Thursday, September 17, 2009

Henry's Farm

Henry had a small farm which he inherited from his father. His father had inherited it from his father before him, and indeed it had been in the family for generations. Of course, being a farm, simply owning it did not mean that it produced crops without work and maintenance. Henry's ancestors had worked hard to buy the farm, had worked hard to clear the land, take out the rocks, build and maintain the structures and fences, and keep the farm in good order when it was passed on to Henry.Sure, it was not perfect when Henry got it, but it was a nice farm. Henry worked fairly hard, but not as hard as he needed to to make the farm produce. He slacked off from what his forebears had done, let the weeds grow, let the fences go, let the ditches get clogged. Worst of all, he borrowed against the farm to buy things he really could not afford, supposing that tomorrow would pay for them.Sadly, Henry could not make the payments (especially with his slacker ways) and he lost the farm when the bank foreclosed on it.Henry was sad. He felt badly that he had lost what his ancestors had sacrificed so hard to get. He determined that he would buy that farm back.So he changed his ways, worked hard, sacrificed and struggled, slaved and scrimped, until finally, he was able to buy back that farm that his forefathers had struggled to build and had left him so long ago.The only thing was that the years of toil and struggle had taken their toll, and soon after he bought the farm, he "bought the farm," as we say, and died. As he gathered his children around him, he told them,"I have struggled and sacrificed to have this to leave you. Now that you have it, it is so much easier to keep it than it is to win it back after you have lost it. Trust me, I know."Our forefathers struggled and sacrificed, fought and died, to pass us this farm we call FREEDOM. They worked and sacrificed to maintain it and pass it on to us. If we are slackers, let it go, and finally give it away for a few tacky luxuries, what is it going to cost us to buy it back?

Obama Derangement Syndrome

During the years of the George W. Bush presidency, conservative pundit Charles Krauthammer defined a new disease, “Bush Derangement Syndrome,” which he defined as “the acute onset of paranoia in otherwise normal people in reaction to the policies, the presidency — nay — the very existence of George W. Bush.”Columnist Richard Haddad later described a similar condition “in which a person feels and expresses a degree of antipathy toward former U.S. President George W. Bush that is grossly out of proportion to any remark, proposal, or action of the former President, or to any combination of such or to the sum of Mr. Bush's weaknesses as the leader of his country.”I have seen this manifest in people who seem to believe that absolutely everything Bush did, ever, from conception, was wrong. If Bush had said that puppies are cute, there are people who would have never liked puppies again.Since Bush left office, the froth has left the mouths of some of his critics as they have found other things to think and talk about, while others still mumble “Bush lied, people died!!” in their sleep.Now, however, we are facing two manifestations of a new disorder, Obama Derangement Syndrome. It is showing up in people on the far right and the far left of American politics, though it manifests itself differently on different ends of the political spectrum.On the far right, ODS looks much like Bush DS. It is not simply disagreement with Obama’s policies or even disapproval of his entire political agenda. Many perfectly rational people disagree with his policies or disapprove of his politics, just as many rational people heartily approve of his policies and agree with his agenda. It goes far beyond that. It is belief or allegation that everything Obama says or does or thinks is evil and wrong. For example, Obama recently gave a speech in which he said that there are many good Muslim people in the US who contribute to the country and are fine and decent people. Something about to that effect, more or less, is what he said. He did not say that we are all Muslims, that unless we bow to Allah we shall all be beheaded, or anything to that effect. One could take the same speech and search and replace “Muslim” with “Buddhist”, “Hindu”, “Mormon”, “Catholic”, or “Southern Baptist” and the speech would have been reasonably accurate. But to hear some commentators, the mere acknowledgment of the obvious fact that there are many nice, decent Muslim people in the US was a declaration of Jihad. Now, I recognize that in many areas of the country, there are untold millions of people who have never met or seen a Muslim, and know them only from such notables as Osama bin-Laden. However, sheer math would tell the rational mind that not all the hundreds of millions of Muslims in the world want to blow us up. I have many fine and decent Muslim friends and clients, and none has ever tried to blow me up or fly a plane into my house. Indeed, I also know some first-class jerks who are Muslims, and even they have so far refrained from that. The fact is, even as much as I may differ with Obama on his politics and his agenda, sometimes he says something that is correct and true.Even if one accepts the notion that Obama is, in reality, a simmering cauldron of evil, it would simply be impossible for him to always spew lies. Even the devil tells the truth more often than not. The worst liars on earth tell the truth 90% of the time. But to hear some commentators, if Obama tells schoolchildren to study hard, it is some evil plot. If he tells African-American fathers to step up to the plate and be men, (something I think most Obama opponents and supporters would agree with), it must be some trick. But the man cannot always be wrong. If you ask him what time it is, he would probably tell the truth. Even I give him that much credit, and commentators who behave as though his every word and deed is wrong discredit legitimate opposition to his policies and politics. If Obama says he loved his grandma and likes apple pie, he probably loved his grandma and likes apple pie. I do not see that as a reason to banish grandmas and boycott apple pie.On the other end of the spectrum is a different kind of ODS, or what might better be called Obama Infallibility Derangement Syndrome. This is found among his left-wing supporters who believe that Obama is incapable of mistakes, that his name must be spoken with reverence approaching worship. These supporters would print his words in red letters when reported in the newspaper, and regard even any questioning of any aspect or item of his actions or agenda as a symptom of either lunacy or wickedness. These are supporters who, if Obama were found roasting and eating children, would praise his efforts to find alternate food sources and reduce overpopulation. They simply see him as incapable of any flaw or error whatsoever. Obama got lucky with this one. While this, of course, is as loony as a belief that he is incapable of anything but wrongness, poor Bush only had the anti-Bush derangement. He never had the fawning supporters who believed he was the Anointed.I see this as different from people in positions of power over information whose reporting is skewed by their support of his politics and agenda. That is simply biased reporting. It seems that, for the most part, the press corps is so devoted to Obama’s views as to have become lap dogs. If Obama passes gas, the adoring Washington press corps follows him the rest of the day hoping for another one. I do not believe that the press actually considers him infallible; they are lackeys with an agenda. While the adulation is hardly journalism, it is not lunacy any more than Baghdad Bob’s unwavering support of Saddam was. It is promotion. That love affair will eventually cool, especially if the press smell a juicy scandal that will sell advertising. The love of the press is fickle; they liked Bill Clinton but they loved Monica Lewinsky.The same may be said of certain anti-Obama radio commentators, whose agenda is ratings. A rant and an outrageous comment create controversy, which increases advertising dollars. That is profit motive, not lunacy, even if the comments may generally reflect the actual politics of the speaker.In contrast to deliberate promotion (or self-promotion), what I am talking about here is either blind acceptance or blind rejection of everything someone says and does. The problem with either extreme should be obvious. While each is far easier and more convenient than actually thinking, reflexive reactions are not an adequate substitute for reasoned consideration. Obama is not always right any more than he is always wrong. No man is.A reasonable truth-seeker hears the arguments and decides whether he or she accepts them, entirely or in part, based on whether they appear to be based in wisdom and agree with other things known to be true. Deranged people, even deranged people who generally agree with me, will make poor decisions and cannot be relied upon to act sensibly. (Deranged people who disagree with me, of course, will be even less likely to make good decisions, because in addition to being deranged they are wrong.) In any case, knee-jerk derangement reactions are a poor way to govern. Reasoned analysis of the rightness or wrongness, the prudence or imprudence, the feasibility or impracticality, the wisdom or folly of every course of action depends on the capacity of people and nations for rational thought. And on that depends the fate of the people and nations.

Friday, July 3, 2009

Ten Things to Not Be Afraid Of

1. Do not be afraid of The Future

It is all you have. The present is past. The past is unchangeable. The future is where everything good you will ever enjoy, everything you will ever accomplish, or learn, or see, or do is going to play out. You will spend the rest of your life in it, but in reality, you will be around for only a very small amount of the future. Much fear of the future is caused by doomsday predictions of those who know no more about the future than you do. Two current examples: global warming will destroy the earth, and we will soon run out of oil, thus ruining life as we know it. However, let us look at what might have been some of the headlines of the past:

Experts predict end of life on earth if ice continues to spread.
Whale-oil shortage dims lamps; experts say we will live in darkness.
Horse breeding fails to keep pace with population growth. Experts predict half the population will end up walking soon.
Lack of arrowheads threatens future of hunting.
Typewriter production shortfalls threaten banking and industry. Experts say businesses could fail.
Increase in home prices threatens the fiber of American society.
Shortage of rubber trees threatens tire production capacity.
Firewood supply will soon be exhausted. "Millions could freeze to death," say experts.
Shortages of paper will likely cause cutbacks in mail, say experts.
Shortage of silver threatens photographic film industry. "Families will be unable to take pictures," say experts.
Japan and Germany unlikely to ever regain industrial capacity, experts say.
Asbestos shortage threatens building safety. "Thousands will burn to death," say experts.
Copper shortage threatens to cripple growth in telephone service. Experts say, "Without wire, millions will never have service."
Ice shortage threatens food safety. "There is only so much ice on the lakes to cut and store," say experts.
Buffalo shortage will mean end of life for our people, says tribal chief.
Insufficient swords could spell defeat in next war.

These headlines are made up, but in 100 years people may be laughing at our headlines. The fact is that the future finds a way to take care of itself. The future is where you will win. It is nothing to fear.

2. Do not be afraid of Love.

It can hurt you, for sure. But do not fear it, for life without it is so bleak and desolate as to make even the worst hurt that love can bring pale by comparison. And its good times are really good.

3. Do not be afraid of Tears

They prove you have a heart.

4. Do not be afraid of Trying New Things

Trying new things is how you learned to crawl, walk, talk, eat, read, write and everything else you enjoy. If you try new things, you may fail. If you do not try, you have already failed.

5. Do not be afraid of Being Hurt

The only way to avoid it is to avoid experience, to avoid life itself. Do not miss skating for fear of a skinned knee. Do not miss the flowers for fear of a bee. Do not miss the dance for fear of a stepped-on toe. Things hurt for a reason. They warn and teach us. But too much fear of being hurt and you will be like the doll that never got played with but was thrown away still in its box.

6. Do not be afraid of The Devil.

He has no power over you except that which you personally and expressly choose to give him. If you find yourself in problems with the devil, what you truly have to fear is yourself.

7. Do not be afraid of The Unknown.

Everything was unknown at some time or another. Most of what is unknown to you now will always and ever remain that way, and will never be able to hurt you.

8. Do not be afraid of The Truth

The truth is all there is. There is more to fear in the nicest lie than in the harshest truth. Meet the truth face to face; you will probably find not only that it is not so fearful, but that you knew it all along.

9. Do not be afraid of Death

The only guarantee you had at birth was that someday you would die. It is just about the only thing that all mankind shares in common. If death is a step to the presence of a loving God or some other nice afterlife, that is nothing to fear. If death is the utter cessation of existence, leading only to an oblivion of which we will be unaware, that is likewise nothing to fear. If, however, you believe that your death will lead to some agonizing torment in retribution for the way you are living your life, then death is not what you need to fear, for you cannot change it. What you need to fear instead is the way you are living your life, and that you can change.

10. Do not be afraid of Clowns.

It is just make-up. They will probably not come and kill you in your sleep. Or maybe they will not. Or, you can hope they will not. For all the good that will do you.