Friday, May 29. 2015
I've never met Kemberlee Kaye either online or in person. I know people online who know her in person and vouch for her as being quality of the highest order, which is more than good enough for me. Of her personally I know little other than what she's detailed in assorted website and social media bios. She's married, I think. I know she's Catholic, and she lives in Texas. I don't know if she's a lawyer, but she has worked in some capacity in the legal system. She writes for the excellent Le·gal In·sur·rec·tion blog among other conservative online publications. That's all I've got. Which is fine.
A few days ago, at Le·gal In·sur·rec·tion Ms. Kaye posted some notes under the title Leave Michelle Obama's workout video alone. Quoting from same:
Objectively Mrs. Obama’s workout video was just that — an informative workout video. Void of political message or any other evil left-wing plot to undermine the Republic, thousands flocked to mock the First Lady’s quite strenuous workout regimen.
Political vitriol is nothing new. What has changed in the past fifteen years or so is the incessant reproving of, with the Internet's ever growing presence in most all aspects of our lives, its synchronized beauty and horror: fortunately, everyone can get online; unfortunately, so can anyone. No longer are political debates relegated to the local newspaper for editors and letter writers to hash out any given topic. Now, we have blog comments. The following are among those left on Ms. Kaye's post:
Barack Hussein Obama and Michelle LaVaugn Robinson-Obama “…remain as human and “like us” as the next family.”
I don’t hate that commie, racist, criminal, affirmative action hermaphrodite any more than it hates me.
She wanted attention.
And these are among the remaining comments. Many far more brutal ones have been deleted.
There are two primary reasons why I seldom blog about politics anymore. A little backstory before continuing: I am a Christian first, meaning that unless I prefer being an utter hypocrite I acknowledge being a sinner, saved by grace brought about by the shed blood of Christ on the cross as a sacrifice for my sins and His triumphant physical resurrection from the dead; and I am a federalist second, meaning that politically I hold the Constitution to be the supreme inviolable law of the land and always to be strictly, literally interpreted with a corresponding limited government. In short, I'm a classic liberal as defined by Hayek and socially conservative, meaning I despise both political parties and am in no way a libertarian regardless of my aforementioned belief in limited government due to the current definition of libertarian being someone who worships the trinity of Ayn, Ron, and Rand in-between toking up sessions. Also, I believe no one is beyond the redemptive power of Jesus while simultaneously knowing there is genuine evil, and are genuinely evil, people in the world who must be opposed.
With this in mind, it should come as zero surprise I am as politically opposed to the Obama administration's policies and philosophy as it gets. I despise excessive government spending, with its corresponding deficits and crushing tax burden, regardless of how superficially noble the cause may be; for private investment and competition between businesses create near infinitely better results than government's hamfisted blundering in most every enterprise. Dovetailed into this is fierce opposition to excessive governmental regulation, including full-bore takeover, of what should be private industries regulated by free market vying for business by providing the best combination of goods and/or services such as health insurance. I cannot abide a foreign policy that coddles ideological enemies of freedom while backhanding fellow democratic countries such as Israel. I have no tolerance for the demonization of those who achieve wealth through hard work and calculated risktaking. To summarize, I am not a Democrat.
That said, I hold no personal animosity for the Obamas. Given the opportunity I would cheerfully read them both the Riot Act, detailing why they are in grave error in so many areas. I would also illustrate for them as best I could, in deed as well as word, how to truly follow Christ mandates humility, compassion, and active care on a personal level. The perhaps apocryphal story concerning a statue of the Christ having its hands broken off yet not replaced, but rather commemorated with a plaque affixed to the statue's base reading, "I have no hands but yours," while far oversimplifying and to a degree downplaying Jesus through the Spirit's direct working in our lives contains a kernel of truth. If not us who believe, who? If not with all, with who?
There is no witness in vitriol or vacillation. The steadfast refusal to compromise principals and/or Christ's commands for His followers must reign paramount. The Prince of Peace must trump politics each and every time. There are no options for behaving differently, no outs based on the behavior of others regardless of their behavior's contemptibility. That a post such as Ms. Kaye's is needed is a sad commentary on those with whom I ostensibly have so much in common. Their reaction to said post is sadder. This is the first reason why I seldom discuss politics these days.
The second is conservative new media's omnipresent ennui. Every time and everywhere you look, it is the exact same puny handful of voices saying the exact same things to the exact same crowd for the exact same reaction: cry outrage! and let slip the tweets of butthurt. What, a liberal said something outlandish or offensive? We must take offense! The mainstream media pushing an agenda? We must snarl and snark! It is nothing but shadowplay; an eternal play to the crowd for the paycheck, a preaching to the choir while accepting a generous love offering from the congregation. It changes nothing. It moves nothing. It changes and moves no one. It is the Oakland of punditry. There's no there there. It is an utter waste of time to read, let alone create. And I do not have time to waste.
These things are why I don't get around much politically anymore.
Tuesday, May 26. 2015
There are certain things we learn, or at least hopefully learn, as we pass through the years. A prime example of this is coming to grips with how we are best advised accepting the fact that we should not expect respect for our anger, this coming into play the first time during our tender years any of us throw a temper tantrum without reaping the hoped for reward. Unless a spanking was that for which we had a honkering.
We also learn, or should learn, to not expect respect for our tears, or reciprocation for our love. These are far more difficult to swallow. We are taught from the beginning to respect others, to honor the heralded awesome power of love, and that true love always triumphs while conquering all and overcoming all obstacles. Yet through bitter and often embittering experience we learn how love is often impotent, incapable of swaying others in any direction let alone one which we desire. Those who do not learn this, such as starry-eyed women unshakable in their pursuit of utterly undesirable men believing they can transform jerks into jewels, invariably have their ship of hopes dashed against reality’s rocks. You’d think this would be sufficient to teach us, but far too often we embody insanity by attempting the exact same thing while anticipating different results. The Biblical truism that pride goes before a fall is not exclusively reserved for the outwardly arrogant. It also applies to those of us who, while outwardly modest and/or well-intentioned, sadly overestimate our own ability.
It hurts when love isn’t returned. The illustration of a rejected Savior is hard to understand until we encounter a one-sided love of our own. The other person doesn’t look at you in a special way. He or she doesn’t soften when you’re around. He or she isn’t interested in a relationship on any level save perhaps that of casual acquaintance, one quickly forgotten the moment close proximity is no longer in effect. Perhaps the person does allow you to approach them, but even then only within his or her strictly defined and absolute, non-negotiable parameters. Held at arm’s length? Most definitely. Held in each other’s arms? Never. And yes, it makes life a living hell. An accurate description, for hell’s torment is not fire and brimstone, but rather separation from love.
The illustration in Scripture’s most misunderstood and misapplied chapter states that when I was a child, I spoke, thought, and acted like a child; in adulthood laying these childish things aside. It seems strange to think, believe, and act on the notion that there are times when laying love aside is an act of maturity. More accurately, not so much setting love itself on the shelf but learning how to be at peace with the fact others can and will disregard your love for them.
It hurts when love isn't returned. There is no escaping, no denying the pain. If there is anything good to be drawn from these times, it is from the empathy gained for those also suffering; and how it makes more real our need to embrace -- more accurately, allow ourselves to be embraced by -- the nail-scarred hands belonging to the Man of Sorrows well aquainted with grief. He knows. He understands. He comforts. And He never rejects our love.
Monday, May 25. 2015
My oldest brother, who fought in Vietnam, passed away a few years ago. He didn't say much about his time there.
This is the text of a letter he sent our late father, who himself fought in World War Two and Korea, in November 1966.
This is Memorial Day.
What I am going to say will be most unpleasant, but we just spent a hell of a night up here at Tai Ninh. Here’s what happened.
At 9:00, the Viet Cong hit our position with heavy mortar, recoilless rifle, and rifle grenade fire. We hit the bunker and stayed until 10:15 when the attack was over. A flare ship started illuminating the sky, but one was a dud. It hit the aviation section tent, but it hit a man who had been in Vietnam less than a month. The force practically scalped him, and the flare ignited. The man was killed instantly. I ran over there, just after the attack with a jug of water to help put out the fire caused by the flare. Quite a bit of damage was done to the inside of the tent. Men with fire extinguishers and me with my water jug (which had just been filled) tried to put out the flare (which is next to impossible.) The flare started exploding, so we hit the ground. After that, somebody said that a man was hurt badly. I went over to see if he needed some water, but he was dead when I got there. The sight was unnerving.
We finally hit the sack after midnight. Then at two o’clock in the morning, they really mortared us. We lost twelve men, WIA, two seriously (Both should live.) A mortar round landed three feet from our communications tent and RTT van. The attack lasted until three-thirty. After the attack, I was detailed to wash the blood from the inside of the RTT van. I won’t go into any gory details of either event.
I came out without a scratch. I did not panic nor was there any extreme fear on my part. One never knows how he will react to an emergency.
Our battery suffered 25% casualties during the attack. I am all right, and they moved heavy artillery in this morning, 155mm SP howitzers, to protect against another attack tonight. We should get some sleep tonight. I hope that I never have to write another letter like this again. The danger has passed, so be thankful that I pulled through OK, and go to Aunt Beth & Hazel’s house for Thanksgiving. You have a lot to be thankful for.
My brother was a classical music buff, who reluctantly accepted I was Mr. Rock 'n' Roll. One day, he asked me if Billy Joel had served in Vietnam, to which I replied he hadn't, asking my brother why he asked. He replied because this song so perfectly captured what it was like there.
Wednesday, April 1. 2015
(Written for a friend.)
Hey there. You know that guy? Sure you do. We all know that guy. You know -- the nice guy.
Great guy, the nice guy. The nice guy is always there when you need him. Need some advice, someone to lend an ear, maybe a shoulder to cry on? The nice guy is there for you. Every time.
But ... well, you know. He's just the nice guy. Nothing exciting. Nothing special. Good guy, sure. Great guy, really. But he's ... well, he's the nice guy. That's all.
You don't hang out with the nice guy: don't go out for drinks, don't include him with the gang when you go out for dinner. None of that. I mean, let's face it. The nice guy isn't all that exciting. He's probably got plans anyway, or something to do. No need to ask him to participate.
Wait ... what's that? A date? Are you kidding? No way! The nice guy doesn't set off sparks. No sizzle. Oh, he's good for comfort when the boyfriend goes wrong. But to actually be the boyfriend? Are you crazy? He's just the nice guy. No way could he be Mr. Right. Just no way. Besides, what if you did date him and things went wrong? Who would you turn to? No, can't risk it. Gotta keep him at arm's length.
The nice guy will understand when you explain it to him. You're sure he'll meet some nice girl someday that's more his speed. It's nothing personal. It's nothing against him. But ... well, he simply doesn't fit into your world like that. Yeah, he could probably make some girl happy. He's the nice guy. But it's not you. No, it never could be you.
Still, sometimes you wonder about the nice guy. Every once in a while the smile seems a little forced, the eyes a bit distant. And he does seem to be alone a lot.
Well, he probably prefers it that way. He's fine. Of course the nice guy is fine. Isn't he always the first with the quip, the first one there for you when you need someone? He's fine. We all have our off days. He's fine where he is. He must get his happiness from helping others. He must be fine. He's the nice guy.
Although come to think of it, don't see him much anymore ...
Sunday, March 15. 2015
A phrase oft heard during any given sporting event where the heavily favored team finds itself on the score's short end is "the other team practices too." Meaning: nothing is a given and no matter how talented, or better on paper, someone or a collection of someones is than the competition, if you dismiss the other team out of hand and don't compete up to your ability level you will not win. Ever.
The same principle applies to life. We all have our burdens and battles; our private little hell that can and all too frequently does consume us. These must be tended to, otherwise they can severely damage us. Sometimes irrecoverably.
This duly noted, it is easy but dangerously shortsighted to exclusively focus on our own situation, neglecting to note that the other person has problems too. John Donne was right; no one is an island. We all have oppressive elements besetting our every day and every step.
To behave as though we alone are suffering while everyone else is on their own under the veneer of "they know their problems and I don't" is pathetically short-sighted. Empathy is not contingent on complete understanding of someone else's pain. We are all human, and we all share humanity's common threads.
It is equally short-sighted, with a hefty dose of narcissism on the side, to focus so heavily on our own problems while neglecting to value others sufficiently to, at the least, inquire as to how they are doing that our life becomes a one-note samba of "woe is me." The other person hurts too. Their hurt is equally important as ours. Ignoring them while bemoaning our state helps no one. It makes the other person quite apt to wonder why they should help, or care for, us when our actions and words make it apparent our concern for them extends only as far as their willingness to feel sorry for us. And, simply put, in such a scenario we are doing more than enough feeling sorry for ourselves to where the other person has zero inclination to join our pity party regardless of how deeply they care for us. We are pushing them away at a time when we most need them.
The other person matters too. Ask them how they are doing. You will be surprised how much it helps you both face the wounds and scars we all -- all -- bear.
Friday, September 12. 2014
Something touched on in the previous post is the notion of cultural relevancy, or if you prefer engaging the culture. A common cry amongst the conservative new media echo chamber ... er, realm is the need to actively pursue entry into popular culture via the assorted reigning entertainment mediums -- music, television, film. The irony of how this is most often discussed within closed circles is apparently lost on those thus engaged with talking about engagement but never doing anything that can in any fashion be construed as genuine outreach. But I digress.
One of the greatest challenges facing anyone who seeks to influence pop culture is that despite its apparent pervasiveness, even for the biggest names it is surprisingly limited in its at least initial outreach. Take as an example U2, its record label, and Apple's agreement to make what is easily the biggest band in the world's new album available for free to everyone with an iTunes account, number of same being some 500 million. How many thus far (the deal was announced this past Tuesday) have taken advantage of the offer, said offer being mentioned and promoted by virtually every media and medium in existence? Around two million. This for a band that has sold over 150 million albums in its career. The days when The Beatles could change the world with the change of a hairstyle are long gone.
Another example of pop culture's limited appeal is at the movies. The general rule of thumb is that a movie with $100M in box office business is a success, bloated special effects-laden outings that cost more than $200M to make not withstanding. But how many people, as in individual ticket sales, see a blockbuster movie? The biggest movie this year to date is Guardians of the Galaxy, with an as of yesterday estimated domestic box office take of $297.8M. Translated into ticket sales, the best guess is that comes out to 35.7M tickets sold. Figuring there is quite probably a good percentage of repeat viewers ... you get the idea. A large number, but not universal. Also, factor in the film's built-in mass audience appeal from the Marvel Comics/Disney connection, the tens if not hundreds of millions spent promoting the film, and so on. This isn't a film designed for viewership at your local art cinema; something to give you cause for reflection and discussion. It is mass market product, designed to sell tickets and merchandise.
Paraphrasing Shakespeare, pop culture is sound and fury; tales told by an idiot, signifying nothing. This is the entirety of pop culture: a soap bubble, momentarily pretty but fatally fragile, inevitably popping to be seen no more and quickly forgotten in favor of the next bubble blown.
Yet despite this, enter into the pop culture fray we must. We have examples of what happens when we withdraw behind our walls; witness the utter failure of the evangelical American church, despite its size, to have any impact on society. Certainly the odds are stacked against us. We do not have multi-multi-million dollar promotional budgets at our disposal, nor will we have industry support no matter how potentially profitable our efforts may be. However, the need to reach people remains paramount. We cannot sit idly by, barking at the caravan as it moves on, then believe we are accomplishing something by barking. At least not if we are being honest. If we reach but a few, we have done far better than if we reach none at all.
We also have to be honest with ourselves. Echo chamber jingoism is great at rallies of like-minded people but utterly useless when presented to the general public. Be they ever so superficial and slick, pop culture successes convey whatever message they offer with sufficient skill to penetrate multiple societal layers. Clumsy cliches need not apply. Lee Greenwood already did "God Bless The USA." There is neither need nor room for a sequel.
Now, promoting conservative artists in whatever field immediately presents a problem, that being dealing with artists. Most -- not all, but most -- creative people are fundamentally insane and correspondingly hard to handle. Why this is so is seldom understood by those not similarly gifted, or for that matter many of those who are gifted. To be an artist of any genuine skill means, regardless of whether it is acknowledged, that one has opened him or herself to the creative spirit that is a direct gift from God. When human (that's us) is touched by divine (that's the Man Upstairs), simultaneously beautiful and terrible things happen. The beautiful is what is created; the terrible is how such overwhelming intimacy with the Creator can all too easily drive a person mad as in our limited human state we can only handle so much beyond ourselves. There is also the pain factor; Bono was completely accurate when he sang every artist is a cannibal, every poet is a thief; all kill their inspiration and sing about the grief. Little Miss Sunshine would have been a lousy artist.
So, these are the challenges facing anyone who wishes to engage the culture. It is expensive, it is an insular world that does not take kindly to outsiders with views outside its hedonistic hyper-liberal own, and the people best equipped artistically to enter the fray are often borderline, if not full-fledged, self-destructive lunatics. Yet engage we must, for there is far too much at stake to let things go as they are.
Thursday, September 11. 2014
So, after an extended silence that I oft doubted would ever end, I'm back. Had to blow the dust off my password and sweep the cobwebs out of the site, but thankfully it and I are still here.
Choosing a topic on which to hang my return was a tad difficult; it's not like there's a dearth of available points of discussion. That duly noted, one demanded immediate attention, that being blogging itself.
Blogging is in danger of becoming the compact disc of social media. It's a marvelous medium through which to communicate, but in today's world it is rapidly being superseded by Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and Pinterest. Why? Brevity and immediacy. The other formats are quick, easy, and instantly before your intended audience. A blog? Well, since no one uses RSS feeds anymore, you have to tell people new content is there (and tell them and tell them and tell them), then hope people will step away from Twitter and Facebook et al long enough to pay your site a visit. The hip and hot social media vessels have apps for most every mobile device. A blog depends on someone opening their browser and entering the address at least once, hopefully bookmarking it while there so it can be more easily accessed should return visits be part of someone's online media consumption strategy.
Another problem bloggers face in attracting and keeping, along with growing, an audience is the deep level of funk out there about bloggers individually and collectively being unable to get over themselves. Delusion of glory and grandeur abound. It's high time bloggers individually and collectively get back to basics and what made blogging a vital communication form.
Blogging works only when you remember it's one voice, one opinion; consider it as you will. When you're blogging, remember it's a venue to express your thoughts and opinions on any given subject. That's all. You are not going to save the world. Hopefully, prayerfully you can help open eyes and minds to truth. Be content with that, as it is futile to frustrate yourself by striving for more when there is no more to be obtained.
When blogging, be yourself and be real. Say your piece, and be at peace. Be consistent with what you say. Be consistent with who you are. Let your words reflect who you are. Don't be one person online and another away from the computer.
Blog not for social media fame or accolades. Blog from and for the heart; the belief what you have to say can help other people. The echo chamber is already full, and it is not accepting applications. You don't need it or its residents for validation.
Blogging for a paycheck is not blogging; it's casual format column writing. Nothing wrong with that, but let's be honest about what it is. Far, far too many people pass themselves off as bloggers when they are nothing of the kind. Working toward monetizing your blog is not a shame, but should you start straying from yourself and the reasons why you first started blogging you are going down the wrong path.
When blogging, always remember this: no matter what, never, never become what you profess to oppose. You say you're a citizen journalist speaking truth to power at professional journalists living in ivory towers? Don't live in one yourself. You say you're against punditry elitism, where writers speak only to others in the same profession? Don't do the same thing. You say you're too busy to answer your emails; that there's just not enough time in the day to get everything done? Too bad. It's your job.
If you want the "glory" of being a popular blogger, you have to do the necessary work. That involves far more than writing blog posts. To be a successful blogger means you embrace the belief that blogging is a communication tool from one person to another. Every individual who reads one of your blog posts is an individual, and deserves to be treated as such. Unless it's a troll -- and not everyone who disagrees with something you say is one -- when someone communicates with you, communicate back. They've taken the time to read and respond to your writing. Simple, common courtesy dictates you do the same.
Again, unless it's a troll, answer your emails. Every time. Respond to tweets and Facebook posts. Every time. It takes very little time to type a simple "thank you." Do it.
The wise blogger does not see him or herself as a great written orator, or leader of people. The wise blogger does not see him or herself as one blessing teeming throngs with every word of wisdom that comes from their fingertips. The wise blogger sees him or herself as a retail clerk whose livelihood depends on the quality of service they provide all who come by.
Think about the pleasant retail experiences you have had. What is the common thread that connects all of these times? Invariably, part or all of it was interaction with a worker who was friendly, personable, knowledgeable, and genuinely helpful.
As it is in retail, so it is in blogging. The blogger who treats their audience with respect and as a welcomed guest will succeed. The blogger who treats their audience with disdain, or believes its sole purpose is to praise their words of wisdom, will fail.
We say we must change the culture. Well, culture change happens one person at a time. Culture change happens when you reach one person, one heart and mind, with ideas that helps them see things in a new light. Culture change comes when we talk with people, not to them.
Be a positive force for change. Treat people as you yourself wish to be treated. This includes blogging. Interact with your readers as you yourself wish other writers would interact with you. Not as a haughty lord, but rather as an equal.
To summarize, please remember the four tenets of the blogging evangel.
First, the ability to broadcast your opinion neither elevates nor validates said opinion.
Second, blog from, and for, the heart; not a paycheck.
Third, answer your email. Every time.
Fourth, and most important of all, never become what you profess to oppose. Never.
May I always follow these tenets.
Saturday, February 22. 2014
April Thompson is one of the most beautiful women I know. This conclusion is drawn not from her looks, although she is very attractive. Rather, it is from how she is deeply and passionately in love with God, her husband, and their kids. That is a beauty no Sports Illustrated model, save one who possesses the same qualities, can ever hope to approach.
In-between sessions of her very full-time gig known as raising the rugrats, April is wont to pen assorted thoughts in her blog. Her most recent post nicely expresses a frustration oft voiced by creative Christians, that being how a segment of American Christianity instantly recoils in horror the moment an artist, in any given medium, attempts crossing over from the Christian marketplace into the big bad satanic secular cesspool:
As Christians, we have to be careful not to be mindless consumers of whatever is served in the name of entertainment. But you know whatâ€™s not good? Hiding in our little Christian or conservative ghettos, yelling nasty things at the world from the walls, and throwing stones at anyone who tries to take the message outside the gates. Ya know, like Jesus said to.
Mrs. Thompson continues the point by bringing it into the political realm. She mentions how many conservatives (she is unapologetically one) are so conditioned to a knee-jerk response and blanket condemnation of most everything pop culture-wise, completely hung up on an artist’s political bent regardless of whether it carries over into their art, they disassociate themselves from everything under the mantle of avoiding anything “unclean.” This takes the form of not supporting via buying a CD or download or movie ticket or what have you any individual not on their side of the political aisle, along with, when discussing said artists among those of like mind, participating in a top-this game of who can trash-talk them the most. Because, you know, that will win the culture war every time.
She’s too young to remember, but Steve Taylor brilliantly skewered this mindset some time ago:
Life for the believer is neither a scenario of doing whatever one wishes (sorry, libertarians) or hiding in a reverse leper colony. It is a call to the reality of Christ and life in Christ. It is personal holiness combined with mandatory outreach to others. Jesus was not a drunkard, yet He drank and His first recorded miracle was at a wedding reception when He changed water into wine so as to keep the party going. He associated, without compromise, with society’s outcasts. He didn’t tow the religious progressive’s continually shifting line of relative morality, telling them everything was cool and they could continue on their merry way without repercussion. He loved them where they were at while calling on them to change first their heart, and from that change their life. He didn’t commend the adulteress whose life He saved from the crowd seeking to entrap Him by what He said should be done with her, knowing full well the penalty for her actions under Mosaic law was that she was to be executed by stoning. He didn’t condemn her either. He offered her life with the admonition to leave her life of sin.
There is a powerful witness in the polite destruction of clichÃ©s. Systematically execute them by living life among other people in a Godly manner. Contrary to some opinions, living a Godly life does not mean acting like you are God, nor does it mean shoving your faith down the throat of another, nor does it mean never speaking up for fear of “offending” someone. It means tearing down the false image of what constitutes a believer by being both the human being you were created as and the child of God you were created to be.
There are no magic formulas for this; no superdeeduper secret initiation rites, magic words or self-induced guilt trips about what you should or shouldn’t do to say the magic words in response to which God will give you a hundred blessings. There is honesty, with yourself, others and especially God.
There are stones in the road. You will trip and fall. You will fail. You will know hurt, frustration, despair, rejection, grief, and anger. But you will also know what it means to truly be alive.
To be alive is to live, with all of life’s joys and sorrows.
You cannot hide from life. You can live life.
If others think you are crazy for doing so, so be it.
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