It Worked

Nobody Wins When the Violence Starts

I speak from experience when I say that once the fists fly the subject being argued cannot be what it was at the start. Now it must be about the fists or worse. There is another way and further on I’ll tell you that it worked.

It Worked
Flower Power, 1967, photographed by Bernie Boston on October 21, 1967, while he was sitting on the wall of the Mall Entrance of the Pentagon

I am sitting at a table in a Starbucks in Richmond, VA. The people around me are chatting about things important to them. I have a mug of coffee to enjoy. The HVAC system is dutifully cooling me down and evaporating off the sweat on my Eagles t-shirt. It is a pleasant Saturday afternoon. Charlottesville is a ninety minute drive from where I sit. As I drove over here I listened to reports on WRVA of a car driving into a crowd of counter protesters who were leaving the mall. One more act of senseless violence added to our legacy. WTVR reported that one person died and 19 were injured.

The event was marketed as a protest against the removal of a statue of Robert E Lee from Emancipation Park. I’ve planted my flag against removing symbols of history that conflict with desired narratives. We should not attempt to bleach history of stories we dislike. My reasons why are explained in a previous post. That said, nothing justifies using a car to murder people.

It Does Work

I couldn’t enjoy my coffee and type this without saying something about today’s events. Violence ruins any hope of talking about symbols and signals and a desire to rewrite history in a more desirable narrative. Still, I’ve given over 300 words to something ugly that is not at all what I wanted to post today. So . . . moving on. Sorry, but I am moving on to what I wanted to write about.

I’ve said repeatedly that bullies are an opportunity to engage in creative mischief. The way you defeat a bully is to mess with his heart. Victory comes when he or she has lost his or her desire to continue the aggression. One condition of this victory is that the bully has to be capable of continuing the aggression. It is a tricky thing to do. It is not what most of us do when we feel threatened. Fight or Flee, are the two usual things.

So, an example from history and two from my own life are needed.

Flowers in Gun Barrels

The first example is from October of 1967, when a Vietnam War protester placed a flower in the barrel of a gun. Wikipedia, “When the antiwar demonstrators approached the Pentagon, Boston was sitting on top of a wall of the Mall Entrance when he saw a lieutenant march a squad of guardsmen into the crowd of demonstrators. The squad then formed a semicircle around the demonstrators, the young man in the photo emerged from the crowd and started placing carnations in the rifles.” David Montgomery wrote in a 2007 Washington Post piece that the person photographed putting carnations in gun barrels was George Edgerly Harris III.

I remember this wrong. I have it that Berkeley’s Bubble lady did this in the same time period as she faced down a company of national guardsmen who were blocking access to People’s Park. No matter, it is exactly the sort of creative mischief I speak of.

Git!

My second example is from last spring when I picked up a passenger from the Omni Hotel who said he wanted to go to the McDonald’s on Brook Road. He got into the front seat. I don’t expect you to know Richmond well enough to know that there is no McDonald’s on Brook Road. It’s cool. I’ll tell you as I told my passenger that the closest McDonald’s to Brook Road is on Chamberlayne Avenue. It’s about a $10.00 ride from the Omni to that McDonald’s One the way he decided that he wanted to sit in the back seat. So he crawled over the seat to sit behind me. And he began to tell me to turn down streets that were not on a cheaper route to his destination.

I’ve been a cab driver on and off for over 20 years. I make it look easy. When you ride with me it seems like I’m not that busy taking you to your destination. But . . . I am. One thing I am doing is deciding if I like your behavior. When I don’t your ride ends short of your destination.

This guy was weirding me out. I knew when he got into the cab at the hotel that I was doing the Omni a favor and had already decided I’d do the ride for free. It stopped being about money as he walked up to the cab. So . . . at the destination when he offered me $5.00 I told him, “git“. Not the right answer. But . . . I don’t care at this point. I want him gone. So, being something of an ass and not a very good cab driver is and was what I did. “Out! Time for you to go!” He got, cussing me out as he did. Whatever. I’m worth something more than $10.00.

It Worked Twice

#2. I have a coworker I’ve named Chihuahua. His first answer to everything is, “no.” It’s a bullshit refusal because most of the time if you wait him out he’ll do what he just refused to do. He’s also something of an Eeyore. Somehow God delights on pissing on him and him alone. Nobody knows the trouble he has seen. Also bullshit. But, you need to know these three of his attributes so that the following narrative makes sense.

I am a cube rat. I pay my bills fixing broken computers for a building populated by cube rats. My job comes from trouble. I like this. Now, to chihuahua. We got a request for web cameras from a VIP. Because some rats are more equal than others, this request got a more rapid than usual response and was handled by chihuahua. Chihuahua is accountable for the web cameras because our company sells both the thing and the service for the thing. There are invoices that must be generated for these web cameras. Stay with me, I’m getting to the point.

Our system of record is ServiceNow. Any work we do or equipment we issue has to be recorded in ServiceNow. Chihuahua refuses to use ServiceNow. He has a rats nest of paper scraps and post-its that he uses to track his work. Great . . . except paper in our digital tubes world is invisible. Only chihuahua knows what chihuahua does. When I asked him (finally I get to the story) if he had recorded his work in ServiceNow and assigned the web cameras to the VIP he said, “Piece of shit system. I don’t use that.”

Just So You Know

Ok, one more bit of back story. I campaigned to take over responsibility for logistics and inventory. Any movement of inventory affects me. The web cams going to a VIP affects me and those I answer to, “can you please update ServiceNow so it stays accurate.”

Ruh roh. Chihuahua does not like being challenged or held to account, “why should I do that. Isn’t that what you do all day? Or . . . maybe you think your stupid B-29 YouTube videos are why you get paid? Would you like to talk about B-29 videos to our boss?” Yeah . . . boom.

Now, as he said this he approached the door to my office and started to close it. This was going to be a closed door argument where chihuahua controlled the battle ground. Not. One thing the social workers tell you in domestic violence prevention classes is that if you feel trapped in a space gently try to escape. If your opponent won’t let you out then barricade yourself in a closet or bathroom or other safe space and call the cops. So, no, not staying in the office behind a closed door.

Trapped?

Thankfully, he did not. Our argument spilled into the common area outside my office. And this happened . . . he stopped barking. He was no longer on safe battleground. His trope, of being a boss lecturing a recalcitrant employee, popped like a soap bubble. Now propriety interfered with his idea of dressing me down and winning the fight. It didn’t help that I said, “the only one with a problem with using ServiceNow is you.”

I’d shut him down. +1 for me. But . . . chihuahua doesn’t give up so easy. On round two I repeated my walk through the door to my office. Once again, being in the common area outside my office disrupted his idea of being a boss. He went to his office and slammed the door shut, locking it. I heard later that he cussed out our boss and declared me to be the biggest asshole in the history of assholes. Yes, I am. My boss’ response? ✌

t’s too late to know if creative mischief would have changed any outcomes at the protest event in Charlottesville. When we are that heated it is our reptilian brain that is screaming at us to fight or flea. It takes extraordinary self-discipline to be the outlier and abstain from getting your licks in.

Bark First, Agree Later

I checked ServiceNow later and found that Chihuahua had created 6 requests for web cameras destined for the VIP. My inventory showed 6 fewer web cameras. Still a bullshit refusal.

I am supposed to ask you to seek out training in the sort of behavioral judo I practice. 1 dead, 19 injured. Too late. Except . . . the reason I have not been hurt in over two decades of cab driving is that I am weird. I do crazy shit that disrupts the usual tropes. I don’t know what that will be for you. Just . . . I keep finding ways to mess with people who want a pound of my flesh.

It’s working for me. Maybe it will work for you as well. Maybe we can tell difficult stories, keep symbols of a bitter past and do simple things like love kin, neighbor and enemy alike.

This posted after I published my piece. Worth a look:

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Even Churches Die

Horses know that old hay is no good. Why do we hoard old, moldy hay like it was more precious than gold?

Even Churches Die. One change to my writing is that Yoast SEO likes it if the “slug” the name of the blog post, appears near the start of the post. It makes the software happy. The software also has opinions on what makes my work easy to read. The software and I disagree. It wants a style of writing taught in Freshman English 1A. Yeah, so . . . sorry, no. If I comply I am promised more eyeballs, a good thing. Yes, even churches die. It’s not something that we want to think about. We want our churches to be eternal. We don’t want them to die.

They do die, though. The church dies and is reborn. This cantankerous rebellion started by a martyred carpenter from the ghetto in Nazareth follows the narrative of its founder. It dies and is reborn. If the first death were the end we would not be over 2,000 years into our dispute with Judaism. Over two millennia and we can count billions as followers of that no-account, troublemaking rebel who overturned tables in the temple and chased people with a whip. Although churches die Jesus of Nazareth continues to attract new followers. Crucifying him just made it go viral.

✤ ✤ ✤

This story was fact checked by the Journalistic Integrity Committee of the Peoples United Democratic Free Anarchist Republic of Berkeley and rated, “pants on fire”.

There are two services at my church. The early one is a traditional service like I grew up with. The hymnal contains nothing newer than a hundred years ago. It is Catholic Mass denuded of everything the Protestants believed was not Biblical. It is the liturgy of my youth. I have no truck with it. It’s fine.

The other service, the contemporary service, would have my Puritan ancestors declaring us apostate. There is *dancing* and singing and short skirts and boys in tight t-shirts, practically naked by 17th Century standards. At full song the service is hot and sweaty. We have amplified voices, electric guitars, electric pianos and a trap drum set. It is the furthest thing from what my ancestors considered to be pure faith.

There is a stark contrast between the earlier traditional service and the later contemporary service. I went to the 9:30 service two weeks ago. It felt like an unending dirge mourning another moldy scarecrow buried. Weddings among this clique are rare and wakes are frequent. Compare the early service to 11:00am when we raise the roof. There is life. There is noise. People pray loudly. I’ve seen friends fall out full of the spirit. There are new people showing up. New kids trailed by young parents. It is as alive as the earlier service is morbid.

We have an awesome building. Our pastor is everything we wished for when we called him. The associate pastor is awesome. We have great music, do the worship thing well. We do all the things you expect and yet our membership is declining. We are dieing. The traditional service is not gaining new members. Something has to give or we are dead.

✤ ✤ ✤

Northminster Baptist Church was a fixture on the Richmond religious scene for over six generations. Old in this country is anything older than a generation. Six generations is positively immortal. Northminster Baptist Church died. It is no more. What killed it? A wealthy, dedicated minority who controlled the leadership and vowed to die before they allowed necessary changes. They kept their vow. They and the church they led is no more.

Every Sunday at 10:30am at 3121 Moss Side Avenue in Richmond, VA there is raucous worship.The Northminster Campus was a sorry mid-century corpse until it was given to Atlee Community Church. Today it is reborn.  The old pipe organ was given away to another church that wanted to appease scarecrows insistent on remaining Orthodox Baptist. Where the pipes were are large flat panel televisions. The pews are gone, donated to still another church that has a majority zombie leadership. In their place are stackable chairs. There is a rock band. There is that revival feeling to the worship service. They do an altar call at every service. It’s a completely different church. It is alive. It is disruptive, seditious, temple table turning crazy for the scarecrows and zombies. I love it.

More crucial to me are the reasons Northminster died. Northminster scarecrows were old money Democrats who built a legal fortress around their church to protect themselves from intrusion by outsiders. The deeds to the houses had red-lining clauses in them preventing the sale to anyone not part of the inner circle. These wealthy Baptists were a fountain of evil against a city that is one corner of the slave triangle and was once one of the largest slave markets in the South. Underneath all that holy ghost stuff was racism of a truly ugly sort. They survived long after Kennedy was shot. For them, nothing would change until they died. Yep, that’s how it went.

Today in the room they protected from outsiders there are colored folk of every stripe learning how to get a job. Most of them are exactly the kind of undesirables that the old guard kept out. Mind you, these are the good Baptists who have done everything right, went to good schools, graduated from good colleges, had the usual upper-middle class professional careers. They ran the PTA and the boy & girl scout troops. In every respect they are the heart of the country. Except . . . their NIMBY created a deeply evil racist attitude toward their neighbors exactly against what Christ taught. I’m glad they died. It was time.

That room is filled with the sort of “go fishing together” local missions deeply resisted by the scarecrows. Missions was a two week trip to Central America to build a chapel and save souls. The rest of the year it was another check written for the special offering that week. Locals needed to get themselves to the altar and beg for a fish. They were a Feedmore.org distribution site. Missions was something done to others so they could signal their virtue. They had the ability and felt obligated to fulfill perceived needs.

St. Giles is at a crossroads. We are Northminster about a decade before it died. We have enough scarecrows in key leadership positions that making necessary changes is hard. Our scarecrows have threatened to leave us and take their money with them. We don’t know how we can pay our bills without them so the threat carries some weight and we still do things to appease them that put us in compromising places.

✤ ✤ ✤

We don’t know how this ends. Jesus was such a threat to the church of this day that they had him killed by the Romans. At the start we were an annoying band of dissidents who seemed to be of no-account to Caesar. Four centuries later Constantine was so desperate to win a battle he offered himself and the Empire to God if God would grant him this victory. Constantine got his victory and the Empire was never the same. Everywhere scarecrows try to hold on to last year’s dessicated hay as the only hay they will fill themselves with. Jesus is holding the gates of heaven open and burning the the old hay. Jesus has never stopped being a change agent, a maker of new hay.

I hope the scarecrows die off. We can’t survive as a church with them and we are afraid we won’t survive without them. The one certain thing is that they are old and musty and the hay that stuffs them full is moldy and decaying. They will die. We won’t have them or their estates forever. Nothing is immortal.

St. Giles is younger than Northminster by a half century. We are over 75 years old. We are old enough that our founding members are going home to Jesus at an increasing rate. The memory of why we left Grace Covenant Church and much later, why we joined the split from the Presbyterian Church of USA is so yesterday. We are not yet zombie old. We are close, though, and our scarecrows seem set on having their old ways, old hay even to the death of us.

To be Christian is to agree to let die the aspects of ourselves that are out of kilter from what Jesus taught. Death to this world is a part of life in Christ. This means that the old scarecrows, if they are to have their church, must find ways to recruit new, young members and hand over the reigns. This is never easy. Those rascally youngins want all this change and innovation and there is always tension between tradition and necessary disruption to the old order.

Time will tell. We might still be a church if we are able to let the old scarecrows die, if they will surrender to inevitable change. If not, we will join the many churches that once had a heyday and now are legend and ruins.

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Money

1 Timotheum 6:10, “Radix enim omnium malorum est cupiditas quam quidam appetentes erraverunt a fide et inseruerunt se doloribus multis.”

Money is neither the answer nor the problem. It is not, by itself, the root of all evil. Money is how we have chosen to conduct our barter to acquire the things we want and need.

Deep in my genealogy is British landed gentry. When times were good and we hadn’t decided to tell the crown to piss off, we didn’t need a job. We had our estates and the staff that ran them. Life was good. Wealth wasn’t defined in terms of the fatness of our wallet. Wealth was defined in terms of your position and the health of your land. We had money but it wasn’t a primary occupation for us.

Then we sided with the more obstreperous minorities within the Reformation and began to insist that the king was apostate. Kings. Kings can kill you because they are the law. We would not shut up. So, out of mercy, the Dutch let us move to Holland. What of our land? Gone. Everything that gave us status was lost. But . . . we were fighting heresy, so we were good with it.

Much happens and we end up in two places, Plymouth, Maine and Jamestown, VA., where many of us die trying to farm strange land using seed and methods from our manner homes. It didn’t help that the staff we had back before our departure to Holland were the subject matter experts. Still, there were heathens to evangelize and a utopia to make. Plus, the King of England wanted us dead. The heathens only wanted us to leave them alone.

This falls to me as a presumption that I am entitled to a certain degree of deference and station. Which, I worked hard at shedding. I was successful enough that I’ve been broke most of my last 36 years with times when I’ve called a shelter home.

I hear this a bunch from some, “If I had money I’d be straight.” To which I want to start talking about the lottery winners and other windfall recipients who blow through the money only to find themselves worse off. Just having money isn’t the answer.

In Christian history are many who read Luke 9:3 and abandon everything for faith that God will provide. Todd White is part of a long tradition of ascetic Christians. Todd is one of the few who succeed at living on 5% of their income. He’s not as extreme as some of the Egyptian Desert Fathers who chose completely inhospitable land to locate their hermitages. It can be done. It is done. Could I do this? No. I’m too soft, too attached to my heritage.

Todd and other ascetics could not survive if there were not a much larger majority of dutiful working stiffs who faithfully tithe, do their annual two weeks of vacationary, serve on church committees and so on. For a time, it was a grudge I held against God that I wasn’t more like Todd. Why didn’t status fall from the sky? Why didn’t someone recognize how awesome I was? Why was I yet again elbow deep in a commercial pot-wash sink cleaning pots after a church supper? Don’t they know who I am?

Yes, they do. Which explains why I end up pot washing. An old aphorism, “Live on 80% of what you earn before taxes. 10% goes to charitable giving and the other 10% goes to savings.” Right. If I did that it would ruin my current financial habits. I could not live as I do on 20% less of what I make.

It is almost the end of 2016. My troubled relationship to money goes way, way back. Money for me, is for spending. A highlight of my week is the Saturday afternoon grocery run where I shop for what my heart desires. Within a few hours I have lots of stuff and less money. Like an old heroin addict I know I have a problem but keep being addicted because it is how I feed the monkey and avoid feeling sick.

I keep having the same conversation with a parade of kin and friends. They ask how much I make and how much my bills are. I answer and the stark truth is there is a wide gap of unaccounted money between what I make and what I say my bills are. My claims at being unable to tithe or save because I can’t afford it don’t ring true. With each conversation the kin or friend walks away suspicious that I am not being completely honest. I’ve been asked many times where the money goes.

You can ask me. I use Quicken diligently. I balance all my accounts to the penny. I make an effort at tracking how I spend my cash. I can almost answer the repeated question with some accuracy. Quicken in its own way embarrasses me because it too can’t figure why I finish each month scrambling to make the rent. It too, though inanimate, wonders where the money goes.

This is the time of the year when I feel the ache of my spendthrift ways rather acutely. I am scratching the itch to once again promise that next year will be different, again again times 36. Rather than iterate the same old tropes about Dave Ramsey‘s Baby Steps, Rockefeller’s 10/10/80, and others I’m spending these 1500 words confessing my failed habits with money.

And talking about some goals which will demand that I do what I have promised for almost 40 years—treat money as something to be saved. My rented house is valued at $33,000.00. Realtor.com pegged it’s sale price at $41,000.00 or so. That works out to around $370.00/month. I pay $600.00/month in rent. There is a lot of room for cost reduction if I am able to buy my house on a 15 year fixed rate mortgage.

All well and good. How much money do I have saved for this? You guessed it. 0 Zero Nada Nothing. Typical me. Great ideas, terrible follow through. And another thing. I like travel. I like the trips to Boston I’ve done for Chinese New Year. This year I am pulling this feat off in a last minute binge of cab driving on the weekends. Why haven’t I saved for this? You don’t know me well enough. I said it above, for me, money is for spending. One more. I ain’t so young anymore. It’s not that long before I am expected to quit my day job and live on my savings. My non-existent savings.

Ok, one trope, forgive me. Us who have hurts, habits or hangups have a high tolerance for pain. We continue our malfunction way past when most people would have sought help changing. It has to hurt bad enough that we are moved to not just initiate change, but stick with it. 36 years living this way is a lot of stubborn loyalty to being a spendthrift. So . . . saying here that 2017 will be different doesn’t mean much.

Rehab, hospital, jail, or all three repeatedly until something changes or the something that changes is a move to the morgue. There may not be as severe a risk with money that there is with other hurts, habits or hangups. Still, I’ve been homeless more than once living as I have. You would think I’d have ached bad enough to keep behaving better. You would think.

This week the press will exult in all the promises we make for 2017 that we made for 2016 and kept up for a month or so. Gym memberships will spike and then collapse by March. Some of us devote hours to lovely looking spreadsheets projecting great progress on our debt and spending habits which become so much bullshit almost as fast as we upload them to the cloud.

The end of this story can be told in two years. If, by then I have changed my ways and spent 24 months using money as something to be saved it will be a trend worth noting. It’s been almost 40 years like this. Two years of fiscal responsibility will be something radical for me. If I am only my past then in two years I’ll have yet more stories to tell of FUB‘s and near disasters as I keep doing the painful things I’ve done so far with my money. Mark your calendars. My history isn’t encouraging.

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We Elected the Wrong Guy

It’s an itch we keep wanting to scratch. Dig Caesar out of his tomb and venerate his bones. It doesn’t matter whether you choose one of the two proffered candidates. Both of them are either greater or lesser minions of Rome.

This was our choice: a woman who is deeply connected to the establishment and operates an NGO which launders money or a billionaire pitching himself as an outsider because he’s never been a politician. We elected the billionaire. I voted for Dumpf. Why would I vote for the evilist of evil, evil, evil people, a rich capitalist pig whose ill gotten wealth comes from going bankrupt on other people’s money? I am supposed to understand that Dumpf is devil incarnate. Billary is a lovable fuzzball grandmother who just wants to make sure everyone gets their fair share. What’s crazy about that?

Dumpf won. There have been a string of narratives pitched regarding our new fearless leader since the election. The first was that he was a fascist bastard who was going to inter all the illegal aliens, make our gardeners and pool boys even poorer, steal food from the mouths of Appalachian babies and make Grandma survive on powdered milk and USDA bologna. Dumpf hates brown people so all brown people are even more deeply fucked than they were before the election. Brown people can help out by self-interring at the old camps from WWII. He is a real estate barron so obviously he hates the environment and we’ll all be dead from toxic waste before his term is up. Another one was that the Russians, those evil bastards, stole the election from Grandma Clinton. They hacked the voting system, they stole e-mails from her server and spread craptastic stories about influence peddling, an overly cozy relationship with Wall Street, and was secretly sex-trafficking in children sought by pedophile Oil Sheikhs.

This election taught me a couple things. First, we are nuts when it comes to choosing our leaders. We want childish, impossible things in our leaders. He has to be a man of the peeeeepul comfortable in a dive bar drinking light beer, plain spoken, wiser than Solomon, pious as St. Paul, mighty as Caesar Augustus, generous with free Cadillac’s and cell phones. He should be deeply steeped in the secular orthodoxies of the puritan left but not so wonky or stiff that he will enforce said ethics for everyone, just the enemies of the state. We want our leader to provide for us like a good pimp Daddy but not interfere when we decide to behave in transgressive ways. We want s/him to protect us from those who would perpetrate aggression, micro and otherwise, from those who behave in triggering ways while comforting us when our behavior has undesired consequences.

Second, we got played. It was a masterful checkmate. We could have voted for RayRoberta Bob. The establishment had a plan to co-opt s/him and stay firmly in control. It did not matter who we voted for. They had us at P-Q4. The massive civil service bureaucracy housed in the Executive Branch was going to ensure continuity of power regardless of whether Jill Stein, Gary Johnson, Cruz, Dumpf, Sanders, Billary or my favorite drunk alien, RayRoberta Bob won. Us who voted for Dumpf did so because we hoped it would communicate to congress and the bureaucracy that we were tired of the last century of rinse repeat.

I’ve been shut up. My usual narratives that align to some degree with the orthodoxy of conservative talk radio have been shook up. It’s a depressing thought, that hope & change by way of Washington D.C. is a non-starter. I hate the idea that we are not so different from Russia. You can elect anyone you want to be Prime Minister of Russia. He or she will still be a dictatorial bitch unsympathetic to your anxieties about the fate of Monarch Butterflies and Appalachian children. Dumpf turns out to be a kinder, gentler grandpa who wants to fiddle with the edges of our government but otherwise leave it be. Checkmate.

There is such a love-fest afoot with the press and the Obummers. It’s the sort of adoration I associate with socialist dictators in places like Asia or South & Central America. The fear and loathing seems to be a reaction to Grandma Billary’s failure to continue the dynasty attempted by the Obummers. The populist grandma telling us that she is the reasonable one who will fight for the little guy, protect the snowflakes from their own bad behavior and make those evil capitalist pigs pay their damned fair share.

It feels to me like a freed slave who stands in the middle of the road across from his former home on the plantation and realizes freedom is disruptive. He wasn’t free a moment ago before he was handed his papers. A moment ago his life was clear. He knew his fate, knew how he’d get his needs met. It was a familiar devil. Now, papers in hand, nothing is assured. He has to fend for himself. He has no income, nothing to assure his reason for existence or a purpose to pursue. Rick Warren’s book was 140 years in the future.

For some, this was exciting. It was a victory. For others it was disaster. Say what you want about the oppression contained in tenant farming in the south. Not everyone alive in the 19th century antebellum south was happy to be free. Ditto the Obummers. We have folk who are getting attention because what they wanted was a coronation of Obummer and if they couldn’t have that, an election victory that continued the Clinton Dynasty.

We have had authoritarian and socialist government since at least 1913. My ancestors were subjects of the British Empire. They were not all fervent supporters of throwing over King George. The argument over liberty vs. safety is as old as our republic. We started out hating any hint of imperialism. Our distaste for kings has diminished in the centuries since . The trend has been toward increasingly large, ineffective and authoritarian government for at least a century. Caesar is going to rise out of his tomb and be restored to the new empire soon enough. It seems to be what we want.

I voted to prevent what I didn’t want. The Supreme Court is short one justice. The choice of replacement was going to go to either Grandma Billary or Dumpf. Dumpf won. Obamacare is a growing nightmare being exploited to increase the intrusion of government into our lives. The snowflakes are winning the propaganda war and so the expectation is that we will comply. We want energy independence but it can’t come at the price of harming the butterflies or Native Americans. All perfectly reasonable and fair.

Jesus was not reasonable or fair. His message threatened the status quo within the Middle East and Jewish people. Authority came from God directly to the disciples of Christ. We didn’t need intercessors or interpreters of the Torah to facilitate our relationship to God. Caesar was cut out of the picture. The Levites were superfluous. Our rights, our laws, came directly from God the Father through his son, Jesus of Nazareth. These are troublesome words for the establishment of Christ’s day. Troublesome enough that he was crucified.

Empires fall. All of them. Ours is an empire made of a revolution 227 years old. We are fabulously successful. There is no empire in history with greater wealth and military might than ours.

Empires fall and tomorrow happens. Empires fall and there are survivors. Those that remain have to do the needful because their count of sunrises has not run out.

So . . . what? Anarchy? Anarchy is a foolish lie. Anarchy as currently promulgated means the anarchist can dictate the rules on his or her whims while being insulated from the consequences. It is how we self-governed before we had to deal with other kids and out of the purview of our parents. Though we are losing our distaste for imperialism it isn’t gone. Some of us hunger for god and express our appetite through electing authoritarian figures like Grandma Billary and Dumpf. Socialism? Hitler was a socialist before he took a hard turn into genocidal dictatorship, remember? Still, the reflexive answer remains, “certainly not! We don’t want a god-king, king or anything like that. We are a democracy!

Might I suggest something? When our desires for a leader are crazy/absurd an absurd leader becomes the reasonable choice. Who do I think an absurd leader is? Dumpf, perhaps. We shall see. Grandma lost, so that’s not going anywhere. What about that guy, the Nazarene Carpenter of two thousand years ago, who was martyred by the Romans? What about him? I mean, he’s been dead for a while so there is no danger of him getting caught diddling kids or accepting bribes from Wall Street Bankers. He and his followers are pretty crazy, so perhaps hungering after a resurrected dead guy as a leader isn’t any less crazy than having a hard on for Grandma.

Hope and change cannot be found in the temples worshiping our secular gods of democracy. Hope and change is where it has been for a couple thousand years. The Nazarene carpenter’s disciples still follow him. They named themselves Christians. You know them. They are your neighbors. Rather than pray to the false god kings of Washington D.C. go visit one of those churches in your town. Don’t pray. Not yet. Talk to the people at the church. Share your story. Volunteer a bit–something small that can be completed in an hour or two. This is a long game that won’t pay off right away. It does pay off. The anecdotal proofs of how it pays off are numerous and reach back millennia. Ask one of those Cheezus Freak people you see at that church.

King Jesus is an absurd and wonderful monarch. The beauty of naming Jesus as king is that he is dead. It ends up at not having a king or queen, a good thing. Ditto saying that the resurrected kingdom and temple lives in our hearts. I’m counting down my remaining 12,000 sunrises. Hopefully this house of cards we have will stand. Merry Christmas!

 

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Weapons Hot

Guns bother me. I don’t like it that there is a tool sold which is designed to kill. I get hunting. Venison is good eating. Our cops, military and security professionals are paid to face impossible choices and at times, take life. There are also people with a strong enough signal that they collect haters who go further than nasty words. They need guns. Everybody else? I wouldn’t ban guns. If you want one you should be able to buy one. But . . . my God asked me to love neighbor and enemy alike. So, the stinking turd of a question is, why own something made to facilitate killing?

You know this one: revenge is a dish best served cold. A variant: weapons purchases are best done coldly. If you have any dissonance, darkness, evil, or trouble in your heart, fix that. Fix it before you invest the time and money needed to buy a weapon. Definitely, if the reason for the weapon purchase is aggression against someone who has transgressed against you, don’t buy the weapon. As you stand at the counter choosing a weapon to purchase, you need to be clear and cold.

Weapons are tools for a deadly purpose. People are disturbingly talented at finding ways to hurt each other. Take away guns and we come up with something else to use with deadly intent. We should have the ability to buy and own a weapon. We also need to own the responsibility that comes with owning a tool made to kill.

Too, if you are still a boy in a mans body and want an impressive looking gun that signals your badassery, you are an idiot. We are a first world country. We are also a nation that is incredibly good at selling things. There is plenty you can spend your money on to signal what a stud muffin you are. It doesn’t have to be a gun. I won’t try to judge whether you need a .50 caliber pistol. If you want one, buy one. Just. . . I hope you aren’t buying it out of a need to make your mark among the guys. And if you do buy a .50 caliber pistol, put in the time and money at the range so you can actually hit what you are aiming at.

A little back story. My buddy, who moved to California just as I was finishing college, has decided that his safety is improved by owning a small armory. He’s already bought the dollar store version of the Mossberg 500 shotgun. Also on his shopping list is a .22 caliber long gun and a semi-automatic pistol. I think he’s an idiot for at least two reasons. First, in most self defense situations the distances are well within the range of a pistol. A shotgun could be a liability. Second, he’s doing this hot, out of fear.

I asked him about this post. His reason for starting with shotguns and low caliber long guns was ease of use. At close range a shotgun doesn’t need a skilled marksman to be effective. This is a comfort to him. And a .22 long gun has very little recoil and tends to be fairly accurate, again, relying on the weapon to compensate for poor marksmanship. Rather shitty reasons to own long guns. I hope he puts in the range time to keep up his skill with the weapons he owns.

A katana in the hands of a beginner is a reason to worry. The student and his weapon are a little too uncontrolled to be safe. It is why I was never allowed to practice with steel. Steel was for black belts after many years of repetitive practice with wood. Even then the black belts demonstrated with steel solo. I feel similarly about any gun in the hands of a poorly trained marksman. The marksman makes the gun more dangerous because of the low training effort and consequent poor skill.

It makes more sense to me that you would pick a weapon with the most utility given your needs. For me that is likely to be a semi-automatic pistol. Then, having made the choice you start with training and then maintain your skills through continued practice and training. Ownership should come at the end of an initial session of training. Everything you need to know about weapons can be learned at the range with a semi-automatic pistol. Master your primary weapon. After that, if you want other weapons and can buy them cold, have at it.

There are plenty who buy weapons, live long and go home to Jesus never firing a weapon in anger. For those that own weapons and enjoy them safely, good on you. I have no truck with your hobby. Y’all are not blog-post worthy. Us, the noisy and dissident, we are what generates content and posts like this one. It is us that need to check our narratives to explain why we want to own a weapon.

Self-defense. This one is tough for me. I’ve been a cab driver for almost 20 years. I’ve driven over 500,000 miles without endangering my passengers or being robbed. In all those miles I’ve never had a gun with me. The same behaviors which have gotten me to this point are what will continue to keep me safe. But . . . I am successful in a narrow circumstance where I’ve become skilled at staying safe. The world and the risks in it are way bigger than me. It happens that for some a weapon is needed for self-defense.

Just . . . after 5 years of training in Aiki Jujitsu and all those miles I can’t accept that your only option is a weapon. You have to be creative and smart when presented with a threat that could be shoot/don’t shoot. I’ve been through intense situations where a gun would have been an antagonizing addition. I got through them without a weapon. It can be done.

A small confession: I’ve been gun shopping. I looked at pistols at the counter at Cabella’s. The kid talking to me was in love with an off-brand .38 special revolver. I asked him about semi-automatic pistols and he showed me these made-in-north-korea knockoffs that were branded something like glok or smiss & wexxon. It was a short conversation.

Colonial Shooting Academy here in Henrico, VA was a more impressive experience. The guy talking to me was my age or so and really seemed to know his stuff. Felina was with me. I couldn’t get her to come over to my house for Halloween. I mentioned that I was going to window shop at Colonial Shooting and she was all about it. She had eyes for the Smith & Wesson 500. I thought she was stupid for liking it. The Shooting Academy guy showed me a couple Glocks. Nice weapons. The Glock 19 fit in my hand and felt good as I manipulated the slide and checked the magazine for rounds. His reason for recommending 9mm pistols was the price of ammo. Range ammo was really cheap and more deadly ammo was still inexpensive. He also said that ammunition makers have been working to improve 9mm ammo over other common sizes like .38 ACP.

Then Felina asked if we could put in some range time. I wasn’t ready for that. Felina can be a bit much. I rented a Glock 19 and she rented an AR-15 after I refused to buy range ammo ($4.00 for one round) for the 500. Whoa. Very tight groupings with the AR-15. She was scary good with the Glock.

I know a little about guns. I don’t know enough. I shot .22 rifles at summer camp as a Boy Scout. I had a British buddy in college who wanted to rent all the Hollywood guns–.44 magnum, 9mm Beretta, etc. We spent a couple hours murdering paper targets with guns he could not get at home. I shot a .22 Ruger competition pistol that was pretty easy to handle. Bigger than .38 caliber and I was a danger to myself and other people on the range. Plus, handling guns is an emotional thing for me. I quit shooting part way through the hour. My head was banging with the knowledge that these weapons were made to kill people.

That knowledge still bothers me. Both the Cabela’s visit and tonights visit to Colonial Shooting Academy were emotional experiences. Felina wasn’t helping. The sales guy at Colonial Shooting was a big help with her and with explaining things. Not sure knowing Felina is a fan-girl of big guns was reassuring. The sales guy had me at the Glock 19.

I wrote this last night while watching the final episode of Survivor: Millenials vs. Gen X. I tossed and turned last night. There was a quote I stumbled across online commenting about the Glock 19 from a Latina woman. She spoke of having a love/fear relationship with men. A gun was power for her. Power she wanted to use against men who scared her. Unpacking that is probably more than 1500 words. Still, I wouldn’t want laws in place that were intended to prevent her from owing a gun and feeling safer.

Women, I hear some of you. The world is not safe for you. Felina Ramos has been in Biloxi for the last few months. Another guy, another misadventure with a man. The guy is photogenic and fabulously fem. When they rode with me the other night the body language was story worthy. She was cold to him, stiffly giving him affection while he was annoyingly yappy. After we dropped off Buddy, Felina filled me in. Buddy was starting to creep her out. They were over the initial hot & horny and starting to know each other on the dark days. He’d turned possessive and demanding of her attention. When they were out he’d get all happy when she made the drink orders and chose what to eat. Felina has dealt with that before.

That wasn’t it. A few nights ago in Biloxi a guy asked them for a dollar. They mumbled a refusal and he started following them, calling them names, insisting that they give him money. Buddy was as useful as a Vietnamese dong. He kept whimpering that they should just give him money. Felina had to confront the homeless guy. Buddy was ever appreciative and thankful.

Felina’s big issue is trust. She trusts no one. From jump, she assumes she is going to get hurt. It takes a lot for her to relax and feel safe. Felina has never done the responsible thing and gone to safety classes or legally gotten a permit to carry. Her range time happens off the radar. The point for me is that Felina isn’t so enamored of Buddy after having to save his ass.

I get it that some women come to decide that they way they are going to make their world safer is by owning a gun. I wanted to deviate from my theme a bit to acknowledge that weapons ownership can mean different things for women. Along with women needing agency, needing a voice in policy and law, they need safety. It’s #2 on Maslow’s hierarchy, pretty important. We shouldn’t get in the middle of the choice to own a weapon for women that choose to do so.

I can be at peace with owning a gun and its responsibilities for reasons similar to why I liked owning a katana. It is an accomplishment to practice marksmanship and become skilled. I started this with, gun purchases are best done cold. I’d rather join those who own and master what a weapon can do than live with fear and conflicted feelings about a tool made to kill. Maybe it’s not a more reasonable justification than my buddy’s who is afraid of a nebulous threat from left-wing zombies. He responded with Luke 22:36, “He said to them, “But now let the one who has a moneybag take it, and likewise a knapsack. And let the one who has no sword sell his cloak and buy one“. Jesus said this on the night before his crucifixion along with telling Peter that he would betray him. I’m a poor bible scholar. Read all of Luke 22 to get a fuller understanding of my friend’s quote.

I’ll leave you with this: the highest form of swordsmanship is living so you don’t need a sword. You can’t achieve that jerking a protest sign up and down in a picket line shouting, “no more guns, no more wars!” Nor is your safety assured locked in a university study room designated a safe space with demanding rules declaring what is and isn’t safe behavior. My readers would take great delight in literally shitting on your term paper for women’s studies before setting off a string of lady fingers in the room. We are like that. Learn to fight and win. Master your weapon so you live free of the need for a weapon.

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Knowing You


The last question in the Explore God series was, “Can I know God personally?” There is no reasoned answer to this question. That said, nearly 500 years of Calvinist tradition says, yes, yes you can. With something like this, though, tradition and reason are not enough. You either feel it as a yes or you don’t.

First, our pastor Sarah Marsh, said this in her sermon. Next, my first reflex was to say, no you can’t know God personally. The God I know is a jealous god. He is uncompromising in his demand for surrender and devotion. If you want to know Jesus a lot of the life you have now is going to die. Remember, this is a god who launched a new kingdom by being martyred.

Another reason you can’t know God personally is modern science. Jesus is booga-booga-booga weird. We tell people that they have to die to live, to give to get, serve to be served, be a servant to lead. Being Christianity is living in a topsy-turvy world where Carol’s Wonderland is not strange. A lot of the Bible is starkly bonkers. Knowing God is the realm of the heart. If you try to bring empirical reasoning to understanding God your head will hurt. God isn’t reasonable. He is reliable. To know God you have to surrender some of that itch for utopia we get from my Puritan ancestors and some of that surety that through science we can understand how many angels fit on the head of a pin.

Next, I was raised in the church. I’ve been saved longer than I’ve not been. I’m not perfect, far from it. Dig far enough back in this blog and you’ll find plenty that I have had to apologize for. I spent some of my youth accusing my Dad and the church of various high crimes and misdemeanors. For a time I knew God as a stern taskmaster who disapproved of me and my behavior. It hasn’t been that long since I surrendered deeply to God.

img_jesusWhich, sort of makes me the worst one to write about this. I already believe. I know God, know Jesus. It took me a while to come around to this. I was/am a fan of apologia, of criticism of the church. Damned hypocrites, look at them.

You are going to hear all the standard answers from ordained graduates of seminary. They studied hard and I applaud them for their hard work and consequent knowledge. Their answers are worthy. Mine is not. Mine is the answer of a cantankerous man who wasn’t always this devoted to God. Mine is a lifelong relationship that has swelled and faded. God never stopped knowing me nor loving me. It is I that have shunned him at times then come home like a repentant prodigal son.

When, for the first time in my twenties I quieted down and started to listen, God had some stuff for me to do. First, shut up. No, really, be quiet. Next, all my bluster about how no one is doing anything for that little kid I saw on TV growing up, the one staring up at the camera with big eyes, God said this, “You do it.” Me? Help? When I am a wretch? When I am the one entitled to being protected from my own hot mess, coddled and spoon fed. Yep, I am to do it. I and all the other hot messes that came to Jesus.

The creator of the Universe talks to me, to this hot mess. I hear voices, hear His voice. Crazy, right? Yep. I’ve heard him since the age of 14 when he appeared to me in a vision I had while praying at summer camp. Though, his voice isn’t the lovable, round Pappa I want him to be. He’s a carpenter. He’s short, brown-skinned, curly haired and a bit thick by modern standards. His language is rough. He knows me so when I try to game him it doesn’t take him long to checkmate me. He’s the one that was in my head cussing me out when I complained yet again that I was out of gas, out of money, out of cell-phone minutes, without even change for the parking meter. He was the one laughing at me when lately I tried to catch a kitten and failed in entertaining ways.

I can’t make you agree that you can know God personally. I can only tell you that I have come to count him as an intimate friend. Know this, I tried other ways of living. I tried to keep God out of my head. All those years of Sunday School, my baptism, catechism class and the many books I’ve read and still, there is no place like my usual spot on the left side of the sanctuary, toward the front, singing hymns badly and listening to Keith and Sarah and others talk about Jesus.

The third thing God asked of me is to work for change within the church. This means I had to sign up for the full program. I am responsible for my own worship, prayer, tithe, study and service. I have to show up. Beyond that, I have to participate. Beyond that I have to contribute. Beyond that I have to serve, to serve without hope of return or desired outcome. Out of these five responsibilities I have built my relationship to God, to Jesus, to know Him. And out of *that* I can become a voice for change within the church.

Husbands know this. Many times the sexiest thing a man can do for his wife is dishes. Families are hot beds of chaos and strife. The kids are taxing, the workload withering, the ways it fails constant and numerous. Into that a guy tries to hug her and ask for a little affection. One more demand of her, one more too much. But, he’s entitled, right? It’s all over the Bible, that guys come first, get served, helped by their wives. Uhm, actually . . . no. Knowing God is a kind of death to all that came before, all that binds us to the worries of the world. Dishes are the least of it. And . . . if you remember, it is Adam that is cleaved to Eve and her family, not the other way around.

God is in some ways, a jealous husband and we are his bride. He demands that we give and give and give and it just doesn’t seem to be fair. He is demanding, his people are hotbeds of chaos and strife. Church people are taxing, the commitment withering, the ways that sin intrudes are constant and numerous. Into that arrives you, full of anguish and hope that this Jesus thing could work out for you, with your one more demand too much. Yet these Jesus people seem to be crazy in love with an absurd God. Either they are nuts (we are) or there is something to this God who does a reset by dying.

The central narrative, metaphor for life in Reformed faith is the cross. It is in death and resurrection that we find our knowledge of God and a life as a disciple of Christ. Our greatest heroes are those who made deep sacrifices, even unto death. So, I almost don’t want you to know God. You have to be ready for this. You have to risk your life to gain it. The prayer itself is trivial. Altar calls are ecstatic experiences for some. I worry about the commitment, the days after, the work of being in a relationship with God. All five of my responsibilities involve sacrifice of some sort. Are you ready for this? Are you ready to die on the cross to be reborn stripped naked and having to start over?

I’m really good at words. I’ve been in enough therapy, sat through enough Sunday School classes, that I can confess like the best. It’s all a front, though. My slings and arrows flown against the church accusing it of hypocrisy said a lot about my own life. God took me all the way to the street and to jail. He met me in my truck, out of gas, out of money, out of cell phone minutes, homeless, a convicted wife beater, in a phone call with a cocaine addict who wanted a ride to the grocery story. Boom.

If you are ready, cool. There are plenty who will welcome you and become your family in Christ as you live this new life. It doesn’t have to be me. Most Sundays you can find me in my usual spot, singing praise songs badly at St. Giles church. If you do choose me, beauty. We can walk together as we live out our promise to be a disciple of Christ.

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New Democratic National Socialist Party

So, a little Aristotle with your morning coffee. Perfectly logical. Wikipedia says that fascism is Authoritarian Nationalism, defined as an authoritarian government exploiting patriotism as a means of controlling the populace. Nazi is a portmanteau of the first word of the NSDAP, Nationalsozialistische. NSDAP is an abbreviation of Nationalsozialistische Deutsche Arbeiterpartei (National Socialist German Workers Party).  American Nazis are far-right extremists, the furthest thing from reasonable folk, right? The reasonable folk understand that governing this land requires big government. Besides, there are all these upsides to having a Pimp Daddy US. Obvi, no? I’ll make you wait for me to conclude the syllogism. You have to read to the end, sorry.

I saw a YouTube video where the guy was man ‘splaining to us dolts that national socialism isn’t, ipso facto, evil. It’s just socialism implemented at a national level. No problem. Reasonable people agree that by itself, national socialism isn’t bad. Adolf Hitler, though, yeah, that wasn’t good.

So . . . Authoritarian Nationalist Socialism, or socialism that exploits patriotism (or demonizes a titular enemy) to control the populace and perpetuate the continued rule of the current regime. Sound like anything you have heard of in this country?

When Billary lost, what was the response of some? It was that this was racist, it was unfair. Billary won the popular vote. Dumpf is a Nazi extremist, bigoted, alt-right asshole who was going to send home our gardeners and pool boys, take food from babies and kill our old people. What we were supposed to do is elect Billary and continue the current regime, protecting our great country from scary boogeymen like Dumpf. That’s reasonable, right?

Let’s review. Wikipedia says fascism is authoritarian and nationalist. It’s two successful political leaders in recent memory were Mussolini and Hitler. Both were socialists that abandoned any pretense of democracy in the name of doing the needful for the people. Both were loved because they got things done. Italy’s trains ran on time. Hitler bribed his way into popularity by implementing social justice programs for the proletariat. Sorry about that, “kill all the Jews” thing. That was a bit unfortunate. Hey, look, check out the People’s Car made by Porsche and the leader of the Third Reich. Great car, right?

A couple things creep me out when I hear them. One I’ve quoted a bunch in this space, that I should be reasonable. If I was reasonable I’d understand. If I understood I’d agree. If I agreed then I’d come along and raise my flag to our dear leader, like a good little plebeian. The other is shiny toothed politicians who give stump speeches claiming that they can bring me free goodies. Housing, food, medical care, education for the needy. I mean, we don’t really want Appalachian children to starve, do we? And reasonable people would not want grandma to be homeless and hungry, would they?

s-l1000How do we get to Hitler? He was elected into office. His evil ways revealed themselves later. He was a populist politician promising hope and change for the German people. At the start there was no hint of what was to come. It started out great then it got really weird. Hitler happened when the good people were herded into my house, the absurd house where cool is hot, where being bad is good, genocide is necessary for the common good, where the usual rules don’t help. It was a “frog in a pot” thing. By the time the German people understood the depth of the evils being perpetuated it was too late. They were cooked.

Socialism–community control of resources so as to make things fair, so no one has too much nor too little, has this little issue. In order to assure fairness free will has to be contained. There you are, authoritarian control. Somebody has to arbitrate disputes, administer resources so the goal of the enterprise is fulfilled. This authority will either be controlled by a committee or by a barony of some kind. Either way, you and I lose our voice in this. We don’t get a vote.

But . . . that hillbilly kid talked about by the Children’s Defense Fund won’t go hungry because Pimp Daddy Uncle Sam will feed him. Much better. And grandma will be fine because again, the community through one of Pimp Daddy US’s agency’s will take care of her. Warm fuzzies abound. That’s worth losing a little freedom, right?

A tangent. Western First World Vacationaries who arrive in nominally Third World countries are not a blessing. They arrive expecting a high degree of hospitality that costs the local community more than whatever boons will be bestowed. They ignore any indigenous flavor of Christianity as apostate and proselytize Post Great Awakening American Evangelism as the only true religion. The products they bring replace what could be gotten locally and require resources easily available in the First World but impossible to obtain in a hillside village in Central America. The preaching denigrates those within earshot as heathens needing to be saved. Our trillions in foreign aid over a half-century have spawned a massive money laundering operation that has made organized crime and corrupt governments fabulously wealthy. The answer? We have to try harder to evangelize modernist, Utopian socialist, secular democracy so the heathens will behave as we want them to with our money. Not all help is help.

One more. Last year I got a temp job that paid double what I usually make. I was set. I could save half of what I made and bank some cash. So, where is the money from that job? Gone. I spent it in epic FUB style. Wealth redistribution ignores the character flaws which make some of us bad candidates for windfalls. I had a blast for the months I lived in a company paid hotel and got to see a ton of this land behind the wheel of a camera car. I still arrived home broke and needed the help of my church to get through the year.

Our inner cities are populated by people who are trapped by Pimp Daddy US’s benevolence. They are subject to socialism that is authoritarian and implemented by a national government. This is the price they pay for the help promised them, the hope and change they desire. We do this in the name of compassion and the unintended consequence is a life they can’t escape. Socialism that is authoritarian and comes from a national government. Sound like something we’ve seen before?

hillary-clinton-2016All the way through this campaign to elect a president the Democrats pitched themselves as the party of the reasonable folk. Billary was the reasonable candidate who would continue the hope and change promised by Obama in 2008. The battle cry was, “we are stronger together.” The people’s will would get its due through Billary’s leadership. Mussolini made the trains run on time.

And of course, the people’s will was greater government involvement in our lives through a guaranteed $15.00/hour minimum wage, mandated paid time off, mandated compensation for childcare, more funding for Planned Parenthood, a greater expansion of Medicare with a eye toward achieving the goal of single payer (nationalized) health insurance, demonizing states with Right to Work laws, and more, this is what was on offer as the reasonable thing to do. Less choice and more fairness. How is it not reasonable that society should be just? Why wouldn’t you agree to this?

We didn’t agree. We don’t agree. We have seen what a century of social progressive and increasingly authoritarian government has gotten us. We know. That’s what made us vote for an evil man like Dumpf. We understand. We have been voting in Republican majorities to local and state governments for a decade. We are not, will not behave in an amenable way.

Many villages, in the weeks following the departure of the Vacationaries, have to tear down what was built because it can’t be maintained. These villages also have to recoup their losses after putting on an expensive week of hospitality. They are worse off than before the Vacationaries arrived. This is progress. This is Christian benevolence in action. The only difference between this and the mercy programs conducted by governments are the people doing the work. Instead of well-meaning vacation missionaries it is civil servants on taxpayer funded salaries. There is a reason some homeless people decline an offer of public housing.

Our government is socialist and nominally democratic. It is increasingly authoritarian with those in charge proselytizing an ideology that worships science and Marxist thought. The answer pitched by reasonable politicians to most every problem is to let Pimp Daddy US handle it. Some of our yungins cower in safe spaces wanting to be protected from triggers and aggression. Their reasonable desire is for an even more authoritarian government who would ensure their safety. The Constitution challenges their right to be protected from people who cherish their guns and religion. If we had Caesar, he’d fix it. What we really need is a good old god-king like Jim Jones. We have then, a society that is increasingly authoritarian, increasingly nationalist, and demonstrably socialist. So, what is a name for this brave new world? Fascist America.

It’s not a future nightmare. We are already the adjectives that characterize German Nazism. We just haven’t done the concentration camps or genocide, have we? (Anybody remember Manzanar? How about the Native Americans, that wasn’t genocide, was it?) We are just afraid to say the word. Not saying it doesn’t diminish our itch to be what we claim to hate. Nor does it change the conclusion I set up at the start of this. We are already a Nazi country and were headed with due speed toward a more authoritarian, nationalist, and socialist, nee fascist society. Dumpf just slows down the pace of it.

Welcome to the New Democratic National Socialist Federation of North American States! We are stronger together, most of us. If you’ll all just queue up in this line remove all of your clothing and put all your belongings on this table we’ll get started making you comfortable in your new home. We will provide you with a towel as you exit the shower.. At the next station you will find uniforms with your name tag and process id number. We are sorry we can’t provide a more respectful changing room. It’s been such a challenge providing a great experience to those of you joining us at Manzanar. I hope you understand. Life in Manzanar is going to be great, you are going to be great, isn’t American so great again!

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Climate Change

First Posted 22-Jan-2015

I guess I’m making the very mistake I complain about. Folk ‘sposed to stop being silly when it comes to the phrase, “Climate Change”. I’ve written over 800 words making this mistake. It just seems so obvious that the phrase “Climate Change” means nothing. Oh, and as you reach for your mouse to add a comment and call me a “climate hater” or “climate denier” remember this: blogs thrive on controversy. I tagged this blog, “A House of Trolls”. A flame war on Climate Change would make my year.

lighthouse sunsetBoth phrases are fraught with meaning in the language of those who believe in an apocalyptic future triggered by a failure to properly take care of Mother Earth. Here’s the thing, Climate Change is just about the most perfect phrase for this community. It’s self-confirming. You don’t need a typical syllogism with two predicates leading to an irrefutable conclusion. You can skip predicate 1 and 2 and just get right to the conclusion: the climate is changing. You can say it with all the dread you can muster in your voice. Carry a warning of pending apocalypse just as scary as those Christian freaks who have a 10 year supply of freeze dried lasagna for the day the Rapture comes. Wait, if the Rapture does happen, won’t that supply of freeze dried lasagna be useless?

Sorry, ok, back to the point of this blog post. The climate can do whatever. Your conclusion will hold. Even if you base your conclusion on super-computed big data analysis of the rise & fall of annual temperature, the increase or decrease in the size of the ozone hole, and the migratory habits of polar bears. You can do all this. Maybe throw in some charred sheep ankle bones. All of that fuss and sweat will just be smoke & mirrors. Any conclusion reached will confirm the hypothesis: the climate is changing. Because climate changes. The weather changes. Climate changes.

If your super-computed analysis gives you a warming trend line you can shout in the headlines that we are getting warmer, the ice is melting at the poles, numerous species used to colder weather are migrating north, anything you want. It won’t matter. You will be right.

You will be no less right if you produce a PowerPoint deck with super-computed line graphs saying we are getting colder, that because of an increase in carbon emissions less UV rays are getting through the atmosphere causing the graphed downward trend in global temperatures. Either way, you will be right. My point, though, is that you can’t infer an apocalyptic outcome from changes in the climate.

I’m being reasonable though. I forget that those who scream about the end of the world from global warming/cooling/climate change are kin to me. They don’t operate on reason. They live in their hearts and truth comes from how they feel about something. They feel like the world is going to end in 5, 4, 3, 2 . . . BOOM! Not dead? dang. Guess it hasn’t happened yet. Freeze dried lasagna is not bad.

They feel that it’s getting colder/warmer and it’s because evil corporations hate the peepul and mother earth so the solution is law that forces evil corporations to luv the peepul and love mother earth. They feel this so it is true. I’ll listen to someone with a claim that climate change is science once we get out of the rhetorical shell game of claiming truth to be what we feel it to be. Meaningless phrases like “Climate Change” that are branded with meaning based on baseless assertions won’t get it done for me.

And no, you can’t toss me in the pen under the Coliseum with other “climate haters”. That’s too easy. It’s another two word phrase that is pablum not worth the minuscule space it’ll occupy on the virtual web server that hosts this site. God put us here to take care of his creation. We owe it to him to care about the environment, to be climate lovers. But, as I love to say, asking an unreasonable world to be reasonable is a fools errand. You’ll have as much luck asking an angry woman to calm down, to be reasonable. I forget that I live behind the looking glass where all the maths are irrational. The geometry is impossible because of the uncertainty introduced when we look at something.

Rhetoric is much more a child of the storyteller and poet than it is of the careful reasoning of the old Greeks like Aristotle & Plato. It’s an odd world I live in where insanity is the norm. So, here too, wanting those who believe in the looming disaster of climate change to be reasonable is stupid. But, it’s a foolish wish from a fool living in Wonderland. Maybe at least being open about it has some merit. Maybe. Maybe I am a climate denier and a climate hater and just don’t understand. I need a new tinfoil hat. I washed the last one and it came out badly crunched up and partly melted.

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PORN!! Oh. Yo!

So, yeah, porn is some diminishing return. Oh, and parents, this one isn’t kid friendly. You probably want to either not read this or be ready to talk to your kids about it once you & they are done. Back to what I was saying–the first magazine or video rocks your world and then at least with me, starts to piss me off. Her & him, on the screen, will never get near me. All the things I love about women will never happen. She’s onscreen with him so although it’s just a job, she’s still got him for the length of the shoot. She’s clearly taken. Which . . . since I have no shot, WTF?!

Boschsevendeadlysins” by Hieronymus Bosch (circa 1450€“1516) – “The Seven Deadly Sins and the Four Last Things”, painting by “Hieronymus Bosch”. Licensed under Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons

The other reason, though, is that it is a menage a trois. It’s a three-way relationship. There is person 1, of whatever gender identity, person 2, also of some . . . y’know . . . I’m hetero, so we are going to talk about women. I’m so not interested in trying to make this fit your [genderidentitychoiceofpartner]. You can stop here and not read the post. I’m not mad. Crazy, maybe, but not mad. Gone? No? Ok. As I was saying . . . It’s a three-way. It’s him, her and the porn. Some of him is devoted to the porn and thus, not devoted to her. So, if he does love her, why is that part of him partitioned off from her? Why can’t she have that part of him? I don’t like to share. If I’m with someone I expect them to be devoted to me. It’s not a possessive thing. I possess little, least of all a woman. It all belongs to God. It’s not about possession or ownership or turf. It’s about my idea of love including a self sacrificing surrender to God first and my partner second.

Exodus 20:3, “Thou shalt have no other gods before me.” Porn gets in the middle of that. It becomes a demi-god in the life of the person who is into it. God has to share the person as well as the partner, possibly me, has to share some of his or her time, intimacy, devotion, energy, horniness, & spirit. It defies the rule that we shalt not have no other gods before Yahweh.

A hunger for sex is God given. It is there for a purpose like our hunger for food is there for a purpose. Like our hunger for food it is endless. We can’t make it go away no matter how many orgasms, how much horizontal bopping, how much self-stimulation we do. Yet, if we learn discipline, if we learn to live with the hunger, to give in to it as God would have us do, we can be blessed in ways we’ll never get as long as we obsess over a video of a woman getting naked and getting off. We are to hunger relationship because God made us to be this way. We are not made to be alone. He doesn’t want us to starve. He also doesn’t want us to be gluttons or overly lustful. He wants us to figure out what we like to eat, who we like to be with, and eat our fill and fulfill our need for relationships with the right people and under submission to Him.

Porn drains life from our natural hunger for relationship. It turns it perverse and becomes a festering wound in our soul that won’t heal without God. Porn also keeps the glass half-full in a bad way. We can’t be filled by God, by our partner all the way because in that glass is something else–pornography. To be filled by God we have to be empty. We have to be hungry. It makes us miserable, yes. But the misery, the emptiness, the loneliness, leaves room where God can be and where our partner can be. We can be filled on a more healthy way by removing this from our lives.

Last thing. At the core of this is the trouble that false idols cause. You could edit this post to talk about alcohol, drugs, gluttony, lust or whatever hurt, habit or hangup is between you and God. The point would stand. Whatever it is, it has a piece of you that God doesn’t have and that’s a problem. There is a god before God in the hurt, habit or hangup which leaches off some of your love and devotion. Whatever it is, it has you and that piece of you is unavailable to your partner, also a problem.

The story repeats enough to be a trope. In the beginning, it’s great, it feels good, it seems like it makes your life better, then the slow bleed begins and you find yourself stuck, unable to stop the behavior that is now killing you. Then the negative consequences escalate until you either start recovery, die or end up in prison. You have been double-tapped by a minion. Boom.

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Pain Forecasted

The King James version has Exodus 20:13 as “Thou Shalt Not Kill.” The ESV has it as, “Thou Shalt Not Murder.” What do you do with a bully? There is also Matthew 5:38, “You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’ 39 But I say to you, Do not resist the one who is evil. But if anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also. 40 And if anyone would sue you and take your tunic,[a] let him have your cloak as well“. Yet, a bully is driven to cause misery, to intimidate and injure a victim. Turning the other cheek seems like exactly the wrong thing to do.

bullyIn my neighborhood the way we figured you out was to tease you. We bullied you to understand what you were like when faced with aggression. If you stepped up and won a few fights we liked you. If you let us be ugly to you we shunned you and you became prey. I did not know how to make my place among Eric’s friends and honor my father. My Dad, confessed Christian and red((pink)er) diapered son of card carrying communists, understood the Bible to say that we ought not fight. My Dad is a good man and sincere in what he believes with conviction. When I was young I thought he was evil.

Eric and his buddies lived down the street from me. We all went to the same school from kindergarten until fifth grade. I failed Eric’s attempt to figure me out. I honored my father and refused to fight. That hurt, still hurts.

Eric was my nemesis. He headed up a clique that took great delight in my misery. He was the one guy who I could not defeat without defying my father. Not then, not with what I knew then. These days, if I could talk to my younger self, we’d deflate Eric and be done with him.

I thought then, still feel at times, that what Eric needed was a black eye, a fat lip, and maybe a nice bloody scalp wound. To respect my father rule meant I had to find ways to avoid Eric. I got very good at being where he wasn’t. He and I fought a maneuvering war that lasted through fourth & fifth grades. It felt like a 100 years. Sometimes I’d lose the maneuvering war and have to engage with him. Now I was caught. If I fought I’d piss off my Dad. If I didn’t it hurt. My memory, now colored by time, is that it seemed like every day was a battle. Eric and I did fight once or twice over two years. I lost each time. And my Dad sat me through a long lecture on honoring your parents. Bleh.

I make a lot of noise about mercy. I say that forgiveness is central to the way I live. If you ask me if I’m a lover or a fighter I’ll tell you I’m a lover. Mostly because I figure being a lover is the more socially acceptable answer. There is still a boy in me who’d like to kick Eric’s ass. Am I a lover? Am I a fighter? Do I have to choose? I think I lean more toward fighter, toward warrior. I am not, though the fighter my younger self was. I hold rank in a martial art that teaches non-violent variants of old hand-to-hand combat techniques. Victory is the defeat of the enemy’s will to fight. This is not the boy-soldier life of my youth. It is much closer to the grown-ass man life of Musashi with an oak practice sword. The misery of the playground was resolved by moving me to Mullica Hill Friends School. I thought that if I changed schools my days of being bullied would be over. Not.

Brian Sykes, a star athlete at the school, picked up where Eric left off. I taught Brian how to treat me. It took another decade or so for me to learn that our internal battlefield travels with us. Our minions, dragons & demons remain no matter how agreeable our domicile is. Our fight with them only escalates if we attempt to outmaneuver them or ignore them. The misery of the playground will continue until you engage. This is really what Eric wanted. He wanted to engage. He wanted to win. All I had to do is run toward the fight and win. Between defying my father and letting the misery continue I ended up choosing to defy my father.

There are ways to engage Eric, though, that settle it and leave him able to attack. That is the art of war we should be learning and embodying. I’m a loving warrior. I fight for peace. I fight to find ways to transform my enemy so that we can engage and build healthy relationships. Pain is possible, as is striking and grappling. Weapons are used–Musashi’s oak sword and lengths of staff from 6″ to 8’ as examples. The boundary is this: if you are able to continue the fight then it wasn’t violent. Within those boundaries I fight to strengthen relationships and make allies of my enemies. What if, though, you find an enemy who won’t quit. Today is a good day to die for them. This gives us a choice. Do we die and be martyred to protect our principles or do we attempt to destroy the bloodthirst of such an enemy, knowing that if it can’t be defeated we may have to choose whether we live or our enemy lives? I don’t know what I would do if it came down to it.. I’d like to believe I can end it before I have to make such a choice. Between, “thou shalt not kill” and “thou shalt not murder” I tend to agree with those who read that commandment as “thou shalt not murder.” I pray I live a long and rich life before I have to choose. Not very definitive but there it is.

Bullies are not warriors. Bullies want pain. Warriors fight to end it, to end the pain, to regain peace. My twist on it is the setting of a rule of engagement. Victory comes in the defeat of the enemy’s will to fight. Defeating a bully comes in transforming his or her heart so he or she no longer hungers for the pain of others. We can do this in artful ways if we are humble before God.

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