‘Tribe: On Homecoming and Belonging’: Junger’s must-read explains why America is tearing itself apart

tribe-cover

Roughly 17 years ago I exited the military after a stint as a mechanized infantryman in the U.S. Army. Even though the September 11, 2001, terror attacks and the nation’s “long war” had not yet begun, I found myself having a difficult time with the transition to civilian life. Understanding why I missed my old platoon — and why I felt a growing fear and sadness for the country I loved — took years (and a blog like this) to figure out, but author and former war reporter Sebastian Junger articulates it all in his must-read book Tribe: On Homecoming and Belonging.

Americans who have not lived under a rock for the past 20 years have witnessed the slow-motion implosion of our culture.

  • Cable news pundits obsessively talk of “red states” and “blue states.”
  • The politics of personal destruction reigns supreme.
  • Saying “all lives matter” is interpreted in a Twilight Zone-ish twist by millions of people as somehow racist.
  • Americans watch carefully constructed social-media feeds that tell them all Republicans are the equivalent of Darth Vader, or that all Democrats have shrines to Fidel Castro in their bedroom.

In short, the modern world is deficient in something that is causing tens-of-millions of people to feel isolated, alone, and empty. The void is filled with confusion, and that in turn fuels the kind of anger and hate that was the hallmark of the 2016 election cycle.

Why is it that many soldiers and civilians who have lived through war sometimes get nostalgic for it?

What are the consequences for society when a person “living in a modern city or suburb can, for the first time in history, go through an entire day — or an entire life — mostly encountering complete strangers”?

Why are we often surrounded by others, yet “feel deeply, dangerously alone”?

One of the answers can be found in tribal societies. And no, your friendly neighborhood blogger is not saying Native Americans should have won the clash of civilizations at our nation’s inception. I am merely saying, like Mr. Junger, that we can learn from their ability to provide “the three pillars of self-determination — autonomy, competence, and community.”

Mr. Junger writes:

“After World War II, many Londoners claimed to miss the exciting and perilous days of the Blitz. (“I wouldn’t mind having an evening like it, say, once a week — ordinarily there’s no excitement,” one man commented to Mass-Observation about the air raids), and the war that is missed doesn’t even have to be a shooting war: “I am a survivor of the AIDS epidemic,” an American man wrote in 2014 on the comment board of an online lecture about war. “Now that AIDS is no longer a death sentence, I must admit that I miss those days of extreme brotherhood…which led to deep emotions and understandings that are above anything I have felt since the plague years.”

What people miss presumably isn’t danger or loss but the unity that these things often engender. There are obvious stresses on a person in a group, but there may be even greater stresses on a person in isolation, so during disasters there is a net gain in well-being. Most primates, including humans, are intensely social, and there are very few instances of lone primates surviving in the wild. …

Whatever the technological advances of modern society — and they’re near miraculous — the individualized lifestyles that those technologies spawn seem to be deeply brutalizing to the human spirit.” — (Sebastian Junger, Tribe: On Homecoming and Belonging (New York: Hachette Book Group, Inc., 2016), 92-93.

Tribe covers issues like PTSD, depression, and anxiety among combat veterans, but it would be a big mistake to solely think of it as a book for the military community. It is much more than that, because it is a blueprint for getting the nation on a path to cultural healing.

The author continues:

“The eternal argument over so-called entitlement programs — and, more broadly, over liberal and conservative thought — will never be resolved because each side represents an ancient and absolutely essential component of our evolutionary past.

So how do you unify a secure, wealthy country that has sunk into a zero-sum political game with itself? How do you make veterans feel that they are returning to a cohesive society that was worth fighting for in the first place? […] I put the question to Rachel Yehuda of Mount Sinai Hospital in New York City. …

“if you want to make a society work, then you don’t keep underscoring the places where you’re different — you underscore your shared humanity,” she told me. “I’m appalled by how much people focus on differences. Why are you focusing on how different you are from one another, and not on the things that unite us?” […]

Reviling people you share a combat outpost with is an incredibly stupid thing to do, and public figures who imagine their nation isn’t, potentially, one huge combat outpost are deluding themselves. (127-128).

Tribe is by no means “the” answer to the nation’s deep-seated cultural problems, but it is a significant piece of the puzzle. To get a good look at the big picture, I suggest pairing Mr. Junger’s quick-read with George Weigel’s Letters to a Young Catholic. Each book provides a template for transcending dead-end partisan bickering, and in turn getting America efficiently focused on  becoming a more-perfect union.

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Colin Kaepernick, NFL millionaire, refuses to stand for national anthem because America isn’t perfect

Colin Kaepernick screenshot

Colin Kaepernick is an NFL millionaire who has been rooted on for years by stadiums filled with Americans of all colors. He was adopted by family that obviously instilled in him the kind of work ethic it takes to break into professional sports. Despite living in the freest nation the world has ever produced (while pulling in $19 million per year), he now says he cannot stand for the national anthem because America “oppresses black people and people of color.”

The NFL released his statement on Saturday after news of his decision spread:

“I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of color,” Kaepernick told NFL Media in an exclusive interview after the game. “To me, this is bigger than football and it would be selfish on my part to look the other way. There are bodies in the street and people getting paid leave and getting away with murder.”

Yes, that’s right, because America isn’t perfect Mr. Kaepernick says he cannot show pride in the American flag. Someone should ask the formerly productive quarterback if he can name one country on earth where everyone acts like angels and there are no skeletons in the closet. If he cannot name such a place, then he should be informed that he is an ignorant fool.

Yes, racial issues are “bigger than football,” but the universal principles the nation was founded upon are bigger than random incidents of racism in a nation of 350 million people.

The Preamble to the U.S. Constitution states:

“We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.”

Can anyone deny that millions of Americans strive every single day to achieve the goal of “a more prefect Union”? Countless men and women have died to secure liberty for future generations, and yet the Colin Kaepernicks of the world think it is all diminished because some individuals fall short of our highest ideals.
Colin Kaepernick sits national anthem

Colin Kaepernick should be ashamed of himself for using the flag to exploit his own political activism — while simultaneously putting the organization he works for and his teammates in a horrible bind. What makes the situation worse is that if the team decides to let him go because of his poor performance on the field, then he will conveniently say it was done for racial reasons.

Look at the picture of the San Francisco 49er’s entire team — white, black, asian, and hispanic men and women from all across the U.S. — and then look at the one goof sitting down by himself — benched — in between two jugs of Gatorade. Their behavior should tell the quarterback that the national anthem transcends the contemporary obstacles we face, but for whatever reason the message does not sink in.

Mr. Kaepernick may be exercising his right to free speech, but he is not a leader. He is a selfish man who took attention away from his team’s primary mission — to win on the football field — and focused it all on his political frustrations. If I were a fan of the San Francisco 49ers, there is no way I would be rooting for the guy.

Trump vs. Hillary: America reaches its own video game ‘kill screen’

Pac Man Kill Screen

A funny thing happens in old video games when players reach a point that exceeds the cartridge’s available memory: the “kill screen.” The character may die, although sometimes users can continue playing a jumbled mess that ostensibly makes no sense. The reality that Donald Trump will square off against Hillary Clinton to be the next U.S. commander in chief is a clear indicator America has reached its own kill screen.

Hillary Clinton

Kill screens may be fun to watch — there is no doubt that cable news networks are thrilled with the 2016 election season — but on another level (no pun intended), they are sad affairs. If you do not believe the U.S. is at its own kill screen, then ask  yourself the following two questions:

  • What led to the rise in popularity of Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders (a self-described socialist), and Donald Trump?
  • Will the election of Mrs. Clinton or Mr. Trump mitigate or exacerbate the nation’s underlying problems?

Donald Trump

Hillary Clinton has vowed to continue doing exactly what President Obama has done for eight years, which was a catalyst for Sanders’ groundswell of Democrat support.

Donald Trump’s popularity is based on the illusion that he is a political outsider who will “make America great again” via giant walls along U.S. border with Mexico and “great” deals with Congress. Ironically, the same people who have deified Mr. Trump regularly go apoplectic when “deals” are made in Congress. Unless Trump plans on becoming a dictator, his own supporters are in for a rude awakening if he wins in November.

Here is what the 45th president of the United States will encounter on Day One:

  • The U.S. is $19 trillion in debt, but there is no political will to get spending under control. This is due to economic illiteracy (thanks public education and academia), greed (it’s easy to rob from future generations when you know you’ll be old or dead when the bill comes due), lying politicians, and a whole host of other issues. There will be a day of reckoning.
  • The U.S. is culturally lost. Multiple generations have simmered in a stew of cultural relativism. Tens of millions of people have no idea why they believe what they believe — they just do. They have been taught to loathe the principles that made America the freest nation in the history. They have been conditioned to yearn for tyranny and not to care about it as long mindless viral videos, Facebook “likes,” and free pornography flows on their computers.
  • American media outlets are corrupt. The news long ago ceased to be about informing people and turned into a never-ending quest for “clicks” and “shares” and “tweets” and ratings. Journalists are usually more interested in showing they’re as witty and cool as John Stewart in his heyday than objectively reporting facts. Cable news shows are inspired by WWE wrestling matches and reality television shows, which is why the more appealing option is to just watch Food Network or turn off the TV all together.

In short, unless someone rewrites the U.S. “code” in the near future, we will soon disappear in the “integer overflow.”

Welcome to the kill screen. I look forward to seeing you after the “reset” button is pushed.

America, like ant infected with Phorid fly, faces decapitation

NH results

Phorid flies, also known as “ant-decapitating flies,”  are nasty little creatures. They lay their eggs inside the thorax of an ant. Then larvae crawl up into the host’s brain and eat it. The ant, unaware of the assassins within, ends life with its head literally falling off.

Tuesday’s election results in New Hampshire demonstrate what this blog has been trying to say for over five years: Cultural phorid flies are eating away at America’s brain, and it may be too late to excise the parasite.

Reuters reported Wednesday, Nov. 10:

[Bernie] Sanders coasted to victory in Tuesday’s primary on a wave of voter anger at traditional U.S. politicians. New York billionaire Donald Trump swept the Republican contest in the same state.

The results testified to the sizable share of American voters upset at U.S. economic conditions and willing to send a shockwave to Washington in the Nov. 8 presidential election.

A self-described socialist pummeled Hillary Clinton in New Hampshire and Donald Trump did the same to his Republican rivals.

The results in New Hampshire are exactly what happens when moral relativism, political corruption, and crony capitalism eat away at society’s innards for a long enough time. America, once a proud worker ant, now has something weird and different growing inside it. Unless the parasite is removed — now — it will burst forth from the nation’s corpse and usher in a wholly new reality, likely something from our Founding Fathers’ worst nightmares.

To give us a better idea of what is going on, I will now turn to Saint Augustine’s classic, City of God.

He writes on the fall of Rome:

“If the prince is unjust, or a tyrant (to use the Greek word), or if the aristocrats are unjust (in which case their group  is merely a faction), or if the people themselves are unjust (and must be called, for lack of a better word, a tyrant also), then the commonwealth is not merely bad … but is no commonwealth at all. The reason for that is that there is no longer the welfare of the people, once a tyrant or a faction seizes it; nor would the people, if unjust, be any longer a people, because they would not then be regarded as a multitude bound together by a common recognition of rights, and a mutual cooperation for the common good, as the standard definition of a people demands.

When, therefore, the Roman republic was such as Sallust describes it, it was not only ‘very wicked and corrupt’ — ‘a sink of iniquity,’ as he puts it — it was no republic at all, if measured by the criterion established by its ablest representatives when they met to debate the nature of the republic.” — Saint Augustine, City of God.

Augustine goes on to say, “By our own vices, not by chance, we have lost the republic, though we retain the name.”

If America truly is a decapitated ant that does not know it yet, then we have no one to blame but ourselves. We invited the parasites of moral relativism, political corruption, and crony capitalism into our body and now must pay the price, whatever that may be.

Ariana Grande, Ms. ‘I hate America,’ cares about ‘healthy eating’ so much that she licks your doughnuts

Ariana Grande TMZ

It is always interesting to see celebrities whose financial and professional dreams came true in America, who then turn around and bash the country that gave them so much. Today’s example comes in the form of pop singer Ariana Grande, who decided to go into a doughnut shop with her goofy-looking backup dancer boyfriend, lick the food, and then tell him how much she hates the country and its citizens.

TMZ obtained the video and reported on the doughnut-licking, but conveniently left out the “I hate America” part. Telling. Since the click-bait obsessed website decided to leave out the bigger story to protect the singer, I’ll pull from The Hollywood Reporter instead.

Grande was accompanied by three friends, and the footage shows her kissing one of the two men, who also appeared to lick one of the donuts. Grande laughed out loud after he seemingly licked a donut and walked away.

When the shop employee returned with a new tray of donuts, Grande asked, “What the f**k is that?”

“I hate Americans,” she continued. “I hate America.”

As with all celebrities when they get caught saying really mean things about the country that helped make them stars, it was only a matter of time before the “I’m sorry I got caught” apology was released.

Billboard reported the singer’s statement Wednesday:

“I am EXTREMELY proud to be an American and I’ve always made it clear that I love my country. What I said in a private moment with my friend, who was buying the donuts, was taken out of context and I am sorry for not using more discretion with my choice of words. As an advocate for healthy eating, food is very important to me and I sometimes get upset by how freely we as Americans eat and consume things without giving any thought to the consequences that it has on our health and society as a whole. The fact that the United States has the highest child obesity rate in the world frustrates me.

We need to do more to educate ourselves and our children about the dangers of overeating and the poison that we put into our bodies. We need to demand more from our food industry. […] That being said let me once again apologize if I have offended anyone with my poor choice of words.

Ms. Grande has yet to explain how licking doughnuts that she has no intention of buying falls in line with her “healthy eating” advocacy, or how her decision to lick those doughnuts was taken “out of context.”

When a woman says “I hate Americans. I hate America,” there really isn’t much to take out of context. It seems as though the “context” that was missing was that the singer meant to say “I hate obese Americans. I hate obese America.”

Notice how she “hates” America, but that hate is fueled by the freedom to choose what, where, and how often we eat particular foods. Ironically, she says it while she is inside a doughnut shop. Maybe next week she can go into a Waffle House and wish that the United States lost World War II.

If I, Douglas Ernst, want to eat a doughnut the size of my head, I should be able to do that without having to worry that the political manifestation of Ariana Grande in Washington, D.C. is writing legislation to limit the size of American pastries.

A woman who simply cares about healthy eating does not say “I hate America” when she sees a doughnut. Ms. Grande’s outburst was an indicator that many more hostile thoughts about her country lurk just beneath the surface. The next time Ms. Grande uses her social media soapbox to preach about public policy issues, remember the time she said she “hates” America. Then, do more homework on the issue somewhere else.

America has no strategy for Islamic State because America doesn’t know what it stands for anymore

Islamic State flagThe Islamic State group has taken control of Ramadi and political pundits want to know why Iraqi forces have fled — again — despite training by U.S. troops, an abundance of U.S.-supplied weapons, and the assistance of U.S. airstrikes. The short answer is that the Obama administration has no strategy for Iraq. Dropping bombs on people is not a strategy. Regardless, here is the big picture: the U.S. has an incoherent foreign policy because it no longer knows what it stands for. America’s foreign policy failures are symptoms of a much deeper problem.

To provide a quick example of just how bad things are going in Iraq, first read Wednesday’s reporting by The New York Times:

WASHINGTON — The United States is rushing 1,000 antitank rockets to the Iraqi military to help combat the massive suicide vehicle bombs that Islamic State militants used in capturing the provincial capital of Ramadi, a first step as the Obama administration weighs a range of difficult options to help its beleaguered ally. …

Obama administration officials have called the fall of Ramadi a huge setback, but they have sought to quell critics in the region and on Capitol Hill by portraying the defeat as a temporary blow that will not change the overall strategy for fighting the Islamic State or lessen the administration’s support of Mr. Abadi’s government.

Then read Tuesday’s reporting by The Associated Press:

Iraqi troops abandoned dozens of U.S military vehicles, including tanks, armored personnel carriers and artillery pieces when they fled Islamic State fighters in Ramadi on Sunday, the Pentagon said Tuesday.

A Pentagon spokesman, Col. Steve Warren, estimated that a half dozen tanks were abandoned, a similar number of artillery pieces, a larger number of armored personnel carriers and about 100 wheeled vehicles like Humvees. He said some of the vehicles were in working condition; others were not because they had not been moved for months.

This repeats a pattern in which defeated Iraq security forces have, over the past year, left behind U.S.-supplied military equipment, prompting the U.S. to destroy them in subsequent airstrikes against Islamic State forces.

Got it? The U.S. is supplying Iraqi forces with antitank weapons just days after Iraqi forces let U.S.-supplied tanks fall into the Islamic State group’s possession. As AP noted, there is now a pattern of Iraqi forces losing U.S. equipment to the terror organization.

Here is what White House Press secretary Josh Earnest told ABC News’ Jonathan Karl when he was essentially asked if this kind of pattern constitutes success:

JONATHAN KARL: On the overall track record of military operations, and the president’s strategy on this, you said we’ve seen periods of progress and success. Would you say that overall the strategy has been a success?

JOSH EARNEST: Look Jon, yeah, overall, yes. That doesn’t mean there haven’t been areas of setback as we saw in Ramadi.

KARL: Is it the exporting terror to Libya? Taking over the capitol of Iraq’s largest province? This is overall success?

EARNEST: We’ve also seen a coalition of 60 nations around the world join the United States in this fight. We’ve seen a new Prime Minister take office in Iraq and unite that country and deploy a multisectarian security force against ISIL that has succeeded in liberating important areas of Diyala, Ninevah, Babel, Kirkuk provinces. …

Translation: We’re “doing something” with a coalition of 60 nations and security forces are “doing…stuff…and things.”

Here is what I said September 13, 2012 regarding President Obama’s foreign policy:

At best, I consider it “Finger Painting Foreign Policy,” in which he takes a globular mess, rubs his hands in it, makes a bigger mess and then smiles with what he’s accomplished — while the media likens him to Jackson Pollock.

Syria has no functional government. Libya has no functional government. Yemen has no functional government. Iraq has a dysfunctional government. It seems safe to say that time has shown the finger painting analogy to be an accurate assessment, which is probably why Secretary of Defense Ash Carter is nowhere to be found.

Nancy Youssef TwitterFormer Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, however, is willing to talk. Here is what he told CBS News on Monday:

“I think first of all we need to change the rules of engagement for our troops. I think we don’t need a significant increase in troops in my view, but how they’re used needs to be changed.”

The sad news is that Mr. Obama is not likely to change the rules of engagement for American troops in any productive way because, again, he has not articulated a strategy. He reacts to world events based on political calculus, but does not try to shape them based on a core set of principles.

Even if the president had an epiphany in the final leg of his presidency, it would matter little. The collective mind of the American people is no longer moored to its founding principles. We are fractured. We are splintered. We are not united. The greatest strategy in the world cannot succeed when its implementation depends upon a nation that has stewed in moral relativism so long that it no longer knows right from wrong — or even cares to learn.

If you believe in God, then I suggest praying for the future of America. Strange days certainly lie ahead.

‘The Great Degeneration’: Niall Ferguson explains how America is engineering its own demise

The Great DegenerationWith ‘Civilization: The West and the Rest,’ Niall Ferguson described the “killer apps” that Western civilization used to propel itself past its rivals. With ‘The Great Degeneration: How Institutions Decay and Economies Die,’ he shows readers how quickly the wheels can come off the bus and send all of civil society’s passengers over a cliff.

While Mr. Ferguson’s analysis does not exclusively focus on the U.S., by the time he’s done unsealing the “boxes” of democracy, capitalism, the rule of law, and civil society, it is obvious that America is very, very sick — perhaps terminally ill — and that short of a miracle our experiment in self governance will not end well.

As Mr. Ferguson states:

“Where bad institutions pertain, people get stuck in vicious circles of ignorance, ill health, poverty, and, often, violence. Unfortunately, history suggests that there are more of these suboptimal frameworks than there are optimal frameworks. A really good set of institutions is hard to achieve. Bad institutions, by contrast, are easy to get stuck in. And this is why most countries have been poor for most of history, as well as illiterate, unhealthy and bloody.” Niall Ferguson, The Great Degeneration: How Institutions Decay and Economies Die (New York: Penguin, 2012), 18.

When the author speaks of the rule of law turning into the rule of lawyers, it’s hard not to think of what America has become. When the author talks about a “corrupt and monopolistic elite” exploiting the system of law and administration to their own advantage, it’s hard not to think of what America has become. When the author talks about public debt being managed to allow the current generation of voters to “live at the expense of those as yet too young to vote or as yet unborn,” it’s hard not to think of what America has become.

Over and over again, ‘The Great Degeneration’ shows that we as a society are creating complex systems that are destined to fail. What makes the story all the more tragic is that it’s all quite predictable.

As Tocqueville said in 1835 with the publication of ‘Democracy in America’:

I see an innumerable crowd of like and equal men who revolve on themselves without repose, procuring the small and vulgar pleasures with which they fill their souls. Each of them, withdrawn and apart, is like a stranger to the destiny of all the other: his children and his particular friends form the whole human species for him; as for dwelling with his fellow citizens, he is beside them, but he does not see them; he touches them and does not feel them; he exists only in himself and for himself alone. …

Above these an immense tutelary power is elevated, which alone takes charge of assuring their enjoyments and watching over their fate. It is absolute, detailed, regular, far-seeing, and mild. It would resemble paternal power if, like that, it had for its object to prepare men for manhood; but on the contrary, it seeks only to keep them fixed irrevocably in childhood. …

Regular readers of this blog know that a shift in tone began to occur roughly three years ago. That is because I share many of the author’s conclusions about modern-day America and western civilization. Our culture is sick, but it is only willing to talk about its symptoms instead of the disease. The institutions have been compromised, and until they are fixed our slide into irrelevance will continue.

‘The Great Degeneration’ is a rather quick read at 153 pages. If you get a chance, pick it up at your local book store. If for no other reason, it is fascinating to think about some of the events that have occurred since its publication; Mr. Ferguson’s knowledge of the past helps him to accurately predict the future. You’ll give him a round of applause for the effort — after you wipe a few tears from your eyes.

D’Souza’s ‘America’ reminds us: As free men ‘we must live through all time, or die by suicide’

America Imagine a World Without Her

Dinesh D’Souza’s ‘America: Imagine a World Without Her’ is an important book. It addresses what Abraham Lincoln knew long ago: “If destruction be our lot, we must ourselves be its author and finisher. As a nation of free men, we must live through all time, or die by suicide.”

“What kind of crazy American would want to end the nation?” is a logical question. The answer, however, is not a pleasant one. There are plenty of U.S. citizens who do not believe that America is, as George Washington put it, the “cause of mankind.” There are Americans who believe that America’s founding was so flawed that the only option is to “fundamentally transform” it, either through radical revolution from the outside or from a kind of stealth revolution from within. Mr. D’Souza directly rebuts the case against America made by men like Saul Alinsky, William Ayers, Noam Chomsky, Ward Churchill, Michel Foucault, Howard Zinn and their ideological allies.

What makes ‘America’ interesting is that many of the men covered in the book were interviewed by D’Souza for his upcoming movie by the same name. He isn’t afraid to let America’s critics have their say. He is confident that when those thoughts and ideas are placed side-by-side with an articulate defense of the principles of our founding, the wisdom of Washington will shine even brighter.

Any book that defends the America’s founding must address slavery, and as usual D’Souza does not shy away from the task. And, while it’s useful to have quotes on hand by former slave Frederick Douglass, who eventually believed that the U.S. Constitution guaranteed that slavery was an ugly “scaffolding to the magnificent structure [of America], to be removed as soon as the building was completed,” readers need more. Readers need to know that slavery wasn’t an American invention — but that it was present in all cultures up until that period of time. What is uniquely Western, he says, is not slavery but the abolition of slavery.

D’Souza adds another bitter pill for progressive men like Saul Alinsky (the author and “community organizer” who dedicated ‘Rules for Radicals’ to Lucifer, “the first radical”) to swallow: Christianity helped propel the anti-slavery movement:

Slavery became controversial for one reason: the influence of Christianity. …

It is a fact of great significance that only in the West — the region of the world officially known as Christendom — did anti-slavery movements arise. There is no history of an anti-slavery movement outside the West.

Even atheists admit that the anti-slavery movements in England and America were led by Christians. I am not suggesting that the Christians were the only ones who disliked slavery. From ancient times there had been another group that dislike slavery. That group was called the slaves. So there were always reports of runaways, slave revolts, and so on. What Christianity produced was an entirely different phenomenon: men who were eligible to be masters who opposed slavery.

D’Souza then points out that while the seeds for ending slavery were planted by Christians (i.e., we are all equal in the eyes of God), the Founders in Philadelphia found themselves in an interesting predicament: the choice was not whether to have slavery or not. “Rather, it was whether to have a union that temporarily tolerated slavery, or to have no union at all,” because immediately ending slavery would have been a deal-breaker for the Southern states.

Abraham Lincoln said it well during the Lincoln-Douglass debates regarding the Declaration of Independence:

[The Founders] intended to include all men, bu they did not intend to declare all men equal in all respects. … They defined with tolerable distinctness in what they respect they did consider all men created equal — equal in certain inalienable rights. They did not mean to assert the obvious untruth, that all were then actually enjoying equality… They meant simply to declare the right, so that the enforcement of it might follow as fast as circumstances should permit.”

What would have happened to the nation in its infancy if the Founders pushed the slavery issue to the point that the Union dissolved from the get-go? The world would be a very different place. Ultimately, it did take a Civil War and hundreds-of-thousands of deaths to resolve the issue, but to assert that the Founders should have pushed the issue as they were preparing to declare independence from England is bizarre.

In short, ‘America’ is a good read and well worth your time. Luckily, if you don’t have a lot of spare time or $30 on hand for the hardcover you can see the movie when it lands in theaters July 2.

And yes, I will be reviewing the film.

Let Mason Michalec zip it for the Pledge of Allegiance — but make him stand in silence

Mason Michalec KHOU screenshot

It seems like every year there are a few stories of pimply-faced kids refusing to stand and recite the Pledge of Allegiance. In the past it usually had to do with a president from Texas named George Bush. Today, a student from Texas refuses to say the Pledge because of the actions of a president from Hawaii named Barack Obama. Shocker.

KHOU Texas reported May 7:

NEEDVILLE, Texas — Mason Michalec says he loves his country but just not the government.

“I’m really tired of our government taking advantage of us,” said Michalec. “I don’t agree with the NSA spying on us. And I don’t agree with any of those Internet laws.”

That’s why he’s taken a pledge of sorts to not say the Pledge of Allegiance with classmates. …

Michalec says the principal sentenced him to two days of in school suspension, and warned that he could face more ISS if his protest continued. …

“And I think it’s time that people do something for themselves and stop taking whatever’s handed to them,” said Michalec. “I’m angry and frustrated and annoyed that they would try to write me up for something I have the right to do.”

According to KHOU 11 News legal expert attorney Gerald Treece, the sanctions imposed by the school appear to violate Michalec’s first amendment rights.

Using the statist’s logic, if the government can force Americans to engage in economic activity (i.e., buy health insurance) simply because they live and breath in the United States, why can’t it force a silent American to engage in government-sanctioned propaganda (i.e., the Pledge)?

Personally, I always thought that saying the Pledge in high school was a bit much. I think having good teachers who don’t spew anti-American propaganda is more important than forcing kids to say the Pledge, which brings up another point: propaganda can be a good thing (e.g., rallying a nation through a war effort) thing or a bad thing (e.g., teaching kids only the worst aspects of their country’s history), but it’s still propaganda.

When I was a high school substitute teacher I had a student who refused to stand and say the Pledge. I told him that I wasn’t going to force him to say the Pledge and I wasn’t going to force him to hold his hand over his heart, but I was going to see to it that he stood respectfully while the rest of the class engaged in the activity. It is perfectly within any teacher’s right to ask a student to stand up.

The student’s reasoning for not saying the Pledge: “I’m not an American. I’m Mexican.”

I asked him where he was born. Answer: “America.”

“So you were born in America, you live in America, you receive a public education that is funded by American taxpayers, you speak English and you’re completely immersed in American culture — but you’re not an American and won’t say the Pledge? Gotcha,” I said.

I told the student (and by extension the class) that we wouldn’t begin our lesson — on that day or any day moving forward while I was in charge — until the kid stood in respectful silence. It didn’t take long for him to come around. How does the saying go: “Peer pressure is a bitch”? No in school suspension needed. No Chicago news stories going viral. I got to establish my legitimate authority and he got to feel like a rebel by zipping his lips during a creed he didn’t believe in (at that time in his life). As an extra bonus, his fellow students got to witness the immaturity of his “I’m not an American” argument.

In those days it was often very difficult to hold my tongue and not say what was truly on my mind. It would have been cathartic to say, “No, you’re an American — you’re just a sorry excuse for an American. You’re an ungrateful little boy who is too ignorant to know it at the moment.”

You can not force someone to love you and you can not force a man (or a boy) to love his country. Forcing an individual to say words he doesn’t believe in, to me, seems strange. However, forcing a student to stand respectfully during an event the rest of the class is participating in — while allowing an individual to abstain from an articulating an oath he doesn’t believe in — seems to strike a proper balance.

Agree? Disagree? I’d like to hear what you think, especially if you’re an educator .

 

In Defense of Dead Presidents and the American Way of Life

Penny

In my last post I talked about Robert DeNiro’s apt description of the mind of a writer. One of the things I’ve always wondered is why there aren’t more openly conservative poets and writers. I have a few thoughts of my own, but I’d like to hear what you have to think.

I’ve shared a poem or two over the course of this blog, but I don’t think I’ve ever posted one that really makes a political statement. If you want a peak into my mind as a 21 year old kid, and the reaction I had after exiting the military and entering the college classroom, here it is. My writing has improved since then (I’m 34, so I would hope so!), but I don’t mind giving you a glimpse of my younger self.

In Defense of Dead Presidents and the American Way of Life.

Bees make beehives and we make buildings
Don’t lament the ingenuity within this sleek machine I’m driving;
It’s an extension of our being
Natural, like honeycomb or busy bees consumed by some activity
To better their day-by-day existence.

Let’s return to the lush green-wooded yesteryear
Where tribal chants and chieftain rants
Were aspects of everyday living.
Or better yet let’s not,
Intertribal rape and head lice were never that appealing.

American Empire, or so they say
Rapes third world resources from exploited labor—
Fire those lads lined up and ready to work long hours
Making meager earnings three times their peers!
Let’s pull out and prop up tin pot despots with aid that will never get there.

Curses! Western Civilization
With your claims of moral superiority
Ah yes, I’m aware of your duplicity—
Behind those technological wonder kids and wonder cures
Churned out from rule-of-law freedom spawn is something sinister I’m sure.

Back home things are horrid
The burger and fry flippers scream foul
Ten, Twenty, why not Thirty!
Let’s hike that minimum wage stand back and see what happens
Never mind the economics.

What’s wrong with the summertime soldier and sunshine patriot?
Let’s redefine patriotism to include
Malcontents and misfits and anti-war mentalities
Dead set on peace at any cost
Although rooms for rape, rooms for torture, rooms for worse are tricky.

I had been ill for quite some time—
Green tea tasted great but did little to quell my disease.
I asked my son to pray for me, but his principal said no.
Dejected, I turned to God and in a dream
He told me to see a doctor—who knew.

America, you make me sick
What with your so-called religious freedom, I’m persecuted at every turn.
I informed my priest I was heading to Saudi Arabia.
I would’ve went too! (if it were legal)
Christians can’t be citizens.

Mom and Dad say it’s not healthy
To be so wry, so angry, all the time.
The soul, like worn copper pennies.
It’s hard, I tell them, when notable poets and award winning scholars
Invent ways to trash Abe Lincoln.