resonate so strongly with movie goers.  A good story is about tension, and the best stories are about moral tension.  In a completely relativistic world, where all people — no matter what they do — are accorded precisely the same level of moral respect, how the heck are you going to have a compelling story?  Batman — good.  The Joker — good.  Harry Potter — good.  Voldemort — good.  And if you concede that The Joker and Voldemort are doing bad things in this vapid world of moral relativism, you’re still obligated to explain their acts away by pointing to their genetics or their bad childhoods.  Really, under those circumstances, it’s downright cruel for Batman or Harry Potter to hunt and hound to death these poor victims of society.

Do you care about corruption?

Some discussion in one of the comment threads prompts me to ask, do you really care whether your favorite politician is corrupt?  Sure, we’d all like our favorites to be pure as driven snow.  But, seriously, assume McCain is your man and you believed Obama would do serious damage to America (or assume the reverse; it doesn’t matter).  Would it matter to you to discover, beyond dispute, that your favored candidate was crooked as a three dollar bill and the opponent, who would ruin America if elected, is as upright as a saint?  Would you punish the individual at the expense of the country (the phrase “cut off your nose to spite your face” comes to mind)?

Okay, would it make a difference if the sins of your favorite were entirely personal (Monica, Whitewater) or actual misuse of power (Watergate)? 

We all love to point to the moral failings of the other candidate (gee, Obama provides lots of opportunities, doesn’t he), but does it really matter?  I submit there are a few voters who would punish their candidate at the expense of their country, but I’ll bet they are darn few.  For example, I doubt very many people at all who believe in Obama’s vision for America are going to be persuaded to vote against him because of the people he has associated with.  What do you think?  What would you do?