Thursday, July 28, 2016

A Great America

America is great because she is good, and if America ever ceases to be good, America will cease to be great.
The past couple of weeks have been a two-party contest about the greatness of America. One side says “Vote for me to make America great again.” The other side responds, “What do you mean ‘great again’? America is already great,” to paraphrase the very woman who claimed never to have been proud of her country until her husband became president—the very president who claims to be managing  the decline from Superpower status and has weakened America militarily, economically, and socially, and even racially.

Since there’s disagreement on the definition, I thought I might weigh in with a Spherical Model definition of what a great America looks like.

Here’s a mini-refresher: North is where you find freedom, prosperity, and civilization; South is where you find tyranny, poverty, and savagery—with chaotic tyranny in the southwest quadrant and statist tyranny in the southeast quadrant. 

Often you get people using chaos (sometimes even creating it) to call out, “Give me power, and I will rescue you from the chaos.” So when you’re choosing leaders, make sure you’re not giving power to just a different flavor of tyranny.

I was reminded of the quote at the top, which I thought was from Alexis de Tocqueville’s Democracy in America. But when I went to look it up, I learned it isn’t really in there. It’s probably a paraphrase that was mistaken for a verbatim quote attributed to Tocqueville, dating back only to the early 1940s. Here’s the full supposed quote:
Alexis de Tocqueville
image from Wikipedia

In the end, the state of the Union comes down to the character of the people. I sought for the greatness and genius of America in her commodious harbors and her ample rivers, and it was not there. In the fertile fields and boundless prairies, and it was not there. In her rich mines and her vast world commerce, and it was not there. Not until I went into the churches of America and heard her pulpits, aflame with righteousness, did I understand the secret of her genius and power. America is great because she is good, and if America ever ceases to be good, America will cease to be great.
It’s a good paragraph, even if it wasn’t written by Tocqueville. But he did say a number of actual things about America, which he observed as great around the end of the first half century of the Republic. Like this:

The best laws cannot make a constitution work in spite of morals; morals can turn the worst laws to advantage.
We’re seeing that now. We have our Constitution—the best laws. But without a moral people, laws fall short of maintaining civilization.

So what does a great America look like? We’ll do the list a sphere at a time.

Political Sphere

·         It limits government to the essentials of securing life, liberty, and property for all people.
·         It protects God-given rights for its citizens. To name a few: freedom of religion, freedom to assemble, freedom to speak even when it disagrees with others, freedom of the press, right to bear arms, property rights, protection from illegal searches and seizures, right to bring up and educate our children as we see fit.
·         It protects its sovereignty and borders from invasion or infringement.
·         It avoids entanglements in the world but supports and defends its loyal allies, never attacking in imperialist offense but defending itself with full force.

Economic Sphere

·         It has a free market economy, encouraging innovation and entrepreneurship.
·         It encourages hard work and self-reliance, with the expectation that one gets to enjoy the fruits of one’s labors and risks.
·         It limits taxation to cover only essential governance and infrastructure.
·         It limits interference to protecting against monopoly and fraud, and managing fair use of publicly owned resources (e.g., mining rights, water rights on public lands).
·         It balances budgets and pays debts.
·         It does not take on charity or social engineering roles.
·         It avoids cronyism or favoritism among legal businesses.

Social Sphere

·         It has a critical mass of religious people who live their lives in a way to honor God, family, life, property, and truth.
·         It supports the family as the basic unit of civilization.
·         It has a critical mass of intact married mothers and fathers raising their children to be civilized, contributing adults.
·         It provides for the poor and infirm voluntarily through churches, charities, and philanthropies.
·         It expects and encourages chastity before marriage and complete fidelity within marriage.
·         It expects and encourages integrity, honesty, kindness, mutual respect, justice tempered with mercy, and other virtues of civilization.
·         Its people stand boldly against ideas that attempt to dilute the Constitutionally protected freedom.
·         Its people stand boldly against savage practices and beliefs in daily life as well as in entertainments.

In early June I wrote about what my Dream Nation would look like, if I could invent one from scratch. That’s similar to what a great America looks like. I concluded:

Our original founders did everything right—except prevent us from ignoring the law and slipping southward. But that is not a problem with their system; that is a problem with the people.
So let's start with civilizing people, so that they naturally want—and work for—freedom and prosperity.

We have so much potential for freedom, prosperity, and civilization. But we’ve been sinking rapidly into the tyranny/poverty/savagery hemisphere. We can’t get back up north by following people who say, “I am the way to a great America” while they’re heading south. We might just need to head the right direction on our own. And maybe when people notice how we thrive up north on our own, enough people will want to join us.

Monday, July 25, 2016

Pledges and When They're Broken

There were 16 better options as our candidate for president. And there was one option who actually believes in the Constitution—which the president takes an oath to uphold and defend. So it might be relevant if we look at oath upholding.

The original 17 candidates
Image from here

The question of the week is whether Ted Cruz broke an oath to endorse Donald Trump as the nominee.

Let’s go back to when that “oath,” or pledge, was made. It was a question put to the candidates by liberal moderators of a debate. The question was whether or not Donald Trump would at some point up and leave the party he was newly and only tangentially connected to. (Was it a coin toss that made him decide to run as a Republican instead of something else as in previous half-hearted runs?)

In August 2015 Trump said he wouldn’t promise, and then in September he said he would if everyone else did, depending on whether he was “treated fairly” by the party—which he would judge for himself. There was also a signed statement by each of the candidates saying they would remain Republican supporters, and it included the phrase “endorse the nominee” without defining what that meant. Again, the purpose was to prevent Trump from manipulating everyone and then going third party.

And this past spring, when Cruz had momentum and was additionally acquiring delegates at state conventions, Trump declared that this was unfair and all promises were off.

Right now everyone is declaring that endorse means going out and making an explicit statement of endorsement—or pledging a vote and encouraging others to vote with you. But it does not necessarily mean “I will come out and express my endorsement at the convention, so help me God.” It was a promise of fealty to the party, and to not undermine the nominee. This could mean simply not fighting against, not leading his followers to rebel, not spending his money to continue the fight against. And especially it means to continue to support the Republican Party, including other GOP candidates in various other races.

So far, the only one who threw out his pledge was Donald Trump. Along with that he has thrown out the principles of the party and made everything about him. And so far he has done next to nothing to support other Republicans down the ballot. Cruz has been keeping that pledge.

In addition, Trump followed up what was seen as a successful convention—not with revitalized energy to go against the Democrat opponent, but with a vendetta to take out his final two rivals: Ted Cruz and John Kasich—governor of the state where the GOP Convention was safely and successfully held.

Trump intends to put $10-20 million each in Super PACs to defeat Cruz in his 2018 reelection bid for US Senate and John Kasich for his next run as Governor of Ohio. Not because either of them has betrayed the party and its principles, but because Trump is personally offended that they both believed they would make a better president than he would, and refused, after defeat, to bow down to him and tell the American people to vote for him.

This isn’t about broken promises—because Trump is the only one breaking promises here. This is about a vendetta against anyone who refuses to be submissive to him.

People have been accusing Cruz this past week of holding a grudge and breaking promises. So I’d like to go back over the events to see whether that’s true.

Trump spent months calling Ted Cruz “Lyin’ Ted,” saying it so often that his followers took it up as true, when Ted Cruz is one of the most honest people in politics today. Where did it come from?

On February 1st, in the evening, just before the Iowa caucus began, Chris Moody of CNN tweeted the news that Ben Carson was possibly suspending his campaign; the Carson campaign had actually said the candidate was going home to Florida and then would show up in DC a few days hence for the prayer breakfast It was at a time when the various campaigns were moving to New Hampshire; and to go home at that point appeared to the politically savvy (i.e., anyone outside the Carson campaign) to be a pre-announcement for dropping out. CNN announced the news on TV, including words on the screen, at 6:45 PM. Someone on the Cruz campaign—as well as someone on the Rubio campaign and probably others—passed along the news report to caucus goers—including the CNN screen shot.

CNN, about twenty minutes later, sent out a follow-up saying the report that Carson was dropping out was an error. By then the caucus was underway. Things were loud and chaotic. There wasn’t any verbal awareness of the tweets either way. There is no evidence, based on polling before and after, that the tweets had any effect on the outcome (Carson did better than polling predicted but still came in fourth). Not a single caucus-goer was found who had changed a vote away from Carson based on the mistaken report.

But Cruz was blamed for passing along the erroneous CNN report. He apologized later that no one had followed up with the retraction in the heat of the moment—an apology that I think was beyond reasonable expectation and was never required of anyone else, including CNN.

Carson said he lost the state because of dirty tricks and blamed Cruz (apparently forgetting the drubbing he got from Trump a couple of months earlier, which effected his slide in the polls). Trump seized on Carson’s accusation and started calling Cruz “Lyin’ Ted.” Cruz hadn’t lied. He hadn’t been involved in any falsehood at all. Nor did the CNN error affect the outcome in the state. And Cruz was more gracious than he needed to be.

But Trump continued the “Lyin’ Ted” theme, because he likes nicknames for anyone he dislikes.

In late March, Trump people put out the accusation that Ted Cruz was guilty of multiple marital infidelities—something Trump is known for, and something no one believed about Cruz. It was painful, but it passed, because Cruz has lived his life in such a way that no such accusation could gain traction.

But there’s more Trump-to-Cruz mudslinging.

In 2000, before they were married, and before he thought he might make her first lady, Trump oversaw a photography session of Melania posing nude, which were published in Britain’s GQ Magazine. So when an anti-Trump (not pro-Cruz) Super PAC found and published the photo, Trump claimed that it was a Cruz Super PAC doing Cruz’s bidding (which would be illegal and Trump had to know it hadn’t happened). Trump immediately sent out an unflattering photo of Heidi Cruz, a snapshot caught mid-blink or other expression, side-by-side with a professional glamor shot of Melania, and commented on how much better looking his wife was than Cruz’s. And not content to stop there, he threatened to reveal bombshell accusations about Heidi’s mental health and/or infidelity.

Trump supporters say Cruz started it, and so of course Trump simply responded. But Cruz didn’t start it. Nor did Cruz threaten or sue or otherwise respond with histrionics and cruelty; he showed his righteous anger at the attack on his wife, called Trump a coward, and then went about his campaign with greater resolve.

Then, at a time when Trump knew the internal polling showed him winning in Indiana, which was something of a final stand for Cruz, he gratuitously attacked Ted Cruz’s father, claiming a grainy photo of JFK’s killer with a Hispanic-looking person next to him was Ted Cruz’s father, a story dug up by the National Inquirer (run by a Trump friend, and claimed by Trump to be a reliable news source).

Remember, there was no strategic reason for the hit piece; Trump already knew he was winning. And of course there was no validity. Trump is simply a beast.

Between Cruz’s suspending his campaign and the convention, there continued to be talk from the disheartened about a coup at the convention. But that did not come from Cruz. He was silent on all of that and went back to the Senate—where he has worked on keeping the internet free and fighting various other Obama extralegal power grabs.

Should Cruz have changed his mind about Trump’s unworthiness to be president after all the sleazy attacks? Trump didn’t apologize, didn’t reach out to Cruz, didn’t broaden his attraction to win over Cruz supporters. Trump even went so far as to say he didn’t want anyone in the party who didn’t fully support him.

So then we had the convention. Trump has party officials doing his bidding, and they silence the floor, claiming it’s to keep people from changing the rules to stage a coup (which was not going to happen). He had asked Ted Cruz to speak, knowing there would be no endorsement.  Note that not all the other speakers endorsed. Some just spoke on their topics and went on their way.

Cruz didn’t have to speak at all. Governor Kasich didn’t attend—in his own state. But Cruz took the opportunity to speak on the superiority of conservative Constitutional principles over the failures of the socialist Democrats. Seems like a reasonable, even essential, message for a Republican convention.

But the failure to explicitly endorse in the speech is being used by Trump as a reason for more venom. He orchestrated the boos. He stirred up the controversy—when people who had heard the speech cheered and approved the message. Frank Luntz’s focus group gave it very high ratings.

Trump could have reacted by thanking Cruz for his support—meaning support of the party—and it would have been enough, and maybe won him some Cruz supporters.

Instead he has reiterated the story about Cruz’s father being involved in the JFK assassination—rallying the GOP chair to join in on that bullying. And Trump vows to take out Cruz and Kasich—because they don’t even belong in the party, or in public life.

Who lies? Who holds a grudge? Who fails to keep his word? Trump.

And who bullies others into submission? Trump.

Anyone out there who is claiming Cruz is petty and unforgiving doesn’t know Cruz. And anyone who thinks Trump’s hateful bullying has been justified because of the slights he has suffered needs to realign their entire moral compass, because it’s off kilter.

As of today, Trump is leading in the polls. I’m not writing this to change that. A rat with bubonic plague ought to be leading Hillary Clinton in the polls. She is the worst Democrat party candidate in the history of the United States.

But that does not mean that the worst candidate in the history of the Republican Party would be good for the country. He may win. But it will have to be without Cruz's submission. Or mine.

But that does not mean the worst candidate in the history of the Republican Party would be good for the country. He may win. But it will have to be without Cruz’s submission. Or mine.

Thursday, July 21, 2016

The Call for Unity

I have been less than normally interested in the GOP Convention this week in Cleveland. There was drama the first night when the establishment refused a floor vote on the rules—going against law, good sense and rules to do so. But it wasn’t surprising. Just a note about that: it was about rules for the future, not about getting rid of Donald Trump as the nominee. If you didn’t know that, maybe you’ve been lied to. Check out an interview with Senator Mike Lee to get better informed.

I’m assuming there may have been other interesting speeches. But I was only interested in Ted Cruz’s[i]. I had been praying for him, for two things: that he might say something to remind us of the principles of our party and our country, and that he might remain strong in abiding by his principles.

Senator Ted Cruz speaks at the GOP Convention
July 20, 2016   Photo by Behar Anthony/SIPA  AP Photo

I was uncertain that it was wise for him to consent to speak at Donald Trump’s convention. I was concerned that there might be some behind-the-scenes pressure that even Ted Cruz might not have been able to withstand. Reince Priebus and Donald Trump knew he wasn’t going to endorse the man who maligned and threatened his wife and accused his father of conspiring with JFK’s killer. They knew that when they invited him to speak. Maybe they vainly hoped he’d change his mind, but they knew for certain ahead of time, because he provided them his speech for review.

That means Donald Trump is using the lack of endorsement for his purposes. We can see that today. And it reveals the trouble this country is in.

Let’s take a look at what was, and what was not, in that speech.

The main story referred to Michael Smith, one of the officers murdered in Dallas, whose 9-year-old daughter, Caroline, will never be able to hug her daddy again. It was skillfully told, with added emotion, because the Caroline of the story is the same age and has the same name—and if I heard correctly, has a mother by the same name—as Ted Cruz’s daughter. The story had the power to tell us we are in seriously difficult times.

Cruz asks: “What if this right now is our last time? Our last moment to do something for our families, and our country? Did we live up to the values we say we believe? Did we do all we really could?”

Most of the rest of the speech is about principles. Namely, conservative principles enshrined in the Constitution. Principles that are absent from the Democrat party, and heretofore at home in the Republican Party, at least supposedly.

There are things he said that ought not to be controversial:

·         I want to see the principles that our party believes prevail in November. 
·         America is more than just a land mass between two oceans, America is an ideal. A simple, yet powerful ideal. Freedom matters. 
·         Our nation is exceptional because it was built on the five most beautiful and powerful words in the English language, "I want to be free."
·         [following a list of what Obama has done wrong] I am here to tell you there is a better vision for our future. A return to freedom.
·         [following a list of Hillary’s plans, and the freedom she will reduce] Voters are overwhelmingly rejecting the political establishment, and overwhelmingly rejecting big government.
·         We deserve an immigration system that puts America first, and yes, builds a wall to keep America safe.
·         We deserve trade policies that put the interests of American farmers over the interests that are funding the lobbyists.
·         if we stand together and choose freedom, our future will be brighter. Freedom will bring back jobs and raise wages. Freedom will lift people out of dependency to the dignity of work.
·         Our party, the Republican party, was founded to defeat slavery. Abraham Lincoln, the first Republican president signed the Emancipation Proclamation. Together we passed the Civil Rights Act, and together we fought to eliminate Jim Crow Laws. That's our collective legacy, although the media will never share it with you. Those were fights for freedom, and so is this.
Most of this should be agreeable to every delegate at the convention. In fact, to anyone within earshot with the exception of the hordes of liberal media lying in wait to find something they could sensationalize.

Cruz details what we can do to fight corruption and make things better—and they are mainly things Trump claims as his ideas: build a wall to keep America safe, stop admitting ISIS terrorists as refugees, America-favoring trade policies, bring back jobs and increase wages.

This next part, also non-controversial call to vote all the way up and down the ticket, is what drew boos:

We deserve leaders who stand for principle, who unite us all behind shared values, who cast aside anger for love. That is the standard we should expect from everybody. And, to those listening, please don't stay home in November. 
If you love our country, and love our children as much as you do, stand, and speak, and vote your conscience, vote for candidates up and down the ticket who you trust to defend our freedom, and to be faithful to the constitution. 
The boos came mainly from the New York delegation, which Cruz acknowledged with grace. News stories report that copies of the speech were handed out especially to the New York delegation, Trump’s home state.

In other words, it was a manufactured drama. Trump added to it by walking out among the crowd a minute before the speech ended.

It could have been otherwise. Look at the words. In practically any other time, in practically any other person’s speech, the words would have implicitly endorsed the candidate and party. Trump’s New York delegates and others yelling along with them are declaring that even they do not believe Trump is a leader who stands for principle, and will do the things we voters deserve.

Photo from here
If they had cheered and made the assumption (or been directed to act as if they assumed) Cruz was referring to their chosen candidate, there would have been no news story. People wouldn’t have noticed that Cruz hadn’t actually endorsed Trump, because Trump would have acted satisfied with what was said and taken it as pro-Trump-ish enough.

Cruz ended with this additional call for unity:

The case we have to make to the American people, the case each person in this room has to make to the American people, is to commit to each of them that we will defend freedom, and be faithful to the Constitution. 
We will unite the party; we will unite the country by standing together for shared values by standing for liberty.
In this alternate-universe year, that is called divisive. Because everybody apparently knows Trump will not defend freedom or be faithful to the Constitution.

But shouldn’t the Trumpkins at lease have pretended that he will?

Instead, Cruz has been excoriated by many people I frequently agree with and admire. That includes radio hosts Dennis Prager and Larry Elder, who spent the day describing the speech as the world’s longest political suicide note.

However, a few of us have seen through the “we have to win” rhetoric, who heard what I did.
Daniel Horowitz, at Conservative Review, takes on the “we have to vote for the Republican” demand:

Taken to its logical conclusion, there is never a time when it’s not worth voting for the Republican, even when they legitimize and validate the Left’s premise.  If Republicans are ok with codifying transgenderism into civil rights, well, one could always suspect the Democrat will be worse and support bestiality.  This is the attitude so many loyal conservatives—even more so than the moderates—have internalized throughout the eras of two Bushes, Dole, McCain, and Romney. Yet, history doesn’t lie, and the Democrat success in moving the ball on every facet of fiscal and social policy since 1988 is nothing short of breathtaking. Rather than utilizing Reagan’s “new day—our sunlit new day—to keep alive the fire so that when we look back at the time of choosing, we can say that we did all that could be done—never less,” all we did was focus on not electing Democrats.
Matt Walsh prefaces his piece with this summary, which so accurately describes my experience:

I’ve been re-reading the transcript of Ted Cruz’s convention speech on Wednesday night and I can’t quite find the controversial part of it.
He congratulates the nominee. He urges everyone to go to the polls and vote for the candidates who will defend the Constitution. He articulates, quite brilliantly, the principles of conservatism. He calls for conservatives to come together. He talks about freedom, liberty, and the preciousness of human life. And for that, he was booed off the stage.
Walsh laments, as I do:

Cruz spoke exclusively about the principles of conservatism. He offered the Republican Party a chance to unite again around those principles. But it was made clear, once and for all, that many Republicans are not interested in uniting around principle. They aren’t interested in the principles at all. The only principle in the new party is Donald Trump. The only positions that should be taken are the ones Donald Trump takes. The only speeches that should be given are ones centered around Donald Trump. This was precisely the fear of the Never Trump camp; that Trump would devour conservatism and leave only himself standing in the gap; that the new conservatism would be Trumpism, and the old conservatism would be anathema. It seems those fears have been realized.
Steve Deace, also at Conservative Review, noted the irony of the Trump response to the speech, and laments:

Then there were the reports of how angry party people and donors were that Cruz dared tell Republicans to vote their values. Stop and think about that for a moment, and allow it to fully sink in. The party establishment can only be offended by a call to vote your conscience if, indeed, they are at least tacitly admitting that to vote for their nominee could violate one's conscience.
My son Political Sphere posted his response on Facebook before I finished writing. We’re so closely agreed (still not having talked together) that I hope he doesn’t think I’m copying him. He adds this understanding:

Those deriding Cruz as classless and going back on his promise because he failed to specifically endorse Trump appear to have a faulty belief that if Cruz would just forgive Trump for the personal attacks against Cruz and his family and publicly endorse Trump by name, then all the “Never Trump” people will suddenly support Trump. They do not seem to understand the only thing this would do is cause those of us who cannot, in good conscience, vote for Trump to lose respect for Cruz. Such a display would not get us to change our mind on Trump, but instead show us that Cruz, too, has sold out to the Washington D.C. Cartel and is no longer willing to fight for our conservative principles even at the expense of being denounced by the Republican establishment.
I’m glad Cruz didn’t break faith with us.

It's another whole post to cover the accusation that Cruz broke his promise. Let’s just note that Trump already reneged on that—it was no deal unless he won, because he would just accuse the RNC of not playing fair. Cruz is right to assume the deal was abrogated when Trump went after his wife and father—and has failed to offer up any kind of apology for those lies/threats. If you’re unclear on the concept of forgiveness (i.e, if you’re thinking Cruz is the unforgiving one), check out this PragerU video, with Dr. Stephen Marmer, on Forgiveness: Trump isn’t entitled to exoneration, or even forbearance; Cruz therefore keeps his integrity with release.

Deace started out thinking it might have been a mistake for Cruz to have committed to make the speech. But after hearing it, he sees it as a great, historic, defining moment. He ends with this:

I work in this business full-time, and I am a committed conservative. A Christian one, no less, which means "daily disappointment" is in my job description. Over the course of my career, and my almost 25 years as a Republican, I have known a lot of Republican politicians—including Trump. But very few of them have I actually been proud to know, or restored even a morsel of my faith in the system.
Ted Cruz is in that select group.
The attacks have been brutal today. Cruz himself might be thinking that giving the speech in the first place was more costly than he’d anticipated. But if the goal is to do whatever we can to bring us back to the Constitution, to freedom, prosperity, and civilization, Cruz must know in his heart he still has his sacred honor.

[i] Transcript here

Monday, July 18, 2016

Word Control

Words are my tools. And my playthings. A big part of my life. I appreciate a good word, a good phrase, a good sentence. I try to write powerful words, but mostly fall short. Still, sometimes I read some older pieces and think, that was well written. Good for me—and the inspiration that was with me at that moment of writing.

So, because of my interest in words, I’m interested in freedom of speech, and I pay attention when words and ideas are oppressed or suppressed.
image from here

A week or so ago a friend posted on Facebook a piece called, “Why I’m Teaching My Kids to be ‘Politically Correct.’” My Facebook friend is a young mom, non-religious and not very political (but probably leaning liberal and/or libertarian). I know her to be a good person, trying to live a decent life and contributing well to her family and society. Knowing that, I read this piece trying to see what appealed to my friend, to learn from that.

There’s this paragraph near the beginning, that I can almost agree with:

As a writer, I think constantly about how words are being used, and from where I’m sitting, political correctness has gotten conflated in recent years with common decency, kindness, and consideration. On one hand, anyone who dares to acknowledge people who say they’ve been hurt, or who suggests that demonizing an entire group of people is a bad idea, is automatically derided for being “politically correct.” And on the other hand, people will say any awful thing that floats into their mind, claiming that they are “just being honest,” and then when challenged, they will cry about political correctness. (For the record, speaking your mind isn’t a virtue if what’s on your mind is bigoted, obnoxious, or insulting. It’s just rude.)
The problem is, indeed, that political correctness has been conflated with “common decency, kindness, and consideration.” That’s what has given political correctness power—because we decent, kind, considerate people don’t want to be misunderstood or mislabeled as bigoted and hateful. But in reality political correctness isn’t about politeness or consideration for others; it has the purpose of shutting down voices that don’t align with the viewpoint being enforced.

The author of the piece decides to keep the incorrectly conflated definition of political correctness, and insists she will teach her children to be politically correct—because words do have power to hurt, and we should at least make an effort not to offend or be rude. Her complaint is that so many people are sick and tired of political correctness being shoved down their throats that they eschew any controls, even self-control, over what they say:

The war on political correctness has become a scapegoat for people to regress to a less open and tolerant era, as evidenced by the amount of blatant racism, sexism, prejudice, and hatred being spewed in the name of not being PC. The idea that marginalized or historically oppressed groups should be given any kind of consideration is met with eye-rolling and open disdain. In the past year, I’ve been stunned to witness educated adults behaving like petulant children, gleefully claiming they’re taking down “the establishment” by throwing out the baby of human decency with the “politically correct” bathwater.
I agree with her that spewing hate in a misguided rebellion against political correctness is pretty ugly. And she’s probably right that there’s a rebellion going on in a PC reaction. That probably explains much of Donald Trump’s popularity. He does speak things that are not PC, and people who have had enough of that oppression cheer.

However, people are mistaken if they think he does it for the sake of free speech. If you watch how he reacts to people who speak out against him, or disagree with him, you’ll see the very tactics the PC police use: humiliation, coercion, and economic and social pressure. He’s not anti-PC; he’s pro-Trump’s version of what is allowed to be said. He’s into manipulating people by controlling their words as much as anyone else shutting us down for the sin of digressing from PC script.

For someone like me, careful about words, and naturally gentle and kind, yet "painfully honest" (yes, I've been called that), any version of political correctness is a danger; it mislabels me without exploring who I am in my heart.

I’ve lived long enough to watch PC vocabulary change. In my childhood, the N-word was never used; that would have been considered offensive well before I was born. But at that time, in the place where I lived, which had never allowed slavery and never had Jim Crow laws, the word for the race of people descended from various tribes in Africa and identifiable by darker skin and other characteristics was Negro, which comes from the Latin for black. It was just a term, not intended to be derogatory.

Then the term colored became more common (as used by the NAACP). Then we were told that was derogatory and we should use the term Afro-American. Then we were told the preferred term was black. Every time we accommodated, the term was changed and we were accused of being offensive.
Not that long ago we were told that black was derogatory and we should use the term African-American.

As a word person, that term doesn’t make sense; it applies not to race but to place of origin. A Saturday Night Live skit once played on this, because the very blond Charlize Theron is from South Africa, so she is literally African-American. There are major portions of Africa today populated by Arab-type peoples, or Europeans who moved to Africa many centuries ago. Meanwhile, there are people of the black race all over the world who are not American, so you have to know enough about country of origin to refer to their race in any way, even when country-of-origin isn’t salient information. Imagine the awkwardness of talking about the racial aspects of Tay-Saks disease, which affects African-Americans of a certain skin color, and African-French of a certain skin color, and African-Britons of a certain skin color, and Egyptians of a non-Arab lineage, and Angolans of a certain skin color….

It appears to me that there are people seeking to feel offended, and no matter how many times we go along with their requests for yet another politically correct name change, they will come up with something new so they can claim we are offending them.

So, for my personal language style guide, I have settled on black—without meaning any offense. And that seems to be returning as the preferred term, if you can trust such groups as Black Lives Matter or the New Black Panthers.

Would it be nice if we didn’t have to refer to race at all? Yes. But since members of tribes insist on asserting their tribal pride and power, it comes up. And any idea can only be expressed if there are words to use.

Meanwhile, PC continues to be a bludgeon used against people with views differing from a particular “progressive” ideology.

I recently read a piece called “Thought Reform in America,” by Thomas Lifson, comparing America’s political correctness with oppressive regimes of the past:

Political correctness has attained a level of institutional power today in the United States that it can justifiably be compared with the totalitarian brainwashing efforts seen in Mao Tse-tung’s Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution (also known as "fundamental transformation"). The salient social mechanisms shared by the two efforts at thought reform are public shame and self-criticism.
He offers this anecdote:

Decades ago, when China first opened up, I met a prominent Chinese scientist finally able to travel to the USA, who had been denounced, tortured, and imprisoned during the Cultural Revolution for his crimes of having a PhD from an American university and being dedicated to scientific truth instead of political doctrine.  I will never forget the broken man talking about he had been made to confess his crimes in front of a howling mob.
I thought about this sort of pressure when Governor Mike Pence was chosen as the running mate on the Republican presidential ticket. He’s generally a decent person, and has served his state relatively well. But remember when Indiana came under attack for passing a RFRA law to protect religious freedom in the wake of the Supreme Court’s overreaching same-sex marriage ruling. The PC police—in the form of media and loud voices combined with threats, claimed the state should be shamed and shunned and boycotted.

This episode included a newsperson seeking out a Christian family-owned pizza shop and asking them the hypothetical question of whether they were willing to cater a same-sex wedding. The honest owners—who pretty much never catered weddings anyway, as a pizza shop—answered no, and were shut down by the PC enforcers.

In that atmosphere, revealing why religious people needed the protective law, Governor Pence caved to the pressure, and basically apologized for the state’s mistake.

Sometimes it helps to reveal absurdity using absurdity. Blogger Matt Walsh did that this week, talking about the silly, over-the-top PC position that gender doesn’t exist. The satirical piece is entitled “Dear Transphobic Ultrasound Technician, How Dare You Assign A Gender To Our Baby!” As he explains to the politically incorrect technician:

You’re obviously a simpleton, so let me break this down a little further. You cannot tell anything about a person based on their physical and biological makeup. Anatomy doesn’t matter. DNA doesn’t matter. Bone structure doesn’t matter. The reproductive system doesn’t matter. Nothing matters. You can’t tell what a person is just based on what that person is. You can’t even tell if it’s a person just because it’s a person. You can’t tell anything about anyone based on anything.
If we are to win out against the oppression of our ideas, we need to do it clearly, and boldly. Without rancor. Being kind and polite in general, so that the claim that we are uncivilized for disagreeing makes no sense.

It is not particularly brave for me to express these things, here, in safe obscurity, where so far I face little effort to shut me down. But at least I speak. So, with no intention of hurting the feelings of various groups, here are a few things that I believe are true but could be subject to the suppression called political correctness:

·         The most common occurrence of racism in America today is black racism against whites and other non-blacks.
·         The systemic reason for blacks suffering poverty, crime, and other social negatives is the breakdown of the family—with 70%+ children born out of wedlock, and fathers missing from homes.
·         The Democrat party is and has always been about limiting the rights and opportunities of blacks—but they’re willing to oppress others as well.
·         Almost all the terrorists in today’s world are radical Islamists. Islam has a problem: either they must find a way to oust radicals from their religion so we can all identify them and thwart them—or they must leave that religion as unrecoverable, so that we can identify and thwart the terrorists. The very idea of imposing radical Islam on the world is incompatible with civilization and will bring only tyranny, poverty, and savagery. We need a way to identify and stop anyone trying to impose tyranny on us.
·         Marriage is between a man and a woman, permanently covenanting to form a family in which children can be raised by their father and mother. No other sexual relationship has the benefits to society that marriage does. Pretending other relationships are equivalent to marriage harms marriage and degrades the family, leading to the decay of civilization into savagery.
·         Sex outside of marriage is always wrong—and harmful both to the individuals and to civilization.
·         Abortion is a choice against life. It is generally a selfish choice made to get rid of the natural consequences of the choice to have sex outside of a married partnership.
·         Socialism is a form of tyranny; it takes by force from people who create wealth and redistribute their property to those who have not created wealth. It discourages work and innovation and leads to poverty. Best outcomes happen when a free market is combined with voluntary charitable giving.
·         The American Constitution is a model for limited government to protect our rights, and if followed by a self-governing people, it leads to almost unimaginable freedom, prosperity, and civilization. It will lead to these positive outcomes wherever in the world its concepts are adhered to.

The way to freedom, prosperity,and civilization are known. We need the freedom to speak up and teach those ways.

Thursday, July 14, 2016

Rules for Civilization in Black and White

This is to continue the conversation from the last post. Not exactly a part II, but more thoughts following last week’s tragedy in Dallas.

First, some family history. I’ve mentioned before, I’m mainly descended from fairly recent Swedish immigrants. My father’s father immigrated to America in 1906. My grandmother was born here, but her family immigrated from Sweden before she was born. My dad grew up speaking Swedish and English in the home, and he later served as a missionary in Sweden, before WWII, and again for a shorter mission a decade later.

I have a little more variety on my mother’s side, but the direct line immigrated from Sweden in the 1850s. This ancestor met his wife immigrating, on the same ship, from Norway.

All of these ancestors immigrated directly to what is now Utah, which never allowed slavery either as a territory or a state.

The earliest Americans I know of on my mother’s mother’s side were located in Illinois in the 1840s. Their northern location leads me to believe their ancestors came from other northern portions of the early United States. And if we could go back far enough, we would find a few ancestors from England, Wales, Scotland, and France.

None of my known ancestors was a slave owner. I’m unaware of any living in a place where slavery was legal. If you go back millennia, you might find some Vikings who enslaved someone. I don’t know that history well enough to know. But I’m pretty sure the Vikings never enslaved Africans.

Until I moved to Texas, I’d never lived anywhere that slavery had ever been legal. And when I arrived in Texas, slavery had been illegal for over 130 years. Civil rights laws had been enacted—by Republicans pushing for it—more than 30 years earlier.

I only know about slavery from history. I only know about racial bigotry from history, and historical novels. It’s foreign to me. That kind of thinking is foreign to me.

So I ask: How did I become guilty of racism? And since the accusation comes without any negative behavior or even thought on my part, what am I supposed to do to earn a racial clean bill of health?

I’m not saying racial prejudice is extinct; I have become aware of some people with those beliefs. But they are anachronisms. Their beliefs are unacceptable is civilized society.

Except—black-toward-white racial prejudice. That is fairly common. And it seems to be getting more common, rather than less, under the current administration, who was supposed to heal all wounds and prove that we were post racial.

I mention the history above to show that it is irrational to assume that a lighter skinned person is de facto racist. And it is irrational to assume that someone who not only has no history of racist behavior, and no history of racist thought, ought to be held guilty or pay reparations for something that happened centuries ago.

Except for those illegally enslaving people in our day, who should be stopped and prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law (what they are doing is nigh unto murder), no one today is guilty of the nation’s slavery. And no one today was one of this nation’s slaves. In fact, a bloody war was fought to free the slaves and make them full citizens. The United States was among the first nations in the more civilized recent history to do away with slavery that had existed in most parts of the world for many thousands of years, including by Africans who enslaved other Africans.

We would have been happy if slavery had never been part of this country’s history, but at our founding it was already a common belief that it was wrong. While the writers of the Constitution were unable to immediately outlaw slavery, as many desired, they designed it with the intention to do away with it within two decades. If that intention had been followed, there would never have needed to be a Civil War.

Condemnation of this country is wrong; gratitude and admiration are more appropriate.

Taking things from people is theft. Reparations, then, would be taking from people who did no wrong and giving their property to people who had not been enslaved.

So let’s set that aside and talk about a few other racially related things.

There’s this famous quote from Benjamin Netanyahu, to the Knesset in 2006:

The truth is that if Israel were to put down its arms there would be no more Israel. If the Arabs were to put down their arms there would be no more war.
Let me rephrase that for our racial situation here in the US. The first part may apply, so far, only to the recent war on police officers, because blacks have been stirred up to believe there is some racial war going on against them:
I took this photo in September 2014, on the spot where
Martin Luther King said it. I wish it were clearer.

The second half can be more universal:

If the blacks were to stop throwing down the race card, there would be no more racism.
It might not be a perfect world, but it would be better. Much closer to what Martin Luther King said,

I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.
Rather than what Obama said, when he had an opportunity to offer healing, Tuesday at the memorial service for the slain officers in Dallas:

We flood communities with so many guns that it is easier for a teenager to buy a Glock than get his hands on a computer or even a book.
So, he used the deaths of police officers to further his anti-second-amendment agenda with a lie. The guns he’s talking about (to teenage gang members, apparently) are already illegal guns. More gun laws pressing down on the backs of law-abiding citizens lowers their defenses but does nothing to prevent guns getting into the hands of those who already get them illegally.

This Martin Luther King quote was used a lot this week.
I took the photo at the MLK Memorial in DC.

And really, books are harder to come by? They’re free in every school library, and in every public library. Library cards are free. And you can buy used books for as little as a quarter at some used book sales. And people can share them friend-to-friend—legally. This is true even in inner-city Chicago, the president’s home turf, where a couple of dozen young black men are murdered—by other young black men—every weekend.

What was the purpose of this lie at a memorial service for officers slain in the line of duty?

In scripture stories we often read about people being stirred up to anger. In the Book of Mormon, the two groups are Nephites and Lamanites. During the millennium of history, there are times when “goodness” changes sides, but generally the Lamanites go to war against the Nephites, trying to subjugate them. Sometimes dissenters from the Nephites go over to the Lamanites and stir them up, like this example from Alma 63:

14 And it came to pass also in this year that there were some dissenters who had gone forth unto the Lamanites; and they were stirred up again to anger against the Nephites.
Someone is always doing the stirring up. And we’re seeing that today. And what we know about those who stir up anger is that their intention is to rule over their enemies.

One of my favorite quotes from the  MLK Memorial
We, non-racist people of whatever color, have reason to be concerned. Our president stirs up anger. An entire party stirs up anger. The party that insisted on enslaving blacks, and then insisted on holding them down socially—that party. And this racial group that claims to want to be freed from ongoing oppression votes for the oppressing party at rates well over 90%.

So, when I meet a black person, I have a 9 out of 10 chance of being right if I assume they are against the Constitution and the freedom it protects. I don’t bring it up, because I don’t want the contention. Instead, I look for places where we can agree. Sometimes that is the value of families and faith in Christ.

When blacks declare themselves to be conservative, they are welcomed with open arms—at Tea Party meetings, at Republican conventions, and anywhere else we gather. And we’re always glad to see that their numbers are growing among us. They face some discrimination and a lot of false accusations (from that 9 out of 10 of them) just to stand firm for truth and freedom, and we applaud them.

I feel pretty safe in my neighborhood, but in more urban areas, I might not feel safe walking alone no matter what color of person I meet on the street. Forget the hoodies—this is Houston; if someone is wearing a hoodie when it’s over 90 degrees at 10:00 at night, there’s something very suspicious there. But just having someone young, big, and strong coming at you in that setting can feel threatening.

But if I were to look at statistics, I would be justified to have greater fear if that young, big, strong person coming at me is a black. While only 13% of the US population, they commit 50% of murders.[i]
One more MLK quote from the Memorial

The same fear I would feel should be what a black person walking the street alone would feel. Maybe they would feel more fear, since more blacks are murdered by blacks than any other race. It’s not irrational bigotry; it’s rational fear.

It isn’t about skin color; it is about character. How do we develop character? Write down this big secret:

The way to develop character in a population is to have a vast majority of children raised by their married mother and father, and taught to honor God as well as family, life, freedom, property, and truth.

Those of us who have these advantages want them for everyone. We rejoice when others have these blessings as well. Our heart aches for children brought up in fatherless poverty, with the social chaos that is so hard to overcome.

If there is something the more blessed of us can do, it is to share the message of what brings civilization—and happiness—in a challenging world. No amount of money handouts can bring people out of economic and social poverty. Only obeying the laws of civilization will do that.

[i] The piece by Larry Elder I quoted earlier this week contains this paragraph: “Here’s what those promoting the ‘police disproportionately kill black people’ narrative consistently omit. Whites, despite being almost 65 percent of the population, disproportionately commit less of the nation’s violent crime–10 percent. Blacks, at 13 percent of the population, disproportionately commit more violent crime. As to murders, black commit nearly half. Yet whites are 50 percent of cop killings.”

Monday, July 11, 2016

Lives That Matter

It has been a time of mourning for the country, since the mass shooting of police officers in Dallas, Texas, last Thursday. Five were killed; seven others are in various stages of recovery. And the country is in turmoil.

Dallas police, early July 8, 2016, following sniper shooting
photo AP/LM Otero, found here

When the wicked rule, the people mourn.

The president, who was voted into office in a post-racial world, has been the most racially divisive president since Woodrow Wilson. Saying we told you so won’t help, but…

In Stephen Covey’s book 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, one of the principles is “Seek First to Understand, Then to be Understood.” So, with that in mind, I’m trying to understand.

There is NO valid reason for sniper shooting of police officers doing their duty in their professional way, which was the case Thursday. They were calmly and professionally escorting protesters—protesters were claiming that police were unfair to black people. They disregarded hatred and misunderstanding aimed at them and did their job. There were heroic acts on the part of police to keep the protesters—the public—safe once the shooting started.

So understanding the perpetrators amounts to this: These were angry, hateful, evildoers who wanted to murder innocent police officers.

Because some police officers somewhere at some time may have been too forceful against particular black people? That’s the story. But so what? What if some police officer somewhere had been in the wrong? That is in the range of possibility, whether you believe the sensationalized news stories of police-on-black-brutality or not. That would still not justify murder of random cops. It wouldn’t even justify murder of any particular bad cop; such a person would be handled through the justice system.[i]

Unless you do not believe in the justice system—and since the FBI announcement last week that Hillary Clinton would not be prosecuted for the long list of crimes the director laid out, maybe there’s reason not to trust the justice system.

But if we don’t trust the justice system, is being more evil and murderous going to get us to justice? Of course not.

So what we need to understand about the evildoers is that they choose to do extreme evil. And they must be stopped. We don’t need to offer sympathy or justification or rationale. There is no rationale for doing what they have done.

The ones we need to share understanding with are the protesters. I believe many of them are horrified by the violent mass murder of police officers. That was not their goal. Their goal was to raise awareness to an issue they are passionate about—an issue that may only be an issue because of bad media storytelling, because the data does not support their claims.

But stirring up anger and fomenting violence was the goal of some leadership. We need to separate out those who are merely reacting from those who are causing.

Because, among those protesters, and others across the country who sympathize with them, there may be some who can be brought to the truth when the truth, rather than lies, is what they hear and are surrounded by. Just since Thursday, I think many of them are saying, “Not all police officers are bad,” which ought to be obvious to any sentient being, but this is nevertheless progress.

Maybe, while this bit of truth has penetrated, they can also accept other truths.

As Matt Walsh put it in a July 8th post,

It takes 17 seconds on Google to discover that more white people have been killed by cops this year than blacks and Hispanics combined. White people are almost twice as likely tobe killed by cops than black people.[ii] There were twice as many whites killed by cops last year than blacks. Yes, it’s true that black people are a smaller percentage of the population, but they also commit a disproportionate number of violent crimes, which means they are involved in a disproportionate number of altercations with police.
There were over 900 people killed by cops last year. The vast majority were not black, and the vast majority were armed. 
The false narrative they’ve been told is that police officers are racially prejudiced toward blacks, and are likely to use brutal force or even fatally wound blacks, just because they hate blacks. The data doesn’t bear this out, but something in their experience leads them to choose to believe it’s true.

I want to look for a moment at how preconceptions change our experience. And as an example, I’ll use interactions with police officers.

I don’t have a lot of experience with police; I’m not well connected with the criminal element. But I have experienced the rare but occasional traffic stop. And it is my experience that, while we are respectful to one another, police officers have never let me off with a warning; I always get the ticket.

My son Political Sphere has similar experiences. He even believes that it’s particularly important for him not to speed or roll through the stop sign—because he will get caught. And he will get a ticket. Never a warning.

Why? The mind tries to find reasons. It’s not because of gender, because we are one of each. It’s not because of race, because we don’t find this to be the standard case for others of our race. Even others of our family. It’s not even because we drive sporty cars, because I have a small SUV, and he has a minivan.

We feel a little picked on for no good reason. Even if we were speeding a bit, it wasn’t to the point of endangering others, or even out of intent; usually it’s just momentary carelessness at an inopportune moment. Can’t the police officers tell that we’re the kind of law-abiding citizens who would correct any error in behavior just by giving us a warning?

But if we were black, and we had people telling us the cops had it in for us blacks, and we read news stories and got filled with the repeated narrative that there’s something to this thing about blacks getting picked on because of race, we might think that was the cause. Even when it might be no more the cause than whatever it is in my life and my son’s.

If I were black and had that narrative surrounding my interaction with police officers, and it colored my experience, how would I come around to seeing without that inaccurate filter?

The shocking murder of five police officers might be an opportunity for clarity. Because, like we said, the internet if full of sources for the data. If, among these black protesters, there are those who love the truth, they may react to the facts with, “Oh, I didn’t know that before; that changes what I think.”

That is what should happen among civilized people.

If acceptance of the truth doesn’t happen for all, then among the unaccepting there are a couple of possibilities. One is that individuals personally have experienced something really negative, and they have generalized that such a situation happens to everyone like them. If we’re willing to say, “We understand your experience was bad. You shouldn’t have had to go through that. We’re willing to work on training and on improving the system to correct that so others don’t have to experience what you did. But can’t you see, from the data, that your experience was an anomaly and not the common experience?”

To some people, changing their point of view, even in the face of facts, is difficult. But if they really want society to be better—more civilized—then they must be accepting of truth. We all must.

If they prefer to remain angry, ignore facts, insist that the story of racism in America—and especially among cops—is what they claim it is when reality is otherwise, then they might just be race baiters. People trying to stir up anger and hatred for their own power-seeking agenda.

Until those people are willing to change, there’s no amount of non-racial-bias perfection we can live or think or do that would be perfect enough for them to admit we’re not all racists. And a blog post isn't complete enough to cure what ails them.

I’m still puzzled by those who use violence against innocents as a way of persuading the public to come join their side. This is true for terrorists of any stripe. Do they think that blowing up women and children, or using sniper fire against police officers is going to make us say, “Hmm, maybe they have a point; they’ve persuaded me they’re in the right. They’re the kind of people I want as my leaders”?

I can only assume they really think, “If enough people fear us, they will cower and succumb to our rule.” But a free people, a civilized people, will not give in to evil. Our souls and the lives of our children and grandchildren depend on our not giving in to evil.

We will stop the evildoers, because we must. We prefer to stop them by persuading them to change their hearts away from evil. But that choice will be up to them.

[i] I wrote about the Ferguson situation here, and violence against the police here and here. You might also want to read The War on Cops, by Heather MacDonald.
[ii] This piece by Larry Elder is worth reading in its entirety. He also spoke about the issue at length on his radio program Friday and Monday. Larry Elder grew up in South Central Los Angeles, and he is black.