Wednesday, February 17, 2010

The God Habit

I'll cut right to the chase: I'm not sure that I believe in God anymore.

Actually, let me be a little clearer about that. I still believe in God, more or less, but I don't know what in the world God means to me, or if He's what I always believed He was.

I was raised in a Christian home, beginning at age three. I remember when my parents got "saved", not because I was there, but because my mom sat me down and told me about it. She told me about how she and dad had given their lives to God and were going to start taking my brother and me to a place called church. I remember getting dressed up for it, and riding in the back seat of my parents' gold Chevelle to the big stone building. I remember being told over and over that the cardinal rule of church (for a three year old) was being QUIET, and I remember immediately forgetting that cardinal rule when I was led into the big sanctuary with the amazing paintings on the ceilings. I remember being quickly shushed, but I was three, and being shushed didn't dampen my spirits about the wonder of it all.

My parents were-- and are-- excellent Christians. They owned Christian book and gift stores for many years. They are devout, more or less (and I mean that as a compliment-- both the "devout" and the "more or less"). They would be very unhappy to hear what I am about to admit. I'm pretty unhappy about it myself, but that doesn't change it.

I was in church this past Sunday and I was angry. The anger wasn't about anything in particular, really. Over the past several years, I have been increasingly angry at God in general. I think it started back when I tried to attend Zion Bible College (and may that hallowed establishment burn merrily to the ground). Interested readers can explore my history with Zion via my earlier blog on the subject-- frankly, it would greatly illuminate what is yet to come. The point is, I have been God's problem child for years. And the funny bit is, I have no reason to be. God has taken excellent care of me. I am married to the love of my life, I have talents that take care of me financially and give me great pleasure, I have two unbelievably gorgeous and engaging kids, I have experienced a modicum of success in most of the things I have tried my hand at, I am healthy, decent-enough looking, and generally of a happy disposition. I have nothing, really, to complain about.

The problem is that, if these are the ways God has chosen to love me, then He is speaking the wrong language. My love language is not gifts. It is quality time. I like the gifts-- and, in fact, one of the reasons I have been reluctant to talk about this is my fear that God will capriciously yank the gifts away from me out of spite, to "teach me a lesson"-- but the gifts just don't mean love to me the way sensing God's attention and presence and delight in me would. Basically, if I am a little boy and God is my father, he's been one of those fathers who works so long and so often that his kid barely knows what he looks like, but who sends along a lot of gifts to try to make up for that fact.

In short, I'm a whiner. Fine. God isn't the sort of hands-on affectionate father that I want, and I just can't seem to satisfy myself with the distant gift-giver father, especially since even His gift-giving seems so erratic. I mean, what about the much better Christians than myself who haven't gotten anywhere near the blessings I have? How can I even think of my good fortune as God's gifts when they seem, on the macroscopic scale, so random and purely coincedental? Why should I have experienced such blessings, whiner that I am, when so many better people than me have experienced nothing of the kind?

So I was in church and I was angry. I was outright pissed off, and the reason is simple. I didn't want to admit it to myself, but when I finally faced it, I couldn't deny it. I'm mad at God-- furious at him-- because I really value believing in Him, and He has made it almost impossible for me to continue to do so.

It's like this: imagine that when I was young, my Christianity was a grapevine. It sprouted from the ground swiftly, and I was completely assured that it would grow wildly, massively, into a gorgeous vineyard of faith, from which I could press the wine of wisdom and enlightenment. So, to shelter that vine, I built a stone wall around it. For the past thrity years or so, I've been guarding that stone wall, maintaining constant vigilance in defense of it, waiting for it to grow and bloom and bear its limitless fruits. On this past Sunday, I actually opened the door of the stone wall, looked in, and saw something extremely disheartening. The vine hasn't turned into a vineyard. It hasn't grown at all. In fact, it looks more or less dead.

I haven't really talked to God in any meaningful way-- at least regularly-- in years. I do believe in Him, more or less, but I just don't believe anymore that He has the time or the interest to hear my thoughts and concerns. My prayers have never seemed to make any difference to Him, and logically it doesn't make any sense to me that they should. I mean, if God is God, then he knows what needs to happen and is on it already. If He isn't on it, and is waiting for me to let him know what needs to be done, then he can't be God. Right? So what's the point? I expect the pious ones would say, "the point is that prayer brings about a relationship with God", and that's fine and good. I want that-- more desperately than I can express-- and yet prayer seems only to prove the lack of relationship that God wishes to have with me. My prayers go nowhere. There is no response, no difference in any outcomes, not even any sense of some meaningful presence. They are words in a cave, bouncing back as echoes, sounding silly and inane. Completely pointless.

If prayer at least meant that I could sense God listening, and caring-- if prayer ONLY meant proof of the relationship-- then I'd keep it up. It doesn't though. I never made a conscious choice to stop praying, but over the past several years, my silence to God has been the practical result.

So I asked myself, this past Sunday, do I really even believe in God anymore? The answer was, grudgingly (or stubbornly), yes I do. But I don't believe that God is who I always thought he was.

I used to believe that God thought I was special, that he loved me specifically and wanted to spend time with me. I used to believe that prayer made a difference to him, because he cared about us and wanted us to express our wishes and concerns and fears and desires to him, so that we could watch him address them, and thereby show us his love for us. Now, I don't believe those things. I am angry at God because I really, really want to believe them, but I cannot maintain the illusion anymore that my experience with God has borne those beliefs out. It hasn't, and I am too tired of it all to pretend anymore.

I do have one more prayer for God, and he may consider it a constant: prove me wrong. I want to be wrong. I've prayed this prayer before, and I suspect I will pray it until I die. I don't expect anything special to come of it, though. Not because God can't answer, but because, for whatever reason, he chooses not to.

I hope it's good enough to believe that he's out there, because that's all I've got left. Prove me wrong.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Off the Cliff

We conservatives are oft heard referring to to threat of incrementalization-- what is commonly known as "the slippery slope". For instance, if it makes sense to help the poor and unfortunate by forcing their employers to pay them eight dollars an hour, why not nine? Why not fifteen? Why not fifty, with full medical benefits, child care, and a brand new Prius for them to drive to work? Or in another common example: if it is incumbent upon the government to grant marital benefits to homosexuals, then why not to vegesexuals? Or people who want to marry their pet marmosets? Why should they be excluded? And don't try to suggest such people don't exist. We all know they do, and if it's OK to marginalize them now, it won't be once we begin to slide down the-- say it with me-- "slippery slope".

What I am beginning to wonder, however, is if the slippery slope has already come and gone, probably sometime during the Clinton years. What if there was a cliff at the bottom of that slope, and we're already off it, falling, speeding toward terminal velocity, beyond any hope whatsoever of going back? Pretty hopeless, eh? I'd sure like to think otherwise-- I'm a generally optimistic guy-- but I think it may indeed be too late. Here's my evidence.

The other day, I heard a very well-known conservative talk show host (not Rush Limbaugh, thankfully, but one of his fill-ins) agree with a caller on the following point: the Democrats won the last election because people no longer cast their votes on ideas and issues, they cast their votes based on which candidate their favorite comedians, singers and actors say is cool. Therefore (this caller claimed) we should embrace this new reality and send out our own army of comedians, singers and actors, intent on making conservative candidates cool enough for these dolts to vote for.

The host, woefully, agreed whole-heartedly.

I don't need to tell you what is wrong with this, but there are probably a few others who don't see the point, which is this: for the first time in the history of planet earth, people are making their most important life decisions-- decisions about their leaders, about their spirituality, about what to stick in their mouths, heads and hearts-- without depending on critical thinking, a study of the issues, or conversations with people of different perspectives. For the first time in history, these weighty decisions are being made based on peer pressure, cool-factor, fictional representations, and the opinions of people paid to pretend to be other people (actors). This is bad enough. What's worse is that our own leaders are not suggesting that we fight this tide of intellectual laziness, but that we embrace it.

Take, for example, the recent announcement that supreme court justice Souter is planning to retire. Conversation immediately turned to who Obama might choose as his replacement. One would assume the conversations might have centered around any potential candidate's legal and intellectual qualifications. Perhaps there might have been some in-depth analyses of the candidates' experience, record, writings, education, etc. In short, one would have expected that the main issues would revolve around said candidate's ability to actually perform the duties required by the highest court in the land. Alas, this was not the case. What, instead, has been the meat of the discussion about Justice Souter's replacement? Whether this person will be a woman. Or a black. Or maybe a hispanic.

This should seem utterly preposterous to our leaders-- a superficial mockery of what the office of Supreme Court justice stands for-- and yet it apparently doesn't. These ridiculously meaningless and insignificant considerations are debated with utter seriousness by the "watchdog" media. No Republican leader, so far as I know, has said "Wait a minute. Shouldn't we actually be discussing this person's legal qualifications a bit more than their gender or the color of their skin? I thought judging people on those details was wrong and racist?" No GOP leader is saying that because if they did they'd instantly be called wrong and racist. That, however, is no excuse.

This, unfortunately, is the reality of the post-Obama-election-age. The country's first MTV president has finally firmly established the fact that a slim majority of Americans now vote for a presidential candidate based entirely on what the TV tells them. And I'm not even talking about the news media. I am talking about singers and actors, about fictional representations of the world as seen through the lens of programs ranging from The Daily Show and Saturday Night Live to Family Guy and Gossip Girl. We conservatives get sidetracked complaining about the "liberal media", but the sad reality is that Americans aren't getting their political views from NBC News, CNN, and the Washington Post. They are getting them from Brian Griffin (the dog on Family Guy, for you uninitiates), Sheryl Crow, and Tina Fey. They are abandoning their most important decisions to fictional characters, from Stephen Colbert to Matt Damon (and yes, he is a fictional character; all of his lines are written by and George Soros). Most Americans believe-- subconsciously, if not overtly-- that Sarah Palin is a character played by Tina Fey. They have no more idea of what Ms. Palin has actually said than they do the words of the actual consitution of the United States.

For the first time in history, average Americans now judge entire populations of people -- specifically conservatives and Christians -- based entirely on their fictional representation, rather than on actual observations of any specific conservatives or Christians. Try this: ask any liberal what a conservative and/or Christian is like. They will give you some variation of the popular stereotype, i.e. they are anti-science, bigoted, homophobic, hate-filled, brainless, hayseeds and rednecks. Nod wisely, and then, as innocently as possible, ask them this: do you know conservatives and Christians like that? Can you name names? Prediction: the liberal will hem and haw a moment, and then blurt out the name of Rush Limbaugh or Glenn Beck. You may choose to remind them that they probably don't know those people (and likely have never even listened to their shows), but such a reminder would be pointless and will probably just get you fired, ostracized, and called a bitch by some gay gossip columnist. In short, it really isn't worth the effort, because your liberal friend is utterly convinced that the representation he/she has seen on TV is true and accurate, even if they don't personally know anyone like that.

I think the people that propose that we conservatives embrace the "popularity contest" mentality of the post-Obama age recognize the truth of what I am proposing. They know that we are over the cliff-- there's no turning back. It is no longer possible to appeal to the masses based on logic, experience and debate. Thus, these leaders tell us, if you can't beat 'em, join 'em.

The problem is, conservatism will never be "cool". Conservatism relies on a moral, intellectually honest, logic-based worldview. It cannot be tranformed into something that is merely shallow, hip, and rooted in instant emotional gratification. Even if we wanted to, we cannot promote conservatism in the same way that Democrats can hype liberalism. It'd be like trying to hawk broccoli at a baseball game: "GET yer nuTRICious BROCK-leee! Steamed FRESH and HOT! GOOD and good FOR ya..." It'd be funny, but nobody'd be buying it. If we can't convince people to eat their veggies by getting them to actually care about what's good for them, then there is no hope whatsover. In the same way, if we cannot convince the country to vote conservative based on what is best for themselves and the country, there is no way we will get them to vote conservative based on how yummy it is. Liberalism may be an abject failure in terms of effectiveness and intellectual soundness, but its got the market cornered on yumminess, and that's pretty much all anybody cares about anymore.

This is why I fear that the argument for the "slippery slope" is now officially moot. That argument only works when there is time to stop the slide. I fear that that time is now past. Take a look around. The slope is history. We're off the cliff now, falling into the abyss. All that's left now, I suppose, is to enjoy the ride.


Friday, April 24, 2009

Released Surveillance: American Torture May Indeed Function as Terrorist Recruiting Tool

Recently, the Obama team has released records of “torture” methods used by the Bush administration on terrorist militants. While the Obama team has chosen not to release any of the life-saving information obtained via said torture methods, they have made a rather serious and damning proclamation about the dangers posed by such actions. America’s use of torture on terrorist detainees, the administration claims, will function as a recruiting tool within the Al Qaeda’s terrorist network.

Unfortunately, they seem to have a valid point, as evidenced by the release of a recent surveillance document. The following is a transcript of a covertly recorded conversation between an Iraqi teenager and a terrorist recruiter. It may well change your position on the current torture debate.

-----(transmission begins with the sound of a closing door)-----

“So you are considering a career as an Al Qaeda terrorist, yes?”

“Well… I guess so."

“You have reservations. This is perfectly natural. Tell me, what is the nature of your apprehension?”

“I don’t know. I mean, what if I get caught? You know? I mean, the Americans… they’re the most powerful military in the world. I hear they torture their prisoners for information. I just… I just don’t know if I could face something like that. I mean, it isn’t all just fun and bombs, you know?”

“You hear correctly, my young friend. The Americans do torture captured terrorist militants. I have a brother in Gitmo. I had two friends who were at Abu Graib. You probably know them. Muhammad and Muhammad.”

“Muhammad’s boys? Yeah sure. My older brother went to school with them. We all used to play cops and suiciders in the back yard.”

“Indeed. The point is, all of them have witnessed and experienced the great Satan’s torture techniques.”

“And lived to tell of them?”

(indistinct; possibly a snicker) “You could put it that way. Let me show you a picture. This was just released by the new American President. It is a ‘candid’ photo of what torture looks like at the hands of the Americans.”

(gasps) “What are they doing to that man?”

“They are grabbing his face. This is what they call a ‘face grab’.”

“Let me guess: this was right before they cut his face off with an electric knife?”

“You would think so, right? I mean, that only makes sense. Alas, no.”

“Did they force him to eat broken glass, maybe?”

“Not a single shard.”

“Then they gouged out his eyes. With a spoon, right? They popped out his eyes and made him look at himself as they urinated on him. Is that it?”

“No, no, and no.”

(Horrified) “Then what? Oh, Allah, what did they do to him?”

“Nothing. After the face grab, he went to the commissary and had a nice rice pilaf and coffee. Weak coffee, I understand. The Americans try, they really do, but they just don’t know how to brew the bean. It’s surprising, really.”

“That’s it?”

“That is it.”

“But surely they were merely teasing him. Surely the next day… I mean, what about Abu Graib? The things I have heard—”

“Are mostly camel fodder. Do you want to know what really happened at Abu Graib?”

“I’m not sure I do. I… I have nightmares…”

(noise of a drawer opening, closing. A pause.) “What is this? A fraternity party at Mosul U?”

“It is from an American newspaper story. This…” (suppressed laughter) “This is a picture of the ‘cruelty’ committed at Abu Graib.”



“Are those ladies’ panties?”


“You are yanking my chain.”

“I yank no chains. This is what they call torture. There are Americans for whom this would be a sort of secret fantasy. And not a few of our own countrymen. Am I right? Huh? Yes?”

(Sheepish laughter) “Maybe. Yes. Ah-hah ha!”

(Mocking voice) “Oh no! A dog is barking at me! A leashed dog! I might get dog spit on my nice prison jumpsuit! Oh my goodness gracious! Dear me, there are ladies underpants on my head! Oh what will they do next? A lap-dance? Please, no!”

(Both laughing.)

“All right, all right, I get the point. But that can’t be all they do. I mean, the Americans, they’re as wily as the devil. They play terrible, godless games with their prisoners. I have heard how they can get inside a man’s very own mind, make him afraid, play on his deepest terrors. They have technology that makes nightmares come true, that brings a man’s secret horrors to life.”

“Alas, this is true. My brother, Muhammad, in Gitmo. He has experienced this.”

“He has? What? Tell me! What was his greatest fear?”

(Long, meaningful pause.) “Caterpillars.”

(Ten seconds of silence.)


“Well, that’s what he told them. They asked him what he was most afraid of, and it was the first thing that came into his head. He considered telling them he was terrified of hot fudge sundaes, but he thought even they wouldn’t believe that. So he said caterpillars.”

“Ooookay. So what did they do? Bio-engineer some sort giant carnivorous caterpillar and drop him off in a forest full of them with only a chicken bone for a weapon?”

“You’d think so, no? I mean, that would have been pretty cool. Scary, yes. But cool.”

“Dead cool.”


“Then what? Tell me!”

“They put him in a room with one.”

“One what? One caterpillar?”


“A regular caterpillar? No genetically enhanced fangs? No poison barbs?”

“Not so much as an electric stinger.”

(laughing again) “You are yanking my chain! Come on, admit it!”

“I tell you, I yank no chains. This is what the Americans do. And you know what? You know what is the most amusing thing of all? They feel bad for it.”


“They do! They really do! They berate themselves for it. They conduct big crying fits on their Sunday morning talking shows, telling each other how horrible they are, how they must apologize and beg our forgiveness before we get really mad and do something equally bad to them! Like, oh I don’t know, spilling hot chocolate on them or something.”

“No way!”

“Yes way. They are so riddled with guilt that they give us Korans and prayer rugs—while we are in their custody! They give us lawyers to defend us. It’s true! It would be funny if it wasn’t so totally pathetic. But still, I mean come on, it is pretty funny, is it not?”

“They do know what we do to their people when we catch them, right?”

“Are you kidding? We send them videos! We broadcast the beheadings like spectator sports! We drag their bodies around the streets like piƱatas and send them the pieces that are left! It doesn’t matter!”

“Impossible. It must be a trick.”

“Shh!” (Long pause, then whispering) “Do you hear that?”


“Stalking… footsteps… coming for you… look out! It’s a… paper tiger!”

(both laughing)

(Falsetto voice) “Meow, meow! Do you have a lawyer! Meow! Are you comfortable? Do you need a new Koran? Meow, meow! Tell me where the bomb is or I’ll… I’ll take away your dessert! I may even grab your face a little! I may stick you in a room with a fuzzy bug! Mee-OW!!”

(growing serious) “That’s all well and good, but what about…”

“Yes, tell me. Get it all out. What is your last worry?”

“Well… what about… waterboarding?”

“I see. You have heard of this. Do you know what it is?”

(pause) “I’ve heard… things. Even the Americans are terrified to talk about it.”

“This is true. And that should tell you everything you need to know about them.”

“But what is it? Do they stick you in a box and fill the box with water until you drown?”

“No. But that’s a pretty good one. Try again.”

“Do they… do they nail you to a board and force you to drink so much water that your stomach explodes?”

“Allah akbar, boy, where do you get this stuff? Heavens no.”

“Well, what is it then? I have to know!”

“You say you have older brothers, yes?”


“Did you ever go to the pool with them?”

“Ugh, yes. They used to tease me. They’d dunk me under the water and then let me up and laugh at me, and then do it again and again. My mother would get so mad at them. Once, I got so much water in my nose that a little bit came out my mouth. It tasted really gross and I had to go sit by the side of the pool for a few minutes. My mom gave me some Fritos and Kool-aid. I hated those guys.”

“Welcome to the resistance, my young friend. Muhammad here will suit you up and get you your machine gun. You have to grow your own beard.”

“Yes sir!”

“And son?”

“Yes sir?”

“If you purposely get yourself caught by the Americans just to go to Gitmo and have Harry Potter audiobooks played at you, I will come there and cut off your head myself.”

(grinning) “You totally would, too. Meow!!”

----- (laughter. Tape ends) -----

Friday, March 20, 2009

Bumper Sticker People: a Useless Response

It's pointless to offer them a response, methinks, the Bumper Sticker People. Not because they don't deserve it, but because they don't have the mental capacity for it. If they did, they wouldn't be Bumper Sticker People. They are the ultimate expression of the sociology of our age. Where people in John Adams' and Thomas Jefferson's time expected their ideologies to be expressed in lifetime bodies of written works and three hour extemporaneous speeches, the intellects of today are happy to be represented by half a dozen words glued to the backs of their cars. But for the sake of argument, and not a little amusement, let's explore these one-line ideologies a wee bit deeper.


On the surface of it, this seems like a pretty bipartisan statement, right? And yet, is there any real question in your mind that the car bearing this bumper sticker belongs to a hardcore liberal Democrat? Of course there isn't. For some reason, anger is nearly synonymous with liberals. Can anyone really deny that they are generally the most pissed-off, self-righteous and unhappy people one will ever have the misfortune of meeting? I thought us puritanical racist war-mongering conservatives were supposed to be the irate ones, all red in the face and full of spittle-flying diatribes. If that was so, wouldn't we be the ones wearing the bumper stickers claiming how awesome it is to be pissed off all the time about stuff? But I digress.

I wonder if the people who live by that bumper sticker are still angry. After all, the new Democratic president has kept a bunch of the dreaded Patriot Act in place. He's also insulted our greatest allies while reaching out to Iranian and Taliban whackos, miss-spelled the one single word of Russian he emblazoned on a gag gift to Russia's leaders, lied about his knowledge of those AIG bonuses, done more immediate and direct damage to the nation's economy than any president in history, and cannot say more than four coherent words in a row without the assistance of a Teleprompter. These things, I imagine, could be construed as reasons for people to get angry. How much do you want to bet, however, that the Bumper Sticker People are still talking about George Bush when they tell us all how pissed off we should be? Hating George Bush is a nearly orgasmic experience for the BSP. For them, the anger only points to Republicans. The ugly litle secret, though, is that the BSP aren't angry with Republicans because they've been "paying attention" and had their ire righteously stoked, despite what their bumper stickers might say. The ugly secret is that the BSP are angry because they just don't know how NOT to be. They're miserable, unhappy people, and they can't rest until everyone else is miserable too. Republicans just make the easiest targets for their anger. Maybe because most Republicans are actually pretty happy? Hmmm.


No? Apparently allowing bad guys to run rampant over the earth, killing at their perverse whims, keeping millions of people imprisoned in poverty and fear, seeking power no matter what the cost to the lives of their minions, THAT's pro-life, right? This bumper sticker is the rallying cry of the pacifist, and we all know how great pacifism is in the global scheme of things. How about a new bumper sticker for pacifism, one that really gets to the nub of the issue: PACIFISM: LETTING THE BAD GUYS WIN SINCE THE DAWN OF TIME!

How is this attitude any different than Ghandhi allowing his wife to die of pneumonia because the pennicilin injection would "commit violence" against her body? How is it any different from the religious nutjobs who won't take their dying children to the hospital because "if God wanted them to live, he'd save them Himself"?

Pure pacifism only makes sense if your worldview is only as small as one single person. It falls apart as soon as you realize that the world is a big, scary place, full of bad guys who will hurt whoever they want if good people with guns don't stop them. Pacifism is the greatest ally of the worst people in the world. After all, what more does a murderer want than for his victims not to fight back?

To the contrary, war is one of the most pro-life activities a human can engage in. It is the choice of those who understand real love, who know that real love sometimes means sacrifice and pain, all in the cause of something far greater and better than any single individual. War has saved millions more lives than it has cost, just like surgery has saved far more blood than it has shed. Anyone who cannot see this is that especially dangerous kind of idiot-- the one whose idiocy is a loaded gun just waiting for a bad guy to pick up.


What about hating George W. Bush? Is there any doubt that the BSP who proudly proclaims this little ditty avidly teaches his kids that conservatives are the lowest form of human life and that if they don't grow up to vote Democrat they will probably be disowned and turned over to the mainstream-media thought police? Interestingly, most of the conservatives I know (including myself) do not hammer their kids with dogma about how evil Democrats are and how we should all hate this or that people group. The fact is, we want our kids to grow up to think for themselves, to come to their own conclusions based on intellectual pursuits. We will try to lead them in the best directions, but we most assuredly will not simply pound them into hating the people we disagree with. And I'll go a step further: conservatives themselves don't hate the people they disagree with. We don't think Democrats are evil. We just think they are stupid, or misguided, or short-sighted. Generally, we feel sorry for them, and for the people their policies have hobbled.

Of course, there are exceptions. There are a few crazy militia types and racists out there, working to teach their kids to hate those whom they hate. They are the fringe, the loons, the moonbats. The fact of the matter, however, is that mainstream hate is taught almost exclusively among the Democratic ranks. For them, hating conservatives and Republicans and George W. Bush and Sarah Palin and Christians and NRA members is more than just a family value, it is an outright virtue.

Example: I had a liberal friend who once pointed me to a news story about a pastor who'd gotten accidentally electrocuted by his microphone while standing in a baptismal tank in front of his entire congregation. She thought this was funny. I, myself, didn't even laugh when Saddam Hussein was executed. It was simply justice, pure and simple-- a dirty, sad job that morality demanded, but not something to celebrate. My liberal friend, who prides herself in being compassionate, caring, and filled with love, thought the accidental public electrocution of a pastor-- whose only sin was believing a philosophy she disdains-- was humorous.

Now ask yourself: who is really teaching hate?


I really am a little mystified about why this one bothers me so much. Maybe it's that, when I see this bumper sticker on someone's car, the driver is almost always some granola-jockey kid who surely has no children of their own. I have two, myself, and I have to admit that being instructed on child-rearing by a childless BSP raises my ire just a wee bit.

Then again, maybe it is the obnoxiously self righteous implication that any parent needs to be told this. I am trying to imagine a scenario where the sight of this bumper sticker might actually make a positive difference in the mind of a cruddy father. He sees the bumper sticker while screaming at his kids, stops, and thinks to himself, "You know, maybe they're right. This whole 'teaching my kids poorly' thing may not be the best choice after all. Maybe I should do what the bumper sticker tells me to do. I can't imagine why it didn't occur to me before. It seems so obvious in retrospect." Maybe I'm just a cynical bastard, but I'm having a hard time imagining that scenario actually happening. The truth is, ALL parents THINK they are raising their children well. Even the liberal ones who are teaching them hate as a family value. Thus, the only person this bumper sticker really benefits is the childless moron who displays it, since it allows them that one essential thing all liberals need: an excuse to believe they are better than everyone else.

On the other hand, maybe the thing I hate most about this bumper sticker is the unspoken fact that what it really means is this: TEACH YOUR KIDS THE STUFF I WANT THEM TO BELIEVE IN!

In other words, why should the public education system do all the work?


This is a new one. I saw it for the first time the other day, and I have to admit, when I read it, I was pretty stumped. It's a damn, damn good question.

I thought about it for quite awhile. Here's what I finally came up with. The essential flaw in the axiom is that it creates a false division between the two statements. I don't remember much about algebra, but it seems to me that if you reduced this bumper sticker to its most basic elements, it would look like this: "How can you trust me with X, when you can't trust me with X?" In short, there is no distinction between trusting someone with a choice and trusting them with a baby, when the choice in question is about what they'll do with the baby.

Remember recently when that muslim guy (who, somewhat ironically, started a muslim television station to show Americans that not all muslims were violent) cut off his wife's head because she wanted to divorce him? Let's imagine him with a bumper sticker on his car that reads: IF YOU CAN'T TRUST ME WITH THE CHOICE OF WHETHER OR NOT TO SAW OFF MY WIFE'S HEAD, HOW CAN YOU TRUST ME WITH A WIFE?

To which we might all say, "good question." But you see the problem, yes? You cannot seperate the two concepts. The choice is not distinct from the person the choice is about. The choice IS the person. The only difference between the choice to kill an unborn baby and the choice of a muslim man to kill his wife is that it is illegal for a muslim man to kill his wife.

At least in this country.

So far.


Response: Someday good guys will have finally killed all the bad guys and obnoxious self righteous twits will have to go back to writing shampoo jingles instead of oversimplistic bumper stickers.


This one is sort of a cop-out, because if we don’t wage war against the bad guys, they’ll probably kill most the people the bumper sticker claims to want to invest in. This, in fact, is the perfect picture of liberal compassion in action

IN CONCLUSION: I suspect that the bumper sticker is by far the most popular form of expression of those with a more liberal bent, since it allows them to feel smart without the burden of actually thinking.

I've never put a bumper sticker on my car, mainly because my ideologies are bigger than a four by twelve inch piece of vinyl. Further, I can defend them in great detail, without a Teleprompter. I don't often get into those kinds of discussions, however, because those of opposing viewpoints get irrational and even occasionally violent about it. They are insulted, offended and infuriated by the idea that anyone would expect them to have a logical defense to their bumper stickers. We live in a sound-byte culture, perfectly suited to the simplistic philosophies of the Bumper Sticker People. Not only would one of our nation's founder's extemporanneous speeches bore them to death within ninety seconds, the typical liberal of today wouldn't even have the capacity to understand it, much less debate it. This is not an insult, just an observation. Maybe I could sum it up with a bumper sticker of my own: "Those who can think, do. Those who can't, use bumper stickers".

Or to quote one more bumper sticker I recently observed: "I THINK, THEREFORE I VOTE CONSERVATIVE."

Monday, January 26, 2009

The Difference Between Arrogance and Ego

This will be relatively short by my standards, methinks. It's an idea that just popped into my head a few days ago and I wanted to get it down while it was still fresh. I've wondered a lot over the years about where the fine line is between arrogance and ego. I believe in my skills, so does that make me arrogant? I used to think so, but then I watched all of those superstars accepting awards and adding the obligatory words of self deprecation, and found myself thinking, "what, did you just win the cosmic lottery? Did you not work extemely hard to hone those skills? Did you not make great sacrifices and slave away at crap jopbs, paying your dues along the way, all in effort to make it to that podium? Take some credit for it! Don't pretend you just got lucky, you liar!" False humility is so annoying to me, because it not only denies the speaker the credit he/she is due, but it creates an erroneous belief that the best among us just got lucky breaks, or that God loves them more than the rest of us, or that excellence is in no way connected to effort. So, I wanted to reject false humility, but not cross the line into outright arrogance. So where is that line? This is why I have pondered it, and this is what suddenly occurred to me the other day.

The whole consideration is moot, because there is no line.

Follow: to say there is a line between X and Y is to imply that X and Y are very similar, and that the gradation between them is hard to spot. The difference between arrogance and ego, however, is not fine. They are not even remotely similar. They only look somewhat similar on the surface, at least to a simple-minded observer. At their core, they are as different as night and day. In a nutshell, here is why: arrogance is bred out of insecurity, ego grows out of confidence. When you remember the source, suddenly they don't seem very similar at all. Arrogance is someone who doesn't believe in their worth pretending that they do, trying to fool the rest of the world into thinking they are better than they really are. Ego is someone who is utterly convinced of their worth, at least in some area or skillset, and who is operating out of that confidence. Arrogance is pointed outwards and is a mask; ego is pointed inwards and is a spotlight.

I came up with this analogy, and I like it. Arrogance is like someone who paints the outside of their house to look like a mansion. They go to such great lengths to perfect the illusion that they completely neglect the interior of their house, allowing it to fall into disrepair and ruin. Ego is like someone who forgets to mow their lawn or weed the flowerbeds because they are too busy renovating the inside of their house, strengthening it, painting and refurbishing, decorating and cleaning, making it exactly the sort of house they want to live in, and knowing they have the skills to do it. The arrogant homeowner only cares what the neighbors think. The confident homeowner, secure in his ego, only cares about what he or she thinks.

It's probably not a perfect analogy, but I'm working on it. I guess the most important thing to remember is that both the arrogant and the ego fail out of pride-- the arrogant out of its lack, and the ego out of its excess. Fair enough?