Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Have we become cowards

It's been almost 20 years since "A Nation of Cowards" by Jeffrey Snyder, was published. A .pdf copy can be downloaded here.

Much more recently, Chris Hernandez, published a posting to his blog entitled "A Culture of Entrenched Cowardice".

I recommend both of these. They make some points that I think those of us on the pro-gun side need to understand as the ongoing debate over gun rights vs gun control continues. Read them. Then read them again, over and over.

Now, I think both of these sources point to the single biggest obstacle we face as we make the case for widespread ownership of firearms by law abiding citizens. Many people who favor increased gun control do not believe the average citizen has the capacity to appropriately and effectively defend himself or herself and others. More than that, they reject the idea that self-defense is even justifiable, especially if it involves the use of deadly force. Rather, they believe that the best response to violence or the threat of violence is passive submission. To them, life is not a gift from God to be guarded jealously. They are convinced, regardless of beliefs about God, that you should not value yourself, your life or your dignity (or that of those who depend on you) so much that you are willing to take whatever steps are necessary to protect them.

To the true believers in gun control, the life of a person who would deprive you of your life, your safety, your dignity and that of your children or spouse, is as valuable as yours. They view your belief in the right, and even obligation, to self-defense as a sign of uncivilized barbarism. It is a thing to be not only avoided, but wiped out, replaced by a trust in and dependence on the state to take care of you. Forget the fact that the courts have ruled the police have no obligation to protect the individual citizen. Forget the fact that the police are almost never present until after some outrage has been committed. Forget the fact that you may have a spouse, children or elderly parent depending on you for protection. Forget even that ensuring only the state and criminals have access to instruments of deadly force ensures that most citizens (except for the well-connected) will be always at the mercy of those who possess those instruments and that this is barbarism. These are irrelevant to those who believe rights arise from the largesse of the state rather than from the fact that you are human. If you are to be free, it will be because the state permits it. If you are to be protected, it will be by the state. Any independence or self-reliance you have is that allowed by the state.

This, then, is the struggle we face. How do we discuss gun rights with those who not only have a different view of guns than we do, but who have a fundamentally different view of self-defense and the source of our rights? It does no good to remind them of what the Constitution says. They respond that the 2nd Amendment (or even the Constitution itself) is hopelessly outdated and/or doesn't mean what it says. It doesn't help to speak of self-defense as a human right, because to them most rights arise from the state rather than being independent of the state. And, since rights arise from the state, it simply makes no sense to them that a purpose of the 2nd Amendment even contemplates citizens holding the threat of force over the head of the state as a reminder of their ultimate sovereignty. It must, of necessity, mean something else. So, then, what will work?

First, as much as possible, we have to choose our battles. While I go a blog owned by a fervent believer in gun control, I don't tell myself I'm going to get him to change his mind. It's not going to happen and it's not going to happen with most of those who have gone to the trouble of running a blog or starting a Facebook group. I go there for practice and to keep abreast of what the opposition is saying and doing. And, I go there for the "on the fence" person who might also go there. Most of my efforts go into talking with those who have not made up their minds on gun ownership and use. These are the ones we need to reach.

Second, when we're talking with the undecided, we need to avoid blowing them out of the water. We need to be calm, polite and well-informed. We need to recognize their concerns. There's no need to call them, or the more extreme elements in gun control circles, names. Character assassination is no more acceptable from us, than it is from the gun control side.

Third, regardless of how good the quote sounds, if it can't be verified, we must not use it. The same is true for statistics. There's enough valid information out there to counter all the anti-gun arguments. Besides, it's far easier to point out inconsistencies and lies from the other side if we don't engage in the same things. 

Perhaps the hardest part of this is that we need to hold each other to these standards. How you do such a thing is, of course, up to you. I tend to do so privately, as I see no reason to air our "dirty laundry" when it can be avoided. Even then, not everyone is going to thank you for pointing out their (hopefully unintentional) error. It's not any fun to have another gun owner accuse you of being in "cahoots" with the anti-gun forces because you call him on the same sorts of things some anti-gun folks do. Our 2nd Amendment rights are far too valuable to have them derailed because of the behavior of some pro-gun folks. I've told would be hunters (whose families weren't in danger of starving) who brag of shooting deer out of season that if I become aware of them doing it I will report them. I have no patience with poachers and even less with those who would willingly endanger my right to keep and bear arms.

Many anti-gun folks occupy a position on the nature of rights and the relationship of citizens to government and society that is fundamentally opposed to that of pro-gun people. A bizillion years ago, Socrates and the Sophists were engaged in a pretty ugly verbal fight. It's easy to ignore because 1) it's philosophy and 2) it happened so long ago. It's relevant here because it wasn't just a battle over philosophy. It was, at its heart, a battle over the direction society would take. It determined, arguably, how what we now call Western culture developed. I submit that we are engaged in such a battle. This is not just about the 2nd Amendment, though that would be enough cause for us to fight. This is, at its heart, a fight over what sort of society and culture we will leave future generations. If we want them to be truly free, we cannot retreat. We must understand where our opponents come from, we must oppose lies with the truth and we must win. This in not a battle for the faint of heart or the cowardly.

Have we become a largely cowardly nation? To the extent we accept that the state must provide for and protect us, yes. If we choose to not oppose the evil people who would take from us life, dignity and safety because protection is the role of the state, because others might object or simply because we are scared, then yes, we have become cowards. To be otherwise is to accept that it is incumbent upon us to take primary responsibility for our own safety. To be otherwise is to accept that others may object to our decision and independence. To be otherwise is to accept that being scared is not sufficient cause to not act when necessary. To be otherwise is to be free. 

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Bayou Renaissance Man: Remembering the late, great Jeff Cooper

If you've trained with a firearm, especially in the military, Jeff Cooper influenced how you were taught.

Bayou Renaissance Man: Remembering the late, great Jeff Cooper

Education reform

addendum: I should point out that it's not just people the age of my kids and a little older who sometimes can't write or speak effectively. I run into the same problem on other blogs. Frequently it involves people my age or older.

This is long and rambling. You have been warned.

I do not have a degree in education. I've never taught a single class in elementary school, middle school, or college. I've attended a lot of those through the years and, as a parent, I've sent my kids off to them, year after year. So, what follows is my view of education. Specifically, I'll talk about what an educational system should be designed to do, what I see as current weaknesses in our system and ways to address them.

Culture is vital

One of the primary purposes of education is, or should be, to promote the national culture. To me, this means teaching

  • who we are
  • how we got here
  • both are taught, warts and all, at age appropriate levels
It most specifically does not mean imparting to our children the idea that we should feel guilty for the actions of those who preceded us. Nor does it mean we must set about to dismantle or necessarily fundamentally change the institutions and philosophies that have brought us to where we are. Our culture must be guarded jealously and passed on to each subsequent generation. That doesn't mean we don't change over time to meet the changing realities of the world. It does, however, mean that the basic beliefs that produced our nation must be cherished.

History needs to be taught. A person who doesn't understand how we arrived where we are really has little understanding of our current condition, or what might be done to change things. Likewise, a good knowledge of history helps us steer a better course for the future. It allows us to know what prior generations have done, or tried to do, and gives us an idea of what we can expect from things we might consider as a nation.

Values are important. This is true for both individuals and nations. I suggest any nation that chooses to abandon the values and principles that led to greatness is very likely on the "road to ruin". I will not suggest the United States was founded as a specifically Christian nation. History doesn't support such a view, regardless of the insistence on the part of some that it does. What I will suggest is that some very basic principles of the Judeo-Christian ethic were a fundamental part of the beliefs of the Founding Fathers, regardless of their particular religious or philosophical beliefs...or their relative inability to always live up to them. It's important to remember that not only is this country, in many ways, a product of the Enlightenment, it is very much a product of the Scottish Enlightenment. We could do much worse than to ensure our children are well read in the ethics, morals and philosophies that produced this nation.

Critical thinking is invaluable

Education that doesn't go beyond what my father called "read, memorize and regurgitate" doesn't really have much value. On the other hand, the ability to think, to reason clearly is priceless. Unfortunately, the development of this skill, and it is a learned skill, is given short shrift by most people whose writings on education reform I've read. It seems to be that people believe one of two things. Either we require our children to learn things by rote, year after year, and hope they'll somehow magically learn to think clearly or we focus on critical thinking without requiring a mastery of the underlying disciplines. And I suggest that critical thinking, and the knowledge and understanding that makes it possible, is a discipline.

It amazes me that so many people think the "dead Greek guys" from thousands of years ago have nothing to teach that is of relevance today. Other than the fact that western civilization is largely founded on the thoughts and ideas of Socrates, Plato and Aristotle, I guess they're right. Logic, rhetoric, argumentation...these are so much a part of our heritage that failure to teach them to our children constitutes a failure of leadership on the part of teachers and parents. The ability to argue strongly for a position without depending on personal attacks is almost impossible without critical thinking.

Are there other sources of critical thinking? Of course. And they should be taught, also.  But it's important, I believe, that at the very least we teach those that contributed directly to the formation of our nation and western society and culture. And that we use those as the foundation for our other teaching.

Some things kids just have to learn

Look, I did not like algebra. I really didn't like geometry. I actively disliked trig and I despised calculus (and still do). I had to learn them anyway. It didn't kill me, though there were times I thought it would. But, it forced me to learn to think more clearly, regardless of how happy I was without that ability. Some people don't like history, others hate literature or composition, or music, or art, or PE...the list is endless. At some point parents and teachers need to tell kids that it's okay to not like something...and that they have to learn it anyway.

While I'm on the subject, let's talk about art, music and PE. They are, in my view, invaluable parts of an adequate education. They enrich our lives. They remind us that life can be more than a struggle for survival and pursuit of self-gain. Not to mention that there are studies suggesting these all contribute to better performance in the more academic classes. Which suggests we do a disservice to our children whom we allow to develop into almost one dimensional people...

Financial education

This is an area that seems to be seldom addressed when educational reform is discussed. Parent's and teachers both fall down here. I know a man who was for years the director for a team of "hot shots", firefighters for the National Forest Service. He was very good and his teams were considered some of the best in the world. He led the teams, planned and coordinated their activities when they were on scene, negotiated their contracts for equipment, coordinated their activities with other firefighters from other agencies, and over say their budgets. And he did not know how to write a check until he was about 50 years old.

I see kids every day who have no idea where money comes from or what to do with it other than spend it. Their parents live every day with an overwhelming load of debt, especially unsecured consumer debt, and the children are learning to live the same way. We simply must do a better job of teaching our children that money is a limited resource and, as the old economic principle puts it, "There Ain't No Such Thing As A Free Lunch" (TANSTAAFL). It's illustrative that in 1910 the Sears catalog called buying on credit "folly". Or that Henry Ford was so opposed to credit that Ford didn't sell cars that way until 10 years after General Motors started. Over the years I've had the opportunity to talk with several millionaires and so far not one of them has called buying on credit a good thing. To the very last person, every one of them has said that if they had to choose between buying on credit or not having something, they would do without it. What's really interesting is that each and every one of them adopted this philosophy before becoming wealthy.

I am convinced that part of the reason we are willing to accept our nation's staggering debt is because we've come to believe this is an acceptable way to live, ourselves. It's not. Not only is it not acceptable, it's just plain foolish...stupid, if you will. We owe it to our children and all future generations, to get our financial houses in order so we can teach and model financial discipline for them.

Prussian influence

The Prussian model has had a great influence on our education system in the US. The purpose of the Prussian model, was to provide the King of Prussia with good, loyal subjects who were incapable of even thinking ill of the King or his policies. This runs counter to the critical thinking skills necessary to an enduring republic. In our efforts to pass on to each successive generation the values and philosophies of the nation, we must not allow ourselves to engage in simple indoctrination. Critical thinking and an appreciation of our history and culture can coexist.


There was a time when a college degree was a rare thing. Part of that was because college education was largely viewed as being almost exclusively for the well-to-do. It's silly, at best, to suggest a person must come from wealth in order to be fit for college. One reason to have  more rigorous academic requirements in elementary, middle and high school is to ensure we have a greater number of students adequately prepared for college. It's shameful that we have high school graduates accepted into college who have to take watered down courses as they start their college years because they received an inadequate education beforehand.  I've known college graduates who cannot write or speak as clearly and logically as high school graduates from my parents' generation.

It is my belief that college courses should be challenging. I can remember both Freshman Math and Freshman English as "weed out" courses. Part of their purpose was to ensure that if a student remained at the  university or college, he or she belonged there. That is, he or she had demonstrated the basic skills that were likely to allow academic success.

I've had people tell me "everyone deserves to go to college". Nonsense. Everyone does not "deserve" to go to college. Not everyone wants to go, nor is everyone qualified to go. I'm not suggesting we pigeonhole people. I am suggesting we abandon the nonsensical idea that the rigorous academic environment that college should be is for everyone. Not being suited for college has nothing to do with a person's worth or value. Nor does it, necessarily, have anything to do with intelligence. 

I've read the studies suggesting a college degree has a significant positive impact on a person's income. Okay. It probably does tend to make you a better employee. After all, in spite of the availability of easy courses in college, it does require some discipline to graduate. The discipline that allows a person to complete 4 or more years of college education alone will, I suspect, lead to a greater income. In spite of that, I contend it makes no sense to produce college graduates who cannot write or speak clearly or who cannot frame a sound argument for a position they hold. Besides, there are many people without degrees who earn more than some with degrees. I know a man who took 6 years to finish high school, and several people who never completed college, who are millionaires several times over, suggesting academic success are financial success are not inherently tied together.

"Oh, no. I don't want my son or daughter to go to a junior college, or worse yet, a technical school!" Really? Why not? Suppose it allows them to learn and ultimately do the thing that really contributes to their happiness. Suppose it allows them to actually look forward to going to work. Suppose it leads them to starting a successful business. Suppose, because of the financial discipline you taught them, it allows them to do what they really enjoy. Suppose, in addition, that because of the financial discipline you taught them, they never live beyond their means and when it becomes time to retire they are able to do so and live out the next 2, 3 or even 4 decades with dignity in financial security and independence. Now, is that decision to go to a junior college or technical school such a bad idea? I'd suggest it's not.


I'm afraid I've done a poor job of expressing what I think about what needs to happen in American education. I'm fifty years old and while my education was much better than that received by many, it was still lacking. There were attempts by some teachers and my parents to teach me a lot of things I talked about here, but it wasn't done uniformly and regularly. Consequently, so much of this I've had to learn in the past to to fifteen years. Learning it wasn't really all that hard. The real struggle was in unlearning the things I'd been taught instead. It frustrates me that subsequent generations are in the position of potentially learning it even later than I did and it frightens me for the future of our nation.

Please, let me know what you think.

Friday, February 22, 2013

The "gun culture"

The impetus for this was a posting on another blog that contained a link to a video wherein a very condescending professor talks about changing the American "gun culture". I don't like condescension or paternalism, nor do I care for those who make broad statements with no evidence or logic to support their claims. I like them even less when they have access to a bully pulpit that lends their baseless claims and silly ideas some air of legitimacy.

Let me preface this by saying I cannot lay any claim to having fired as many rounds as Larry Correia. I don't know how many thousands of rounds I've fired, I'm sure it hasn't been as many as he. Likewise, I've never owned a gun store, I've never taught a gun safety class, I've never owned a gun shop and I've never written for any national publications regarding gun laws or use of force. If you want to read about the gun culture from his perspective, I'd encourage you to read here.

My experience with guns is a little different. I grew up around them. We used them to hunt, for target shooting and kept them for defense (and never had to use them for such, thankfully). We didn't really talk about the 2nd Amendment that much. As a, mostly small town, newspaper family we were far more likely to discuss the 1st. I would eventually join the United States Coast Guard (where I enjoyed a blessedly brief flirtation with gun control advocacy) and, after returning to college, become a commissioned officer in the US Navy. Throughout all this time I used and trained with firearms, maintaining my "weapons quals" while on active duty and firing thousands of rounds. I've carried and used weapons in lots of places around the world up to today. And I still don't have the experience of Larry Correia. That's okay. Mine is sufficient for me.

While there are exceptions, virtually all the men and women I've met who I'd consider part of the American "gun culture" (geeky sociology note: it should probably be referred to as a subculture) are current or past members of the law enforcement or military communities, or friends/family members of those who are. This is important. These are the people who understand guns, practice and train with them regularly, like them and generally spend a fair amount of time working with them and thinking about them and their uses. Likewise, these are the people who train other law enforcement and military personnel on the proper function, use and care of guns. That's the way we want it, really. I can think of little that is more disturbing than the idea of someone who lacks that experience, knowledge and familiarity trying to instruct someone else in the use of a gun.

While I lack Correia's experience of talking with those who have knowledge of what happened in Mumbai (the 4th most populous city in the world) I can relate what I've experienced and had corroborated by others regarding a coalition military unit from a Eastern European country that lacks a significant gun culture. If they heard, or thought they heard, "something" outside the compound they would open fire. Period. In fact, when they took their turns standing guard, it was accepted that the rest of us would be awakened in the middle of the night by gunfire. Get this next part, because it's important. Nothing was ever found, afterward! Don't get me wrong. They were, to the man, very nice, intelligent, friendly and always willing to help with anything and everything. And absolutely incompetent with guns. I've spoken to LEOs who report widespread firearms incompetence in their departments among officers whose only training/practice with guns comes during their mandated qualification periods. The ones who know what they're doing train all year long, paying for the majority of that training themselves because it's not a priority for their various departments. When we hear talk about "changing" or "eliminating" the gun culture in America, this is the end result of such a thing.

So, when people talk about the gun culture and its harmful effects, they're either ignorant of the reality or willing to sacrifice public safety, national security and the lives of the men and women who work to preserve both in the interest of achieving the gun control measures they want. But this is what we will get with severe gun restrictions that differ only marginally from outright bans or that lead to them: A nation that lacks the ability to defend itself or deal with violent criminals. And, if you are insistent that "no one wants to ban guns", then please, look at two recent examples of that idea.

The first is an article from that shining example of unbiased journalism, The Huffington Post, as is the second. I thought these were good choices because so many of the gun control advocates with whom I talk like The Huffington Post.

There are some things we can do to combat violent crime in America. Further restrictions on the rights of the law abiding, leading to the virtual destruction of the real gun culture isn't the answer. It's a recipe for disaster.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Thoughts about differences

I'm asking for specific comments on this as I try to clarify my thoughts a little more. So, please, let me know what you think about this.

I've told some people that one of the problems with any sort of meaningful dialogue between pro-gun and anti-gun folks is that we approach the issue from entirely different directions. More accurately, our perspectives of the issue are formed by some fundamentally different, and mutually exclusive, points of view or beliefs. This was driven home to me today as I read some comments by people who are fervent in their belief in greater gun control. Be warned, what follows is, indeed, a generalization, based upon what I've read and my own leanings. While I think it's true, I might change my mind next week.


Most of the pro-gun people I know are inclined

  • To view liberties as things exercised by individuals
  • Trust individuals over the government, especially as that government gets further away from the local level. This is particularly true as regards individual conduct. There seems to be a belief that, given the chance, most individuals are inclined to do the right thing.
  • View free market forces as the most desirable method of regulating the market. If a company can't make it on the free market, let it collapse. Someone else will fill the void.

Most of the anti-gun people I know seem inclined

  • To view liberties as collective or group things
  • Trust government as the primary way of regulating conduct rather than individuals
  • View the market and capitalism with feelings ranging from suspicion to outright hostility. Just as conduct should be regulated by government, so too should the market to ensure equality and fairness.

Anyway, that's it, so far. Again, let me know what you think.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

A Mercutio point of view

First, I should apologize. I really do like Shakespeare. A lot. Yeah, a literature geek, I know. Verily and forsooth. Anyway...

You might have noticed that since I started this blog not too terribly long ago there has been a bit of a recurring theme. I'm not too fond of gun control nor of the more strident voices on either side of the debate. I define strident voices, in this case, as those who yell, scream, cover their ears, shout down their opposition, lie, etc. Unfortunately, we have such voices on both sides. They really annoy me. 

It was while thinking about this today (right after being accused of essentially longing for and fantasizing about  armed revolt against our government by a person who could have learned otherwise by merely asking me a question) that I happened to remember Romeo and Juliet (more on this later).

I've come to a conclusion. As I've indicated before, there are some gun rights people who fantasize about armed revolt. I believe most of these have no idea what they're proposing, the horrors it would present or the inability to control the outcome of a rebellion. Do I think some of them sincerely see no alternative? Sure. I also think the vast majority of them are living in some fantasy land that bears little resemblance to the world most of us inhabit. In their fantasies, they don't get shot (or if they do, they either recover or die gloriously), their friends and families don't suffer horribly and the good guys win. And, again, some of these guys want this crap.

Likewise, I've come to believe there are gun control folks who want the same revolt, albeit for different reasons. The pain, the death, the chaos and suffering will all confirm, no prove as true, what they've been saying about us pro-gun rights people all along. I can hear it now. "See, we told you they were dangerous. We told you how unstable they were, how vital it was to disarm them before something like this could happen." These are some of the same folks who believe the gun manufacturers might like such a thing, since they (gun manufacturers) have a vested interest in making sure guns are supplied to criminals.

Egad. Enough, already. On to R and J. I don't care which group you call Montague or Capulet.  Just after Tybalt stabs Mercutio...

Mercutio:  "...A plague a' both your houses"

Friday, February 15, 2013

Some people write really well

A couple of bloggers whose writings I greatly admire, Bayou Renaissance Man and Law Dog, both have links to this. Having read it, I concur with their endorsement. It's really, really good. You should read it.


This one was hard to write. It was going in way too many directions and becoming far too long, even for a long winded guy like me. Basically, it's a wide ranging rant. So, I've cut it down to just the high points. Hopefully, I'll be able to be more focused after this.

Unacceptable behavior

Many people fail to understand that while stress may explain a behavior it doesn't always justify the behavior. It's stressful to have someone, even a kid, discover your position in the middle of a war (it's also embarrassing, but that comes later). That doesn't mean you kill him. It's stressful to daily face people in less than ideal situations, especially when some of those people, yell/spit/scream/curse/get physical with you (like when I told the captain of a fishing boat he and his crew were under arrest and we were towing his boat to the dock for confiscation because of those odd, plastic wrapped bales that had somehow wound up in his fish hold). That doesn't mean you and your buddies beat them into submission. It's stressful to know another person is depending on you to save his life (whether a surgeon in the OR or a medic in the field). And it's stressful to know someone or several someones are actively trying to kill you (that lunatic Dorner, for instance). I'm not the only person who has experienced all those. Guess what? When you accept the rank, the position, the title you accept all that goes with it. That means it's all part of the job and you are expected to be a professional no matter what!  I am sick and tired of hearing people explain away unacceptable behavior as if the circumstances make it okay. It wasn't okay for the LEOs involved to beat Rodney King the way they did. It wasn't okay for other LEOs to shoot at people, one of whom might have been Dorner (because, you know, they all looked so much like him). It wasn't okay for a surgeon to throw a loaded knife handle at a surgical tech because he wasn't responding quickly enough with the needed instruments. I can guarantee you that if you occupy one of these positions, when you started your education and training for whatever your position is, someone (probably several someones, actually) told you there were going to be times of unbelievable stress and that you were still expected to act like a professional. That's just how it is. So, either grow up and act like an adult or get another job!

Now, as for all those folks outside these professions/experiences who make excuses for the behaviors we see from a relative few...stop it! Stop saying it's okay. Stop saying, "well, I might do the same thing in his position" or "it's not really like him it's just how he reacts to stress" as if recognizing human failings makes giving into them under any and all circumstances okay. We all have failings and weaknesses. We all have our own demons and monsters lurking somewhere inside. Part of being an adult, not to mention a civilized adult, is learning to always keep them under control no matter what.

Gun control

If you are in favor of increased gun control, that's fine. I'll be glad to discuss it with you. I do, however, have a few requirements.

  1. Don't lie to me. This includes things like making up statistics, pulling quotes out of their context, pretending to a level of experience you do not have and the like. It also includes telling me "no one wants to take your guns" when the efforts to do so are a matter of public record. Oh, and I will only tolerate "I support all civil rights, but..." for a very short while.
  2. No character assassination. I don't really care if you like me, but if your reason for discussion is to practice name calling or if that's your primary tactic, go away. I go to another blog to practice putting up with that, so it's a no go here.
  3. If an argument is made and no counter-argument is given, the original point stands.
  4. If you're going to "run under fire" go argue somewhere else.
  5. Of course, these rules apply to both of us.
Politics and religion

I know it's popular to think and say so, but accepting another person for who and what they are does not mean I have to accept their position or beliefs as valid. I wholeheartedly endorse the idea that people are free to believe anything and everything they want...just as I'm free to think and express my conviction that their belief or position is effluvium. Sorry, but all beliefs are not equally valid. So, if you choose to think Marxist thought and philosophy is the way to true human happiness, that's fine. You'll understand if I counter with a vigorous rebuttal. Likewise, you are free to hold any view you want of religion in general or Christianity in particular. If that includes worship of The Flying Spaghetti Monster, that's up to you. You'll pardon me if I find your position as untenable as you find mine. 

Now, if you, like me, are a Christian and happen to believe civil rights are only for those who agree with you, that too is fine. Understand, I do not agree with you and will not support that assertion. Civil rights, all of them, apply even to people who do or believe things I might dislike or even detest. So, please don't whine or complain when I suggest you relocate to a place more in keeping with your beliefs, as there are those elsewhere in the world who would love to take your place here. We can be free or we can be in chains. We cannot be both. If a person with whom I disagree loses his freedom, mine too is in danger. While you may be willing to surrender your freedom, I'm far too fond of mine.

No, I am not too fond of the current administration. Nor was I all that enamored of the previous one. So, depending on your position, that might make me a rabid conservative/card carrying liberal/Libertarian/Republican/Democrat/socialist/fascist/racist/pick-something-undesirable-to-describe-me-ist. That's okay. Kids, babies, dogs and cats all like me, so there!

I'm a very proud veteran and an unabashedly proud American. If you didn't serve, I do not hold that against you. The military is not for everyone and I would much rather depend upon others to have my back if they are serving because it's what they really wanted vs a way to pay off loans or collect a regular check. Please, do not tell me you understand the sacrifices made by military personnel and their families. Unless you have been a military service member or part of a military family, you have no idea. Likewise with combat. If the surgeon who once remarked to me that his surgical residency was "just like working in a combat zone" happens to read this, I'll repeat myself from years ago. You, sir, are a well educated fool, but a fool nonetheless.

If you think things are so much better "over there" that you must spend your time telling the rest of us how terrible the US is, then please, allow me to help you plan your relocation to someplace you'll be happier. You do not need to continue to suffer in misery here on my account. If you're close enough, I'll even help you pack.

Okay, I'm done and my spleen is fully vented.

Saturday, February 9, 2013

Did you think about this even a little?

Let me start by saying a few things, just to make my position clear.
  1. I love this country. I've seen a lot of places...and I prefer the US to all of them.
  2. I am a veteran. Please see the name of this blog.
  3. The Bill of Rights has 10 amendments, not just one or two. They are all important and I value each of them.
  4. I am worried about the direction of our country. My concerns are social, economic, political, moral and ethical. Sometimes I even talk about them.
  5. I vote. I encourage others to vote. So, go vote.
  6. I recognize that you don't have to agree with me. It's a free country, remember?
  7. You and I may look at the same information and draw different conclusions. That's okay. You have the right to your opinion, just as I have the right to declare it little more than tripe...and vice-versa.
Now, with that out of the way, I'd like to talk about something I've run across with increasing frequency on various web sites. It's a tendency for people who are likewise worried about the direction they see our country taking to see things as so bad that they see revolution coming. They tend to state
  1. They see violent revolution as virtually inevitable
  2. They are willing, even eager, to participate.
That's kind of a big deal. One of the hazards of a military career is a tendency to become a more than casual student of history. I fell victim to that hazard long ago. So, based upon my reading of history, both ancient and modern, as well as my experience in various parts of the world, I have to ask those who are so eager for revolution two questions. Have you completely lost whatever the Good Lord gave you for brains? What, in the name of all that is holy, do you really think happens in a revolution?

I suspect these self-proclaimed revolutionaries see themselves as some sort of modern day Ethan Allen, leading the Green Mountain Boys in glorious revolt against an oppressive government. They will fight against overwhelming odds and face apparently insurmountable difficulties only to emerge victorious at the end to the cheers and undying gratitude of a grateful nation that has returned, at last to its republican roots and with a limited government as the people enjoy a resurgence of freedom. The now weary freedom fighters, will of course, heed the call to continued service and reluctantly take on varying roles of leadership as they help rebuild the Republic. Nonsense.

Let's talk about revolutions. There have been an untold number throughout history. They tend to be violent and bloody. People get hurt. People die. Not all of them combatants. That includes people on both sides...family and friends, husbands and wives, parents and children. And before you begin to talk about "the price of freedom" and "the blood of patriots and tyrants" answer this question. How many revolutions have resulted in a stable, free and long lasting republic? Here's an answer: Almost none. That's part of what makes the American Revolution so amazing. Not only for it's success, but for what it produced. Measured against the total number, the odds of the American Revolution producing what it did were not good at all. So if you have this view that things will, of course, work out the same way again, please see my first 2 questions.

Here's what tends to happen with revolutions. They result in ongoing and violent power struggles as different armed factions attempt to take advantage of the power vacuum. If an even semi-stable government is formed it is very likely to be a despotic one, ruled by the person and group with the greatest amount of armed power. And that one can fall as well, as other groups attempt to take their rightful place at the top of the new political food chain. One bloody revolt, one nasty coup after another. Violent crime, often perpetrated by various "freedom fighters" becomes the norm as society descends further and further into chaos. There is no safety and there is no freedom. The odds are, you will not be on top of the heap. You will not be one of those in charge. Your name will not be remembered in stories and songs. You'll just be another dead guy with a gun who died in some ill-considered and poorly planned revolt because he wanted to go down in history.

So, how bad would things have to be to justify such a thing? Let me suggest, a whole lot worse than they are right now! Aside from the potentially negative results of being identified as a nut case with a gun by the federal government, if you spout this sort of nonsense you might inspire others to take up what is currently a moronic clarion call. Don't spout half-understood drivel about how things are compared to pre-Revolution America. Actually read history. Get a feel for what things were like...and how little it would have taken to convince the Founders to forego revolution. Get this, they didn't want to revolt. They wanted to remain loyal British citizens. So, please, read history and see that we're still better off than anyone else in the world.

Until then, do the rest of us a favor. Shut up.

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Muscle spasms, both physical and intellectual

So, at 50 years of age, my body has decided to further betray me. A few days ago I was home, working on the computer when I realized I had a client coming to my office across town in 45 minutes. No big deal when I'm already showered, shaved and dressed. As it turned out, I was none of those. As soon as I turned and stood up quickly, I felt it...the muscles on the left side of my back, my left shoulder and the left side of my neck all spasmed and cramped. So, there I was, 45 minutes later (I got there on time, showered and shaved no less) hypnotizing a client while being unable to turn my head and look her in the eyes (we call this Less Than Ideal). There was a time when I took Non-Steroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drugs (NSAIDS) for this sort of thing. Of course, that was before my ulcer made NSAIDS (like ibuprofen) a no-no for me. So, I've been taking Flexeril, a muscle relaxant, for the past few days. It's great. It relaxes my muscles (convenient for a muscle relaxant) which does help with the pain...and turns me into a blabbering idiot who can barely string together a coherent sentence. Did I mention that I make my living with words? I haven't taken any today and can feel the muscles tightening again and I'm losing range of motion in my neck. So, that's it for me today, I think. Off to my pharmaceutically induced idiocy until this thing gets better (insert sound of grumbling).

Monday, February 4, 2013

Well, that explains a lot

Sometimes I ask how people can be so very "okay" with attacks, not just on the 2nd Amendment, but on all our civil rights. Since I largely grew up in and around newspapers, I thought I'd look at attitudes regarding the 1st Amendment.  I came across these two pieces from 10 and 7 years ago. Now, I'm afraid I understand (and I'm more than a little depressed). My concern is based, in part, upon the relative ignorance of the population regarding our rights (First Amendment rights in this case) and by how much opinion changes immediately following a crisis (in the SOFA link compare results before and after 9/11).  Read 'em yourself...and weep.


First Amendment...

Friday, February 1, 2013

The Constitution and freedom

Recently, I had the opportunity to respond to a video link that was posted to a blog by the blog owner. In the link a professor expresses his belief that the US Constitution is an outdated document. I expressed my disagreement with the professor's point of view and my support of his right to express it. The blog owner clearly found my response to be somehow unacceptable and expressed his apparent disdain. While I gave only a cursory response on his blog (you may read the entire discussion here), I felt compelled to deal with his comments more thoroughly in this, my forum.

Of course I have no idea how many times you've heard other people repeat what you disparagingly refer to as "generous magnanimity" nor do I particularly care. I don't speak for them. I only speak for myself.

You ask a question that, I suspect, gets to the heart of the nature of our disagreement. So, the first part of my answer to your second question begins by suggesting you read my original response again while trying to control your apparent annoyance. Really read it, paying particular attention from the third sentence to the end of my comments (the third sentence is the one that begins with the words "In fact"). Once you've done that, then please consider what I say below, the second part of my answer.

There is this idea that our civil liberties, our rights, are all somehow independent of each other. I run into this idea, periodically, from people all along the political spectrum. If I have this belief, then it's very easy to convince myself that I can surrender (or compel others to surrender) some or all of a liberty that is of little or no significance to me, while remaining forever secure in the liberties of which I particularly approve. This type of reasoning is the height of foolishness.

I do not believe there is some vast conspiracy to deprive the American people of their rights. I do, however, recognize this historical truth: Over time, all governments, including ours seek to exert ever increasing control over their citizens. It does not matter whether the reasons are well-intentioned or nefarious. The end result is the same. If this is permitted, if the people begin to accept the idea that their rights derive from the kindness of government rather than government deriving its limited powers from the consent of a sovereign people and thus may be legitimately taken away, freedom is lost.

When we look at the idea that we can surrender some freedoms and retain the right to exercise others unimpeded, it can, perhaps, have a certain appeal. Perhaps it marks us as mighty intellectuals who strive fearlessly to free the minds of the less enlightened. Maybe it means we are agents of social change trying to free our society from the shackles of the past and make life better for all people, especially those who are oppressed by outdated thoughts and ideas...or the results of those ideas. Maybe...but not likely. What it really does is make clear how little we value freedom, how little we appreciate its fragility and how enormous is the arrogance that suggests we can ignore the lessons of history with impunity. History is intolerant of such hubris. History tells us the idea that we can surrender some freedoms and fully retain others, while fun to debate in sophomore philosophy and political science classes, is devastating in real life.

Sometimes we get this idea that not only can we surrender some freedoms while retaining others, but that we can actually become more free this way if we surrender those freedoms for the right reasons. Thus, we have abrogations of freedom of speech, press and religion, the right to keep and bear arms, the right to peaceably assemble...all in the interest of the greater good to society. To sacrifice freedom on the altar of academic thought, social stability, security, economic achievement, compassion or any other cause du jour ignores the truths that the only true freedoms are those exercised by individuals and that it is freedom that produces the greatest benefit to the greatest number of people. It is not the other way around. It is freedom that allows us to exhibit greater compassion, freedom that permits the greater expression of real tolerance, freedom that will not only allow but truly promote diversity, freedom that lets us obtain greater security.

You may mock, you may insult and you may disparage those with whom you disagree. You are free to engage in any sort of logical fallacy or sophomoric logic you choose, as you did when you suggested applying my words to a convicted felon or a 10 year old child. That sort of disingenuous argumentation is your right. And while you may be willing to sacrifice my rights for what you see as a legitimate end, I will sacrifice none of yours. Not because I'm so smart, wise or noble, but because I recognize that when one of us becomes less free, we are all less free, regardless of your attempt to suggest otherwise. While I would hope that in the future you would avoid name calling, character assassination, gross generalizations and the like, I recognize my hopes in this regard are likely to remain forever unrealized.

To be more plain as to the nature of our disagreement, we disagree as to the fundamental nature of liberties, both as to whom they belong and by whom they are exercised. Civil liberties are not assigned, granted or possessed by groups but by individual citizens. Even a cursory reading of the Constitution, much less a more in depth study, suggests that rights were envisioned as being enjoyed by individuals. This is the view most consistent with the vast majority of constitutional scholarship with which I am familiar. Likewise, barring a very few long-recognized exceptions such as convicted felons, those rights are best understood to be the inherent possession of every citizen. And many states have a process whereby felons who have paid their debt can regain their civil rights . Thus, rights are not assigned or granted by the power of the state to the citizen. Rather, citizens (“the people”) voluntarily give up a small portion of their power to enable the government to govern (though only with their consent). This is in no way an abdication of sovereignty on the part of the people. It is, instead, a powerful statement as to the subservient nature of the relationship of government to its masters.

So, who am I to support the professor's right to speak his mind? I am a citizen who recognizes what you, sir, apparently do not. That support of our civil liberties, all of them, is vital to a people who wish to remain free.