Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Driver's Licenses: A Progression

Does a driver's license have more than one purpose?

Certainly a license, issued by the state and earned by a driver proves that the holder has passed all the requirements to drive a vehicle in the state in which it was issued.  Endorsements on that license help to prove the holder's qualifications for operating different kinds of vehicles, their ability to haul cargo, and their capacity to understand all the applicable rules.

Too, the license helps to substantiate the holder's identity should he want to prove his legal age to purchase alcohol, enroll at a college, write an out of town check, or buy a casino's buffet with valuable earned credits!   (Of course, to prove a voter's identity with a driver's license would be too discriminatory.  Let's not go there.)

Driver's licenses also help to identify unconscious and deceased accident victims while indicating too their organ donor status. 

The purpose then, for the driver's license, is multifold.  None of the purposes of the driver's license have ever been arbitrary, though now its usage is beginning to waver on that front.

The People's State of California is considering a change to their driver's licenses that would include an X as a sex indicator.  This is one of the first of many steps being taken today to blur the definition of  the sex that was "assigned" at birth by God and that pesky swirl of chromosomes that make up our being.

Thankfully most identification cards eschew color photos of our junk and a person's sex is taken at the word of the holder.  However, when it comes to identifying the body of a person badly injured in an accident, in the absence of a junk shot, paramedics might have to rely on something a little more concrete than the fluidity of gender choice.

It is true also that in the years that elapse between the times that a driver's license picture is taken a person's looks can change.  Glasses are changed or discarded, hair color and length (and thickness in my case) change, older people shrink, and everybody lies on their weight anyway.   The blond haired, blue eyed, physically fit devil portrayed in the photo might actually look, well, a lot more like me when current events are taken into consideration.  (My junk is still M.)

The natural progression at play here makes identification potentially misleading in many situations and without purpose. 

In a woefully inadequate speech class (instructed by a woefully inept graduate assistant) we were given an assignment to speak to those in the rest of our class about who we were as individuals.

Wait for it....yes!  Collage time.

Beside the fact that I felt I had outgrown such an exercise by about 8th grade, we college frosh spent several class periods explaining to each other why some of us were going to be so successful (in pictures) while the most discerning among us figured out rather quickly why, despite the fact our building was covered in Virginia Creeper, we weren't actually attending an Ivy League school.  The collage was our identity and our junk could be whatever we wanted it to be.

I'm pretty sure that is where we are heading...at least until driver's licenses become completely obsolete and autonomous vehicles dominate the roads.  We won't need a license to ride in a self driving car, will we?

Still, identifications will remain relevant for the other purposes mentioned above, but the farther we wade into identity fluidity, the more a collage might actually be the better route for those negotiations at the casino buffet counter.   

Sunday, August 20, 2017

Detroit, the Movie, Shoehorned into an Undeserved Context (Because I'm Like That)

Today I went to the theater and watched the movie Detroit.  It occurred to me after watching the film that we should painstakingly drag up historically ugly incidents, regardless of how they make us feel, in order to remember them and learn from them. 

The movie attempts to document one of the ugliest of the incidents that took place during the riots of that hot summer of 1967.  It is one of many ugly stories contained within those several days of smoke and fire and bullets and bricks.  And blood.

But why make such a film when the producers and director and actors must have known that delving into such a project would open old wounds?   The 1960s, we hope today, are far removed from today's modern society where, more or less, people of different skin tones and hair textures can mix and mingle with one another without creating great tension, fear and violence.

If that is the case, and most people would say that it is, then why make it?  Would it not be better to just move along?

What then is to be gained?

I'm certain people of different proud races and of different experiences could have different reactions to the film.  A swastika wearing hammer skin might cheer for a racist and corrupted police officer while a BLM sympathizer might become ever more motivated to distrust police and call for the frying of more "bacon."  These are fringe people in fringe movements and do not speak for a vast majority of individuals in this country.

I too came away with my own thoughts.

During that summer of 1967 I was but nine years old and had not yet entered the fourth grade.  Northern Michigan, where I grew up, was 180 long miles from the tendrils of smoke that trailed across a sky easily visible to fans at Tiger Stadium. 

I'm not certain I even have any direct memories of the '67 riots as it occurred.  We didn't have 24 hour news channels in those days and I'm not even sure if we had a working television at that time in my life.  It was summer, I was probably playing Wiffle Ball or catching crickets. 

So, all I know about it today is what I've gathered from reading, listening to other people talk about it, looking at some of the blackened storefronts many years ago, and now watching this movie.  Many of the landmarks of the riots were destroyed in the riots themselves, and many others, such as the Algiers Motel itself, have been removed in the time since.  Memories fade, oral history dies, and soon enough only the hardened documentation remains. 

Now, ratcheted up by the Charlottesville incident where some Nazi goons who supposedly demonstrated to protect monuments that honor heroes of the old south, we have many others demanding that these same old monuments (and others with much more dubious attachments to racism) be relocated to museums or destroyed outright--their existence and location seemingly a cause of great discomfort for those that view or visit.

I certainly understand this sentiment and perhaps some of this relocation (only) could still serve the purpose of remembrance and knowledge.  However, I'm not so certain that discomfort is altogether a bad thing here.

Monuments themselves become a part of history.    Nathan Bedford Forrest, a southern general and an early member of the Ku Klux Klan, has had dozens of monuments raised in his honor over the years (not to mention a few pointed white hats.)  Should they be toppled and destroyed, or simply relocated to a museum that documents the Civil War? 

My opinion might not be worth a lot given my age, color, and ignorance, but an art historian might use this occasion to say the fact that such monuments might have been erected to honor Forrest as late as the 1920s or 1930s or 1940s, (or even 2013!) could also tell us something about certain people in this country who were alive in the 1860s and afterward feeling Forrest worthy of honor. And why they honored him.

Rail against these statues and monuments all you want, but if every one of them is removed I don't believe one person's life will be enriched except for those perhaps who might enjoy a beautiful flower bed or park bench that occupies the space in its stead.  But expose us to a monument and the history of the monument and we all might learn a little bit.  Ugly facts are still ugly, and the whole story, from beginning to end, is still the story.

Perhaps this could be the reason behind the making of a movie like Detroit after all--intentionally looking for old wounds and poking them to see if there is still associated pain and discomfort.  Perhaps poking particularly hard to cause pain and discomfort. 

It is a good movie but it is not a movie that makes you feel good. 

Don't destroy it.   Watch it for what it is.


Friday, August 18, 2017

An Honest Discernment of Hatred

The last authentic episode of hate speech that I heard in my life was screamed by a young lad with a cavernous mouth toward his mother who had had just about enough of the whole opened yap thing.  It was embarrassing for her, the child's father, for me, and hopefully, after several years of reflection, for him.

How do I know it was hate? 

It was the intent, the volume, the passion.  And I, as the third party, a direct witness of the event, feel I am qualified to divine what the little snot was thinking at the time he expelled his snarling.  An hour later, of course, the rather volatile beast was once again settled down and interacting with those around him in a rather fragile but subdued truce.

Perhaps it wasn't hate so much as it was immaturity and emotional trauma.  Who is to say?

In today's political bump and run it has become solely for the listener to decide.  This is why the categorization of "hate speech" and "hate thought" and "hate crimes" are so dangerous to a free society--not because we embrace the hate that might be behind them, but because we do not want third parties to pass judgment on what might be the intent of such expression.

There is no doubt that we have hate speech in today's society.  (We always have had.)

Enter the likes of Charles Murray, Ben Shapiro, Heather MacDonald, Robert Spenser (not to be confused with Richard Spenser who hates to his heart's content) and Donald Trump.   Or, to today's progressives, anyone who might possess a conservative position or two on any number of difficult contemporary political issues. 

As an example, there are few Americans today who are more honest about their beliefs than Ben Shapiro.  I've been reading his columns since he was an undergrad at Harvard.  I've been listening to his podcasts at the Daily Wire for well over a year.  His debates are reasoned and well documented, as is his history.  He is, according to some, the person most often targeted by the alt-right in its march toward a more regulated and homogenous society.  Ben, to his credit, refuses to shut up.  He is no hater even though he is cynically labeled as such by others.

But the alt-right, perhaps the most pervasive spewers of hate in this country, is not a group who worries overmuch about the hate speech of others.  It is the progressive left that uses the terms of hate as tools to wield in attempts to silence their adversaries.  Both sides are illiberal and seek top down governments with the power to alienate and persecute those whose beliefs differ with their own. 

While the alt-right totalitarians and their bird of a feather sympathizers are properly relegated to the outmost political fringe, their well-armed antifa totalitarian adversaries are granted wide berth by most politicians, a nearly uniform press, and by an entertainment establishment too afraid to be vocationally black-balled to stand up for freedom.  

Donald Trump is a bumbling politician.  He is a woefully inept speaker.  His methods and tactics are ill advised.  His thin skin and quick temper make him an easy target for an activist press and his political adversaries, regardless of which political party they might belong to. 

He is being criticized these days, and properly to some degree, for his seeming reluctance to disavow the actions of the Nazis in Charlottesville.  He claims to have no sympathy for those wearing jack-boots and driving vehicles into milling crowds, but his early statements tried to spread the blame equally in the one area where equality is not welcome. 

And Trump is wrong about this.  There are those who weep at the destruction or removal of monuments to their southern heritage.  To my knowledge they were not the planners of this demonstration.  The groups behind this weekend's demonstration were dedicated not to their southern heritage so much as they were dedicated to a segregated south, and a yearning to return to those times where uppity people of color sat in the back of the bus and drank from their own fountains.  They were a mob of uniformed and weaponized Nazis and they came well prepared for a fight.  They also chanted anti-Jewish messages that I'm sure left Louis Farrakhan beaming.

The counter protesters belonged in one of two categories.  The first group and perhaps majority were those people who showed up with no weapons other than their voices to protest against Nazi hate.   The second group was populated by antifa (anti-fascist,) Communist or anarchist thugs who showed up with axe handles, mace, shields, helmets and facemasks.  They too were combatants prepared for war. 

Gasoline, meet fire. 

Sadly, a 32 year old paralegal as well as two law enforcement officers (none belonging to either armed group) lost their lives.  The Nazis celebrated their rally's success.  The media castigated while a bumbling president opined. All the while an empowered antifa movement, every bit the totalitarian sympathizers that the Nazis are, was able to sneak away under a strictly enforced media blackout, for future battles and greater glory.  

The purpose of this particular rally is ultimately irrelevant because the antifa movement seeks out to attack any rally with which they disagree.  Violent protests at Berkeley, in Chicago, in Philadelphia, in Cincinnati, in Washington, in Portland, in Seattle, etc., prove this.  So, whether the rally in Charlottesville was called by Nazi sympathizers or some obscure historical society is largely irrelevant--the antifa movement will be there to engage their enemy.

 Already the Nazis are petitioning for future events, one of them at Michigan State University.  My hope is that the university makes a wise decision that refuses to provide a battleground for axe handlers and mace sprayers.  They have no responsibility to provide a landscape for battle. 

Sadly, should Ben Shapiro try to speak at that campus he might very well be shut down by the university for the same reason, even though Ben Shapiro, regardless of how much you (love or) hate him, is not himself a purveyor of hate, nor will he ever show up for such an event with the weapons of war.  Universities, much like the antifa movement itself, care little for that important distinction. 

When I was in elementary school there was an out building on the school's grounds.  It had been many years previously a one-room schoolhouse--the school where my Dad spent several years.  When the larger school district was formed and the small school houses were abandoned, this school, The Grandview School, was taken from its foundation and relocated to an area behind the high school where I received all of my disappointing grades.

It was painted white and was called, aptly, The White House. 

The White House was famous for two things.  First, it was where all the old desks and tables and track hurdles were stored. Secondly, it provided a portion of school ground property not visible to snoopy teachers and administrators who might want to survey the grounds for trouble.

As early as middle elementary school the challenge of "I'll meet you behind the White House" meant only one thing.  There was going to be a fight.  It was not going to be a poetry reading.  I was never a party in one of these fights.  I was, however, several times blessed with a good observation point. 
When antifa protesters show up at a poetry reading or any other non violent expression of free speech the blame should be easy to discern.  When they show up at a Nazi rally, however stupid their intercession is, the total blame is more difficult to cast--why Mr. Trump wants to walk that line is hard for me to fathom. 

Perhaps it is simply too difficult to explain in one minute sound bites or while arguing with a gaggle of reporters.  Some topics cannot be set aside wish wispy arguments regardless of how honestly they are spoken.  Perhaps Mr. Trump should spend more time making certain his words are appropriately vetted before he spouts them.  Perhaps, too, he should stop being so steadfast in his dedication to self. 

How hard could it be, really, for President Trump to call out the evil that is Nazi?  Their message is neither spontaneous nor screamed by a child.  It is a thought out political stance based on hatred. 

Too, how difficult could it be for the media to accept that Communist sympathizers and anarchists are just as evil?  Why do they get a pass?

This is how we arrive at a narrative.  Ill prepared statements issued by a leader trying his best to toe the line, and a cacophony of reporters trying their best to take down a bumbling leader regardless of his intent or beliefs. 

We should demand better from both.  I know we deserve better.


Monday, August 14, 2017

A Christian Comments on the Country's Fraying Fabric

After watching another open incident of murderous idiocy display itself in Charlottesville this weekend, I have a few things to say.

But first things first for a little context.  I am a Christian and therefore believe that violence for the sake of violence is wrong.  I care not who perpetuates it.  I am not a pacifist so I believe there are times when violence might be called for, but having grown up in the Mennonite tradition I find nearly all forms of violence in nearly all contexts to be wanting for justification. 

So, who to blame for the latest carnage? 

The roots of this calamity lie in progressivism in its many forms.  Progressivism has a large umbrella that casts a shadow over many movements, and two of these movements are Marxism/communism and national socialism or, as a historical progressive coined it, Nazism. 

Nazis are not communists and vice versa.  Yet, all communists and all fascists are socialists.  The roots of these political philosophies lie in the shepherding of a small group of elites into positions of great political, economic and social power.  They each thrive by dividing the population into identity groups that can be pitted against one another and by design then, must levy the governing powers for restitution.  Both systems are tyrannical and oppose individual liberty.

The individual is secondary in progressive thought.  Capitalism is anathema.  Personal property rights are attacked as standing in the way of "the greater good" or in opposition to "the will of the people."  The operational vehicle might differ between these socialist groupings, but their intent is to subvert the individual to the larger group.

The communists/Marxists wield their power through a top-down and heavy handed government control over the means of production.  A bigwig thinks that black pants are suitable "for the people" and soon every person is wearing stylish black pants.  The government owns the factories.  It owns the cotton fields.  It owns the dye, the thread, the buttons, the zippers.  It transports these chosen components in its own trucks, driven by drivers in the government's employ, to the factory that it owns, and then has the components unloaded at the dock by black slacked government workers.  Everything works great until some enemy of the state wants a pair of blue jeans. 

A good ruling fascist might also want his subjects to wear black slacks (they are a good match for the jack-boots.)  But, rather than try to direct every individual move along the chain of production, he merely rewards the companies or corporations who are most likely to toe the line.  He regulates those he dislikes and rewards those who seek favor.  Companies that cannot compete against well capitalized competitors drop out of the system and those that are left standing enjoy the high life. 

Companies that operate in a fascist framework produce products more efficiently than those operating in a communist country might, but they also tend to produce private sector wealth disparities that are largely absent in communist countries,  The ruling classes are wealthy in either system.  They both redistribute wealth.  They both adhere to top-down thinking.  They both stomp on individuals who are trying their best to live lives of independence and prosperity.

So, why the hate between these two groups that both seek the same top down power?

We see today's leftist groupings standing side by side organizationally even though they oftentimes hold opposing (and often explosive) viewpoints.  This is how NEA members can stand beside African American parents at a rally when there is no organization in American that has damaged the educational system in the inner city as badly as has the NEA.  This is how wall-street bigwigs can by and large belong to the same political party that also boasts as members most left leaning college professors.  This is how the rainbow coalition can generally stand in unity with the Muslim community at Democrat Party functions when, in the old country, one of these groups would be pushing the other off a tall building. 

No, the neo-fascist and neo-Marxist movements of today are largely populist ideological movements that are impenetrable to either hypothetical reasoning or blatant proof positive examples.  So they line up with brass knuckles and jack boots on one side, and axe handles and bandanas on the other.

Much of this boils down to the unchallenged propaganda being taught in today's universities, promoted by today's entertainment industry, and justified by today's news media.  Leftist ideology in all of its forms has produced an American political consumer largely ignorant of the roots of its movements, and largely uninterested in hearing any opposition to those movements. 

If Donald Trump was a fascist (and let's be honest, his rhetoric has done little to dispel the fears of those who accuse him of such) he would not be trying to dismantle the regulatory state that favors corporate cronies.  If he was a fascist he wouldn't allow himself to be torn apart by a free media, wouldn't be thwarted by the political party he supposedly leads, and he wouldn't be badgered every day by a "dark state" inside the government he sits atop. 

His major sin, other than being terribly disorganized, terribly inarticulate, terribly thin skinned, and terribly impulsive, is that he operates within the confines of a popular culture that is optically terrible for a politician. 

The same Hollywood that produces endless sex and language gratuities hates that their current president seems to abide by the rules of their most popular productions.   The same news media that hates Mr. Trump for his supposed strongman lawlessness seem to have little problem with the lawlessness of cities and states that embrace lawlessness.  The same universities that embrace radical professors like Bill Ayers and (the late) Tom Hayden, and on a daily basis provide them with a lectern behind which to speak, have major problems with people like Heather McDonald and Ben Shapiro making one-time appearances at the podium.  That Heather is a woman and that Ben is a Jew does not provide them with adequate credentials to avoid being anti-woman and anti-fascist.  So, shut them down!

A peace vigil today can be attacked by fascists.  A free-speech assembly can be attacked by anti-fa goons.  Both groups of attackers seemingly ignorant of the sins they commit and the unrest they create.

Getting back to my heritage as a Christian and a believer of non-violence.  I cannot control all things and I'm not the kind of guy to hold my own anti-fascist/anti-communist rally.  So I watch news clips and videos of others who are shouted down by radical opponents who know little of the wonders of this great experimental country whose fabric is ripping at the seams. 

I haven't seen it yet but what I hope to see one of these days, only because I am blessed in my inability to control such things, is an anti-fa protestor (using fascist tactics) striking a Nazi-goon upside the head with an axe handle at the exact same moment that the skin head Nazi hits the anti-fa fascist in the jaw with his brass knuckles. 

As they both fall to the ground some sense penetrates their now slightly loosened screws.