The American Dilemma and How We Can Fix It

Archive for the ‘philosophy’ Category

THIS UNCERTAIN WORLD

There are times that I lean back in my chair and think to myself, “Self.  Maybe the left is right.  (I really like that sentence for its internal absurdity).  Wouldn’t it be a wonderful world and a fabulous life if we all could have whatever we wanted without having to work for it; if we could know in advance what the next wonderful thing in store for us was; if we had no anxiety, no worries, no care; if we didn’t have to be concerned about our future because it would be clear to us what that would be?”

What would be the practical effect of actually knowing the future – even an assured future where everyone’s material wants were met?  I think the answer is – boredom – and the introduction of more anxiety.

Although it seems paradoxical as we all strive to eliminate uncertainty from our lives, it is uncertainty which makes life both interesting and challenging.  If we truly knew the future there would be no reason to watch a sporting event – or for that matter play it.  Imagine how inspired an infielder on the Yankees would feel if he knew that his team was going to lose to the White Sox that day by a score of 7 – 3.

The casinos would close their doors in short order.  Since 22 was the next number to come up on the roulette wheel, that’s where all bets would be.  And if we knew that a five was the next card that would be dealt, the astute blackjack player would take a hit on his 16, despite the fact that the dealer was showing a bust card.  Horse races would be a thing of the past and we’d have to find a different way to spend our Saturday and Sunday afternoons as football would hold no appeal.

There would be no stock market and no market for stocks.  Knowing the unfortunate end that it would meet, we would never have built the Challenger and we would have saved the lives of the seven astronauts who were on board.  We would not have spent months of air time discussing the mysterious disappearance of Malaysia Flight 370 as, knowing its fate, the Malaysian government would not have allowed it to fly and no passenger would have boarded it.

In such a world of certainty there would be no room for a Shakespeare or an Ibsen or a Hitchcock.  Drama and suspense can not exist unless there is the possibility of alternate endings.  The comedy clubs would close because we would all know the punch line.  In such a world would Michelangelo have begun the long process of painting the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel or Mozart composed his tremendous volume of work knowing that despite his genius he would never escape a state of perpetual poverty and be buried in a pauper’s grave?

Of course there is one other and perhaps the most frightening aspect of living in a world certain.  Each of us would know the exact time and means by which death would show up at our doorstep and come for us.  It would be as though we, like the “replicants” that were brought into being in “Blade Runner,” had an internal clock built into us by our maker, a clock that was sealed at the factory and which was constantly winding down, bringing us ever more closely to the moment we took our final breath.

What would people who lived in such an environment do with their time and their lives?  I suspect that it would be very little.  This would be a world in which ennui would have been raised to its ultimate expression.  There would be little incentive to succeed and no repercussions for failure.  This would be a world in which people saw little reason for hope and no reason for change.  It would be a world in which we had given over our lives and activities to fate – and accepted that “what would be would be.”

And if one day, we learned that a massive meteor was headed directly toward us and would impact the Earth three years later, would we be able to marshal the fortitude to try to defend ourselves from this potentially life-destroying event?  Or would we sit back and thank our lucky stars that finally something out of our control had come to put an end to our insufferable misery?

THE AGE OF ENTITLEMENT

Western Europe in the 17th and 18th centuries had The Age of Enlightenment.  It was a time when great minds would hold court in the salons and set out their views on the political origins, birthright and future of mankind.

In 21st century America we have the Age of Entitlement.  We have enshrined a new god, technology and he is a jealous deity, consigning us to our subservient place as “users” as we absorb ourselves in texting and taking “selfies.”

Perhaps our parents and grandparents were too successful in their efforts to leave us with more than they had.  That was their goal and achieving it provided them with an endorsement of the fact that their lives had meaning.  Many of us in my generation did the same.  And we might have done just a little better than Mom and Dad.  In fact, we may have done a bit too well.

If familiarity breeds contempt, absence of want engenders complacency.  Those of us who are middle class have raised a generation that has lacked little and has even fewer aspirations.

My generation hoped that we would be able to attend college.  Today’s high school grads want to know which school has the best party atmosphere.  We hoped to get a decent job and rise through the ranks.  Today’s kids feel that they deserve to start at the top because they’re “special.”

As a child I remember my father telling me stories about how he had to walk fourteen miles one way to school in the dead of winter, barefoot – and when he got home he had to chop the firewood and stoke the furnace.  I realized that he took some poetic license in relating these sagas – but they did help me understand how much better I had it than he and his siblings.

Perhaps the greatest gift of growing up prior to our present technological era was that we had the ability to be adventurers and discoverers.  If we learned a lesson it was because we learned that lesson from our own experience, not as some footnote on an internet encyclopedic entry.

When I was presented with the mathematical concept of pi it was my introduction to irrational numbers.  My geometry teacher explained that it was most closely expressed as the ratio of 22/7 and that it never resolved itself in an even answer – which is, after all, the nature of irrational numbers.  I was determined to find out for myself.

I remember that evening taking out several sheets of paper and beginning the long division process.  As I recall, I took pi out to about five hundred places and there was no end in sight.  This fascinated me as I looked for some sort of repetitive sequences, but there were none.  And that got me thinking about that Euclid guy and how he had come up with this in the first place.

That sense of wonderment and inquiry is gone from our children’s life experience.  What it took me hours to achieve manually can be done by any of today’s grammar school kids’ hand-held devices in a second or less.  And while re-inventing the wheel is not a productive effort, I suspect that if their notepads responded to the question, “How much is 8 x 5?” with the answer 63, a significant number of our children would write that down, confident that they had responded to the question correctly.

There is no doubt that technology has, in large measure, been a boon and a benefit to mankind.  Well, of course, there is that whole “global warming” thing which would probably not be an issue if we all travelled by horse and buggy.  But reliance on technology and subservience to it are two different matters.

The thoughtful person cannot deny that technology is daily becoming more important in how we live our lives.  I have long argued that if the GPS satellites were suddenly to disappear, half of those making their way home from work would get lost.  And if we didn’t have our cell phones with us, we would not be able remotely to close our garage doors in the event we forgot, lock our houses or enable the NSA and who knows who else to track our movements.

Freed from the need to think on our own, we have willingly consigned that to whoever it is that creates the newest apps.  This naturally allows us a great deal more free time.  But to do what?  To tweet and text and post to Facebook?  To play video games?  Well, there needs to be something to fill the void with all that excess time on our hands.

It is hardly our children’s fault that they spend a lot of their time in mindless activity.  It is all they know and the world of technology is their world.  We should not be too critical if they have an expectation of reward without effort, because we have created that environment and raised them in it.  And we should not be surprised if we notice that little Suzie would rather play a game on her tablet than have a conversation with her family because it was, after all, her family that went out and purchased the latest and greatest in the world of tablets – that is until another version comes out next Christmas.

My father used to quip about how his mother, on giving him a brand new dress shirt would say, “Be careful when you wear that shirt.  I don’t want you getting any stains on it and be sure you don’t tear it.  Your younger brother is going to be wearing it in three years.”  Have you ever heard of a family giving a “hand-me-down” laptop to a younger sibling?

As we have in large measure abandoned the more difficult tasks of personal investigation and curiosity in favor of having ready-made answers handed to us, we have ushered in our Age of Entitlement – the freedom not to think; the freedom to have whatever we want; the freedom to do as we please.

But behind all those apps and conveniences without which we cannot imagine our lives there is someone who is the creator, the inventor and the thinker providing those to us.  And perhaps the next time we get ready to text one of our BFF’s about the latest goings on at the mall, a few of us might stop for a moment and wonder, “Who is it that is pushing our buttons?”

A ZERO SUM MINDSET

If there is one common thread that underlies all politically liberal philosophies it is that there are only a limited amount of resources available and equitably distributing those among all people should be our primary goal.  That was the thinking that underpinned “The Communist Manifesto” and that is the attitude that emanates from the current administration in Washington.  It is the mindset which motivates those in political power to seek wealth re-distribution because it has turned its back on the possibility of wealth creation.

When Obama was sworn in as the Chief Executive the country was recovering from the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression.  Instead of seizing the opportunity to focus on the economy, the administration spent its first two years crafting together Obamacare which satisfied its ideology if not the country’s immediate needs.  As a result the country languished and the uncertainty that was created through this signature law have contributed to an anemic semi-recovery.

The Obama administration responded to the faltering economy by securing funding for “shovel-ready” jobs.  While the money was spent, the jobs never materialized.  It used the taxpayer’s remittances on green energy projects like Solyndra which went bankrupt leaving us $400 Million further in the hole as the government increased the official national debt to an historic $17 Billion.  It refused, because of its ideology, to approve the Keystone Pipeline Project which would have provided thousands of jobs and even more importantly would have moved the economy forward by lowering energy costs through additional supplies.

The fundamental philosophy of liberal thinking is the same as that to which a committed gambler clings. “ Let me take what someone else has.”  That is the driving force behind every “game of chance,” every sports bet, every state run lottery and of every system of government which looks to “re-distribute” wealth.

There is only one fatal flaw with this viewpoint and that is that time and again it has been proven to be a failure.  We have no further to turn than to compare the implementation of this philosophy in the former Soviet Union, Cuba and North Korea to realize that.

This paternalistic philosophy, however well-intended, unfortunately is grounded in a world view based on pessimism.  Its premise is that ordinary people – the ones whom they are presumably championing – are simply not smart enough to make rational, self-benefitting decisions on their own and must be “taken care of” by those who are wiser and more prescient – they and those they elect to govern the masses.

Further to their mindset is the belief that all that there is now available to society in the way of resources or the way of doing things is all that there ever will be the, “Everything that can be invented already has been invented,” sort of mentality.  In some respects this becomes a self-fulfilling philosophy.  If we do not believe that there is a possibility for a better future, we must then content ourselves with a dismal past.  Looking for something that we have defined as being non-existent is certainly a waste of time.

This philosophy is not unique or even original to the Obama administration.  The president and his staff are merely its latest exponents.  But we should have realized that when, as one of his first acts in office, Obama made a world tour, apologizing for all the “mistakes” that America had made over the years, there he did not accept the concept of either “American exceptionalism” or, for that matter of “human exceptionalism.”  The concept of “equality” cannot tolerate the notion that some of us are a little brighter, a little more gifted or a little more motivated than others.   Admitting to that is to destroy the goal – which is that we should all be equally mediocre.

Fortunately, there is  a basis for optimism.  Despite its attempts to obviate the provisions of the Constitution, this administration is not as thoroughly entrenched as it believes and the level of disapproval is increasing weekly as more of its flawed policies are making themselves evident, notwithstanding their hyperbole and their rhetoric.  If current polls are an indication, Americans are beginning to realize that Obama and his crew have sold the country a bill of goods which lacks substance and that we’ve had more than enough talk but very little productive action.

When we reach the critical mass of wide-spread awareness, then we can again turn our eyes to the stars and realize, “There are more things in Heaven and Earth than are dreamt of in Obama’s philosophy.”  Rather than wasting our time trying to re-distribute the wealth which America has created through the individual effort of its exceptional citizens, we can look for ways that we can increase the bounty that all of us were promised in our founding documents and will realize that Obama and his cronies were the necessary distraction which re-awakened us to our real birthright.

AMERICAN EXCEPTIONALISM

The recent Putin put down in his N. Y. Times “op-ed” descrying the phrase “American exceptionalism” certainly has some basis if you read or watch what the media regularly report.  It is hard to refute that argument if your focus is on mass shootings, Hollywood celeb shenanigans or the person whom we have elected as the CEO of the country, President Obama.

If you look at our stagnant economy, those who are willing to sit on their duffs and collect a government stipend, the shootings that go on regularly in our inner cities and the government’s inability to deal with realistic spending or to develop programs that actually have a positive effect, there is nothing in any of these to contradict the Commissar in Charge’s allegations.

So what happened to American exceptionalism – or did it ever actually exist?  Well, it did exist and still does – though the examples are far fewer than could be found if we go back a generation or more.  In some respect, the achievements of previous generations have contributed to our current effete society.  They did great things and handed them down to us and we have taken their sacrifices and their hard work for granted and now have a mindset that we are “entitled” to what we have and yet we want even more.

There are, however, still examples of the honesty, generosity and selflessness that were once a part of America.  They are too few and they are too under-reported but they exist nevertheless.  In this week’s news, absorbed as we are with Syria and the budget, two stories emerged – and at their center are two professional athletes who have shone the bright light of gratitude and responsibility on us and provided examples that we should all heed.

You might have heard about former New England Patriot’s player, Brian Holloway whose vacant farm house was the scene for a party held by 300 teens who, over several days, trashed the place while taking drugs, drinking and urinating in the building.  Holloway now lives in Florida and is a motivational speaker.  Before discussing his response to this episode I would like to share a personal experience with respect to home invasion.

Many years ago I decided to refurbish the wooden window frames in my condo.  One of my neighbors was a designer and gave me the name of a crew that had done similar work in her apartment.  So I hired the group and they began the project.

It happened that during the course of this project the anniversary of my grandmother’s death occurred.  One of the things that she had passed along was a small collection of silver dollars and four old quarters.  They had no great numismatic value but were invaluable as memorabilia.  The four quarters were the last paycheck my grandfather had brought home before his death – a day’s wages; and the fourteen Morgan dollars  were the totality of their savings.  Grandma vowed never to spend these.

So here was a young woman who in 1921 found a second job to support her two daughters and to further supplement her meager income took in other peoples’ laundry.  There were no social safety nets other than what might be gleaned from friends and family.  Somehow she made it, never amassing a fortune but despite her lowly jobs and lack of a formal education was able to pay the bills and make sure that her daughters went to college.

When I went to look at these coins I found they were missing.  I cannot describe the sense of emptiness that came over me when I made this discovery.  One of the workmen had also stolen some small pieces of jewelry, but the police found those in a pawn shop.  The coins were never recovered.

I can only imagine how Mr. Holloway felt when he went to his empty farmhouse and saw the destruction that these 300 teenagers had caused.  If it were me, as calm as my demeanor normally is, I think I would have been overcome with a great sense of outrage and would have been looking for justice and even revenge.

But Mr. Holloway rose above that venality.  He started a website and posted the pictures that these cretin teens had themselves posted on Facebook, extolling their own malfeasance.  His goal was to bring them to accountability through public shaming.  As of this writing, only one of those has come to him and admitted his participation in the orgy.  But he has heard from several parents who are threatening law suits for exposing their miscreant children for what they are.  With that sort of parental response, it is not hard to understand why these kids behaved as they did.

I sympathize with Mr. Holloway for his loss.  As he pointed out, everything can be repaired or replaced.  And I laud him for his efforts to hold the kids who were involved accountable – despite the obvious lack of positive parental supervision or direction.  To my mind, Mr. Holloway is a true example of an American who is exceptional.

The second gentleman who deserves recognition is Boston Red Sox pitcher, Jon Lester.  He is a survivor of non-Hodgkin lymphoma cancer.  He struggled against this disease and overcame it.  And he is concerned that not enough attention is being paid to pediatric cancer research.  So in conjunction with Pediatric Research Foundation Board member Rob Quish, he has established the “NVRQT” charity, which stands for “Never Quit” to raise money for research.

Mr. Lester has also taken time to meet with children who are either undergoing cancer therapy or who have finished their program, to encourage them to fight against their disease.  He talks to them about his own experience in battling the disease and offers them the hope that can only come from a fellow survivor.

In an interview he spoke about his role as a professional athlete.  He recognizes that there are, “Some who simply pay baseball because that’s what they want to do.  But others realize that we are role models for youngsters and we have to accept and embrace that responsibility.”

Kudos to Mr. Lester for providing all of us with a positive example and best wishes to him that he remains cancer free.

Most of us will never be recognized for doing the right thing.  But it is, to my thinking, that doing the right thing needs no recognition because it is its own reward.  That is, of course, an old-fashioned idea.  But it is that philosophy which was fundamental to those who came before us and because of whom the term “American exceptionalism” came into being.  For providing us with their example, we should all be grateful and take their sacrifices to heart and say, “Thank you.”

BANNED IN BOSTON

Several generations of Americans have grown up with the idea that the city of Boston, Massachusetts is one of the anchors of “liberalism” in America.  That statement may well be true today, but it was not always so.

During the early part of the 20th century, there was probably no place as conservative as Boston.  And Bostonians, by virtue of their close identification with the early Puritan settlers who had founded the colony, held themselves to be the arbiters of morality for our young country.

If a play or a book, a movie, a painting or a song carried with it the designation, “Banned In Boston,” it meant that it had failed the standards of decency which the Bostonian morality mavens had established and could neither be sold or performed or in the case of art be displayed within the city nor could it be included in the Boston Public Library’s collection.  The practice was commonplace until 1965 when William S. Burroughs challenged and won his case to allow his book, “The Naked Lunch” to be distributed in the city.

Over the years many works which we now consider to be classics fell under the “Ban.”  Among these were Walt Whitman’s “Leaves of Grass”; “Desire Under the Elms” by Eugene O’Neill; “The Sun Also Rises” and “A Farewell to Arms” by Ernest Hemingway; “God’s Little Acre” by Erskine Caldwell; “Wake Up Little Susie” by the Everly Brothers and one of Sinclair Lewis’ books, “Elmer Gantry.”

The basis for banning most of these works centered around one of two issues – either the vulgarity of the language employed  in creating the work or that the censors felt there was either too much implied or explicit mention of sex in it.  By far, the second was the greatest reason on which the “morality committees” made their decision.

But Lewis’ work was unique in that he hardly ever employed an expletive stronger than “Damn” in his writing – and then only infrequently.  And while it was true that he described sexual behavior and liaisons in his work, he did not do so in an evocative or lurid way.  It was the subject matter of the book, “Elmer Gantry” itself which riled the censors into taking action.

You see, the protagonist of “Elmer Gantry” was a degenerate, womanizing, alcoholic preacher man of the lowest moral standing – and it was Lewis’ characterization of a “man of the cloth” in such a way that offended the Boston censors.

In the America of 1927 when “Elmer Gantry” was published, most Americans identified themselves with some religious group or other.  Going to shul for our Jewish citizens or church for those of us who were Christians was a regular and normal part of our lives.

The clergy, priests, rabbis and ministers were looked up to as standard bearers of righteousness and morality.  Many Americans felt they could confidentially receive the same kind of loving advice from their spiritual pastor as they could from their best friend or their closest relative.  And the clerics in our society generally held themselves to the highest possible standards not only by preaching their virtue in their sermons but by living it as an example for all of us.

There should be no wonder that movies with religious themes such as “Going My Way” were extraordinarily popular.  The moviegoer could leave the theater and relate to Barry Fitzgerald’s and Bing Crosby’s portrayal of the pastor and the parish priest and say, “Why they seemed just like Pastor McGowan and Fr. Timothy.”

There are many of the clergy who have abrogated the high standards to which they have been called.  Our tabloids are filled with their names and their misdeeds.  But there are some who have received their message and lived it out – giving those of us who still remain in the flock a guiding light to lead us.

The next post will offer a brief summary of  the lives of members of both groups.

THE SQUIRREL AND THE CAT

There was once a common gray squirrel who made the acquaintance of a beautiful Angora cat.  They lived in the same area, although the squirrel made his home in a very old elm tree and the cat lived in a ritzy garden apartment.

Come rain or shine the squirrel could be seen scurrying about the neighborhood, looking for acorns or anything else that looked nutritious.  The cat had no such concerns as his mistress put out his meals on a regular schedule and provided all that he wanted to eat.

The cat found the squirrel’s constant comings and goings to be not only dizzying but quite inexplicable.

“My friend,” he said.  “Why do you go about in such a constant frenzy?  Your continuous scurrying is causing me to have a headache.  Settle down for a bit and let’s have a nice chat.”

“I would love to,” said the squirrel.  “But if I did, I would not have enough rations to make it through the day.  So I need to keep foraging to stave off starvation.”

The cat thought this was very peculiar.  He had never known a moment when his food was not provided for him and so, naturally, assumed that was the way it was for all creatures.  In his heart of hearts he thought that the squirrel was making a joke at his expense.  But being a polite sort of creature, he did not mention his suspicions to the squirrel.

The cat sauntered outside one day after his mistress had just finished brushing him.  He always enjoyed a good brushing and looked absolutely glamorous.  So when he saw the squirrel hastening by, he couldn’t help comparing his appearance to that of his friend’s.

“My goodness,” the cat thought to himself.  “My poor friend is looking rather shabby.  His coat has got little parts of plants stuck to it.  He really should take better care of himself.”

Well the squirrel, pre-occupied with the necessities of gathering food, had little time to try to look chic.  In fact, the concept never even crossed his mind.  He was totally focused on his mission of surviving.

Things went along in this way for quite some time until something unexpected happened.  One morning when the cat went into the kitchen to get his breakfast there was nothing in his dish.

He went into his mistress’ room to find out why there was a delay but when he jumped up on her bed he found only her lifeless body.  He began meowing as loudly as he could, hoping this would revive her.  But nothing he did could bring her back to this world.

So the cat jumped through the open window of the garden apartment and happened to see his friend the squirrel engaged, as usual, in looking for his own breakfast.  The cat couldn’t help but notice that the squirrel, while still sporting the vestiges of plant parts all over his fur, was quite plump and seemed to be doing an excellent job of providing his own food.  By contrast, the cat’s stomach began to growl and he was feeling a little faint.

The squirrel greeted the cat as he raced by.  He had just spotted what appeared to be a very choice acorn.  And the cat began to wonder what he would do for food since his mistress was no longer there to set out his meals.

Suddenly, it occurred to the cat that his pampered life was over and he would need to fend for himself.  The thought of that sent a terrible shiver down his spine.  And he began to think how fortunate the squirrel was that he had enough to eat.

When the squirrel came back with his acorn and began to munch on it, the cat, in a moment of self pity said to him, “My friend.  All the time I’ve known you, I have always thought how fortunate I was that I didn’t have to do anything and yet my food magically appeared.  In honesty, I looked down on your abject need to have to provide for yourself.  But now things have changed, and I must admit that I envy you.  You are, indeed a lucky creature.”

To this, the squirrel made a reply which is the moral of our story:

“There’s something I’ve noticed in going through life.  It seems as though the harder I work, the luckier I get.”

A BIT OF GRANDMA’S WISDOM

My little maternal grandmother was a formally uneducated woman yet she possessed more wisdom than all the Solons we have sitting on Capitol Hill.  She had that rarest of commodities, one which is called common sense and while it had not been learned from school books it had come to her through life experience.  I recognized her genius at a very early age.

I will never forget sitting in our little living room one afternoon on returning home from grammar school.  I had helped a classmate on the telephone the previous night with a math problem and was a little miffed that when I saw him the following day he never even said, “Thank you”.

Grandma explained the whole thing in a nutshell when she said to me, “There are two kinds of people in this world.  There are givers and there are takers.”

As I advanced from grade to grade in school and the world of history opened up to me I realized how correct Grandma’s statement was.  The whole world, at least politically, was full of givers and takers.

At one time most people were ruled over by Kings and Grand Dukes, Czars and Emperors with an occasional Queen thrown into the mix.  They were the takers, empowered to be such by the Western doctrine of “The Divine Right of Kings.”

They lived, by the standards that then existed, in luxury, opulence and with the realistic expectation that all their needs, wants and desires would be supplied.  They were, by virtue of their births the entitled ones.

But in order for them to continue this lifestyle there had to be those who would provide all that they needed.  In those times, the givers were the peasants and those lesser members of the nobility who had sworn allegiance  to the Sovereign.

Mostly it was the peasants who did the back breaking work, cleaning the castles, cooking and serving the food and doing all the other mundane chores which needed to be done to maintain royalty in its rightful place of honor.  There was no token of gratitude from their liege lord for their efforts – as that was their place and why should one reward someone for doing a thing that was his bounden duty and rightful service?

Over the centuries. with the advent of more wide spread education. it occurred to more and more of us that being ruled by a person whose place was accorded to him by an accident of birth was not the most desirable way to run a country.  Thus, other political systems began to be implemented in which the governors were elected by those who were governed.

This was a movement known as democracy which was not a perfect solution but, to the many, appeared to be a big improvement over the way affairs had previously been conducted.  Beginning in the 18th century, this surging wave swept into history under the name of “The Age of Enlightenment” and it swept aside the English Colonies in the new world, transforming them into the United States of America and in later years led to the downfall of the monarchies in France and Italy and Spain and Russia  to name only a few.  While not everyone gravitated to democracy, there was a world-wide rejection of the old monarchical system and today there are few vestiges of it that are left.

As I mentioned, this new system was not perfect.  Nothing that humanity attempts, no matter how genuinely and sincerely motivated is.  As none of us is omniscient, even the best intended of our efforts often have unintended consequences which we did not or choose not to contemplate.

The “American experiment” is now well over two hundred years old.  It has provided a beacon to much of the rest of the world for most of that time.  But it is now staggering, perhaps because it is relying on its former successes, perhaps because those who crafted the dream have died off and been replaced with those who are the beneficiaries of their forebears efforts but have never done anything themselves to make the dream a reality.

While Grandma identified this struggle in her simple way as being a battle between two groups – the “givers” and the “takers”, I have a slightly different explanation as I have the benefit of having seen additional history since she taught me that lesson as a child.

Yes, there are two groups in America today.  They are those who work for a living; and those who take from the working.

I am confident that, were she alive today, Grandma would agree with my common sense analysis of the way things are – because common sense, combined with a heavy dose of morality, were her dearest and most priceless guiding principles.

ROBBING THE CRADLE; HASTENING THE GRAVE

For people of my generation, if someone spoke of a person’s “robbing the cradle” that phrase meant that a man or woman married someone who was significantly their junior in age.  That was before Roe v. Wade.

Words, phrases and attitudes have changed in the forty years since the Supreme Court declared abortion to be legal.  The thrust of this post is not going to be an examination of the morality, immorality or amorality of that decision and the consequences we have seen as a result of it.  There is more than sufficient material on that topic which has already been published.

Rather, I thought I would examine one possible outcome for our society as our attitudes toward human life and death have evolved as a result of the decision.  But before we peer into a possible future, it might be useful if we used the guidance of history to review how we have gotten to our present state of mind.

With Roe v. Wade we redefined human life.  We declared pregnancy to be a “sickness” and insurance companies were mandated to cover pregnant women for the condition as they would “any other illness”.  Thus, a woman was empowered to “take control of her body” in the matter of her pregnancy in much the same way that she was able to purchase aspirin for a headache.

Gone were the days when an unwed, pregnant mother-to-be was whisked off to a geographically distant relative on some pretext of helping an “aging family member” until the time of her giving birth to her offspring.  Now science and society had created an alternative to deal with the problem or, should I say, the “illness”.

We had, by legally defining a fetus as a “non-person,” been able to hold our heads high and repeat those famous words that “All Men are created equal.”  Since a fetus was not a man (or woman) it was not entitled to those rights or privileges any more than your ordinary house cockroach.

In the ensuing years, having started down the path that says that the ultimate concern should be for the potential mother’s health, (that is both a physical and mental matter), we have gradually been able to extend our original definition of non-humanness through the advances which science has made.

Now a fetus who may have Downs Syndrome or Cystic Fibrosis or may simply be the wrong gender can be identified.  In the interest of the mother’s mental health, this unwanted child may be terminated because it doesn’t fit into either its parent’s view of what is best for her or what society deems best for itself.

It should be clear from our history that mankind is a “discriminating” lot.  If it were otherwise, we would not have felt the necessity to  create an Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, to cite one obvious example, nor would the KKK ever have had any membership.

So given our history of discriminating against others, now that we have the ability to discriminate against “non-others” as many think of human embryos, let’s picture how this attitude might play out were a despotic government to come to power.

In this future, women who rejoiced in having the “right to choose” might no longer have that right if the State didn’t consider them to be suitable breeding material.  Those who were required to donate sperm would be carefully screened for the physical and mental characteristics that the State deemed desirable.  Those of both sexes who did not meet the State’s defined criteria would be sterilized to limit population.

The State and the State alone would determine what and who was of value.  All those who did not contribute to its own well-being would be eradicated.  This, of course, would be most noticeable among the population of the elderly as they were systematically decimated either through neglect or by means of euthanasia.  End Of Life Panels would have the final word on who would receive and who would be denied medical treatment – all in an effort to make ours a beneficent and utopian society.

This is, of course, an imaginary future and could never actually happen – at least not in America.  We are a noble people dedicated to a great purpose.

I wonder if that was what the guards said to themselves as they pulled the lever, releasing the gas in the showers of the death camps as they purged their society of several hundred more whom the State had declared undesirables.

WHO’S GOT THE POWER? (PART TWO)

When the last installment of Marcel Proust’s “magnum opus” was published in 1927, it was the culmination of a writing effort that spanned a fifteen year period.  The work was translated into English as, “A Remembrance of Things Past”.

Those who long for the halcyon days of a kinder, gentler, smaller, more rational government already realize that problems which have been created over long periods of time cannot be remedied with short-term and short-sighted solutions.  Attempting to repair society by applying Band-Aids to deep, festering sores may staunch the flow of blood for the moment but this approach will not remove the cancer from the body politic.

It is essential that those who recognize the deadliness of the path on which America has set its footing (and by implication much of the Western civilized world as we know it) are not merely passing through time and history.  We are the ones who have the opportunity to take action and write history through the steps we take today to make ours a better country and a better world.

History provides us with a great deal of nurturing guidance.  And one of its most important lessons is that it takes time to unfold.  From Plymouth Rock to The Declaration of Independence, 156 years of history had to pass.  If we embark on a path of real change today, many of us who start this process will not live to see its fulfillment.  But we will leave, as did the Founding Fathers, a legacy which those who come after us will enjoy.

Those of us who are educated, rational and pragmatic have spent far too much of our time and resources in an effort to convince those of a different opinion that we offered a better way than the one to which they subscribed.  Underlying our arguments was the assumption that these people were also educated, rational and pragmatic.  Nothing could be further from the truth.

When Governor Romney made his famous “47%” remark he was immediately attacked and lambasted for telling it like it was.  His statement was, of course, correct – but the emphasis should have been that meant that there were 53% of the populace who still had the dignity, desire and self-esteem to work toward changing things for all of America’s population for the better.  We’re still here today, despite our war injuries.

So how do we regroup, rearm and begin?  The first thing must be to define our goals and to keep them in mind as our frame of reference.  If we don’t know our destination, it’s difficult to determine a travel plan.  And too many of us are buying into our opponents’ strategy of distraction, holding up minor issues as talking points so that we ignore the real, fundamental and root causes of society’s malaise.

We also have many talking points.  But if we waste our efforts critiquing the opposition on Benghazi, the economy, the general level of unemployment, or a myriad of other subjects we only serve to weaken ourselves and thus give aid and succor to our opponents.

While those criticisms might be valid and well-documented, they mean nothing to an uneducated or under-educated mob whose only concern is surviving today and hopefully tomorrow.  And they mean nothing to those who, through intention, have helped to formulate this permanent under-class so that they may continue their own agenda which is to rule and dominate.

Perhaps the simplest way to define the goals of our war is to say that most of us who are reading this believe that a return to limited, Constitutional government wherein the individual has personal freedom based on a moral code would be a desirable goal.  Implicit in that is our ability to elect people to office who share that view.  And this leads us to a practical way to approach our ongoing battles.

It’s many years since presidential candidates rolled into town on a train, gave a speech and took off for their next destination.  Campaigns were financed with a few dollars here and a few dollars there.  Today, getting elected is a function of how much money can be raised for advertising and whose content slams the opponent the harder.  “Media is the message,” to misquote Marshall McLuhan.

It should be obvious that if those who contribute vast sums of money to get our opponents elected were to have their incomes reduced, they would have less ability to fund them in the next election cycle.  This is nothing more than the boycott strategy which worked so successfully in the 1960’s and 1970’s for the migrant farmworkers under the leadership of César Chavez.

There is a reason that I do not insure through GEICO or Progressive Insurance, or buy See’s Candy or eat at Dairy Queen.  By choosing to spend my money with them, I am supporting those who have helped foster our present policies and contributing to those who want to advance them further.  Why would any person who shares my view, rationally and willingly support those who would make us target practice?

Obviously, this is hardly an inclusive list of companies or services which I avoid.  But it should give you the basic idea.  The fact is that there are alternatives, often better alternatives to these companies’ products and I would rather spend my money with those who share my philosophy.

One person boycotting a company’s products is a personal statement.  But hundreds of thousands doing so will have an impact.  And if that number escalates to the millions, even the most hardcore liberal businessman will take notice and re-consider his thinking.

One of the most consistently generous groups in their views and their financial support for the liberal agenda comes to us from Hollywood.  Arguably, their products are also contributors to the violence which has become so commonplace on the American landscape.

Setting aside the fact that from an artistic standpoint, Hollywood offers little in the way of output that appeals to me, this is an issue which every conscientious conservative thinker should examine for himself.  Do I want to support an institution that actively seeks both to erode my personal freedoms and expose myself and my children to prurient violence and standards of morality which do not meet my personal expectations and example?

Again, one person boycotting the movies is a personal statement.  But millions, committed to a boycott would not only have a financial impact but just might cause those screenwriters to create material that is actually worth viewing.

History is not merely something that has happened before.  Its pages are being inscribed even as I type this post.  But the question is will it be written by those people of conscience who believe in the freedom of the individual or by those who believe in the power of the state?

The answer to that will be determined by what each of us does because, at least for the moment, the power is still in the hands of the people.

BARNEY FIFE AND GUN CONTROL

Well, I’m old enough to admit that one of the iconic programs which I watched while growing up was “The Andy Griffith Show”.  I referred to it in an earlier post, “Opie Doesn’t Live Here Anymore” – which was one of my favorites – and apparently yours as well.

If you remember the show, Sheriff Andy Taylor, a soft-spoken, charming small town law enforcement professional had a Deputy by the name of Barney Fife, portrayed by the recently deceased Don Knotts.

Barney, had he not found comfort in his role as the Deputy in Mayberry, might have had a brilliant career in politics.  He was incredibly clueless  and inept.  The depth of his incompetency was such that Sheriff Taylor issued him only one bullet to use in his service revolver – and he had to keep it in his pocket.

Fortunately, life in Mayberry was, certainly by today’s standards, exceptionally civilized.  I don’t believe a weapon was ever fired on the show (other than by the Deputy who would set one off accidentally) – but I wouldn’t stake my life on that.  Instead, the Sheriff used reason and argumentation to defuse almost every contentious situation which arose.  Violent response was not the Sheriff’s first choice when resolving matters of public safety.

As much as we might long for it, the world of Mayberry is not our world today.  Violence and criminal behavior exist everywhere – perhaps most noticeably in our major cities – but they exert their influence throughout our society.

So I began asking myself a question as we have now heard the pronouncements of President Obama on the subject of gun control – or as it is now phrased, “violence control”.  Let’s, like the President set aside the fundamental question of the reason the Founding Fathers wrote the Second Amendment, to allow the people to resist a tyrannical government.  And let’s focus for a moment on an important, although ancillary issue, that we are trying to curb the innocent from being further victimized by immoral thugs.

So I pictured a situation in which a major disaster occurred.  Those who are lawfully empowered to carry weapons, our police, our military are busy trying to control the violence and the looting that ensues.  If you should question that would happen, look at New Orleans after Katrina and Staten Island after Sandy.

Fortunately, the phones are still working and you call 911.  Although you don’t know it, you are on their queue to be protected by the authorities.  It’s just that you’re 9,254th on the list and you probably cannot sing enough verses of “Kumbaya” to keep the vandals from breaking down the door to your house before they get to you.

A miracle occurs and an off duty policeman who is on his way home sees the criminals at your door.  Like Barney Fife, he removes the bullet from his pocket, places it in the chamber and shoots one of the wrongdoers dead.  He is now out of ammunition.  As he watches helplessly, the thieves, armed and with no moral conscriptions, break down the door of your home and shoot you and your children dead before stealing your property.

There is, of course, an alternate which might play out.  You have noticed an increase in violent, criminal activity in your neighborhood – beyond the capacity of the police to control.  So you have armed yourself with a semi-automatic weapon as a matter of self-defense.  You have registered it and taken classes on how to use it and practice with it.

The robbers come to your door.  You warn them to stay out – but they persist and break down the entry to your home.  You shoot them all and when your call to the police is finally answered, they call the morgue to remove those who would have done harm to you and your children.

In the President’s address on this subject today, he used children as a backdrop for his plans to disarm Americans.  Enough has already been written on his motivation for doing this that I needn’t add my two cents worth.

But if the honest intent of His Excellency is, indeed to protect the kids of America from violence, he really should spend some quality time watching old episodes of “The Andy Griffith Show”.

Barney Fife was a swell guy and a likeable cuss.  But with the one bullet resident in his pocket, he just didn’t have enough ammo to get the job done..

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