It’s okay to let friends go when they wish you were like Han Solo frozen in carbonite

Lando Han Solo CarboniteHere is a bit of advice for younger readers of this blog: One day you will have friends who will wish you were like Han Solo frozen in carbonite. You will meet these individuals at a young age, and as both of you become older they will always identify you with a very specific time and a very specific place. They will refuse to accept that people mature and change over the years, and their attempts to keep you in a mental and spiritual state of suspended animation will leave you puzzled as to how to properly respond. If tactful attempts to show them that hanging on too tightly to the past is unhealthy, then you must move on — not necessarily in dramatic fashion — but you must move on.

Han Solo CarboniteCells die in your body every single day. Over the course of many months, all of your cells are replaced with new cells. Physically, you become a different person. Mentally and spiritually, you also go through changes over the course of your life. The “core” of your being (the “you” behind the “you”) basically stays the same, but for all intents and purposes you are a different person. Some of your friends will become attached to the 2015 version of you and, like a favorite car, they will do anything they can to keep you just as you were when you first rolled up their driveway. If you want to become the best version of yourself possible, then placating this desire among those friends must be avoided at all costs.

Although there are probably countless variations of the Boba Fett-type of friend, my own personal experiences come in two varieties:

  • The friend who wishes the “old” me (i.e., immature prankster) still existed.
  • The friend who wishes the less knowledgeable version of me still existed.

In an ideal world, the friends we make early on in life would understand that knowledge is a virtue. Everyone would grow and expand at comparable rates, but they would respect the different ways we all branch out. Sadly, that is not the case.

When faced with these situations, you will feel the need to “act the part.” You will feel the need to “go along to get along.” Don’t. It would be weird for frogs to revert back to tadpoles, fish to roe, or butterflies into caterpillars — so why would you ever try to be a version of yourself that no longer exists? If you put on a fraudulent face to make someone happy, then you are doing both yourself and the person who cannot let go of the past a disservice. Only by being true to yourself can you achieve what you were truly meant to achieve and live life without regrets.

Life is much too short for living lies — even little ones that seem well-intentioned. If you have friends in your life who seem to want you to be their personal Han Solo frozen in carbonite, then it is because on many levels they are mentally and spiritually paralyzed. The biggest favor you can do for them if they refuse to see that truth is to walk away.

‘The Inner Ring,’ by C.S. Lewis explains Washington, D.C. perfectly

Twitter recently suspended my account for daring to question its decision not to penalize the man who sent me a death threat. I was then contacted privately by a friend who asked why certain conservatives weren’t coming to my defense. This person knows that I once worked for a large think tank in Washington, D.C., and that I currently work for a newspaper.

The answer is simple: I willingly left a specific “Ring” years ago, and those who leave the Ring are not afforded its support.

C.S. Lewis explains this phenomenon well in his classic speech to young university students:

“I believe that in all men’s lives at certain periods, and in many men’s lives at all periods between infancy and extreme old age, one of the most dominant elements is the desire to be inside the local Ring and the terror of being left outside. This desire, in one of its forms, has indeed had ample justice done to it in literature. I mean, in the form of snobbery. Victorian fiction is full of characters who are hagridden by the desire to get inside that particular Ring which is, or was, called Society. But it must be clearly understood that “Society,” in that sense of the word, is merely one of a hundred Rings and snobbery, therefore, only one form of the longing to be inside.

People who believe themselves to be free, and indeed are free, from snobbery, and who read satires on snobbery with tranquil superiority, may be devoured by the desire in another form. It may be the very intensity of their desire to enter some quite different Ring which renders them immune from the allurements of high life. An invitation from a duchess would be very cold comfort to a man smarting under the sense of exclusion from some artistic or communist côterie. Poor man — it is not large, lighted rooms, or champagne, or even scandals about peers and Cabinet Ministers that he wants; it is the sacred little attic or studio, the heads bent together, the fog of tobacco smoke, and the delicious knowledge that we — we four or five all huddled beside this stove — are the people who know. …

The lust for the esoteric, the longing to be inside, take many forms which are not easily recognizable as Ambition. We hope, no doubt, for tangible profits from every Inner Ring we penetrate: power, money, liberty to break rules, avoidance of routine duties, evasion of discipline. But all these would not satisfy us if we did not get in addition the delicious sense of secret intimacy. …

Of all passions the passion for the Inner Ring is most skillful in making a man who is not yet a very bad man do very bad things. …

The quest of the Inner Ring will break your hearts unless you break it. But if you break it, a surprising result will follow. If in your working hours you make the work your end, you will presently find yourself all unawares inside the only circle in your profession that really matters. You will be one of the sound craftsmen, and other sound craftsmen will know it.”  — C.S. Lewis, The Inner Ring.

Regular readers know that I do not name drop. I think it’s tawdry and weird and something people use as a crutch when they’re incapable of formulating sound arguments. However, I will say this: Once I left the employment of a well-known think tank, there were individuals who treated me like a ghost overnight.

The kind of people who populate Washington, D.C. are very much like a well-connected man I once got into an argument with while working near the Capitol. He said to me: “Do you know who I am? I’m the maître d’ of the conservative movement.” My skin crawled. I didn’t care who he was — he was wrong — and I’d rather choose the hard right than the easy wrong.

The kind of man who calls himself the “maître d’ of the conservative movement” is very much the kind of man who cares about the Inner Ring that C.S. Lewis covers in great detail. He may be conservative, but he cares much more about himself and his career than he does about the principles he espouses in front of large crowds or on cable news shows.

Perhaps the most recent example of a larger Ring that actually gained traction on social media was Valerie Jarrett’s appearance on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe.” President Obama’s top adviser went around the table giving pundits hugs and kisses, with Joe Scarborough saying “Valerie, come give me a hug!” before cutting to a commercial break.

Morning Joe Valerie JarrettWashington D.C. is an incestuous place, where reporters, pundits, politicians, academics and bureaucrats all go to the same parties over … and over … and over … and over. It’s the kind of place where you can go to dinner with someone and the person sitting across the table can say with a straight face that they’re “kind of a big deal.” I know because it happened to me.

As C.S. Lewis notes, no one is immune from the desire to be a part of some Inner Ring. The difference between Washington, D.C. and other places, however, is that the capital’s rings lure people who seek power and influence. Very smart, very shrewd individuals are attracted to Washington, which means that they are capable of advanced levels of evil.

Who is more evil: the dumb fool who punches you in the face and steals your wallet because he knows of no other way to vent frustration over his shortcomings, or the intelligent man who methodically finds ways to trample your soul and deny your god-given rights — all while convincing you that he’s really your best friend?

All men are capable of great good or great evil, but my point is that the concentration of highly-educated individuals in the nation’s capital, who are obsessed with power, also means that the city possesses a unique kind of evil.

If you get a chance, then I highly suggest reading “The Inner Ring,” by C.S. Lewis. If I had read it years ago, then I would have hopped on a happier path ahead of schedule. No matter what city or town you live in, it’s worth your time.

A generation of kids play ‘Knock Out’ — and America is afraid to ask why

Knock Out

One of the best pieces of advice I ever got came when I enlisted in the U.S. Army out of high school: “Stay alert, stay alive.” It’s served me well over the years, and probably saved me from serious bodily harm — and death — on multiple occasions. Today, I pass that advice on to the good people of New Jersey, and anyone else who must deal with thuggish kids playing some version of “Knock Out.” I do this because the story doesn’t seem to have been picked up by many media outlets. I wonder why…

Townhall’s Katie Pavich brings to light a story first covered by a local CBS affiliate in New Jersey:

“You just knock them out, hit them with a blow and take their belongings,” a teenager with a blurred face says.

Police believe “knock-out” led to the death of a homeless man in Hoboken, New Jersey which is right across from New York City.

“It could be anybody, it could be a mother with their children. I know one time they got the UPS guy, it’s a macho thing,” another man says. …

“It’s just more like picking a target that is alone, defensive, they just go boom when it’s the right time and the right place,” a young man with a blurred face says in the report.

Sounds familiar? That’s because it isn’t an isolated event. I covered the Scotty Mandingo Strahan case out of Chicago in 2011, and the story of Allen Haywood in Washington, D.C. months earlier. (Incidentally, Allen was using the same Metro line where I had my own run in with a man itching for a fight.) Since I don’t want this blog to turn into the “dregs of society beat up random strangers” landing page, I don’t cover it that often.

I wrote back in 2011 that Plato’s “Man in the Cave” allegory should be updated because we are a nation in the toilet. That still holds true:

Today there is the case of Scotty Mandingo Strahan, who it appears is the young man responsible for cold-cocking a homeless, elderly man along Chicago’s Red Line. We can thank WorldStarHipHop for bringing this incident into the light, where it can now be examined (and possibly used to ensure that justice is served).

Some people despise sites like WorldStarHipHop and its glorification of a culture that finds entertainment value in treating homeless people as a punching bag. To me, WorldStarHipHop is whatever you make of it. For me, it’s a mirror that simply reflects American cultural decline. It serves as a wake-up call for those caught in the cesspool created by decades of moral relativism. Are we too close to the waterfall to prevent ourselves from going over a cliff? Are we stuck in an undertow and only gasping for breath before it all goes black? I don’t know, but the image of a homeless elderly man lying unconscious on the cold concrete, while his hand rests on the American flag on his chest, is powerful for all the wrong reasons.

The truth hurts: We’re like the man in the cave Plato speaks about in The Republic, but instead of a deep dark cave we’re the Nation in The Toilet. We’ve been in the toilet so long that most of us don’t even realize it because we’ve never looked up.

Make sure to watch the video and ask yourself what kind of sick culture would come up with the “one hitter quitter” — where packs of teenagers stalk a defenseless person and then try to knock him or her out with a single blow. In the video, “Knock Out” is said to be a “macho” way for kids to prove how daring they are, which is odd — nothing could be more cowardly than sucker punching an unsuspecting person. Worse, these diseased individuals prey upon women.

Knock Out New Jersey

Ask yourself a few questions: If you were victim James R. Addlespurger walking down an alley, the teacher who was viciously attacked as he passed six kids in an alley, what would have gone through your mind in the moments just before impact? Would you have been zoning out? Would you have your guard up? Would you be chatting away on a cell phone? Would you have been worrying about how your reaction would be perceived by pseudo-intellectuals who think all white people are subconsciously racist?

America has a serious cultural breakdown on its hands when this is the sort of thing that passes for “fun” in urban areas or celebrated on websites like WorldStarHipHop. Unfortunately, too many people are afraid to broach the subject. Given that, the best thing you can do is: “stay alert” to “stay alive.”

There’s a lot of junk online when it comes to self defense videos, and in general I’d just suggest signing up for classes with a reputable organization. However, if you don’t have any spare cash, I’d suggest perusing Nick Drossos’ videos. If you like them, check out his new website and sign up. I’ve been impressed with his very practical and common-sense advice for some time now. Since the nation’s “thought leaders” aren’t willing to tackle the problem, at least you can teach yourself how to literally avoid being tackled.

Side note: Less than 24 hours before this story broke my wife asked me if I’d be willing to live in Jersey City. I forwarded it along when I read it this morning and asked her the same question.