Friday, December 5, 2008

The Sinister Signpost

Our governor Gregoire was on national TV tonight. She has allowed a sign listing a vitriolic atheist manifesto against religion to be placed next to a nativity display in our state capital. This in the name of what? Equal time/space? I think we can see where this kind of silliness will lead. In a nation made up largely of Christians we have a long tradition under attack. Should the Nativities have been allowed in the first place? I'm not going to define separation of church and state here. I have to wonder though, why the teachings of Jesus do not have a legitimate place in our national consciousness alongside those of Abraham Lincoln and Martin Luther King. We have a paid holiday in Jesus' honor. We don't need to accept the miracles to recognize the immensity of his contribution to our heritage of brotherly love and mutual respect. One could argue that much of what makes America great is due in no small part to Jesus. Why should the government not sponsor a display depicting this important birth? Are the atheists really so offended by his teachings? Should the Neo Nazis be offered space in our capital to explain what offends them? I might like to put up a board myself.


California's vote on Proposition 8 was essentially a test to see if homosexual "marriage" is politically correct. The answer is no, it is not politically correct. Not in California. Not at this time. The body politic has spoken. A bit of a twist.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

A Tale of Two Faces

I’ve come to believe that as we age, the muscles and fleshy structure of our faces take on a shape that portrays the most prevalent thoughts and feelings that occupy our minds. The word for this is derived from Old French: contenir – to contain. Countenance is the picture we see on a person’s face and the premise is that a face can be read like the pages of a book. Some faces are difficult to read and others quite easy. My own ability to read a face is not formally trained or scientific. I rely on my instincts, subliminal processes and experience with people. My hope is for a telling discernment.

The two most prominent women in American politics today are Hillary Clinton and Sarah Palin. When Palin walked onto the stage with McCain for the first time I knew nothing whatsoever about her. This condition within my own brain lasted only milliseconds. I was immediately struck by the difference I saw in her face as compared to what I usually see in the face of a seasoned politician. In place of the hardened and fortified expression of those who have spent years battling to advance their political agenda, I saw a freshness and an almost child-like innocence. If the eyes are the window to the soul, who could help but notice that Sarah’s eyes are wide open, accessible and transparent. They exude a cheerful optimism and peacefulness not often seen in the dour circus of political figures.

In contrast, there are few persons that have affected me the way Ms. Clinton has. Rightly or wrongly, I have powerful impressions when I read her face. Her countenance gushes forth with volumes of descriptive information. There is a hardened seriousness to achieve her goals, possibly at any cost. Cold and calculating to near the point of absolute zero, I wonder if any cost is too high. Any expressions of pleasantness seem slightly unnatural, if not forced. I see a clever person, but without the skill to completely veil the inner self. I feel a chill in the air.

Time will tell if Palin can survive the onslaught of political scrutiny or the pressures to conform to the will of other, more powerful, figures and yet retain any semblance of innocence. The coming decade will reveal if Hillary’s massive ambition will go unrequited and leave even more lines and bulges of bitterness on her face.

In fairness, I must acknowledge that Sarah was blessed at birth with the genetics of a pretty face. Still, I have seen that beauty can be either cultivated or scared-over by the thoughts we entertain. The eyes and the mouth are particularly susceptible to the impulses unconsciously transmitted from the brain. I sincerely hope that Sarah’s eyes remain transparent and charitable. As Charles Gibson interviewed her recently, I thought I saw in her eyes a temporary emotional fortification, as defense against the massing forces of political animosity. I hope it’s temporary, and I hope I’m right about what lies behind those eyes. For Hillary’s sake, I hope I’m wrong about hers.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

The Right to Govern by Force

There is a question that should be posed and answered whenever we contemplate an action to be undertaken by our representative government. That question must recognize what government is, and then ask what government properly has the right to do. As for the first, George Washington gave us a searing declaration, to wit: “Government is not reason, it is not eloquence; it is force, and like fire, it is a dangerous servant and a fearful master.” So government is force, and in practice it must, of necessity, bring to bear any force that is required for the job at hand.

The question is no easy one to answer. Our founding Fathers understood that a just government derives its authority from the governed. We, the people, delegate to our own government the powers necessary to govern. With this insight we realize we must ask ourselves, what rights do I have, individually, to exercise power over my fellow citizens? What intrinsic rights do I have that I might delegate them to my government? To sort out the thorny possibilities inherent in this question, we must imagine a state without government for, once created, we are required to act within our law. What force may I properly and morally bring to bear against my neighbor in protection of my own rights and property? If the only disagreements we had with our neighbors were over private property rights, this would be a much easier question to answer. When we must also deal with public properties and institutions we are bound for trouble. A few examples will bring this to light.

I have a moral right to protect my own property, even to the extent of shooting a burglar in my house. I can, therefore, delegate the right to shoot a burglar to my local constabulary. If my village votes to build a public road, we might want to create laws governing behavior on that road. We might feel we have a right to enforce civil behavior for our own protection while traveling the road. Thus we extend rights of private property to the public sphere and agree to live within common rule. The right to stop threatening behavior on our own property is transferred to the public road. We then may choose to hire law enforcement officers and delegate authority to them to insure more consistent compliance with written law, to which we are party. Few will find fault with this approach but we see that things have gotten much more complicated. I may have the right to control my neighbor’s speed on my own property and on my public road. Do I have the right to force him to limit his own personal risk while on that road? Can I delegate to my government the power to force him to use a seat belt solely for his own protection? If so, where did I get that right?

A much more poignant question involves the forceful redistribution of private wealth. Can I require one of my neighbors to help another neighbor? Do I have the moral right? If not, how can I delegate that right to my government? What happens if a law is passed requiring some of the villagers to help other villagers who are seen as having greater need? If the law is not enforced it is useless and the effect is deleterious to all law. The law must be backed with potential threat of all necessary force, including lethal force, in order to uphold the fabric of lawful order. Let me restate the question. Do I have the intrinsic moral right to force my neighbor to give part of his substance to another neighbor? Do I have the right to take from him against his will if he votes with the minority? Am I willing to threaten him with imprisonment or death if he resists? Can we shrink from these questions when this very dynamic plays itself out all around us every day?

As a mental exercise, I like to imagine an unusual scenario in which I am not able to hire away some of my public duties. In my village, the responsibility to collect taxes is rotated around to all members of the village as a civic responsibility, much like jury duty. When my time comes to serve, I am required to visit my neighbors and collect all taxes due on the public services I have supported. In order to ensure compliance, I wear an official badge and strap on a pistol. The chance of real resistance from my neighbors is remote because they know I am authorized to use all necessary force in the collection of taxes. I usually have to listen to the complaints of those who did not support the government programs and policies for which I collect. Some of these people are vehemently opposed and resent having to pay for something they do not want. As I listen to their arguments, I am face-to-face with the rather ugly reality my vote has perpetuated. Now, as I consider imposing my will upon my neighbors with my next vote, I ask myself: What is proper? What is necessary? What are my rights to control others? What wonderful government program am I willing to impose upon my neighbors against their will? How much am I willing to take from them, merely because I am willing to contribute myself?

Monday, March 17, 2008

The word LIKE like spreads like a virus

I remember a time when only Maynard G. Krebbs used the word LIKE in so useless a fashion. The trend no doubt started in California (as so many distasteful trends do) but has now completely invaded our society. People near and dear to me have been infected by the virus. Young people are especially vulnerable. The victims soon forget how to use the words ALMOST, ABOUT, APPROXIMATELY and the like. Then they succumb to using the word LIKE as a hedge against the possibility of error or as a built-in apology for inexactitude. Finally they simply throw the word into every sentence as a filler.

Sometimes the word is artfully (?) woven into an ordinary sentence several times. For example: "He, like, came in the room and, like, picked up the TV set and, like, started to, like, walk out with it. And I go, 'Like, what are you doing man.' And he goes, Hey dude, this is, like, my TV, man.' And I, like, go, 'Like, no way, man. I, like, paid to get it fixed and it cost me, like, fifty bucks, man."

You get the picture. Actually, I'm sure you got the dismal picture long ago as the above example is no exaggeration. In fact, you might have contracted the disease yourself and are totally unaware. When I find myself under a LIKE attack, I wish for a little hand-held digital counter that I could keep hidden in my pocket, silently clicking the counter for every LIKE. At the end of the barrage, I would whip out the counter and announce the number of LIKES to the astonishment of all. My worst fear, however, is that I myself may unwittingly become a perpetrator. My wife, like, has, like, strict instructions to, like, shoot me dead if that should, like, happen.

Monday, February 11, 2008

What? Me Believe?

When we believe what politicians say while on the campaign trail, we deserve the bad government we will get. A politician's job is to be all things to all people. A good politician will tell as many lies as he can get away with. He is a master of saying nothing and making it sound like he is saying something. He knows how to promise things he can't possibly deliver and get people to believe it. I wish we were merely electing a charismatic national speech giver, while a homely little man (or woman) who understands the proper role of government was hiding behind a curtain and pulling the levers of good government.

Saturday, January 26, 2008

Name Tag Disease

I saw a news item on TV today about shoppers lined up outside a store to purchase the latest Air Jordan shoe from Nike. These babies were selling for well over $200 and the sorry saps were ready to buy them sight-unseen. I couldn't help but think that what they all needed was a good dope slap. I hate wearing clothes with a conspicuous brand label. I don't mind paying for quality on (rare) occasion. I just don't feel like I should provide the company with free advertising. They should give me a discount for that. What if somebody thought I was flaunting the brand name status in order to make a big impression? Horrors! They'd say to themselves; "There goes poor Ted. His self esteem is so low he's trying to pump it up by paying extra for name brand products." I'd be tempted to cut the label off. Now why should I do that? Why should I care what they think? Maybe this is just another kind of vanity. Ah shoot. I'm working on perfection but I've got a long way to go. If I ever get there my wife will know right away because my body will quit producing intestinal gas. Now, where is that coupon for the $8 jeans at Bi-Mart?

Bee's Wax has Wained

When was the last time you asked somebody something and they responded by saying ... "None of your bee's wax." What a social tragedy if we let this little gem die out. We must do our part to see that it gets passed on to the younger generations. Try using it at work. The boss will be so pleased to hear it again he might not even fire you.