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

I was vague, and probably imprecise, in my previous post about what I consider might become one of the most important provisions (perhaps the most important) in the neo-constitutional Federated States of America.  Obviously, I’m still thinking this through—and doing so with infinitely more distress than Nancy Pelosi brought to her impeachment charade, whose “sad and solemn” fruition she commemorated by regaling all signators with gold pens, courtesy of your and my taxes.  Do we need a more graphic illustration of constitutional government’s demise?  If you’re in such need, read Rachel Alexander’s analysis of Steve Stockman’s continued immolation at the hands of Obama-appointed judges this past week.  The legislative branch has turned lynch mob, and the judicial branch ties hangman’s knots while hearing cases.

Anyway… when I wrote last week that individual states should be free to demand ten years of stable residency before allowing citizens to vote in their elections, I was insufficiently clear about the this provision’s being an allowance.  That is, it’s a “take it or leave it” proposition.  Those states preferring to let everyone vote who shows up at the polls (as the city of New York has essentially just done) should be utterly free to build their house on such grainy sand.  My approach has much of the libertarian about it.  Any viable alternative to our present, insistent slouch toward Sodom and Gomorrah must graphically confront a lazy, self-indulgent populace with starkly opposing options.  Both will be harsh, because they must be at this point.  “You want freedom?  Then stitch your own safety net.  You want a master?  Then eat your fill of servitude.”  I believe that people, alone and in aggregate, should be permitted to behave like idiots as long as their neighbors are not placed in jeopardy.  Nothing short of constant cold douses in reality’s waters will salvage fragments of our democratic republic.

I assume, of course—who wouldn’t?—that most people will soon tire of idiocy and choose to grow up a bit.  The mass exodus of taxpayers from the West Coast, its beautiful scenery notwithstanding, suggests as much.  Denying such refugees (if I may use that word in circumstances where it actually applies) the right to vote immediately in their new home state is, in a sense, for their own good.  The contagion which they flee may, after all, be incubating in their veins.  It must have time to germinate, run its feverish course, and at last be repelled by more healthy influences.

In the meantime, “idiot states” must not be allowed automatic access to the resources of their more disciplined neighbors.  Provision of a common defense is indispensable: it is, indeed, the single preemptive function allotted to the federal government by the Constitution (and the single function, as well, which impeachment-frenzied Democrats and fundraising-frenzied Republicans stubbornly neglect).  In the formal fragmentation which I believe must overtake our national polity if we are to preserve its vital pieces, federal tax dollars will go almost entirely to defense.  Huge central bureaucracies whose unelected ideologues issue dictatorial decrees must vanish.

In practical terms, this means that the much-reduced central government of our looser federation will not mandate a national minimum wage.  It will (of course—obviously) not require that everyone have health insurance.  It will not harrow the work environment with OSHA police constantly holding ruinous fines over the heads of small-business owners.  It will not define marriage for the entire nation or enforce punitive measures upon wedding caterers with religious principles.  It will not “create winners and losers” by micro-managing citizens’ lives even after they end (as in promulgating “standards” that enrich unionized undertakers and delight peddlers of life insurance).

The Department of Education, the Department of Labor, the Department of Health and Human Services… all gone, all abolished.  The original Constitution provides for no such bureaucratic mega-engineering.  The mushroom-like proliferation careerist autocrats lording it over key areas of ordinary existence has become a primary impediment to our basic freedoms.  A critic is sure to protest, “But how, then, may we rest assured that our trans-continental roads have secure bridges?”  The interstate highway system, it seems to me, in fact provides an excellent example of a costly boondoggle.  For years, my wife and I regularly made the transit from Texas to Georgia and back.  When my son was in college, our adventures would also take us north to Sioux City and (later) northwest to Denver about once every four months.  Although almost all of our mileage was logged on interstate highways, the disparity in road quality was striking.  Evidently, the money delivered to State X for construction and maintenance was not always spent as wisely as it was in State Y.  The moral of the story is this.  Intrusive bureaucracy is inefficient, at best.  At worst (and most often), it is a corruption-generating engine.  It primes local political machines that prosper on feeding special interests.

Let individual states work out their own priorities and find their own resources for addressing them.  It has to be this way: it must and will be this way sooner or later, when the dollar turns into the Weimar Deutschmark.  If Louisiana’s public schools are less like the Taj Mahal than Oregon’s, then perhaps Louisianans have decided—or should decide—to concentrate their sparse funding on teaching basic math rather than building Olympic swimming complexes on select campuses.  I realize that local bond issues usually raise the cash for such lavish flights to Cloudcuckooland; but it’s my impression, as well, that federal grants often enter the mix—and certainly that federal mandates figure in the “necessity” of this or that costly overhaul.

Now, a cluster of three or four contiguous states might certainly share a lively interest in keeping their connective transportation arteries in a high state of repair.  Indeed, there should be no legal impediment to the coalescence of willing individual states into corporate entities.  An area where agriculture is of supreme importance might wish to share educational resources in order to maximize productive, cost-effective farming.  An area unusually exposed to penetration by foreign smugglers might wish to pool its enforcement resources with special intensity.  And, yes, if certain states are bound and determined to meet their energy needs with wind turbines and solar panels, then they might wish to string their carcinogenic, wildlife-slaughtering gear up and down the Cascades while swapping native shamans from various tribes to bless their lunacy.  (Like wasteful spending on highways, however, this particular rip-off engine would break down as soon as federal funds no longer existed to prime its squalid corporatist pump.)

In the final years of the Soviet Union, I recall hearing of an assessment within the Kremlin (I cannot now recover the source) that foresaw the U.S. fragmenting into five distinct national units—which the Russians, no doubt, anticipated exploiting.  Mr. Putin will most surely seek to woo the more brain-cooked regions of our political Chernobyl into an alliance if we do not preserve a defensive unity.  Yet it would be reasonable to suppose that the Northeast, the South, the West Coast, the Great Lakes region, and the flyover “breadbasket” of the central continent would all find advantages in a degree of revenue- and infrastructure-sharing.  We have developed a toxic pattern of top-down, “obey or else” collaboration in these Disunited States since Franklin Roosevelt’s take-over of our system.  Why not return to voluntary associations freely forged and dissolved by citizens pursuing their own best interest?  Again, the one stricture which must be scrupulously maintained is the defensive one—and its preservation, if one may judge from the level of subversion ongoing in our nation’s capital, will almost certainly require a dusting off of such archaic measures as lifetime exile and execution for high treason.

A final messy point lingering from last week’s projections will suffice to turn my stomach against this unpleasant subject for another several days… but our renegade federal judiciary simply has to be dealt with.  Any serious constitutionalist must fear its activity far more than that of Hezbollah.  In recent weeks, Daniel Horowitz has brilliantly explained on Conservative Review why having a critical mass of Constitution-friendly judges on the Supreme Court and throughout the land is no solution to our crisis at all; for the real problem is that we have accepted—we citizens, our legislators, our chief executive—that any federal judge can sideline any initiative from any other branch of government (or, indeed, from a higher court) by going ideologically ballistic.  As a concerned sexagenarian taxpayer who has no formal training in law (and who refuses to watch Law and Order reruns), I quickly wander out of my depth when I consider our legal system.  I have managed to overcome a natural embarrassment at my own shortcomings only because I’ve come to realize that many of our judges have jettisoned everything they ever learned in law school.  Yes, the Constitution provides for a Supreme Court, and my comments of last week vigorously questioned the need of that body in a looser federation, where state (and possibly regional) supreme courts would have the ultimate say.  Yet enforcement merely of the common obligation to provide for and collaborate in national defense would require some august body of arbiters who could hang traitors from a yardarm.  I recognize, then, that a Supreme Court would serve an essential function.  I also recognize, though, that it’s not serving that function very plausibly at present.

For now, let me sign off with this straightforward dichotomy.  Some people in our nation desire us to become the People’s Republic of America.  Several (far, far too many) of our elected representatives have indeed expressed enthusiastic approval of Castro’s Cuba and Mao’s (now Xi’s) China.  These people should be disqualified from positions of influence.  My proposals would clarify the moral foundation of such denial.  Let us present states—and even regions—with the option to become as socialist as they wish while still collaborating in the defense of the broader free republic.  If they prefer to side with China against their neighboring states where self-defensive weapons are legal and where humanity has only two genders, then ban them from public office; and if they grow militant, then banish them from the republic.  Reject their citizenship.  If I’m content to live next door to you although you have two dozen cats running throughout the house, but you keep breaking my windows in order to thrust felines into my living space, then… then you should go to the lock-up for your insanity, not I for my “intolerance”.  I’m confident that, even in our advanced stage of cultural dissolution, most Americans would agree with this verdict.

Let Freedom Ring… Where? How?

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This roundabout discussion begins with a strange “revelation” that struck me earlier in the month.  Question: why does almost nobody in either house of Congress appear concerned about a 23-trillion-dollar national debt (not counting unfunded liabilities that would run up the tab at least fourfold)?  Some of our elected representatives can’t count, granted; and some are so deeply mired in graft and corruption that their interest in their fellow citizens’ future is equivalent to Marie Antoinette’s.  Yet I consider it obtusely cynical to consign virtually every member of both parties to one of these two categories.  What about the members who can do addition without their fingers and toes and who have also graduated to a modicum of normal adult responsibility?  How can they sit by and watch the dollar’s purchase power overheat and explode?

Answer (revelation): they must genuinely believe that the dollar’s collapse will be a good thing.

How can they believe this?  Because in such calamitous circumstances, the nations of the world would have to become—in a word much beloved of President Clinton whenever he discussed economic issues—interdependent.  All nations having grown equally insolvent, various political rivals around the planet will have to patch up their differences and create a single worldwide system.  Though I understand pitifully little about banking, it seems to me (based upon my limited research) that the world banking industry has already taken large strides toward assuming control over everybody’s finances, thanks to digitalization and other “initiatives”.  Baron Rothschild et al., for example, have a very clever plan for transforming “carbon credits” into a single world currency, centrally controlled by… Baron Rothschild et al.

All the same, would that be such a insufferably bad thing—I mean, one big clunking system?  The truth is that we haven’t yet seen a World War III, with over half a century having been run off the clock since the Cold War’s first dark days.  China, for all her saber-rattling, obviously knows that she can bring us to our knees just by standing back and watching us collapse under the effects of our own moral flabbiness.  No need for her to push buttons that may envelope the planet in radioactive dust for centuries: just let the Yanks continue to forget how to procreate, to snarl at each other because of skin color, and to medicate themselves with gateways to what Baudelaire aptly called “artificial paradises”.

Okay… I can see how some worldly-wise attorney whose understanding of human nature and history hovers at imbecilic levels would buy into this vision enthusiastically.  No more war.  No more borders.  No more doctors for some but not for others.  We know that Congress’s membership now includes several genuine, outspoken socialists—and many, many more on the Republican side have imbibed of Socialism Lite and decided that they can get used to the slightly sickening aftertaste.  Besides… well, I no doubt drew too heavy a line earlier between the principled and the corrupt.  You can endorse the “no more wars, no more borders” scenario in principle and also calculate, in the back of your mind, how you and your children are bound to enjoy certain privileges as members of the governing elite.

For the rest of us, though… I ask sincerely: what would be the disadvantages of living under a one-world government whose citizens are now forced to settle their differences without mushroom clouds?

I suggest that we can effectively prophesy daily life in such a “terminally safe” world just by looking closely—or, even better, viewing distantly for enhanced perspective—the beams and joists rising all about us right now.  Let this picture settle into focus. We would be fed constantly the “soma” of the broadcast media to sustain our state of contented ignorance and somnolent amusement.  We would be disarmed to ensure that the rare individual who went off his meds wouldn’t pose much of a threat.  We would be watched around the clock by indefatigable electronic eyes.  If we strayed into a public expression of “unproductive” criticism (and all criticism of the Unit, of course, would be classed as unproductive), Nanny Google would send us into time-out.  (In the classic BBC serial, The Prisoner, the extreme form of time-out—utter social ostracism—follows the Village Council’s verdict that one’s behavior is “unmutual”.)  Intrusive oversight wouldn’t stop at utterances, either. Our very facial expressions and body language would be monitored and graded.  The “People’s Republic” of China is already blazing the trail with ubiquitous surveillance cameras and a system of “virtue points”.  Those detected in moody or uncooperative attitudes would see their “credit score” docked sufficiently to deny them travel rights, perhaps, or to thwart their children’s entry into a good school. (Egalitarianism notwithstanding, the “right school” will remain a secret passage into the oligarchic elite’s corridors of power.)  I believe the Trump Administration has nodded in the direction of allowing similar surveillance to influence Second Amendment rights.  Nothing to worry about just yet, just now… but if you pay attention to the sand vibrating under the soles of your shoes, you can indeed discern the thump-thump-thump of some rough beast slouching toward Bethlehem to be born.

So… there’s your choice.  Option One: life without fear of nuclear holocaust or immolation in Walmart’s bread aisle when a psycho’s girlfriend splits, at the cost of having your brow movements monitored as you brush your teeth.  Option Two: risk of all the fears eliminated in Option One, but with minimal cost of invisible surveillance and moralistic lecturing from Super-Nanny.  The more elderly of us will resist the first choice as its popularity swells, and we’ll probably end up in a mass grave after we flunk out of Re-education Camp for the third time.  The younger of us will be right at home with two-way mirrors everywhere they go, since they actually invite such constant universal exposure into their lives already with their “devices”.

Die, then, old warhorses!  Ye shall not by much precede the generation of asses who win but a few more years before the Committee on Social Harmony euthanizes them as they wait for a hip or knee replacement.

But is there really no alternative?  Are not our so-called “sanctuary cities” in fact pointing us in its direction?  What if we created discrete communities wherein people could live by their own rules—what if we went in that direction rather than transforming the entire human race into robots with uniform behavioral programming?  Let the West Coast, for instance, have marriage of species to other species or of one to three, five, or ten; borders that appear only on paper; one school curriculum, one income, one housing module, and one doctor with one bag of meds for all and sundry; free weed; and elections modeled after Major League Baseball’s All Star Game, where you vote as many times as you like.  Let those happy campers become a province of China, for all I care: they already are, for all I can make out.

On the other side of the continent, let the Southeast insist upon postings of the Ten Commandments in all public places.  Let her citizens be required to carry self-defensive weapons upon exiting the front door.  Abolish school districts: let each school teach that curriculum which concerned parents approve.  Let marriage exist only between a man and a woman, and let vandals who deface monuments cool their heels for a few months in the calaboose.

Let residents of one area who flee its “horrors” to a more congenial space be required to have settled in for five years before they enjoy full voting rights; and let regional legislatures be required to approve new law in two sessions with an intermission of at least two years between confirmations.  Build in some stability, some “drag”. Give customs and manners a fighting chance against George Soros and Mark Zuckerberg. Let cultures separate out according to their preferred values… and let surrounding cultures honor the shift of ethos that accompanies crossing a boundary marked on paper.

Why is this vision a pipedream?  Idealistic critics will say, “We went through all this Tenth Amendment crap with slavery.  If higher moral principle had not trumped regional special interests, human beings might still be laboring under the whip in the Deep South.”  Well… the rude release of illiterate and unskilled slave populations into “freedom” was in fact responsible for much of the misery that descendants of freedmen carried well into the next century; and the considerable opposition to slavery within the South would have expelled it even before the Civil War, perhaps, if national politics hadn’t introduced a complex friction of economic interests (cf. Marc Egnal’s Clash of Extremes).  May I point out, too, that many of our idealists who would raise this protest make no such noise when Muslim immigrants insist upon introducing the brutality of Sharia into their new neighborhoods?

The real obstacle, of course, is practical.  What will keep regional equivalents of the insatiably power-hungry Chinese elite—or the Chinese themselves—from occupying Alabama if New Mexico becomes a convenient launching point? Should states (and I mean all political states, not just the late-great “united” ones) solemnly undersign a treaty that will require each to come to the rescue if a bully invades a weakling? But we know this won’t work. Our current domestic politics show us nothing if not that progressive ideologues treat promises with contempt—and why wouldn’t they? Since reality is “evolving”, the circumstances involved in the promise you made yesterday are already irrelevant tomorrow.

The Chinese will lie, as they always do (unless truth proves more expedient in specific instances); and their ally states from California to Washington will connive at the lying, since their governing elite is more Machiavellian than that founding father of calculated duplicity. I see no alternative but for more principled states to bend their principles—near the breaking point sometimes—in the formation of effective counter-alliances. The Southeast, for instance, could team readily enough with Israel… but to muster the muscle necessary for browbeating China into retreat, it might also have to pact with Putin. India is another obvious friend; but Indonesia? Some of the more stable, adult-friendly Islamic republics?

This is a new pair of unsavory options. Do you lock arms with a neighbor who beats his wife as the pirates come streaming off their ship… or do you board up your own doors and windows, hoping for the best? The survival of states where the individual may still be free to grope his way toward God will almost certainly depend upon alliances with other states whose god is not ours.

Putin at least claims to be Christian, and at least makes an outward show of valuing the nuclear family and a modest level of public decency. He sent the obscene Pussy Riot crew to prison for a year: not an act that sits well with an American constitutionalist, but vastly preferable to Ted Wheeler’s allowing Antifa to bludgeon harmless bystanders. Aleksandr Litvinenko was probably poisoned on Putin’s nod… yes, and Vince Foster probably didn’t commit suicide. Putin seized Crimea—after a public plebiscite overwhelmingly approved the annexation. Putin silences dissident reporters, we hear; minister’s daughter Angela Merkel silences them at least as well with the help of former East German propagandists policing the Internet and wielding “hate speech” like a Stasi thug’s choke-hold. Our Pythoness, Wikipedia, warns that Putin’s trusted advisor, Aleksandr Dugin, is a fascist—but Dugin seems very confused himself about his pedigree: an anti-communist who admires Lenin and a Russian nationalist who treasures culturally diverse traditions.

When the most important thing is at last to have co-signatories in the mutual defense pact who keep their word, it may be that belief in God—some immortal god, any creator-god—is the only relevant factor in resisting the aggressive holy war of Secular Utopians, whose god is tear-it-all-down Whimsy. Societies whose members hold something immutable and sacred beyond this world’s terms are under vast attack. (I’m not keen on the Koran—but we “Islamophobes” should notice what the Chinese are doing to the Uighurs.) While not all such “believing” societies encourage the individual search for the divine, the alternative is an annihilation of the divine in bursts of individual petulance that soon settle into an animal sameness (lust, fear, envy, and the rest).

Of course, if our critical requirement for alliance is a belief in a higher power that postpones utter joy and perfect justice to another dimension, then a good many of our “Christian” ministers and priests will have to ally themselves with our adversaries. We would have to banish them to California, if they aren’t already there.

In summary, I would dare to say that a realistic hope for humane civilization is possible… but only if we don’t hope for too much humanity from our military back-up.

Polarization Can Be Good… But Not in Cases of Magnetic Fraud

My wife insists that the whippoorwill fond of cranking it up every dawn outside our window isn’t the real thing—that she recalls the song’s full range from her childhood, and that this strident alarm clock doesn’t have it down properly.  Interesting.  You can believe me or not… but cardinals no longer sound the same as they once did.  I realize that we’ve moved much farther east, and that birds have dialects; but even when we yet lived in Texas, and even for years before I was married, the cardinal’s repertoire had been much reduced from what I distinctly recall as a boy.  For some reason, I have a very good aural memory (to compensate for my poor retention of faces).

What could explain this phenomenon of the bird world—the equivalent of great-great-grandfather Feathers handing down the line, “The wind, it bloweth where it listeth,” only to have the contemporary generation produce, “Wow, breeze comin’ from everwure today!”  We humans (or those few of us who remain alert to such things) understand that cultural impoverishment occurs when a population disperses over too much area too rapidly.  I dimly recall that Ortega y Gasset wrote an essay about how badly the Latin language decayed around the Empire’s peripheries during the second and third centuries.  Is it so far-fetched to suppose that bird populations have been similarly stressed by human activity?  They’ve had to spread out rapidly and resourcefully, just to survive.  In the process, the songs that they transmitted to the next generation were truncated, simplified, and—in a word—impoverished.

This doesn’t mean that our world will end in twelve years, or that we can stabilize the avian repertoire if we will only drive hybrid cars.  Yet I find in it a measure of how risky our high-tech, progressive, ever more urbanized habits of living have become.  We’re mutilating a quality of life constantly whose former richness we don’t begin to suspect.  I used to observe to students that Edgar Allen Poe’s Monsieur Dupin (the forefather of Sherlock Holmes) could direct a friend’s gaze to the Andromeda Galaxy from the streets of Paris without drawing a cry of “foul” from Poe’s readership.  These days, you’d need a pair of binoculars to locate the same one-degree swirl of stardust out in the boondocks.  Now, Poe never actually traveled to Paris… but the point is that his claim seemed plausible a little less than two hundred years ago. Our skies were once incredibly clean.

Am I somehow being a “defector from conservatism” to volunteer such concerns?  That would be an odd association of ideas, inasmuch as I’m speaking on behalf of conserving our natural environment from tasteless, needless, often poisonous artifice.  Yet so it is, in our lunatic present.  Because the Green movement has been kidnapped by One World Order types who want a central government to peer into every facet of our daily routine, any protest against commercialist exploitation that leaves forests or plains in ruins (such as wind turbines, may I say) is a kind of closet-Marxism. At least that’s what I’m given to understand in certain quarters that consider their right-wing bona fides irreproachable.

I’ve recently been “tweeting” (in notes far less lyrical than a cardinal’s) with a veteran of the armed services about the extreme inadvisability of the Pompeo-Bolton campaign of saber-rattling in Iran’s face.  Our own border is under assault—and we’re trying to ignite a powder keg halfway around the world because… because we wish to preempt the evil influence of Islam on global peace and create a terrestrial paradise.  I thought we’d worked—or I thought the putative Right had worked—through such utopian delusions during the two terms of the junior Mr. Bush.  Yet I’m a traitor, in some eyes, for not wanting to send Xenophon into Persia with ten thousand Spartans.  Wasn’t Mr. Trump supposed to have been elected in large measure because our society had had quite enough of such adventurous meddling in foreign affairs under Bush and Obama?  (And, for that matter, isn’t a solidifying of relations with Russia, drawing her away from our real and ultimate enemy—the PRC—a much more rational path to world peace?  And how will stirring up things in Iran extend an olive branch to Russia?)

About a month ago, I posted a piece about my change of heart on capital punishment.  I initially thought it a rather boring scribble—but few things I’ve ever published have drawn more fire… or, I should correct, “spirited exception”.  I’m of the opinion that the sore spots I apparently mashed exist because those opposed to the death penalty don’t mince words about what ravenous animals their adversaries are.  The discussion on this issue, as on most other national issues, has grown so polarized that a flag of truce soliciting a conference is immediately mistaken for the battle flag of a charging phalanx.

This past week, my adoptive state of Georgia and her immediate neighbor Alabama have drawn the ire of various Hollywood ghouls and media darlings for pushing back the highly permissive limits surrounding legal abortion.  My position is pro-Tenth Amendment.  Since abortion isn’t a right guaranteed to all Americans under the Bill of Rights (and, no, there is no Abortion Amendment implied in the Fourteenth’s ban of slavery, contrary to Hollywood analysis), let individual states set the boundary where they deem it appropriate.  Similarly, why may not the marriage ceremony be purged of any civil (read “tax/insurance”) significance and returned to its pristine religious dimension?  Faiths or denominations that choose to bless the union of two men or two women—or a human and a dog—may do so.  I don’t have to subscribe to them.  I shouldn’t even be required to say pleasant things about them in public… but the law prevents me from hurling rocks through windows or delivering dead cats to doorsteps.  That’s the nature of a liberal (i.e., free) society.

How “right-extremist” is the previous paragraph, and how “left-anarchic”?  I wouldn’t say that it was any of either… but it depends upon whom you ask, doesn’t it?  Invisibly, imperceptibly, a checklist of necessary positions appears to have evolved for either “side”—and I must throw quotes around “side”, because I myself see no very coherent line separating the rows of boxes, but only an insane zigzag.  If the Left’s hyperventilating hysteria over the “Trump Phenomenon” has any degree of validity, it must center upon the abject devotion registered by the man’s followers… you know, like that pledged so often on the Left to their endless stream of Peerless Leaders, Big Brothers, and Dear Friends.  Yeah, that worries me, too: wherever I see it, it worries me.  I very much doubt that Mr. Trump himself has ever before thought deeply about some the crises suddenly confronting him (hence his being persuaded to trust people like Pompeo and Bolton).

I’m not going to finish by writing, “Maybe we can all just calm down a bit.”  I’m not calm.  I have a son living in Denver, whose space-cadet town council seems intent on legalizing every hallucinogen known to shaman or rockstar.  I wish we could be “uncalm” in a consistent manner, however.  People of principle get worked up about behaviors that shred their principles; people of uncomposed mind get worked up about anything whose appearance in their peripheral vision startles them.