Thursday, April 20, 2006

Sad Boy

I recently read an article by Nina Burleigh in Salon.com called “Country Boy”. While I was stunned by the content and tone while reading it, I am even more upset after I have had time to reflect on it. Please go read the article before continuing; the entirety of her work is important.

While the intro paragraph is simply expository, the contempt begins very quickly. Despite the evident beauty of the region (which she admits later) her description of the small American town of Narrowsurg is of a ‘depressed’ and ‘harsh’ realm, oh-so distant from the lost, ‘idyllic’ existence in Paris with its superior culture and social services.

Her contempt for the town and those in it never flags. She reveals that her friends were other ‘city folk’ – who were openly contemptuous of the institution of the town (without bothering to visit or investigating them, she admits). At one point she feels the need to pause and inform the readers that the ‘Narrows’ in Narrowsburg refers to the local river narrows, not the mindset of the residents. Despite he early references to the principal and other school staff being open and friendly, the narrative shows her and her husband as deeply suspicious of the local residents, constantly fearful of maliciousness and being ‘singled out’ – even though she has no examples of such behavior. Indeed, the bucolic atmosphere of the town and its people keeps seeping through her narrative despite her best efforts to justify her own paranoia.

Her over-reaction was based upon her perception of an incident she describes. The incident began simply; a flyer in her son’s backpack with an open invitation to a bible study, obviously described as not part of regular school. How did she and her husband react? With ‘panic’! They did not send a note back; they did not call and ask, or complain, or request a conference. No – they immediately called the ACLU! The ACLU assured them that such information being made available is, indeed, not felonious, but the ACLU did call to complain about the flyer perhaps looking official (well, it did cause two grown people to immediately seek legal help).

She seems upset that the principal who had to field the call, was forced to apologize for a harmless incident, and was as aware as the author that only one set of parents in town would be so reactionary, was ‘less warm’ to her and her husband thereafter.

Her revelations of their fear of religion and the religious actually gets worse. When she and her husband discovered that their son’s kindergarten teacher was actually devout (in a conservative church, yet) they were very careful not to express their own political and religious views. Why? They feared their son would be ‘singled out’ by the same woman she had earlier described as a ‘cheery’, ‘enthusiastic’ teacher with almost two decades of teaching experience. If the teacher had been a member of MoveOn, would Mrs. Burleigh have worried about the ability of conservative parents to speak freely without fear? Somehow, I doubt it.

She also betrays a distrust of the military and veterans; her and her husband were ‘uneasy’ that 25% of the town adults were veterans and that 10% of the local graduates had gone on to military service (and this after her discussion of the economic woes of the area). She mentions wanting to ‘protest’ the Pledge of Allegiance by sitting down as her son recited it in the mornings. The only favorable mention of a veteran comes from one who expressed his desire that no child experience war. She interpreted the following silence as an acknowledgement of rebuke by the townspeople.

I assume Mrs. Burleigh has never spent any time in a Legion hall or a VFW post. As a proud member of the VFW I can tell you this – every veteran shares this desire to spare all people from war. When it is expressed by a veteran, especially on Veterans Day and Memorial Day, the proper response is silence. The silence veterans all share when remembering the sacrifices made by the living and the dead, the horror of destruction, and the desire for peace. You don’t applaud the acknowledgement of death; you don’t cheer the memory of friends who died to save your life. Non-veterans with a sense of decency who hear these things are silent out of respect and the clear knowledge that the pains and sacrifices of American veterans were given up to provide those young men and women, those children, and the author herself her freedom from slavery, terror, and death. Her sheer inability to understand this silence is almost the most self-damning thing she writes in this piece.

I said ‘almost’ the most self-damning thing she writes. The most self-damning is the very heart of the text; her attitudes toward her own son.

Her son sounds like a cheerful, outgoing sort. Based upon his mother’s writing, it seems that being exposed to the influences of a ‘traditional’ school was quite good for the young man. He also seems to have absorbed the patriotism that is so very common in America. Well, if you avoid the largest cities and college towns, that is. He recites the Pledge of Allegiance with gusto, sings ‘the Star Spangled Banner’ and ‘America the Beautiful’, and comes to love his country.

This is a major problem for his parents. His mother views patriotism as “childish” and na├»ve, something to be shed sooner than a belief in Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny and far, far more fantastical than those two mythical beasts. She mentions how she and her husband are careful to explain all of America’s faults to their son. She wistfully wishes she could believe in a land where ‘good and brotherhood’ co-exist while making it clear that Narnia is much more real than an America where such things as that could be.

Her son now goes to school in Manhattan. He doesn’t say the Pledge anymore and doesn’t favor the flag’s colors as he once did. While the small, ‘conservative, traditional’ school taught him to read two grades above his placement in the “well rated” school he now attends, I doubt that he will continue to be challenged to the same level of performance. She admits what this metropolitan, certainly large, absolutely ‘liberal, modern’ school has already expanded his horizons” now he wants an xbox, knows how to curse, and knows what the word ‘sexy’ means.

Oddly enough, his new school doesn’t even seem to have a single American flag.

Update:
See also the Colossus of Rhodey
and Alarming News
Another Update:
Dr. Sanity
More Updating:
The Anchoress, Sadly, No!, Instapundit, Crush Liberalism, The Corner, Teahouse on the Tracks, NewsBusters, Clear and Present, The Urban Grind, Rebecca Hartong, and many others.
Yet More:
LeatherneckM31

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

The Peaceful Left

There was recently an article talking about the angry Left. There has been a lot of pushback from the Left blogosphere, but the blog featured in the WaPo article, My Left Wing, actually claims that they (although Maryscott runs it, it is a joint blog in some ways) are not angry, but wrathful; they claim that wrath, a ‘just’ emotion, motivates the Left while anger (seemingly an ‘unjust’ emotion) motivates the Right. The author of the piece draws parallels with the Grapes of Wrath and mentions that the anger of the Right led to the Know-Nothings, the Moral Majority, Huey Long, and other ‘repressive, jingoistic’ movements. The wrath of the Left, the author contends, led to Populist and Progressive movements and the protests against the Vietnam War (with the implication that these things are righteous).

The author explicitly admits that ‘out of context’ the vitriol of the Left (as exemplified by Maryscott), seen as anger, can be “jagged and shockingly hateful”. Well, I must agree that many see it that way. But, the author continues, when seen ‘in context’ it is a passionate force that ‘unites readers’ by having them share her wrath and this shared wrath creates a sense of ‘empowered community’. So, what context is it that transforms the expletive-laden foamed ranting of this self-described ‘insanely angry’ woman into an exercise in community building? What type of context could forge a reality where the Ann Coulters of the world seethe with the impotent rage of the powerless while Maryscott and fellow wrathful Leftists roar with the empowered rage of those abandoned by their government?

Why, nothing less than the “call-to-action of a people’s revolution”, of course.

Oh, that context.

Let’s be honest, here – this guy is actually a pretty good example of the typical Modern American Leftist. These sorts, seemingly immune to self-reflection, point to Ann Coulter and attempt to savage her as angry but look to Howard Dean as a man driven to anger by the injustices of this dusty Earth. Or the scores of leftwing bloggers who rant on and on about how much they hate ‘ignorant, mouth-breathing, close-minded, inbred, racist, xenophobic, theocratic, greedy, homophobic, wingnut, fundie rightwingers’ who are inherently evil because they are so… bigoted. That is why the author of this piece can sneer down his nose at Huey Long and the Moral Majority while holding up Populism, Progressivism, and the Vietnam Protests as paragons of ‘righteous action’.

Maryscott O’Connor, the boss of My Left Wing, describes herself as a “leftist Liberal Socialist commie” with obvious pride. The author refers to the ‘context’ of a ‘call-to-action of a people’s revolution’ transforming ‘shockingly hateful’ words and actions into a righteous cause – all part and parcel of the Communist agitators of 3-4 decades ago. It is all part of the whole; the Left in America still embraces Socialism and Communism very closely, often very publicly. The Nation calls for the Left to openly admit that they are, indeed, Socialists. In that article for the Nation the author, Ronald Aronson, argues that the Democrats lack a vision because they have abandoned Socialism (at least publicly) and he calls on them, much like the Daily Kos and many other leftwing bloggers, to move further to the Left and embrace Socialism proudly and publicly.

How many times must Socialism and Communism fail before the Left admits that they are failures? No Communist government has survived the 20th century with anything resembling actual Communism fully in place without massive pain. Communist China is a capitalist’s paradise, only lacking civil rights. Vietnam is quickly joining China as a “we’re run by dictators called Communists, but we want time and a half for overtime so little Suzy can get a new cell phone” style state. The Soviet Union slaughtered tens of millions of its own people with purges, pogroms, and purposeful starvation campaigns. The repressions of Communist dictatorships in South America were terrible. The repression in Cambodia under Communism were horrific. The concept of Communism permitting civil rights is a joke, let alone the sometimes-heard argument that Communist nations were “more free’.

Communism is primarily an economic system. The Soviet Union collapsed because of a total failure of its economy. Cuba went from being the envy of Latin America, a nation so wealthy that it had positive migration to Cuba from all over the world, to being one of the poorest nations on Earth. The only reason Cuba survived was the more than $100 billion dollars in aid poured in by the Soviet Union prior to its collapse. Since then Cuba has subsisted on aid, tourism, and similar means. The devastation of the Communist economic system looks like it will last two to three generations after Communism ends. Even Germany, which had half of its economy remain non-Communist, will take decades more to recover. Mentioned earlier, the only reason China and Vietnam are doing well economically is – they no longer have Communist economies. Venezuela’s quasi-Communist president’s attempts to create a Communist-style economy have already damaged the Venezuelan GDP (which is shrinking per capita), even with its large oil wealth.

So Communism is a complete failure as a economic system (its primary purpose) and all Communist nations have been marked with repression, terror, and injustice. Every. Single. One. It seems obvious that, in this day and age, Communists are one of three sorts of people: the first sort are totally ignorant of history. They don’t know about the routine repression, murder, torture, and other repressions of all past Communist regimes, nor the economic stagnation, mismanagement, and waste. This allows them to believe the propaganda that Communism will ‘make things better’. Most “four year Communists” (i.e., college students majoring in Peace and Justice Studies) are of this sort. The second sort of people want a world where the few people who are left are simple, largely-ignorant peasants who till the soil for subsistence and have no access to industry or technology. Surprisingly, there are a fair number of modern Communists like this.

The third sort are the ones that believe that they will be the apparatchiks, the Party Members, the movers and shakers. You know, the dictators. No scratching in the earth for wheat for them; no bone-crushing quota at the smelter to achieve the newest Five Year Plan in their Communist Utopias. No, sir, they will be giving speeches at the Party Congress, addressing the UN, and setting those Five Year Plan quotas! I personally believe that there are more of these types leading marches, writing columns, and updating their blogs than most suspect.

“But Deep,” you say, “That Aronson fella’ was talking about Socialism, not Communism.”

Six of one, half a dozen of the other, I say.

Way back when Marx was talking about such things originally, he envisioned an ‘intermediate stage’ between the chains of Capitalism and the liberation that would be the new era of the Communist Man. Marx and later theorist theorists termed this halfway house of the soul ‘Socialism’. Before that difference became effectively formalized by the Bolshevik Revolution, Socialism and Communism were completely interchangeable terms. After the foundation of the Soviet Union the Socialists of Europe began to drift away from what became Stalinist Communism. But Socialism retained the essentially Communist ideas of the exploitation of labor, the class struggle, and that the means of production need to be controlled and centrally planned.

In other words, Socialism is still Communism Lite. There is still great debate over how close to Communism Socialism is, should be, could be, ever was, etc. In the end, however, the European Socialist nations share certain characteristics – they accept as true the central arguments behind Communism (as I mentioned, the class struggle, the labor theory of value, the historical inevitability of the advance of Socialism, that all profit is theft, and the belief that at least the main elements of production need to be controlled by the state. Many toss in a distrust or hate of any personal property); they have a mixed economy (either because their nation is not fully Socialist and Capitalist elements resist the transition, or they have modified their view of Socialism to face reality); and they are all in decline.

Of course they are in decline; after all, many if not all of the core ideas they base their economic theories on are simply wrong. Its like trying to research genetics by studying DNA while thinking that Lamarck fellow certainly had it right. The two ideas are in conflict.

As I have written before, the economic decline of Europe may be irreversible. Their per capita GDP and median income are lower than in America, their tax base is shrinking rapidly, and they are facing the vastly increased cost of pensions and healthcare for a population of elderly that will increase 50% in the next 20 years. As the recent riots in France have proven, the Socialist elements of Europe will certainly continue to resist any attempts to change the status quo – effectively dooming themselves to a squalid future.

So while Communism promises poverty immediately, Socialism defers it for a generation or two down the road. I’m sure that you’ll agree with me that one is not really an improvement over the other.

But what about the examples the author uses? Populism, Progressivism, and the Vietnam Protests? These were surely noble!

Maybe. But I don’t think so. To begin, the first time I read the author praise Populism as “visionary” and then hold up Huey Long for contempt in the same sentence I burst into a long, loud laugh. After all, Huey Long was a Democrat and master populist whose tremendous local political power was based upon his plan to soak the rich, provide a minimum income to all people, and create a universal pension system fueled by a steeply progressive income tax. The man was a Socialist populist if their ever was one in this country. I suspect he is rejected by the modern Left for the crime of being a Southerner. While the most recent Populist Party in America was a vehicle for a former Klansman, the original was a far-left party of union members and poor farmers. Let’s just say that populism has had a checkered history that the author seems largely ignorant of and move on.

Progressivism is largely a synonym for Socialism, although many self-identified Progressives of my acquaintance seem to be more focused on social issues rather than economic theory. This doesn’t mean that they don’t support ideas like a living wage, steeply progressive taxes, universal health care, etc. It just means that they don’t understand economics. Progressives traditional oppose Capitalism and embrace Socialist ideas of labor, markets, and wages. This means, of course, that they are ignoring the reality of Europe, Asia, South America, and Africa that show that these economic concepts are flawed. As Socialism is Communism Lite, Progressivism is Socialism Lite. “All of the faulty premises, none of the history of failure!”

The protests against the war in Vietnam sometimes had a noble aim. While I always have (and always will) suspect that a great deal of the reluctance to fight by many of the protestors was born of fear of battle (or even just fear of the regimentation of army life), there were many who seemed willing to face prison for their opposition. So I give at least some of them the benefit of my own doubts. However, many involved were involved for selfish reasons, and some were involved out of (wait for it) Communist ideals.

The Vietnam Veterans Against the War were eventually found to be collaborating with North Vietnam to cause mass rebellion in the US Army and, eventually, to stage a POW release as political capital for VVAW. The VVAW also promoted the view that the legitimate government of Vietnam was the Communist party of the North. The protests led to the formation and activities of groups like the Symbionese Liberation Army (a Communist group dedicated to the violent overthrow not just of the American government, but American society as a whole), the Weather Underground (a similar group), and other groups (the Black Panthers, the White Panthers, etc.) were all avowedly Communist and most either embraced/advocated/performed violence or condoned it – if that violence was aimed at Capitalism. Indeed, the Yippies (Abbie Hoffman’s group) were anti-Capitalism first, anti-American culture second, anti-war third or fourth.

Again and again when we look at the Left we see Communist errors about the nature of people, society, and economics at the core of their beliefs. No matter how many times Communism is tried and failed, the Left returns to it. The more wounded and ineffectual Socialist governments become, the more the Left in America wants to emulate them. While Cuban refugees become millionaires in Miami, the Left claims that Cuba is a poor nation because America exploits them. While Venezuela’s GDP shrinks and the country morphs from a coffee exporter to a country where coffee is scarce, the American Left praises its quasi-Communist president for his sound economic ideas. At the same time that scholars are still struggling to quantify the perhaps 120 million dead as a result of Communism, the Left points to its ideals as the best way of life.

How is it possible for people who speak intelligently, can document an education, and claim to be motivated by compassion be so blind to the horrors that Communism has inflicted on the world? How is it possible that they watch the once-great material wealth and rich culture of Europe drain away like water poured onto sand and decide that they want to emulate them and their ideas?

The short answer is, one thing motivates their embrace of Communism/Socialism: fear.

Democracy is an inherently messy process. Sometimes the things that you support don’t rise to the top. Sometimes the things you want don’t get into the law. Sometimes the things you hate prevail. Leftists don’t like this. Thus we witness their push to use the courts to avoid the democratic process, or to reverse democratic decisions. Don’t like the actual will of the people (as expressed through their elected representatives)? Just use a sympathetic judge to force through the changes you want and claim the moral high ground as “the real majority” or “the voice of the people” or as representatives of the “historical inevitability of Progressive thought”.

Capitalism is also an inherently risky venture. Two people with equal backgrounds, equal education, equal money can start out at the same time with the same goals. Twenty years later, one could be the richest man in the world, the other could be an assistant manager at a Quickie Mart. Another twenty years and the first man could be slinging hash in a greasy spoon and the second could be buying a private island in the Pacific. Hard work and determination can take you far, but there are no guarantees; luck and uncertainty are always part of the equation (although they can be planned for). While some people embrace this as a chance to achieve, others are terrified of the potential to fail.

I’ve always suspected that this fear underlies at least some of the many young people born into the middle and middle-upper class who turn to Communism; they are terrified of both the possibility of failing and, perhaps even more, the spectre of being mediocre. After all, if success is largely a result of hard work and determination, who and what do you blame if you aren’t the richest man in the world? So they turn to a system that wants to make everyone the same – no losers. No winners, but no losers.

In the end, Communism and Socialism are just more utopian schemes. They both promise perfection on Earth if you just believe and follow the rituals, people will change into perfect people, society will be transformed into a perfect society, and hunger and want will vanish forever. Because of this vision of Heaven on Earth, it will probably continue to lure the immature, the frightened, the confused, and the ignorant for decades to come.

[For the record, this utopic vision is why the Catholic Church has always distrusted Communism and Socialism. Despite all of the rhetoric from the Left, the Church understands that the people and things of this world will never be perfect.]




(note: I am unsure of the author Nonpartisan’s gender and use male pronouns throughout. If I am wrong, too bad.)

Monday, April 17, 2006

Shame

I often drop by Coturnix/Bora’s site Science and Politics to look around. Bora is a one-note political commentator, and a bit shrill at times, but he has some of the best links around. Yesterday he linked to an article on Pharyngula, a blog dedicated to evolution and anti-Christian rants (more the former than the latter, but the emotional investment seems about equal). The specific article has very little, if anything, to offer anyone with even a cursory knowledge of Christianity (I’ll save the puzzle of why so many people who declaim that ‘religious nuts’ have no authority to speak about science without an advanced degree, but feel perfectly fine in discussing theology without even minimal study for another time). Reading it out of a sense of duty, to see if there was perhaps some insight I might miss, I came across this little gem;

“…our nation tortures to the death… … brown-skinned Middle Eastern people right now. How can we look at the Passion spectacles now and not feel a deep shame?”

There are so many errors and assumption in this one quote that I feel compelled to respond.

First of all, PZ Myers, the author, is so very quick to refer to Middle Easterners as “brown people” that I am stunned. I travel in diverse circles and I find that many more Liberals are willing to describe a population as “brown people” than Conservatives. From this author to George Carlin, the description of Semitic people as “brown” is all too common. Not only are Arabs of a variety of skin tones, just like, say, Caucasian Americans, but not all Middle Easterners are even Semitic. The Iranians, for example, are Aryan; in Tehran blue eyes and blonde hair are not uncommon. Most of the soldiers I know are aware of this; a great many of the conservatives I know are as shocked by the Liberal use of the term as I am, so I suspect they either know these things, or would simply never utter the phrase.

Second, PZ Myers is comparing current day Middle Easterners to Jesus, implying He was also a “brown person”. Well, I wasn’t there, so I don’t know. While I don’t think he was a blonde with blue eyes, modern genetic research indicates that Jews of the 1st Century almost certainly looked much like Jews of today – in other words, what modern minds would call “White”. While intermarriage has always occurred, the people of the Middle East are largely what you and I would call “White” and , essentially, always have been. Seriously, look at Tariq Azziz, or Ayatollah Khomeini – my black Irish father-in-law is much darker than either of them. So PZ Myers’ knowledge of the people of the Middle East seems a bit sparse.

Of course, he could have put it that way to imply that the American military had racist motives for going into Iraq, but that makes less sense. After all, the military is a very integrated group and, most critically, the military is told where to go – it doesn’t get to decide. Maybe he meant the administration had racist motives for sending the army? Well, one would hope that the Black Secretary of State, Black National Security Advisor, or one of the other minority members of the most diverse administration in history would have mentioned any racist overtones to policy, but maybe they are all race traitors. After all, so many Liberals seem to think that any minority that isn’t Liberal is automatically a traitor to their own people.

But Conservatives are the ones obsessed by race. Go figure.

Even more egregious is his statement that ‘our nation tortures people’. It does? When? Where? Who?

Let’s assume he is referring to Abu Ghraib. If so, he seems confused about the facts of that terrible incident. As is well documented, the abuse was by soldiers acting outside of the rules. The proof that such actions were not condoned is not just the many army regulations in dozens of manuals and training programs, but the prompt response of army investigators when they were approached by a witness. The military criminal investigation division promptly removed almost 20 enlisted and officers from duty and began an in-depth investigation. The evidence was not classified, but was instead largely made public. Two more investigations followed, with the report of one being briefly classified before being released.

The results were criminal charges against the soldiers where evidence could prove their criminal activities (six in total). The remainder were removed from duty, a serious blow to their careers (especially considering that there was too little evidence to go to courts-martial in those cases). Included in this was Brigadier General Janis Karpinsky, who was removed from command and demoted.

So it sounds to me like a group of soldiers violated orders, acted outside the law, were caught, investigated, charged, and found guilty. The people who allowed an environment where such things happened were removed from their positions and put places where they couldn’t be that lax again. These actions – investigation, trial, punishment – were conducted by my government and punished people who broke the law. So PZ Myers must not have been referring to Abu Ghraib.

Maybe he meant the Guantanamo Bay detainment camp? Well, I do have serious issues with the legality of how people held there are classified under the law – but despite the release of dozens of detainees, the only person injured thus far where the injuries could be proven is an American soldier. Despite many allegations, no one has been able to prove anything. And some of the accusations are, frankly, ludicrous. One prisoner claimed he was forced to walk on glass shards and then had his face ground into glass while cigarettes were put out on his body – without a mark left on him. Are the prisoners in a stressful situation? Certainly. Are they sometimes made uncomfortable? Absolutely. Are the conditions as extreme as a standard French prison? No, they are much better than the usual French prison. In other words, while the French decry the ‘terrible conditions’ of the prisoners at Gitmo, those self-same prisoners are in much better condition than check-forgers in Paris jails.

Maybe Prof. Myers is referring to the secret prisons America maintains in Europe? You know, the ones that no one can seem to find, that no one can report being held in, and with all the nations putatively involved denying it. Heck, even the EU commission says there weren’t any secret American prisons in Europe.

So – Middle Easterners aren’t “brown people”, they are just people. The U.S. has investigated and punished people who tortured prisoners and made the evidence and related proceedings public. Despite outrageous claims of secret prisons, none have been found. Despite the fact that virtually everyone in the world knows exactly where the Guantanamo facility is and each person leaving it is an instant media target, no one can prove anything concerning actual torture.

I may be mistaken, but I can’t Google anytime the Pharyngula blog has condemned beheadings, or terror. It seems innocent reporters, aid workers, etc. snatched off the streets, tortured with actual, you know, blood drawn, and then beheaded on camera is No Big Deal ™ compared to non-existent secret prisons, Gitmo prisoners forced to listen to the Go-Go’s and, of course, a half-dozen criminals rotting in American prisons for breaking American laws.

Sunday, April 16, 2006