Thinking About Those Who Give All

Maybe it’s just me, but I didn’t think that Trump’s comments to the widow – if they were accurately reported – were offensive. I can just imagine my father saying pretty much the same thing had I died during my Navy service. I’ve read some comments from some veterans claiming to be offended and I’m not going to call them wrong for viewing it that way, but for me and the veterans I know, it was just a thing to be said. When we signed up, we all knew it was possible. To be sure, we all thought, if it came to combat, “it’ll be you and you and you, but not me”, but we also knew that the reality could be very different.

And it all got me thinking that we’re taking the whole thing of death a bit the wrong way. We all, as Shakespeare said, owe God a death. We hope to have our line of credit extended indefinitely (as Manchester in his autobiography about his war experiences put it), but death does come for us all in the by and by. And I think that, these days, we get entirely too maudlin about death.

I’m not thinking we should get all Spartan about it – “come home with your shield, or on it”; was what Spartan mothers would say to their sons going off to war – but, perhaps, a bit more Roman?

Then out spake brave Horatius,
The Captain of the Gate:
“To every man upon this earth
Death cometh soon or late.
And how can man die better
Than facing fearful odds,
For the ashes of his fathers,
And the temples of his Gods.”

Or another view, similar, which I’ve quoted here years before:

Now, God be thanked Who has matched us with His hour,
And caught our youth, and wakened us from sleeping,
With hand made sure, clear eye, and sharpened power,
To turn, as swimmers into cleanness leaping,
Glad from a world grown old and cold and weary,
Leave the sick hearts that honour could not move,
And half-men, and their dirty songs and dreary,
And all the little emptiness of love!

Oh! we, who have known shame, we have found release there,
Where there’s no ill, no grief, but sleep has mending,
Naught broken save this body, lost but breath;
Nothing to shake the laughing heart’s long peace there
But only agony, and that has ending;
And the worst friend and enemy is but Death.

That was Rupert Brooke, written as he went off to World War One. He got his death, and while very sorrowful for his many friends, it was still a glorious thing and he a man worthy of honor and remembrance. And I think that a lot of our people who seem ill at ease around death are those “sick hearts that honour could not move”. People who shrink from any real sacrifice – whether it is the sacrifice of merely having children and being decent parents; the sacrifice of keeping at a dreary job because one has responsibilities…or the sacrifice of one’s life in a cause.

I am getting old, now; not quite old, yet – but getting there. There is more time behind me than in front. I have done many things to be ashamed of, but there are a few things I’ve done which please me. I’ve kept my promise in some things, that is – and one of them was to be a Sailor in the United States Navy. Had I died as a young man in the Navy, I’d likely be nearly forgotten by now. Decades would have passed; my parents are now dead. My brothers and sisters would, at times, be reminded they once had a brother who is no longer there…but I wouldn’t be much more than a fleeting memory; a life cut short on this Earth. But, for all that, we are all doomed to be forgotten on this Earth. Whether one believes in the religious or the purely materialistic view of the world, eventually everything we do here becomes less than a memory here. We who have religion believe there is something much greater beyond this world, but even we believe that this world is doomed. You can take one of two courses of action in light of this: to either greedily grab on to every bit of life you can, or to merely try to do the right thing by others, even if it means you die and they go on. To those who greedily grab on to life, the fact that a life is cut short is the worst crime. To those who take the other view, it is the life that is poorly lived, long or short, which is the worst crime.

It is terribly sad for us – especially as we grow older – to see a young person die. Even for those of us with religious belief, there seems to be something very wrong in a young person, so full of promise, to be taken away from us. But there is something else to ponder about those who die young:

Right you guessed the rising morrow
And scorned to tread the mire you must:
Dust’s your wages, son of sorrow,
But men may come to worse than dust.

Souls undone, undoing others,-
Long time since the tale began.
You would not live to wrong your brothers:
Oh lad, you died as fits a man.

Now to your grave shall friend and stranger
With ruth and some with envy come:
Undishonoured, clear of danger,
Clean of guilt, pass hence and home.

Turn safe to rest, no dreams, no waking;
And here, man, here’s the wreath I’ve made:
‘Tis not a gift that’s worth the taking,
But wear it and it will not fade.

That is from A Shropeshire Lad – which is not exactly what I’m looking for, but it does address the issue of whether death is the worst thing which can happen. A man (or, these days, a woman) who goes to war is doing an act of sublime self-sacrifice. This is especially true in our modern age where we do not conscript people into war (and God grant we never do, again). That young man or woman who dons our nation’s uniform may have all sorts of bad in him or her. But by putting their lives on the line, they are balancing that bad – and if they do end up giving their life for their country, then they have carried out the greatest love of all, that a person should give his or her life for their friends. C. S. Lewis pointed out that had he, in his World War One service, shot a German in the same instant the German shot him, they’d both probably have wound up in heaven and had a good laugh about it. At such a moment, a person’s selfish desires are at their lowest ebb and their willingness to sacrifice to save others at the highest pitch. And as we must all die, why is this the worst way to die?

I would, of course, that all the young people today could live to a hundred and during their long lives have nothing but the blessings of peace, love and prosperity. But we all know that won’t happen. Even in the best of our lives, there is pain. And, at the end of it, death. We should avoid war because it is wrong to kill. But some times it becomes necessary to kill in order to defend what we hold most dear. And if we have to kill, it is certain that some of ours will be killed. To feel sorrow at their deaths is natural and beautiful – but to take their death and keep it separate from their courage is wrong. They, I think, would not want to be merely remembered as those who died, but as those who did something very special.


Open Thread

We really do need criminal justice reform. Robert Stinson spent 23 years in jail for a crime he did not commit: the evidence against him was some allegedly doctored-up bite mark evidence. Marcellus Williams has spent the last 16 years on death row: his scheduled execution the other day was stayed because new DNA evidence indicates he wasn’t the criminal…and his conviction seems to have been based mostly upon the testimony of his ex-girlfriend and a former cellmate, both of whom got cash rewards for their testimony.

Now, to be sure, I’m betting that the overwhelming majority of those in jail are in there for a good reason – but we’re getting more and more of these cases where it is clear there are at least serious questions as to guilt, and some which work out to a gigantic miscarriage of justice. We are supposed to be small-government Conservatives…and we simply must stop trusting the government when it sends someone up for life, or to death row. The problem lies in two things in my view:

1. We have far too many laws and thus it is possible to nail just about anyone with a crime, if you really want to.
2. Prosecutors who do convict an innocent person don’t pay any personal price for their actions.

We need a year or two of just repealing laws at the federal, State and local level. And then we need to find a mechanism to make sure that the prosecutors have skin in the game: that if they are saying, for sure, they know someone is guilty, they are putting their own financial resources, at the end of the day, where their assertions are. Fine a couple prosecutors half a million bucks for false conviction a couple times and the message will get out there. It is better that a guilty man go free than ten innocents wind up in jail, after all. Always err on the side of innocence and mercy.

A foreigner attends an American university for a year:

…During my ‘Welcome Week’, for example, I was presented with a choice of badges indicating my preferred gender pronouns: ‘he’, ‘she’, ‘they’ or ‘ze’?

The student in front of me, an Australian, found this hilarious: ‘Last time I checked, I was a girl.’ Her joke was met with stony silence…

Unless a kid wants to become a doctor or scientist, I highly recommend against sending them to college. Heck, I’m pretty certain if I had young kids, I wouldn’t even send them to middle or high school. Better they learn a trade than have to navigate the increasingly Orwellian world of higher education.

In the Great Statue Frenzy of 2017, the lunatics have vandalized a statue of St. Junipero Serra. Serra was one of them dirty, mean Catholics who went about converting the Natives to Christianity…so, he’s bad. They are also going after Columbus because, well, he got here…and, so, he’s bad, too.

A lunatic started shooting in Charleston today and Progressives were highly disappointed the shooter wasn’t a white guy.

A poll – which is probably an absurdity, given that it is, you know, a poll – shows that a plurality of Americans would be ok with banning Nazi speech in their local communities. For 1st Amendment purists, this is horrible…and, naturally, we should be wary of any attempt to limit speech. Except for one thing: I’m a Distributist. This means I am absolutely certain that Subsidiarity is the way to go…meaning the decisions on major issues should, as far as practical, be taken by the local communities. Ultimately, my view would be that the local community should decide – but not just on Nazi speech but what, broadly, goes on in the local community. The problem with San Francisco, after all, isn’t that it’s San Francisco…it is that the people who run the place want every other place to toe San Francisco’s line. I don’t give a darn, for the most part, what they do there: I just want them to not give a darn what we do here.

A federal law restricting something is one thing – a local law restricting it is quite another. The ultimate way forward for the United States – the way we keep ourselves a united, happy people – is to not just return to federalism, but to put federalism on steroids. An appeal to the federal power over a local law should be a rarity, and only taken up if the local action is an egregious violation of federal Constitutional provision. Federal cases deciding whether a local football team can have a team prayer before the game, for instance, are an absurdity. There is no real federal Constitutional issue which arises…no more than does a federal Constitutional issue arise when a more Progressive area of the country enacts a law providing for free birth control. It is just no one outside the local area’s business what happens in such a matter.

As it turns out, I don’t think that Mein Kampf should be available in my local libraries. But I also think that Das Kapital is not worthy of anyone’s consideration. And if I could convince, by free and fair argument, my fellow local citizens to enact a law removing said works from the library, it would be of no concern to anyone outside our local area. As long as people feel in their local communities that their ultimate destinies are in their own hands, they will feel largely content.

This Caught My Eye

A feminist ponders:

It makes me wonder what happened to the Brave New World we’d envisaged for our daughters and granddaughters. A world of unlimited possibilities, choices and equality for girls to become or do anything?

A world I — like many women — fought for in the Sixties.

Has feminism made life worse, not better, for today’s generation of girls?

Certainly, women have never existed in such a bleak emotional landscape.

G. K. Chesterton answered the question long before the feminist was born:

Now I have only taken the test case of Female Suffrage because it is topical and concrete; it is not of great moment for me as a political proposal. I can quite imagine anyone substantially agreeing with my view of woman as universalist and autocrat in a limited area; and still thinking that she would be none the worse for a ballot paper. The real question is whether this old ideal of woman as the great amateur is admitted or not. There are many modern things which threaten it much more than suffragism; notably the increase of self-supporting women, even in the most severe or the most squalid employments. If there be something against nature in the idea of a horde of wild women governing, there is something truly intolerable in the idea of a herd of tame women being governed. And there are elements in human psychology that make this situation particularly poignant or ignominous. The ugly exactitudes of business, the bells and clocks the fixed hours and rigid departments, were all meant for the male: who, as a rule, can only do one thing and can only with the greatest difficulty be induced to do that. If clerks do not try to shirk their work, our whole great commercial system breaks down. It is breaking down, under the inroad of women who are adopting the unprecedented and impossible course of taking the system seriously and doing it well. Their very efficiency is the definition of their slavery. It is generally a very bad sign when one is trusted very much by one’s employers. And if the evasive clerks have a look of being blackguards, the earnest ladies are often something very like blacklegs. But the more immediate point is that the modern working woman bears a double burden, for she endures both the grinding officialism of the new office and the distracting scrupulosity of the old home. Few men understand what conscientiousness is. They understand duty, which generally means one duty; but conscientiousness is the duty of the universalist. It is limited by no work days or holidays; it is a lawless, limitless, devouring decorum. If women are to be subjected to the dull rule of commerce, we must find some way of emancipating them from the wild rule of conscience. But I rather fancy you will find it easier to leave the conscience and knock off the commerce. As it is, the modern clerk or secretary exhausts herself to put one thing straight in the ledger and then goes home to put everything straight in the house.

This condition (described by some as emancipated) is at least the reverse of my ideal. I would give woman, not more rights, but more privileges. Instead of sending her to seek such freedom as notoriously prevails in banks and factories, I would design specially a house in which she can be free. And with that we come to the last point of all; the point at which we can perceive the needs of women, like the rights of men, stopped and falsified by something which it is the object of this book to expose.

The Feminist (which means, I think, one who dislikes the chief feminine characteristics) has heard my loose monologue, bursting all the time with one pent-up protest. At this point he will break out and say, “But what are we to do? There is modern commerce and its clerks; there is the modern family with its unmarried daughters; specialism is expected everywhere; female thrift and conscientiousness are demanded and supplied. What does it matter whether we should in the abstract prefer the old human and housekeeping woman; we might prefer the Garden of Eden. But since women have trades they ought to have trades unions. Since women work in factories, they ought to vote on factory-acts. If they are unmarried they must be commercial; if they are commercial they must be political. We must have new rules for a new world—even if it be not a better one.” I said to a Feminist once: “The question is not whether women are good enough for votes: it is whether votes are good enough for women.” He only answered: “Ah, you go and say that to the women chain-makers on Cradley Heath.”

Now this is the attitude which I attack. It is the huge heresy of Precedent. It is the view that because we have got into a mess we must grow messier to suit it; that because we have taken a wrong turn some time ago we must go forward and not backwards; that because we have lost our way we must lose our map also; and because we have missed our ideal, we must forget it. “There are numbers of excellent people who do not think votes unfeminine; and there may be enthusiasts for our beautiful modern industry who do not think factories unfeminine.” But if these things are unfeminine it is no answer to say that they fit into each other. I am not satisfied with the statement that my daughter must have unwomanly powers because she has unwomanly wrongs. Industrial soot and political printer’s ink are two blacks which do not make a white. Most of the Feminists would probably agree with me that womanhood is under shameful tyranny in the shops and mills. But I want to destroy the tyranny. They want to destroy womanhood. That is the only difference.

Whether we can recover the clear vision of woman as a tower with many windows, the fixed eternal feminine from which her sons, the specialists, go forth; whether we can preserve the tradition of a central thing which is even more human than democracy and even more practical than politics; whether, in word, it is possible to re-establish the family, freed from the filthy cynicism and cruelty of the commercial epoch, I shall discuss in the last section of this book. But meanwhile do not talk to me about the poor chain-makers on Cradley Heath. I know all about them and what they are doing. They are engaged in a very wide-spread and flourishing industry of the present age. They are making chains.

Fighting Against the Age of Stupid

David Hopkins figures that what happened to the character or Ross in the Friends sitcom pretty much signaled the end of civilization. He has a strong point. Hopkins dwells upon the anti-intellectualism of Friends but while the show was on, I was horrified by it for other reasons. It was, to me, a show about horrible people doing really horrible things to each other, and then having a cup of coffee about it. I’ve got friends whom I’m pretty sure will always be there for me…but if I had friends like Friends, I’d become a hermit. There’s a reason I don’t watch much TV – and that reason is because TV sucks. I mean, it is really, really lousy. The actors can’t act, the writers can’t write. Everything is done paint-by-numbers, as it were, and there is no depth of thought or feeling. The last good TV series was Cheers, and even that was a pretty large step down from Taxi. But TV going from Taxi to Friends and, now, to twaddle like Dancing With the Stars does, in my view, show the intellectual collapse of our civilization.

Aside from being delighted to find another person who despised Friends, I’m also happy that I’ve got fellow people who understand we live in the Age of Stupid. Some years back – in the Blogs for Bush version of this blog – I wrote an article about the death of science. Naturally, our Progressive readers entirely missed the point; probably because they didn’t read past the title and figured I was arguing that science is wrong. What I was actually arguing is that we’re entering a new Dark Age. We’re giving up logic; we’re giving up reason – we no longer hold to the belief that this is a rational world, capable of being understood by observation and experiment. And, in fact, we are not only becoming incapable of the scientific method, we’re getting downright hostile to facts. Any fact which disputes our pre-conceived notions is rejected out of hand. When we see our SJW’s out there demanding that reality be made to fit their desires, this is what I mean – you can present them with fact after fact to demonstrate that what they want is impossible, and they will stoutly reject the facts. And they stoutly reject the facts because they reject reason – they reject, that is, the concrete, inescapable fact that there are truths to be learned. All they have is desires to be fulfilled…and they demand that they get them fulfilled, usually by incantation (all those slogans they shout, you see?). And woe to anyone who denies them!

Hopkins offers some suggestions on how to battle against the Age of Stupid, and they are good suggestions in the abstract. Reading a book and listening to a free podcast of a college lecture are both worthy things to do – unless, of course, the book you’re reading or the lecture you’re hearing is garbage. If your head is stuffed with nonsense, it won’t be improved by additional nonsense. Now, I can suggest some books for people to read – for instance, if you want to start developing an understanding on how the world works as far as war and politics go, you can’t beat The Fall of the House of Hapsburg and The World Crisis as resources. They are not, together or separately, a complete education in the matter, but if you read them you’ll have a far greater understanding of how things work in the world than if you read anything by a full-blown, modern Progressive.

Just as for viewing pleasure I would advise people to stick to movies made prior to 1990, so I suggest for intellectual pleasure books written before 1980. Nonsense has always been with us, and just because a book is 100 years old doesn’t mean it isn’t worthless…but even for Progressives, in the past there was at least an attempt at intellectual rigor. As in all things, there are exceptions – A People’s Tragedy: the Russian Revolution 1891-1924 came out in 1996 and it is excellent, even though the author does sometimes drift in to some irritatingly Progressive opinions about the why of it all. But, for the most part, delve a bit deep into the past for your intellectual sustenance. It’s not that people were smarter then, it is just that they for the most part felt they had to stick to evidence. Also, in my view, their writing quality was often higher – being products of a much more rigorous educational system, they simply knew how to use words better than writers these days.

Battling stupidity is never fun – mostly because those who believe stupid things are unaware that what they believe is stupid. That is why when I get into arguments, I usually suggest, gently, this or that book…all with a smile and a “you have an interesting point of view; hey, have you ever read this?”. It tends to work – I’ve moved people away from Socialism just by suggesting a book by Thomas Sowell. At any rate, just get used to this battle against Stupid – Stupid has a long head start and it will take a lot of effort to counter it.

The Worst President in History: Three Months Later

3dbookIt has now been three months since Mark and I first made our book, The Worst President in History: The Legacy of Barack Obama, available for pre-order. Since then, it has sold well. Really well, actually. Better than we expected. Almost immediately it was featured as a “Hot New Release” in the ‘Biographies of U.S. Presidents’ category… the category, in which, it would eventually become a #1 Best Seller. As of this post, the book is still in the top five of the category. Not too shabby!

Every day I wonder, “is this going to be the day it all ends?” And yet, three months later, it continues to sell. This won’t last forever, of course.  But it’s a great feeling while it lasts.

Thanks to all our readers who have bought the book! And to those who haven’t yet, thanks in advance for when you do!

Crazy is as Crazy Does

If you ever read the Hitchiker’s Guide to the Galaxy series, you might recall a character names Wonko the Sane – a man who had built himself an inside-out house in order that when he was “outside” his house, he’d be “outside the asylum” – Earth, that is. He determined that the Earth was a dumping ground for lunatics when he noticed that there were instructions for use on a box of toothpicks. After all, no sane people would need such a thing. I’ve been feeling a bit like that – or, perhaps, like the scene in the original Planet of the Apes where Taylor, confronting Dr. Zaius, says, “I know who I am, but who are you? And how did this crazy, upside down world get started?”

I got going on this line of thought yesterday when I came across the 10,000th example of someone saying we have to stop Trump because Trump is insane – just this crazy lunatic who was going to destroy everything…or, at a minimum, start a war over some foreign leader’s disrespectful Tweet. Perhaps that is all true. Maybe Trump is completely ’round the bend. But it suddenly came to me in a flash that if he’s certifiable, then he’s no more crazy than everyone else out there. It came to my mind that I had read plenty of stories over the years of kids graduating high school while being unable to read. I looked it up – one source I found, which seemed a responsible source, claimed the number of illiterates getting diplomas each year is about 19%. That’s just on one in five – one in five people who can’t read are getting high school diplomas. But that isn’t the most insane aspect of it – in order for that to happen, at some point some reasonable, responsible people in positions of great authority had to decree that the logical, sane thing to do with someone who can’t read is to give him a diploma!

I know as well as anyone that there are all sorts of reasons why this happens but regardless of all the reasons – no matter what excuses you try to make for why it even must be that 1 in 5 can’t read – there is no way a sane, rational person allows an illiterate to get a high school diploma. Know what else a sane, rational person doesn’t do? He or she doesn’t allow an illiterate to move on from the 11th grade to the 12th grade. Nor from the 10th to the 11th – you don’t allow someone who can’t read to move on from the 1st to the 2nd grade for crying out loud. If you’ve got the kid through the first school year and the kid is incapable of reading, then you do that year over again…and you keep doing it over again until the kid can read or it is proven conclusively that the kid lacks the wit to ever learn how. You don’t move such a kid on to the next grade – there’s no point! It is a useless exercise. It doesn’t help the kid – it doesn’t help anyone. It is monumentally stupid. It is actually harmful to the kid being advanced without learning to read. IT IS INSANE.

But such stuff just slides easily right over us – the School Board members aren’t ejected from the jobs. Teachers and Administrators happily go about their business on their path to collecting their pensions. Parents just roll with it. But that is also a relatively small thing in the panorama of insanity which is our modern world. Remember, we’ve got legal abortion – on the theory that a woman in a bad way will best be helped if we kill her unborn child. Following on with this great and oh, so sane idea we’re now working up plans for infanticide and euthanasia…because death is definitely the answer to all of life’s little problems…except, of course, in the case of people who ruthlessly murder other people; same people saying we must have abortion, infanticide and euthanasia are largely the same people saying we must not kill even the most horrendous criminal…and, heck, not only not kill them, but make their prison experience air conditioned because it would be insane to have criminals being punished suffer a bit.

Sane, rational, responsible leaders – people purportedly unlike that foaming at the mouth lunatic, Trump – gave us such gems as the Korean and Vietnam Wars. Got to love that – nothing like sending young Americans to die in war, tying their hands a bit so they can’t hurt the enemy too badly, and then losing the wars after massive amounts of blood are spilled. The same sense of responsible rationality has now got about 4,500 US troops in the Iraq/Syria theater of operations even though we have no declaration of war, no authorization to use force…and the Democratic candidate for President swearing up and down that she won’t deploy US troops to fight the enemy in a war we aren’t fighting (except we are, and people are dying – but no sane, responsible leader would bring that up to the American people because it would be insane to disturb their viewing of the latest Dancing with the Nitwits on TV…).

It was, of course, just the most rational thing in the world for us to stand by while China moved military forces into the South China Sea; while Russia invaded the Crimea; while Iran deployed forces to Syria; while Saudi Arabia fights a bloody war in Yemen; while Libya disintegrated…thank goodness we didn’t have an insane person running the United States! Who knows what would have happened? We might have got…what? A zillion people forced to be refugees, tens of thousands dead and Jihadists roaming around murdering and enslaving people.

Also in the Sane People’s favor is that $19 trillion in US debt. Only an insane person wouldn’t pile up that much debt. Nor would an insane person ever have thought up the clever idea of having the US Federal Reserve print up money so it could buy US bonds…I mean, my goodness, you’d have to be some sort of drooling, straight-jacketed moron to refuse to see the wisdom in that!

Tickets for not wearing seatbelts. Fines for collecting rainwater. Licenses for nail salons. Pushing for birth control when our fertility rate is below replacement level. Sending billions of dollars to our enemies. Building windmills in the 21st century instead of nuclear power plants. Allowing 18 year olds to vote and serve in the military, but not have a drink or a smoke. Demanding people bake a cake. Student loans so that colleges can charge ever higher tuition. Health insurance to cover you when you’ve got a cold, but will put you on a waiting list if you need heart surgery. Requiring people to have auto insurance so trial lawyer’s always got someone to sue. $250,000.00 for a 20 minute speech. You can go to jail even if you didn’t intend to commit a crime, unless you’re the Democrat nominee for President. Police with armored personnel carriers. Refusing to offend Jihadis. Going out of your way to offend Christians. Libertarians who love ObamaCare.

I assert without fear that no matter what Trump does in office, it won’t increase the level of insanity. It might keep the insanity going. It might drop some bits of insanity and pick up others, but Trump cannot increase the lunacy because we’re collectively so far ’round the bend we can’t see it from here. This is all nuts.

Get back to me in 2017 – if Hillary wins, then I assure one and all that the insanity will just keep on going. If Trump wins, it might keep on going, as well. But I’d like it much better if we started to insist upon some sanity. Something small – just to let us know we can be sane. Perhaps we can pass a law banning the government from fining us for collecting rain water. It won’t come up as an issue too often, but it would be a start…it would be something we could point to and say, with pride, “see, we’re not complete nutters”.