Let Me Get This Straight…

In the midst of revelations exposing the worst violations of our 1st and 4th Amendment rights in the nation’s history, the winner of the Nobel Peace Prize is, for the third time in his presidency, authorizing military aid and action in a country in which we have no direct interest and without consulting either Congress or the UN. This military action is coming in the form of weapons and air support for a group allied with terrorist forces we are fighting all around the globe, and which were responsible for 9/11 and countless other atrocities. This particular plucky Rebel Alliance have massacred villagers, targeted and killed Christians, and publicly executed a teenager in front of his family for making a joke about Islam. This military aid is triggering responses from Russia, which will probably step up its arms shipments to Syria, and Iran, which is sending at least 4,000 soldiers to assist the Syrian government. This, of course, will merely increase the chaos and bloodshed and lead us into a proxy war with Iran, which is what Iran wants.

Say what you will about Bush’s misbegotten military adventures, but at least he didn’t abuse the War Powers Resolution in pursuing them. Obama’s military moves against the governments of Libya, Egypt, and Syria are, in fact, illegal, and in the first two cases have led to the ascendancy of the very militants we’re fighting against. In Libya, it led to the first murder of a US Ambassador since 1979 and three others, and the ensuing coverup by an administration that willfully lied to the American people in order to win an election.

We are being led by fools. And we have learned nothing.

The Weird New Racism

Before we start, let’s listen to a song. It’s called “Accidental Racist” by Brad Paisley with LL Cool J:

In case the video goes away (the official video was already yanked), here are the lyrics:

To the man that waited on me at the Starbucks down on Main, I hope you understand
When I put on that t-shirt, the only thing I meant to say is I’m a Skynyrd fan
The red flag on my chest somehow is like the elephant in the corner of the south
And I just walked him right in the room
Just a proud rebel son with an ‘ol can of worms
Lookin’ like I got a lot to learn but from my point of view

I’m just a white man comin’ to you from the southland
Tryin’ to understand what it’s like not to be
I’m proud of where I’m from but not everything we’ve done
And it ain’t like you and me can re-write history
Our generation didn’t start this nation
We’re still pickin’ up the pieces, walkin’ on eggshells, fightin’ over yesterday
And caught between southern pride and southern blame

They called it Reconstruction, fixed the buildings, dried some tears
We’re still siftin’ through the rubble after a hundred-fifty years
I try to put myself in your shoes and that’s a good place to begin
But it ain’t like I can walk a mile in someone else’s skin

‘Cause I’m a white man livin’ in the southland
Just like you I’m more than what you see
I’m proud of where I’m from but not everything we’ve done
And it ain’t like you and me can re-write history
Our generation didn’t start this nation
And we’re still paying for the mistakes
That a bunch of folks made long before we came
And caught between southern pride and southern blame

Dear Mr. White Man, I wish you understood
What the world is really like when you’re livin’ in the hood
Just because my pants are saggin’ doesn’t mean I’m up to no good
You should try to get to know me, I really wish you would
Now my chains are gold but I’m still misunderstood
I wasn’t there when Sherman’s March turned the south into firewood
I want you to get paid but be a slave I never could
Feel like a new fangled Django, dodgin’ invisible white hoods
So when I see that white cowboy hat, I’m thinkin’ it’s not all good
I guess we’re both guilty of judgin’ the cover not the book
I’d love to buy you a beer, conversate and clear the air
But I see that red flag and I think you wish I wasn’t here

I’m just a white man
(If you don’t judge my do-rag)
Comin’ to you from the southland
(I won’t judge your red flag)
Tryin’ to understand what it’s like not to be
I’m proud of where I’m from
(If you don’t judge my gold chains)
But not everything we’ve done
(I’ll forget the iron chains)
It ain’t like you and me can re-write history
(Can’t re-write history baby)

Oh, Dixieland
(The relationship between the Mason-Dixon needs some fixin’)
I hope you understand what this is all about
(Quite frankly I’m a black Yankee but I’ve been thinkin’ about this lately)
I’m a son of the new south
(The past is the past, you feel me)
And I just want to make things right
(Let bygones be bygones)
Where all that’s left is southern pride
(RIP Robert E. Lee but I’ve gotta thank Abraham Lincoln for freeing me, know what I mean)
It’s real, it’s real
It’s truth

It’s not Paisley’s best stuff, but it’s okay. I have no idea how it rates with LL Cool J’s work, since the only thing I know him from is Deep Blue Sea, an enjoyable film in which Samuel L. Jackson gets bitten in half by a shark while standing in a room delivering an inspirational speech. I’m pretty sure the scene was racist. Everything is nowadays.(Yeah, like it was an accident that a white Nordic filmmaker had a Great White shark chomping down on the coolest black man in modern film. Pull the other one.)

For those who don’t pay attention to contemporary country, Paisley is the most gifted of the new generation: a songwriter, producer, singer, and one of the best guitarists out there. He moves between old-school “real” country and Top 40 with ease, and he seems to be a pretty likable, sincere guy. His work is guileless, which naturally strikes a tinny note for the irony-saturated arbiters of modern hip culture.

Now that you’ve read the lyrics. What was your first reaction? Because people are exploding: “That song is racist!” “Is this a joke?” “Wrongheaded.” “White supremacist .” “Toxic.” “Horrible.” “Clueless.” “An 11th grade AP US History Project.” And so on.

Well okay then. Isn’t that interesting.

The song is a bit plodding for Paisley, using the key and tempo he usually reserves for love songs, which he happens to write very well. I guess he didn’t think a rousing uptempo number like his optimistic paean to modern life and racial tolerance, “Welcome to the Future” (which was as much of a pro-Obama song as country music is likely to produce), fit the seriousness of the material.

The song actually tackles a couple of pretty central issues, which the smart set waves away in their contempt of all things Southern, white, and country. It begins by recognizing the problems people have with the main symbol of Southern pride: the Rebel flag. The rectangular Confederate Battle Flag wasn’t the official flag of the Confederacy, and didn’t really become adopted by racist groups until the Civil Rights struggles. Since then, it’s retained its pride of place for southerns as a benign symbol of all things Southern while also taking on, for some, a sinister meaning of oppression and intolerance.

Paisley acknowledges this, saying “I’m proud of where I’m from but not everything we’ve done” and “caught between southern pride and southern blame.” In his section, LL (Cool? LLCJ? Mr. J?)  says he feels like he’s “dodgin’ invisible white hoods” and “when I see that white cowboy hat, I’m thinkin’ it’s not all good and “I see that red flag and I think you wish I wasn’t here.”

As lyrics, they’re not great, but they’re honest: a rural white southerner and an urban black northerner explaining themselves in simple words.

But that’s not enough, you see. Every single DIALOGUE ON RACE!(TM) has to begin with the proper oblations. The self-excoriation of the white man. The umpteenth rehashing of a history we all already know. The acknowledgement of every white person’s inherent bigotry. The assertion as fact of the idea of “institutionalized racism” as though nothing has changed since Selma. All of it must be dragged out, beaten to death, hoisted up for examination, poked a bit with a pointed stick … and then we can start talking about how a rebel flag shirt makes the black man uncomfortable, and how a group of black teens in saggy pants on a dark city street makes the white man uncomfortable, and how this makes the white guy horrible.

People are particularly outraged at LL Cool J’s line “If you don’t judge my gold chains / I’ll forget the iron chains,” as though he’s drawing some kind of equivalence between the two rather than just making an awkward symmetrical rap, while pointing out that slavery was a long time ago and maybe we can stop beating each other up over it.

The vast majority of poor southern whites did not own slaves. In fact, they suffered greatly during the war, and bore the burden in blood, land, stability, and treasure for a minority of slave-holding landowners. They didn’t fight for slavery. They fought for their states and their homes.

Here’s the thing: smug white liberal northern twits like Brandon Soderberg and Nate Jones and Max Read and many others are basking in their self-satisfaction as they hurl insults at Paisley for not being properly brainwashed about current identity politics. They ape their masters (pundits, college professors, political demagogues) well, spouting trendy nonsense about race, “privilege” (for heaven’s sake check your privilege, people!), and the latest batch of BS wafting out of the academy: microaggressions  (If you don’t know what that last thing is, I beg you, please don’t Google it. You get dumber just being exposed to some ideas.)

Bad theory suits this current generation of young white writers, at uniformly white media outlets, suddenly noticing the whiteness of every institution (conservatism, corporate America, Southern culture, country music) except their own. Ace and Twitchy have been documenting this strange trend in which white people (“Persons of Pallor”) insult whites and whiteness in order to gain some weird kind of multi-culti hipster cred. It’s both infantile and frightening, because this kind of public racial demagoguery is only done as a social shorthand that says, “I notice the important things and I’m better than those other people. Also, I’m not a racist, so please like me!” In the process of burnishing their liberal credentials they’re just poisoning the well.

You know how you signal that you’re not a racist in a healthy society? You don’t be racist. But that’s boring and not proactive enough and might actually be a kind of unconscious privileged reverse microaggression, so you have to incessantly point out the racism and racial homogeneity of others.

It makes perfect sense that someone exposed to a well-intentioned, non-racist white Southern country superstar in a rebel shirt singing about race with a black man would go all explodey-head. Rich White Famous Redneck doesn’t check his privilege! He thinks his problems matter! He acts like slavery ended 150 years ago!

I’m a Yankee to the bone. I have a framed photo of Sherman on my library wall, and I think Robert E. Lee was a traitor. When the war was over, it was Sherman who immediately set about trying to help and protect the south, so much so that he was accused of being soft on them. And it was Lincoln who said “We are not enemies, but friends,” and proposed generous terms of Reconstruction: terms which were abandoned in favor of a more brutal policy by Johnson. The experience of both whites and blacks would have arguably been quite different under Lincoln’s original plan, but instead we got decades of white southern anger and black southern oppression which only began to be righted in the 1950s.

In other words, it’s complicated, just like the relationship between southern whites and blacks, who share a land and a culture and are not at all the bitter enemies of the Northern Liberal imagination. The knee-jerk assumption that whites are inherently racist and blacks are inherently oppressed is offensive to both races. Thirty years ago (!!!) Paul McCartney and Stevie Wonder were able to perform the wonderfully hokey “Ebony and Ivory” without the hand-wringing and head-wagging we’re enduring from the Smart Set over “Accidental Racist.”

Forty years ago (!!!), Mel Brooks, Richard Pryor and Andrew Bergman were able to mock racists, hicks, Westerns, Jews, Hollywood, Germans, and gays in a pointed, brilliant, hilarious film that could never, ever, ever be made today under the gaze of the same people haranguing Paisley and LL Cool J. (Even Tarantino wouldn’t try it without the distraction of violence.)

The truth is, we were more honest about race in the 1960s and 1970s than we’ve been since the rise of political correctness. Django wasn’t something new: it was a throwback to a kind of entertainment we don’t make anymore: bold, racially charged, dangerous.

Everything now is wrapped in a cozy cotton batting of theory and must come with a long litany of disclaimers while also being the product of Ritually Pure Sources (elite, college educated, liberal, politically correct). A redneck singing about why he wears a rebel flag on his chest without just offering an apology and admitting his obvious and inherent racism? That just won’t do.

Can The President Launch a Drone Strike on Columbia University?

Kathy Boudin, like President Obama’s friends Bill Ayers and Bernardine Dohrn, is a terrorist. That’s not up for debate. Like Ayers and Dohrn, she plotted bomb attacks on Americans, and participated in the slaughter of three police officers during a robbery to fund her terrorist activities. She spent 20 years in an American jail because that’s what a civilized nation does to murderers, not keep them in some extra-legal status in a shadow prison far from the eyes of American justice.

Boudin is now out of jail. She shouldn’t be, but that’s beside the point. She’s done her time and is now out. Does she still provide material support to terrorists? I don’t know, but Wiki has anointed her as a “former” radical and we’re supposed to celebrate her rehabilitation and restoration to society. Is she remorseful and redeemed? As one who believes in redemption, I hope that’s the case, but the history of her particularly insane brand of leftism–one separated from the actions of the Manson Family only by a hair–doesn’t lend itself to introspection or regret.

Now let’s turn from Boudin to Anwar al-Awalki, who may or may not have been directly involved in terrorist activities, but was certainly a propagandist for them. For that matter, so are Ayers and Chomsky and the late Edward Said and a whole host of American “intellectuals” who lend their support to myriad murderous causes as long as they’re sufficiently anti-American.

President Barack Obama found al-Awalki’s role in inspiring terrorists sufficient to order his assassination by drone strike, along with the deaths of anyone in his proximity, who were immediately classified as enemy combatants by virtue of that proximity. In a separate attack two months later, al-Awalki’s 16-year-old son was also killed. al-Awalki, along with his son and so many others, was tried, judged, sentenced, and executed in the shadows. Americans don’t do that.

Which leads us back to Kathy Boudin. We actually have proof of the blood on Boudin’s hands. We know for a fact that she conspired in a crime that led to the deaths of Peter Paige, Waverly Brown, and Edward O’Grady, and attempted to kill a room full of 18-year-olds at a dance.

Does she plan to inspire others to do the same? I don’t know. Did Anwar al-Awalki?

Will she provide material or moral support to anti-American activities? I don’t know. Do we have proof that Anwar al-Awalki did? If so, can we see it? If not, why not?

The next question is the title of this post. If we did have such suspicions (suspicions, mind you: not proof that can be presented and challenged in a court of law), would the president be within his rights to fire a missile into her office at Columbia University, where this vile witch recently took up residence?

Would the teachers and staff in adjoining offices be declared enemy combatants because of their proximity to her?

American teen Abdulrahman al-Awlaki: murdered by order of Barack Obama

Yes, I understand that Obama’s homicidal drone campaign is used for people who are otherwise out of our reach, and Columbia University is, regrettably, on American soil. Let’s put that aside for a moment and just focus on the parallels, which we tend to get overlooked when comparing our relative treatments of dusky Islamists in foreign locales and white-bread American girls in cushy university postings.

The question is similar to the one Rand Paul asked, and to which he got a only begrudging and not-wholly-satisfying answer. The legal issues are still in flux, but I’m not a lawyer and thus legal issues are not of primary interest to me.

My area of expertise is theology, and so the moral question is paramount for me. Kathy Boudin is being feted by the smart set, restored to a society in a privileged position where she can affect the impressionable minds of students for years to come. Whatever the status of her soul, she has, in the eyes of society, paid for her crimes and been publicly redeemed.

Let’s imagine an alternate scenario 20 years hence. Anwar al-Awalki has spent his time in jail, found Christ, and embraced peace. He’s written poetry! And smart papers! Just like Kathy! His public sins are washed away in the eyes of society. He receives a cushy university position, where no doubt people–such as myself–can protest this as a step too far for a former sworn enemy of the state.

We’ll debate the appropriateness of that job, as we are debating Boudin’s. We will revisit his crimes, which are open for all to see because the evidence for them was presented in a court of law, presided over by a judge with courtesy of council, and decided by a jury of twelve men good and true.

Except that will never happen, because Obama’s America is Mega-City One, and the president is not a chief executive, but the Chief Judge with the power to try, sentence, and execute enemies. Noble Peace Prize winner Barack Obama has turned al-Awalki, who as far as we know posed no clear and present danger to America, into a bloody splotch on the sand.

Please let me clear: I don’t weep for al-Awalki. I’ve read the disgusting Inspire magazine with which is was associated, and it’s a dark and satanic product of pure evil. For that matter, so is The Nation, but we’re not launching drone attacks on Katha Pollitt. (“More’s the pity,” some of my readers are thinking. Now, now…)

Disgusting as I find the presence of Boudin–and Ayers, and Dohrn–among the American intellectual and political elite, American greatness is measured in part by our ability to conduct this kind of debate in the sunlight. In another place or time, these three would have been disappeared in the shadows of something like Gitmo, and although there would be a kind of rough justice in that, it would not be American justice. It would be neither Christian nor civilized. We don’t do it because we’re better than that.

Boudin will not end her life with the last sound she hears being the hum of an inbound Hellfire missile. Whether her redemption is real or not, she has had her chance at redemption–and justice–and the rest is between God and her. Do I believe al-Awalki was capable of redemption? I seriously doubt it, but hope is a virtue, and I have to hope that the light of Christ can shine even in the darkest of places, even in the heart of a Muslim fanatic urging the murder of innocent people.

But America is not a nation of priests: we’re a nation of laws. And even if he didn’t deserve a Boudin-like chance at redemption, he deserved something more than summary execution at the hand of a tyrant. If America can’t offer the world so simple a thing as justice, it can offer nothing.

Pssst, Michelle: I Think Jesus Is Involved Somehow

Our Nanny-in-Chief has repurposed the most important day on the Christian calender, the celebration of the risen Christ, into some kind of nutritional Nuremberg Rally, calling the White House Easter Egg Roll (mmmm, eggroll) a “celebration of nutrition and health and activity.”

Because everything has to be jammed through your little agenda, Shelly.

Here’s the whole thing. (Bonus!: See if you can spot the missing word in the following. Aw, you can do it without even reading, I bet.)

Remarks by the President and First Lady at the 2013 White House Easter Egg Roll

THE PRESIDENT: This is Jessica Sanchez, everybody! Give her a big round of applause. (Applause.) Kid President — give Kid President a big round of applause. (Applause.) The Easter Bunny is here. Give the Easter Bunny a big round of applause. (Applause.)

It is wonderful to see all of you. And I just want to say welcome. You guys brought the great weather. It was a little shaky this morning, but all of you did a great job sending a message upstairs, and now we’ve got beautiful weather.

And I now want to introduce the star of the Obama family, my wife, the First Lady, Michelle Obama. (Applause.)

MRS. OBAMA: Thank you, Mr. President. Thank you, Kid President, Robbie Novak. Isn’t he wonderful? (Applause.) Robbie, we’re so proud to have you here. You have been so inspiring. I can’t imagine that there’s anyone who hasn’t seen your video, right? You make us all want to work hard and be better. That’s right. So you’re going to spend a little time in the Oval Office just fixing things up for this President, aren’t you? All right, well, it’s good to have you here.

And it’s great to have everyone here this morning. We are so excited. The Easter Egg Roll is the biggest event that we have here on the South Lawn of the White House each year. Today we’re going to have more than 30,000 people who will pass through this yard in celebration of nutrition and health and activity. And we could not do this if it were not for all of our wonderful volunteers, our staff, all of the terrific performers and athletes who have taken time out of their lives and their busy days to make this important. So we need to give all of them a round of applause for all their hard work. (Applause.) Yes, indeed!

So today, we want you to have a great time. We want you to run around. We want you to go over and see the White House Garden. We want you to learn about making tasty, healthy food. We’re going to come down and do some Easter egg roll. We’re going to read some stories. But overall, we want you guys to have a good time and keep moving and be healthy. And, kids, eat your vegetables, okay?

All right, you all, take care. We’ll see you down there. Bye-bye. Thank you. (Applause.)

“Eat your vegetables”: the motto of the Democratic Party.

Data Mining by … The President?

I almost let this story pass without comment, figuring in my infinite pettiness that, if you’re the kind of person who would download an app celebrating the reelection of a tyrant, you deserve to be spammed until you can’t tell a real email from a Nigerian erectile dysfunction cure.

(I said was a Christian. I didn’t say I was a good one.)

The Inaugural 2013 app has streaming, events, photos, and other appy goodness designed to help people attending the inauguration, or those just wanting to participate vicariously in the ongoing destruction of our country. It also has a nasty little EULA with all kinds of data-mining provisions. Here are the ToS and the Privacy Policy, which include a section that starts out like this:

It is our policy not to share the personal information we collect from you through our Sites with third parties, except as described in this Policy or as otherwise disclosed on the Sites. For example, we may share personal information as follows:

… and then goes on to offer absurdly broad categories of people or groups who will be able to exploit your data for fundraising or information gathering purposes. The language is so vague that it can be read to include anyone the “Presidential Inaugural Committee 2013” wants to share with.

As AppAdvice points out, there is a skip option for registration, meaning you don’t have to share your mobile phone number to access the app…

… but since no one reads ToS, EULA, or other docs, no one will realize they’re consenting to data mining for the benefit of Democratic election committees when they hit the “Join Now” button.

 

Who Knew Our President Was Such a Great Comedian?

This arrived from the White House Press Office today. I thought, “Oh, those crazy guys at Eye of the Tiber must have hacked the WH servers and sent this out as a gag.”

But, no, the man who’s grinding his jackboot into our religious liberty actually issued this statement today.

As the kids today say, ROTFLMFA.

 

RELIGIOUS FREEDOM DAY, 2013
– – – – – – –
BY THE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA
A PROCLAMATION

Foremost among the rights Americans hold sacred is the freedom to worship as we choose. Today, we celebrate one of our Nation’s first laws to protect that right — the Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom. Written by Thomas Jefferson and guided through the Virginia legislature by James Madison, the Statute affirmed that “Almighty God hath created the mind free” and “all men shall be free to profess . . . their opinions in matters of religion.” Years later, our Founders looked to the Statute as a model when they enshrined the principle of religious liberty in the Bill of Rights. [Along with the right to keep and bear arms without any mention of quantity, clip size, or other limitations.]

Because of the protections guaranteed by our Constitution, each of us has the right to practice our faith openly and as we choose. As a free country, our story has been shaped by every language and enriched by every culture. We are a nation of Christians and Muslims, Jews and Hindus, Sikhs and non-believers. [Does a proclamation on religious liberty need to mention the atheists? Do they single out white people for some special mention during Black History Month?] Our patchwork heritage is a strength we owe to our religious freedom.

Americans of every faith have molded the character of our Nation. They were pilgrims who sought refuge from persecution; pioneers who pursued brighter horizons; protesters who fought for abolition, women’s suffrage, and civil rights. [And, y’know, not murdering children.] Each generation has seen people of different faiths join together to advance peace, justice, and dignity for all. [Well, for some.]

Today, we also remember that religious liberty is not just an American right; it is a universal human right to be protected here at home and across the globe. This freedom is an essential part of human dignity, and without it our world cannot know lasting peace.

As we observe Religious Freedom Day, let us remember the legacy of faith and independence we have inherited, and let us honor it by forever upholding our right to exercise our beliefs free from prejudice or persecution. [Ho ho he he hahahaha, bwaaahahahahaha!]

NOW, THEREFORE, I, BARACK OBAMA, President of the United States of America, by virtue of the authority vested in me by the Constitution and the laws of the United States, do hereby proclaim January 16, 2013, as Religious Freedom Day. I call on all Americans to commemorate this day with events and activities that teach us about this critical foundation of our Nation’s liberty, and show us how we can protect it for future generations at home and around the world.

IN WITNESS WHEREOF, I have hereunto set my hand this sixteenth day of January, in the year of our Lord two thousand thirteen, and of the Independence of the United States of America the two hundred and thirty-seventh.

UPDATE: Frank Weathers offers a soundtrack.

“Be content to trust in the Lord”

 

No profound thoughts or gnashing of teeth this morning. There’s simply relief that this is all over at last, and that we can get back to living and worshiping as we shiver in the shadow of tyrants. Our faith was forged in the shadow of tyrants: a shadow that fell upon the ground in the shape of a cross. We think these things matter because we’re surrounded by a culture that tells us so at every turn, but really only God and family and neighbor matter. The rest can make our lives miserable, ruin our economy, lie to us, destroy the institutions we hold dear, and even take our lives or liberty, but they can’t touch our souls.

We should, indeed, rejoice that the period of suffering and persecution is upon us, as the early Christians did. The Office of Readings this week featured telling sections from 1 Maccabees, in which the Seleucids order the Jews to violate their consciences and break the Torah. Some go along with it, and they are the shame of the Jewish people. But some resist, and from their resistance comes a restoration of the Torah to the people.

Then the king issued a proclamation to his whole kingdom that all were to become a single people, each renouncing his particular customs. All the pagans conformed to the king’s decree, and many Israelites chose to accept his religion, sacrificing to idols and profaning the sabbath. The king also sent instructions by messenger to Jerusalem and the towns of Judah directing them to adopt customs foreign to the country, banning holocausts, sacrifices and libations from the sanctuary, profaning sabbaths and feasts, defiling the sanctuary and the sacred ministers, building altars, precincts and shrines for idols, sacrificing pigs and unclean beasts, leaving their sons uncircumcised, and prostituting themselves to all kinds of impurity and abomination, so that they should forget the Law and revoke all observance of it. … Yet there were many in Israel who stood firm and found the courage to refuse unclean food. They chose death rather than contamination by such fare or profanation of the holy covenant, and they were executed. It was a dreadful wrath that visited Israel.

I have to admit that our subjugation would have been easier to take if it had been forced on us by a foreign power and not by the vote of people in the next pew.

As always, I return to the Psalms, which is where we will find our comfort and our path. Psalm 37 (36) was written for today:

Are you impatient, friend, when the wicked thrive; do you envy the lot of evil-doers? They will soon fade like the grass, like the green leaf wither away. Be content to trust in the Lord and do good; live on your land, and take your ease, all your longing fixed in the Lord; so he will give you what your heart desires. Commit your life to the Lord, and trust in him; he will prosper you, making your honesty clear as the day, the justice of your cause bright as the sun at noon.

Dumb and patient, look to the Lord’s mercy, never fretting over the man that has his own way, and thrives by villainy. End your complaints, forgo displeasure, do not fret yourself into an evil mood; the evil-minded will be dispossessed, and patient souls, that wait for the Lord, succeed them. Forbear yet a little, and the sinner will be seen no more; you will search in vain to find him, while patient souls are the land’s heirs, enjoying great peace…

Innocence, ill endowed, has the better of the wicked in their abundance; soon fails the strength of their arms, and still the Lord has the just in his keeping. Jealously the Lord watches over the lives of the guiltless, they will hold their lands for ever, undismayed by adversity, in time of famine well content….

Man’s feet stand firm, if the Lord is with him to prosper his journey; he may stumble but never fall, with the Lord’s hand in his. Now youth is past, and I have grown old; yet never did I see the good man forsaken or his children begging their bread; still he lends without stint, and men call down his blessings on posterity. Offend no more, rather do good, and be at rest continually; the Lord is ever just, and will not abandon his faithful servants.

Trust the Lord, and follow the path he has chosen; so he will set you up in possession of your land, and you will live to see the wicked come to ruin.

Yesterday, I saw the evil-doer throned high as the branching cedars; then, when I passed by, he was there no longer, and I looked in vain to find him. Virtuous and innocent men mark well; he that lives peaceably will leave a race behind him, while sinners are rooted out every one, and their graceless names forgotten. When affliction comes, the Lord is the refuge and defence of the innocent; the Lord will aid and deliver them, rescue and preserve them from the power of wickedness, because they put their trust in him. (Adapted from the Knox Bible.)

All will pass. All flesh is grass. Only the soul endures, and that only in faith, hope, and love.

UPDATE: We’re following up Hellstorm 2012 with Heckstorm 2012, so I may be knocked offline again. In  the fallout from the election, I’m reminded that what matters is not rich powerful men in suits in faroff places, but the people in my family and neighborhood who had each other’s backs when Sandy smacked us down. We’ll do it again. No election will change that.

The Kill List and The Choice

Some conservatives seem baffled that I’m not signed up for the Good Ship Romney yet. I’m not “undecided.” I’m waiting to see if he asserts or rejects the right–claimed by Obama–of creating a kill list that includes American citizens, without even providing evidence of their crimes. I’m waiting to get some flicker of a sense from Romney that our drone war is illegal and immoral. Just a little something.

Although I’m hoping Romney gives some indication before election day that he thinks this is wrong, I doubt it’s going to come. He seems firmly cast in the neo-con Empire-builder mold, which is an utter betrayal of bedrock conservative principles.

This post by Jason Kuznicki has been circulating on Facebook today, and it catches the problem quite well:

Barack Obama has a kill list.

Its legal justification is a secret. Its contents are secret, too. You don’t get to see who’s on it. Nor do any members of Congress. Nor any federal judges. Basically no one does.

How does someone end up on it? Obama decides. He decides with a small group of people, all of whom hold their jobs at his pleasure.

Whatever methods they use, they’re secret, too. The evidence — you guessed it — is secret. If there even is any.

We don’t know much about the kill list, but we do know a few things. We know it can include American citizens. That’s already happened. We know it can include American citizens who are minors. That’s already happened, too.

We know that the kill list is valid anywhere in the world: Obama claims the authority to kill these people wherever they may be, including within the United States. Including children sleeping peacefully in their homes.

We know that no one gets to review his decision. Ever. The ones who might do it have all abdicated the responsibility.

If Obama wanted to, he could put all of Mitt Romney’s delightful, gingham-clad grandkids on the kill list, then send commandos to kill them (or drones, it hardly matters). He wouldn’t need to show any cause, and no one could stop him or tell him otherwise.

Do not say that he wouldn’t. Of course he wouldn’t. The problem is that someone else might. And that’s enough.

Do not tell me that I need to vote for him… because you are afraid that he will lose. He deserves to lose.

And worse. He deserves to walk onstage not to cheers, but to hisses, boos, and a shower of rotten vegetables. He deserves a place in presidential history somewhere far beneath Warren Harding or Richard Nixon, both now counted rank amateurs when it comes to subverting the republic. Obama deserves the reputation of a Catiline or a Hipparchus, if only we remembered who they were.

No, I don’t think Romney would be better. For the next four years, government by kill list is baked in the cake. Romney’s been mum about the whole thing, and that’s just what we would expect from someone who thinks himself worthy of the power, and who hopes to enjoy it come January.

Read it all. He’s right, and that phrase–government by kill list is baked in the cake–is a keeper. This is what precedent does. No one gives up power. Even after Caesar was given 23 pokes with a dagger, we still got Nero. The power clings to the office, not the man, and it only grows, and overgrows. In a garden, if you leave something to grow too long, it will eventually burst and rot. As with tomatoes, so with power.

I’m sorry to see the rotting phase in my country in my lifetime. I don’t know how to turn it back. We really are faced with only two choices in this election, and both of them are unappealing options. I have no real illusions here: the ruinous policies of the last four years must end. But being complicit with a grave evil isn’t high on my list of things to do, and delivering death on Pakistani wedding parties and Afghan funerals (and all for the most dubious strategic and tactical ends) is a grave evil if there ever was one. I’m fortunate that my state–New Jersey–is irrelevant in the national election: it’s all blue all the time. I could write in Rand Paul (who I can support without hesitation) and be perfectly satisfied with my choice, and not cause a ripple in the results, but that’s a cowards way out.

I already know what Obama will do: kill them all, and let God sort them out. There’s some hope Romney will be different. I may just cling to that slender thread and pull the “R” lever. I just want Mitt to give me something to justify that other than “NotObama.” His debate performance gave me hope that he can be a decent president. Now I want him to give me hope that he can be a decent man.

At some point, I need Romney to show that he understands our problems are here, in America, and not over there, in the sandbox. They have to find their own way and solve their own problems. Or not. As a wise man once said, we accomplish nothing when we “fire a $2 million missile at a $10 empty tent and hit a camel in the butt.”

Except the tent isn’t empty, and we’re not hitting a camel. We’re hitting them:

Are you okay with that?

Because I’m not.

Civility and the New Media

The Knights of Columbus has an ongoing Campaign for Civility that aims to promote a more civil discourse in American politics, and I just contributed two pieces to their efforts. The goal is to dial down the rancor that characterizes so much political dialog, and which has contributed to the hardening divisions between ideological opponents. Civility is not always easy, and there are times where the line between being clear and direct and just being a nasty bastard are a bit blurry. (I pretty much live on that line.) I talked about some of these issues in my follow-up to the last dustup among Catholics online, and some correspondents found this to be an incoherent position:

A dozen times a week–at least–I read of some new outrage by Obama and my first thought is: this is an awful man. And I stop myself, because I honestly don’t know what kind of man he is at all. I know only what the media projects, which may or may not tally with reality. We can’t make the mistake of demonizing our ideological opponents. It’s not just wrong and un-Christian: it leads to sloppy thinking.

So, while I think Obama is a man who does awful things, I don’t think he’s an awful man. If that distinction seems meaningless to you, then you’ve failed basic philosophy, not to mention basic Christianity.

My point is that we need to get Augustinian about this if we’re going to live and thrive together in this nation. We share our country with people who hold views we may find repellent. I continue to be baffled that any Catholic with a tiny flicker of conscience could vote for Obama, but they would probably find it equally baffling that I’m still considering a vote for Romney. There are indeed “two Americas,” and we don’t really understand each other anymore. But we have to keep trying. We will continue to live together in this country, and we need to find some way to work together as well.

My small contribution to the Knights’ effort focuses on the impact of the internet on political discourse. The first piece is called “Civility and the New Media,” and talks about the warping effect of instant news, social media, and comboxes on the way people interact. An excerpt:

Civility: Do we really want it?

The simple fact is this: For all we express concern about incivility, many people are drawn to it because it tends to be interesting. Headline writers know this, so even the mildest comments about a political opponent are often cued by aggressive buzzwords. People don’t just “criticize” or “remark.” They “attack.” They “slam.” They “pound.” They “rip.” This isn’t the vocabulary of political dialog or journalism: It’s the vocabulary of professional wrestling.

On the Internet, articles on contentious issues, or of primarily prurient interest, always get the most clicks, which translates into money. Ask any blogger what draws the highest traffic, and the answer is one word: controversy. (Next most popular: sex.)

We like to think we’re better than that. We like to think we’re urged on by the “better angels of our nature” to value reasonable discourse, good manners, courtesy, calm, and gentility.

Yet we can’t escape our fallen nature. There’s a vicarious thrill when one of “our guys” gets off a good one at the expense of someone on The Other Side. That’s not always incivility, but it tends to imitate a chain reaction than ends in incivility. Godwin’s Law is confirmed again and again: If any online discussion continues for long enough, someone will inevitably be compared to Hitler. The trend of an online conversation is always downward, into incivility.

The other is more of a sidebar on tips to consider when commenting online, called “A More Civil Internet.” I make a habit of violating most of these suggestions several times a week, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t a worthy ideal.

[Thanks to The Boss and Gerald Korson for making these pieces happen.]

 

This Guy for President: 2016

I think I’ve been pretty clear about my disdain for our two party system, particularly for the way in which the Republican Party has abandoned core principles of conservatism in favor of corporatism and imperialism. I like Ron Paul, but more in a nutty-uncle way than in a leader-of-the-free-world way. Honestly, America doesn’t need a libertarian Yosemite Sam for president, even if he’s right most of the time.

His son, however, is a different case. He’s like a finished version of initial software release: Paulbot 2.0. He smooths his father’s rough edges and that slightly kooky vibe into a statesmanlike mien, while preserving the message of small government, respect for life, and general minding-our-own-businessness.

I liked this speech to the Value Voters Summit, where he quoted Dostoevsky in speaking of arriving at his faith through “a fiery furnace of doubt.” He talks about his struggles with his Christian faith, particularly as a doctor treating suffering patients. It’s a humane, intelligent reflection on God, pain, war, abortion, euthanasia, liberty, and government. Watch it all.