100 Days

I saw a post from a former pastor of mine.  I consider him a friend and mentor – at least, I considered him one.  It’s a confusing thing.  I still love and respect him, admire much of his character and have nothing but the deepest appreciation for the things he has taught me over the years.  But, I feel conflicted, too.  Our ideologies are not the same, and though I have faith in God, I would no longer characterize myself as a fundamentalist Christian in any form.  Over the past few years my friend has become increasingly more vocal in political and religious matters, something I will certainly never criticize, however it has highlighted the rift that is between us when I compare what we think and believe.  He is unabashedly both conservative Right and conservative Christian,  even when those two viewpoints are in direct contention.  More recently, he has taken to bashing both the Left and the Islamic religion, often conflating the two in order to make a skewed point.  Given his background as both an IBM engineer and a teacher of Philosophy, I have no doubt he understands faulty logic- but he no longer pays heed to that in service of rhetoric.  This depresses me.  There was a time when he measured the character of a person by when they were willing to keep their mouth shut.  Have we moved so far past civil discourse that even good men step over the line to protect what they see as their way of life?  Is the perceived threat to Christianity, whether it is by political, social or religious agenda so great that we must forget our principles?

I hope not.

Day 165 – The day I didn’t sleep

I had a bout of insomnia last night.  That bout last exactly as long as it took to consume the rest of season 5 of Justified.  I am surprised and amazed at synchronicity that this particular circumstance displayed…but, the world is truly a wondrous place.

Yesterday I walked, but I need to walk further, longer.  So today, maybe one more step, maybe many more blocks.

I didn’t practice on the guitar last night, so it now sits beside me and gently weeps…

Why History?

Dave posted recently on one of the purposes of history.  Or rather, he pondered a little bit on the purposes and then went on to use history as a means of illustrating some observations he was making.  He looked at history, made note of some useful contexts related to what he was thinking about, and then used those historical points to explain himself.   I thought that worked out pretty well.  History is a great tool for understanding many things, it provides much needed context.  In today’s world, where context is ignored or manipulated in so many things, I have a very hard time of coming up with something more valuable than that.

When I was younger, around 9 or 10, history reinforced in me skepticism and mistrust of what I was taught.  Although I would not realize it for for another 15 or 20 years, I had a huge trust issue with anything resembling authority.  Not like James Dean, or your typical teenager, but more along the embodiment of, “Trust, but verify.”  Facts at face value were only the starting point, they had to be checked.  Context and subtext had to be explored, reasoning followed, motivations understood.  History was my lens, and my mechanism, for all of my social interactions with people.  Suffice to say, when I learned that Columbus did not actually discover America, as we had been taught since I was a wee lad of five, it was enough to send me into a fit of righteous indignation.  I laugh about it now, but I remember with a great deal of clarity, the feelings of anger and betrayal at realizing the teachers that I trusted would lie to me like that, especially since I could see no reason for doing so.  At that age I lacked perspective and the ability to distinguish subtleties, but still-  trust, but verify.

To each their own…decision.

I happened to be reading this article when my oldest son looked over my shoulder and started reading along with me.  This lead to a conversation of sorts with him, which I rather enjoyed.

At first my son was actively against the shop owners.  He said he would have sued the owners, too.  Not because of any particular leaning so much as he views all discrimination as wrong.  I explored his thinking on that for a bit and I was satisfied with where he was coming from, but then I told him how things might have been different in Montana.  I shared with him how, in lot of states, the right to refuse service to anyone is available to business owners.  I also shared with him how customers have the same right not to go to a particular business.  They can complain to others about it, too, which usually works out better that just suing somebody.  It was fun to discuss the various alternatives.

We spoke on a lot of different topics related to the situation and the fun thing for me was watching him consider other viewpoints than his own.  He didn’t dismiss things out of hand, he spent time thinking about where the shop owners were coming from and why.  He considered other ways to handle the conflict and what some of the results were.  At the end of the day he held to his own opinion, for his own reasons, but he thought about things!  It was a great father/son moment, but it also made me laugh and think about how often I can’t have that kind of conversation with an adult…

The New Economy by Emma Lazarus

Yesterday I got to thinking about the influence of a bad mustache on modern foreign policy.  The effect is dramatic, I think.  Today, I want to offer up an alternative to a good mustache gone bad.  It’s time for a little competition and some good marketing.

Emma Lazarus wrote a poem containing this very famous line,

“Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”

Of course, many people know that this sits at the base of the Statue of Liberty as she greets all those who wish to enter our country via Ellis Island.  The United States has long been a country populated by those who, for various and storied reasons, left their former country of origin behind.  This land was, and still is, a nation of resources that these people tapped into to create a life, a country and a destination…

A destination you say?  Why yes, yes I did say.  Now stop interrupting me.  We call it the American Dream.  The idea that anyone can move to the United States and make of themselves what they will was, and is, a powerful aphrodisiac to all those people in other countries that were not satisfied with their lot.  More importantly, it was our single greatest marketing fete of the last three centuries.  Offer a person the hope of a better future, or, in some cases, a future at all, and they will suffer much to make that future come true.  More importantly, they’ll move…

A nation’s greatest resource is its people, for they are the ones that create new ways to utilize and exploit all other resources.  Take away a nation’s people and you have effectively crippled them, and made yourself stronger in the process.  Along the way, many nations, including ours, have forgotten this truth and the reasons for why we should be competing like no other for such a valuable resource.  This is where our marketing engine and our policies should combine to combat the likes of countries like Syria, China, Korea, etc.  Don’t like the oppressive policies of your homeland?  Tired of facing war, famine, torture, murder and worse at the hands of your government and fellow citizens?  Well, we have a deal for you.  We have schools, universities, health care and jobs that need people who want to work.  Commit to an education and a career and we can use somebody like you.  Need help leaving your country?  No problem, we can put you in touch with several organizations that can assist you in your travels to your new country.  And if you accidentally happen to pack some important information about your government in your sock, which is in your shoe, that is hidden in an uncomfortable and anatomically unlikely location?  No problem, we know just the people to had that off to.  Welcome to America!

 

*These ideas, and my expression of them, are a work in progress.  I have communicated, albeit poorly, the general idea of what I mean.  Now I need to work on fleshing it out.

 

Temujin Teaches 21st Century Diplomacy

A long time ago, on a continent some drive from here, there lived a guy with a bad mustache and a great mind for international relations.  He also had some fairly forward thinking ideas on resource management.  One of his better ones, to his mind, was the idea that since he needed more space to walk his horses, and the world had more land than it knew what to do with, so why not go out and make it part of his kingdom?  Now, the Americans wouldn’t go on to coin the term Manifest Destiny for hundreds of years, so you can see how ahead of his time this Temujin was. Downright brilliant, he’d say.

Now, as you can imagine, there were some other guys around, several of them with equally bad mustaches, who didn’t think too much of his genius and decided that resistance to annexation was a good idea.  After all, these guys had horses and dogs to walk, too.

You can see what a challenge this was to Temujin.  He was, after all, just a guy trying to live the dream, one small country at a time and all that.  The times being what they were, though, he decided for an enlightened approach.  So he sent out a messenger to tell the other men with bad mustaches that it would be best if they surrender.  For the good of the children, you see.  Naturally, they didn’t quite see it his way and politely refused.  The messenger, having delivered his message of peace, kindly returned to his lord, in pieces.  One could even say he was beside himself.  I guess he was no relation of Kissenger’s.

Naturally, Temujin viewed this act as a bit of downer.  Turns out the messenger was his 3rd wife’s nephew on her brother’s side, or so I’m told.  Very sad.  The challenge, as his Khanliness surmised, wasn’t the issue of how to respond to this action, but how to prevent this response in the future.  As I said, the world was full of land that it didn’t need and Temujin foresaw this becoming a regular issue as time, and his forces, marched on.  As I said before, a great mind.

So he leveled the city and killed everything related to it– Every man, woman, child and animal.  He then told all other men with mustaches that he would do the same to them and their cities should they refuse his generous offer of subjugation.  It seems the Khan did not believe in collective bargaining…and thus he became the first union buster, as well.  Very forward thinking.

Fast forward a little while and you can see how the Khan’s philosophy has shaped foreign relations today.  Every act demands a greater act of retaliation.  An eye for an eye leaves the whole world blind, but an eye for a whole man’s family and maybe he’ll think twice before going after the other eye.  It just makes sense, doesn’t it?  I’m sure you can see how this has worked out, especially given several examples from American history of the past 30 years or so.  Reagan and Libya, Bush and Iraq, Bush 2 w/ Afghanistan and Iraq, and now… Obama and Syria.

Tomorrow I want to expand on an alternative method.  I’m sure you’ll see that it isn’t an officially recognized method of diplomacy as taught by the Genghis Khan School for Diplomacy and So Can You!, but I think it might have a bit of merit.

 

I posted this response as I was musing on this article here.  I decided to repost my response here for later musings.

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I love the post and I want to comment at length, but it has been a tremendously long day and I just don’t have it in me. That said, one thing I want to jot down now before my tired mind lets it slip through the cracks, is the idea that Americans are allowed to carry guns because it is the carrot in front of the stick.

The genesis of this idea comes from the last 4 years or so of nearly constant wailing about the government coming for our guns. One law and treaty after another, one more vote in support of the current administration, one more manifesto on the Internet; all these things point to the culmination of a decades long conspiracy in which our government will come and seize our guns. And yet, they haven’t done so. The NRA, bless its heart!, is certainly trying to convince us they will, one donation at a time, but nothing has happened so far…

And why should the government come for our guns? The government is far more well armed than its citizens, has less manpower, and very little incentive to fight a pitched battle on its own turf. More importantly, I suspect that the government realizes it doesn’t need to fight that battle at all. We already allow more known surveillance now than at any time in our past. We’re stripped, searched, ramrodded, accused, persecuted, cajoled, lied to, defrauded, taxed and otherwise treated as voting cattle more now than anytime since the founding or our country. But hey, we’re armed, and as we all know, as long as we’re armed then the government has no real power over us… as long as good men do nothing, indeed.