I’ve struck it. Eureka! I finally have a narrative that satisfies. It’s perfect. It’s coherent. It’s complete.
The American dream, the American way of life, requires agreement. It cannot be imposed. It cannot be forced.
For the last few months, like everyone else, I have been struggling with the way the fringe movements, the radicals, have somehow taken over the news cycle and captivated us all. I can’t understand how illiterate blacks (culture, not skin color) could put out a written mission statement on a website (“talk to text” maybe? Idk). And I am perplexed by the “patriot” type groups who spend their small fortunes on fingerless gloves and beard trimmers.
But now I’ve finally come across something that explains it all. (Thanks, John C. Calhoun.) America requires, as a necessary and sufficient cause, the agreement of the people.
No National Guard troops can maintain America. No police force in riot gear. No chanting, whether metered, rhyming or deity-invoking or not. No umbrellas. No N95s. No vaccines. Nope, no element of force will do the trick here in America.
Other, perhaps all other, types of government, types of countries, can be maintained through force. But not ours. Not America.
Why, then, are we seemingly headed towards disaster, month after month? Because we don’t agree to America anymore. The blacks (culture, not skin color) don’t agree to receiving gifts. The patriots don’t agree to being taught history by the illiterate blacks (culture, not skin color).
The inevitable question this realization leads to is, “How do we achieve agreement again?” And that question hinges on, “What in the world do we believe the future holds anyhow? Flying cars? Cures? Mars?”
Many educated Americans point to China as the way of the future (after all, they still wear masks on public transit—no complaints). Many blacks (culture, not skin color) point to Wakanda (or are the protests literally all going to end if a handful of policemen are in jail?).
In other words, without the future, we’re in a tight spot.
As your captain, I’d offer that the future must be a successful landing. To do that, we have to truthfully assess the condition of the atmosphere and decide if we have enough fuel to reach our original destination (life, liberty, and pursuit of happiness). If not, we need to head to our alternate (the hope that our children will be the right skin color when full lawlessness officially breaks out–Rwanda-style).
To BLM: I won’t overlook lies to save a handful of American lives—not sure if this is hard to understand, but some things are more important than life. Truth is one of them.
To Patriots: I can’t commit. But please email me if you decide to change which flag means “same team”.
I’ve swung back-and-forth quite a bit during this pandemic. The two ends would best be characterized by denial and anxiety. Today something new is bubbling up. I’m beginning to feel like I’ve been bamboozled.
It started as I considered this notion of “essential”. Actually, it started by reading what exactly was “essential” according to the government, and seeing how markedly it differed from my previous understanding of the word.
Now, it continues to build as I focus on how this is exactly how a socialist economic system works: Central planning. In other words, someone, not me, decides what I believe is essential.
Before the pandemic, Americans were doing just fine determining what was essential for their life. If we made a lot of money, we couldn’t live without extravagance. If we didn’t make any money, we survived by driving for Uber.
We were never satisfied with our fancy cars and ever changing diets, or we were eternally grateful to be able to make more money at will.
Now, the government is both feeding us the horrifying information about the disease and determining which parts of our lives are essential. This is a problem.
More pointedly, I just want to repeat that Major League Baseball is essential to summer.
Hey, You! Sleepy-head! Wake up! What is essential to you?
My most recent pastor loves to commend believing in the Bible even when you don’t understand it. (Most recently, this was communicated in response to Old Testament saints’ polygamy.)
My father wants to write a book about the value of dreaming–not during sleep, but the kind of dreaming where you let your mind just freely choose a desirable future, no matter how likely, and then enjoy the accompanying sensation for as long as you can–even if it that future never comes true.
My wife is woefully unaware of Western Civilization’s most recent two and a half millennia of history, and simultaneously is one of the most happy and hopeful people I know.
My best friend, who is the most principled, and therefore inspiring, person I know, wonders if the coronavirus coverage and government and extra-government response is actually a strategic, coordinated, and intentional effort by those who oppose President Trump to prevent him from winning reelection.
Put another way, I think it’s time to escape for a bit. Will you join me?
I like to escape by focusing as hard as I can on something, anything that catches my attention. No more keyboard. No more blog. No more computer. No more news. No more family. No more house. No more job. No more planet. No more universe. Just me and the idea.
Today’s idea is making a vow.
The vehicle which delivered this idea to me is the passage in Judges where one Judge, Jephthah, vows to the LORD to sacrifice as a burnt offering that which comes out of his home upon his victorious arrival–if only the LORD will grant him certain victory. If you’re unfamiliar, his only daughter is “that which” comes out and he sacrifices her, with her encouragement.
I can imagine that some people would point to this story as reason to question scripture’s status as “worthy of study”. To them I would offer this reminder, “Jesus saved my soul. Jesus commended scripture. I’m sticking with Jesus.”
I can imagine that others would draw some ridiculous and irrelevant points about “vowing” and different “covenants” or more simply, “That was then, this is now–there is no need to dwell.”
Then, I can remember that at the end of a recent translation of Homer’s Iliad, or some other ancient classic, the critic commends it for containing characters who behave so inexplicably and unpredictably. In other words, the critic lauded the story for its messiness. The critic, I think, loved the story because it made the reader think, “Hmm. What would I do?” or “Hmm. Would I do the same thing? Have I done the same thing?”
Vowing is an interesting enterprise as it essentially brings into focus our integrity as individuals. Within “vowing” the group, the community, disappears.
In the account recorded in Judges, the situation’s tragedy is compounded by the daughter’s urging her father to keep his vow, his integrity–even though it would mean that she dies because of it.
Keep in mind that these people don’t know Jesus. There is no “personal relationship”. It’s back in ancient history and it’s over in a part of the world when what we call “theocracies” were at least normal, if not the norm. Also, keep in mind literacy rates in bible times and the chance that the daughter knew anything about Yahweh, other than he was her father’s god and some rote memorization of the most memorable laws, would be very difficult to defend. In other words, I think we could insert any other deity’s name and the story would present the same.
Despite all these words, I can’t untangle myself from the two questions, “Why make the vow?” and “Why fulfill the vow?”
Integrity. That’s why.
Okay. Escape over.
It was okay. But I got an email from H-‘s school district about COVID-19 during the attempt. Remind me to close that tab next escape-attempt.
The email contains a link to a “comic” on NPR’s website to use to help kids stay stress free. Pictographs? Really? We’re going to survive the pandemic because someone drew pictures?
What should schools do right now? The same thing they should always do, the same thing which they never do. Pack any children you can see into buildings and teach the kids how to read words. Make it clear that we expect everyone of any age to always fight through any sickness. Keep the posture that because of literacy, if you get sick in America, you don’t die. But most importantly, teach the kids how to read words. Teach the kids how to read words. Teach the kids how to read words.
We don’t need stress-free kids. We need literate adults.
And I just received another email.
I’m over it.
Two emails in less than one hour and four minutes counts as hysteria. This is embarrassing. Every single teacher and administrator involved in public schools should be embarrassed and ashamed for furthering this hysteria.
“No mistakes!” the boy beamed.
Scrunching up his forehead and sharpening his eyes, the man replied, “This one is wrong. And this one.” Then he turned the page over. “This is wrong. And this one isn’t exactly wrong, but it isn’t worded correctly enough to be right.”
“Why did you say, ‘no mistakes’?”
“Because the teacher put a star right there.”
“Well, there are mistakes.”
“Well, the teacher doesn’t grade it. She just looks to see that we did it.”
I ask you, reader, do you know what it feels like to have Ignorance violently and maliciously knock you unconscious at breakfast?
“Well,” he began again, “Why did you tell me that there were no mistakes if you didn’t know?”
“Okay. How about, ‘What does mistake mean?'”
“Like when you accidentally make a mistake.”
“Well, you can’t use the word in the defin-”
“Right. But it’s not really limited to ‘accidents’.” A pause. “So why did you say, ‘no mistakes?'”
“I was guessing?”
“Never mind. How about, ‘If the teacher says, “No mistakes,” when they haven’t looked at the work, then what is that called?'”
A searching pause. This, reader, was then followed by a nine year old’s terrifying, confusing, distasteful, and yet somehow innocent identification of everything wrong with public schools.
(In case you missed it, the beginning of my tale found a child–Hero? Villain? We do not know–in Fantasy Land, and he felt like a million bucks. Then the end of my tale landed our hero in the real world, where A- was repulsed by the thought of moral responsibility–not just moral responsibility but mere moral reality–and longed for that Fantasy Land of yester-minute filled with lies and no responsibility.)
Recently, United States Senator Ted Cruz answered former-child-actress Alyssa Milano’s pointed question about Biblical support for gun-ownership.
For effect, I’m going to repeat that.
Recently, Unites States Senator Ted Cruz answered former-child-actress Alyssa Milano’s pointed question about Biblical support for gun-ownership.
In a stunning display of unguided scholarship, Ms. Milano subsequently responded to Sen. Cruz’s interpretation in exactly the same tone and with exactly the same level of literacy. (Read their exchange here.)
There, of course, is another way to read the Bible–the right way.
To get to the “right way”, I have a few questions for the reader. First: Can you imagine being someone else? Can you imagine being anyone else? Can you imagine seeing the world through someone else’s eyes? If not, then move along. This post isn’t for you.
If so, however, if you can imagine being some else, then here’s a follow-up: can you imagine being a person who can see the entire time-space universe as it is?
What do you see?
Part of my own imagination was developed while I was working at a factory. The building, like many, was essentially square-shaped. The white collars worked in offices immediately to the left and right of the perimeter hallway. The blue collars worked on the interior.
As a blue collar, I couldn’t help but notice how many office changes occurred. This person moved to that office. That person moved to this office. It was like the white collars thought that if only they sat in a different spot, we blue collars would do our job better–IE show up to work on time, not complain, care etc.
Switching gears, in the case of “guns” in America, I can imagine something similar. I can imagine it. Imagine–mind you. I can imagine being some person who can see everything and, in this role as all-seeing person, I can imagine watching us down here on Earth. We’re slaughtering each other with our own invention. I see that in response to the slaughter, one group (Milano-led) insists that the slaughter will stop when ink is applied to paper (gun-control laws). Then I see that in response to that claim, another group (Cruz-led) insists that it takes more than ink on paper (gun-control laws) to end the slaughter–but then the same Cruz-led group uses other, older ink on paper (the Bible) to defend that they are right.
The problem is not that gun-control laws don’t work. Other countries seem to have great success with them.
The problem is not that the NRA wants the slaughters to continue.
The problem is that no one has any imagination.
I have imagination. And I have more than imagination. I have more than imagination because I have my daughter. And I teach her to have imagination. I teach her that someone like me, someone very much like me, is watching this whole universe unfold. I teach her that for as long as people have lived this person has been watching. And I teach her that this person does not mess around. I teach her that, like me, he disciplines those who disobey. And I teach her that, like me, he rewards those who obey. I teach her that, like my love for her, in both situations he loves us all very much–as evidenced by the discipline and the rewards, as evidenced by the attention itself. I teach her to desire and be grateful for the attention. And I teach her that he did one additional thing to prove his love. I teach her that he became one of us, and that he walked the earth as one of us. And I teach her, that like her veteran dad who risked/s his life for other people, Jesus died for us. I teach her Jesus died for her.
Why do we slaughter? It’s not complicated. But it does take imagination to understand it. We slaughter each other because we don’t forgive each other. Okay? We don’t forgive each other. There, I said it. Happy? And don’t argue with me here. I’m sick of your bullshit denials. It’s because we don’t forgive. You don’t forgive. I don’t forgive.
We hurt, and rather than forgive, we hold tight to the pain. We nurture it. We feed it. We love it. We use it. We allow it to mature. Then, right before the slaughter, if we happen to take a breath, we sometimes have a moment of clarity–a moment that allows us to see that we’re no longer in control. It’s a spiritual moment. And, if we’re blessed, then that’s the moment when we remember words like, “Your adversary, the devil, prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. But resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same experiences of suffering are being accomplished by your brethren who are in the world.” And this recollection inspires many folks to stop and reconsider. But that roaring lion does win at times.
To stop the lion, we must teach each other. We must teach each other the truth that has been taught first to the Jews, and then to the Christians. What’s that truth? Well, let me ask you a question. Can you imagine being someone else?
In my last two posts (three if you include the book review) I have done my best to indicate that while I disagree with you, I do hear what you’re saying. I’m now asking, do you hear me?
In a surprising turn of events for me, whereas I initially wanted to effectively smear your claim, I have instead concluded that at the root of your claim, you are calling for the law. This is a very reasonable claim, a very humane claim. But there is a problem with it.
You think these shootings, the school ones especially, evidence that we are living in a state of chaos–in some situation similar to that which is before the law–and you desire to do something about it.
However, the law is already here. We are not in a state of chaos in the United States of America. Several hundred, perhaps even one thousand people have broken the law in the last twenty years in ways that previously seemed unimaginable. This is new, yes, but it is not chaos.
Hear me now. These events do not indicate that we have returned to the state of nature. They do not even indicate that we are in a trajectory towards the return to the state of nature.
Do you hear me? I’m asking you to listen. I listened to you. It’s the least you can do.
The law is not determined by elections. You (meaning literally you, the person reading this, and not meaning the generic “anyone”), you cannot vote the law out or in.
What to do?
The only option you have is to amend the Constitution of the United States of America, and that is a very real option which I do believe we (you and I–folks who disagree) should examine through civil discourse. But I wonder if you even know how it is done? If you do not, then you definitely are in no position to accomplish this possibly desirable task.
I know you don’t want to hear this, but I say this is the only option you have because I believe that every other option is anarchy–a subversive dismantling of the law. And this dismantling is a step in the opposite direction of what you want if you really want to keep certain firearms out of the hands of civilians while in the hands of the warriors.
In pictures from the marches, I saw a sign which said, “America, the world is watching.”
Do you hear them?
If you amend the Constitution, then we follow the footsteps and stand on the shoulders of our founders and teach the watching world the law. If you pass any other legislation–any whatsoever–then we demonstrate that we do not value the law. This, again, is the opposite of what you have said you desire.
And this is the precise point of disagreement.
Do you hear me?
The amendment is the precise point because I am confused by why you think there is any other option. I will listen and read anything you have which you think will help me see your point more clearly. I want the shootings to stop as much as you do.
Do you hear me?
I am slowly working on the new novel, the one filled with all the sex and violence you can handle (and desire)–and probably more–but I haven’t been writing it that often.
And obviously I haven’t been blogging much.
And I still don’t have a post for you.
But I do finally have the desire to share this video of a speech I gave at one of my beloved toastmasters competitions back in 2012 and in doing so finally pull back the curtain on my never-requested-but-just-the-same-deliberately-hidden appearance. I don’t have the hair or beard these days, but yes, the rumors are true, I am still that good looking. 😉 (for the ladies.) (Fellas: sorry, but you shouldn’t need an emoticon to calm you down.)
Oh. And Happy Birthday…Djyaa-nit.
(If you’re short on time, skip to the bottom for numbered instructions.)
Five days had passed. He still wasn’t able to focus. He couldn’t believe what the President had said–what the President had done.
His friends were sick of listening to him rant. He felt like his co-workers were starting to be more than annoyed. But he couldn’t relent. He was in shock that the President of the United States of America had come to the conclusion that his best play was to say what he did. He was so angry. Rage had descended upon him as if an avalanche.
Five days was too long. He knew this. Academically, he knew he needed to get over it. But he was a man of integrity. He couldn’t pin down the reason, but he felt his integrity was under attack. As of this moment, though, he knew the time had come. He had related to everyone what he felt, and he had reached the point of diminishing returns. He knew he needed to just ignore it. He just didn’t know how to do that.
Instructions for How To Ignore:
Step 1 – Decide that acknowledging an experience, regardless of it’s truth, hurts more than it helps.
Step 2 – Lie. Deliberately convince yourself that you didn’t experience or aren’t experiencing the event in question.
Dear Mr. Keefe,
I am writing to you in response to one of your recent works, “The Civilian Need for Military-Style Assault Weapons.”
Here’s the thing, civilians who argue for the right to own “military-style assault weapons” are not arguing that they need to own them for hunting purposes. The reason civilians need to be able to own assault weapons is to maintain the ability to prevent and/or defeat tyranny.
It was during my second deployment that the idea struck me. It doesn’t matter how many planes/boats/tanks the US has. The reason we are running the show in Iraq and Afghanistan is because we have more guns and bullets than the enemy. Before 2003, I might have had to argue my point simply on principle (still a winning argument), but after a decade of fighting men armed only with assault rifles, I can convince you with practical experience as well. How else do you explain these last ten years during which the most powerful military in the world hasn’t been able to definitively defeat men armed only with assault weapons?
Let me state the main assumption in this argument; that is, the point on which we may disagree: every government trends towards tyranny. Our founders recognized this and put a check in place in the hope that it would be enough to prevent the tyranny from occurring. That being, governments should fear (just a little) their people. The real genius, of course, is that an armed population can actually overthrow a tyrannical government, not just threaten to overthrow it.
To sum up, your cartoon totally sets up a straw man in the debate on gun policy in America. By defeating this straw man as soundly as you do, you miss your mark. Rather than offer insight on the gun-control debate in America, you do two negative things. First, you confuse a reason for assault weapon ownership that isn’t worthy of attention for one that is. Second, deliberately setting up a straw man on an issue that restricts my everyday freedom to spend my money as I please actively promotes tyranny. No thank you, Mr. Keefe.
I’m excited to tell you all that I had an opportunity to interview A Mugwump this morning. I thought it was a fascinating conversation, but you judge for yourself.
Captain’s Log – How many ways can we spend money?
A Mugwump – Just two. The two ways we can spend our money are by choice or by compulsion.
CL – What is money?
AM – The dictionaries are wrong on this one. Big time. It’s not complicated. Money is a language. Unlike say, English which can communicate the breadth of the human experience, money can only communicate one thing. Money can only communicate value. Money is a language that communicates one thing. Money communicates value. That’s it. All the talk about recessions, depressions, inflation, the 99%, the 1%, Wall Street, Main Street, all of that is meaningless. Money is a language that communicates value.
CL – Are you saying that people with money are more valuable than people without money?
AM – No. This point is tricky, so pay attention. Money is only money when it is in motion. A dollar in my pocket is not a dollar. It is a piece of paper that looks like a dollar. When I take it out to purchase something, as I hand it to the seller, it transforms into money. It transforms into a communication of value. Whether we have a lot of money or no money has nothing to do with our value. When we choose to spend money, we communicate to others what we value. As I said, money in motion is the language we use to express value.
CL – Okay then, let’s return to the two ways we can spend our money, what is communicated when we choose to spend our money?
AM – When we spend our money by our own choice, we come to an agreement with the seller of the goods as to the value of the product or service. In short, when we choose to spend our money we communicate how much we value the product or service. If we think a particular TV is worth $300 and the person with the TV thinks it is worth $300, we hand over the $300 dollars and the seller hands us the TV. The money transferred communicates the agreed upon value of the TV.
CL – And what about when we are compelled?
AM – It is not the same when we talk about being compelled to spend our money. When we are compelled to spend our money, that money does not communicate the value of a product or service. Instead, when we are compelled to spend our money, the money communicates how much we think we’re worth as an individual. The money that an armed-robber forces us to give him was freely given to us in exchange for the value of a specific application of our time, skill, and/or energy. The armed-robber is giving us nothing of value in return for our money. Therefore, when we pay the armed-robber everything we have to stay alive, we’ve just communicated that we think our time, skill, and energy, in other words, our life, has no value. And the act of paying everything–our time, our skill, and our energy (our life)–to stay alive is another way to define slavery.
CL – Slavery, huh? It sounds like you may be describing the government as an armed-robber. What do you think a government is?
AM – No, you misunderstand. The government is not an armed-robber. It does offer certain valuable things, which a private market cannot, in exchange for our money. What do I think a government is? To my mind, a description that fits all governments that have ever existed, in all time periods, for all cultures, for all nations, would have to be, “Other people making some of our decisions for us.” That is what a government is. A government is nothing more than another person or group of people making some of our decisions for us. I say “some” of our decisions because that’s what this is all about. How many of our decisions should a government make for us? That’s what we are constantly deciding in this life. To me, less is better. But I can see how others might not want the responsibility of decision-making, so they might want others to make the decisions for them.
CL – Of all days, why agree to this interview today?
AM – Today, July 4th, 2013, is a fitting day to remind people of the nature of things. America is the only group we’re all apart of today. And if your readers are anything like me, they know they have value. As a matter of fact, even if they’re nothing like me, I believe they have value. I believe this, not because I have any special knowledge, but because in order to secure my freedom, I must believe and act on the idea that everyone has value. I must act on the idea that no matter who we are, no matter what our background, no matter what mistakes we’ve made, we have value. It’s Independence Day. A holiday helping us remember that our country was founded because citizens disagreed with how/how much of their money they were compelled to spend. In other words, they believed they should be making more decisions than their government let them. It was founded because people believed they were worth more than their government thought. If we want to spend our money as we please, if we want the amount of money we’re compelled to spend to be as little as possible, we need to be reminded that we all have value. Everyone has value.