Death, Grief, and Disappointment

This article is in honor of the anniversary (yesterday) of the death of our daughter, Virginia Grace Pelham, born with Trisomy-18 on February 3, 2006.  She died 21 days later, having lived out the time that her malformed body was able to keep functioning.  As you might expect, this was a hard time for our family—for Kay (my wife) and James (our then-three-year-old son).  But it seems that we came through it better than some might have expected.  I say this because a few people told us so; they told us how devastated they would have been had it happened to them.  And so I thought I would share what we were thinking at the time (and still think), in hopes that it might be useful to others as they go through similar trials. Continue reading

Posted in Character, Philosophy, Religion | Leave a comment

Why Abortion Rights Are Likely to Keep Increasing, Despite the Wishes of So Many

State of New York gleefully approves of abortions up to birth.

The State of New York recently shocked the nation by signing into bill a significant increase in abortion rights, now allowing the practice up until the time of birth.  This reflective post takes a fresh look at the situation and explains why such advances are likely to keep happening, even though so many Americans are appalled by it.  If you’re looking for a quick three-points-and-a-conclusion piece, this article is not for you, but if you’re interested in really giving this issue the reflection it deserves, I think you’re in the right place!  So let’s dive in.  I’ll first explore why abortion (normally) happens, and then I’ll get into the hard-fitting facts about why it’s likely to keep happening.

On the one hand, we should not be surprised.  Having already established a legal entitlement to have an abortion earlier in pregnancy, should we really be surprised when anyone succeeds in passing a law to allow it later in pregnancy, too?  After all, what’s the difference, really?  To say that it’s legal to terminate a life up until one day, but not the next, is a pretty good example of arbitrariness, is it not?

I could be an alarmist here and argue against this most recent advance in permissions by use of the always-popular “slippery slope” theme.  I could say, for example, “What’s next?  Killing them after birth?”  I could argue, “Why not extend the right until the ‘terrible twos’ have passed?”  Or I could argue to absurdity, “The parents should have the right to kill any child who is still legally a dependent—which is generally up until the age of 18 years.”  Indeed, why not?  If it is right to kill them in the first trimester of pregnancy, why not at any other time?  Conceivably, we could kick that can of responsibility down the road to the fullest extent possible, declaring that a parent has a right to kill his or her own offspring at any time in the offspring’s life, based on the same supposed right not to be inconvenienced by their existence.  And we could argue that such right extends also to adoptive parents, could we not?  Indeed, let’s forget the “My body; my right” argument altogether and let it slip down that slope until we get to the argument “My inconvenience; my right.”!

But there’s little sense in making yet another slippery slope argument having long-since passed earlier phases of slippery-slope argumentation against abortion.  As with the parent who has taught his children that “No!” doesn’t really mean “No!” until it has been said multiple times and a state of high parental aggravation has been signaled by aggressive, wooden-spoon-fetching gestures, it would do little good to argue “Slippery slope!” to those who ignored the argument the first time.  But that’s okay, because slippery slope is always weak by its very nature, and if that’s the best argument that’s to be made against abortion, we’re in a mess.

There is, however, the argument of murder.  And that’s quite different from the slippery slope argument, which basically says, “You shouldn’t do this because you’ll likely do something worse later.”  The murder argument says instead, “It was murder in the first trimester, and its murder in the last, and it will be murder if you ever do it after birth, too.”

Now, let’s slow down for a minute and take a good look at the big picture of humanity.  It’s very tragic, of course, the sins we humans commit.  We do great harm to ourselves and to others—sometimes by accident, and sometimes on purpose—-and sometimes on purpose to try to erase the consequences of an accident.  We do all manner of bad things to one another and to ourselves, sometimes right up to and including murder.  It’s very tragic to watch it—the pain we cause to our own world.  But having done the deed of murdering the inconvenient baby, we have put what was formerly nothing more than a thought experiment finally into play in the real world, where we can then find out over time just how wise a strategy it really was.  We don’t get to see, of course, what would have become of the life that we terminated, so we can probably put that out of mind well enough, given how out of sight, out of mind works.  And we can easily remind ourselves what a terrible inconvenience (or embarrassment, possibly) it would have been to have let the baby live.  But we also get to see just how often we are plagued with guilt—with that emotional awareness that we have done something that we ought not to have done.  We set that clock ticking at the abortion, and it will tick for the rest of our lives, measuring how many times we regret it.  And if we do regret it, it proves we are identifying our own wrongdoing.  Or if we don’t regret it, it goes to show just how well we have succeeded in hardening our hearts against that globally-acknowledged axiom, the Golden Rule.

Yes, we murdered someone for being an inconvenience in one way or another—perhaps financially, or socially, or even as a threat to our own routines of self-entertainment— while we ourselves would never want to be murdered for the same cause.  Clearly, then, we have violated that Golden Rule, and now in the aftermath, we must fight either the battle of admitting our fault, or of continuing to pretend we have done no wrong at all.  If that fault had been admitted ahead of time—-if we had said to ourselves, “Wait, this plan is an evil one, and I dare not go ahead with it,”  then we could have altered our course.  But having successfully fended off such responsibility at first (because we are often skilled at such fending), we succeed in the murder and stopping it is no longer a possibility.

It’s a dark irony that the tragedy of unwanted pregnancies so often (but not always) comes about as the result of irresponsible behavior.  Think about it—a person who does not want to be responsible for taking care of a child is not responsible for seeing to it that the child isn’t created in the first place.  They can’t have it both ways, of course, for they created the child and are by rights responsible for it, whether they step up to the occasion to do what is right or not.  So, by being irresponsible in the first place, they have got themselves in a bind in which it become impossible to ignore the consequences.  Where they got into the mess (in most cases) by simply seeking pleasure, they will find no pleasant way out of it—even if they change their attitude and decide to take care of the life they have irresponsibly created.  Perhaps they’ll grow to find pleasure in parenting in the long run, but it’s very likely they’re in for loads of strife in the short term as an unplanned pregnancy can be very challenging.  To turn off that pregnancy, however, can have consequences at least as difficult as seeing it through.  Again, there is no easy way out—and there’s the irony again, as ease and pleasure were the goal in the beginning of this ugly story.

Lady Macbeth sleepwalks through the castle, rubbing her hands as if trying to wash away the bloodstains of murder, tormented by her own guilt, and gradually being driven insane by it.  Out, damned spot! out, I say!  She knows her guilt.  She admits it to herself as it is to her quite obvious.  But not everybody is like that.  Some manage to hide their bloodguilt from their own awareness adequately enough that they can at least pretend to carry on a normal life thereafter in the pursuit of happiness, just like those who have committing no transgression so heinous as this.  It’s a high-burn mental process, requiring constant cognitive effort never to relax and to let the truth of the matter be acknowledged for what it is.  It is exhausting, and as a result, life-robbing to the one trying to carry on with it, for who can carry on with the normal pleasures of life while also carrying such a demanding cognitive load?

Pontius Pilate, governor over Judea in the time of Jesus, found himself the victim of a great political inconvenience as Jesus’ message was stirring up the Jews and presenting an ostensible threat to the security of the Roman Empire, under which Pilate served.  To murder Jesus would be a pragmatic solution, of course, but Pilate’s wife warned her husband before the murder, “Have nothing to do with that righteous man, for I have suffered much because of him today in a dream.”  How torturous for Pilate this must have been, to have been made aware ahead of time that his most expedient solution to the problem was itself problematic!  But if you know the story, you’ll know that he manages to disregard the warning and to have Jesus murdered anyway.  And perhaps it is no coincidence that we get one further glimpse into the goings-on of his mind when in a conversation with Jesus, Pilate goes far beyond the mundane defending his own position, and attacks truth itself, as if truth were nothing but an chimerical notion that lacks definition in the real world where the really smart people live.  Jesus had said to him, Everyone who is of the truth listens to my voice.  But Pilate, not wanting to listen to Jesus—not wanting to acknowledge who Jesus was or the truth that he represented—dismissed him by attacking the very idea of truth itself:  “What is truth?” he retorted, as if in saying it, he had unleashed some unanswerable “gotcha!” of a point.  But he had not.

Pilate’s message—his challenge to truth and reality—is what I’m bringing into question here.  He stated it in the form, “What is truth?”, but he could just as well have made a similar challenge to reality by asking things like these:  What is justice?  What is right?  What is wrong?  What is fair?  What is unfair?  We can pretend that such things are so widely and famously debated as to practically proveto our own satisfactionthat they are all just foolish notions with no stake in reality.  Even so, we prove by our own actions that we do not really believe that claim.  That is, even the thief hates to be stolen from, and even the liar hates to be lied to, and even the murderer would hate to be murdered.  Think about that.  Thus we judge ourselves by the implications of our own words, even if we also declare ourselves innocent when we commit such transgressions ourselves.

So we can pass a law as the people of New York just did, declaring, as Pilate might have put it, “What is murder?!” and in so doing, pretending that murder is not really a thing—-at least, not when it comes to killing mere babies, right?  But what do we do in the real world when someone murders a pregnant woman, resulting in the death of her unborn child?  Do we not prosecute them for a double murder, and we sue them for two wrongful deaths as well?  And this shows that at least sometimes, we are clear-minded enough to call it like it is.

Some, however, are deeply committed to guarding themselves against the reality-based awareness of what they have done, and they continue to prop up defenses against the truth of the matter.  This new law in New York is just another example of this sort of thing.  The smiles on their faces in the photo at the top of this post are just another example of the photographic “spin” of political marketers.  These were not the smiles of people who had just allowed an advancement in the right of hard-hearted people to murder the inconvenient—which is what they were really doing.  No, they were the smiles we should expect from emancipators who had just freed people from unjust tyranny.  They are role-playing politicians.   Here’s how Governor Cuomo sized up the new law:

“Today we are taking a giant step forward in the hard-fought battle to ensure a woman’s right to make her own decisions about her own personal health, including the ability to access an abortion,” Cuomo said. “With the signing of this bill, we are sending a clear message that whatever happens in Washington, women in New York will always have the fundamental right to control their own body.”

If this article were about irrationality and bad argumentation and twist and spin and manipulation and such, I could go on and on in citing examples of such things in all the rhetoric surrounding this latest episode.  But this article is about murder-for-inconvenience, and this latest story is nothing more than the latest scene in an ugly and ongoing drama that pretends that people have a “right” to kill for the cause of inconvenience.

And so it continues, with many conspiring to shut down those who acknowledge no such right to murder.  It simply will not do, they believe, to have people lifting the rug and exposing all that has been swept under it, so as to be hidden from sight.  They want to shut down the public discourse, limiting the scope of their personal war only to the skirmishes in their own minds, and betting that they can manage to keep at bay in that most private place the awareness that they have violated a sacred principle.

So they parade about, smiles and all, like the Emperor in his New Clothes, effectively daring anybody to say it isn’t so.  And we are supposed to comply.  We are supposed to let them conquer this new ground unopposed.  We are supposed to afford them the “right” to take it and to keep it.  We are supposed to consider such acquiescence on our parts—such surrender—to be the “moral” thing to do, mutter as we may about it under our breaths.  Never mind that it’s murder.  Never mind that it’s a violation of the most universally-acknowledge ethical axiom ever, the Golden Rule.   Never mind that it violates the Non-Aggression Principle.  Never mind that the practice causes the psychological and ethical ruin of many an abortive mother—and father—and doctor—and nurse.  Never mind.  Never mind.  Shut it down.  Stop those thoughts.  We are supposed to step back and let them have their party on that slippery slope, because we are told that we have no right to oppose them.

And isn’t that interesting?  The baby, they say, has no right to exist as long as the mother wishes it dead and pays the money to make it so.  And this, they have now codified into Law.  But where is the law that says no one else has a right to disagree with the practice, or to say so?  Well, that law is merely presumed, is it not?  They think it a matter of natural law that we ought not disagree with them, and they dare us to transgress the notion—else, they will tell us how bad and immoral we are, how disgusting to them we are.  And perhaps we should fear that one day they should put two and two together and figure out that all they have to do is to argue that we have transgressed against them to that ultimate degree of human sin—to that point of no return—to that damnable point at which we clearly have no remaining value to the greater society, and should best be murdered ourselves for it.  I’m speaking, of course, of that point at which we should rightly deserve that most dreaded brand of “Inconvenience”.  Yes, once they figure that out, can’t they rightly abort us, too, by the same twisted reasoning by which they have arrived at this latest level-up in the murder game?

Yes, they have already deprived us of our right to a constitutional government when they used Roe v. Wade to subvert the constitutional structure.  And it’s pretty clear that they begrudge our right to free speech on the matter, even while claiming such right themselves.  What they are doing, then, is to assert that the pursuit of their own desires, no matter how selfish and unfair to anyone else, is the ultimate goal and the ultimate right.  (Isn’t this pretty much what starts most unwanted pregnancies in the first place?)  Anyway, such people should not be expected to behave fairly, nor to yield up their own behavior to the mores commended to us by the wisdom of the ages.  No, they don’t think that way—at least, not when it suits them to think otherwise.  And in their race to do away with the truth of this matter—in their rush to pretend it away—it suits them just fine to shut us up by immoral means.

They will, no doubt, consider us immoral for pressing the matter.  That’s cheating, of course, but that’s what cheaters do.  It’s about preserving their own high self-view in spite of the facts that they have committed egregious transgressions that are not to be rightly lauded, but shamed.  It’s about refusing shame, rather than embracing it as a rightful consequence of wrongdoing, and rather than correcting oneself to stop behaving shamefully.  It’s not about being treated with graceful forgiveness for the terrible transgressions they have committed and promoted, but about pretending that no transgression exists in the first place.  It is a denial of reality.

And to this, we are supposed to defer, as if we don’t notice what all is wrong with it.

These are more or less the same people who believe in the notion of “hate crimes”.  (That is that things that are already wrong and illegal to do to others should be made extry illegal on account of them being done with hatred (Excuse me, “hate”.).  So they want to take away my right to hate the things that I hate, while they hate that I hate their actions.  They want to take away my right to judge, while they judge me guilty of being one who judges.  These are rules that break themselves with use, of course, but what is that fact to an unruly person?  (See my article about the “Judge-Not Fallacies” here.)

They deliberately confuse all these matters to their own gain—obfuscating truth and sound reason and justice and fairness and authenticity, all so that they can pretend (with the help of all such people as they can convince of such things) that they have not themselves done wrong in killing their babies.  It is, then, for this special class of people that we are all being expected to change our way of thinking.  They choose to “identify” this way and that, against reality, deliberately pretending another reality altogether, as if the rules of this present reality are not good enough for them, and as if another reality were actually available.

It is a pernicious trick of the mind.  And we’ve all done it from time to time.  But for these, it is a way of life in which they are quite heavily invested.   And to criticize it is not just to disagree, but in their minds, to threaten the precious investment of many years of their lives (in the strategy of denial).  Push them hard enough, and they will unleash upon you some measure of the prickly strife that they have been fomenting in their own minds as the result of the relentless battle against reality.  They will hate you as they hate the truth itself.  They will do it in the hopes that will find the ordeal unpleasant enough—inconvenient enough—that you will abort the confrontation altogether.  They are experienced fuss-makers, often trained from childhood that (in an unprincipled house, at least) if you make enough fuss, you eventually get your own way.  Thus do they hate the fact that not every house is as unprincipled as their own.  They hate to be reminded of this fact.

Lamech, a guy in the Bible that you might have never heard of, boasted about his own over-the-top violence, “I have killed a man for wounding me.”  I can only wonder how he would have viewed this modern competition to his boast, for now the state-of-the-art boast might as well be, “I have killed a baby for inconveniencing me.”  Surely, that makes Lamech’s atrociousness look amateurish by comparison.  Perhaps it would prompt Lamech even to kill such a competitor out of the embarrassment that someone had topped his audacity.

But surely, someone will criticize me for bringing such a wantonly violent person as Lamech into the conversation, comparing him with this comparitively-routine matter of aborting babies in safe and modern clinics with caring medical staff.  But it seems to me that they have either not seen, or are not willing to acknowledge, the recent and chilling accounts of just how abortions are done—even to the point of tearing the living babies apart to remove them from the mothers piece by piece.  This, we are not supposed to believe is violent, I gather—perhaps because it is being done, they say, “for a good cause”.  And what is that good cause?  It is, of course, the pursuit of convenience—these supposed escape from personal responsibility.

But what kind of people are we when we have let our society stoop so low as to codify and to protect and to promote such wanton decadence and selfish disregard for righteousness?  Even among those of us who do not kill our defenseless babies,  are not most of us guilty of sitting idly by while the others continue doing it?

Thus are we now faced, once again, with an inconvenient dilemma, for if we do nothing, they will surely continue, and if we push back, they will surely unleash on us the fury of their own internal vehemence against the truth.  This is nothing new to us, for we have sat back generation after generation as Americans, watching the Rule of Law be subverted in one way after another—along with some of the liberties and principles that were once germane to it.  We have done this in quite the same way that we sometimes mundanely let the unruly behavior of our own kids fester because of the various inconveniences we would suffer if we were to try to curb it.

J.K. Rowling put it so excellently when she had Dumbledore say, Dark times lie ahead of us and there will be a time when we must choose between what is easy and what is right.”  But for us, those dark times are not only ahead, for we are already living in them.  “Easy” is our default setting; it’s the way we live.  We do not habitually exert ourselves to right the wrongs and errors of our culture—nor even our own, if the full truth of the matter must be told.  Rather, we tend to persist in error and wrongdoing for as long as we find them sufferable, as Thomas Jefferson observed.  And that brings us again to the question of what kind of people we are, as may be judged by what we are willing to suffer before we put at foot down and declare, “Enough!”

Surely, a more righteous people than we would have put down this rebellion against reality long ago.  Yet it persists—likely while many of us non-murderers are saying, “Well, at least I’m not murdering babies myself.”  The vanity of this claim won’t be obvious to many, however.  Perhaps its emptiness would be better understood if it were delivered while standing over the mangled body of an aborted baby:  “Hey, little guy—just wanted you to know that while I certainly would not lift a finger to have stopped your murder, I am proud to say that I took no part in it myself.”  Yes, this way, it seems as empty a defense as it really is.  It’s just words.

We love to recite this quote to ourselves:

“The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men
to do nothing.”  (Dubiously attributed to Edmund Burke.)

But we don’t love it because we are true reformers, regularly countering evil by our actions.  No, we love it instead for a reason that few of us have ever figured out because we know ourselves so poorly and because we are so unaccustomed to thinking through the deep things in life.  We do it because it allows us to continue to live under the delusion that we can be “good men” while doing nothing about evil.   Doing nothing while evil triumphs is our default habit; it’s our way of life.  Pretty much gone are the days of gallantry for which we might romantically pine from time to time.  No, the cold fact of the matter these days is that battling against evil is undesirable, primarily because it is….wait for it….inconvenient.  And so we can judge—if we are interested in judging fairly—that we are caught in the same compromise of moral miserliness that entraps those who murder the babies.  They refuse to judge themselves for murder, and we refuse to judge ourselves for the negligence that allows these murders to continue by the millions.   If we boast, then let us do so accurately:  “I am morally compromised by the desire for convenience in the same way that you are, even if not as much.”

What kind of people are we?  And what kind could we be if we were to think it worth the effort?  Call me crazy, but I think we could afford to care more about such things.

The fact of the matter is that abortion—that’s the euphemism for “murdering unborn babies”—will continue as long as those who oppose the practice remain passive in that opposition.  We can observe that simply “letting our little lights shine” is not enough to curb the violence against babies.  Indeed, the murders are people who have already violated conscience and reason in their own minds; they will not hesitate to violate such things when they come from your mind.  So, what good does it do when one of us proclaims, “I choose life!“.

If this were nothing more than a victimless philosophical difference, stating your own position might be all you could do.  But this is murder, and you live in a culture that has already taken the moral initiative to make murder a crime, punishable by law.   Why, then, are you content to let this particular kind of murder go undeterred?  Those who want a legal right to murder their babies are being assertive and are initiating with lawmakers about it, just as they are being assertive in stopping their own unwanted babies by murder.  Meanwhile, certain medical professionals are so invested in the practice as to make careers of it.  They are certainly not going to stop, either—not on their own.  Letting your little light shine is simply not working.

And so we are at a crossroads between the imaginary road on which things get better without us having to exert ourselves to that end, and the real road in which abortion will continue until we put a stop to it by prosecuting all those involved in it.  We could, if we wanted—if we cared enough—press our legislators until they stop it.  Many, however, will find that too inconvenient.  In so doing, they are choosing to fail.  But few will say, “I’m against abortion, but I’m unwilling to lift a finger to stop it.”  No, the way people generally handle things like this is not to tell themselves the unvarnished truth about it.  Rather, they find a way to be comfortable sitting on the fence, normally by pretending to be taking a stand, yet not doing anything that is likely to succeed.  And that’s a moral compromise that’s very easy for any of us to slip into.  It’s a slippery slope of its own, and at the end of the story, we end up believing we are true reformers and heroic champions of a cause for which we are actually doing so near to nothing that we cannot rightly take any credit for anything.

We may dress out for the game, but we don’t take the field.  We may put on the military uniform, but we don’t enter the battle.  We may accept the new job, but we don’t actually show up for work.  We’d really, really like to think of ourselves highly when it comes to our stance on abortion, but the fact of the matter is that almost none of us have done anything that is likely to have any effect whatsoever on the situation.  So my question for the reader is this:  Is that good?  Is it good to consider ourselves to be on the side of the what is right, even though we will not step in to put a stop to the wrong?

Well, I must admit my own fault here, for while I have worked hard for several years to learn how to make a difference in various ways, I have yet to get into the practical fight against abortion.  I’ve been working on helping people to understand and to adopt Reality-Based Thinking, and this is one of many practical battles I have not entered in the mean time.  But I can’t very well write this article while doing nothing practical to solve the problem—else I would be a hypocrite just as I’ve described above.  I would be just another one of millions of people saying, “There oughtta be a law!”, yet doing nothing in this constitutional republic to see to it that such a law comes about.  Therefore, in February, I will draft a bill of my own to be submitted to my own state’s legislature here in Montana, and I’ll begin the process of trying to convince those legislators to pass it.

Yes, I’m quite aware that the Supreme Court pretended to have the authority to make law when they decided in 1972 (Roe v. Wade) that having abortions is a right.  And I’m well aware that most of the states surrendered their sovereignty (yet again) in response to that ruling.  But that was then, and this is now.  That was not my watch; this is.   I will publish the bill on this same website when it is ready.

 


Jack Pelham is the author of the novel, The Extraordinary Visit of Benjamin True:  The State of the Union as no one else would tell it.  
See his video podcast pilot, “Reality-Based Thinking:  Rethinking the World

Posted in Activism, Ethics | Leave a comment

On “Identifying” with Our Ancestors

I want to share what my dear wife, Kay, posted on Facebook this morning, and my further response to it (the sharing here of which is her idea—ostensibly in the interests of posterity.)

Here’s her post:

Considering “identity”. With which ancestry is one to identify? Am I my European invaders? or my Cherokee victims? Do I have to identify with all Europeans that came to America, or may I identify with my particular Europeans that, as far as I know, came here and settled and farmed unoccupied land. As far as I know, I don’t have any conquistadors nor even any revolutionaries in my ancestry. Pretty boring, I guess.

#justastudyinWhoAmIanyways #partofmebeenherelongtime #partofmeheardaboutbetterplacetoliveandcomeonover #thebattlewithinme #notreally

And now, my reply:

You have excellently highlighted the arbitrariness of picking and choosing that with which one will “identify” regarding his or her ancestors.

I think it says a great deal about us, what traits we choose. Suppose we take a shine to the violence of one, or to the brilliance of another—or to the plight of the one, or the dominance of another.

It’s also pretty interesting that anyone should feel compelled to identify with an ancestor as opposed to identifying with anyone ELSE that they never met. Hmmm. It is indeed an arbitrary practice, and far from a rational exercise.

But I digress.

Peter Pelham brought the first pipe organ (so I have read) to the New World. Shall I revel in that, and insist that it has relevance in the fact that I am also an ̶o̶r̶g̶a̶n̶i̶s̶t̶ singer? Alternately, some of the Pelhams were brought to the New World to be residents in the penal colony of Georgia. Shall I then “identify” with them regarding my avocation as a proponent of ̶t̶h̶e̶ ̶l̶i̶f̶e̶ ̶o̶f̶ ̶c̶r̶i̶m̶e̶ the rule of law?

John Pelham, on the other hand, was a mighty-fine cannoneer in the War for Southern Independence. He was killed in action, posthumously promoted from Major to Colonel, and honored by having a city named for him in 23 states–including some in that region that fought against him. And his strategy (now called “Shoot and Scoot”) is still studied at West Point to this very day. I identify strongly with him, based on his love for peanut butter and banana sandwiches—which fact, although not supported by any extant account of his preferences, is firmly established in my mind on the unassailable basis that he being so good a strategist, he simply MUST have loved peanut butter and banana sandwiches.

That’s all I have to say about that.

On further discussion, I decided that the best way to celebrate the abritariness of it all would be for us each to take a year to “identify” with someone else’s ancestors! Starting today, therefore, I am now identifying with the Egyptians–and more specifically, with Amhenhotep IV, affectionately known to those of us in his family as Akhenaten, and to King Tut, of course, as Uncle Dad.

Pa Akhenaten, as I like to call him, really shook things up, moving the capitol city 11 miles down the Nile and making significant changes to their religious practices.  After his death, his reforms were promptly eradicated and his new palace and temple torn down and their stones used to build cisterns and bathrooms and such.  It’s this last part in particular that I choose to identify with.  I’m not sure how, exactly, but I’ll think of  away.  After all, I have a year to work on it!

Posted in Humor | Leave a comment

The Tyranny of the Offended

When is it a foul to cry, “FOUL!”?  And what evil can be worked by making the charge falsely?

To be sure, there are many offenders in this world–many abusers, manipulators, and cheaters.  Many who are violent and vile and unfair.  Many who take unfair advantage, and who won’t play by the same rules by which they expect others to play.  We have all–even the tyrants among us–been mistreated by such people from time to time.  For some of us it’s occasional, and for others, such mistreatment is a way of life.  For some it’s severe, and for others it’s mild.  Still, however, we have all suffered under it, even if we also sometimes dish it out ourselves. Continue reading

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Some Things to Ponder During the Great Gun Debate

This post is a reworking of some thoughts I recently posted on Facebook.


As the nation considers taking away (some or all) gun rights from the public, so as to make incidents like the Parkland, FL massacre less likely to happen in the future, I’d like to submit a question for public consideration:

At what cost are we willing to “do something”?  Are we willing to take measures that would otherwise–on any normal day–be considered a violation of sacred rights? 

Here’s what I’m getting at.

Image from https://gunnewsdaily.com/10-best-handguns-women/

Since firearms became generally available in the United States, women–for the first time in history–had the means to defend themselves with these instruments against violent and aggressive men, who were naturally larger and stronger than the women.  It changed our culture.  It didn’t make it perfect, mind you, but it made much better.  Many bad guys of this sort have been killed in this way, removing their evil menace from our society.  Meanwhile, many a brutal attack has been deterred by women with guns–either in the heat of the moment, or more generally, because bad guys know that many women do have guns, and will use them to defend themselves.

Just imagine the outcry, however, if Congress should announce tomorrow that women were no longer allowed to own or carry guns!  We’d immediately hear charges of Misogyny! and Discrimination!  And rightly so!  Indeed, a great many women are gun owners and enthusiasts.  If you doubt me, just read some of these articles that come up in a Google search for [women for guns].  And this site claims that a whopping 40% of NRA members  are women, so we’re not talking small numbers here.  (I’m not an NRA member, by the way.)  So, if we were to single out women, disallowing them to have and to carry guns, there’d be a huge blowback, to be sure.

And it doesn’t stop with just women.  For example, it was with guns that the Lakota and Cheyenne defended themselves successfully against Custer at Little Big Horn.  Among other weapons, they used state-of-the-art guns that were superior to those used by the US troops at the time.  But imagine if Congress were to announce tomorrow that the members of native tribes were no longer allowed to have guns.  Rather than Misogyny!, the cry would be Racism!   Congress has no right, we would be told, to disallow a class of people the right to defend themselves with modern instruments.  (And they’d be right.)

Indeed, other minorities have their gun rights supporters, too.  Consider, for example, the articles returned in my Google search for [blacks for guns].  Here’s a class of people who once had zero rights in those states (both North and South) where they were held as slaves–and while there are certainly still some inequities today, no one can reasonably deny that it’s a monumental change to go from slavery to gun ownership (even if it took a immorally-long time to get there).  Imagine, then, the uproar that would occur if Congress were to announce tomorrow that blacks were non longer allowed to own and to carry firearms.

And here’s a list of articles returned on a Google search for [gays for guns].  Should we expect any less outcry from gays over having their gun rights revoked than we should from blacks or natives or women?  Wouldn’t it be an equally-egregious violation of their rights?  Of course, it would!

The fact of the matter is that many classes of people have made effective use of “the great equalizer” (the gun) to defend themselves and their interests against violent attackers–whether those attackers were from their own class, or from some other.  Gun rights supporters include people of all skin colors, people of various sexual dispositions, young people, old people, people with families, people with small businesses, people protecting themselves, people protecting others, people assisting law enforcement officers, people protecting their property, and people protecting law and order in general.  Left-handed people, right-handed people, short, tall, fat, skinny, nice, mean, good-humored or bad-humored.  Single out any one of these groups and tell them that they’ll no longer be allowed to have guns, and you will feel the sting of backlash as they assert that you are a tyrant for infringing on their rights.

What is being proposed?

One of the more popular proposals in play since the Parkland shooting is to raise the legal age for purchasing a long gun (a rifle or shotgun) to 21, where it is currently 18 in some states.  (The Parkland shooting suspect is 19 years old, so to many, such a measure seems appropriate to keep 19-year-olds from using rifles to commit mass murders.)  But just what are we doing here?  Aren’t we singling out a single class, and disallowing them guns, just as I discussed above?  In this case, it’s not women or blacks or gays or natives, but young people who are being singled out.  How is this any different from singling out all blacks, had the shooter been black, or all women, had the shooter been a woman, or all gays, had the shooter been gay?  And, of course, should such a law be passed to discriminate against 18-20-year-olds, whatever shall we do when a 22-year-old with a rifle shows up to commit another massacre?  (More about this later.)

Another popular proposal is the ever-present idea of taking away guns from all non-law-enforcement citizens.  How does it make it any more fair, however, to violate the rights of all these various classes of people?  If I rob everybody in a train holdup, is that somehow more justifiable than if I were to rob only, say, the women or the gays aboard the train?  By what manner of chimerical logic could this be defended?  The more people I rob, the more egregious the crime.

How is it that denying the rights of a huge class of people is the proper way to avoid massacres in the future?  And where has it been proven that either of these particular proposed strategies would even be effective?  Just what are we willing to do here, in order to “just do something”?  Just how much are we preparing to gamble on a proposition that hasn’t even been demonstrated to be true?

“If it saves the life of just one child…”

One fairly popular argument is that the violation of the rights of so very many people is justified “if it saves the life of just one child” or “if it saves just one life.”  (See these articles returned on a Google search for [if it saves the life of just one child].)

Is this really true?  Is a policy automatically justifiable if it “saves just one life”?  If that were the case, the banning cars would certainly save at least one life.  (People sometimes die in car collisions.)  So would banning dogs.  (People are sometimes mauled to death by dogs.)  So would banning knives.  (People are sometimes killed with knives.)  So would banning abortions.  (People are sometimes killed by abortion.) And so would banning medicine.  (People are sometimes killed by medicine.)

Under this (poor) reasoning, therefore, all these bans would be justifiable.  But are those in favor of banning guns in favor of banning all causes of human death?  Well, I don’t know, but I can tell you that I have not yet met such a person in my 52 years.  Indeed, I’m quite sure that many of the “ban the guns” people I’ve met would vigorously defend against any attempt to ban cars or abortions or any of these other things that they consider to be their rights.

So, is gun control really about “saving just one life”?  Or is that just a thing to say when you’re playing to an emotionally-charged audience that’s not likely to think this one through?  Yes, I think that’s it.  It has to be it, because as it stands today, a great many lives (even children’s lives) are being saved each month because people do have and use guns to defend themselves against violent people.  How many children, then, are we willing to endanger in order to “save just one child’s life?”

Suppose that the authorities were to show up at your door to take away your child because another child needs an emergency heart transplant, and your child has been chosen as the donor.  Would you think this a fair arrangement?  Would you find it convincing when they apologized for the situation, saying, “I know this really sucks for you, but if it saves just one child’s life, it’s worth it!”

Of course, you wouldn’t.  Why should you have to pay the price for someone else’s benefit?

And so it goes with taking away the rights of all these varied people to keep and bear arms, in an attempt to “save just one child’s life.”  Look what an inordinate trade that is. What you’re doing is making a lot of people vulnerable to violent people, where, as of today, they could should them dead in justifiable self defense.

“Just DO something!”

I totally understand the urge after a tragedy like this to “just DO something!”  But are we not to be careful what we do?  Is it impossible that we could make a foolish decision in the matter?  Suppose, for example, that we were to ban all schools (the shooting happened in a school), so as to make it impossible to replicate this crime.  Or suppose that we we were to ban Uber (the shooter took an Uber car to the scene) to make it impossible to replicate these crimes?  Wouldn’t those two “solutions” be rather stupid and counterproductive?  Sure, they would.  But they’d be “doing something,” wouldn’t they?

It’s just really not that hard to see that “doing something” is not in itself an adequate answer to our problems.  We had better be careful what we do.  It will have consequences.

Are we up to the task of solving this one?

So, our society, which is not really accustomed to giving careful thought to our ways, is prompted by this Parkland incident to consider that something ought to be done.

Great. I get that.

But let’s do something easy, right? (I’m being sarcastic here.)  No need to figure out the actual cause of such massacres, right? No, let’s just slap a Band-Aid on it, and pretend that we’ve done enough–until the next tragedy comes along.

For example, this 19-year-old shooter who had legally bought his own rifle, could not have legally done so had the legal age been 21, so let’s raise the age. Easy, right? Sure it is, and then when some 22-year-old shooter commits mass murder with a gun later, we can debate raising the age to 25 because that’ll be easy, too.  It’ll be our new policy–as in the Geico commercials that say, “It’s what you do.” 

But will we apply such policies to all such problems?  For example, when some 22 year-old decides to plow a car into a crowded sidewalk, killing just s many people, are we really going to do something of this sort about that?  Probably not.  We wouldn’t disallow driving–or sidewalks–or walking on sidewalks in the case of a mass murder via automobile, because, for some reason, we’re much more willing to write such cases off as anomalies that are not worth changing the whole culture over.

Now, why is that? Isn’t there some sort of bias in play when it comes to those particular deaths that are committed with guns? Of course, there is.  When guns are involved, some of us take off our normal, every-day “thinking caps” and put on special caps for a special kind of thinking we wouldn’t dream of using in day-to-day matters.

Only the woefully-ignorant or the insane would believe that the gun itself is the actual cause of the massacre. That is, that owning the rifle itself is the one factor that caused this kid to commit murders. If that were true—that a gun can cause a person to become criminally insane—then we’d have millions of massacres each year, because there are millions of gun owners who would be under the corrupting influence of the guns they own.  (If you want to see how many people believe that guns cause crime, see these Google search returns:  [“guns cause crime”] and [“guns cause murder”].)

Whatever we do, however—and I’m speaking sarcastically again—let’s not get into why this particular kid did it, because that would be too hard a topic. That would cause us to face the fact that 30 years ago, a dozen or more trucks in the school parking lot had shotguns and rifles hanging in their rear windows—loaded, even—and the doors were left unlocked at school—-and a great many thousands of school days came and went without anybody going nuts and murdering their classmates. In fact, in those days, had there been an active shooter in the schools, most of those boys would have run to their trucks to get their guns in order to put the shooter down.

But let’s not figure out what is causing this tiny, tiny fraction of boys in these last two decades to commit such atrocities, because that’s just too much work. Let’s not look at violent influences. Let’s not look at poor parenting. Let’s not look at the continual lowering of the bar when it comes to teaching character and virtue in the schools. Let’s not look at the growing hands-off policies, such has how the kid who punches the bully in the nose gets punished more severely than does the bully who started the whole thing—and how everyone’s afraid of being harassed or even sued by the parents of bullies. Let’s not look at how violent behavior can be protected behind the facade of “racism” (because the violent kid has this or that skin color, and we all know that any criticism leveled against anybody with that skin color simply must be an outcropping of racism, right? I mean, nobody of this or that particular skin color could be violent, and in need of being punished or removed, right?)

The fact of the matter is that many things have broken down in the case of a boy who would do such a thing as this.

Banisters, Handrails, and Cliffs

Here’s a (not-so-great) picture I recently took, showing some boys standing at a banister.  Why don’t these boys jump over?  Why don’t they accidentally fall over?  In fact, when was the last time you saw anybody fall over a handrail or banister?  In your experience, isn’t this an exceedingly rare event? 

Yes, it is.  There’s something about normal humans that makes it pretty easy to keep themselves from go over banisters, handrails, and cliffs.  Whether it’s fear of pain or death, or some other motivator, they prove quite capable of keeping themselves from crossing the line, so to speak.  So, why is that?  By what miracle can billion and billions of people each year keep themselves from falling over rails and stepping off cliffs?  I submit that this is a standard human capability—just as is the capability of keeping oneself from committing mass murder.  Kids who commit mass murder are the exception, and not the rule.  Even in the case of natural cliffs that have no handrails, most people have no problem self-regulating.  That is, in deciding for themselves how close is too close to get to the edge.  And so it is with murder.  Even those who might have a thought of murder pass through their minds are plenty well-enough in control of themselves not to act on it.

What is it, then, about this very small group of boys who have committed mass murder in schools these last couple of decades?  This has not been going on for as long as there have been guns?  (And that’s another proof that the guns themselves are not the cause of the crimes.)  Are these “normal” boys?  Has the “standard model” boy in the United States somehow changed such that they are all now predisposed to mass murder?

I don’t think so.  These murderous kids (and I’m assuming for this point that they are all guilty as charged, even though I have not examined the evidence against them to make a judgment myself) are the exceptions, and not the rule.  But what has changed is that such exceptions seem more likely than before.  Let me explain.

What should we expect?

In an increasingly dehumanizing culture—where kids at school become more and more like cattle in a cattle chute—just commodities to be managed—not real persons, but liabilities—not to be interacted with on the personal level, but only en masse—not to be personally trained and corrected as needed, but to be sent off to school, where the expectation is that he or she will get everything he or she needs to be a “productive member of society”—and lastly, where if we cared one iota to look at the actual outcome of this way of thinking about our kids, we’d see that each decade of this practice cranks out kids that are less mature than the decade before——in a culture like this, you’ve just got to expect that some percentage of those kids are going to sail right through the widening cracks, and turn out to be murderers.

The pendulum has swung too far on too many issues—and there are several causes behind it. Here are a few that should be considered (in no particular order):

  1. In the rush to de-religionize the schools, we have made the foolish mistake of assuming that character and virtue are matters of religion, and not of general civic interest. So, we don’t teach such things at school any more. Instead, we put kids in a situation where the bulk of their social life is conducted in a system that pays practically zero attention to such matters. The standards of behavior that are enforced have more and more to do with keeping order in the schools, and less and less to do with why order might just be a good thing.
  2. In an increasingly litigious society, school officials are afraid to tell it like it is for fear of being sued. If you’re wondering what happened to moral courage, see #1 above. (Remember, today’s administrators were yesterday’s students.)
  3. The defensive punch in the nose that previously cured a great many bullies is now forbidden, and is grounds for expulsion in too many school systems. They are now taught that it’s the school’s business to deal with the bully, and not the victim’s business. But now that the schools are in charge of that, we get to see just how incompetent they are to handle it—particularly in a system characterized by points #1 and #2 above.
  4. In this age of the video screen, there are myriad influences that simply did not exist 30 years ago. There are many more ways to go astray today than before. Many more things for the loner–the maladjusted kid—to get into while letting his bad thoughts fester. He’s not out riding bikes with his friends, and suffering the shunning that naturally comes when he treats them wrong, so he’s not learning these valuable life lessons early–when they can do the most good.
  5. In this poor economy where inflation steals value from the dollars one has already earned and put into his pocket, there is less and less time for family—-which used to be a much bigger influence on child development than it is now. Practically every family today has 100% of the parents working full time. Money is very needful, but money is not the only thing a kid needs to grow into a mature adult. And whatever time the hard-working parents do have to spend with the kids is being competed for by the video screens with which the parents themselves have now grown up. See #4.
  6. In religion (and in Christianity in particular), there is a broadening movement in which it is argued that what really counts the most are things like grace and forgiveness and patience, while things like responsibility, maturation, reliability, and character are grossly de-emphasized. This is now more prevalent than before, and surely, it is not without its widespread societal influence.

Now, #6 brings me back to this idea that the pendulum has now swung too far, for a great many people have found themselves unwilling to treat this Parkland incident with “things like grace and forgiveness and patience”, and are more inclined to “do something” in hopes of avoiding any such event in the future. Does this mean, however, that we’re finally ready as a society to tackle things like 1-6 above? Hardly. That’s much too hard for us; we have no intention whatsoever of giving careful consideration to the question, “what kind of people are we?”

No, it’ll be much easier just to pass a new law—even though we already have plenty of laws against murder. Whenever we’ve finished whatever we’re going to “do about” the Parkland shooting, we will congratulate ourselves that we have won a “victory”. Then we’ll forget all about it, until the next atrocity—because that’s what kind of people we are.

On the whole—when you consider all of us together in some sort of “average” way of looking at things—we are an increasingly sorry nation, caring less and less about honesty, rationality, and responsibility with each generation. Even those of us who think that we personally are not “part of the problem” quite often are. Surely, the millions on the “just do something” bandwagon don’t think that whatever measures they will end up supporting could possibly be adding to our woes and avoiding dealing with our real problems—but that’s exactly what is happening. And that’s what almost always happens–because that’s what kind of people we are.

Now, if you personally are not that kind of person, then how about working on some solutions for the more fundamental problems (such as 1-6 above), rather than hacking away at the leaves of evil while its root lies unchallenged? Our lame and wayward concept of citizenship is what prompted me to write my recent novel.

The fact of the matter is that there is much that can be done that actually addresses fundamental issues. But as it is, few of us are accustomed to thinking in this expansive and analytical fashion, and are much more apt to end up being suckers aboard the “just do something” bandwagon.


Jack Pelham is the author of The Extraordinary Visit of Benjamin True:  The State of the Union as no one else would tell it, and the founder of the Society for Reality-Based Thinking (WebsiteFacebook.)

 

Posted in Activism, Character, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

15 Tough Questions About the Heinous Acts of Young People

In the wake of the Parkland, FL school shootings, the details of which I have not studied, and about which I will not comment any further, here are some tough questions for America’s consideration–and no, they’re not about gun control, either for or against.  As I said, these are not suggestions; they are questions for consideration and discussion. 
These questions will make you think–really think–and at a scope and depth that is uncommon in our national culture–even though many of us are generally quite capable of most of it.  Some of these questions will surely spawn some ideas, and some of those might be great, while others may be terrible.  The goal here, however, is not just to rush to and argue some preferred conclusions, but to be able to rule things in or out based on Reality-Based Thinking—thinking that is deliberately honest, rational, and responsible.

Continue reading

Posted in Activism, Character | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Why I’ve Stopped Watching Football

Though I quite enjoy many things about watching my favorite team play football, I don’t like what it does to me as a person.  So I’m done.  It’s a matter of first things first, my personal authenticity taking precedence over my enjoyment and entertainment.  I’ll explain below, but please understand that this is not some rash move over my favorite team’s loss in its season opener last night.  I still love the FSU Seminoles, and wish them and all their fans the best!

The Personal Issues at Stake

Anger.  If I’ve already had a difficult day, a frustrating football game tends to incite me to anger rather easily.  I note that I’m tempted Continue reading

Posted in Character | Leave a comment

The Allure of Compromise and Its Failure To Keep Its Promises

One friend’s teenage son complains that there ought to be some “middle ground” between the uber-healthy foods his mom provides, and the convenient, tasty, and unhealthy snacks he finds at his friends’ houses.  This idea of a “middle ground” has some serious problems, however, and it’s got me thinking this morning—and not just about food.

It’s an interesting notion–this idea that compromising on what is best is somehow the right and fair and proper and open-minded and moral and enlightened and normal thing to do. It is the idea that compromise itself is the best policy, and that those in their right minds should naturally practice compromise as a fundamental paradigm in life—as the default manner of reasoning. It is the fallacy that in every disagreement, there should be some “middle ground” to which both parties should rightly repair themselves. It is the fallacy that all opinions have equal merit, that all strategies are equally likely to end in good outcomes, that a thing and its opposite can somehow have equal value, or that a thing and a discounted version of the thing both have equal value.  It is the fallacy that the best thing to do is that which is not the best thing.

To be maintained as a way of life, however, such a notion is generally not stated as clearly as I have put it here.  Rather, it must remain fuzzy and unclear—not as a thing to be exhaustively proven and demonstrated, but quietly assumed and beyond questioning. Its primary purpose is to avoid the realities of diligence–to avoid the sting of reality:  that work is require in order to maintain what is right and best. It is a wish for a reality of a different sort–one that simply doesn’t exist—one in which no difficult decision need be made, and moreover, in which no difficult decision need be carried out in deed.

Those who employ such notion of compromise, however, do not do so consistently. Indeed, they do not want to do so consistently, for there are certain instances in this real world where compromise makes for flagrant failure.  Consider the following ridiculous scenarios:

  1. Lisa sits down to watch the big game, which she knows to be on channel 206.  When she turns on the TV, she sees that it’s on channel 82.  Being a devotee of compromise, she decides to find the “middle ground”, and tunes the TV to channel 144.
  2. Billy knows that it takes 3 gallons of gasoline to mow the field behind his house.  He drives to town and purchases 2.5 gallons for the task, thinking that this is a good compromise because “it’s good to compromise on everything”.  He knows he’ll have to come back for more gas later, but it just seems right to him not to go all the way—not to do things right the first time.
  3. Sally’s chicken pen has three holes in its fence, torn by debris blown by last night’s storm.  Sally is afraid her chickens will escape, so she sets out to repair the holes.  She patches two holes, and figures that this is a fair and proper compromise between what she ought to do and what she is willing to do.  As a result, several chickens escape and are eaten by various predators.

Most people would find compromises such as the ones in these scenarios to be foolish.   They (the people) are not entirely deluded about reality, and they readily understand that some things just don’t work unless they are done right.  Further, and more importantly, they have a motive to see certain things done right.  That is, they have decided to care about certain things enough to go to the effort.  In other areas, where they give in to the temptation to compromise, what is lacking is this level of care—this moral operation of applying oneself to do what is right and best.

Compromise is one-sided.

Have you ever noticed that compromise always gives less, and never more?  The way we think about it, it’s not considered a compromise to donate $10 when asked to donate $5.  We don’t call it a compromise to spend 30 minutes on the treadmill when the plan was for 20 minutes.  No, the whole idea that drives compromise is the avoidance of full exertion.  The point of it is to give less than what is needed, and not more.  It is an attempt to escape from responsibility—from reality.

Compromise promises us that life will be better under its influence than without it.  It promises that we will feel better having done less than what is best.  But this is the stuff from which regret is made.  And who among us feels that life is better with regret than without?  No one, of course.  Compromise is a liar.

I remember a college roommate who sleepily shuffled into the kitchen, removed the milk from the refrigerator, and sniffed it to see if it was still fresh.  At detecting a sour odor, he winced, put the cap back on the jug, and proceeded to put it back into the refrigerator—as if it might be better tomorrow!  He could just as easily have dropped the jug into the trash can, which was a mere step away, but the greater promise, as he perceived it, was in putting it back into the refrigerator, where it could continue to disappoint other roommates who would try the sniff test for themselves, and where it would still need to be thrown out.  He simply wasn’t thinking it through.  Otherwise, he’d have quickly realized that the best and most efficient course of action would be to dispose of the milk and be done with it.  His compromise, therefore, was in doing less thinking than the situation required.

And so it is with eating junk food snacks.  Ask anyone whether junk food is healthy to eat, and they’ll tell you “no”.  They certainly know better than to eat it, whether they actually eat it or not.  Thus does it generally come down to the question of whether we will do what we know is best.  But compromise is always there—always lurking about to promise us at every opportunity that life would be better if we would do less than the best.  It is the excuse that supplants personal diligence and discipline.  But who ever reaches the death bed, convinced that he or she was too diligent in life, and had made too few compromises?

The tug of compromise is as certain as the hold that inertia has on an object at rest.  Resting objects do not spring into motion without being acted upon by some force.  And so it is with our naturally ability to apply ourselves toward doing and thinking what is right and best.  It is a reality of this world in which we live that such operations require the deliberate exertion of energy, which exertion we will not always find convenient or desirable.

The way I see it, we have two choices.  We can sit around wishing that there were an easier way, or we can get up and do what needs to be done.  We can put all the lipstick we like on the pig of compromise, but at the end of the day, it’s still a pig.  And isn’t it interesting when someone actually goes to the trouble of putting lipstick on that pig?  I mean, if the point of the compromise is to shirk responsibility, then why volunteer to be responsible for defending the practice of compromise as if it were a good and proper practice?  Why not just do the work of diligence in the first place, rather than to do the work of pretending to justify the lack of work?

Posted in Character, Philosophy | Leave a comment

Lousy “Christian” Logic on Why Voting for Evil is Good

TownHall.com has posted an article by Christian theologian Wayne Grudem under the title, Why Voting for Donald Trump Is a Morally Good Choice.  To put it bluntly, the article’s logic is lousy.  Let me count the ways.

Grudem’s thesis statement is this:

(I think) voting for Trump is a morally good choice.

That’s his conclusion, and he claims that those who say otherwise are “incorrect”.  He specifically addresses those who say “when faced with a choice between ‘the lesser of two evils,’ the morally right thing is to choose neither one.”   And so now it is up to Mr. Grudem to prove his case.  Here’s his first argument (emphasis added):

I do not think that voting for Donald Trump is a morally evil choice because there is nothing morally wrong with voting for a flawed candidate if you think he will do more good for the nation than his opponent. In fact, it is the morally right thing to do.

Now, Mr. Grudem does not support this assertion—the one that holds that as long as you think your candidate is better, there is “nothing morally wrong” with voting for him or her. He does not offer any evidence to demonstrate to us that he is right. And it’s probably best that he did not try.  By this logic, Judas Iscariot would have been a fine candidate choice because at least he’s not as bad as Beelzebub (the lord of evil spirits).  And by the same logic, Beelzebub would have been a fine candidate because he was not as bad as Satan.  And lest you think I’m waxing ridiculous with these particular examples, let me point out that by this same reasoning, Hillary Clinton would be a justifiable choice for president if she were running against Putin or Ahmadinejad.

Right away, we see that Mr. Grudem employs relativistic reasoning in defense of the idea that voting for a “lesser-of-two-evils” candidate is a morally good action.  This, of course, is not only a logical no-no, but is quite contrary to certain paradigms found in the Bible.  Here are a few passages for your consideration, each followed by my thoughts on their relevance.

Ephesians 5:11 Take no part in the unfruitful works of darkness, but instead expose them.

Is this statement a fair representation of Paul’s paradigm on taking part in evil?  If so, we see that they were to take “no part” in it.  It doesn’t say “take the smaller part in it”, but “take no part”.  Interestingly, this is from the ESV, a translation that Mr. Grudem oversaw, so there’s little room here for bickering about translations; Mr. Grudem should accept this at face value, yet he seems to make an exception when it comes to this election.

1 Timothy 5:22 Do not be hasty in the laying on of hands, nor take part in the sins of others; keep yourself pure.

Again I ask whether this one-liner from Paul is typical of his paradigm about whether Christians should ever participate in wrongdoing.  If a candidate is expected to be a wrongdoer—and Mr. Trump is—then what would Paul have said about actively supporting Mr. Trump’s campaign by voting for him?

So, would voting Trump into office be bad for the USA?  Does he have any bad qualities and/or habits that would likely have a bad effect on the nation?  Well, for that, let’s turn to the opinion of Mr. Grudem.  Here are his exact words regarding Trump’s faults:

He is egotistical, bombastic, and brash. He often lacks nuance in his statements. Sometimes he blurts out mistaken ideas (such as bombing the families of terrorists) that he later must abandon. He insults people. He can be vindictive when people attack him. He has been slow to disown and rebuke the wrongful words and actions of some angry fringe supporters. He has been married three times and claims to have been unfaithful in his marriages.

If nothing else, the “brash” behavior is quite a scary trait for a President.  It is from a lack of judgment—from foolishness—which is never once spoken well of in the scriptures.  Consider these passages:

Proverbs 10:14 The wise lay up knowledge, but the mouth of a fool brings ruin near.

Proverbs 14:16 One who is wise is cautious and turns away from evil, but a fool is reckless and careless.

Proverbs 26:1 Like snow in summer or rain in harvest, so honor is not fitting for a fool.

Do we really want to “bring ruin near” with a foolish president?  Do we really want a “reckless and careless” administration?  Do we really want to “honor” a man for whom “honor is not fitting”?  As my son would enthusiastically interject (humorously), “What would possibly go wrong with THAT?!”

Yes, these are just a few of the things the Bible says about fools, but does Mr. Grudem think they should be taken into consideration in this present matter of Trump 2016?  Well, apparently not.  Pay close attention to Grudem’s sentence that closes the paragraph from above that detailed what is wrong with Mr. Trump (emphasis added):

These are certainly flaws, but I don’t think they are disqualifying flaws in this election.

Again, these are very serious flaws, but Grudem is careful to stipulate “in this election”.  And that brings us back to his relativism.  Yes, they are terrible flaws, but Grudem thinks that there’s some sort of good cause in play that trumps (no pun intended, though one is quite appropriate here) normal Christian morality.

Grudem continues with a completely irrelevant argument:

On the other hand, I think some of the accusations hurled against him are unjustified.

It’s not the inaccurate accusations that should keep someone from voting for Mr. Trump.  To bring it up here amounts to saying “Look, he’s not as bad as people make out.”  Well, actually, Trump is worse than most Americans realize.  I say that because most Americans are not very keen on the Constitution and the Rule of Law, else they would squirm at hearing many of Trump’s plans to undermine both.

In his penultimate grasp at straws, Grudem writes:

He has been an unusually successful problem solver in business. He has raised remarkable children. Many who have known him personally speak highly of his kindness, thoughtfulness, and generosity.

The suggestion here is that a guy with these qualities must be a good choice for President.  Such notion, however, is false.  Having good qualities does not erase or offset bad qualities.  It does not make them any less bad.  If it did, Joseph Stalin could not have been so bad since he had a very warm relationship with his daughter, Svetlana, yet we know him still as the “Butcher”.

And that brings us to Grudem’s parting argument (emphasis added):

But the main reason I call him “a good candidate with flaws” is that I think most of the policies he supports are those that will do the most good for the nation.

“The most good”?  The most good of what?  The most good of all possible choices for president?  Or is it “the most good” between Trump and Clinton?  Surely, Grudem means the latter.  In other words Grudem might as well be arguing that our only two choices are Trump and Clinton, and that no other option for America is possible at this time.  And there’s your problem, Mr. Grudem.

This “two-party system” that is nowhere authorized in the Constitution, and that has a stranglehold on our politics—Grudem’s advice seems to be to run with it, as if it were not our right to overthrow it for the abomination that it is.  This exemplifies a cognitive error that cognitive scientist Daniel Kahneman might classify as a WYSIATI problem.  (What You See Is All There Is.)  That is, Grudem does not have in mind fixing anything.  He does not have in mind the philosophical origins of our Union.  He does not have in mind principle and righteousness, but merely that the one bad choice seems better than the other bad choice.  He’s not searching for solutions, but for what are commonly called “justifications”.  And no doubt, what he has conjured up here will be quite satisfying to Christians who identify as Republicans.

One wonders whether Grudem would find this altered verse to be logically compelling:

For God so loved the world that he gave flawed Peter, since at least Peter, even with his flaws, wasn’t as bad as Satan.

Grudem’s piece is quite troubling once its logical foundation is uncovered for the relativistic mess that it is.  Even more troubling is the fact that arguments of this (low) quality should find an audience in this culture.  But they do—even at TownHall.com—where part of the plan is to manipulate the religious voters into voting a certain way, whether God likes it or not.

Remember, according to Grudem’s relativist logic, Hillary Clinton would be a justifiable candidate, as long as someone worse than here were running, too.  So really, how impressive is it that such a reasoner as Grudem tauts Trump as the “moral” choice?  This is not morality, but foolishness.

For the record, I support neither candidate and neither party.  It is never a good idea to do the wrong thing—not even “for a good cause”.  Self correction is the rightful duty of all humans and of all human cultures.

Posted in Politics | Leave a comment

The Leaf Cloud Theory (of Trees)

What follows is a brief description of my Leaf Cloud Theory of Trees.

Perhaps through some sinister government conspiracy, or perhaps only through commonplace institutional dullness, schools in America have taught students for many generations that trees come about through deposition of seeds (such as acorns or pine cones) into suitable soil.  The seeds, it is said, then sprout and grow into (sometimes quite large) trees, which, of course, yield canopies of leaves.

New evidence, however, suggests that this model may be inaccurate.  Without getting bogged down in details and proofs, the intent of this brief article is simply to present the basics of the Leaf Cloud Theory.

Leaf Clouds

A leaf cloud of moderate proportion.

A leaf cloud of moderate proportion.

Nearly everyone has stopped at some point to admire a tree, but very few actually understand how trees get there in the first place.  To complicate matters, as fewer and fewer people spend time outdoors in each successive generation, long-understood phenomena become more scarcely understood until what remains is mistakenly considered to be mere fable.  Perhaps there is no better example of this than the leaf cloud.

Living leaves, because they are strongly social beings, tend to form themselves into societies numbering from just a few to a few hundred thousand.  In such numbers, and under the right conditions, electromagnetic anomalies occur and leaves in societies of sufficient size will levitate in cloud-like formations.  Hence, the name “leaf cloud”.  (See photo above.)  The greater the number of leaves, the higher the levitation, as a general rule.  Most single leaves, especially when they are brown, are unable to levitate, while green leaf groupings of as few as two to four have sometimes been witnessed to levitate within mere centimeters of the ground.  Larger leaf clouds are rarely witnessed to levitate more than a few hundred feet above the ground.

The Need for Water

Early Channel Formation

Early Trunk Line Formation

Leaves in such cloud societies are still limited by their need for water.  Once the society has decided on a promising location (such decision is believed to be by popular vote), its separate leaves begin to emit single, twig-like appendages, one per leaf.  These join together, attaching the various leaves together and growing in length, in search of similar appendages from other groupings of leaves within the cloud.

The effect of this corporate joining together is that the appendages nearer the earth are considerably thicker, as if by some additive effect.  They dangle downward as they continue to grow and join together.

“Trunk” Formation

Half-Formed Trunk Line

Half-Formed Trunk Line Thickening and Approaching the Ground

Once all the leaves have integrated themselves into the collective, the water channels so formed will join themselves into a single “trunk” line reaching ever closer to the ground.

At this point, the forming trunk line begins to form a crusty outer layer (commonly referred to as “bark”) in order to protect the interior water lines from evaporation.

The amount of energy expended by the leaf cloud to form a trunk line sufficient to reach the ground is considerable.  It is believed that this is the reason that leaf clouds of lesser population remain low to the ground, while tall trunk lines are only ever formed by large leaf clouds—those having sufficient energy for it.  Once the trunk line has reached half way to the ground, the individual leaves are short on energy and are in danger of death should any complications occur.

Grounding

Fully Grounded Leaf Cloud

Fully Grounded Leaf Cloud

The process of grounding with a suitable trunk line moves very quickly, and this is crucial for the survival of the leaf cloud.  In their energy-starved state, normal occurrences such as full sunlight can prove deadly.   This is why it is believed that almost all leaf cloud trunk line installations occur at night, as it not only minimizes the threat of death from exhaustion of the weaker leaves in the cloud, but also tends to hide the installation from more particular species who may object to a trunk line being installed in any given location.

Well, that’s enough detail for now.  You’ll likely have questions, but you know how to reach me.  In the meantime, I’ll be busy overturning all the world’s ignorance and scientific hogwash.

Posted in Humor | Leave a comment