Posts Tagged 'History'

Take a Day Off and Other Articles

stu sleeping

As you’ve probably noticed, I’ve been MIA for the last week or so. I gave up on trying to control myself and gave it over to the Lord to handle. He seems to be giving me a vacation of sorts…

So today, I thought I’d put up a list of some items of interest I’ve come across recently…er, well, mostly today, actually.

First up, appropriately enough is Writers Should Take a Year Off and Give Us All a Break – an essay in The Guardian on the observation that, to borrow from Ecclesiastes, “the writing of many books is endless…”  At the time of Solomon, however, it was nothing compared to today, when the rate of publication has exploded as never before. How ironic that this is occurring at the same time that more and more people lack the attention span or time, to read anything longer than a tweet.

Still, I like the idea of taking a year off from writing… oh, wait… I’ve already sort of been doing that …

Next, I draw your attention to a Muslim Brotherhood Fact Sheet from Stand With Us, an international, nonprofit organization dedicated to supporting Israel.  It includes quotes from the Brotherhood’s own charters, writings and guides. Members are not interested in dialog. Nor are they interested in peace (unless you count the peace that results from the entire world being converted to Islam). They are most definitely not interested in democracy, unless — again — it’s the Islamist kind… that is, Sharia Law.

Third is an essay on the misguided Western policy of appeasement during World War 1 that resulted in World War 2 and may well be on its way to setting up World War 3. This one’s written by my favorite blogger and former high level Foreign Service Officer The Diplomad 2.0: Obama and an Edouard Daladier Moment

And finally, the new  “funnel tunnel” in Houston, an unintended metaphor for where our tax dollars/charity donations are going…

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Let’s Keep Politics Out of It

empty_chair

What, really, does “Let’s keep politics out of this” mean?

Previous to a recent election, I was going through our information on ballot propositions, one of which involved changing the way judges are selected. Voting on judges has always been a mystery to me. I don’t know any of them, so how am I supposed to know? In the past I just skipped that section, thinking that people in the know, like lawyers or folks who’d recently served on juries should be the ones to vote.

This time, however, I read the amendment and then started in on the arguments in favor of the amendment:  the Republican governor of AZ supported it (who I had voted for) as did various retired judges, and other legislators. Those who opposed the amendment included the League of Women Voters, a bunch of lawyers, a woman pastor of a large local, very liberal Presbyterian?/Methodist? church,  a domestic violence organization, and the Democrat Party of Arizona.

I find the latter most ironic, since almost all the arguments against the amendment cited the need to “keep politics out of the selection of judges.”  And yet… one of the main methods liberals use to change this country, particularly when they can’t do it through the elected legislators is through the courts. The most blatant example that comes to mind is AZ SB 1070 — passed by the legislators, approved by voters and declared invalid by a judge.

Sounds like politics is already very much involved in our judicial system, so why shouldn’t it be involved in the selection of the judges?

Still, that’s not what struck me the most this time. This time, I realized that somehow the phrase “let’s keep politics out of (fill in the blank)” is one that communicates the idea that “politics” is bad, superficial, and irrelevant. Ie, “the only reason you want to do X is because you’re a Republican”  Implying that signing up to be a Republican was something done in a vacuum and afterwards came the criterion for what that meant.  That is, having decided to register as a Republican, I then must go through the party’s positions to figure out what I’m supposed to think.

Really??

I think not.  Rather, it’s that what I think just happens to line up mostly with what Republicans express and support. And, in fact, as I began reading through the arguments, the first thing I checked was who had made the argument and what was their affiliation. Because that way I have some idea of their worldview and where they are coming from. I am learning more and more that we can use the same words and assign them very different meaning.

I have to laugh at the accusations of the detractors of conservatives, especially those of us who enjoy listening to Rush Limbaugh — ie, that we are mind-numbed robots who have to tune in to figure out what to think.

Not at all. More like we — or at least I — tune in because I’m in desperate need of hearing a sane voice.

In fact, many, many years ago, after I’d gotten saved, the more I learned about the Word of God, the more conservative I became and the more interested in politics. (Writing novels helped spur this interest as well) But everything I read in the newspapers, saw on TV, heard on the radio conflicted with what I believed. It was depressing and frustrating.

I remember when Carter was president, which was really depressing… how people thought all the Christians would vote for him because he was a Christian. Aaack!  No way.

He was such a disaster. (I vividly remember the gas lines. In fact my dad and hubby were nearly run over by a distraught elderly woman while they were waiting outside the car in one of them)

Ronald Reagan was amazing; I was so proud to vote for him. What a president! I loved him.

But still, the papers, the radio, the TV… they all had one voice (pretty much as they still do, if you don’t get Fox)…Reagan was a dunce, an actor, a fool, an idiot, what did he know? etc, ad nauseum. Rather like they treated George W Bush.

And then one day I had the radio on and heard Rush Limbaugh for the very first time. And yes, it was probably sometime in 1988 when he first came on the radio. It was amazing. Finally here was someone — on the radio! — expressing the views I already held! I was so jazzed to learn there were others who thought as I did, others outside my little local assembly of fellow believers, and the obscure periodicals I read.

In fact, it’s still like that. I hear or watch or read the news and form my own assessments, which usually are nothing like the assessments of the mainstream media folks. But  afterward I go my favorite conservative sites (Drudge, Power Line, The Diplomad, Rush, VDH ) and aaahhh. I find common sense, actual facts and information, observations or declarations of the obvious which are totally missing from the mainstream media…

The funny thing is, the ones who constantly seem to harp on the notion of “keeping politics out of it” are the ones who put politics into everything. Who tend to do things precisely for “politics” which I’m coming to think is another word for power-grabbing. But that, too, is a post for another day.

de Tocqueville: Soft Despotism

No Trespassing

Recently I came across this quote from Alexis de Tocqueville, the Frenchman sent by the French government in 1831 to study the American prison system, but who was really more interested in studying and writing about American society. He did so in a book entitled Democracy in America, and it is from this that the following quote on soft despotism was taken. (Soft despotism is control over or oppression of the people without their realizing it; hard despotism is the more obvious oppression.)

I’m posting it because I think it sounds eerily apropos of what’s going on in our country today.

“After having thus successively taken each member of the community in its powerful grasp and fashioned him at will, the supreme power then extends its arm over the whole community. It covers the surface of society with a network of small complicated rules, minute and uniform, through which the most original minds and the most energetic characters cannot penetrate, to rise above the crowd. The will of man is not shattered, but softened, bent, and guided; men are seldom forced by it to act, but they are constantly restrained from acting. Such a power does not destroy, but it prevents existence; it does not tyrannize, but it compresses, enervates, extinguishes, and stupefies a people, till each nation is reduced to nothing better than a flock of timid and industrious animals, of which the government is the shepherd.

I have always thought that servitude of the regular, quiet, and gentle kind which I have just described might be combined more easily than is commonly believed with some of the outward forms of freedom, and that it might even establish itself under the wing of the sovereignty of the people.”

From Volume II, Book 4, Chapter 6 of his book Democracy in America,.

The above link takes you to  the entire book, which you can also download. I just downloaded it onto my Kindle for PC,  in fact.

America Lite

I got a new book over the weekend. It’s by David Gelernter who is “a professor of computer science at Yale, contributing editor at the Weekly Standard, a regular contributor to the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung and former board member of the National Endowment for the Arts.”

The book is called America Lite — How Imperial Academia Dismantled our Culture (and Ushered in the Obamacrats).

Professor Gelernter has been writing occasional guest posts for Power Line blog on the subjects he covers in this book, and having found them all interesting I finally decided to get the book for myself.

From the inside cover:

America-Lite (where we all live) is just like America, only turned into an amusement park or a video game or a supersized Pinkberry, where the past and the future are blank and there is only a big NOW. How come we know so little about the past, care so little about the future, and expect so little (except cynicism) from our culture, our leaders — and each other?

In this refreshingly judgmental book, David Gelernter connects the historical dots to reveal a stealth revolution carried out by post-religious globalist intellectuals who, by and large, “can’t run their own universities or scholarly fields, but are very sure they can run you.” These imperial academics have deployed their students into the top echelon of professions once monopolized by staid, steady, stately WASPs. In this simple way, they have installed themselves as the new designated drivers of American culture…”

Mere facts are disdained, “old-fashioned fact-based judgments like true are false” are no longer valid, and the teaching of actual history has been replaced by the teaching of “theories about history.”

By removing objective facts and absolute truths observable by all or arrived at by “common sense,” and inserting endless theories and tropes and feelings and gauzy visions of utopia, concepts that on the surface don’t make sense (“lead from behind,” “spend money in order to save money,”) and as such are only really understood by the most intellectual and enlightened among us, we clearly must abandon the attempt to think for ourselves and let these brilliant academicians do it for us.  And, says Gelernter, so we have.

“In fact, we have handed over the keys to the star pupil and teacher’s pet of the post-religious globalist intellectuals, whose election to the presidency of the United States constituted the ultimate global group hug.

How do we finally face the truth and get back into the driver’s seat? America-Lite ends with a one-point plan.”

And of course the jacket doesn’t say what that plan is. I’ll have to read the book to find out. I’ve already read the introduction and it generated enought thought for me to write an entire post in addition to this one (which I’ll put up probably tomorrow).

Even the back cover is fascinating (Click to enlarge):

 

1940 Tacoma Narrows Bridge Collapse

I came across the following video on Power Line, as part of a poll asking whether it or footage of the explosion of the Hindenburg Blimp best capture the sense of the Obama administration’s coming apart. I vote for this one.   If it does, indeed, come apart.

But that’s another matter. I have to say I found this video, which I’d never seen before, fascinating. My husband, as an engineer, had seen it before, early on in his engineering studies. It’s used now as a study case for what happens when you fail to take into account resonance.

I think it’s a study case for what happens when you think you know everything and are trying to save money.

According the Wikipedia, the 1940 Tacoma Narrows Bridge was the third longest suspension bridge in the US, following number two, the George Washington Bridge in New York City and number one, the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco, which had the longest suspension bridge main span in the world at the time of its completion. Tacoma Narrows was designed by a man, Leon Moisseiff, who had worked on the other two bridges, but in this case had an eye to cutting costs. The original design projected costs at $11 million whereas Moisseiff’s was projected to cost $8 million. It would be “slimmer and more elegant” as well.

It was completed and opened to traffic in July of 1940 and collapsed 4 months later on November 7. There was no loss of life in the collapse save that of a three-legged cocker spaniel named Tubby, who was so terrified he refused to leave the car he was in, which the driver had abandoned.

I could try to describe the undulations, but since I have the video, I’ll just let you watch it. It’s only about 3 minutes long. I especially like this version with the eerie music of Christopher Payne. They say you could walk along the center line and not be moved up or down, even as the sides were roiling about you.

What this says to me, though is that Man is fallible and always will be, but never more than when he thinks he is not.

Spiritual Growth is a Neverending Process

In the natural realm we are born, we grow up, we reach physical maturity, some time around age 14 – 20, then we spend time perfecting skills and abilities that go with physical maturity and finally we begin to decline.  In the mental or character realm, maybe we continue to understand new things and even change our behavior accordingly for many years, but inevitably those aspects also begin to decline.

In the natural realm then, growth is finite.  It begins, continues for a time and then, reaching maturity, stops.

Our school systems and job training programs follow the same pattern. The child enters, learns the subject matter — say reading, writing, basic math, a bit of history and science — and then he “graduates”.  He has now been declared proficient and a master at the subjects he began to learn years ago. And in those basic realms there is really no more left to learn, the skills learned in childhood and youth serving many people well for the rest of their lives.

Of course institutions of alleged higher learning exist for the purpose of enabling people to continue to learn about a subject beyond the basics, (though sadly many of those institutions no longer offer courses of study that are truly profitable to their students, though that’s a subject for another day)  but I wonder how many people, even college graduates eventually come to a point where they believe they have “learned enough” and now  know everything they need to know about a particular subject.

I’d guess a lot of them. Rush Limbaugh likes to say that in general people think that history began the day of their birth, and as a result they know little of anything that happened before their arrival.

George Santayana  said,  “Those who can not remember the past are condemned to repeat it.”   While Friedrich Hegel observed, “The only thing we learn from history that we learn nothing from history!”

I’m not convinced that knowing more history would solve our problems, because I believe our problems arise from the fact that we are fallen people living in a fallen world, that is administered by fallen creatures who have no ability to administer anything very well… but that’s another matter, too.

But at least some of our problems as a nation certainly arise out of too many people just not knowing enough about the right kinds of things to be able to make the kinds of decisions they need to make. To have the discernment they need to have.

And the most important lack of knowledge, I think, is spiritual.

How many Christians, I wonder, reach a point where they think they’ve learned all they need to know about God and the spiritual life? Or, all they need to know about the Bible?

People who’ve believed in Christ, who know they are eternally secure in their salvation, know some basic rules for correct “Christian” or “moral” behavior, and some basic promises for times of trial — and with that think they’re set.

They have only to go about living their Christian lives in accordance with those parameters. This is who I am, this is who God is, this is what the Christian life is about and what I am to do, and I have it down pat. If X happens, I do Y. If I want A to happen, I do B. The spiritual formula: if I just make the right applications everything will go well.

On some level I  used to think like this. God is disabusing me of this notion. The more I learn it seems, the more I realize I don’t know. The more I read the Bible, the more I see things I never saw before — the same passages, only now there is a new light, a different angle, sometimes subtle, sometimes profound and shocking. How could I have not seen that before?! It’s right there.

I’m finding that going back over the same ground, whether in Bible class or just in my thinking, brings increasing light. I may grapple with the same issues time and again. Wrestle with a concept, come to a conclusion, a new way of thinking or doing, go off to practice it and then, some time later, be back at it again. Well, what I’d thought was sorta right, but not entirely. And now I have to rethink it. Or maybe God has to retell me, in a slightly different way, because I’ve come maybe a baby step along the path toward true understanding, and now it’s time to take another baby step.

It’s funny to think you can just study it and get it down like you might history or biology. This is God we’re talking about. Creator of the Universe. The one who has no beginning or end. The one who holds all things together in His mind, whose thoughts are not like our thoughts and ways are not like our ways.

We take that so blithely. Oh yeah. God’s thoughts aren’t like ours. His ways aren’t like ours… and then we just go on, as if it didn’t matter. As if we can still understand Him as easily as we understand our friends or the people next door (which should be a clue since I’d guess in most cases we probably don’t. Shoot, we don’t really even understand ourselves, let alone other people).

We — or, maybe I should just say “I” here — treat Him as if He’s just a big, very smart, very old, very clever man. When He’s not! 

People will pour out their lives studying some element of His creation ( finger work on His part) and yet scrimp on studying the Word He’s given us to tell us who He is. And we think we can just read it through once or twice and get it. Would we think we could come to a practical understanding of neuroscience by reading a textbook now and then? Select the most technical,learning-intensive, difficult-to-comprehend subject you can think of and then realize it can’t even come close to God.

No. I’ve come to believe it’s not only a lifelong journey toward understanding God and how we’re to serve Him, a very slow, crawling, micro-incremental, struggle to grasp and hold kind of journey, but one worthy of devoting our entire lives to. One that we will never reach the end of in this life and, I’m pretty sure, not even in eternity.

About the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict

Another video found at Power Line.  It’s longer than most — about 12 minutes long — but worth it for me. And fascinating, as well. I have always loved stories told in the form of live-action drawings. That is, you get to watch the artist draw the illustrations before your eyes as the narrator tells the story. That’s the first element of “fascinating” for me.

The second is the brief history lesson documenting how all this Israeli-Palestinian conflict and controversy began and evolved. I have long believed the Israelis have every right to their Jerusalem, but what I did not really understand, and what this video depicts is how much the Israelis have bent over backward to give the Palestinians their own independent state (while neighboring Arab states have done anything but) and how frequently the Palestinians have said to their offers, “No! We don’t want two states. We want you gone and us in your place!” or, more succinctly (and this is closer to a direct quote): “We will only be satisfied by the extermination of Israel.”

I will add the caveat that I have not yet had the opportunity to research all the claims made on this video, but it’s a good place to begin.


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