How Much Do You Have to Hate Someone Not to Proselytize?

Francis Schaeffer on the Origins of Relativism in the Church

One of My Favorite Songs

An Inspiring Song


Wednesday, May 27, 2009

There's a Lesson Here

A lesson for those with ears to hear, anyway. Perhaps one has to have made a lot of stupid mistakes before truly appreciating this song, which I will keep in the sidebar.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

On Guns, Self-Defense, and Personal Security

Not so long ago, the Obama administration, via Attorney General Eric Holder, made it known that they would like to reinstitute the old ban on "assault weapons" (in quotes because the term is defined so loosely as to include some weapons that are most definitely NOT what one would ordinarily consider assault weapons), as well as other possible gun controls. Reaction from such of the conservative blogosphere as I read was predictable, mostly focusing on the obvious (in my opinion) violation of the 2nd amendment, with some weighing in on the right to defend one's life and property and the need to be prepared to do so.

I, too, agree that the 2nd amendment would be violated by such a ban; the wording of the 2nd amendment seems very plain to me. I do not see how banning "assault weapons" would not constitute an infringement of the right of the people to keep and bear arms (Please don't attempt to argue this point in the comments unless you have something really novel to bring to the table; I am already familiar with the common arguments on both sides of the issue.). I also agree that man has an inalienable right to defend his life and property, and that there will soon be, if there already isn't, a greater need to be prepared for such defense. But I still think Americans' rights to own firearms are going to be infringed. The only questions are "How much?" and "How fast?" We have too few people who understand these things now for the country to avoid being demogogued into such infringements.

What are you going to do, if it comes down to it and the federales come to take your guns?

I suppose you might begin now to hide your guns, but even assuming that you are carpenter enough and surreptitious enough that no one else alive knows where to find your guns, a hidden gun isn't the most useful self-defense tool, is it? And if it really does come down to it, despite our much-beloved "from my cold, dead fingers" rhetoric, I doubt very many will actually choose being shot to death in front of their wives and children. Unless we are able to win--and keep winning--the battle for the 2nd amendment in the political realm, I think the reality is that it is going to be very difficult to keep, let alone carry and use, firearms for self-defense.

I also think that people tend to imagine themselves more capable with a gun than they really are--that is, they tend not to be aware of what can go wrong, or to over-rely on their firearms. Nothing is foolproof. For example, if I recall correctly, the author of Attack Proof told of an experiment where gun owners were placed on one side of a smallish room and someone with a knife on the other. In no case was the gun owner able to draw and aim before the knife-wielder had crossed the room and commenced his attack--and they knew the attack was coming! If you own a gun, are you sure that you will be able to draw, aim, and fire in time? What if you are grabbed first? What if the situation doesn't call for deadly force? What if someone attempts to take your gun away? Don't tell me it can't happen; police officers worry about it all the time.

I like guns; I have two and would like to buy two more. I would never suggest that firearms aren't a valuable part of a self-defense plan. But I am suggesting that relying solely on firearms is a mistake. Our thinking needs to be broader than that. We need to ask, and keep on asking ourselves questions like, "What will I do if I am followed? In a car? On foot? What will I do if I can't get to my gun? If I am surprised, what will I do until I can draw and aim? What can I do to minimize the chances of being surprised? How will I react to sudden stress and fear? What will I do if someone tries to take my gun? How can I keep intruders out of my house or car in the first place? Are there other viable ways to defend myself and my family that I can add to my personal security plan?"

Those questions are important now. How important will they be if, someday, your firearms are legislated out of your hands?

Monday, May 18, 2009

James White Saith...

The only weapon that can win the war against a constantly advancing and militaristic Islam is the Holy Spirit of God applying the gospel of Christ to the hearts of Muslims and bringing them into a true and full relationship with God through Jesus. A dying secularist West may have all every kind of technology at its disposal, but it lacks the heart to survive. Secularism breeds a culture of death, and it sucks the spirit and life out of mankind, reducing him to a mere animal, robbing him of purpose and life. It cannot survive against an advancing, militant Islam.
And, in my opinion, he is absolutely right--as is not at all unusual.

Look, I am not at all against the United States fighting to defend itself. As a matter of fact, I prefer that we do. But it seems to me that if we have had one big flaw in our "plan," it is this insane idea that we can somehow successfully export and institute American-style representative government without successfully transmitting (to use a weak word) the worldview which produced it. The Founding Fathers repeatedly affirmed that the model of government which they had designed assumed a more-or-less Christian population. They explicitly said that it would not work without one.

So it seems to me that the idea of going into a Muslim country and procuring for it, at a great cost of blood and treasure, a more-or-less American-style representative government, is ultimately doomed to frustration unless we were to successfully evangelize the country. And here we are destroying, at government expense, privately supplied Bibles in the local languages, all to avoid offending the sensibilities of the religion that is producing our enemies in the first place.

I am so sorry. The track record is clear: Islam and totalitarianism go together like peanut butter and jelly. In the long run, resisting Islamofascism means dealing with Islam itself--and that means evangelization. Shooting ourselves in the foot ain't gonna help.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Book Review: Just How Stupid Are We? Facing the Truth About the American Voter

Yes, this review was written in one draft. Don't kill me, okay?
I have wanted to do a review of Rick Shenkman's Just How Stupid Are We? Facing the Truth About the American Voter since Mrs. Man-of-the-West checked it out of the library for me. Held it out somewhat longer than I was supposed to, as a matter of fact, as I kept finding other things to do with my time, but was reluctant to let it go before I'd had my shot at reviewing it.

Prior to reading this book, I had never heard of Mr. Shenkman (this confession will probably give my occasional liberal reader the heebie-jeebies--it turns out he is pretty much a confirmed and fairly well known liberal), but the title intrigued me, as I have grown increasingly convinced that the American public, in general, is simply too much the victim of poor education and time pressure to have anything approaching a real clue as to what is going on politically. I would not, personally, use the term "stupid," as to me, that implies a deficiency of gray matter, and I do not think the problem with the American voter is that he is congenitally stupid, but that he--often through little or no fault of his own--has little in the way of critical thinking skills and less in the way of basic historical and philosophical knowledge.

I was that way myself (some would argue that I still am!). I emerged from one of the best government school systems in the state with a 3.8 GPA and absolutely not a clue that there were such books as The Federalist Papers and The Anti-Federalist Papers. I had not a clue as to the existence of Samuel Rutherford or John Locke or Thomas Reid, thinkers enormously important to anyone who would understand the Founding Fathers' approach to American governance and practical philosophy. I am still working to correct this situation, which I have found is shared by the overwhelming majority of government education's victims (even those who've gone on to get bachelor's degrees and higher) dating back to at least the forties, and is at the root of much of my hostility toward government education.

But I digress. While I found that I disagreed with Mr. Shenkman at almost every point as to what actually constitutes sound government policy, I also found that I had a great deal of agreement with him as regards his assessment of the American voter. He starts, in the "Author's Note," with (emphasis mine where present):
...I am convinced that it is too easy to blame our mess on Mr. Bush. And I do not believe that his replacement by a leader who is less partisan and more competent and sensitive to civil liberties will begin to remedy what ails us.

What went wrong, went wrong long before Mr. Bush's ascendancy. His flaws simply gave us the unwelcome opportunity of seeing what heretofore had remained largely invisible.

We have had enough books about Mr. Bush, and I, for one, frankly am tired of them. What we need now are books to help us understand us. What has happened did not happen as a result of a single leader's mistakes. We had a hand in it.

The cliche is that people get the government they deserve. If that's true, why did we deserve Mr. Bush?
I, of course, note that that question is already being asked, and will continue to be asked, about President Obama.

In the first chapter, "The Problem," Mr. Shenkman says:
Our problem is twofold. Not only are we often blind to the faults of the voters, owing to the myth of The People, but the voters themselves frequently base their opinions on myths. This is a terrible conundrum. Democracy is rooted in the assumption that we are creatures of reason. If instead, as seems likely, we human beings are hard-wired to mythologize events and our own history, we are left with the paradox that our confidence in democracy rests on a myth.

Of all our myths, I believe the myth of The People to be the most dangerous one confronting us at present. The evidence of the last few years that millions are grossly ignorant of the basic facts involving the most important issues we face has brought me to this sad conclusion.
I found myself nodding in agreement. I have repeatedly been stunned at massive and widespread ignorance concerning basic issues and people. I could give examples, but Mr. Shenkman gives them in the book, and so I will use his. But I will say that I can find no rational explanation in the last presidential election for the nominations of Senator Obama and Senator McCain, two candidates who each championed ideas and policies repugnant to enormous numbers of voters, save for widespread public ignorance of what these two actually think and have done.

I will quote Mr. Shenkman at some length from the chapter "Gross Ignorance." Again, emphasis is mine:
In the 1990s political scientists Michael X. Delli Carpini and Scott Keeter, reviewing thousands of questions from three groups of surveys over four decades, concluded that there was statistically little difference among the knowledge levels of the parents of the Silent Generation of the 1950s, the parents of the Baby Boomers of the 1960s, and American parents today.


Some of the numbers are hard to fathom in a country where, for at least a century, all children have been required by law to attend grade school or be home-schooled. One would expect people, even those who do not closely follow the news, to be able to answer basic civics questions--but, in fact, only a small minority can. In 1950, at a time when the Democrats and Republicans were working out a bipartisan approach to foreign affairs, Americans were asked what a bipartisan foreign policy was. Only 26 percent could do so.

In 1952, just 27 percent of adults could name two branches of government. In 1955, when the Foreign Service was constantly in the news after Senator Joe McCarthy leveled charges that it was filled with communists, just 19 percent were able to explain what the Foreign Service was. The same year, just 35 percent were able to define the term Electoral College.

Skipping ahead a generation: in 1978 Americans were asked how many years a member of the House of Representatives served between elections. Just 30 percent correctly answered two years.


In 1986 only 30 percent knew that Roe v. Wade was the Supreme Court decision that ruled abortion legal more than a decade earlier. In 1991 Americans were asked how long the term of a U.S. senator is. Just 25 percent correctly answered six years. How many senators are there? A poll a few years ago found that only 20 percent know that there are 100 senators, though the latter number has remained constant for the last half-century (and is easy to remember). Encouragingly, today the proportion of Americans who can correctly identify and name the three branches of government is up to 40 percent, but that number is still below a majority.


...even Americans in the middle class who attend college exhibit profound ignorance. A report in 2007 published by the Intercollegiate Studies Institute found that, on average, 14, 000 randomly selected college students at fifty schools around the country scored under 55 (out of 100) on a test that measured knowledge of basic American civics.


An experience I had a decade or so ago, aboard a train heading from Paris to Amsterdam, suggests the dimensions of the problem. I had a conversation with a young American who had graduated from college and was now considering medical school. He had received good grades in school. He was articulate. And he was anything but poor, as was clear from the fact that he was spending the summer tooling around Europe. But when the subject involved history, he was stumped. When the conversation turned to Joseph Stalin, he had to ask who Stalin was. What else, I wondered, did he not know if he didn't know this?
I'm afraid I can't offer any encouraging words to Mr. Shenkman. I have had innumerable conversations very similar to that one, wherein I found that my conversational partner simply didn't know things that one shouldn't be allowed to escape from even a government school without knowing. As a matter of fact, I'd say it is the rule, rather than the exception, even among those who are very educated and competent in their professions. Over and over again, I find that most people have not read the Constitution, or have only read it once, years ago; they do not understand the separation of powers, or the constitutional roles of each branch; they do not understand the electoral college; they do not even know what the Tenth Amendment says, let alone what it means for government today.

Mr. Shenkman continues, asking a question that I have been asking more and more often:
The optimists point to surveys indicating that about half the country can describe some differences between the Republican and Democratic parties. But if they do not know the difference between liberals and conservatives, as surveys indicate, how can they possibly say in any meaningful way how the parties differ?
Over and over again, I have suggested that a large part of the problem on the "conservative" side of the political spectrum is that too many--probably the majority of them--putative "conservatives" are not actually conservative in their thinking; rather, they hold a series of fairly popular conservative positions (which is not an altogether bad thing) without an adequate understanding, if any, of the history and thinking underlying them.

Mr. Shenkman continues to explore the problem in chapters titled, "Are the Voters Irrational?", "The Importance of Myths," "Giving Control to the People," "The Power of Television," Our Dumb Politics: The Big Picture," "Our Mindless Debate About 9/11," and "We Can't Even Talk About How Stupid We Are." Each has something worthwhile--which is not to say that I agree with everything Mr. Shenkman writes. Far from it; over and over again, I found that on issues, we differ. But on the underlying problem of widespread and profound voter ignorance (to say nothing of apathy)? On that, I found myself saying, over and over again, "Amen."

There are particularly pithy passages, like this one:
Studies show that the speeches of presidents today are pitched at the level of seventh graders; in the old days--a scant half-century ago or so--they talked at the twelfth grade level. Research also shows that young Americans generally know far less about politics than their counterparts did a generation or two ago, even though they spend more time in school. What meager knowledge Americans do have about candidates' positions on the issues is picked up from those inane TV spots that proliferate at election time like a biblical plague of annoying locusts.
And there is this somewhat surprising--and a bit back-handed--acknowledgment of Rush Limbaugh's audience's superior political knowledge:
You may be thinking to yourself that Rush's audience is mainly made up of "rednecks," and that, while they are a part of the broader public, they should not be considered representative. But who actually comprises Rush's audience of more than 20 million a week? According to a study conducted in 1996 by the University of Pennsylvania's Annenberg Public Policy Center, his listeners are better educated and "more knowledgeable about politics and social issues" than the average voter. There are two ways of looking at this. Either we must reconsider our assessment of Rush's show, conceding that it may be of a higher quality than we were prepared to admit. Or we may have to reach the unattractive conclusion that his audience is unrepresentative not because it is inferior in knowledge to the larger pool of American voters but because it is superior.
I can't help but note that either way, it amounts to a concession that probably, on average, the most informed voters in America listen to Rush Limbaugh--which can only be of cold comfort to most liberals.

One might ask, "If the American voter is so alarmingly ignorant of the facts, on what basis, then, does he make his voting decisions?" Mr. Shenkman's answer is mostly found in "Are the Voters Irrational?" Mr. Shenkman writes:
...they found that voters have invented a variety of methods to make up, in part, for their ignorance. Even inattentive voters glean much of what they need to know to cast a ballot intelligently through various "shortcuts." A voter, for example, may decide that he should vote for Candidate X because his local newspaper endorsed X and he generally agrees with the positions the paper takes. Or a voter may simply decide that he generally agrees with the Democrats and therefore votes for Democrats. Parties are like brands; people learn over time which to trust and not trust. Or a voter may follow the advice of a well-informed friend who shares his views.
There is more, of course, but I have to note that I found Mr. Shenkman's likening of a party to a "brand" somewhat sad, in that they should be like brands, but these days, I would have to conclude that both are guilty of misbranding. I do not think--heck, I know that many Democrats of sixty years ago had very little in common with the Democratic thinking of today, at least in general. I have had the unfortunate experience, for example, of listening to an elderly female relative wax on and on about various problems the country has, expressing what are now Republican positions--and yet she was a "yellow-dog" Democrat.

She was still, in her mind, voting for FDR, because, in her mind, he got us out of the Great Depression.

Likewise, it defies history and common sense to associate very many of John McCain's positions with historical republicanism or classical conservatism. The old brands no longer mean what they once did.

Just How Stupid Are We? is not a long book, but it is unfortunately somewhat depressing, as I frankly did not see much hope for the future in Mr. Shenkman's
proposed solutions to the problem, which I do not think I am being unfair in summarizing as better education and better media. I do not see much hope in those solutions, because to my mind, our educational system and our media princes and princesses share at least half the blame for the situation, if not more. I frankly do not think this situation is likely to be successfully addressed for some decades, if ever, because if we realize that literacy and knowledge levels were higher before widespread government education and compulsory attendance laws, we are hard-pressed to escape the conclusion that adding more is going to be very counterproductive--yet, to most people, the notion that the solution involves getting the government out of education altogether will seem so radical as to utterly preclude its consideration.

Overall, a very entertaining book that points out a very real problem in our politics. I recommend it despite my profound disagreements with the author as to policy specifics.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Thoughts on Racism

A long time back now, a blogger with whom I ordinarily have a lot of agreement wrote a post that, to my mind, came very close to flat-out calling someone a racist over remarks that--at the very least--might have been completely innocent in intent.

Racism bothers me. But falsely accusing someone of racism, or accusing them of racism on the slimmest of pretexts, bothers me, too. I thought I'd gather some of my thoughts on the subject, and it's taken me a little while.

First, here is some of the flotsam and jetsam floating around in my mind, to give you some perspective on what follows.

Memories and Perspectives

Despite suffering the misfortune of having been born in an Arkansas military hospital, I consider myself a native Oklahoman. Both sides of my family have been here since before the Civil War, more correctly known as "The War of Northern Aggression" (If you ever hear me speak, remember that I come by my accent honestly). Like most folks whose families have been here that long, I have just a little Indian blood. My relatives say I'm part Choctaw; just how much, I don't know. Nobody seems to know. It's probably not much--there's just enough to give my skin an ever-so-slight copper tinge, at least on the parts that have been exposed to the sun. I doubt you'd notice any difference in my skin tone at first glance. Shoot, even I can't tell unless I see paler folks next to me in the mirror--like when I see myself and a couple of others in the wall mirrors of the little dojo I get to practice in occasionally. It's only then that I can tell that my genetic background isn't exclusively Celtic.

Nevertheless, the first time I met my now-deceased father-in-law, he said, within seconds of shaking my hand, "You got some Injun in you, don't ya? Not that there's anything wrong with that."

I never thought anything of it. It would have been ludicrous, given his background, to think that he meant any harm or thought any the less of me. The only reason I remember it at all is that it struck me forcibly how quickly he was able to recognize--somehow--that I had Indians in my ancestry. Nobody else, to my knowledge, has ever picked up on it so quickly.

Yet, I know that there are people who consider it grossly inappropriate to make remarks like that, as though it were somehow offensive to acknowledge that there are identifiable racial characteristics in a person's appearance.

When did we get to the point where even to acknowledge a person's racial background can be considered rude, or even indicative of racism?


After I got out of boot camp and Infantry Training School, my first platoon commander was Warrant Officer Gunn. In the Marines, Warrant Officers are often referred to--often even to their faces--as "Gunner," so he was "Gunner Gunn."

Gunner Gunn was, I think, my favorite of the officers I served under. He was inspiring, had high expectations, was tough, completely fair, and it was clear at all times that his men came first. He was really good, a pleasure to serve under.

He was black. I mention it only because someone occasionally suggests--like a commenter on the blogpost that originally got me thinking about writing this post--that whites sometimes resist putting blacks in leadership positions, or following them once they're there. I don't know about that. The United States Marine Corps was about as color-blind as it is possible for an organization to be, and my experience there makes me automatically question assertions about whites' alleged unwillingness to follow black leaders.

To my mind, it's always about the leader in question.


I was on duty once in one of the fast-food restaurants I spent years in, when a couple of young black ladies came in. One was just fine, just placed her order like anyone else, but the other let rip with a non-stop stream of invective. I got called a "White Mother------" and all kinds of other names, and for some reason, it seemed like my calmness (I refused to get visibly upset) aggravated her all the more.

To this day, I haven't figured out why she did that. I treated her just like every other customer--just like her friend had been treated, in fact.

It didn't escape me that her behavior embarrassed the heck out of my crew. Every single person on duty, except for me, was black. Not one of them was comfortable listening to her tirade.


Another time, in a different location of the same restaurant chain, a black lady with whom I often worked were alone together in the store. I can't remember whether it was before opening, or whether it was just a slow spot in the afternoon, but as we worked, we talked, and at one point, she confided in me--I'm afraid I can't remember what brought the comment on--"MOTW, I don't like most black people. My husband keeps bringing these people home, and--well, I don't like most of them."

The weird part is that she told me this in hushed tones, like she was afraid someone would overhear, even though we were alone in the building. What could she possibly have been afraid of?


Yet another time, in yet a different location of the same restaurant chain (I spent a long time in the fast-food business), I was on duty with another management person, a black lady who was an assistant manager. We always got along well, but I was nevertheless a little taken aback when a black family came in and--in her judgment--behaved abominably. When she had had just about all she could stand, she leaned over and whispered, "MOTW, it's people like that that make me ashamed to be black."

I don't quite get it. White people that behave badly don't make me ashamed to be white.


While I ran a fast-food restaurant on the North side of town, I once employed a real winner: a handsome young black man who was just about to complete the curriculum at Tulsa Welding School. I mean, this kid was just about to finish up everything, every single course the school offered. He wasn't one of those people who take just enough welding instruction to get an entry-level job somewhere (about three to six months, if I'm not mistaken); he'd been at the school for almost two years, as I recall, and when he graduated, he was going to make the big bucks.

To top it off, he was a genuinely nice person with excellent manners and a winning personality. When I'd called his former employers for references, every single one of them said that they'd love to have him back, that he was one of the best employees they'd ever had. I'd hired him even though I knew I wouldn't have him for long.

One night, it wound up that it was just him and me after closing the restaurant, and during the course of closing up, he complained briefly to me that he was a little frustrated because he couldn't find any nice black girls in his age range to date.

It was ironic because in the same store, I also employed two nice young black girls, the daughters of a local small businessman. Their complaint? They said they couldn't find any nice young black men to date.

You couldn't help but wonder, "What the ?????"


In a roundabout way, the preceding section has a bearing on this one. It wasn't that long ago that in visiting a new blog, I followed some links and found myself in a whole 'nother world: the world of black women who have had just about all they can stand of being treated badly by black men. Some of these women refer to black men whom they don't think are ever going to learn to behave any better as DBRBM, or "Damaged Beyond Repair Black Men."

I knew there were problems in the black community, but I had little idea that so many black women were just on the point of giving up.

It's legitimate, isn't it, to ask how this disaster occurred?


Years and years ago, when a teenager, I worked for a while in a shop that rented and sold tools and lawn and garden equipment. Two of the men who worked there made liberal use of the N-word in referring to some customers. This was to my great annoyance, for I have always found that word terribly objectionable.

One day, a black man came in and conducted some business. Apparently, he made quite an impression on one of those two men, for--though I can't remember what prompted the remark--he said to me, "That was not a (N-word). That was a black gentleman."

I didn't quite appreciate the full significance of that remark 'til years later, when I began to understand that what it meant was that to that man, it wasn't about race, it was about behavior and culture. In other words, he didn't necessarily think that black people were inferior (more on that later), but there were certain objectionable behaviors that he had come to associate with black people, and furthermore, he knew enough to know that that behavior was an accident of cultural and social background, not the result of some genetic component.

There are people who would call that man a racist. But by the dictionary definition of the word, he was not.


When I was in boot camp, one of the privates in our platoon was a Cambodian named Ea. He didn't speak very good English, but he was on fire, he wanted so badly to be a Marine. He hated communism and communists--blamed them for all the well-documented evils they'd brought to his homeland--and had hopes of someday getting to fight with the U.S. Marines against communism.

Ea was, without a doubt, funny-looking to the average American. He was little and skinny, with a sallow complexion, and had ears that stuck out from his head, and of course, he had that very limited English and a thick accent that made him almost incomprehensible. If anyone was cut out for the role of "outsider," it was Private Ea, but I recall clearly one day that when discussing Ea's background, the platoon guide, an enormous white man who was a former steelworker (if I recall correctly) and absolutely covered from head to foot with tattoos, said, "None of that matters now. You're an American now."

And you know, he was. He was from across the world, from a completely different culture, a member of a racial minority, but none of that mattered. He had cast his lot and placed his loyalties with the United States, and that was all that mattered to us.


It wasn't that long ago that a Southern Baptist blogger, in an online discussion, made a reference to eating cornbread and buttermilk. The fact that he made that reference when addressing a black man was taken by some as evidence of racism, or at least of unconscious racist attitudes. He denied it; said it was just what he'd happened to have been eating himself when he was at the keyboard.

To this minute, I don't think some people believed him, despite not being able to find anything else hinting of racism in his commentary (at least to my knowledge). They seemed to find it absolutely unbelievable that a white man would actually eat cornbread and buttermilk, despite the repeated assurances of some of us that that particular combination of foodstuffs is actually quite widely consumed in the South by all manner of folks. (You can find more on this in Crescent Dragonwagon's excellent cookbook, The Cornbread Gospels, if you're interested.)

Who was making the racial assumptions? The blogger, or the people who assumed that only black people would eat cornbread and buttermilk? And why?


You know, I honestly think you'd be an idiot to deny that there are race problems in the United States.

I also think you'd be plumb nuts if you thought, in general, that those problems had very much to do with racism.

Why? In part, though I hate to say it, because the overwhelming majority of people that I meet/read/run into/listen to that talk about "racism" have absolutely no idea what the word means. Instead, they have this vague sense that it means that you don't like people who aren't the same color you are.

[Ding!] Sorry. Wrong. Look, it's really simple. Here's the definition of racism. Several dictionary definitions, actually, which I can summarize by telling you that the principle definition of racism is that it is the idea that some races are genetically, or by nature, inferior or prone to some defect in behavior. Associating a set of behaviors with black people, or white people, or people of whatever color is not racism, it's prejudice. A practical bias against some people because of their skin color is bigotry. Not all bigots are racists--people have accused people who don't want to vote for Mitt Romney of anti-Mormon bigotry, for example--but it is rare indeed to find a racist who isn't a bigot.

You can say that black people in general like fruit flavors (and this is perfectly consistent with my experience in running that fast-food restaurant on the North side, by the way), and that isn't racist, it has to do with the culture. You can say that white people, by nature, can't dance, and that is racist. Innocuous, but racist.



My experience with race problems in the United States is that they have less to do with racism and more to do culture, economics, and politics.

Black culture in this country has been very nearly destroyed, in part for the purpose of creating a permanent voting bloc. It has gotten so bad that even in the black community, quite a few people have developed a pronounced distaste for the culture around them. But since part of the destruction has included encouraging black people to feel a sense of solidarity with each other (A sense of solidarity that, by and large, in my opinion, does not exist among American whites. White Americans may have a sense of group identity, but it usually has nothing to do with their color. It may revolve around their politics, their religion, their hobbies, or their jobs, but not their race. It doesn't even occur to most of them.), to have a group identity, to voice that distaste is to assume the role of race traitor. This group identity is, it seems to me, what lead the ladies who whispered to me that they were ashamed to be black, or didn't like most black people, to whisper. It is the group identity that encourages some black men to accuse some black women of betrayal, should they dare to date outside their race. It is the group identity that creates an "us against them" mentality that is very effectively manipulated by some people--especially some white people--to marginalize voices with which they disagree.

There seems to be no quicker way to silence a person, or at least to make his actual opinions irrelevant, than to accuse him of racism. Once that word is tossed out there, a person effectively is reduced to perpetually defending himself against the charge, no matter how absurd its basis. It is a devastatingly effective weapon, and has been so widely used that we have gone to absurd lengths to avoid being vulnerable to the charge. I have run across people who will not mention a person's color when describing him ("Have you seen Mr. Jones?" I don't know. What's he look like? "Oh, he's about six feet tall, etc., etc.," But no mention of whether Mr. Jones happens to be black, white, copper, or brown); little kids who have been shushed for noting that, "Mommy,that lady's hair is curly"; people who are afraid to mention certain foods, for cryin' out loud, around black people; etc, ad infinitum, ad nauseam, ad absurdum. I have run across people that honestly believe that they can't make it ahead in life, or in the company they work for, because of their skin color. Everyone is against them. Not only are white people against them, black people are against them, because they are too dark or too light or too yellow or too whatever. I have also run across people who--not being stupid--have figured out that the quickest way to get action or attention is to start hollering about someone's alleged racism.

I'm sick of all of it. I'm ready for people to return to a simple concept: giving one another the benefit of the doubt. I'm ready to be able to talk about and with people of other races without having to parse every word, because I know that people aren't going to be looking for hatred and animosity that simply isn't there. I'm ready for people to understand that criticizing their culture isn't the same thing as hating them for their quantity of melanin. I'm ready for people to understand that their color doesn't automatically dictate where their loyalties lie, that we can be white or black or tan or brown and that what matters is not the tone of our skin, but the fact that we're loyal to the same God, the same country, the same American idea.

And most of all, I'm ready for people, especially white people, to quit trying to shut up those with whom they disagree by shouting RAAAAAAAcist! Every time they do it, they make the problem worse.
The inimitable Kat of
Cathouse Chat discovered this excellent little commentary from Andrew Klavan. I hope you take the time to watch it.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Almost a Sure Sign of Not Paying Attention

Wade Burleson wrote a post the other day about "Baptist Identity" folks' position on alcohol. In case you didn't know, they're against it.

Wade went to some trouble to point out that his issue--well, let him explain it:
I am not writing about the pros or cons of total abstinence. The point of this post is that all of us must resist the easy temptation of equating our personal beliefs regarding tertiary matters on par with obedience to Christ, and demanding others comply with our views.
In other words, for him the bigger issue is not so much alchohol as it is whether or not we are going to allow some Baptists to so define their personal convictions, some of which are difficult to prove from Scripture, as one and the same as core Christian (or at least Baptist) beliefs.

That's a valid concern, and I appreciate Wade's ongoing efforts to point out this sort of thing when he sees it.

For me, though, when I see the subject of alcohol come up in a Baptist context, I almost can't help but just roll my eyes. It is really an effort of will not to do it in front of some people at church. I have this reaction because while I have often heard from some Baptists that Christians should not drink, I have yet to hear any argument made for the position that didn't make my head spin.

(Let me note, for those who have already made up their minds that I am a chronic drunk, that I hardly ever drink. Got better things to do with my money, now and for the foreseeable future.)

I can't tell you the number of times that I have run across people who are utterly convinced that every time "wine" is spoken of negatively in Scripture, it really does mean "wine," but every time it's not--like in the second chapter of John, where Jesus turns vats of water into top-quality wine--it's "grape juice." That's bad enough, but it's not what gets my goat most of all.

What really gets my goat on the subject, and convinces me that people, often including ministers of the Gospel, have their minds made up in advance of the facts, is the continual misquoting of these two verses:

Romans 14:21
It is good not to eat meat or drink wine or do anything that causes your brother to stumble.
1 Corinthians 8:13
Therefore, if food makes my brother stumble, I will never eat meat, lest I make my brother stumble.
Unbelievable as it may sound, I hardly ever hear these verses quoted correctly. What I almost always hear is:

Romans 14:21
It is good not to eat meat or drink wine or do anything that (might) cause your brother to stumble.
1 Corinthians 8:13
Therefore, if food (might) make my brother stumble, I will never eat meat, lest I make my brother stumble.
This verbal legerdemain is resorted to when someone (Only God knows who... :) ) points out that there isn't actually any command anywhere in Scripture for the Christian to abstain from alchohol, only to avoid drunkenness. The idea is pressed to mean that because someone, somewhere in the Body of Christ might see or hear of you having a drink, and might be pushed beyond the limits of their self-control and stumble into violating their own conscience or into outright drunkenness, it is therefore incumbent on Christians everywhere to totally abstain.

But that's not, as any who care to read it can see for themselves, what the verses actually say. There is no "might" in there. We're not talking about a potentiality; we're talking about someone we know, someone who has apparently demonstrated a problem in a given area. And frankly, I have never, ever run across someone quoting these verses who would or could point out someone like that. Their concern is always, without exception, for some hypothetical Christian somewhere...else.

And it's a certainty you'll never hear anyone use these verses to argue that Baptists shouldn't eat meat, or that Baptist women shouldn't wear jeans, etc., etc., etc., even though the argumentation would be pretty much identical. It's the worst kind of selective hearing.

Pheh. Every time I hear this stuff, I see it as almost a sure sign that someone's not paying attention. And I frankly don't want people who aren't paying all that much attention deciding for me what being a Baptist is.

Carry on, Brother Wade...

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

A Fly in the Apothecary's Ointment

In an otherwise excellent and highly recommended column (Truthfully; Dr. Adams is one of my favorite writers, and in this column, save for this one thing, I think he is spot-on), Dr. Adams wrote:
Herbert Hoover made FDR’s New Deal possible with protectionist policies following the stock market crash of 1929.
Why, you ask, might I say that this is a fly in the ointment? Because, very simply, high tariffs--protectionism--was the policy of every Republican president before Hoover, as well, right on back to Lincoln. To say that Hoover's protectionism was somehow "unprincipled" and paved the way for the New Deal is absurd, unless you want to similarly charge all those other Republicans as well, and somehow the idea that it took from from the 1860s to the late 1920s for that pavement to be laid and the New Deal to come to fruition seems less than tenable to me.

Not coincidentally, in my opinion, that same period of time saw the United States grow from a principally agricultural nation to the mightiest industrial power the world has ever known.

Once, high tariffs were an integral part of Republican policy. Starting with the Eisenhower administration, they were gradually repudiated, until now, many Republicans react as though they were being whacked with a red-hot poker if you so much as mention the idea of, say, withdrawing from NAFTA. I do not know why, unless it's that they've been convinced that the Smoot-Hawley tariffs were somehow responsible for the Great Depression. But that idea doesn't hold much water, either, and for similar reasons. To my mind, the hive-mind of opinion on Smoot-Hawley seems to be the result of decades of indoctrination rather than of reasoned analysis. Again, for those interested, peruse the relevant chapter of The Great Betrayal. It's available used for such a low price that there's no excuse for not buying it, even if all you do is read that one chapter.

Fortunately for all of us, there is an excellent alternative to both the income tax (the only real alternative to consumption taxes, that is, it's pretty much consumption taxes--tariffs and the Fair Tax--or income taxes: take your pick) and tariffs: The Fair Tax, which I happen to know Dr. Adams supports. I can't help but note that the Fair Tax achieves one of the principal objectives of a tariff, though--that is, they both create a tremendous tax advantage to manufacturing in the United States--and find it slightly amusing that the Fair Tax is gaining ground amongst conservatives, whilst tariffs have an undeservedly miserable reputation.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Edmund Burke Quote # 3

From "Speech Introducing a Motion for an Enquiry Into the Causes of the Late Disorders in America":
Is the folly of laying duties on your own manufactures a new discovery?
One of the things that constantly amazes me when people begin discussion of tax policy is that they so often approach the subject as though it were merely a matter of theory, as though tax policies have existed only since the introduction of the Sixteenth Amendment, as though differing policies have not a lengthy track record by which we may evaluate them.

"Free Trade"--it occurs to me that some people may not entirely understand what I mean by "free trade," and may be thinking that I am about to talk about "free markets." I am not. "Free Trade" and "free markets" are two entirely different animals. "Free Trade" is the policy of eliminating tariffs--taxes--on imported goods, especially manufactured goods, or lowering them to the point of being nearly non-existent. It has a track record. It is largely a track record of exporting manufacturing industries and the high-paying jobs and economic and military strength that go with them to countries with an abundance of human capital (which they often don't mind abusing) and a willingness to foul their own environment to the point of near-unlivability. It also has a track record of creating, in a way, confiscatory income taxes--it is basically always a choice between "tax consumption" (usually imports) or "tax income"--and big, intrusive government (the federal behemoth we now live with did not exist when the feds had to live with income from tariffs).

Tariffs also have a track record--and before someone weighs in with, "Yeah, Smoot-Hawley caused/prolonged the Great Depression!," let me note that this is in much dispute; no less an economic mind than Milton Friedman disputes it, and he is not alone. If you are interested in more, please read the relevant chapter in Patrick Buchanan's The Great Betrayal. It was during the time that the federal government was financed principally by tariffs and duties on imported goods that manufacturing in this country flourished, and the country rose to become an economic and industrial colossus recognized the world over.

It is partly because of this history, this track record, that I support the Fair Tax. It is a consumption tax, and amongst the elements of it I like are that it creates a tremendous tax advantage to manufacturing in this country--as, obviously, do tariffs. History gives every indication that a consumption tax that creates such a tax advantage will stimulate our economy far more than attempting to squeeze the so-called "rich" (always remember: to those consumed with envy, "rich" means only that you have a dollar more than they think you ought to have) ever will.

So why don't our leaders favor this idea? At bottom, I think that it's because for too many of them, tax policy has become far less about what will or will not work and far more about whom they can and cannot reward. With the Fair Tax, you cannot buy votes as easily as you can with a graduated income tax. And ultimately, buying votes with public money seems to be what it's all about.

And that, in a way, is the answer to Burke's question: they--lawmakers, that is--know full well how stupid some of their tax ideas are. They just don't give a rip unless it suits their own ends.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

From Nancy Pearcey's "Total Truth"

I was a little surprised when this book faded from the scene as quickly as it did. It was announced with major fanfare and endorsements, and I felt like it explored some territory that modern Christendom has not dealt with very much since Schaeffer. Perhaps you'll enjoy this passage. Emphasis is mine and in bold:
The Old Testament tells us repeatedly that "The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom" (Ps. 111:10; Prov. 1:7; 9:10; 15:33). Similarly, the New Testament teaches that in Christ are "all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge" (Col. 2:3). We often interpret these verses to mean spiritual wisdom only, but the text places no limitation on the term. "Most people have a tendency to read these passages as though they say that the fear of the Lord is the foundation of religious knowledge," writes Clouser. "But the fact is that they make a very radical claim--they claim that somehow all knowledge depends upon religious truth."

This claim is easier to grasp when we realize that Christianity is not unique in this regard. All belief systems work the same way. As we saw earlier, whatever a system puts forth as self-existing is essentially what it regards as divine. And that religious commitment functions as the controlling principle for everything that follows. The fear of some "god" is the beginning of every proposed system of knowledge.

Once we understand how first principles work, then it becomes clear that all truth must begin with God. The only self-existent reality is God, and everything else depends on Him for its origin and continued existence. Nothing exists apart from His will; nothing falls outside the scope of the central turning points in biblical history: Creation, Fall, and Redemption.

The Christian message does not begin with "accept Christ as your Savior"; it begins with "in the beginning God created the heavens and the earth." The Bible teaches that God is the sole source of the entire created order. No other gods compete with Him; no natural forces exist on their own; nothing receives its nature or existence from another source. Thus His word, or laws, or creation ordinances, give the world its order and structure. God's creative word is the source of the laws of physical nature, which we study in the natural sciences. It is also the source of the laws of human nature--the principles of morality (ethics), of justice (politics), of creative enterprise (economics), of aesthetics (the arts), and even of clear thinking (logic). That's why Psalm 119:91 says, "all things are your servants." There is no philosophically or spiritually neutral subject matter.

Monday, May 4, 2009

Edmund Burke Quote # 2

A series of quotes, actually, all from "Speech Introducing a Motion for an Enquiry into the Causes of the Late Disorders in America," May 9, 1770:
...there is no right that may not terminate in a wrong, if it is not guided by discretion.

[snip] behoved you, before you committed the government to a measure which you could not easily recede from, to provide against the consequences.


You are not to commit the government to any measure unless you are sure you can carry it through.
Of the things that appall the conservative, recklessly experimental government has to be near the top of the list. I do not mean that new ideas can never be tried; that would be foolish. But it is also foolish to commit your government to policies and/or actions that have neither a track record of working in the past nor any indication that they are based on the realities of human nature, economics, the physical world, etc. It is foolish to commit your government to actions or policies without, like the good chess player, trying to look several moves ahead to see what might go wrong, and provide against it. It is foolish to commit your government to doing something on the basis of no more than a faint hope that you might be able to make it work, the sheer desire that people might, given your sterling leadership, behave differently than they have over the last several millennia. To govern in this way is to commit your country to great risks with no recourse should something go wrong--and, as the plumber in Moonstruck said all those years ago, "Something always goes wrong."

In this world, there are people who are utterly convinced that if only the smart people--who are invariably the ones that agree with them, of course--were in charge, that all would be well. The reality is that even to think such a thing is to show yourself ignorant of the realities and limitations of human nature, and to set yourself up for disaster. Wiser minds proceed cautiously rather than precipitously, ever mindful of the human race's endless capacity to get things Fouled Up Beyond All Recognition.

Friday, May 1, 2009

A Must-Read Tale

A blogospheric acquaintance has published a riveting account of an assault upon her person; it touches on the wisdom of trusting your gut, on using your head, and the "why" of studying martial arts.

I suggest everyone read her post, but I especially suggest that women read it. Circulate the link. This is really excellent.