Fulcrum Ruminations

Saturday, March 24, 2018

Day of Protest

Very emotional day around the country today. Marches and speeches and signs, celebrities, songs, all the usual stuff associated with demonstrations. The target? Gun violence. Multiple mass shootings in the last decade or so have pushed this issue right into everyone’s faces. Now we’ve a bunch of high school kids leading - well, appearing to lead - a massive new push to rein it in.

On the one hand I find this to be just and proper, citizens exercising their First Amendment rights to assemble peaceably and make their voices heard. This is how it’s supposed to work when an issue is getting insufficient attention from the government.

On the other hand, a lot of what I heard today comes straight out of the leftist playbook. Lots of references to corrupt authority (read: established authority that the protestors disagree with), the currently popular “fake news” meme (which seems to mean not news that is false, but rather news that contradicts the Preferred Narrative), calls for greater government intervention. Which means greater government restriction of personal liberty. Restriction of choice. A further retreat from personal responsibility and into the comforting embrace of nanny-state government.

I understand the source of these impulses, I do. The world can be a scary, complicated place and it’s just ever so much easier to turn the hard parts over to someone else. Let the government make the decisions for you. Let them . . . take care of you. That’s what government is for, right? Make the Bad Things go away and let us live in a world of sweetness and light, lollipops and puppy dogs where nothing bad ever happens.

The root of this issue is the Second Amendment. About 250 years ago, our ancestors fought a war with a distant government that had become unresponsive and tyrannical. The lessons learned in that hard-fought struggle were applied to the new federal government formed by the several states. Looming large among those lessons was the need for a free people to be able to protect their essential liberties from a government grown corrupt and oppressive. And although the Second Amendment is written in such a way as to refer to the people’s right to keep and bear arms, what it actually recognizes and guarantees (the Constitution does not grant rights, it recognizes existing intrinsic rights and restrains the government from infringing upon them) is the right of self-defense, both individually and collectively. The First Amendment is the pivot of the entire American experiment, but the Second is the foundation upon which that pivot is balanced. Without the right and capacity to defend yourself, your community, your inherent rights, no other right can exist. And make no mistake, should the Second Amendment fall, the others will be right behind it. It’s a very short step from banning guns to banning talk about guns . . . see Youtube’s recent actions to remove firearms-related content from its service for a splendid example and hint of what’s to come.

Today’s protests are dressed up in the all-to-familiar refrain of “think of the children.” But the people behind these protests, those providing the funding and the scripts and the support, they’re not interested in the children except as pawns to advance an authoritarian agenda. Human beings are not individuals to these people. Individuals have no worth. Only the collective matters, the labor it can provide, the wealth it can create to be exploited, the power it can grant. Leftism, at its core, is a philosophy of childish petulance and fear. Those who adhere to its collectivist ways always see themselves as the elite who should by right be making the decisions for everyone else. Because they’re just so much smarter than anyone else and we’d all be better off if only we had the brains to see things the way they do. Never mind that their ideas only work when enforced by guns and hobnailed boots.

A gun is a thing. An object. An inanimate device. It’s very easy to put your hands on such a thing and take it away from others. It’s a simple fix to a complex problem. Never mind addressing the root causes of the violence we see unfolding, let’s just take the guns away. It’s quick and satisfying. We will have Done Something and the world will be better.

And if liberty dies a little bit more in the process, what’s the harm? We’ve too much of that stuff anyway. People think Incorrect Thoughts, espouse Incorrect Opinions, point out Inconvenient Facts that conflict with our desired world view. Once we’ve turned all that messy stuff over to the government so that the Right People can make the decisions, we’ll be better off. The naughty people with their own ideas will be made to toe the line.

Then we’ll be safe.

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Sunday, September 10, 2017

Sixteen Years Have Fogged Our Minds

Sixteen years ago today America was stunned by an act of sheer barbarism perpetrated by hate-fueled adherents of a bad interpretation of iron-age mysticism. On that day I lost three coworkers, one of whom was also a friend, and the memory is as sharp and fresh as it was the day after it happened.

Lieutenant Commander Vince Tolbert, USN.
Angela Houtz
And of course Gerry Moran.

In the sixteen years since we’ve seen America slowly lose its way. Theatrical and ultimately ineffectual measures have chipped away at our basic freedoms. We’ve failed to heed the old wisdom that says “those who would sacrifice their essential liberty for the sake of momentary security will soon find that they have neither.”

What is especially galling, even frightening, is that the same forces and twisted beliefs that drove the 9-11 terrorists to commit their despicable acts are evident in America today. Religious fundamentalists attack our most important beliefs, such as that all men are created equal, endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights. Goose-stepping morons parade in our streets, spewing their filth at any and all within hearing, while the reality-impaired followers of the extreme left dress up their own insanity in the guise of “help.” People claim to have “awoken” because they’ve fallen for propaganda that matches their existing biases. We’ve elected a complete imbecile to our highest office based almost solely on populist drivel and a deep seated anger amongst small-minded people who are afraid of change.

It was the same factors driving the Islamist lunatics who perpetrated 9-11. We can’t slide down that same slope. We must be better. We must be informed, rational, and view the world as it actually is, not thru the lens of whatever ism we find appealing or trendy.

Western liberal democracy is in existential danger, almost at the point of crisis. Short term thinking runs amok, ideologues pollute the public discourse, and no-one seems to be willing to look beyond their own nose.

It’s time to do better, and the memory of 9-11 should be inspiration enough for that, shouldn’t it?

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Sunday, September 11, 2016

Fifteen Years

It's difficult to believe that a perfect late summer day erupted into chaos and death fifteen years ago now. It doesn't seem possible that it's been a decade and a half since a group of barbaric savages killed over 3000 people using airplanes as cruise missiles.

And yet there it is. We were shocked, we were stunned, but ultimately we were filled with a terrible resolve. The world we now live in is the result of that resolve. We let our passions run away with us and as a result damaged our own freedoms. Wasted blood and treasure on a war that we did not need to wage. Yes, it was proper to go to Afghanistan and clean out the nest of vipers lurking there. But Iraq was a mistake, and we've paid for it ever since.

Learn this lesson, gentle reader. Evil must be opposed and murderers brought to justice, but do not use that as an excuse for needless adventuring. And remember always those we lost on 9/11/2001.

Jerry Moran
Angela Houtz
Lieutenant Commander Vince Tolbert.

Freedom isn't free. It is bought with blood and sacrifice. But don't throw it away in a moment of rage. We remember.

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Sunday, September 20, 2015

Ahmed and the Clock

Let’s see if we can explain what’s happening here. We all know the story by now, I’m sure, with opinions divided right along predictable lines. Kid builds (or didn’t, there seems to be some question about this) a clock, brings it to school in a briefcase to show his teachers, most of them say good work, one decides it looks like a bomb, hilarity ensues. Lots of media attention, the President tweets about it, people lose their freakin’ minds. As it happens, the kid is muslim, which lends a delicious spice to the proceedings. Lots of lecturing about how we’re all terrible people because we assumed the muslim kid had a bomb just because he’s muslim. Don’t tar everyone with the same brush, yadda yadda yadda.

Maybe I can explain the backstory here. Bear with me.

So you’re walking down a busy street in the city. Lots of people walking your way, lots of people walking the other way. Everyone is wrapped up in whatever errand they’re on, not paying too much attention to anyone else. Every now and then a guy wearing a purple shirt walks past you. You barely notice. Then a guy wearing a purple shirt punches you in the face, yells “Everyone should wear purple shirts!” and disappears up the street.

Stunned, you wonder what the hell that was about, chalk it up to a lone nut, and resume walking. Nine more guys wearing purple shirts walk past you. You barely notice.

The tenth guy wearing a purple shirt punches you in the face, yells “Everyone should wear purple shirts!” and disappears into the crowd. Concerned with your throbbing jaw, it scarcely registers on you that both guys who’ve punched you were wearing purple shirts. But as you resume your walk, you do begin to notice how many purple shirts you see. Most of them walk right past you.

And then the eleventh guy wearing a purple shirt punches you in the face, yells “Everyone should wear purple shirts!” and runs off.

Now you’re paying attention. As you once more resume your walk, you look at every purple shirt you see, wondering if you’re going to get punched in the face. Twelve or fifteen purple-shirted guys walk past without a hint of trouble. You being to relax and think about strange statistical aberrations.

Then the sixteenth guy wearing a purple shirt punches you in the face, yells “Everyone should wear purple shirts!” and runs off.

Now you’re angry. It seems that anyone wearing a purple shirt might punch you in the face. So you’re vigilant. You watch for purple shirts. When you see one, you give that person a wide berth. You begin to notice that every now and then someone wearing a purple shirt punches a random passer-by in the face, yells that everyone should wear purple shirts and runs off. You start to try to warn people to watch out for guys wearing purple shirts. Most dismiss you as a nut yourself. A few berate you for making assumptions about purple shirts. One or two get very angry and tell you they normally wear purple shirts themselves but today is laundry day and their purple shirt is in the dryer.

You start to doubt your premise yourself. Maybe it is just one of those weird things that happens.

Then a guy wearing a purple shirt punches you in the face.

Now you’re mad. You look even more carefully for purple shirts. When a guy wearing one comes your way, you raise your fists, ready to fight. The guy in the purple shirt looks at you like you’re crazy and goes out of his way to avoid you. You watch him go, just in case, and from behind you a guy wearing a purple shirt punches you in the back of the head. He asks you why you hate purple shirts and runs off.

So as you continue up the street, you keep a careful eye out for guys in purple shirts and you ready yourself to react any time you see one.

People call you crazy. They tell you you’re a horrible person with an unhealthy fixation on purple shirts. They point out that people wearing other colors occasionally punch someone in the face. You try to tell them that that happens a lot less often than someone wearing a purple shirt punching someone in the face but they tell you you’re wrong and refuse to listen to you any more.

Now a kid wearing a purple shirt comes down the street, his hands clenched into fists. What are you supposed to do?

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Friday, September 11, 2015

Fourteen Years Have Not Dimmed the Memory

Jerry Moran. Angela Houtz. Lieutenant Commander Vince Tolbert. It's hard to believe it was fourteen years ago on a clear and crisp September morning when refugees from the twelfth century crashed airplanes into buildings and shook us out of our complacency. We remember.

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Saturday, January 03, 2015

Motivations and Cogitations

Hiya blogosphere. Been a long time, innit?

Almost two years since the last entry. This effort has pretty much gone off the rails. After the death of my wife and the Persephone affair, it's just not seemed important. Other projects were consuming my writing time. Short stories. Journaling. Working on my novels.

I have written eight short stories in the last two years and have half-completed versions of three more in the queue. One of the completed ones turned out to be not so short, clocking in at nearly 28,000 words . . . novella length. I've also filled up my ongoing journal, Ancient Noise, after six years of irregular effort. And the one major novel I've concentrated on is up over 10,000 words, which is barely a tenth of the way finished.

All this has drained the well of inspiration. There's been nothing left over for Fulcrum Ruminations despite the tumultuous events of the last two years. So many things have happened . . .

The Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare, finally launched with major problems and less than promised results. The thing remains a grotesque government overreach, basically telling us that the federal government has the authority to compell us to purchase commercial products whether we want them or not. I've been over the Constitution several times and I find no such power within it. But the reality impaired continue to insist that it's good for us. We'll see how they feel under the new Republican congress when that body decides to use the same rationale to do something the "progressives" don't approve of.

Racial tensions erupting in the aftermath of the Ferguson incident. This has probably been a long time in coming and represents a confluence of several trends: the ongoing militarization of police forces, the black community's refusal to address its own issues and blaming all their problems on others, and the explosive growth of the internet making what would in previous times have been local stories into national and even global ones. Back in the era of the civil rights marches and Martin Luther King Jr, racism had to be pretty blatant and egregious to penetrate the national news headlines. Now with the internet we can all get a god's-eye view of all the little stuff that goes on and see that there's a larger pattern of evil at work. And it's not just the racial tensions that are being revealed by this trend.

Gun control. Multiple incidents of madmen running amok and killing innocents. Ambushing cops. Chaos. All framed against the backdrop of the Second Amendment, which has been recognized by the Supreme Court as an individual right to self-defense. These forces are heading for collision and I fear the outcome. If there's one issue that could really split the American experiment apart, it's this one. At its base it's personal liberty and responsibility versus the nanny-state impulse to control people for their own good. We're seeing a shift from "innocent until proven guilty" to "we know you're up to no good, so we're going to watch you all the time." This at the same time that we're raising a generation of kids who are online all the time, post their every random thought and what they had for dinner to social media, and are losing the sense of privacy. Everything is transparent to the kids now and that's what they expect. Anyone not living in the goldfish bowl is now a suspicious character.

If the Second Amendment goes, the rest will follow in short order. The Civil War pretty much killed the Tenth Amendment, the Fourth and Fifth are under daily assault as part of the "war on terror" we've been immersed in since 9/11, and the forces of censorship have never been very far beneath the surface in this country. There's lots of people mouthing hollow words of support for freedom of expression, but it's usually quietly understood to mean only expressions that they agree with.

The so-called "Common Core" standards for education are causing what may be irrepairable harm to public education. While the idea of core standards for what kids should know at each level of their education is a good one, the implementation of "Common Core" has been so ill-conceived that it comes close to rendering the concept of education itself irrelevant. Layered on top of all the other issues afflicting public education it may be the straw that breaks the camel's back. We're already at the point that employers want college degrees for jobs that formerly required only a high school diploma. And colleges are having to send students to remedial math and reading courses just to get them competent enough to continue with higher education. I've said before and I'll say again, the best thing that could happen to education in this country is the abolition of the federal Department of Education and the elimination of the Teacher's Unions. The only way this is going to get fixed is to go back to local control of primary schools, the heavy involvement of parents, and the ruthless elimination of social feelgood gobbledegook.

I could go on and on with brief snippets of current issues. Maybe doing this post will motivate me to resume semi-regular entries. The fulcrum continues to tilt, gentle reader, but as I get older I see it tilting in harmful, even dangerous directions. America has serious, ongoing structural problems that simply are not being addressed. No one wants to feel a little pain now to save future pain that will almost certainly be much greater. We want instant gratification and by God that's what we're going to have, even if it wrecks the world.

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Saturday, January 26, 2013

Persephone Lied

Winter is come again
Suddenly, savagely
Springtime's daughter
Abandoning her promise
Sunshine and warmth now lost
She stands, petulant and distant
Light fading
Leaves once tender and green
Turn now dry and brittle, and fall
Frost creeps back
The ground only begun its thaw
Grows cold and bleak
Shadows stretch across the sky
Cold sleep beckons
The only comfort offered
Will dawn ever come again?
Dreams are now the sole refuge
Still and quiet

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