Friday, August 19, 2011

7 Long Quick Takes


These aren't "quick" quick takes at all, but rather really long diatribes that didn't seem important enough to put in posts of their own. They're also pretty much all political, which shouldn't surprise you considering the description of my daily life in #2...


I think my biggest obstacle to writing these days is titles. One of two things is going to happen. Either I think of a snappy title but have no brains whatsoever to write anything underneath it, or else I know what to write about but have no title with which to focus my efforts. Writing turns into either a Drudge headline or a epic novel about Something That Recently Occurred To Me. This is a problem if you want people to read your stuff, but it’s also a problem if you want to write at all. After a while, all-or-nothing syndrome makes you just want to throw in the towel.

In the meantime, I live life at the lowest possible ebb of individual effort. I teach four or five piano lessons a week (which is down from forty plus, so five feels like practically a negative number), I stay in bed until it’s just silly to do so any longer, I spend three hours a day just sitting on the couch listening to the radio because I “can’t do anything else while I’m listening,” and I occasionally will put dirty dishes in the dishwasher. This is the shape of summer at my house. It’s depressing, not really because the house has gone to heck, because it hasn’t, but more because I don’t feel good about how utterly unmotivated I am. If I felt like doing more, I would do it! But I don’t, so I don’t, and it ends up resulting in a cobwebby mental state that feels icky enough to be icky, but not quite icky enough for me to do anything about it.


I was fascinated to find, on network television, a paid and successful TV personality who appears to have a fairly pro-life outlook, at least on the “big issues.” Billy the Exterminator is an A&E reality series about a family who does pest control in Louisiana—and these ain’t spiders and voles, peeps. The guy jumps into lakes after alligators, traps possums, raccoons, armadillos, bobcats, exterminates wasp nests the size of a VW (not a joke), and all manner of Texas-sized animalia that are found in Louisiana. The show is “totally whack,” too, with the whole family in this weirdo semi-Goth style of dress and all the black-leather flair and ambiance that goes along with it. Joseph makes grand and royal fun of me watching this show. He’ll come in, stay long enough to see how disgustingly huge the latest infestation of roaches is, and say, “Oh, are you watching Billy Ray Cyrus Kills Bugs again?” No taste, that man.

Aaaaanyway. So, there’s a number of situations in the first three seasons where Billy goes into houses and the woman is pregnant. One of the company’s trademark things is how they use environment-friendly pesticides, which is probably not a bad idea when the nearest body of water at any given moment is 8-10 feet down the hill. Whenever he does his little voice-over for each job, he lists the products he’s going to use, and consistently says, “And these are much safer to use at this house, because they don’t pose any risk to Mary and her unborn baby.” And he always says “baby.” I like that! I like the show, too. It’s sort of Crocodile Hunter meets Dirty Jobs, messy and funny and sometimes you get to see a 23-foot snake. But anyway. I think it’s pro-life of him to speak that way, and I like that this is a prime-time reality show where people are hearing it. Certainly aren’t many other places you hear words like that in public.


In politics these days, it would possibly be educational for “evil empire” anti-military Americans to consider what’s happening in Syria lately. As is traditional and normal in Middle Eastern locales, large scale infighting and violence is on the table, and no one is able to deny that the latest round is directly at the behest of the current ruling party in Syria, headed by Bashar Assad. We are, please note, not in Syria right now. Thousands of people are murdered and tossed into mass graves, including women and children (who are often targeted), and we are not there. Stop whining that we're "everywhere," when clearly we are not.

Iraq is not a shining beacon of peace and accord, nor was the war in Iraq necessarily just (I’m on the fence on that one, still). However, there are NOT still people being systematically killed with chemical weapons, not still entire towns being slaughtered because of their religion or tribe, not still mass graves being dug and filled weekly at the direction of the regime. We were in Iraq, and now there's no genocide. Now please, the very last thing I’m suggesting here is that we should go to Syria! That's a very bad idea. But I’d like for people to do two things: first, stop Chicken-Littling your way through life going, “Omgz! We’re totally like involved in EVERY WAR on EARTH!!” Because we aren't. Sit down and shut up. Second, think of piles of dead children, and tell me whether “interference” on the part of a wealthy and capable nation might not, in the end, just possibly, be a net gain for humanity. I’m pretty sure back when Ignatius sent missionaries to Asia, there were plenty of European Christians who were in grave need of evangelization and ministry, yet he left the immediate sphere of influence and responsibility and traveled out to help those who could not help themselves. Stupid Jesuits, going abroad when clearly they could have done so much more good at home, guarding the borders against the insurgent Protestant Bible Cartels in France and Germany.


“God wants us dependent on Him, not dependent on the government.” That was Ryan Rhodes, the now-famous Tea Party member who made it his business on Monday to ask the President some pressing questions. Now he’s hit the big time, of course, with major news outlets searching for him, his name plastered across all the ubiquity of the mainstream media. Tuesday afternoon he made it through the lines of the Rush Limbaugh show, where he had great comments to make about individual responsibility, traditional liberty, the need for Faith. Once again, we’re getting to the bottom of all that is wrong with our country—people have abandoned God and faith (any faith!) and, knowing that their house must be build on stone, look for stability and protection from something else. Would the welfare state even exist, if our nation was still a people of Faith? I think not, or at least certainly not to the degree it exists today. Jesus said “the poor will always be with you,” but he didn’t say that “You should strive to always be poor and need someone else’s help.” We need to take back our country, be in charge of our own future, own responsibility for our decision. We need the resolve and determination to do so, for if “we the blessed” are no longer able to support ourselves or find prosperity, how will we find a way to help those who cannot help themselves?


We would do well, conservatives, in our quest to discredit global warming and combat Earth-worship hyperenvironmentalism, to keep in mind that “green” initiatives are not all bad. “Weatherization,” for example (upgrading insulation, improving heat/cooling retention) is not at all a hoax, nor a sham. It works. Insulate your house, buy expensive UV-reflecting windows, your energy usage goes down. Heck, put a windmill in your yard to power the well. It works! Use solar energy to run your water heater. It works. Recycle glass and plastics. It’ll save you three or four garbage bags per week, and those suckers are expensive. What we can’t do is replace a millions-of-megawatts-wide power grid with a thousands-of-megawatts-wide [and currently nonexistent] solar and wind grid. We won’t kill the planet in ten years by burning fossil fuels, nor will we run out of said fuels in that same time frame. We don’t need to sterilize humans so that the rain forests can live. There’s all kinds of nonsense out there, but don’t toss out common sense and actual money-saving investments just because they have a “green” label.


Be grateful I don't get riled up about all this stuff very often. Most of the time, I hear and observe political and philosophical wrangling and go "meh, I have a life to fritter away on the couch," but lately it's all coming to the surface again. Sorry. I've grown up around a very broad array of political opinions, I have extended family members who are quasi-racist, there are gay people in my family, there are people who carry guns in their cars in my family. I met all manner of nuts and normal people at work and at college, and now I live in a completely different social and political environment...probably the most uniform set of opinions I've seen in a while, but nevertheless different and hotly contested at the points of disagreement. NONE of those people, in all my life, have held their opinions because they're stupid, or because they shut their eyes to the truth (ok, well, maybe a couple). They either think as they do because they have always done so and are too lazy to reevaluate, or because they've been fed wrong information their whole life, or because some real, personal tragedy has driven them away from truth (and usually also Truth). It's offensive and frustrating to me, who has never made this assumption about others, to be assumed to be stupid merely because I hold firm to a political opinion that differs from someone else. That's the irritating part, and that's what brings out all of the loud, sarcastic, obnoxious, conservative in me.


  1. I can't claim the label conservative anymore, although I once did, vehemently, but I can't claim liberal either. I can claim the middle, and wander one direction or the other depending on the issue...and claim in addition that the middle is where God is most likely to be found.

    I grew up...and remain, in point of a family of enormously diverse political and philosophical opinions, all of which must be debated. If only these uncles of mine would run for Congress in their various parts of the country. :)

  2. Well, I'm "conservative" because I'm pro-life, believe in limited government, object to Federal regulation except where it concerns inter-state commerce, and think that a vital military is a key part of national security. "Republican?" That's something else...I'm a history student, and party labels are absolutely the next best thing to useless. But, I'd still say I'm conservative. Tradition, morality, a standard for ethics...those things are "conservative."

    As for God in the middle, Aristotle certainly said that the way of moderation and self-control was the Godly way. And we know that, say, the balance between justice and mercy is one of the things Christians are called to strive for in society. But then again, Jesus said he would spit the lukewarm from his mouth! Moderation and balance can't mean compromise, for example, on principles. Compromising or taking the path of least resistance is the greatest danger in modern society, I think, because it teaches us that letting go of what we know is right is "the right thing to do," because it can accomplish some greater good. This is never true--committing evil, or even tacitly approving it, will never bring about good.

    Oh, I have some uncles that would be fun in Congress! :) :)

  3. I'm curious -- why AREN'T we in Syria, if the situation is so bad? Surely, if there is ever any justification for us getting involved in other countries, genocide would be one. I am very hesitant to support interventionism, but stopping genocide is one thing that does make sense to me.

    As far as Iraq goes, I don't know where you're getting the idea that things are so great there. What about this:

    Having a dictator prevented the majority from killing the minority. Under democracy -- and especially once we pull out -- there is nothing to keep this from happening.

    I am definitely with you on #6. Most "green" things are just frugal things, rebranded. And I'm all about that.

    On #7, though. You said: "They either think as they do because they have always done so and are too lazy to reevaluate, or because they've been fed wrong information their whole life, or because some real, personal tragedy has driven them away from truth (and usually also Truth). It's offensive and frustrating to me, who has never made this assumption about others, to be assumed to be stupid merely because I hold firm to a political opinion that differs from someone else."

    Would you be offended if someone said you hold your opinions because you'd been fed them all your life and are too lazy to reevaluate? I would.

    My general take on people who disagree with me is that these are complicated issues, hard to work through, and very nuanced -- it's no wonder I find good, intelligent, well-meaning people on all sides of an issue. I still tend to think I'm right. But I'm open to the possibility that perhaps I am wrong... which is why I keep researching and researching, and reading and reading, and looking at all points of view and all news sources, to see if there's something I didn't know that might change my mind.

  4. Why aren't we in Syria? I don't know. Because American public opinion is strongly against it? Maybe, but that didn't keep us out of Lybia. It probably has more to do with the larger political situation, and Syria's close ties with other [more powerful] Middle East nations. That's the clearest public-knowledge reason entering Syria is a very bad idea, because we can know what kind of support they receive from within the region. What sort of other information our national intelligence agencies know about it, I haven't a clue. I'm sure there's significant factors. I hope so.

    Christians have ALWAYS been persecuted in Iraq, ever since Islam was founded. And I'm not sure which minority was "protected" by the Baathist powers that ruled Iraq during the majority of the 1980s and 1990s. Christians, Orthodox, Sunni Muslims, Kurd, all kinds of people were ruthlessly and systematically killed. Even the "right kind" of people who objected to the ruling party or got on their bad side were killed. People were thrown into paper shredders. Chemical weapons were used in great quantities. To answer the question, though, I get the idea that "things are so great over there" (actually, I said it was not a shining beacon of peace and accord) from people I know personally that have been there recently, are there now, or are going there soon.

    I might be offended if someone told my I merely held my opinions because I was too lazy to research otherwise. But at least it's better than being told I'm just stupid. I had pretty particular people in mind when I made that list. My grandfather, for example, is a dyed-in-the-wool democrat, which for him means virulently pro-entitlements, anti-military, pro-tax, tactitly pro-choice (he refuses to deviate from the party line), reluctantly pro-gay (again, party over personal belief), and generally in favor of government regulation and social construction. He thinks this way, "like a Democrat," because he has done so his whole life, and he's not going to change, either. I'm not sure if lazy is the reason why (it is for some of my aunts and uncles), or just maybe age and a kind of fatalism about things. But still--we think he is the way he is because of long habit and poor information. He thinks we are the way we are because we're stupid and listen to idiots. I'd rather call someone stubborn than stupid.

    Yes, issues are complicated, without question. Most political things have more than one right answer, or at least more than one answer that's an acceptable course of action in a complex world. That's another reason, in fact, why insistence by one group of their "rightness" frustrates me. How do they know? Have they thought about things from my point of view? Maybe they have, maybe they haven't. When I know they haven't, it gets awfully tough for me to take them seriously.

  5. Where are you getting your information about Iraq before the war? It doesn't jive at all with the things I've heard. The one thing I'm pretty sure about is that Christians were protected -- I have a friend who lived there before the war, ministering to Iraqi Christians, and she had to leave when we invaded. The Pope urged us not to attack because of the harm it would do the Iraqi Christian community. I'm not making this stuff up.

    Where you're getting your information about paper shredders and chemical weapons, I have no idea. It sounds like alarmist propaganda to me, but I'd be open to seeing your source.