Friday, April 13, 2018

The Beast

The Beast

I am going to speak the truth that is in my heart and you may judge its truth by the way it resonates in your own heart, though at first the rubbish that has accumulated in your mind may make you resistant to it. I wish to speak to you of Russia and Syria and violence and fear. I will cut across the narratives that are pushed at you by media whose interest is not to inform you so you can form your own opinion but to form your thoughts so your opinion is theirs. That is what the media does, it is not your friend, it is the most conniving of enemies. It is the marketing tool of the oligarchs who profit from war.

The media is interested in profit, and well-rewarded are those who sell the news to you. The news itself is merely an appendage of a much larger profit-seeking system whose goals are only ever accidentally or secondarily to the benefit of the human race. It is a system that sees everyone and everything in competition with each other and seeks in that situation to get for itself all that it can. It is composed of individuals who either see the world the same way, learn to see it in that way in their pursuit of professional goals, or else are compelled to work for it through shear self-preservation. It is a system that has taken on a life of its own and has no interest other than profit for itself regardless of the eventual cost to humanity or the planet. In pursuit of profit and victory-through-competition it is deadly efficient and cunningly wise, but beyond such limited goals it is utterly blind. It is focused right now on Syria and on Russia. It sees nothing but triumph in this limited arena, regardless of the big picture.

This is not to paint either Russia or Syria as noble entities defying the terrifying force of the dominant predatory institutions of the world. They are what they are. Whether humane or self-serving in and of themselves, they are now the chosen target of the largest beast of the jungle. Should they be consumed by the beast, it shall grow that much stronger, with little or no competition left in the fight for survival. Its primary objectives accomplished, it will set its eyes on other targets and suppress the average human being on this planet with greater impunity.

Profit is its only objective, and it will use any tool available to gain it. And feasting upon it, it will never be sated, it will only want more. When it gazes at a country like Russia or Syria, it does not see a people, a culture, a history, or a unique facet of the human race. It only sees Russia in terms of its assets, its mineral wealth and its capacity for crop growth. While lacking the hatred of Hitler’s view of Russia, it nonetheless has all the lack of empathy of a homicidal psychopath.

The dominant system has no patriotic ties to any nation, its only concern is profit. Though it may use the military of particular nations, it does not do so for the benefit of those within that nation. Though it may claim that it works in the interests of a particular people, that is merely the narrative spun by the marketing department of the beast.

The essential story it spreads is that war is not a tool it wishes to use but is, sadly, always necessary. The truth is that war will always be required because their goals cannot be advanced without the use of force. Strength is needed when taking not only more than it needs but all that it can carry. And when it can carry no more, then it needs to enlist the unwilling help of others to carry it for them. You see, when those who are taken from no longer wish to carry what is being plundered from them, others need to be employed to force them to do it.

The beast wishes to divide everyone and everything. Its existential enemy is the idea that people are cooperative by nature. Its dystopia is a world run by democratic principles where individual people feel as if they have some input. Spiritual notions are to it like holy water sprinkled at a vampire. Truth is its kryptonite, it attempts to keep it in lead-lined boxes. It doles out in fancy boxes free gifts to everyone something it calls truth but does not bear resemblance to it once the wrapping paper is taken from it.

Those who comprise the beast are essentially a death cult. They do not see the world as a living thing but as dead capital. They do not see trees, they see lumber sales, do not see humans but only labor and consumers. They do not see the beauty of nature but only raw materials. In the end one must choose whether to see the world through a spiritual or a material perspective, and they have chosen the material. Everything is an object, even living beings. Ancient cultures were rooted in nature, saw spirits in the rivers and the trees and the animals. Those within the death cult see only possessions to be gained. They do not see the transcendental interconnectedness of all things, they see only how big a pile they can make for themselves of the things, mere things, that surround them.

And seeing no interconnectedness, they view all who oppose them as enemies to be extinguished or subjugated. They cannot conceive of the idea of coexistence, can only perceive of conquest. When it cannot be accomplished through economic means, then force is required. Always is it spun by the marketing arm as something other than conquest, but the beast does not see through human eyes. It does not view war through a moral lens but as a way to advance an agenda.

And the beast is NEVER the one to pay the cost of war. That price is paid by its victims, those who fight and are damaged by the sins in which they must partake, it is paid by those who are honest enough to do real labor and pay their fair share of taxes. No, the beast profits and grows richer through war.

The beast as it exists now is a hodgepodge of selfish interests that have found it useful to act together so that each may grow more wealthy and powerful. It is the accumulation of all who have more than they will ever need and yet need more. The beast is the existential enemy of humanity and the environment because concepts such as the environment and humanity do not exist in the mind of the beast or those who serve it.

The beast lives within Russia and Syria, too. Those beasts must also be faced, but not by supporting the still greater beast. We must oppose the beast where we find it, must oppose first the beast that causes the most damage. We must oppose the beast that destroys in our name and only then can we help the Russians and the Syrians find ways to combat the violence and greed that attempts to speak for them.

The beast wants to drain the last spark of humanity in you, because it is antithetical to the beast and its vision. The beast wants you to feel helpless and hopeless so that you will bow before it. Surely there is something within you that urges resistance.

Tuesday, April 10, 2018

A Spiritual Death

“A nation that continues year after year to spend more money on military defense than on programs of social uplift is approaching spiritual doom.” Martin Luther King, Jr.

The task has fallen upon me to make the announcement that our spiritual death is now upon us. Unfortunately, the warning Martin Luther King uttered 50 years ago fell on barren soil. We have become a spiritually dead nation, and a nation that is spiritually dead learns too late it cannot exist without a spiritual dimension to life. Though there be few now present to pay their last respects, the time will soon come when the world will rue its passing

Our spiritual emptiness is obvious to anyone who cares to regard the situation plainly. You merely have to turn to any source of mass media to see all the evidence you need of a society that glorifies idiocy and vice over wisdom and virtue. Our heroes are the violent, the vain, the arrogant, and the selfish. Those shining and stellar examples of spirituality we might exalt in our society are forgotten or given paltry lip service for their sacrifice and martyrdom. When was the last time you heard Mahatma Gandhi’s name mentioned on television or elsewhere? When was the last time you heard, in school or on radio, an uninterrupted speech of Martin Luther King? What’s that you say, we no longer have time to sit and listen for an hour to the greatest spiritual leaders of the last hundred years? I rest my case. What have we done in the last week/month/year that is more important? Our spiritual doom is here.

Why, do you ask, has not one of more importance than myself been appointed to make such an important announcement? It is precisely because we have reached the time of spiritual death that there is no one of note to proclaim spirituality’s passing. Those whom our society reveres as religious or moral leaders are too spiritually lacking to admit that such a thing has come to pass. Our religious leaders are as far from spirituality as the Scribes and Pharisees of Jesus’ day or those who condemned Socrates to death.

Some may still believe that spirituality is alive and well, but it is only because its lifeless corpse has been grotesquely paraded and puppeteered by those who see fit to use it to sell agendas or narratives.

Conservatives push a religion of stone masquerading as spirit, not a living breathing religion but one of rules that shackle spirituality. The spirit is quite dead in such churches and the rules once set down to guide us towards beauty and truth and love for our fellow humans are now weapons of punishment and subjugation. Their dead laws now tower over us like giant carved idols, blocking out God’s light from ever shining upon us.

They call themselves Christians, but they put their faith in the worldly rather than the spiritual. They speak of prayer and spend their time chasing profit. They reject the all-conquering power of love in favor of walls and weapons. They do not see the God of love that reveals Himself in Scripture but only the god of punishment, judgment and power. In the image of this god they fashion themselves, and wrap themselves in cloaks of righteousness as they walk past those who hunger and thirst, the strangers and the sick, those without clothing and those in prison.

Liberals are little better, practicing in smaller ways judgment and hatred while mouthing the words tolerance and love. They have mistaken their unwillingness to make moral judgments as the highest virtue, when in truth an unwillingness to provide any standards at all is just as deadly as making simplistic and absolute ones. Both absolute tolerance and intolerance spring from a lack of spiritual maturity and an unwillingness to make thoughtful and principled decisions.

Liberalism has failed us and it is in the absolute unwillingness of liberals to accept this that can be seen their inability to see the world as it is. Born in the 60’s, liberalism was the twin sibling of progressivism and radicalism. So closely was the resemblance that many viewed them as interchangeable. But there were unmistakable differences for those willing to look honestly. Liberalism was the sibling who was always said the right thing to her parents but never did any of the actual work. Sadly, liberalism was the easier path, and thus the one most traveled.

So they made concessions on their greater obligations in return for a hard line on the secondary moral issues. Their sin was not arrogance as the conservatives’ was, but hypocrisy, of pretending to be opposing but secretly capitulating on all issues of substance. They were a willing co-partner in most injustices perpetrated by conservatives, never confronting evil head-on but always willing to find a compromise position. Retreating time and again from the battle that was thrust upon them because they knew they had personal positions of safety they could retreat to. Busy pursuing their own interests, they were content to utter token proclamations in support of those who suffered most keenly from an inherently unjust and unspiritual society. They supported the rights of blacks and moved to the suburbs. They supported the rights of women even as households found it necessary to have both parents working full-time where once a single forty-hour workweek could provide. They called themselves environmentalists and built their new houses on what was once woodlands and prairies. They considered it the pinnacle of virtuousness to be the (slightly) lesser of two evils.

While conservatives killed truth by oversimplification, liberals broke its back by twisting it into unnatural positions. War became humanitarian intervention, NAFTA was passed to help the average worker, and super-predators were locked away to help those in the inner city. Because class could not be spoken of, race became the issue that could neither be denied nor dealt with. So contorted were the stories they told, it forced those looking for something of substance to turn to the simplistic narratives provided by conservatives.

But while the damage they did to truth was immense, the single greatest sin of which the liberals are guilty is the sin of war. La Rochefoucauld once said hypocrisy is a tribute that vice pays to virtue. Once liberals at least pretended to pay tribute to the idea of peace, but now they are the greatest champions of foreign intervention. When Donald Trump asks for hundreds of billions of dollars in military spending, the Democrats’ reply is to give him more than he asked for. They constantly demand Trump take a tougher stance with other nations and only applaud him when he orders missiles to be fired. The only hypocrisy that yet remains to liberals is in their justifications for war, which they insist are always fought for the noblest of reasons.

We are now left watching the Pharisees and Sadducees bicker between themselves, dominating every aspect of our lives while the most urgent issues facing humanity are forgotten. They no longer seek the truth, they only wish to blame the other while profiting as much as they can from their positions in government. The last spark of earnest debate or principled position is an ember long grown cold.

The good news is that there is yet hope. For we are talking about the realm of the spiritual and the idea of rebirth is quite natural in such a realm. What dies is the individual but the spirit lives on. The ego dies, that is all, releasing the spirit in the way that the phoenix emerges from the ashes. Renewal is possible, but it requires repentance and reawakening.

Whether or not you believe in a higher power is immaterial. What is important is that you accept the mindset required to bring about real and fundamental change, which is realistically what is required for our society if it is to keep from falling into the abyss. Such change is not easily made. Like an alcoholic, or a drug addict, or anyone else with a behavioral problem that is ruining his or her life, there is a general method by which one climbs from the hole that has been dug. It will require genuine humility, an acceptance that the path that we have been walking will only lead to death and destruction, not merely for ourselves but for countless innocent people who share our planet. It will mean letting go of many beliefs we have clung to quite dearly, acknowledging that they have been hurting rather than helping us.

It is our goal if we are to be saved to once again find our spiritual dimension and the virtues that spring from such a perspective. A spiritual world-view requires sacrifice and commitment, it means placing spiritual considerations above physical and selfish concerns. It means seeing beyond our increasingly narrowing perspective, questioning our most basic of assumptions and reconnecting with the world in meaningful ways. We must step outside the moment and the cultural assumptions that have accumulated and solidified themselves around us like a prison. We must rediscover those great thinkers and great works that have guided and motivated humanity in all its noblest aspirations. We must once again embrace those virtues that were essential in creating and sustaining societies: non-violence, frugality, charity, honor, humility, service.

The key to our own liberation is within our grasp, but first we must free our hands of the unnecessary burdens we have been carrying. We must let go of all that our media and institutions tell us is important. Letting go is an act of faith, and an act of faith is what is required if we are ever to leave he road to ruin we now walk.

Monday, April 2, 2018

The Media Is Not Dead, It Is Undead

Vladimir Putin and Theresa May.

Spy poisoning: why Putin may have engineered gruesome calling card

Read the above article if you must, but read it carefully. Read them all, but read them not as a letter from a loved one but as information passed on from a stranger whose loyalties and motivations are suspect. Or worse, from someone who has lied to you in the past. Maybe not on unimportant matters but on those issues that matter most.

Read what is written, and ignore the headlines that are thrust at you from every angle. The game they play is to give you so much information you skim along the surface rather than plum the depths. So when you encounter an argument, engage with it or disregard it. Read carefully, noting as you go how much is mere speculation. Like every other article on Russia and whatever they are being accused of on a particular day, the careful wording is always the same, as in the article above: "insiders (unnamed) say", "suggesting", "probably", "many theories. The most obvious is", "One former senior Foreign Office adviser said:” (another anonymous source from an intelligence agency), etc. It's important that you note this now, because in a month or two this will all be referred to as absolute fact without any additional evidence presented. And it will be strung together with a myriad other articles that do not bear up to a careful read as an indication that so many different assertions cannot all be wrong. In short, assertions soon become incontrovertible fact, and if you dare question what was once an assertion you are labeled a conspiracy theorist, an idiot, and a Russian Troll.

For me, each weak argument shouted with great arrogance and confidence and lacking any convincing evidence does not strengthen the overall narrative that is pushed so very hard but does the opposite. I ask myself why serious journalism isn't being done on an issue that is so very important to get right. I wonder why it is that questioning the official narrative is not answered with cogent arguments and undeniable facts but instead with attitude and arrogance. And most of all, I question why each and every article plays upon our lower mental functions rather than our higher ones. If, in fact, Russia poisoned a Russian traitor, is that something that need be responded to immediately? If revenge is a dish best served cold (as some use as a rationalization for why Putin would revenge himself on someone whose relevance has long passed), should we not wait to find the appropriate response to such an action? And more importantly, shouldn't we get the facts right before making an assertion and acting upon it? Is there anything to be lost by getting it right, and would we not be doing a service to the general public and the notion of an informed citizenry to make sure they are in accord because they had the appropriate facts?

What I see is exactly the opposite. We are supposed to unquestioningly accept what anonymous sources from intelligence agencies tell us, and the press passes that off as journalism. It is the job of journalists to question, to be skeptical and to dig for the truth. What I am witnessing bears no resemblance to that. It has all the hallmarks of propaganda, how can you call it anything else? And yet American media smugly point out the flaws of the Russian media as though it were acting out the Biblical parable of the speck and the beam. The difference between Russian media and American media is that Russia shares American media with its citizens in order to show just how absurd it’s become. When was the last time American media has done likewise?

I’m going to make a suggestion to you, and you will at first find it ridiculous. Then I will give you my reason for it and if you find anything ridiculous in it, please share. My suggestion to you is that you watch RT. I don’t suggest that it has no bias, it is just infinitely more intelligent than any other news source you will likely encounter in the United States. Why is that? Because here we have been busy purging our media of anyone who has objected to either war or the propaganda required to make a country go to war. On what television station, newspaper, or radio program can you hear the thoughts of any of the prominent politicians and journalists who opposed either the Iraq War or the justifications used to support it? Phil Donahue, Chris Hedges, Jesse Ventura, Greg Palast, Pat Buchanan, Dennis Kucinich, Noam Chomsky, and many others. They have been purged from our media in a way that would make Joseph Stalin blush. They were the ones who got the story right, who should have been lauded and promoted, instead they have been silenced and marginalized. So where does one go to hear from those who have been banished from U.S. media for the crime of being right? RT. Meanwhile, those who got the story absolutely wrong are now pushing the Russian narrative with all the certainty and bullying they once used to push the Iraq War. Does anyone remember how Joe Scarborough was trying to get to the right on Bill O’Reilly on the issue? Does anyone remember the conservative Arianna Huffington’s appearances on FOX News? Does anyone care that the same think tank operatives that pushed for the Iraq War are now pushing for unfriendly relations with Russia?

What frightens me the most (besides nuclear war, of course) is that the mainstream media that gets every story wrong is in lockstep with those in the government who wish to silence independent journalists who dare ask questions of the official narrative. The brightest and most questioning minds of the day are being subjected to censorship on many levels, especially if they happen to express an anti-corporate or anti-militaristic viewpoint. The media is not simply dead, it is undead, and its only drive is to suck the brains from the skulls of the living. It is an active agent for oppressing the American people and, by extension, the world. A new media must arise that relies on journalists with integrity and a track record of investigation rather than propaganda. Sure, there are a lot of fake stories being pushed out there, but if you allow honest and open debate, the trustworthy will in time make reputations for themselves that will set them apart. But they will never be the big-name multi-million dollar salaried individuals working for mega-corporations we have now. Nobody makes $30,000 a day telling the truth.

Sunday, April 1, 2018

MLK, Your Message Lives On

On Sunday, we commemorated the story of the death and resurrection of Jesus. Today we are asked to remember another man who preached non-violence in the face of hatred and brutality, a man who also paid the ultimate price for his faith and his convictions and his love of humanity. April 4 marks the 50th anniversary of the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

Because the occasion demands it, I feel the need to speak more boldly than I am accustomed. Something deep within me calls for it. The message that Dr. King shared calls for it. I feel compelled to speak, if not for Dr. King himself, then for the message he shared. In invoking the words and message of a great man, I consider it not flattery or arrogance but obligation that motivates me to do so. His memory dispels timidity, because his courage was great and demands courage of others. And so I will do all in my power to reflect not only Dr. King’s thoughtfulness but to carefully blend and balance it with a boldness appropriate for the situation humanity faces.

Fifty years ago, someone tried to kill the message Martin Luther King Jr. shared with the world, a message of the redemptive power of love. Speaking in the language of violence and hate—the only language some know—he (or they) sought with physical violence to erase the spiritual message of love Dr. King bore witness to.

I wish to tell you today, from the bottom of my heart, that they have failed. Oh, the wound was deep, the pain inflicted upon the movement and countless individuals was great. It was incapacitating for a time, but in the end it only served a higher purpose. It showed the stark contrast between hatred and love, showed how absolutely ugly and destructive the one was, how necessary the other. Martin knew the price, and was willing to pay it, was willing to stand for love and for justice. Such was the beauty of his message that even the threat of death was not enough to silence him. In putting an end to his life, they sought to steal the narrative of peace-through-love and turn it to their own, a narrative of hatred and violence. But they could not erase what had been said, and in the final analysis, the fatal shot was but the exclamation of King’s life.

It is said that the message does not die with the messenger, that the spirit lives on, lives among the community and each individual that has taken it to heart. Dr. King’s message did not die. I know that because of the miraculous feeling I have at the core of me. It does not speak of hatred, of bitterness or hopelessness. It speaks of a love that will in time conquer all. And as Dr. King once shared that message to his followers, I now share it with you who sought to silence it, who even today seek to silence it. I share it with you who feared to embrace it, who fear to emerge from the nest and take flight and live out your spiritual destiny. I share it with you who shuddered in fear at the price that was paid by our heroes and might in some lesser degree be asked of us. I share it with those who seek the safety of the herd though they see that the truth of Dr. King’s message was not mere words but words made flesh, words acted out for us by someone who saw and understood more clearly than us the beauty and truth of those words.

This is the message I share with you today, a message that is an answer to the darkness and doubt that is in your heart. It is a message to all those who have acted contrary to the teachings of Martin Luther King, or have failed in picking up the baton he so heroically carried for as long as it was given to him to carry. It is a message to all who hate and doubt and fail to act when deep in your heart you know action is required.

I say to you today that I do not hate you, because I know you have acted through pain and hatred, and such black emotions will never be cleansed except through love.

I do not hate you, because in your redemption will be proven the immensity of the power of love.

I do not hate you, because King’s message cannot be shaken so easily.

I do not hate you, because the arc of the moral universe is long but it bends toward justice.

I do not hate because though he did not get there himself, Dr. King saw the Promised Land and we even today march toward it. However hard the road, no matter how often we have stumbled, the way is yet clear. It becomes clearer the further we walk. The contrast between the path of hatred and violence and the road to salvation, one we could once convince ourselves was not so clear, becomes starker the further we travel, until the difference will soon be as obvious as Heaven and Hell. We will live in love, or we will perish in hate.

I do not hate you, because my eyes have seen a glory and my heart has felt a truth too powerful to be stopped with violence.

I do not hate you, because all the pain and violence that have sprung from hatred have only gone to prove its futility.

I do not hate you, because you have killed the messenger but you did not kill the message to love your enemies and to do good to those who hate you.

I do not hate you, because hate is your message, not his.

I say to you now as Dr. King said then “I love you. I would rather die than hate you.” Because love will build our future, while hatred will only destroy.

I love you, because hate cannot drive out hate, only love can do that.

I love you, because I am aware of a power great enough to cause the blind to see and the deaf to speak, a power that can cleanse the sinner and set him on a righteous and caring path.

Even to those who ignore Dr. King’s message or limit it or abuse it by using it to sell automobiles, I say I do not hate you…though I do not have to like you. I am not obliged to accept your version of reality, but I am obliged to treat you as I would desire to be treated. I can disagree with you and dislike what you do to me and others, but I need not hate you, can still find ways to love you. The road will not always be smooth but it will be lit by love.

I love you in a way you cannot understand...but will, because you did not kill the message, could not kill the message, because the man was greater than you can as yet appreciate. And love is far greater than you can yet comprehend. It is the task of all those who have taken to heart Dr. King’s message to deliver it to you. Not merely in word but in deed, to show through our lives and our capacity to love that love is the only answer. Erich Fromm said: “Love is the only sane and satisfactory answer to the problem of human existence.” Martin Luther King said the same thing, only much more eloquently. Not only with his words, but through actions that shine across the span of a half-century. That light still shines today.

Thursday, March 29, 2018

Thoughts Of A Nice Non-Gun Owner

I’ve always stuck up for the right to possess guns, mostly because I knew a lot of people who owned them and didn’t see a problem with that. But though I supported the rights of others to do so, my personal decision was not to own or even ever fire a gun. I guess that’s what you call tolerance. I guess that’s what you call being a decent human being, accepting for the sake of others what you yourself do not really like.

That’s what it all boils down to for me, but I think a lot of gun owners have lost sight of that fact: that people who do not have guns choose not to because they don’t like the things. And if we don’t like ourselves or our close family owning guns, just think of how we feel about Ted Nugent owning an arsenal. Speaking on behalf of non-gun owners, we support the rights of others to have guns not because we think it’s good for us, but because we’re basically nice people.

I’m guessing a lot of us non-gun owners view the gun culture in the same way we do cosplayers or dungeons and dragons enthusiasts: it’s kind of silly, but as long as they’re not hurting anyone, I’m okay with it.

Unlike people who dress up as superheroes, however, gun owners ask us to tolerate a hobby that’s potentially dangerous. If someone dressing up as Batman got behind the wheel of an automobile and tried to drive while having his vision reduced because of the mask, it begins to be a problem. It is at this point I expect responsible cosplayers to speak up and denounce irresponsible behavior. When they don’t, when they double down on their right to wear masks that impede their vision while driving, I start to think they care more for their right to dress oddly than my personal safety. Am I out of line in believing so?

Everybody, especially gun owners, especially gun nuts, knows someone with a gun who makes them a little nervous. We all know there are wife-beaters and dog kickers out there with a sizable collection of guns. This may seem an acceptable notion to gun rights advocates, but please try to see how it might appear less acceptable to those for whom guns have no appeal. Imagine how you would feel hearing a woman’s screams coming from the house next door: if you knew her husband was armed to the teeth, how willing would you be to go to her rescue?

Guns make gun owners more dangerous and intimidating. The mere fact that someone owns a gun and I do not makes them more secure against me than I am from them. They have upped the game, begun an arms race I and others like me felt no need to start. It’s like, “hello, I’m your new neighbor and I have a gun. If you want to feel protected from me, you should get a gun, too.” No, I don’t want a gun. You have changed a gun-free environment (my preference) to an environment with guns (your preference). Don’t tell me you are not asking anything from me.

I have literally never been in a situation where I felt more comfortable with a gun present. I can think of plenty of times where a gun could have made things plenty worse. This is not an argument, merely an observation. I did not live an entirely innocent childhood and have witnessed and even participated in my share of violence. Never once did I think, “Oh, good, someone with a gun arrived, now the situation will be resolved.” Guns, in my opinion, only escalate violence. Even when they do not, they elevate the intimidation factor. I never want to believe that people treat me with respect only out of fear for the weapon I carry. That is a false sense of security, the idea that my implied capacity for violence will make you accept me for who I am. It suggests that the moment they have the jump on me they should take that opportunity in order to be the one with greater power. I don’t understand that sort of thinking but I realize how easy it is for odd rationality to become engrained into our thought processes.

Only one time in my life have I been happy to have the police arrive on a scene, and then I would have been just as happy if they had left their guns at the station: they weren’t required. That means that in all my travels, from Cabrini Green to the backwoods of Wisconsin and Canada, I have never ever been glad to see a gun or someone with a gun. In simply every situation in my life, the presence of a gun has either made me feel uncomfortable or on some level threatened. I’m not asking you to agree with me, but to accept this is how I feel. It is comparable in my mind with walking around with a cocked fist and saying “just in case”.

Oh, I know, it is your Second Amendment Right. The key word there is “right”. The founding fathers gave you a right, they didn’t say it was right. So many gun owners walk around with the idea that they and they alone are heroes protecting The Constitution of The United States because they own guns. But what they mainly go around protecting is their right to own guns. I’ve never seen someone with a gun step up to protect the right of someone to cast their vote at the ballot box. Maybe if gun owners cared more for the rights of others rather than for their right to carry guns into church they might garner a little more public support. I can see it now, a cop trying to arrest someone for smoking a joint and a stranger pulling out a gun and saying, “Hey, leave that poor citizen alone, he’s not hurting anyone.” If a gun owner did that, he would earn major cred from me.

The idea behind the Second Amendment was to enable the people to protect themselves against an overreaching government. I hate to tell you, gun owners, but you have fallen down on your job. If it was your role as proponents of the Second Amendment to insure the other rights guaranteed in The Constitution, you have failed miserably. And if you think your ownership of guns is going to protect us from a government that has drones, tanks, and the ability to monitor virtually everything you do and say, you have been fighting the wrong battle. Gun ownership has not protected our liberties, it is merely one of the last to be given up, the permitted illusion of freedom they allowed you until guns were no longer a threat.

Last issue I would like to bring up as a non-gun owner: the idea that if the government were to fall apart that gun owners would be there to insure law and order. I do not like this image of the future gun owners have created. It is one where people with guns rule with violence and the threat of violence. Towards this perceived vision of the future you have bent your energies, leaving the idea of a peaceful and prosperous tomorrow behind. I do not like your vision of the future, and feel a gun culture and a gun-influenced ideology is leading us towards a bleaker tomorrow.

I don’t want to take away your guns. At the same time, if I woke up tomorrow to find every gun on the planet had vanished, I would think it was a blessing and not a curse. I think that’s pretty cool of me to go so far out of my way to tolerate your love for an item I find repellent. But you can’t always demand and never give back. You don’t need to show how tough you are, you’ve got freaking guns. We get the point. You should start demonstrating you’re acting in good faith with us non-gun owners who ask only to not live with the threat of being shot. Reign in the crazies, make some workable suggestions rather than going on the attack. Set a good example in the hope that you can make us see guns in the same way you see them, and accept the fact we probably never will. And get Ted Nugent some help.

Tuesday, March 27, 2018

Exploiting The Last Frontier

I remember a U.S.A. that used to want to save its precious mineral wealth. And so it did, by harvesting the mineral resources of other nations. It was cynical and ugly, but it made sense. Take from those who could not protect themselves, because those people at home were growing wise to the game.

So we left our oil in the ground and called it “reserves”. If anything unanticipated happened, we would have something to fall back on. In place of our own oil, we used what was in Saudi Arabia, Iraq, Iran, Venezuela, and elsewhere. We took their oil and in exchange gave them brutal dictators who went along with our scheme just so long as they got a slice of the oil revenue. The people in those nations, the vast majority of them, were poor and oppressed, but it was “over there”, so we didn’t think much about it. And when we did express some moral qualms, those who were profiting off the situation had a pat response to our questioning. They told us the reason people were poor in those countries and we weren’t was because the U.S. was the greatest country in the world and that’s why we weren’t suffering. Don’t want to suffer like those in country A? Then support freedom. Support the government and the military that defends our freedom to be fat and happy and richer than those poor people over there who are stupid and don’t love freedom the way we do.

So we did. We paid dearly in taxes to have the world’s largest military in order to suppress those people who thought stupid thoughts and tried to support governments that weren’t approved by Washington, which of course was only interested in freedom, which is best expressed through the free market. Because when they resisted our desire to take their natural resources instead of relying on our own, they were trampling on the American way. They were spitting on OUR FLAG, the very symbol of freedom that was the only way to bring happiness and prosperity to their pathetic country. Why, if they only lived according to our dictates, given all the natural resources they possessed, they too would be rich. But those stupid foreigners just didn’t get it. They insisted on opposing us, and the only thing we could do was to bomb them into submission. Maybe that would teach them to love freedom.

But in the last decade or so, something has changed. No, we haven’t stopped bombing those foolish resource rich nations, we’ve been doing plenty of that. What has changed was a sudden realization on the part of our leaders that we suddenly have to become independent of the resources of other nations because they have become too powerful and are a threat to us. So we have begun to tap into those resources we have here, hidden beneath our forests and lakes and oceans. From the Redwood Forest, to the Gulf Stream Waters, from the purple mountains majesty to the fruited plains, they were all opened up to the mighty corporations that made our nation so great.

And this exploitation of our natural resources and the irreparable damage that goes along with it is sold to us as rejuvenating our country, of making America great again. But what it is doing is taking us back to the time when our rivers were so polluted they caught fire, the days before we stood up against the powerful monied interests and said “no more”. It is taking us back to a time our ancestors found intolerable, a time when people joined together to demand limits to the very rich who used our nation’s resources as their personal playthings. In short, those wealth extractors are now doing to the United States what they have so long done to other countries.

The oligarchs have come home to roost. No longer content to strip every other nation bare of their resources, they now are doing at home what was once unthinkable.

Perhaps, just perhaps, those who profited from the misery of those in foreign nations were never really concerned with American interests at all. Perhaps it was the profit they were interested in all along, and they merely used patriotism as an excuse, used American exceptionalism as an excuse, used the stupidity and evil of foreigners as an excuse to abuse and exploit them. And perhaps they have grown so rich and powerful from their exploitation of others lands that they now feel confident and arrogant enough to set aside the mask they once wore in our presence. Perhaps they now just don’t care to pretend they’re one of us. Perhaps now they are willing to exploit their own nation for all it is worth.

You see, those cynical bastards never really cared about America at all, they just wanted to get as rich as they possibly could. America means nothing to them, and they will tear it down for quick profit, just as they have done everywhere else on the planet. After all, how can you care for a country when you are actively destroying the planet on which that country is located? Greed has no loyalty, no morality, no patriotism. The only thing greed has is a good public relations team.

Sunday, March 25, 2018

Are Guns More Important Than What They Are Supposed To Protect?

A lot of people vote on the issue of gun rights because they want to make sure they can protect their freedom from an out-of-control government. I can understand that. I don’t agree with it, but I respect it. While I once thought the same way, I have grown to appreciate the path that people like Martin Luther King Jr. and Mahatma Gandhi have taken in order to combat oppressive governments. I think ultimately the only kind of revolution that will bring about positive and enduring change is a peaceful one. Violence, as it is said somewhere, only leads to more violence. Violence used by one side justifies the violence used by another. When there is justice, no violence will be necessary, and when there is violence, there will be no justice.

But regardless of the approach, I appreciate those who wish to protect freedom from an overreaching government. And if having a gun makes you feel more secure in your protection of freedom, I can live with that. Most gun owners I know are responsible and peaceful people who have never given me a reason to fear for my safety. Most.

But like anything else, the support for guns can be taken too far. And just like anything else, the tool can sometimes take precedence over its intended use. As J.R.R. Tolkien once said, “I do not love the bright sword for its sharpness, nor the arrow for its swiftness, nor the warrior for his glory. I love only that which they defend.” Like any unhealthy fascination, it is quite possible to come to love the weapon for its own sake, to admire the skill that went into its creation, the genius of its design, or its ability to do its job. This can and does happen, and I’m sure we’ve all seen examples of it. Perhaps if we are to be honest with ourselves, we have witnessed it in ourselves.

Like any other aspect of our lives, we have to be careful that we have a healthy relationship with guns. If guns are a way to protect freedom, we must never allow the two—the physical weapon and the abstract idea—to stray too far from each other. When the concrete form takes precedence over the ideas it is supposed to represent or protect, it leads to idolatry and fetishism.

Even many thousands of years ago, people were aware of how we can lose sight of the abstract and the spiritual and get distracted by the concrete. The Bible warns repeatedly of the dangers of idolatry, the First Commandment being a warning against having false gods. And yet the desire to worship statues is apparently a strong attraction. Moses discovered this when bringing the Ten Commandments to his people, only to find them worshiping a golden calf. It’s hard for us humans living a physical existence to remember the ideas that help us live more fully in such a world. But they do. The ability to think abstractly is exactly what has made us the ruling species on this planet. Nevertheless, it is easy to backslide into forgetting complex ideas. A gun in the hand can seem more understandable than the nuanced concept of freedom.

Losing oneself in a symbol rather than what it represents is not merely a religious condition. Too often we see people elevating a flag over the ideas that flag is supposed to represent. If the flag represents freedom, then we should never try to restrict people’s freedom in order to show respect for the flag. And yet we see people losing their heads about it all the time. We forget that the flag is but a symbol for deeper, more abstract yet important values. Without such values, the flag is just a piece of cloth.

So too do we often times lose the idea of freedom in our fight to protect gun ownership. For example, if you support a powerful lobbying group that influences government and reduces democratic principles, you are undercutting the idea of freedom of all to act equally in a democratic society. The NRA is one of those special interest groups promoting an agenda through money and influence that is undermining our democracy.

If you vote principally on a candidate’s or a party’s position on guns, you may be undercutting the very freedoms you hope to protect with those guns. If not your own, then the freedom of others. And they matter, because when government comes for the rights of others, it is only a matter of time before it comes for yours, too. If you support politicians who want to send people to prison for ingesting whatever chemicals they choose, you are not only infringing upon their freedom to do what they want, you are physically incarcerating them as well. If you are a gun rights advocate who enjoys the occasional use of marijuana, you are restricting your own freedom in order to protect your right to protect your freedom.

When you vote solely on the issue of guns and do not think about the other issues, you can end up voting against the very notion of democracy. In voting for guns, you have voted for gerrymandering, which has limited competition for political offices. In voting for guns, you have voted for increasing the barriers people face to vote. In voting for guns, you have increased the power of special interest groups (such as the NRA) to influence elections. If in voting for guns you also voted for an increasingly militaristic police state, then you have undercut the very ability of your limited arsenal to fight against a state that has drones and armored vehicles at its command.

If you have placed the gun above the very things it is supposed to protect, you have lost your way. More than that, you have been distracted. Don’t feel bad, it is a classic ploy used by those who want to rule you. Rest assured that all of us are being distracted to a degree: the propaganda machine is very well funded and practiced in the art of manipulation. Nevertheless, it is upon you to look beyond the gun to the issues you wish to defend. Because if you are not defending democracy and freedom with your right to own a gun, why should anybody care about your right to own one?