“Radicalized” Teenage Girl With Kitchen Knife Shows Us the REAL Threat to Our Nation… Uh, No

“White teen girl detailed plan for racist attack on black churchgoers in notebook, police say”: that’s literally the title (with only first word capitalized) of the Washington Post article trumpeting a non-event.  Ponder those words.  A white girl scribbled some troubled thoughts about murdering congregants at a black church.  Essentially, this is the content of a “story” that made headlines throughout the Southeast, and upon which WSB-TV Atlanta lavished at least three minutes on the evening of November 19.

Once you know more details, the episode becomes even more… non-eventful.

The “white teen girl” was sixteen years old.  Not eighteen or nineteen: sixteen.  She had apparently amassed a collection of… no, not handguns, not bombs or grenades, not clips for assault rifles: knives.  She collected knives.  So now we have a sixteen-year-old white girl with “knives”, in the plural.  There was no indication that she had trained with the Mossad, or that she possessed a black belt in some ancient Japanese art of firing out blades at a rate of five per second.  As far as we know, she has only two hands.  As far as we know, members of the Bethel AME Church in Gainesville, Georgia, are not exclusively octogenarians or manually challenged female invalids.  And of course, as anyone can be pretty sure of knowing, the Church was a “gun-free” zone, making it a target even for someone with no more than a kitchen knife (the species of blade involved in this case).  Our Gal Gadot wannabe was too respectful of the law, it seems, to equip herself with deadly weapons illegally.  Sometimes the “gun-free” idiocy works.

The WaPo article bestows much quote-space upon one Sergeant Kevin Holbrook, who was most likely the blond, baby-faced young man I saw interviewed on WSB news.  That lad is going far.  He pressed all the right keys to sound just the right notes.  The girl’s notebook contained “manifesto-type” ravings, observed the officer with wisdom beyond his years (and training).  He continued, as WaPo reports faithfully: “There were many writings and drawings, different depictions, and a lot of hateful messages in it….  As far as the details go, they were down to very specific information.”  Turns out that Holbrook is also something of a theologian.  Carnage of innocents was averted, he concludes, “by pure grace”: had the normal Wednesday night Bible study not been canceled, the teen fiend would not have found the compound’s buildings empty when she visited them, a dagger clutched Bluebeard-like in her teeth.

The church’s pastor, interviewed by WSB, confirmed God’s intercession in the canceled Bible study—and confirmed, further, my own inference that no men attend this church and that no women there are capable, say, of lifting a chair or coming at an assailant from behind.  But… might God be whispering to these good people that Bethel AME should host a self-defense class in the near future, if not actually persuade a retired soldier to slip a Glock inside his coat during services?

Now, the pastor and the sergeant weren’t quite on the same page as to motivation.  The former, while admitting that the sixteen-year-old had to be very troubled, wanted her tried as an adult (tried for snooping around the sanctuary with a knife in her belt); the latter was convinced, as he revealed in his WSB interview, that she was “radicalized” by “white supremacist” websites.  Now, if our would-be mass murderess were hypnotized by Internet conditioning, then she can scarcely be held fully responsible for her acts; but if she is actually to be prosecuted as a full adult, then the assumption must be that she had complete possession of herself—more so than one would expect of an ordinary sixteen-year-old.  And in that case, the “radicalizing white-supremacist websites” are utterly irrelevant.

An aside: I wonder how long Sergeant Holbrook has dreamed of using the word “radicalize”?  Doesn’t it sound cool?  But you can’t use it to describe, say… I don’t know: say a jihadist website.  I’m afraid you can’t even use the word “jihadist” any more.  I didn’t write that.

But “white supremacist”, now—you can and should drop that phrase early and often, at least if you hope for a long and ascending career path in law enforcement.  White-supremacist songs… white-supremacist holidays… white-supremacist weather and condiments and ways of pronouncing the word “tergiversation”: it’s everywhere!  The white-supremacist menace is everywhere!

Just be grateful that white supremacists honor gun-free zones.  Can you imagine if….

Meanwhile, the city of Atlanta continues to have daily drive-by shootings, daily convenience-store robberies at gunpoint, daily brawls that go ballistic when someone pulls out a handgun—and the crimes are almost always black on black.  But the city’s African American community shouldn’t allow its collective eye to be diverted from the real problem, which is…

The KKK is back!  White people are coming for you—and with knives this time!

WaPo wraps up powerfully, “The girl’s arrest comes as black churches and other houses of worship around the country have faced a wave of violence and intimidation.”  See, you hadn’t even heard about that!  I’m afraid it’s not quite clear to me whether the adjective “black” is intended to stretch to “other houses of worship”, or if the latter is clever MSM code for “mosque”.  (Of course, to WaPo, all Muslims are dark-skinned, so my interpretive confusion is a non-issue.)  And you certainly shouldn’t be misled into thinking that Christian churches everywhere are under escalating attack from outfits like WaPo to surrender their orthodox views on marriage, on gender, on the value of hard work… that’s not intimidation, it’s the inevitable friction of Neanderthal-meets-Homo Sapiens.  The real story here, once again, is that whites are out to murder blacks.  If you didn’t know that… well, what are news outlets for?

Sergeant Holbrook and his crack team apparently lost no time analyzing the girl’s Internet activity and ferreting out the insidious influence of WS propaganda; but they haven’t yet had the leisure to visit her high school and find out if,  just maybe, she had been routinely beaten up by black girls and decided upon the church attack as her revenge.  Wouldn’t it have been wonderfully Christian if she had stormed through an open church door, knife drawn, and then been talked to tears and surrender by the suffering Christ’s words of peace delivered by a true believer?  Maybe an invitation to sit with the group and pray instead of a call to 911?  We’ll never know if that might have happened—if someone other than Pastor Try-Her-As-An-Adult might have stood up and borne God’s message.

And we’ll never know about that high school situation, either.  Something tells me that the girl would have confessed that part of her motivation right out of the gate—and that our ambitious young investigators would instantly have buried it deep in the “unusable” file.

Squishy Faith vs. Hard Reality

I have become a Ryan Bomberger fan.  It appears that his October 7 post on townhall.com has been lifted without explanation from the archive, so I cannot now adequately reference it; but the discussion concerned whether or not evangelicals should be supporting Donald Trump.  Predictably, plenty of the mainstream media’s jabber-puppets have chastised the Christian community as a pious fraud for not denouncing a man so rude and worldly—a hard pill to swallow, when one considers that none of these self-anointed Jeremiahs has any faith beyond secular utopianism (or any recognition of moral stricture beyond leaving the boss’s parking space vacant).  One might as well listen to a jackass criticizing an eagle for not flapping his wings enough when he flies.

Bomberger was having none of it—nor was he won over by the argument of his co-religionists that Trump is foul-mouthed and says (generally via Twitter) hurtful things.  Naturally, the standard reply to such protests is that the anti-Trumps are one and all in favor of very late-term abortions, up to and including abandonment of a child “mistakenly” born alive; that one and all promote the chaotic non-enforcement of our border which has produced a magnet for human traffickers, child-molesters, and other two-legged monsters; and that one and all, therefore, have a lot more to answer for than a crude Tweet.

This was Ryan’s approach to dismissing, or diminishing, the so-called Christian objection.  I don’t know why it left me unsatisfied: certainly I disagreed with nothing in the article. I believe I was rankled, however, by all the things left unsaid.

Such as… well, we’ve been listening to a placatory Church now for most of my time on earth, its hat in hand, its head humbly bowed, its lips murmuring, “Who am I to judge?  Let him without sin cast the first stone.  If two gay people wish to marry… who am I to judge?  If two heterosexual people wish to cohabit and raise children outside the formal bonds of marriage… who am I to judge?  And I’m not going to judge our Muslim brethren, by any means!  Why should their faith be inferior to ours?  I wish they wouldn’t behead people… but those who do such things aren’t true Muslims, you know. And then there were the Crusades, where we behaved abominably!”

Oh.  And now you don’t want to dirty your hems by walking through the muck of Donald Trump’s Tweets.  Thank you for that sudden—very sudden, one might say random—burst of moral enlightenment, o ye beacons of the Christian faith!

I find myself wondering how these “good Christians” would have received a marine who returned home in 1945 after surviving Iwo Jima.  Would they throw him a parade down Main Street in Middleville, USA?  Excellent—good for them!  Let’s give the lad the key to our not-quite-city!  But what would have happened if the church-every-Sunday town fathers had discovered that the returning hero had collected an ear or two from Japanese corpses?  Would they pause to consider that the boy had passed several sleepless nights under fire, watched several of his buddies have their guts shot out, and seen his own young life flash before his eyes several times as he stormed machine gun nests in caves?  Or would they stop at the reflection, “Oh!  How brutal!”

I’m betting that the parade would have been canceled if our “good Christians” of today had lived seventy-something years ago.  Fortunately, they didn’t.  My grandfather wasn’t that kind of simpering, whiney, safe-zone-seeking study in moral anemia.  Neither was yours.  They would understand that when you put a man through living hell, he’s apt to do a lot more than exceed the exclamatory limits of, “My goodness gracious!” when his pal from boot camp loses the right side of his head.

I didn’t vote for Mr. Trump in 2016.  I didn’t like the “Lyin’ Ted” lie one bit, nor the insinuation that Cruz Senior had been implicated in the JFK assassination.  Those remarks were Bush League (and, no, the namby-pamby Bushes would never have made them… which was one of the few things I liked about the Bushes: they didn’t play in that league of cheap shots and behind-the-back trips).  But Trump has swallowed his own medicine times ten times ten since his election.  How many days, weeks, and months of 24/7 slandering by a pack of slavering media jackals could any of us put up with before we started shooting the bird at CNN?  Oh, Jeb would never have done such a thing, under any circumstances (and he would never have needed to; he would have been busily tossing the jackals some carrion).  Ted Cruz would have come back with a classier response… and he wouldn’t have come back from Iwo Jima with Japanese gold teeth in his pocket, either.

I can only speak for myself.  I get mad—really mad—when someone defames me.  If someone were to call me a Nazi before the camera, I wouldn’t smile: I hope I could confine myself to William Buckley’s, “You call me that again and I’ll punch you in your goddam mouth.”

Would I be less of a Christian for registering such a reaction?  Is that really what we’ve boiled our Christian faith down to: an insipid pabulum that amounts to never “hurting” anyone?  I’ve struggled for years with this bloodless, invertebrate morph of the faith in seminaries and at national conferences.   I thought we stood for truth; I thought we acknowledged our incapacity to grasp ultimate truth in our present state, but also accepted the direction of inner imperatives that forbade us to make peace with the self-serving prevarications of men.  I thought we humbled ourselves in confessing our passionate excesses—but that we also scorned death itself when ordered by despots to stand passively by and witness brutal abuse of helpless innocents.

I do not recognize my faith in the creed of our castrated male leaders and of our testosterone-charged females.  I will not apologize because my abiding by the rules of grammar makes you feel the oppressive fingers of the “patriarchy” or because my recipe for tacos smacks of “cultural appropriation” to you.  I’m not “sorry” that you feel “hurt” or “offended”.  On the contrary: your decision to feel hurt when you know nothing of my motives—or know damn well that they were not malevolent—offends me.  What kind of friend says to another friend, “I never want to see you again!  The way you said, ‘Hey there, old boy!’ reminds me of my father’s greetings—and he used to beat me!”  You’re insane if you mean that seriously.  As a Christian, I’ll tell you as much straight up and help you work through your problem, if you like.  The one thing I won’t do is help you pretend that you don’t have a problem.

I will most certainly vote for Donald Trump in 2020, foul mouth and all.  And I will do so as a Christian, because the campaign of incessant slanders and legalistic bullying launched against him by whited-sepulcher political hacks and prostituted propagandists sickens me to my stomach.  Just as indigestible to me are those who piously whine that a good man never “hurts” anyone.  I have no fraternal affinity left over for them: not any more.  If you won’t slap in the face a man who wants to leave babies unprotected, to surrender young girls to kidnappers and pimps, to deprive people of the right to self-defense, to brainwash schoolchildren into thinking that all sex is good sex, to invite unvetted adventurers from terrorist breeding grounds into quiet communities, to give mega-corporations free access in bidding wars to buy his patronage as he dangles restrictive legislation… if you won’t scream “scoundrel!” in that man’s face because it might hurt his feelings, but neither will you support the man who would stand up to him because the language might turn foul… if that’s where you are in your “faith”, brother, then you’re an empty fraud, and quite possibly a pompous idiot.

Denver, Part Three: Graveyard of Western Civilization

Gravitational center of nineteenth-century mining booms, cattle drives, and railway expansions… contemporary continental military hub, global tourist Mecca, and universal sporting paradise… scene of Indian massacres (Sandy Creek is just down the road) and anti-colonialist leftwing zealotry (the next Democratic convention may well happen here); home to a Christian revival movement flourishing alongside the newly legal pot industry… Denver is in microcosm the soup of incoherence which is American society past, present, and future.  But how long is our collective future to run, with so many strains pulling it in different directions?

As if in dramatization of all these worrisome paradoxes, the city’s international airport has for years been rumored to sit upon vast catacombs covertly and regally equipped to be a Dr. Strangelove kind of super-bunker.  The bizarre murals sprawling fully above ground at the same venue are said to encode an apocalyptic vision of how evil imperial forces will exterminate common humanity.

The business climate here is explosive, for the moment.  None of the city’s many skyscrapers dates beyond about half a century, and mega-engineering is ongoing to handle nightmarish traffic congestion.  Small shops in various subdivisions reap a bonanza off of selling sugar-free doughnuts or beef-rich burgers, kale salads or over-caffeinated coffee, mountain bikes or noisy ATF’s, exotic bongs or leathery cowboy boots.  Millionaire refugees from West Coast socialist republics converge upon the opportunities as fast as campesinos from Chihuahua; and both groups, in some perverse fatality, import the taste for paternalistic government whose consequences have driven them from their homes.  The nearby utopianist haven of Boulder has just banned “assault rifles”, indifferent to the phrase’s vacuity as a definition and also to the fact that most gun crime is perpetrated with pistols.

You don’t do things in our progressive urban centers because they are undergirded by logic or have a promise of practical success: you do them because you’re smarter and better than ordinary people, and it’s important for you to produce evidence of that superiority in every legislative cycle.

The girl who serves you at Mad Greens may show exemplary patience with your struggles to choose between a “Poe” and a “Ty Cobb” and even tender useful advice politely; then the same girl, a few hours later, may flip you off if you dare to park a car along the scenic boulevard where she’s biking.  There are rules that good people, the right people—the “better” people—all know, and you don’t belong here if you can’t divine them out of the thin, clean air.  Oddly and superficially, they seem to encode a high regard for rulelessness; but if you do not shred expectation and inhibition in just the proper way, you’re likely to suffer the fate of the clueless yokel who dares to take a Sunday stroll in the Puritan New England dissected by Toqueville.

I’ve been hard on Denver in my remarks over the past weeks; but what I’m really chafing at is the incoherence of our entire contradictory and (I fear) suicidal society.  Denver, like so many great cities, simply represents the vanguard of our rush to the abyss.  The traffic is horrendous and insane, infinitely more dangerous than any Rifle from Hell—and I’m sure that Big Oil is much to blame for landing us in this outer circle of Inferno.  But the “green” alternative is always to produce more mass transit, which invariably invites more waste and corruption as politicians and contractors feel each other out in the frontier whorehouse of “progress”.

An acceptable coping mechanism for the trauma of modern living is to get high in one of several ways—and this, too, is good for business. Not just pot-growing and selling, but Hollywood’s parallel universe, video games, the paraphernalia-cluttered option of sports fandom, the kaleidoscopic music scene in nightclubs… the gear-intensive hobbies of camping, hiking, and biking… let’s go anywhere, as long as it’s out of this world (in Baudelaire’s phrase); and, by the way, let’s be sure to bring our wallets.  Don’t let us forget to take the checkbook to church, either.  For even our contemporary version of Christianity (and I reiterate that I’m not just talking about Denver now) is marijuana without risk of lung disease: love everybody, peace everywhere, judge no one and nothing, fly and sing and swoon!… and even our churches, with their multiple ministries and high-tech delivery systems, are big business.

What we all need at the most basic spiritual level is stillness, quiet, and a welcome predictability that comes of benign routine… and I don’t know if Denverites find any of these or not as they bike up bare slopes in constant view of other trekkers (and their dogs).  Whatever epiphany they access in their churches seems to me certainly more akin to last night’s multi-decibel nightclub adventure than this afternoon’s race to hike across the park before the next cloudburst brews up from nowhere.

What we all need at the most basic material level is food, water, and shelter; but the twenty-first century has decreed that these needs may be supplied only through wages or through highly centralized and impersonal delivery systems to which we have a “right”.  Not only can we do nothing directly for ourselves: we’ve forgotten what it is that we need to do.  Most of us can’t grow a potato, collect and filter rainwater, or repair a leaky roof.  Instead, we clamor for jobs, jobs, jobs; and then, when the soul-numbing drudgery of racking up designer clothing or flipping burgers overpowers us, we demand a guaranteed minimum income.  We wave in destitute Mexicans to perform the tasks that “Americans just won’t do”.  Eventually, however, even mopping out toilets will be rendered obsolete by a robot named Hazel who sterilizes surfaces with a laser.  Our “guest workers” are already insisting upon their shared human right to “live with dignity”—and we can scarcely counter that the work we ourselves disdained was dignified before Siri and Alexa and Hazel took it over.  So…

So where do all these downward spirals end?  If we do not recover the power individually to produce food and water from the earth and sky and to make clever adjustments to our living conditions with our own hands, what good will it do us to puff away and listen to some contemporary John Denver croon about his Rocky Mountain High?

Thanksgiving Lite vs. True Gratitude

Like just about every other thoughtful person, I’m a little queasy when I hear all the Christian-lite bromides at this time of year. “Thank you for our health.” So the ailing are hated of God? “Thank you for our family.” Pagans have families, too; so do murdering drug-cartel kingpins. “Thank you for peace.” Well, sort of… only don’t go for an evening walk without a concealed weapon unless you live in an exclusive gated community; and if it’s peace in the world to which you refer, I guess you mean, “Thank you for not making me Mexican, so that I don’t inhabit a nation that produced 21,000 murders last year and 30,000 surviving casualties.”

That’s a little Pharisaical, don’t you think? “Thank you for not making me like that filthy publican at the altar.”

And then we have the unnerving fact that what we fear and loathe most is often what we most need. We don’t know what to be thankful for. Maybe our raise is just going to plunge us into a more materialistic lifestyle. Maybe being bumped to part-time will make us become more creative and independent. Should we be thankful that we can afford to view more trashy Hollywood movies and stuff ourselves on more sweets and fats… or should we be thankful that we’re now having to read books for amusement and grow potatoes and beans in the back yard? How we hate being forced into virtue! When that doesn’t happen, we’re so damn thankful!

I have enough of the old pagan in me that I’m almost afraid to be thankful for anything, lest I make a target out of myself. “Thanks for our prosperous investments… oh, my God! Did you see how much the Dow just plunged?” There’s an Irish saying that runs, Mol an là um trathnóna—“Praise the day as the sun goes down.” It’s the same sentiment that we find at the end of Sophocles’ Oedipus the King and ascribed to Solon by Herodotus: “Let no man be called blessed before he is safely dead and secure from the world’s shocks.”

In my more Christian moments, however—truly Christian—I know that I must die to this world some day, and I am grateful for the little clues that alert me to a “winding down”. I am grateful that I can see a way to start tying loose ends together—to leave some sort of legacy that will warn others against living just for the here and now. And, yes, I’m grateful for something to put on the table. “Let each day’s worries be sufficient unto itself.” I am grateful that we get by, that the sun and the rain fall on good and evil alike, and that the means of survival are always within reach of the humble and hard-working. I want to learn more about those means in my final years, and I want to do more about passing them along. Simply feeling the days lengthen and then shorten, simply studying how the earth grows food and then gives it up to those who know her secrets, is a vitally important part of understanding bountifulness and feeling gratitude for it.

I am not grateful to this culture we have created which has carried us so far away from such understanding and such gratitude.

 

My Charitable Org Signs Off

(Below is the approximate text of the notice that I intend to send out for the final edition of an online journal that began seventeen years ago.)

The final issue of Praesidium has now been published. After seventeen years of struggle, the journal has failed, and more generally my vision for the Center for Literate Values has evaporated into pixie dust. The reasons for the collapse are detailed in my opening article for 17.4, and many have to do with my personal ineptitude as a Webmaster; but the ultimate and decisive reason is that our society is significantly, perhaps terminally post-literate, and that no amount of expertise could have salvaged the project. As I view the contemporary landscape, I see staggering evidence of a people that has taken progressive leave of reality.

Item: The Commanders in Chief who presided over the first sixteen years of the new millennium (almost precisely overlapping the lifespan of the Center) did nothing whatever to secure the nation’s power grid, thus neglecting their primary constitutional duty as they went merrily courting new venues of patronage and popularity. Their gross incompetence (and, in my mind, criminal negligence) is surely a prime reason why we cannot face down North Korea, any one of whose satellites drifting over our air space could be the platform for launching an Electro-Magnetic Pulse that would leave as many as ninety percent of us dead within a year.

Item: In the face of such crisis, our elected representatives continue to escalate our levels of debt to the point that national suicide of an economic variety is virtually inevitable.

Item: In the face of these accumulating crises, the base of one major party nominated a wooden sociopath to run for the nation’s highest office—a person constantly forced to imitate the reactions of her trusted entourage in the absence of any natural human affections and whose tone-deafness to the anguish and danger incurred by her fellows is directly implicated in the deaths of some under her authority. Meanwhile, the base of the other major party attempted to out-under-perform this selection by elevating a man who never reads and whose vocabulary consists only of hyperbolic clichés, his lifetime of exploiting legal loopholes and greasing the pumps of local political machines taken—incredibly—as proof of his “outsider” bona fides. As one after another of his bombastic promises crumples under the pressures of hard fact, we are now treated to the unsavory spectacle of these same boosters trying to fashion their Stump King into Charlemagne with feats of imagination reminiscent of children shaping castles out of clouds.

Item: Young people populating supposed institutions of higher learning are expensively protesting the free speech of those who might make them rethink their rigid programming, noisily insisting that they receive the fetal protections which they scorn to extend to genuine fetuses, and aggressively insulting everyone in whose casual utterances they can ferret out the unintended tinder of a faint slight.

Item: Descendants of slaves (but which of us is not one such, if only we knew our entire pre-history?) are defacing public property that may or may not commemorate men who actually owned slaves a century and a half ago, all on behalf of a political ideology that aspires to mire them—and the rest of us—in cradle-to-grave dependency.

Item: Among college students, probably a ninety percent majority (in my personal experience) is convinced to a pitch of quasi-cultic fervor that manmade climate change imminently threatens the survival of terrestrial life. An essential tenet of the cult is that only big government can save us, this despite the distinct possibility that the world’s most affluent governing elites have been playing at the manipulation of global weather systems for strategic purposes since the late twentieth century—a highly risky set of exercises about which our young bright things know absolutely nothing, but which might in fact be responsible for major damage to the natural weather cycle.

Item: University programs in the liberal arts continue at an accelerating rate to ascribe all the miseries implicit in the human condition to a) maleness and b) white racism. We have surpassed the kindergartner’s “Billy made me do it” defense, inasmuch as the charges now grow savagely vindictive and their consequences increasingly punitive. The Western literary canon, along the way, has become hopelessly shattered and scattered, its contents lost to the next generation and the entire spiritual discipline of speculating within reasonably objective boundaries forgotten for the duration.

Item: Meanwhile, the Christian Church (including all of its denominations) has likewise slipped its moorings and gone adrift. The notion of tolerance was once understood as an acknowledgment that we are all impeded from realizing our identity in God by subjugation to various circumstantial factors: wealth, praise, fleshly pleasures, fear of physical pain or privation, and all the rest. Now those very chains are accepted from the pulpit as defining us (a specific race, an anomalous sexual preference, an eating disorder), and the utopian’s blueprint for the perfect society—built according to the aspirations of an elite few—is an overlay forced upon every Gospel passage. We are no longer kept from our true self in God by worldly interference; immersion in the world, rather, is the only path to this new god (who is at least as manmade as “climate change”).

So the Center for Literate Values failed. Of course it did. How do you make an omelet out of mud?