“The World Series is baseball…”


That is what started a very interesting lunch conversation I had today at Worlds of Fun. Unbenownst to me, the initial speaker had seen a poster behind me about “The World Series of Barbecue”, and had used that to spark his initial statement.

This led to a conversation about baseball, and how the World Series actually is just the United States, well, maybe Canada as well, there is a team or two there (you can tell how little about sports I know). The original speaker mentioned Japan also playing  baseball, to which I said, it might be a good thing we don’t play them, they might beat us in the world series. LOL

Which spun the topic to the question of Japan. We compared the responses of China and Japan to the pushes by the West to open both of them to Western trade.  China resisted, and events were forced in without their control. Japan was forced open, but greeted it and learned. We discussed how well Japan maintained its own culture while assimilating the technology and many cultural things from the west. With my family’s interest in Japanese anime, we noted how well they blended a uniquely Japanese outlook with many Western images and themes in the movies we watch.

One we watched today, “From Up On Poppy Hill”, had some significant sections of the movie where the theme music was this excellent American-style jazz music, but it worked very well in the flow of the movie, done in a uniquely Japanese way.

We reflected this back to the United States, with how it assimilated people and ideas from many different cultures into the unique freedom of the American experience.

I also reflected to the county of India, and its use of assimilation: How it took the influences of its colonial British masters and used them to pull together all the languages and cultures of the Indian Subcontinent, in a very Indian way, to form a very functional, diverse, secular representative state — in its own way more amazing than the assimilation and diversity of the United States.

And yet, even so, the United States is unique. The United States is an idea. You can be French, or German, or Japanese, or even Indian, without believing anything specific. You cannot be American, truly American, without believing a certain overarching gestalt.  People come to the United States, add their uniqueness, and join our gestalt about what it means to be free. Thus, we are threatened, subtly and invisibly, to the core when people come live in our territory but refuse to become a part of the gestalt. That is what may one day truly unwind the Republic — a lack of belief.

As you can see, this wasn’t a tight logical syllogism, but a general bouncing from principles of related concepts into a generalized whole.

I posited the fact that our unique freedom of ideas brought creative people from all over the world to the USA to try out their ideas and make them a success. Not that many didn’t do the same in their home countries, but other countries didn’t have the same influx of people for that reason.

I also posited that, while many people claimed that we impoverished the world and hogged all the wealth to ourselves, that the truer answer is that our exchanges of wealth with the rest of the world grew their economies, and lifted people out of poverty to a greater degree of affluence than they ever had. The metaphor/phrase “a rising tide lifts all ships” was mentioned.

Then we used the idea of ships differently. If the ship of our economy flounders or sinks, too many others sink with it. Our actions have consequences, and while an “America First” policy sounds good, it is only good if it recognizes the secondary effects we have on other people.

I illustrated, through the smaller example of our family, how taking care of oneself is important to be able to take care of others. As the father I need to take care of myself so I can provide for the rest. The hunters in the tribe ate first, so they might have strength to catch the food to feed the rest. But it was a necessity of service that provides for self first, not anything of better stature.

Then we brought it back around to how we need to be very conscious of the secondary effects of our actions. As the big economy in the world, we can’t do anything without consequences, nor can we just withdraw from the world. Not that we couldn’t learn to be a little more circumspect in how we intervene or not. It is too easy to be the giant in the playground, doing things to make ourselves feel good, while actually making things worse. Just because something sounds good, looks good, doesn’t mean it is good, or doesn’t have bad unintended consequences.

We discussed the concept of the “superior American” who goes around the world looking down on everyone else. I mentioned that many of the British at the height of their empire had the same thing. But our real attitude should be one where we feel, we know, we are unique because of our idea, our gestalt, but at the same time not look down on others because they aren’t Americans.

As I said above, America is different from the world, being an idea. I don’t think we realize how that makes us different: we see the world differently than they see us. There are many ways we just don’t understand each other, while being absolutely sure that we do.

So on this Memorial Day weekend, when we remember those who laid down their lives so we might be free, along with all our other loved ones who went before, let us be ever mindful, let us be serious, about the idea that is America, and not too serious about ourselves at the same time. And let us realize that we do live in a different world from the other countries of this globe, a world of ideas has been changing this globe for the past three centuries and hopefully will continue to do so for another three.

Enclave or assimilate


I noticed it on Saturday. The men of the local Islamic center were digging holes to put posts in front of the drive for their parking lot. Today I ran by and saw that they are putting bricks down between the poles, leaving just an open space between the two central ones for, I assume, a gate to let vehicles in and out.

The place where the Islamic center now is was a vacant building when my family moved to the community in 2003. That corner had two buildings, an old retail building, and some sort of abandoned office/motel (I was never quite sure). It took until the beginning of 2010 before that began to change. The retail building became the Corner Store, which has managed to thrive over the past seven years.

A bit later the office building was taken over by a group that we gradually learned was an Islamic Center of people who had immigrated from Bosnia. Over the years they slowly made very nice improvements to the lot, always keeping a low profile and not drawing attention to themselves. It took a long time for a sign to go up so we were sure exactly what the group was that had so improved the corner.

But more recently they have started creating a sense of enclave. It started with the slatted wooden fence around the back and sides, that prevented the sort of cutting across the corner lot that people were prone to do. And now they are sealing off the last side of the lot, this time with iron posts and cement blocks. I only saw two levels of blocks when I was going by today, and only on one side of what I took for the gate, but the other side was obviously prepped for the same treatment.

This sort of construction has two possible intentions, not always meant simultaneously: to keep people in, or to keep people out.

Now, practically, they wouldn’t be keeping people in — their people come and go all the time — but creating a place where they stay separate from other people, and don’t assimilate into the national culture, but remain distinct and foreign for generations, that is something I know this group isn’t intending to do. They have people from their leadership attending the local community association meetings, and becoming more active than a lot of the long-time residents.

So my sorrow is that I see this as a sense of keeping people out. They have fear of being attacked themselves, for their difference and religion, and are ensuring their property and people are kept safe.

With the recent event in London, among other events,  they have reason to be concerned that some people will see them, unfortunately, as an appropriate target, and are thus continuing their sense of enclave.

I, for one, don’t want them to gain that sense. They need to know they are welcome in the community, and that we want them to be a part of our greater American culture and community. Unlike some immigrants in some places, they have not moved in and insisted we change our ways to meet their religious laws. To anyone who does that I can only say “nay”. But to those who come to dwell in peace, we should give them peace.

I don’t object to limiting immigrants from countries where terrorism is rife, and putting extra security screenings before letting people in. That is only right and good. But once they are here, they should be treated as free and welcomed, and in return they should show themselves free and open to accommodating and acculturating into the body politic, while adding the strength of their uniqueness to that which is America.

Which is why I hope, and pray, that the whispers of intolerance don’t teach these good neighbors the wrong lessons about America, but that they might continue to open to us, and that we will stay open to them.

What kind of tramp is Trump?


Back on March 10, 2016, just over a year ago, I wrote this post about now President Trump and why I didn’t trust him and wouldn’t vote for him.

I still stand by those comments, and about the way his wealth enabled him to get away with behavior that a poor man could never get away with. I still have distrust of that type of use/abuse of wealth and power, the same skepticism that G.K. Chesterton expressed. I don’t have a concern about wealth itself, just its abuse.

But I am willing to state today that I am cautiously optimistic about President Trump since I have seen him take office. He has shown more savvy, so far, than I expected of him, though it still is to be seen how the businessman will fare in the world of the politicians: who will be devoured by whom.

Yet while I am cautiously more optimistic than I would be about the direction we would be going in than if we had another President Clinton, I am still not doting on Trump as the darling of conservatives, as many people seem to. Many people seem intent on finding some leader to put their trust in, instead of realizing that we are the leaders and they the public servants, and we shouldn’t be any politicians sycophant.

Why am I optimistic, and why am I cautious? I am optimistic because the opposition continues to hold Trump to the fire. Are they not smart enough to see that if they eased up on him, it would give him the chance to show how Democratic he still is. But every time they vilify him it only holds him to the course he declared in the campaign. Even to being the best option for the Pro-Life movement — finally calling Planned Parenthood to responsibility.

Why am I cautious? Because his brand of conservatism isn’t mine. It turns the course away from the “Liberal” trend we have been on, but it doesn’t really eliminate the big government with big solutions mentality that keep increasing the size of government. True, he is cutting and gutting a lot of the burdensome regulations. But has anyone noticed the parade that continues to go through the oval office. Big CEOs of various industries marching through to show their ideas and support, of jobs, of infrastructure, of being good Americans to make America Great Again. It is all so Mussolini: the cooperation of big business and big government. Yes, it will certainly improve many things; the trains (or whatever is our modern equivalent) will start running on time. But the shrinking of government, and the increasing of freedom for everyone, particularly the individual and the small businessman, that isn’t in the cards.

Yet once we start back from the old route, the chance to really make it to a true libertarian, true constitutional sense of our freedoms again, becomes more possible. thus my cautious optimism. There are still many things that could go wrong, so many ways the course could be turned back. But just the fact that so much resistance has emerged to the old course, is itself a sign for hope. Any attempt to turn back will see the same resistance that brough Trump to power.

We will see how much of my caution, and how much of my optimism, were warranted, as we watche events progress through the next 4 years.

Living in a “Take Down” culture


Recently we saw the “take down” of political commentator and shock personality Milo Yiannopoulos. Because that is the exact term that is being used. “Hear the story about how a 16-year-old girl ‘took down’ Milo”, a news story calls out.

Because this is the environment we are in. We don’t have civil discourse. We either gag our enemies, or we shout them out/down with shock comments. Political correctness gags; the resistence shocks. When someone gets too dangerous, we wait for the opportune moment and we take them out with an ambush on some flaming trumped comment, never addressing any actual issues.

My Brethren, these things ought not so to be.

In the about section of my blog, I noted the words of an ancient benediction, see below:

Go forth into the world in peace,

Be of good courage,

Hold fast to that which is good,

Render to no one evil for evil.

God forth into the world in love,

Strengthen the fainthearted, support the weak,

Help the afflicted, Honor all people,

Love and serve the Lord.

Rejoicing in the power of the Holy Spirit,

Go forth into the world in peace.

In peace.

I want to emphasize the words HONOR ALL PEOPLE. We have forgotten too soon the value,  the worth of the individuals we disagree with, and created the take down culture. My plea today, is today be of good courage, hold fast to that which is good, render to no one evil for evil, strengthen the fainthearted, support the weak, help the afflicted, and through all that, HONOR ALL PEOPLE.

The more you disagree, the more you need to honor.

Don’t you dare challenge my narrative …


Every so often I find myself driven by a desire to forsake my natural tendency for reasoned discourse, for the seeing the merits of both (or multiple) sides of an issue, to finding the benefit of each side even while being able  to disagree with ultimate conclusions. Every so often I find myself driven to write a polemical tirade that blasts an attack upon the inane and idiotic views I find myself faced with, only to find, through lack of use, I don’t have an adequate vocabulary to pen the scathing and withering repartee that I want to write.

(side quote from movie The Wizard of Oz: “Auntie Em: Almira Gulch, just because you own half the county doesn’t mean that you have the power to run the rest of us. For twenty-three years, I’ve been dying to tell you what I thought of you! And now… well, being a Christian woman, I can’t say it!”)

What has burst open my desire for polemic is this article that I was pointed to from the LA Times about what a hard time the presidency of Donald Trump is making for psychological therapists. His election has created panic attacks, insomnia, inability to concentrate at work, fear so palpable it becomes physical pain, among people who opposed him.

Therapists are trained not to reveal their personal beliefs, but one therapist says she will agree with clients now if they say the don’t support Trump, because:

If this were just another session, if this weren’t such a big thing, if this weren’t so evil, I wouldn’t. But I have to stand for what I stand for and that does cross over into politics.

But while the people who opposed Trump are the ones feeling the panic, the hysteria, it is the people who support Trump who fear being harassed if they admit they voted for Trump.

So, a “dispassionate” professional finds herself able to break her professional standards and vilify someone she disagrees with through hyperbole, yet not be concerned that it is the people from her personal persuasion that are creating the hysteria of the mob mentality that crushes all who dare to resist and refute their form of the life narrative.

See the below quote from the article about what one therapist was blaming Trump for:

Trump was normalizing behavior that therapists fight to reverse, including “the tendency to blame others in our lives for our personal fears and insecurities,” he said, and “a kind of hyper-masculinity that is antithetical to the examined life and healthy relationships.”

I find his first comment eminently laughable. All these people with the panic attacks, etc., are doing exactly what he says Trump is doing: they are blaming Trump for their personal fears and insecurities.

There is a video at the top of the article. It is set there in a way that I cannot post a link to it, or embed it. You can do nothing except watch it on the page. And it plays terribly. If you dare pause it you might not be able to get it to start again. I don’t know whether it will still be the same one when you read this post and follow over there, but hopefully it will be.

It is captioned with:

The New York Times published a letter signed by 35 psychiatrists, psychologists and social workers. The letter suggests Trump’s “grave emotional instability… makes him incapable of serving safely as president.” (Feb. 21, 2017)

Which just goes to show what a bit of biased editing and reporting this is. The whole video is intended to fuel the hysteria, not provide any real knowledge or information. It leads with the most sensational and least factual elements. It leads with speculations, assertions by “healthcare professionals” on someone they have never professionally examined. And it never mentions that to even make such a comment linked to their professional credentials is unprofessional.

They leave the most professionally credible comment almost to the end as almost a throw away. Psychiatrist Allen Frances, who helped define narcissism, responded to the letter:

I wrote the criteria that define (narcissistic personality disorder) and Mr. Trump doesn’t meet them. He may be a world class narcissist, but this doesn’t make him mentally ill because he does not suffer from the stress and impairment required to diagnose mental disorder.

And then of course they throw one more unfounded unprofessional red herring assertion of his mental instability at the end so that is the thing people will remember.

What a load of pap by a bunch of weak infant sissies. Can they only take soft foods, fit for babies, unable to meet any sense of stress, resistance, or challenge to their narrative views of the world. (1 Corinthians 3:2 I have fed you with milk, and not with meat: for hitherto ye were not able to bear it, neither yet now are ye able.) Do they need to live forever in their cocoons, instead of taking the strength to break through the protective sheath with the strength of strife to bloom into the joyous potential of the butterflies they could be. Do the enabling therapists of these people realize how they are protecting these people from the one thing that will enable them to truly take mastery of their own lives, and to contribute to the benefit of those around them: the life of strenuous endeavor?

This article reminded me of its great antithesis, that of Teddy Roosevelt and his sense of the strenuous life.  So I will end with the conclusion of a speech he gave more than a century ago, that we have forgotten, and desperately need to remember:

I preach to you, then, my countrymen, that our country calls not for the life of ease but for the life of strenuous endeavor. The twentieth century looms before us big with the fate of many nations. If we stand idly by, if we seek merely swollen, slothful ease and ignoble peace, if we shrink from the hard contests where men must win at hazard of their lives and at the risk of all they hold dear, then the bolder and stronger peoples will pass us by, and will win for themselves the domination of the world. Let us therefore boldly face the life of strife, resolute to do our duty well and manfully; resolute to uphold righteousness by deed and by word; resolute to be both honest and brave, to serve high ideals, yet to use practical methods. Above all, let us shrink from no strife, moral or physical, within or without the nation, provided we are certain that the strife is justified, for it is only through strife, through hard and dangerous endeavor, that we shall ultimately win the goal of true national greatness.

Civil War: The Blue and the Red


I read and article the other day about how the fly-over states are holding the rest of the country back. I’ve also seen articles and comments about how willing many people would be to let California secede. And it got me to thinking about the civil war.

There were many issues that drove the blue and the gray apart, and there were also issues that assured that they couldn’t exist apart as well. The same holds true today.

People talk about the war as one about slavery. That was a core issue, but it also obscures other important cultural and philosophical issues. The same is true today.

In the 19th century slavery was the hot issue. But the sense of the affairs of states being meddled with, State’s Rights, was equally important in secession. Individual freedom, and State freedom were being impinged upon By northern meddling in the “peculiar institution.” I’m sure it isn’t a popular thing to say, but a more gradual solution would have come about (meaning many more years of many more people enslaved, yes, not a good tradeoff); the institution was dying off.

Yet instead we fought a war that strengthened the central government, and in many ways led to today’s struggle over central power versus freedom that the Blue and Red struggle is often about.

One of the reasons that secession couldn’t stand was geography. You go back to 1803 and America felt itself threatened when control of the Mississippi was in the hands of another power. The Civil war was doing the same thing to the U.S. again. We couldn’t divide north south when our geography flowed north south. And independent south would have been a threat to the North.

Taking a look at Red and Blue you have similar issues. That article disdaining fly-over states liked to talk about how much of importance was centered on the coasts, but much of the functioning of the East and West coasts is dependent on the ability to bring them together through the center. The Red heartland would actually be in better shape than the Blue coasts much as the Gray south would have been in better shape than the Blue north, if a division were to take place.

These are simple sketched thoughts, but they show how a division would be more  detrimental to the one side, and so could not stand. It, of course, doesn’t address all the other issues about how the fracturing of the American state would influence the ability of any of the sub units to have influence around the world, vs. being threatened by those foreign powers.

This is obviously something that could be discussed in different details, or greater detail, either in comments, or a future post. So feel free to comment, and maybe we can put together the seeds of a future post.