I have to tell you, heartless bastard that I am, that my first response to President Obama's emotional display during his introduction of yet another circumvention of our representative democracy was to envision Tom Hanks reprising his Jimmy Dugan role from A League of Their Own: "Are you crying! Are You crying? There's no crying! There's no crying in the White House!" At least I believed his tears to be sincere. The more cynical gen x'ers I was watching with insisted the tears were faked, with one questioning whether he had used a tear pack, and another quoting the scene from "The Man Who Knew Too Little" where Bill Murray is impressed by a woman he supposes to be an actress and her ability to spontaneously summon tears, "How do you do that... are you thinking right now, 'My dog is dead' ?".
"There is no progress whatever.
Everything is just the same as it was thousands,
and tens of thousands, of years ago. The essence does not change."
Robert Louis Stevenson
"Is it progress if a cannibal uses a fork?"
"New roads; new ruts."
So enamored are we with our own species that we see ourselves as the pinnacle of some grand evolutionary process. To carry the egotism further we assume that the process continues, and that in some Lamarckian version of it we are directing the progress of our species, looking down our noses at those who have gone before. We speak of an "evolution of morality", and being on the "right side of history", as though anything before us is the "wrong side of history". We dismiss the wisdom of ages past because their foolishness, their wickedness, took on a different form than our own.
Duke is a good dog. Older now, he doesn't run like he did as a pup, but spending most of the day alone, he can still get a little frisky when Jim's pick-up pulls in the driveway. Today was one of those days. He had knocked over his water bowl early in the day, and when he heard Jim's truck from a mile down the road, his ears perked up, and his tail wagged. Along with the excitement though, there was a strange sense of anxiety; something about the sound of Jim's truck, a little more revving of the engine, a sense, an instinct, something he knew he should remember.
It was a bad day for Jim. His boss had scolded him for a mistake he had made that cost the company money. His credit card had been rejected at the drive-thru for lunch, and he had to scrape change from his car to have enough to pay for his lousy bacon cheeseburger. To top it all off, a cop got him in a speed trap on the way home doing 55 in a 40. All he wanted to do now was get home, get a beer, and turn off his brain in front of the TV. Pulling in the driveway, the first thing he saw was Duke, chain tangled around the tree, as always, and water bowl upside down. "Stupid dog", Jim said under his breath, parked his truck and marched over to untangle Duke's chain. "Stupid dog."
"We've been asked to pause for a reality check. We've been warned
against offering the people of this nation false hope. But in the
unlikely story that is America, there has never been anything false
"They denied that wishes were horses,
they denied that a pig had wings;
So we worshipped the Gods of the Market,
who promised these beautiful things."
Rudyard Kipling, The Gods of the Copybook Headings
Toward the beginning of the last century Kipling penned the poem I've excerpted above as an opine to mankind's eternal inclination toward disdain for the harsh truths of reality, in favor of the welcome seduction by those of the silver tongues who would sell us the false hope we so crave. Kipling's dichotomy was set between "The Gods of the Copybook Headings" and "The Gods of the Marketplace". To give this meaning, the reader needs to understand that copybook headings were proverbs of timeless truths that were set at the top of a page of a student's workbook which they were to copy to work on penmanship. Such long held wisdom as "If you don't work, you die", and "If wishes were horses then beggars would ride" were beginning to seem trite and unduly harsh to many at the dawn of the roaring twenties, and as at so many times through the arc of history, mankind longed for more comfortable gods, gods that would sell them the things they longed to hear, "The Gods of the Marketplace".
"Just because you're paranoid doesn't mean they're not after you."
Joseph Heller, Catch-22
Given the events in Paris, Mali, Turkey and Brussels, one would have to be crazy not to have some level of concern about the safety of our own country, our own cities, our own families. Yet those who have expressed such a concern are termed paranoid by our own President, afraid of widows and orphans, a fear based on hysteria. So apparently expressing anything short of mindless trust in a government that seldom has proven itself trustworthy is indicative of some sort of mental disorder, any level of rational sanity deemed only to show how insane we actually are.
In our mad rush to abandon our Judeo-Christian heritage, we have nearly lost much of the treasure that such a heritage bestowed upon us. Whether you can bring yourself to believe in an all loving God who cares for us as we would our own children, or whether you only see as mythology the idea of an omnipotent Savior who gave his life that we hopeless humans might have entry to eternity, it should be understood that both faith and myth can teach powerful societal lessons. The progressive mind ever looks forward with questions long ago asked and answered. It assumes change to always be good, and constantly reinvents the wheel; since the new wheel cannot resemble the old wheel, the change is often asinine. And so we end up with modified foods that cause cancer, economic systems that cause financial ruin, and progressive governments that cause disaster.
"Fear is the path to the dark side. Fear leads to anger,
anger leads to hate, hate leads to suffering."
Like the evil Emperor Palpatine imploring young Skywalker to give in to his rage and come to the dark side of The Force, the moderators from CNBC, as those from FOX news before them, tried their best to create conflict in the last presidential debate. Given the differing biases of the two networks, a case could be made that such inflammatory journalism is just the typical grasping for ratings that news agencies have reverted to instead of the quaint idea of enlightening their viewers, but it is perplexing that such motivation seems only to apply to the Republican side of the equation. If the Palpatine press gives Democrats softball questions that would never create the conflict or rage that would draw them to the "dark side", might it be because they believe them to already be there?
"We must learn to live together as brothers,
or perish together as fools."
Martin Luther King Jr.
The "Black Lives Matter" movement is a decentralized one, as is it's opposition, and so the conflict between these two leaderless and loosely affiliated groups is bound to be replete with the atrocious behavior of armies without a chain of command. The shameful chant of the protestors at the Minnesota state fair of "Pigs in a blanket, fry 'em like bacon!" ought not necessarily be construed to reflect the attitudes of the entire movement, anymore than some of the clearly hateful and insensitive remarks of internet trolls should be taken to reflect the sense of the resistance to the movement. That being said, there has been little said on either side that would seem to lead us toward MLK's admonition to live together as brothers, and sorrowfully, most of the rhetoric seems to be catapulting us ever more in the direction of perishing together as fools.
"Technology is a gift of God. After the gift of life it is perhaps the greatest
of God's gifts. It is the mother of civilizations, of arts and of sciences."
Back in 1981 MTV signed on the air, and the first video played was appropriately titled "Video Killed The Radio Star". With the advent of MTV and VH1, the premise of the Buggles tune was made sure. Video technology added a new requirement to pop music stardom, not only did you need to sound good, you needed to look good on video. Mama Cass was replaced with Britney Spears, The Moody Blues with The Backstreet Boys.
"Imagine there's no heaven
It's easy if you try
No hell below us
Above us only sky
Imagine all the people
Living for today...."
Our thoughts and prayers are not enough. In the face of the latest mass shooting, we must insist on government intervention with some common sense reforms to curb violence. At some point we need to decide whether we are willing to sacrifice the lives of our citizens to our devotion to a document whose authors lived hundreds of years ago before a society like ours could even be imagined. I'm not talking about gun control, the President can waste his time with that one; to take a page out of the liberal playbook, "The politics are settled, it's the law of the land". I'm talking about going after other "freedoms" that should be examined.