How We Elect: A Decaying Republic’s Broken System (Part Two)

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It’s a commonplace in American politics to ascribe corruption to every elected official.  They’re all crooks, we say… and the system makes such sweeping condemnation credible.  You can’t get elected without publicizing your candidacy, you can’t publicize without advertising, you can’t advertise without campaign contributions… and you can’t elicit meaningful contributions unless a body of deep-pocketed donors has reason to believe that you favor a certain agenda.  So… there you are, bought and paid for in the eyes of the casual cynic.

As I ponder the misery of conservative Americans, forever watching their government slide farther left by promising more and more goodies to possible voters, I share in the cynic’s disgust.  We who just want to be left alone (How about a “Back Off” party, with the Yosemite Sam who used to appear on trailer mud-flaps as our mascot?) are constantly being served the challenge, “Well, look at what the other side’s offering!”  We have to be content, then, with a slower rate of drift into the national debt chasm that yawns as millions of ne’er-do-wells sell their vote to the highest bidder.  Or we don’t have to be content, of course: we can sit out elections and opt for a straight nosedive.  Maybe the more abrupt catastrophe will be more fruitful—maybe those who survive it can get about piecing something together from the rubble sooner.

I’ve grown so familiar with both sides of this Hobson’s Choice over the years that I can argue for and against either one with equal vigor… and equal despair.  I don’t know how we find and promote candidates who genuinely wish to save the republic rather than feed off her decaying carcass—or, in the unlikely event that we elect them, how we keep them from going flabby within their first term.

Lately, though (and maybe thanks to a steady water-boarding in cynicism), I’ve begun to envision a new kind of candidate.  This worthy would already have amassed a small fortune, would already have very broad “name recognition”—and, most importantly, would already have experienced mistreatment at the hands of the info-tainment industry.  For the last criterion is essential: it’s what is permanently, fatally missing in our patriotic, clean-cut saviors who turn two-faced during their freshman term.  Someone—I think it may have been Chris Putnam—explained recently on Daniel Horowitz’s Conservative Review that mere surrender to the barrage of media criticism is a major cause of our champions going Judas.  It makes sense, if you consider the following picture.  Just who is this bright young star of ours?  A pleasant man or woman who’s very used to pleasing—who has known nothing else since being class president for several years running in high school.  This person has the smile, has the wave, has the walk.  He’s always charmed everyone… until now.  Now, alarmingly, the magic is gone.  That has to be terrifying.  How to get the magic back?  What does Orpheus do when the trees no longer uproot themselves to dance to his sweet lyre?  One has to suppose that he lets the strangely unmoved audience call the tune, and the tempo.

Consider, by way of example, the current game of rope-a-dope that “wise Latina grandmother” Sonya Sotomayor is playing with Chief Justice John Roberts.  She’ll get results; she usually does.  Roberts is more concerned over his acceptance by the beltway intellectual elite than he is about preserving the Constitution.  Ironically, his new compatriot Brett Kavanaugh is cut from the same cloth, despite a take-no-prisoners confirmation hearing that duped most of us into supposing our rock-bottom values to be the stake.  Kavanaugh is another prep-school party boy, though admittedly (hopefully—please-God-surely) almost as wise now as a Latina grandmother.  Sotomayor was correct in her snarky talking out of school to this extent: we do tend to preserve bits and pieces of the prejudices in which we were raised.  For Kavanaugh, the corrosive residue upon his judgment is one of wanting to please, of expecting to be praised.  It’s what he has always known.  (For Sotomayor, it’s a default retreat to the “Latina” trump card that has always won the hand in the past, even though her confidence in that strategy utterly undermines—patently contradicts—her sworn duty to consider all human beings as individuals equally endowed with rights.)

So… so who, then, is our superhero candidate capable of leaping over such obstacles in a single bound?  What about a figure from the world of professional athletics whose gilded reputation provides a breastplate against media slings and arrows?  What about Curt Schilling, the should-have-been (perhaps soon-to-be) Hall of Fame pitcher?  What about New England Patriots coach Bill Belichick—or his protégé, quarterback Tom Brady?  Wrestling superstar Tyrus has established his political gravitas on Greg Gutfeld’s show, and enjoys the additional advantage of being black.  Does that matter?  Am I really clinging to the notion of identity politics?  Why, yes: inasmuch as the name of this new game is vanquishing the propaganda machine at work behind news desks everywhere, any contradiction of the simplistic profiles spewed over our air waves is welcome.  We’re playing a game, precisely.  Our society is in a degenerative stage which its founding fathers would have recognized as fatal.  We can no longer merely rely upon sound arguments made by honest people—for a shocking percentage of the electorate reasons by pure association, and elected representatives of routine qualifications soon lose their honesty.  Those are the game’s ground rules.

The new candidate, therefore, needs an “in your face” attitude.  And his defiance has to be such that the public credits it to his established “bad ass” persona.  He must be able to jump down Jim Acosta’s throat, come back out with a fistful of viscera, and throw them in the impudent punk’s face.

Albert Pujols: he’ll be retiring soon.  First-ballot Hall of Famer.  The most terrifying batsman of the new millennium’s opening decade, and a giant of a man (a Latin giant) who silenced questions about his possible steroids use with little more than a scowl.  What sticks in my mind about Alberto’s political inclination is a proud remark I once heard Glenn Beck make about the world’s mightiest clean-up hitter being one of his fans… and also a much more recent, very understated regret voiced by Pujols about California taxes.  He’s Latino-wise enough, I’m sure, to keep his mouth shut on more hot-button issues until the Cooperstown vote is recorded.  He doesn’t want to get “schillinged”.  Wise, very wise.

But you see how this plays, anyway.  Would an actor also meet our specifications?  Maybe.  Dean Cain has played Superman, and doesn’t appear (in truly Superman fashion) to fear the Twitter spittle drawn by his conservative views.  Our man Ronaldus Magnus seemed to have mastered the art of ignoring flights of rotten eggs and tomatoes thanks to his screen career.  One could wish that Schwarzenegger had been a little less impressed with social engineering… but he, too, serves to sustain the main point.

Which is simply this.  Our broken system is preserved in constant shambles primarily (speaking from a purely mechanical perspective) by the unremitting slanders that educational institutions and broadcast media heap upon non-progressive, “back off” candidates.  We look for new faces who have “done things”: created jobs, served in the military, fought infanticide in the courts… and these tyros keep getting themselves shot down or captured in the first sally.  (Oh, by the way… yeah, how has Martha McSally worked out?)  It’s time now to pay attention to character rather than accomplishment—and when I say “character”, I don’t mean church attendance and fidelity to one spouse.  Maybe I should have said “personality”.  We need tough guys.  We need people who will stuff the slanders in their mouth, chew them into nails, and spit them back where they came from.  We need not to put nice guys on the ballot, guys like you and me.  We need a bad-ass.

Okay, so I’ve been describing Donald Trump… I guess.  I could argue with you about that.  For my taste, Trump spends too much time tweeting intercepted missiles back where they came from and too little time actually attending to policy.  (There’s an enormous amount of matter, for instance, capable of exposing the Swamp in all its stench that he could declassify tomorrow; why, oh why, doesn’t he do so?)  Imagine Bill Belichick giving the State of the Union instead of the Donald.  No celebration of Jevonka’s “jailbreak” bill, nor even a Medal of Freedom for Rush (though I’m fine with that: hell, Barack Obama dished out 123 of the things to people like Isabel Allende, Barbra Streisand, and Bruce Springsteen).  No, I picture Bill at the rostrum quietly, almost monotonously detailing all the duties not performed by the House, the Senate, the courts, the media, the universities, the banking sector… and then he raps his thin stack of notes sharply on the mahogany, turns to leave, and leans into the microphone for one last, very dry comment.  “Just do your job.”

Will I leave to hear those words from that stage?

“The Federated States of America”: Looking for Words in the Constitution’s Ashes (Part III)

[The following post should have appeared three weeks ago. We’ve just become aware that it was published to the wrong page and was probably not accessible to the public.]

I promise to go no farther (for a few weeks, anyway) than today’s remarks in my series of speculations about how we might reassemble some of our Humpty Dumpty republic’s pieces.  It’s a depressing subject.  I have not engaged it with the excitement of a utopian brat entering grad school who is pleased to treat people’s lives—and entire institutions of multi-generational pedigree—as chess pieces.  I do not believe in man’s “perfectability”: on the contrary, I am convinced (like our nation’s founders) of the ineradicable corruption hiding within all things human.

It’s precisely for that reason that I have so far advanced the following ideas:

1)      A defensive federation is essential.  Individuals or individual states must not have the right to undermine the security of the whole.  Undermining shared defenses in a persistent, deliberate manner and/or with obviously homicidal ends should be judged treasonous and punished with severity.  (Hence my proposals are not secessionist, despite my frequent sympathy with secessionism in the recent past: quite the opposite.)

2)      Within our restructured federation, states may do what they wish about marriage, consumption of mood-altering substances, possession of firearms, restriction of foods, provision of health care, and so forth.  Their freedom to regulate the quotidian lives of their citizens will be almost unbounded, inasmuch as the federal authority’s interest is exclusively in defending the union rather than micro-managing lifestyles.  Yet I write “almost unbounded” of state authority because (among other reasons) education and the news media, in their debased contemporary form, inevitably plunge us into issues of malevolent propaganda that must at last subvert the federation.  I think objective boundaries are easy enough to draw.  It really isn’t difficult to present both sides of a controversial issue in a classroom or newsroom setting: not doing so takes determination and requires design.  Professors who preach embrace of Red China’s mass mind-control practices in the morning, therefore, should be dismissed that afternoon under federal law.  Nobody’s telling them how to think—but the Federation must keep thought-hostile thinkers off of government payrolls. Institutional suicide should not be permitted. (Perhaps incurable malcontents could be resettled in other parts of the world that they suppose more amenable and that, for some reason, would consent to have them.)

3)      Thanks to the liberality implicit in Item 2, many citizens will no doubt want to emigrate from State A and take up residency in State B.  In the twenty-first century, this should pose few problems.  There are no mountains or deserts to cross in Conestoga wagons.  Yet new immigrants may have to abide in their adoptive states for a decade before being allowed a vote in local elections (with the terms of registration to be determined by each state).  One of the most effective fulcrums employed in toppling our late great United States was the abuse of enfranchisement—abuse both unintended and designed: new residents flooding healthy states but voting in the manner that polluted their forsaken states, residents from far-flung societies with no republican tradition who embraced paternalistic government on reflex, illegal aliens who were allowed to vote in the certain knowledge that they would support the party providing them with cost-free benefits… this must not stand as universal practice.  If certain states allow it to do so, then they must be permitted to crash, burn, and learn without dragging down their neighbors.

4)      No Supreme Court will sit to adjudicate the essential, God-given rights of citizens; the federal bench’s role, rather, will be to determine when individuals or states have acted seditiously or traitorously against the interests of the federation, as a necessary measure of self-defense.  Even in this function, one can readily imagine instances of excess and abuse, so the high court’s mandate would certainly have to be pondered much more deeply.  Yet the clarity of risk in the single area of determining treason only underscores the folly—so visible in our routine affairs as I write—of allowing unelected arbiters to have thumbs-up-or-down power over how citizens worship, how they converse, how they hire and fire, and so forth.  Our founders were uncharacteristically naive in supposing that an elite of robed Olympians would resist natural egotism and remain humble before the august authority of legal precedent (or dare I say “before God’s law”?).  No such luck.

5)      A corrupt executive appointing a supreme body of corrupt judges could conceivably do much damage, even in a looser federation; but it is to be stressed that the executive officer would himself be elected by a one-state, one-vote mechanism.  No popular vote… and no electoral college, either.  Since each individual state in this system potentially represents an experimental alternative (the phrase “crucible of democracy” has been used), one might view the fifty experiments as casting a collective vote.  Item 3 ensures that no experiment may be manipulated—legalistically and against the will of long-abiding residents—by the sort of population games that the Left ruinously practiced upon the decayed United States.

6)      Individual states would be free to form cooperatives within the federation for specific purposes dictated by clearly shared interests.  Certain states might wish to address a regional water shortage or flooding problem together, for instance, since the root causes of such concerns seldom respect boundaries drawn on a map.

Among the few final recommendations I would make is an insistent one about tax structure.  In the current (i.e., collapsing) system, we pay local sales tax and also locally varying property taxes (not to mention innumerable “stealth” taxes on licensures, franchises, and so forth).  Everyone pays the sales tax: it’s the most equitable levy in the world.  If you don’t want to pay so much of it, you learn to consume less.  One might say, indeed, that it is a morally instructive tax, in that it teaches frugality and suppression of frivolous whimsy.  In contrast, the property tax is a yearly fine upon citizens for the crime of daring to marry, save money, and purchase a residence as the foundation of family life.  There’s no counter-balancing tax, of course, upon those who prefer to spend their wages on parties and vacations as they maximize their personal pleasures.  The assumptions underlying the property tax, if they can be excavated from a century of mind-numbing habit, are morally outrageous.

Then we have the graduated income tax, exacted by the federal government and by most states.  No secret here about its moralistic underpinnings: soak the rich.  From those to whom much is given, much is required (even our secularist utopians can quote scripture when a context-less snippet props up their predation).  The truth is that extremely wealthy citizens know all too well how to skirt the tax man: hence Warren Buffett’s notorious claim during the Obama years that he paid less tax than his secretary.

The real opprobrium of the graduated income tax, however, lurks in the presumption that resources not taxed are resources removed from any benefit to the commonwealth.  This is absurd.  The only reason any millionaire would transform his portfolio into gold and silver that he hides under a mattress is that his government’s catastrophic mismanagement of the economy terrifies him.  Normally, this same Ebenezer Scrooge would seek out profitable investments so that his substantial capital continues to grow; and these investments, in turn, would finance new business start-ups and other opportunities for small players to prosper.

Money siphoned away from such activity by a greedy Nanny State, on the other hand, passes through dozens or hundreds of public-bureaucrat fingers before reaching its “charitable” destination: a paternalistic bribe, essentially, to secure struggling people in whatever trough life has set before them and, thus, to solidify them into a permanent constituency.  In the process of handing off revenues down the line, unholy alliances between public and private sectors also build up like an economic arterial sclerosis.  Industries selected by “corruptocrats” (after bribes, kick-backs, and campaign contributions) to supply the forever-needy grow fat and squeeze out legitimate competition.  This is the squalid underbelly of capitalism which so justly outrages our know-nothing youth poised to vote for Bernie.  The correct word for it is corporatism.

Here’s my recommendation.  End all income tax and property tax (or allow states to mix whatever “tax cocktail” they wish… and then stand back to let citizens vote on the brew with their feet).  Revenues spent in provision of the national defense would all be raised from sales tax.  The ordinary Joe and Josephine would thus be able to understand with visceral reality just how much an effective national defense costs; and furthermore, no resident within the nation’s borders—legal or otherwise—would be able to skate on making a fair contribution.

To be sure, the outcry of protest would be deafening in any given fiscal year.  It probably ought to be: that’s probably healthy.  Government contracts allowing Lockheed to put champagne upholstery in a transport plane (or to charge champagne prices for wormwood product) would evaporate.  Pressure would also be placed on state and local government to carve out a smaller piece of flesh.  And… need I add that our immigration debacle would somewhat self-correct if “guest workers” absorbed a proportionate cost for the society from whose security they profit?

The lynch pin of the whole thing is a relative independence of states within a rigorously maintained defensive unit.  We see the disastrous results of a system featuring the reverse emphasis when we look across the Atlantic (if, that is, we insist on being blinded to our own disaster).  The member nations of the EU have only obligations to Brussels: the oligarchic elite, in return, recognizes no duty to defend any national border.  If our entire planet is not to decay into an Orwellian dystopia, then we must allow our “visionaries” as free a hand as possible in designing their terrestrial paradises… and also insist—absolutely insist—that they face any consequences of engineering malfeasance that don’t involve mass die-off.  People who want to live the lives of spoiled children or gibbering idiots should be free to do so unless they are, in fact, children or idiots.  Otherwise, as adults, they have a solemn right to the harsh consequences of their folly.

In postscript, I will briefly acknowledge that I have written nothing directly this month about the two most subversive elements, perhaps, gnawing the marrow of our moribund republic: our broadcast media and our university system (whose tentacles reach ever deeper toward the toddler).  The truth is that I don’t exactly know how we might chastise the worker-bees of “hive ideology” eagerly staffing these cultural hornet’s nests without echoing their mindless buzz.  In the dark, prickly Garden of Manmade Eden where Sanders supporters are fist-pumping over the prospects of American gulags and Elizabeth Warren has magnified Obama-era “Net neutrality” into prison terms for those who speak against her royal will, one wants to reach for a pitchfork instead of wag a finger.  Knocking heads in defensive reaction is hard to resist (and is also, let us never forget, the very response to which the propaganda machine would goad “deplorables”).  For that reason, I am more than half inclined to rescind my suggestion above that college profs who dish out totalitarian indoctrination from the rostrum be cashiered: it may be a bit too Warrenesque.

Yet how exactly do we defend ourselves, and especially our youth, from these Satanic evangelists—these “murder is love” Mansonists?  I don’t entirely know.  I can only repeat, in parting, that allowing citizens who leap into that pot to simmer away without interference strikes me as the best recipe for stimulating a postponed adulthood.

The risk is that the witches tending the brew may call for adding, say, a Chinese or Iranian seasoning whose resulting stench threatens surrounding states.  Somehow, the union’s safety must be thrust to the fore in daily practice.

How to Take a Wrong Turn on the Climb to Heaven

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Ever since I passed along to him a short anthology of Near Death Experiences compiled by a practicing physician, my son has sustained a lively exchange with me on the subject.  Being young, he is impressed by such “hard evidence” of life beyond the reality we know.  (Our nation’s school system, from bottom to top, certainly hasn’t given his generation any aesthetic or philosophical inkling of an empirical approach’s inadequacies—so empirical testimony against mere empiricism becomes very powerful.)  Personally, I’m always just a bit leery of the NDE.  It’s not that I’m an incorrigible skeptic.  On the contrary, I’m one of the few people you’re ever likely to know with years of grad-school conditioning in his past who believes that extra-terrestrial life (or its projection through an ingenious fleet of robotic minions) has probably visited our solar system.  I don’t think I’m particularly narrow-minded.

No, the problem I have with the typical NDE is the implications that over-excited chroniclers tend to draw from it.  The surrounding discussion often has the tone of boundless, almost delirious optimism.  “You see?  All is really sweetness and light!  It’s all love—love for everyone!  All is forgiven!  It’s just one great warm embrace!  All is swept up into the… the cosmic All!”  Okay, let’s stop and ponder that.  No justice for mass-murderers like Stalin and Mao (add Hitler if you like… but don’t forget Pol Pot, Genghis Khan, Attila the Hun, and King Herod).  No motive to try harder in this terrestrial existence—to “seek the kingdom”.  No reason why sincere sorrow and repentance are anything but wasted time.  Lighten up!  All you need is love!

In their defense, I will say of most NDE witnesses that their encounter is brief, dazzling, and (by definition) limned by the incomprehensible.  They’re not the ones who seek to graft sweeping metaphysical conclusions onto their out-of-clock-time ecstasy (a word which literally means “standing outside of”).  They were abruptly jolted from their body… and then they found themselves bathed in light and soothed by predeceased friends and family.  As far as I know, most of them haven’t borne back a message about how the universe is put together.  They merely reiterate with John the Gospelist, “True love hath no fear.”

Dr. Eben Alexander’s kerygma from the Beyond is not so modest.  My son forwarded this YouTube link to one of the good doctor’s many public presentations.  Alexander’s case has received special attention, apparently, because 1) he himself was a neurosurgeon who had practiced for two decades when a seizure caused his brain activity to flatline, 2) he was thoroughly agnostic at the time of the incident, and 3) his brain was so very moribund for days that no sort of short-circuiting or “flame-out” could have accounted for his visions.  Clearly, something very extraordinary happened in this man’s return to corporeal life, if not in his hours of unverifiable transit through another life.  He should have been dead—quite dead.  The feeding tubes had actually been removed from his body for days before his recovery.  His revival was miraculous.

And, yes, Eben Alexander experienced virtually all of the classic NDE moments: the dark tunnel (in more static form), the indescribably bright light at its end, an angelic chorus, the warmth and limitless love of innumerable figures… but he claims to have been entrusted with uncharacteristically specific information, besides.  He was told (in a degree of detail that Dante would have envied) that the universe is unfolding according to a great plan—and that this plan involves reincarnation.  We are to return to life in better-informed stages that, collectively, will set our planet—and other planets in other galaxies, eventually—on a hyperbolic path of intersection with heaven.

An unimaginably beautiful woman (who was plainly not some morph of the divorced Mrs. Alexander) was the doctor’s Beatrice during this revelation.  I note in passing that I’ve never read of any other NDE where Miss Universe puts in an appearance and spiritually fondles her visitor.

I’m being a bit facetious now.  It’s a way to send some of my irritation through an escape valve.  In my opinion, Dr. Alexander had a fully legitimate encounter with the unspeakable bliss that awaits us beyond this Vale of Tears… and he proceeded, consciously or otherwise, to finesse some of its contours into a form more marketable than the raw material would have been.  His book has appeared on the New York Times bestseller list for years.  His speaking honoraria have likely dwarfed his surgeon’s income (which, in itself, constitutes a small miracle).  He has chatted intimately with Oprah before a global audience, and he routinely gives presentations even for medical personnel thanks to his lab-coat cred.  I gather that he is involved in some sort of cutting-edge tech company that aspires to point the medical-scientific community’s nose more directly into metaphysics (or its ears: the technology has to do with harmonious sounds and healing).  Life has become pretty good for Eben Alexander—and, of course, I mean life on “this side”.

How many of these dark terrestrial tunnels would be beaming with warm gold-and-silver light at the end if Alexander’s testimony had remained (as NDE’s usually do) within confines of direct personal experience, without the peek at a cosmic playbook?  Wouldn’t that more typical result have smacked of… well, Christian orthodoxy?  Didn’t the “reincarnation” message sweeten it sufficiently that Oprah would line up to drink the Kool-aid?

On the one hand, I fear that my response may be too caustic.  After all, Alexander’s narrative is not so very far off the track of other NDE’s.  Maybe he just misspoke at key points, or maybe I have misinterpreted something he said.  I myself believe that the afterlife must surely be an occasion for “linking up” with innumerable other souls—for begging and granting pardons, for getting the whole story of what happened, for healing and growing strong as something yet more magnificent emerges.  Perhaps the abuse of the word “reincarnation” was this man’s clumsy metaphor for a reality whose approach to God is so near, and so ever-more-near, that only the notion of an utterly regenerated body in an entirely different life can convey the thrill.

And yet, that higher, deeper life cannot be entirely different.  This life matters.  Morally—spiritually—it must matter.  What we do is what we are: it is the “here” from which we must depart to reach “there”.  It’s not a prison, or need not be.  God’s will is not that we suffocate forever within the folly of the narrow walls we build around ourselves.  In the recognition of our folly, however, lies the key to the gate.  We cannot become better than our fleshly form—that temporary cast in which we have so distorted God’s image—if we turn out never to have existed physically, in the first place.  Our human individuality must not become an irrelevancy.

Such cancellation of our individual worth as creatures is where I see Eben Alexander wandering dangerously off the track.  He sings off-key.  His hymn sounds to my ear like secular progressivism with a mystical tingle in the background.  The confessional note—the admission of past error that signals true growth, and also the joy of dissolving another’s guilt over injuries done—isn’t audible.  Instead, we are ushered into a no-fault vision of things getting better and better and better… things on this earth, since reincarnation is the engine driving the ascent.  Alexander even offers the Gnostic heresy’s hint that souls are reincarnated as justification of his thesis, and he tosses in the rumors of Christ’s day equating John the Baptist with the resuscitated prophet Elijah.  A proper Christian faith, apparently, ought to become more Hindu.

The first time I encountered this infatuation of the theoretical scientist with the most ancient religions on earth was, I suppose, in Carl Sagan.  It probably goes back much farther.  Its pedigree, at any rate, must surely transmit a load of progressivist DNA through every branch of the family tree.  The better here-and-now’s the thing—not heaven, not metaphysical bliss: no, bring it down here, and put us now on a path to reach it!  That’s a slightly more spiritual version of launching the Starship Enterprise (but not really—just more spiritually adorned).

You see, Dr. Alexander, our world is not getting better and better in any way that I can discern.  It may be getting worse and worse… but I’m willing to attribute such pessimism to the filter of my own rather depressive predisposition.  It’s certainly not sprouting wings as more enlightened individuals return in new bodies—and, by the way, utterly purged of their former individuality.  You say, Dr. Alexander, that many very curious cases of ESP involve children who recollect images or events from previous times and far-flung places.  Yes, those interest me, as well.  But wherein do you find evidence that these children a) preserve the character of Captain MacKay who died on the field of Culloden or, more importantly, b) display any moral awareness beyond their years?  What are you thinking, man?  What world are you living in right now, as you bow to your applause and shake Oprah’s hand?

Do you consider that you yourself have become a better man than before, though you have failed to learn—Other World Journey notwithstanding—the moral necessity of individual coherence?  Say you’re indeed better; but you are still Eben Alexander, are you not? So may we expect the better Eben within minutes of your eventual death, as your soul flutters into a newborn? Right now, then—message and all—you’re just the old, inferior Eben… have I got that correct? Or have you been permitted to transport certain revelations despite your lack of corporeal upgrade? I like much of what you propose.  I, too, love the idea of using sound to access a clearer, cleaner state of consciousness; I’ve long suspected in my own life that our urban environment damages our minds with its sheer cacophony.  But… but Doctor, why must you insist that Beatrice bestowed upon you the secrets of this healing power so that we might go forth and Conquer the World for Goodness?

Oh, how I dread that formula, in all of its versions!  World conquest—and always, always for “goodness”!  Millions of hearts have coddled it, if their tongues have not exactly expressed it… and not all of those hearts, by any means, were bad ones from the outset.  Yet none was ever made better after nursing such a spiritual virus.  This world is imperfectable: at best, we hold our own against sin.  True hope lies elsewhere.

Perhaps I’m especially distressed by Dr. Alexander’s video because I have just published The Eternal Moment: Seeking Divine Presence in the Present on Amazon.  You can read there at much greater length of my concern over “future-worship”, our time’s dominant form of idolatry, if you’re interested.  I urgently suggest that you get interested.  Beware of “ascending” staircases whose bottom step rests upon today’s earth and whose top step merely reaches tomorrow’s earth, or the next day’s.  Such climbs tend to go steeply downward, from heaven’s perspective.

2020: Will the Awful Horror Be a Silver Lining?

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My son is gone again, a thousand miles away… safely back in his sanctuary city.  That is to say, safely on the ground, as in no longer airborne on the jetliner of a nation that has allowed hundreds of Al Qaeda and Hezbollah to penetrate its wide-open border.  On the ground of a southwestern city overrun by drug cartels whose coffers have probably already bought off substantial numbers of local politicians and law enforcement personnel….

Happy New Year!  And many, many thanks to our president and our Republican representatives for rubber-stamping a spending bill that will count illegal residents on the next census, thereby awarding perhaps three dozen more seats to Democrats around the country… in return for 700 miles of border wall.  I think I’ve seen this year before, and it wasn’t pretty.

But are there silver linings?  Well, of course!  One just has to know where to look.  The Chinese, for instance, will surely be uninterested in prodding us into outright war, or even in taking advantage of our unprotected power grid, as long as we continue to make such haste toward their own system of government.  They’re already working hand in glove with the cartels; and if ninety percent of us should starve or freeze in a protracted blackout, who would buy their poisoned drugs and trashy electronics to keep their military dictatorship afloat?  Come to think of it, maybe Xi Jinping should secure our grid after the fashion of his own, lest a purely natural solar flare should neutralize the strategic gun held to our heads.  Losing nine customers out of ten isn’t a spot he wants to be in.

And as for the rise of the managerial state, voted into perpetual power by blue-collar drones who can’t speak the language and need massive public assistance to negotiate every aspect of life… bring that on, too.  The sooner we all look like California, the better.  Seriously.  The dollar will collapse, no more money will be pouring from the public spigot, people will stop coming here, those who are stuck here and on the public pap will riot in the streets, our elected gun-grabbers will have no more remotely defensible “mandate” to disarm law-abiding citizens, some of the personnel we pay (now in funny-money) may actually be freed by the courts to defend us….

Or they may do so on their own—forget about the courts.  We’re already seeing the “sanctuary movement” break out of its originally subversive bounds and nose its way in neo-constitutional directions.  The Virginia response to invasion-and-occupation has been genuinely heartening.  I have long puzzled over just how secession might realistically take place.  It hadn’t occurred to me that the Left would point the way by shredding rule of law through the fiats of radical metropolitan city councils.  But that door is now wide open, along with our national border-in-name-only.  It’s Wild West time.

Back to the “People’s Republic” of China… do we really need an aggressive policy to contain the Taliban, now on the rise again, when the Chinese oligarchs have made it so clear in Xinjiang Province that they intend to exterminate Islam?  Iran has buddied up with them for the moment because sadistic totalitarian oligarchs tend to flock together… for a while.  A brief while.  But the mullahs, too, will be “re-educated” by the Chinese in a few short years if they should somehow manage to cling to power.

And that leaves Putin.  I have more respect for this man’s political acumen than for that of any other head of state on the planet (though I wouldn’t like to be sharing his soul when the Death comes a-knocking).  The Russian plutocrat has to know that his ravenously insatiable neighbors will want Manchuria in the not-too-distant future… as well as, oh, any other little pieces lying about the chessboard.  He has to know, as he plays with the other devil for his soul, that this one has designs on all his worldly accomplishments.  Sometimes the best policy is to hunker down and let the killers slaughter each other.  (I wish that had occurred to Churchill eighty years ago… but then, FDR was already deep in Stalin’s pocket.)

I’m sorry to be such a grumpy old man as 2020 slouches toward Hollywood to be born.  My wife and I passed an unforgettable week with our son.  Maybe the thought of what he and his generation will face after I’ve fled this world has left me bitter… or maybe I’m just a bit angry at his insistent self-insulation from all the threats around him, which he denominates “politics” and waves away as silly distraction.  That’s one of the leftist machine’s most brilliant achievements: anesthetizing vast segments of the population to bored indifference as humane society is destroyed for decades to come.  I’m sincerely joyful that my boy has discovered religious faith and is progressing by leaps and bounds in spiritual understanding.  He gets the “salvation” part.  Now he and his peers are steaming full-speed-ahead into the Awful Horror part.

The joy is real, and it doesn’t disappoint… but it’s also not of this world, and we have to get from here to there.  Fasten your vests and limber up the lifeboats.

 

Crosscurrents: God’s “Presence in the Present”

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I’m not feeling terribly optimistic about current events–yet I don’t wish to pollute my or anyone else’s celebration of the birth of Hope with excessive brooding over our ephemeral world.  Allow me, then, to share with you one chapter from the rough draft of a book that I plan to see finished in 2020.

I intend for this final chapter of the book’s first part to summarize by compacting several assertions made about the “numinous moment” or “event outside of time”.  Yet before I attempt that act of stitching together, an analogy may be helpful.  I’ve been racking my brain for an adequate one—for a parable, almost, that could convey to our linear-thinking minds how real time might match up to time as we know it.  I at last came up with something akin to Plato’s Allegory of the Cave.

Imagine that you are walking across fog-strewn terrain toward a vague but steady light source.  You really have nowhere else to go that offers any apparent sense of destination; for the mist curls so thickly about your feet that you can’t even see your shoes, and that shimmering beacon on your horizon is your single reference in the soupy haze.

Unrevealed to you, then, in any very clear manner is the enormous but very gradual staircase across which you walk.  Its steps are suited to a giant’s feet, each being perhaps three yards wide; yet despite their great breadth, they rise by only an inch at a time.  You’re actually cutting across these stairs at a broad angle.  The result is that you can advance for fifty or sixty yards along one step before you stumble into the next one’s rise.  Naturally, since you can’t see your feet, you conclude at every mild stumble that the ground beneath you is a bit uneven.  You have no notion of slowly ascending a great staircase rather than moving ever forward toward the light which—you hope—will be the refuge liberating you from the milling gloom.

Those stairs that come at your progress laterally and throw it off balance once in a while are, of course, meant to represent the “outside of time” moments that subtly take us by surprise once in a while… and then, usually, are forgotten at once, since we assume that our attention should be fixed on forward motion.  The biblical phrase “stumbling block” had a part in helping me weave this strange analogy, for we indeed tend to treat such moments as interruptions or distractions.  We dismiss them with whatever explanation is ready at hand and get back to the serious business of “progress”.  Yet what could be more serious, in a spiritual sense, than climbing the giant’s staircase and seeing where it takes us?  If only we knew that it was there beneath the haze—that the little trips that sometimes throw us off stride all have an order!  But our senses aren’t equipped to provide such information directly.  Any knowledge of the stairs would have to be pieced together with extreme patience, most of it requiring a certain amount of inattention to that forward motion we think so full of promise.

For what kinds of experience, exactly, should we keep an eye peeled?  In the course of Part One’s ramble, I believe I have volunteered three at various points.  The first would be personal experiences that have stubbornly stayed with us for years, many (perhaps most) of them deeply rooted in childhood.  In discussing the sort of encounter that I myself recall as having knocked me off my stride and stood me upright, I did not mention anything as numinous as an angelic visitation, a message delivered in God’s voice, or a Near-Death Experience.  That’s because I have never lived through any event of the kind.  I suppose that those of us to whom God does not speak plain English in a deep, unmistakable voice have a little trouble fully believing those who claim to have been so contacted.  We don’t necessarily disbelieve them… but we wonder if their personality may be of a naive and very excitable type.  Everybody has dreams, and some of us have vivid dreams.  (Here I may include myself: my dreams are always in color and sometimes more “high-def” than any waking experience.)  A stable person understands, though, that you take a dream with a grain of salt.

Near-Death Experiences I find to be far more intriguing.  No doubt, some people massage a rough stay in the hospital until it looks like a trip to the Beyond, just as some people innocently mistake an escaped balloon that catches the sun’s last light for a UFO.  When so many witnesses of sound mind and solid character, however, testify so resonantly to the presence of something that greeted them as their vital signs flat-lined, I can’t wave their words aside.  (For that matter, a seasoned pilot makes a very good UFO witness—and there are several such reporters of strange aircraft.)  In attempting to retrieve a particular title for citation here, I found that the medical doctor/author whose name eludes me is veritably buried on the Internet under a mass of similar professionals who have documented the NDE over the past forty years.  Take your pick of them all.  It’s a pretty impressive witness list, however you arrange it.

But, no, I have presented in my discussion no such mind-boggling evidence.  The encounters I tried to describe do not grab you by the lapels, shake you, and announce sonorously, “I come from the other world!”  They simply don’t fit into the routine… and they fail to fit in after a fashion that you can’t forget, because it so insistently seems to mean something.  Just what it may mean, you never manage to decide satisfactorily.  It’s there, sticking out… and you can’t smooth it away as the reasonable effect of some handy nearby cause.

Which brings me to a second kind of experience, and a clearly related kind: art.  If I had to define an art object (or if I were given the chance to do so—for this is my wheelhouse), I should start by saying succinctly that it “expresses the inexpressible”.  Then I should probably try to express myself better and end up making a mess of my definition… because the paradox here is ineradicable.  A work of art assembles material impressions in such a way as to leave you convinced that their collaboration encodes a vital message, a whole greater than the sum of its parts.  You proceed to write an article or a book about the work, if you’re a scholar—and the more words you weave together in trying to nab the message, the more fish slip through your net.  What we academic types always seem to miss about art is its most fundamental characteristic: that it forever points to something not quite there.

Art, I’m convinced, is an angel that God sends to all of us.  The winged visitor might be a painting, a temple, or a mere tune—or the simple-seeming lyrics of the tune; but whatever his specific shape, the cherub manages to whack us lovingly upside the head and make us stumble a little on the invisible step of the giant’s staircase.  All true art calls us to faith.  It does so just by nudging us out of our determined forward stride for an instant.  Its subject by no means has to be the Crucifixion, the Resurrection, or anything related to any item of orthodox belief.  When I was an officer in a regional division of the Conference on Christianity and Literature, a lot of paper- and article-submissions passed under my eye—and the vast majority addressed some issue in the work of John Milton, C.S. Lewis, Flannery O’Connor, or some other overtly Christian writer.  I always regretted such narrowness of focus in our undertaking.  I wish we could have faced the academy head-on with the confident assertion that all true art comes from God.

For the academy needed a good stiff slap in the face—or punch in the nose—from those of us whom the angel had smacked… but we instead huddled around “our” authors who, for the most part, had been banished from contemporary college classes, anyway.  As I described in an earlier chapter (and will not reiterate now), our ailing culture’s intelligentsia have exploited the free pass we gave them to dismantle art entirely, presenting its essential mystery as no more than a cheap kind of hypnotism practiced by the powerful upon the oppressed.  That thick-headed, empty-souled program of demoralization should never have been allowed to pass unchallenged.

But it was… and so, as a culture, I think our sense of the mystical lurking in material things all around us took refuge in nature.  Again, the overlap with other kinds of numinous experience is obvious.  Many of my personal “outside of time” moments involved a particular natural setting, and many of the arts draw heavily upon nature, as well.  In their quasi-scientific zeal to explain everything away in some “sensible” deterministic fashion, our intellectuals like to attribute our visceral bond with nature to a genetically hardwired response to life on the savanna.  Of course we like trees!  They represented safety from lions when we were naked apes.  Of course we like purling streams!  Every living creature needs water, and water that runs swiftly is least apt to cause illness.

You can hardly win at this game if you protest, “No, it’s not the tree’s height and the stoutness of its limbs for climbing that I like.  It’s the intricate play of shadows in the pine needles—it’s the soughing of the branches in a breeze.”  What do you know?  You don’t have a Ph.D.!

One of the responses that most fascinates me is the one we register to distant sounds.  A far-off train whistle or dog’s bark… such “racket” can induce a deep sense of peace when, a mile or two away, it is scarcely heard.  Isn’t that because of its delightful (yet painful—delightfully painful) hint that even the most energetic spurts of life are but bursting bubbles on a vast ocean’s surface?  The abyss of meaning here is grandly unfathomable.  And how on earth would the evolutionary biologist disarm such a spiritual phenomenon?  Would he say that our apelike ancestors of course perked up when they heard distant sounds, because those were warnings of approaching predators?  But the approach of a predator would ignite an impulsive fear, not stir up a leisurely meditation—and to argue that the reaction has evolved as we have become less susceptible to predators might explain a diminution of fear, but couldn’t conceivably explain the emergence of pleasure.  Why can our “best and brightest” not accept that their explanations won’t reach every nook of the forest?

I will wander off target again if I don’t take care… but I might point out, in passing, that even we non-scientists are now sabotaging our relationships with nature through intrusions of progressive thinking—through cultic outbursts of “future-worship”.  We can’t simply let the indefinite play of light and shadow in a forest or down a mountain glen speak to us of the unspeakable: we have to bend that moment into “activism”.  We must “save nature” by outlawing the removal of underbrush and deadwood, by replacing mines with the “renewable energy” of wind turbines.  In the process, we create tinderboxes that will incinerate millions of acres in the next wildfire, and we erect killing machines that slaughter hawks and other high-flying species by the tens of millions annually… but we sleep better at night, because we have come home from our nature hike with a “mission”.

I’m no fan of the internal combustion engine.  I recall dropping a word or two about my long walking tours in Ireland and Scotland, and I routinely walked to and from work before my retirement.  I’m not out of sympathy with the general distaste for our high-tech pace of living—not at all.  But, please… let nature live!  Don’t be the doctor who starts cutting out organs when a little bedrest would cure the patient.  After putting up bluebird houses around our property, my wife and I have seen families of bluebirds a dozen strong congregate around the watering dish almost daily.  That’s a good feeling.  We don’t really have to go beyond that and agitate to increase the percentage of ethanol in gasoline—which will cause yet more meadowland to be put under the plow, which will destroy yet more wildlife habitat.  Every experience of nature doesn’t have to feed into a political agenda… does it?

To the extent that it does, or that we let it do so, we seal off what may be perhaps our decaying culture’s final portal upon the numinous.  I have come to adopt a single word in my thoughts for the ungainly phrase, “numinous experiences”, which I shall begin using from here on out.  I call these “outside of time” encounters, or smacks in the side of the head, or glimpses out the train’s window, or nudges off the tunnel’s track… I call them crosscurrents.  We need to yield to these rare transverse currents whenever they briefly stroke us: we need not to attempt to wrestle them onto a vector that parallels our forward motion.  They won’t go there.  They are all telling us the same thing, and it is this.  “The purpose of what you do is not the purpose you offer when explaining what you do.”  Our actions are indeed purposive, if we are good people—but not purposive in any sense that we can define, since their ultimate objective is not of this world.  When we nevertheless succeed in reducing our explanations and definitions to terms that make complete sense in this world—and when we thereafter adjust our actions to suit the verbal formulas we have produced in mutilating efficiency—we become less good.  We lose touch with the spirit.  We skew our forward motion so that we no longer trip over the occasional, invisible step of the giant’s staircase.  We proceed, instead, along a perfectly flat surface, paying attention only to its “corrected” smoothness that permits a speedier advance… and we climb the staircase no farther, nor do we even notice that we’re straying from the beacon at our lower level.

Sometimes the Only Alternative to “Conspiracy Theory” Is Lobotomy

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I believe I have found an appropriate synonym for the unwieldy phrase, “engaging in conspiracy theory”. Let’s just call it “thinking”.

Say that a young man’s date for Friday night cancels on Friday afternoon, pleading that an intense migraine has overtaken her. Disconsolate, he wanders into the local watering hole later that evening… where he spies his girlfriend absorbing cocktails and laughing in brave defiance of the famous headache as a tall, dapper stranger whispers in her ear. Our young man thinks… what? That he’s been misled? That he’s been played? Why, he deserves to be jilted if that’s what he’s made of! Conspiracy theorist!

Your high-school-senior son says he’ll be out late on Saturday night—not to wait up, that he and his friends have formed a study group to ace all of next week’s final exams. You take him at his word and go to bed. The next morning, you find his book bag just where he left it upon returning from classes Friday afternoon. Out in the garage, you discover his hand-me-down car wedged in at a very odd angle and notice empty beer cans knocking around in the back seat. And you conclude… what? That he didn’t spend the night studying? I hope they come arrest you, you… you conspiracy theorist!

John Stossel dared to point out last Wednesday that our 23 trillion debt hasn’t faded away, despite what appears to be a rip-roaring economy.  Indeed, the debt continues to mushroom, and Mr. Stossel notes that a day of reckoning must come. These facts can hardly come as a dazzling revelation to elected representatives of either party, yet neither Democrats nor Republicans have the stomach to carve a dime from our entitlement programs. That’s by no means shocking, and the major fault for their paralysis lies with us. Every politico on either side of the aisle knows that fiscal responsibility is the kiss of death, so both wait for the other side to make the fatal move in a game of “chicken”….

Or so one might have said fifteen years ago, when the looming catastrophe was already fully visible. These days, however, Democrats are not simply waiting for Republicans to cave in and show an understanding of elementary arithmetic. No: every Democratic candidate for president is trying to outbid the others in exorbitant offers of “free stuff”—free health care, free college, free annual income. Free citizenship, even—a free right to vote on how much of other people’s money you want to pocket, freedom from prosecution when you break the nation’s laws, freedom to vote (once again) when you’re clumsy enough to get yourself sent away to prison for lawbreaking too spectacular to be ignored.

And… and is there no endgame here, beyond getting elected? Is that what we are to think—that every single Democrat in office or seeking office nowadays is so incredibly stupid as not to understand that we have no cash for such palaces of fantasy? Some, to be sure, are stunningly challenged by basic addition (especially those with economics degrees from Ivy League institutions). But all of them?

Well, yes, that’s precisely what we are to think, what we must think… unless we wish to descend into the vile, malodorous realm of conspiracy theory!

We must assume, furthermore, that no Democrat has a plan for what to do when Social Security and Medicare checks dry up, when rioting breaks out in the streets, when the nation from coast to coast begins to look like San Francisco. For if such a plan exists, counting on a crisis which must not “go to waste”… wouldn’t that be a conspiracy?

Bestowing the right to vote upon felons and foreign nationals begins to look like a plan of some particularly dark design, especially when you factor in the Democratic Party’s zeal for denying legal citizens their Second Amendment rights. Is this merely a matter of adding the criminal vote (and the child vote, if Pelosi had her druthers) to the dead vote in order to ensure permanent Democrat hegemony… or is massive civil unrest being courted to justify calling out the National Guard, transforming it into the National Police Force dreamt of by Barack Obama, suspending elections, and settling into a true socialist oligarchy in the grand old Soviet or Maoist style? The whole thing begins to look like… but, nah! Pull yourself up short and take several steps back! You know where that kind of thinking leads!

Now, Republicans don’t open the border to terrorists while taking defensive weapons at gunpoint from legal citizens. They don’t invite Israelis to vacation by the thousand in Chicago during the first week of November and bestow upon them the right to vote as pro tempore residents. They actually resign if caught having sex with the cleaning lady’s underaged daughter, and they hold the Constitution in highest regard… except that, you know, the President is the Commander in Chief, and waging war in that capacity is sometimes a bit hampered by the need of a formal declaration from the Senate. It’s important to whisk around this small planet like Superman and stay the raised hand of the evil-doer… so important that parliamentary procedure sometimes gets trimmed at the edges. Islamo-fascism has to be nipped in the bud wherever its dark flower breaks the surface; the Religion of Peace has to be given a chance to nourish new democracies and marketplaces.

Although… one would think that, with such a keen interest in defense, the Republicans would address themselves to seeking an alliance with Putin’s Russia instead of driving her closer and closer into the embrace of Red China, the one nation on earth aggressively, openly gobbling up its neighbors or commandeering their resources while conducting campaigns of ethnic cleansing and instituting Orwellian monitoring of ordinary people. One would think that continuing to feed Wall Street by allowing the PRC to take over vast portions of our industrial sector and purloin all of our intellectual property of value would stir Republican indignation.

One would think, most especially, that Republicans would have been clamoring to have the national power grid secured against electro-magnetic pulse attack and solar flares during the Ryan/Boehner years of enjoying substantial power in Congress. After all, if ninety percent of the North American populace would die in the wake of a catastrophic nation-wide power outage, if this has been understood since the late twentieth century, if the cost of hardening the grid is relatively minuscule, and if Republicans are such valiant hawks in the matter of providing our military with tanks (as opposed, say, to modernizing the nuclear arsenal)… well… well, what?

One of my Republican senators responded last week to my letter expressing concern about the unsecured grid with an assurance (and I’ve no doubt that this was an auto-responder’s assurance) that he cared about “climate change” and, to that end, was doing his all to advance the construction of a nuclear power plant. Fine. Thanks for listening.

Perhaps we witness here a mere greasing of conventional pockets in the energy sector, just as we see in Democrats a mere pandering to the “what’s in it for me?” crowd with endless offers of free stuff from other people’s closets. Perhaps there really is nothing to see here, on either side. One doesn’t like to be a… you know: a conspiracy theorist!

But as I mused at the end of my just-published essays collected over a period fifteen years, Nightmare Made of Dreams: A Conservative Scholar Assesses Our Nation’s Declining Taste for Self-Sufficiency, there’s something really odd going on under our noses. The phenomenon now popularly known as the Phoenix Lights occurred over twenty years ago. It was seen by thousands (including Governor Fife Symington of Arizona) and photographed or videoed by dozens, perhaps hundreds. Strange craft were silently executing maneuvers over a major southwestern metropolitan area that any Physics or Engineering professor at any public university would denounce as patently impossible. Somebody did that… and somebody in our government knows who the somebody was. I have a feeling—not an articulated theory, just a feeling—that our off-budget defense programs are vastly more advanced than most of us believe (whether or not the craft over Phoenix were built at Area 51 or on Alpha Centauri b). That hunch consoles me. It would be nice if our defenses were indeed much more sophisticated than they appear to the casual eye. I can also muster little outrage at the utterly covert nature of such projects (though why one of them went overt on March 13, 1997, is a puzzler). If you reckon for a moment how leaky our “security” agencies have been around the Trump Administration, and if you then consider the premier importance of projects like these, you’d want another blanket of secrecy thrown over them rather than more sunlight penetrating to them.

Yet there remains that deadly sunlight—those solar flares against which our grid is not secure. How can a nation whose elite engineers have refined the ability to defy gravity not have built Faraday cages around its power generators? That’s like asking how a nuclear submarine cannot have a protocol to see that someone shuts the hatch before a dive.

What’s the game? As a citizen, I say to my representatives, “I don’t want to know all your secrets. I shouldn’t know them… because if such a one as I knows them, then the Chinese surely will. I don’t even want to write a futuristic novel wherein you happy few retreat to Dr. Strangelove’s bunker, let the rest of us rioting rabble die of starvation and self-slaughter, and then climb out in eight months to repel the Red Guard with flying saucers. But is something like that really the plan? Does the plan really require that we and our children and grandchildren die like rats on the Flying Dutchman? Is something like that in store for us? No? Then why won’t you secure the damn grid?”

Let Each Day’s Worries Suffice Unto Itself

Before you know it, everyone will be casting a nostalgic eye back over 2019.  Thanksgiving, incredibly, looms less than three weeks away.  Then Christmas.  Then… well, you know.

I began my year trying to do some tiny little bit of good for a fellow named Buddy Woodall, whose case was profiled in a Netflix series (The Confession Tapes, Episode 6) and who’s going to spend the rest of his life paying for two murders he didn’t commit because you can’t get a retrial for having a stupid jury.  Sorry, Buddy.

My first spring attempting to nurse along a couple of orchards (mostly pecans and apples at this point) was beset by several problems, such as voracious deer that chewed right through the protective netting I laid out… but that kind of discouragement is Life 101.  To see the republic dissolving around our ears was rather harder to take, especially since I had begun reading Solzhenitsyn’s Gulag Archipelago for the first time, as I must guiltily confess; but then, how many “newly minted” Ph.D.s in History do you suppose have ever been exposed to a line of it?  Learning about the bureaucratic inferno that follows when God’s most arrogant creatures try to correct all of the “design mistakes” in human society, and—at the same time—watching new waves of college graduates give the thumbs-up to suppressing speech, ruining small businesses, terrorizing families in suburbia, decriminalizing crime, energizing a magnet for chronic human slavery, producing a wildlife holocaust in the quest for “clean” energy… yeah, I’ll take the sharp-toothed deer, please.

At about this time, my son had introduced me to Jordan Peterson on YouTube… and I discovered, as well, that I could only watch Jordan via streaming on clear days, since Internet out here in the boondocks has its drawbacks.  Welcome to the edge of the grid!  That’s where I said I wanted to be in retirement, so… así es.  It was Peterson who nagged me into reading Solzhenitsyn.  Somewhere along the way, I also blundered into Diana West.

Diana West… American Betrayal.  All I learned from this book was that FDR’s insuperably pompous idiocy was undergirded by a thick layer of Soviet operatives (over 500 strong), that Japan would never have bombed Pearl Harbor without the sabotage of skillful diplomacy from D.C. (but I already knew this from Herbert Hoover’s Freedom Betrayed), that Harry Hopkins engineered the passage of heavy water and uranium by the ton to the Soviet Union via Lend-Lease, that our beachhead in Italy established after tremendous loss of life was abandoned because Stalin didn’t want us straying through Eastern Europe, that the carnage of D-Day was indeed owed entirely to FDR’s servile submission to Uncle Joe’s will, that most of the Jews exterminated under Hitler could have been saved had Moscow not dictated our foreign policy, that Hopkins and his fellow Roosevelt-puppeteers ignored the pleas of Admiral Canaris and other high-ranking Germans to assist their overthrow of Hitler, that our government actually left upward of 20,000 American boys (mostly freed from German and Japanese prisons) to rot in Stalin’s gulags without a peep… all of the foregoing—all of it—to court some kind of “convergent” ideological marriage with Stalin’s totalitarian insectification of humanity.  Also know as progressivism.  And West scarcely hints at the Russian role in garbling our Japanese negotiations as the war wound down, such that the dropping of the Bombs was deemed necessary by Truman when it could easily have been averted.  The construction of the Soviet Empire demanded that competitors for territory in the Far East be cleared off the board.

How much truth can one man take at the age of sixty-five?

Meanwhile, as summer morphed into fall (a summer that was supposed to have warned us of “climate change” with its record number of dry days and high temperatures—followed by a fall that has come crashing through with unusually cold, wet vigor), I watched my one-time heroes in Congress leave a slimy collaborative trail straight to the sidelines as the jackals gathered around the President.  Andrew Napolitano, Ben Shapiro, Jonathan Goldberg… Ben Sasse, Mike Lee, Ted Cruz… we’re not talking Mitt Romney here: these are (were) persons of premier intellect and character.  Where are the snows of yesteryear?

In my bid to live within the limitations of HughesNet, I discovered the Podcast; and there, much to my delight, I further discovered Frank Gaffney’s Secure Freedom Radio, along with Tom Fitton’s Freedom Watch and Sarah Carter’s mostly fluff-free broadcast (that’s a compliment: I hate fluff, Mssrs. Crowder and Hunter).  Trouble is, I was once again plumbing the depths of “truth overload”.  How many days in a row can you hear that Communist China is well on its way to preparing an insect farm for us idiot Americans as we supply all the raw material (à la FDR Administration)?  Personally, I am thankful to the Democrat Party for helping me to view my exit from this world with equanimity, and even great joy, as I enter my final laps… but I have a son.  The rest of you have children and grandchildren.  Is Hell big enough, deep enough, to contain as many Judases as busily engineer our ruin?

Sarah Carter opined yesterday (in a days-old broadcast that I played during my workout) that we have lost the ability to make up our differences and be civil to each other.  Bless your gentle heart, Sarah… but the party who always had to clam up at faculty gatherings or family reunions was yours truly, not the legions of virtue-signaling exhibitionists around him.  The incivility sits almost entirely on one side of the table.  It’s the same side that wants to leave unwanted babies to die after a failed abortion, to lavish taxpayer dollars on criminal vagrants, to reward child-molesters and slavers with free entry into the country, to let small entrepreneurs starve if they won’t kneel at the altar of “LGBTQ Pride”.  There’s no middle ground where one can pitch a tent and meet with purveyors of such moral atrocity, whether their service to chaos is deliberate (Harry Hopkins) or arrogantly unwitting (FDR).  We have no coherent society left.  We have California, expelling its toxic influence into neighboring states the way wildfires are eating their way across its own townships.  We’re in nuclear meltdown.

I need to get up now and go unwrap my brave little orange tree: I need to find out if she survived last night’s onslaught of “global warming”.  And then I need to haul my potted bell peppers back out on the porch—for today is clear and sunny.  These howling apes in clothes can go about their business of destroying everything their ancestors created in population centers all over the world.  If HughesNet permits, I’ll publish my not-so-uplifting ramble for a few eyes in a few parts of the world where Internet isn’t yet severely filtered.  Tend to your gardens, brothers and sisters.  They won’t betray you—even the deer won’t undermine you—if you bend your stiff neck and study how they grow.

A Fearful Future Designed by Fearless Idiots

I’ve evaded this issue for months; I evade it every day.  I politely step around it as one might smile distantly at a visiting relative over the holidays who shows up with a cold.  I don’t utterly ignore it… but I sidle away, postpone, and break off in mid-thought to address more “pressing” matters.

The future.  I happened (don’t ask how) upon a collection of off-beat essays by a late twentieth-century author, now deceased, named Giorgio Manganelli.  A particularly long piece comments on a just-published (back in about 1980) anthology whose distinguished contributors anticipate what life in 2000 will be like.  In other words, I was reading a wry satirist’s view of several views of the near future from my own view almost twenty years later than that near future.  It’s an uncomfortable experience… and the pathos is a little too keen for me to delight in the absurdity.

Forever present in the human animal, apparently, are certain projections about the future… which would lead one to believe a) that notions of tomorrow are hard-wired in our imagination, and b) that the “real future” may be shaped quite deterministically by this stubborn hard-wiring.  There are the visionaries who foresee the resolution of all problems (without defining a “problem” while preserving any sense of human nature) by technology.  Cancer?  Cured.  Illiteracy and ignorance?  A computer chip implanted.  Traffic congestion?  An air-buggy in every floating garage.  Then we have this giddy band’s dark cousins, the visionaries who see right-wing generalissimos under every bridge just waiting to blow the high-tech train off the rails.  The less lyrical, more clinical prophets possessing an actual background in science will describe a society whose citizens are telepathic or semi-robotic without stirring in un-scientific words like “good” or “evil”… but one can sense their myopic eyes glowing in excitement through the print.  Dour moralists, on the other hand, will point to the script of Sodom and Gomorrah and advise the hasty construction of another Arc.

I remember an edition of My Weekly Reader that must have passed through my hands when I was in first or second grade.  I won’t attempt to peg the year… but let’s just say that 1980 may have been to those estimable publishers of educational matter what 2000 was to Manganelli’s elite commentariat.  What I truly remember—all I truly remember—from that delightfully newspaper-scented front page is the bichromatic image of a monorail.  Yep.  By 1980, well within my generation’s lifetime (we hadn’t heard the word “Vietnam” yet), all of us would get from A to B by hopping aboard a whirring, slightly subsonic centipede.  We’d go everywhere that way: to grocery store, to church, to ball park and movie theater.  There would be no on-board crime, no risky drop-offs at midnight… and cost?  What’s cost?

Apparently, a large portion of California’s current population recalls the same My Weekly Reader issue, was just as impressed by it—and has not learned in the intervening decades about factors like blown budgets, tax hikes, government waste, contractor fraud, zoning laws, and the inviolable limits of three-dimensional space.  I’m surprised, frankly, that the late great Governor Jerry Brown didn’t substitute a teleportation system when his Pacific-corridor bullet-train went bust.  The current governor, I believe, has in fact teleported to us from some other planet… some planet rendered uninhabitable by his race’s brilliant engineering.

Meanwhile, the future continues to arrive on its own terms.  Every day, tomorrow becomes today; and every day, today preserves qualities of yesterday that we had hoped never to see again but did virtually nothing to eliminate.  That’s why the future… yes, I’ll say the word: that’s why the future frightens me.  Because what frightens me is ourselves.  We don’t learn.  We never learn.  We keep turning the page expecting the tragedy to end and a comedy to carry us the rest of the way through the book—as if we were merely browsing through a book, and not writing it.  The boldest (i.e., most insane) of us express a keen interest in scribbling all over a fresh page, but… but they didn’t read the earlier pages, where the tragedy was ignited precisely by a zeal for erasing everything and starting from scratch.  We are held in thrall by the most incorrigible idiots among us, who also seem to have the most energy and the “boldest vision”.  Why wouldn’t they?  Wouldn’t you be bold, too, if you knew nothing about history, resisted acknowledging anything about your nature, and indulged your selfish whimsy as if it were the voice of God telling you how to arrange everybody’s life perfectly?

What could possibly go wrong with such “dreaming”?  How many graduating high-school and college seniors have just been exhorted by impressively idiotic speakers to dream their way out of the present’s miseries?

The very act of writing these paragraphs today, as it turns out, has proved another sly evasion of the future on my part; for I have written in very general terms about the futility of forward-aimed thinking, but not about several specific details of tomorrow—or this afternoon—looming so plainly as to be almost unavoidable.  I wasn’t always such an escape-artist.  When I was childless and single, I used to spend hours trying to bore straight into the future’s thickly veiled face.  Now that I have others to fear for, I can scarcely tolerate the misgivings that the stare-down produces in me.  That cavernous gaze is too similar to the Grim Reaper’s empty sockets.

John the Gospelist writes in his first epistle, “True love hath no fear.”  I’ve never understood that one, honestly.  It seems to me that those who truly love are precisely those who would truly fear.  The idiots with their designs unrelated to anything of the past or to any shred of common sense or practicality, in contrast, seem to be as fearless as lions… or as fearless as tripping addicts who imagine themselves lions.  I understand, from the perspective of genuine faith, that all things of this world end and that all worldly devices and desires are condemned to nullification… but that, in the ultimate comedy, none of the vast desolation matters, since this world is not the real world.  Nevertheless, as a traveler—a drifter, a vagabond—making his way through this futile, trivial, vainglorious, ridiculous world, I cannot completely inoculate myself against the anguish of gullible children who must watch the idiot-dreams of idiot-prophets explode one by one.

Heaven, maybe, has monorails powered by moonbeams.  I’d never thought of My Weekly Reader as a proselytizing instrument… but that’s exactly what it was.  Childhood dreams become reality where adult corruption is forever washed away.  That location is not right here, awaiting just another sunrise or two.  It never will be.

Postmodernity: Luxuriating in Half-Truths as It Suffocates on Them

The so-called world map of Piri Reis (a Turkish admiral who was executed for his alarming competence: that’s how politics works) was created in about 1512.  It not only features an Antarctica whose existence no human being yet suspected—so we’re told—but it details rivers and mountain ranges with a precision whose truth could only be verified a few years ago and with the help of LIDAR.  The map shouldn’t exist.  Mainstream science and history can offer no explanation of why it does.

The Egyptian Pyramids have long been said by mainstream historians to be the tombs of Pharaohs, yet not a single corpse has ever been recovered from one.  Intricate shafts, too narrow for a human to pass through, have lately been identified in some of these structures.  The history books continue to insist that human labor piled block upon multi-ton block in the construction process by methods which would have been wholly impracticable.  For that matter, no one can explain how the massive stone blocks were moved dozens of miles from their quarry, any more than the same question can be answered of the megaliths at Stonehenge.

There is substantial, nearly incontrovertible evidence that the Egyptians visited Australia… and that the Maya had a presence in southeastern states like Georgia, and that the Cherokee and other tribes are descended from peoples originating in the Spanish peninsula who island-hopped to the Western Hemisphere during the last Ice Age.  Yet college textbooks and professional conferences ban such viewpoints from presentation.

The Moon is an entirely unique sort of satellite in our solar system.  No other so nearly approaches the size of its parent planet nor holds such a precisely circular orbit so happily coordinated with the planet’s own plain of orbit around the Sun.  Geological evidence contradicts the theory that the two bodies split apart and recondensed after a catastrophic meteoric event, and no computer model can reproduce the supposed path of evolution; yet this is the “story” confidently purveyed by PBS, the History Channel, and every other approved mouthpiece of the science establishment.

I had an early insight into how academe worked when I attempted to publish an article explaining a passage in Virgil’s Aeneid wherein the poet supposedly forgets the strand of his narrative.  I pointed out that if a certain word is translated in a certain fairly orthodox way, then all the trouble disappears.  The article was rejected: the reason offered was that Virgil himself doesn’t use this word in this way in any other passage.  So… because exceptional choices must not take place in a creative mind, according to the “scholars”, the poet remains a clumsy hack whose instances of ineptitude they have cleverly ferreted out.

I haven’t trusted “scholarship” or “science” fully for a long time, and I trust it less and less as I age.  I won’t bore my readers with another recitation of the events surrounding the “Phoenix Lights” incident of March 13, 1997.  Enough to say that an object or objects was or were videotaped by dozens and seen by hundreds in the air space of northern Arizona describing maneuvers of which no manmade craft is supposed to be remotely capable.  Governor Fife Symington himself saw some of the spectacle, vowed to research it, tastelessly disparaged it a few days later, and recently admitted that he was pressured by authorities (whom he did not identify) to make the uproar “go away”.  For its part, the military labeled the events a product of “signal flares”—an explanation patently contradicted by the video evidence of ordinary citizens.  The timing of whatever flares were dropped that night in fact suggests that jets were scrambled to scatter flares in response to the mysterious lights: i.e., our designated protectors almost at once focused their attention of plausible cover-up.

People in positions of authority and prestige lie to us all the time.  It has always been so, no doubt; but the consequence of being lied to have never been so dire.  We no longer live under a monarchy—though, at this rate, we shall soon have something of that species lording it over us.  We cannot make wise or even adequate choices about our high-tech, progressive culture’s future when the evidence supplied to us is not only too arcane for our understanding, but deliberately twisted to manipulate us toward a certain conclusion.  The intellectual inertia and self-serving “review process” inherent in the pompous academic world are bad enough; but when we are required to cast a vote on issues not involving where ancient Egyptian ships traveled, but where our taxes and our children will travel, misinformation is criminal, and may be lethal.

Yet I despair of our adequacy to the task.  A couple of weeks ago, I watched an admittedly somewhat sensationalized hour documentary about the Yeti (a.k.a. the Abominable Snowman).   I didn’t dismiss the opening claims out of hand.  Why should I?  Is an Asian Bigfoot so very hard to imagine?  The vast majority of Americans who chortle and rail at Sasquatch reports inhabit cities where they might see a squirrel twice a week and a raccoon once a month (hopefully not a rat once a day).  Their eagerness not to fall out of step with the “scientific consensus” trumps any faint awareness they may have of their own practical limitations in judging what kind of life a dense, remote forest could support.  Ninety-five percent of Sasquatch reports, to be sure, may readily be classed as misidentifications or hoaxes.  The reminding five percent… well, that’s about the same proportion of times that a poet might use a trite word in a slightly daring sense.

I hate living in a world where the five percent is airbrushed away, on grounds of statistical irrelevance.  The ability to recognize an aberration and then to account for it without dismissing it in veiled mockery could be a possible definition of intelligence.

It could also, alas, define incipient lunacy.  Back to the Yeti “documentary”.  Despite an initial regard for objective methodology, the presentation seemed to worry over its “entertainment value”.  The ante in the hour-long game of marvels kept rising.  Yeti doesn’t just inhabit the Himalayas: no, he’s here, in Northern California (like everything else weird).  Has anyone seen him?  Why, yes: a man garbed in a dress with waist-length hair in a bun and go-everywhere tattoos who has “written a book”.  Could the “investigative team” find any evidence corroborating his claim?  No, none; so… so, you know, this might be telling us that the Yeti is a “spirit being” who can travel through time portals!  Why not?  Native Americans tell tales of just such a being….

I find myself circling back to last week’s post—to the dismal conclusion that we’re constantly being forced into one of two camps.  Either you accept that the World Trade Center was destroyed exactly as given out… or you’re an Al Qaeda sympathizer.  Either you accept that the Second Amendment is outdated… or you’re a child-killer.  Either you acknowledge that manmade climate change will render the planet lifeless in about a decade… or you’re a mass murderer; or either you agree that our chemically saturated, EMR-immersed living environment is perfectly safe and really quite pleasant… or else you’re a green wacko who thinks that trees deserve the right to vote.

Perhaps the next step beyond our inability to sort through all the lies we’re told is a resignation to the “good lies” that support “our side”.  But do you really believe that there’s any dividing line other than that separating truth from untruth?  If so, welcome to the future.

Are Social Media Elevating Insanity to Ideology?

Twitter.  The name has always been an immediate turn-off to me.  After all, its initial syllable is “twit”—and I can’t say that the accident creates an inappropriate expectation.  Yet I have persisted in my “tweeting” (a verbal form scarcely more reassuring: what kind of bird-brain wastes time pecking a very constricted number of characters on a keyboard?).  My objective is, and has always been, an indirect publicity campaign: a projection of my views into the great wide world, that is, in the hope of attracting a few curious eyes to my Amazon author’s page.  I’m a perfectly lousy marketer—always have been.  Garbling or botching publicity is one of my special talents.  But on the surface, the objective seems both logical and respectable.  If you like what I say, try some of the productions where I speak at much greater length.

At the same time, I have grown aware of certain seductions in Twitter that could lead someone off the path whose aim was a little less monomaniacal than mine—and I myself don’t always resist, either.  The dozen-word bon mot is sometimes too ready-at-hand and the target too fat and stationary.  Yet sitting about an e-salon while languidly launching barbs at hippopotamus-sized news events doesn’t lead to a very productive morning.  It’s a pastime fit for twits.  Of course, people need a certain amount of amusement, perhaps these days more than ever; so the argument might be made that one lifts the spirits of one’s neighbors in making light of the fools who would rule us… and then, it’s such a great way to attract followers!

On principle, I have desisted from keeping tabs on how many e-disciples are tagging along at my winged heels.  It’s not healthy: it distracts you from speaking truth—it inclines you to probe after the popular.  I need hardly moralize about what hyper-sensitivity to polls and focus groups has done to our political system.   Don’t want the same thing happening to me personally.

There’s a much darker side to Twitter, as well.  Yesterday I noticed one of the public figures I admire most in the world dropping an f-bomb… on Twitter’s head, actually—and Facebook’s, and Instagram’s.  The occasion was a fury over how social media filter opinions not to their progressive-utopian taste and brand them “hate speech” (a phrase, speaking of words, that’s always struck me as implying a kind of caveman syntax: “Ug… me no like… make me mad… hate… hate speech!”).  How do you respond to insufferable idiots who gag and pillory you because you fail to parrot their drivel?  I can well understand the impulse to squeeze an “f” out through the gag… yet, in a way, it concedes the battle to the idiots.  Rather than clubbing the caveman back with a bigger limb, maybe you should just stay out of caves.

Probably half of all posts on Twitter are photos (invariably called “pictures” in these cavernous days), “memes”, or short videos.  A picture’s worth a thousand words—especially for a person who doesn’t know a thousand words.  So we gape at each other’s pictures, someone starts an avalanche of “opinion” cascading (“caption this” or “what’s that in her hair?”), the barbs fly, the tweaked hearts dispense “likes”… and some kind of communication, apparently, has just taken place.  What kind?  Not entirely sure; but I do know that its species defines our brave new world… our e-cave.

I’m both amused and saddened when I hear people say, “Looking back on our time, historians will write….”  No, historians will write nothing—not if no one can read, and certainly not if no coherent sense of historical connection remains (i.e., of the indissoluble complexity of human choice as opposed to “memes” and “pics”).  What I see in Twitter—illustrated helpfully, if unwittingly—is the progress of cultural and intellectual collapse favored by all electronic media, more or less.  The compression of judgment into a few words, the subservience of those words to cliché and jibe, the equivalency of word to image, the instantaneity of word and image alike… it’s all making us dumber by the year.  Look at our dumbed-down college grads, who believe that currencies can be resuscitated by running Xerox machines, that human evil is produced by deficient melanin in the epidermis, that Nature bestows either one set of sex organs or the other upon individuals (including squash plants), that nations must never have borders yet that momentary residents must enjoy the full rights of citizenship…. Where did these analytical featherweights come from who nourish a cultic conviction that less than half of one one-hundredth of one percent of the atmosphere will suffocate life on earth in about a decade—while the same gaseous substance, before our eyes, is feeding a revival of green vegetation….

How is it that we can transform bright young minds into generators of imbecility and lunacy?  What force is driving this incredible degeneration?  It would have to be something that causes views to be embraced because they seem flashy in their extravagance… something that shoulders aside patient reflection… something that awards points for immediate effect rather than for enduring substance.  It would have to enlist its users in a veritable competition to one-up each his predecessor, as in exchanges like this: “The capitalist market is racist.  Oh, yeah?  Well, the entertainment media are [“is” in current parlance] also racist!  Oh, yeah?  Well, grocery stores are also racist!  Oh, yeah?  Well, door knobs are also racist!”

Now, what do you see on the current scene that would elicit such a degree of abject idiocy—unique in the history of the human race, and likely unknown even to the very practical caveman—from millions of young people fresh from college?  What in our society could possibly inspire such unnatural and self-destructive behavior?  An oldtimer like me can gather plenty of clues by visiting Twitter… but study your preferred medium.  Where do you see anything approaching cautionary care and recourse to principle rather than applause in our means of communication?

Of the wide array of drugs killing our society from within, the one that “brings people together” is ravaging us with inestimably more ferocity than all the others combined.