A bunch of random, sedimentary (except point 3) thoughts have come across my head in the last several days and I thought they’d either be interesting or show you that, while to other people’s random may be something trivial or something else about bacon or toast (nothing wrong with that, it’s probably preferable to have your random be more focused on levity), my random, incomplete thoughts look like this.
I don’t really care how well this reads, I just need to get back into writing and get my head on straight. I’ve felt “not myself” for the last few months and this feels like part of the way back. I’m sticking with what’s easier; political stuff first, then moving into a bit of religion and not even trying to write happy after that. I’ve been mentally stuck for the past several months.
1) It’s weird how some slogans seem to leave out their fatal flaw. For instance, the jingoistic statement “if you don’t like it, leave it” implies two things. One that the nation is perfect, two that leaving the country is cheap.
Neither are true, but before anyone leaps to any assumptions there, I don’t think the people most most loudly yelling about the nation’s shortcomings 1) have an accurate scale of the situation (CRT’s definition of racism seems designed to allow the believers of that particular cult to excuse and venerate their own color-based hatred) and 2) don’t show themselves capable of building anything at all, let alone anything better (Case in point, the legendary CHAZ, and the irony of ranting about a system of injustice, hatred, opression and all that and suggesting the alternative is Marxist in nature with zero cognitive dissonance.)
One really does grow tired of the constant bashing with nothing to show for it. As if volume and length are a substitute for substance and depth.
1.1) There are other slogans like this most come from the Team Lockdown orthodoxy. “Stay home, save lives” assumes the home is safe and has no answers for if it isn’t. “Businesses can be replaced, but people can’t” is the sign of someone who has never put any money, time or effort into a business. “Just two more weeks” was still a thing 4 months in. “There are no easy answers” was the common reply for everything from cancer surgeries being postponed to domestic violence. Whatever was in the way of that death cult, including deaths from other things, just didn’t matter.
1.2) The term “non-essential”, a Team-Lockdown creation, tells some people that they don’t matter. They matter so little, that they can be left to hang for 6 to 18 months.
2) There were a few stories over the last few days that seem to come out as regularly as Freedom From Religion lawsuits around Christmas. This time, we had some government guy, this time Fauci (because who the hell else would it be at this point) saying that Americans can celebrate the Fourth IF they follow certian guidelines.
To that I say, if you are wating for the government to give you the go ahead to celebrate the Fourth, you’re really missing the point. Last year, even in California, we had “illegal fireworks”, and if there’s anywhere particularly anti-freedom, it’s them and there’s still people celebrating.
Other stories were about how backyard grilling will kill you and I’m sure Slate or Salon had some lamentation about why we shouldn’t celebrate because there’s some serious evil in our past. However, I’m increasingly convinced there’s a sect of the country, most of them in politics, journalism or people WAY too personally invested in either who can find reasons to avoid celebrating a birthday because it is, after all, just one step closer to the grave, just like every other day.
“Some men just want to watch the world burn”.
3) My twin used to write a segment called “Blowback”. It was a collection of unapologetically positive articles extolling the good parts of the country, plucked from various news sources. Apart from the fact that he no longer runs the blog that was part of, there hasn’t been much that is true in the media lately. The MAGA hats see a nation that only Trump can save, the progressives see a wasteland, barely distinguishable from a third-world country, or even the lowest points of American history. The former is a based on a conspiracy about how the DEEEEP STATE had dethroned Trump and a bunch of other stuff I really don’t want to rehash because my God it was dumb. The progressives, and specifically postmodernists and Critical Race Theorists (but I repeat myself), see the country as irredeemably evil, by their own definitions, and insist we need to build a better world. Ironically, their own definitions of things like racism seem to exempt themselves and justify their own color-based hatred, but I don’t want to go on that tangent here, as I’ll never stop.
Anyway, the cynic that still is in me noticed something about the police part of the argument; they have no objective standard. After it became apparent with the Bryant case that even intervening to protect innocent life was unacceptable, I realized that one of two things were possible. Either they weren’t serious, they just wanted to stir the pot, or they were serious and they want violence to run wild. I don’t have enough evidence for either proposition, but I see no version of this where they are operating in something even resembling good faith.
Also, I’d like to point you back to the political cycle I had put my finger on a while back:
Step 1: point out and lament a problem, but immediately take or build a moral high ground by framing it in a way where anyone with a more complex (which will be a very low bar) and/or conflicting view is in favor of the problem stagnating or worsening. This includes broad statements like “one is too many” or “economy or lives”, “with us or against us” or “it’s not a Democrat problem or Republican problem, it’s an American problem” or a definition of “unity” that looks a lot like “submission”.
The other side of the aisle will do the same so what the politically homeless might call an “overly simplistic, oddly relativist purity test” is what you both can describe as “we as a society having a long overdue, serious, deep, good faith conversation” that looks nothing like what you call it.
Step 2: Employ language and tactics seemingly designed to exacerbate the problem, safe in the knowledge you’re being abusive to someone for their own good.
Step 3: vastly overstate the impact one person can have. And use this to justify further, broader, crueler abuse. “Why aren’t you doing enough to stop (insert this week’s social malady here)? You need to do better.”
Step 4: move on to the next outrage and hope nobody notices the damage you’ve caused because the evidence no longer serves your narrative, or mutually agree to ignore the damage caused over the preceding weeks or months but continue to cause damage elsewhere as a distraction (Team Lockdown/Atlanta shooting and the election respectively)—-Once I realized this was how things work, I was able to mentally divorce myself from the outrage of the week. When the location of the All-Star Game, voting rights, The Bachelor, unemployment, Dr Seuss, the environment, Coca-Cola, hate crime, what someone said in a tweet when they were 14 and racism are all discussed with the same intensity and shallowness for about a week and a half at a time (leaving room, of course, for repetition), it does just devolve into nothingness doesn’t it?
So I don’t know where this winds up because I don’t think I’m supposed to. It’s just chaos and I don’t have much to go on. I just have to have faith that God is in control, and my people are ok.
But where can we find hope for the blowback? Frankly, it’s in the more rational libertarian spaces. I don’t want the people who wear the flag like a cape the way some Christians would wear a cross around their neck, but I do want a more realistic view of what the nation stands for and its founding principles, which are, as Ben Shapiro observes in the excellent book “Right Side of History”, a combination of Greek and Juedo-Christian ideas (God gave man value and reason, Athens focused on using reason to better humanity. Combine that, we have a rational creature, imbued with inherent value.) The part that’s being lost where it isn’t be denigrated is the idea that there is something special about anything. There’s nothing special about the country, there’s nothing special about the individual, there’s nothing special about anything. It is all, to quote the teacher of Ecclesiastes out of context, meaningless.
I reject that all of that. The idea that we’re just one of many nations with nothing to be proud of is absurd. Hell, we’re the country that produced three vaccines to that COVID thing that was supposed to kill us all. We’ve invented a lot of things here. The world’s tech runs through California and Washington for those poor souls on Microsoft hardware. Texas is known for it’s legendary individualism. Some states in the country even venerate the idea that self-defense is a human right, which is not true anywhere else in the world.
We’re such a nightmare country, that people were in the streets ranting about an oppressive tyrant and they weren’t black-bagged for it and the irony didn’t register. They weren’t even cancelled for their beliefs. THEY did the cancelling. But somehow, the other guy has tyrannical inclinations….
Further the idea that there’s nothing special about the individual is ridiculous. If there was nothing special about you, then your relationships are people feeling sorry for the amorphous, useless, meaningless blob that is called “you”. But that’s not true is it?
4) It’s most of point three that has shifted me back to religious reading and writing. It is very good to have a better grasp on things like Locke, Mill, Hayek as well as some supplementary work from Bernard Williams on the ideas of Liberty and Equality. And I’ve also studied intellectual cancers like Marxism and Critical Theory. And to be clear, they were a lot of fun. They were new and (mostly) exciting endeavors (I even got in a few from Aristotle and Aurelius) but I find, as the Teacher in Ecclesiastes (what I affectionately dub “Ecklie”) observes, that by itself, it’s kind of pointless.
To make it more relevant, the deeper conversations we have here are not driving the country. The people burning things and telling family members and friends in no uncertian terms to screw off forever merely for the crime of disagreeing are running the country. Most of the outrage on the internet is best viewed strictly as a lamentation, if it is meant to be some call to action, it is unlikely to succeed, as the outrage will not last. So, focus on you and your people because it’s all you have and all you’ll be in contact with.
Also, the rejoinder about “if you’re not angry, you’re not paying attention”. Anger is responsible for the situation we’re in. All of it.
Anger does not appear to be a solution.
Also, I’m not generally an emotional guy. If you’re looking for emotional, moralisitc diatribes, you’re new here.
5) In Ecklie 1:18, the Preacher notes that “with more wisdom, comes sorrow, the more knowledge, the more grief. The Wesleyan commentary notes that, in the preceeding verses, the writer was looking to understand people from a secular perspective. Essentially, how should one consider human behavior WITHOUT considering God as a motivating factor? The conclusion of Ecclesiastes of course, is that without God, things are indeed pointless. In fact, as William Lane Craig observes in Reasonable Faith, if this is all there is and everything is sort of specious and improvised, then we are in a disastrous spot. We are expecting evolved primates to just behave and tolerate one another, but there is no obligation for them to do so. Some people change the definitions of tolerance and hatred in all its forms to exempt themselves from that responsibility (“The only thing I don’t tolerate is intolerance” is a slogan that should’ve died before it was born).
And so one looks at the political and social sphere, how it seems we hope the volume and length of a conversation is a substitute for depth and good faith that will somehow bring about a desirable result, and you realize that if it gets better, it’s a miracle. So the professed Christian, even the one who’s been faltering in several ways, personally and apologetically for a while, is able to see two options; see God in it, or despair.
Craig has observed that God is the “best explanation” for things like the existence of the universe and objective moral values and duties because of elements that secularism simply can’t account for and that is the (admittedly shaky in some respects) ground upon which the comfort is founded. The realization that I am not -ever- completely foregone is the second, sturdier pillar, the rediscovery of which I owe to Matt Koerber, my friend Neal and several other members of a group I’m in.
I don’t see much point in engaging politically anymore as anything more than an excercise and a chance for the excellent discussion that we had here during the election. As mentioned in point three, everything from the serious to the trivial is treated with the same overwhelming intensity and is handled with the same depth and complexity. Nothing good can come from that.
In the meantime, I’m just going to go where I likely should’ve been for a while. I’m working on a more personal, reflective project. Dealing with singleness generally, but especially in the church (and goddamn, what a defeating study that has been) and how being kind of a hermit, but not wanting to really study with anyone else has proven to be completely untenable, as have a lot of things in the last 4 months.
But it’s good to be writing long form again.