Saturday, January 26, 2019

The Tragedy of These Times

Why do I write when so few will read?  Maybe it will make a difference, but probably not.  Not enough to motivate those readers or change anything, in any event.  But still I will write.

Our country and society have lost their vision, their sense of self, and their purpose.  We are rapidly degenerating into a sort of self-defined tribalism.

The extremists of the left condemn everyone who disagrees with them as they impose more and more restrictions on our freedom.  Taxes go up as government proliferates.  Politicians become rich while gaining prestige and gratitude for redistributing the assets they have confiscated by using tax law as a weapon to impose their will on society.  They restrict our ability to say what we want to say for fear of offending someone, anyone, making a mockery of the First Amendment which guarantees freedom of expression and religion.  The most intolerant of all the major players in our tragedy, they do this in the name of tolerance.  Hypocrisy is their defining characteristic.

The extremists of the right base their world-view on anger and paranoia.  They rant against immigration, characterizing foreigners as criminals.  The accuse others of an “entitlement mentality” while maintaining just such as entitlement mentality themselves, claiming our nation has a continuing right to profound wealth and power in the world merely because our forefathers did a good job of accumulating wealth and power in generations past.  They vilify those of other political opinions, caring for nothing except themselves and their own kind.  Despite their denials they are largely racist, xenophobic, and most of all, selfish.

The libertarian faction stands for individual freedom, a noble cause.  But in practice they tend to be as intolerant of diversity of opinion as any of the left, and as selfish as any of the right.  As a group, they do not have the maturity to become more inclusive, nor the good common sense to see that some government is necessary for the maintenance of a free society.

Nationalists revere the founding document of our republic, the Declaration of Independence, and extol the affirmation that we are endowed with inalienable rights, including life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.  But they render that affirmation powerless by failing to affirm that it is universal in application.  They are guilty of the same offense that inspired the American Revolution itself, that of claiming rights for one’s own group while denying them to others.

One faction claims the people do not have the right to do or say anything which is deemed offensive… provided of course that the offended party is part of their own political tribe.  They claim that government has the right to confiscate by means of legislation whatever they choose for the purpose of growing government, redistributing wealth, and enriching themselves.  Another faction claims the right to accumulate as much wealth and power as possible, regulations and the masses be damned.  They blast those they deem unworthy with accusations, childish nicknames and ridicule.

All the major groups fill the public conversation with vindictive, aspersions, vile hatred masquerading as oratory, demagoguery pretending to be statesmanship.

We are a nation being run by leaders who maintain power by accusing, denying responsibility, stoking the fires of conflict and consolidating their power bases by means of fear of the common enemy.  We are being led by mental pygmies, adolescent mentalities fueled by drama, aimed at increasing personal power and wealth at the expense of the masses. 

Our top elected leader is most offensive, attempting to lead by lies and intimidation.  He seems to have missed the point made by another great leader of his own political party, completely convoluting Theodore Roosevelt’s concept of the “bully pulpit.”  He contradicts himself repeatedly, expecting everyone to accept his latest without question.  Sadly, many do.  He has found willing followers among those who deny the evidence of their eyes and ears because they see him as strong and capable of consolidating the power of their own tribal group.  In truth, he cares nothing for the people, not even his supporters.  But they refuse to see that because they want a champion and he seems to fit the bill.

The top leader of the opposition party is to intelligence what the president is to civility.  She makes outlandish comments and proclamations which would be comical if they weren’t so dangerous.  She, too, expects the people to believe whatever inane things find their way out of her mouth, and those of her own political tribe do so.

Both these persons in positions of authority are completely lacking in the skills that make a good leader.  Neither is civil, neither is honest, neither is intelligent (except as you count the ability to maintain power a function of intelligence).  Both are self-serving tribalists lacking any coherent ethical framework.  But consider this.  We the people elected them.  What does that say about us? 

The biblical book of First Samuel recounts the story of the ancient Israelites in the years when their government consisted of judges who ruled well and equitably for many years.  At some point, though, the people decided they wanted a king instead.  The prophet Samuel cautioned the people that a king would claim many rights and take away many of their freedoms.  He warned them, “… you will cry out for relief from the king you have chosen.”  Nevertheless they persisted, and Samuel anointed a king.  Never again were they as free as they had been under the benign judges, as wars proliferated and conflict became the way of life from that time forward.

Like the ancient Israelites, we seem to have decided that we want a king, someone who will champion our causes and rule us.  To this end we have begun to marginalize the Constitution that has kept us together and free for two centuries.  We have begun to ignore the principles expressed in the Declaration of Independence, and the rights enumerated in the Bill of Rights.  We seem to want a king.  The only qualification for most of us is that we want the king to be of like mind with our political faction, of our own tribe.  We seem to want kings, so we have begun to elect them.  As happened in ancient Israel, we will cry out for relief.

It looks like the process of the decline of America has begun.  America has been great, but may not be so for much longer.  Ironic, isn’t it?  Obvious irony aside though, this is a process that has been underway far longer than the current administration, or the last.  It is hard to watch, and harder yet to understand.  Why don’t we choose leaders who are competent and worthy of the office?  Why do we no longer value humility, that which reformer Martin Luther called the greatest virtue?  Why don’t we understand anymore that the greatest leader must be a servant.  Why?  I don’t know.  But the era of self-aggrandizing leadership in America has begun.  Our role model is no longer Lincoln, but Mussolini.

I don’t know.  Maybe it isn’t too late to turn back.  If enough people would understand the perversity of our government and its leadership as it currently exists.  Elections still work, in theory anyway.  If we would stop the angry recrimination and be honest enough to take an objective look at what we’re becoming.  If we would choose to begin talking across tribal lines, and really listen.  If we would stop and say, “Enough!”  We have the power to reject arrogance as the defining characteristic of our leaders, to reaffirm the inherent dignity of humility.  I don’t know if we have the intelligence, the will, or (most of all) the self-control to let go of our tribal angst and make a change.

Maybe someday, in a century or two, people will look back on these years as pivotal in the stream of human history.  What will they think of us?  Will they consider these years laughable?  Tragic?  Or will they (least likely but not out of the question) see this as a time when we turned back from the disastrous course we were on and resumed our march toward freedom, dignity, and hope for the future.  They will give us credit for the choices we have made, and those we are about to make.  I pray they will be grateful rather than bitter.

Why am I still writing?  Because it’s bad, but the story’s not over.  I still have some residual hope, some faith in my people, some tiny inkling that we might yet do the right thing.  That is my prayer.

- Gryphem

Monday, November 26, 2018

Immigrants and Ethics

I am disturbed by otherwise-decent people who are all too willing to cast hate and aspersions at non-U.S. citizens who got here without proper paperwork, or who still want to come here.  The Guatemalan refugees standing at the U.S. border facing armed guards and private citizens animated by xenophobic ragea re human beings trying to improve their own lives, and that of their children.  They are worthy of compassion and respect.  They have not had the advantages most U.S. citizens have.  Does all that make them worthy of scorn, derision, or anger? 

That would-be immigrant is the same as you who were lucky enough to be born here.  The only difference is the government that was in charge when and where you happened to be born.

I do not say we should open the border crossings and stand back.  Reasonable safeguards are prudent.  But it can be done with reason, respect, and compassion.  If you believe you are somehow better, more deserving than the would-be immigrant, then you are awash in arrogance.

I am particularly disturbed by those who rant about the despicable illegals while proclaiming Judeo-Christian ideals.  I’d like to know - How do you rationalize anti-immigrant wrath with this?
“When a stranger sojourns with you in your land, you shall not do him wrong. You shall treat the stranger who sojourns with you as the native among you, and you shall love him as yourself.” (Leviticus 19:33-34) 

Or for those of you who prefer it straight from the mouth of the Messiah:
“The righteous will answer him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? And when did we see you a stranger and welcome you…  And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.’” (Matthew 25:37-40)

I am prepared for hateful feedback.  But it’s not me you have to convince.


Tuesday, October 31, 2017

A Stream of Consciousness

Some days there doesn’t seem to be a focal point, just a lot of random thought and thinking.  Today was one of those days for me.  I decided to share it with you.

This morning I woke up at 4 AM worrying about why I couldn't find my textbook for a college course I'm taking. Got up. Couldn't find it. When I got up again at 6:30 AM I decided to wear an LA Dodgers jersey as a workplace Halloween costume (since they're in game 6 of the World Series tonight). Couldn't find it. Went out to retrieve my phone, because I last week I lost my normal charger cord and now have to use the one that plugs into the car. Are you starting to see a strange pattern emerging?

I stepped on the scale again this morning.  It’s disconcerting lately.  This morning was the first time I’ve ever muttered a tiny “Thank God” for a reading of 199 pounds.  (Troubling, right?)

I get crazy about drivers who cut in line.  This morning there were several on my morning commute.  As I was coming out of the Midtown Tunnel listening to ‘spooky’ music and talk of ghosts on the radio, a big car came racing by me on the right and cut off the guy ahead of me.  I felt the fury rising; that driver was about to get a blast of my very private, very effective sworn testimony.  You can imagine how difficult it would be to stop that fury in its tracks, but that’s exactly what happened.  It was like a big bucket of cold water was dumped on the fire of my anger.  It just faded and fell away, leaving me wondering and amazed at the sudden change, and a little startled by what I’d seen.  It was a hearse.  (Later I caught up to see if the driver was a Ghostbuster.  Nope, just a sailor.)

Every time I try to log onto any website that sells books, the web browser freezes.  It’ll go to any other site.  Navy sites. Google.  YouTube.  My email.  Random sites where I’ve looked up scientific questions.  But try to go to any site having to do with bookselling and the response is Nope No Go Nothin’ Doin’ Give Up.  Why doesn’t someone want me to buy another copy of that textbook?

Equation seen on Facebook:  ‘Expectation – Observed Reality = Frustration’.  Kind of a negative way of expressing a point, but I think it makes sense.  Think about it.

Half a millennium ago today the Protestant Reformation started.  Martin Luther, monk and priest, nailed his issues to the door of the church in Wittenberg, Germany.  Besides the religious importance of this courageous act, the Reformation was a giant step forward for individual liberty.  Its effects are still being felt today.

Radio commercial this morning seeking donations of automobiles pointed out that classical music will always be around but your old classic automobile won’t.  It got me thinking.  Music is ephemeral.  First it exists in someone’s mind, then it can be played and shared and recreated endlessly.  The tune can go on for as long as there are people on the earth.  A car made of steel will eventually rust and fall apart.  Strange, isn’t it, that the thing we think of as strong and durable succumbs to the ravages of time sooner than something that has no physical substance at all?  That made me wonder about what ‘everlasting’ really means.

That’s about all I need to share with you this morning, I guess.  Happy Halloween, everyone.  Eat more chocolate.  Be as different as you need to be… but don’t be too weird.  Think about stuff.  Make a child laugh.  Have fun.

P.S. Posted in between servicing trick-or-treaters!   =-)

Friday, October 27, 2017

After the latest shooting tragedy, what next?

For nearly a month now, partisans of both sides have been scrambling to use the tragic shootings in Las Vegas to advance or defend their preexisting opinions about the Second Amendment and gun control.  As each side spins the tragic facts to support their own agenda, a few reasonable people in the middle are trying to discuss how we should respond to this obvious and ongoing threat.

What’s the best course of action?  To ban all guns, disarming the law-abiding along with the criminal?  To double down on gun rights despite the danger of easy access by criminally insane persons?  Here I offer some opinions that are sure to anger extremists on both sides of the debate.

For that reason alone, I believe it might contain the seeds of a real solution.

The Second Amendment to the Constitution of the United States of America:

"A well-regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State,

the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed."

Note the two parts:

(1) "...the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed.”

(2) "A well-regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State..."

Both parts of this amendment were included intentionally and both parts are absolutely essential.  The political 'Left,' always eager for more gun control, forgets or ignores that the right of the people to bear arms is a constitutional right.  The political 'Right,' too often willing to sacrifice public safety in defense of a political position, forgets or ignores the fact that defending public safety is the true intent of the amendment. 

The government cannot ban all firearms.  The Constitution forbids it, and armed citizens are indeed a protection against tyranny.

The intent of the Second Amendment is to protect the safety and security of the people of the United States by ensuring the continuing existence of militias. 

Militias are for the protection of the people.  Whether the enemy is a foreign power, or an invasion, or terrorists, or an illegal uprising, then militias can support the armed forces, much like the National Guard does now. 

But if the U.S. government becomes the instrument of tyranny, the militia can - when other remedies are exhausted - be turned against an illegal and despotic regime.

The Second Amendment is designed to protect the right of small groups of Americans, agreeing on the necessity and operating cooperatively as well-trained, disciplined militias, to protect the people from danger or if necessary to check the power of an out-of-control government. 

But notice:  The right to keep and bear arms in opposition to the government is intended to be exercised in communal response, by "well-regulated" militia, a group of citizens operating together in united opposition to tyranny.  Not by any individual angry at the government.  That way leads to anarchy.

The Second Amendment guarantees the people the right to keep and bear arms.  It suggests that this right shall be exercised, at least in part, in and through local militias.

This does not mean citizens can only have firearms that are kept by the militia in the armory.  The people have the right to “keep and bear” arms.  The people have a right to own firearms sufficient for their own protection.

This does not mean anyone can at any time for any reason, acquire and own any type of firearm he or she chooses.  Whereas the right of self-defense is absolute, the right of armed resistance resides with the militia, not the individual.

Can anyone on the political ‘Right’ reasonably argue that the Framers of the Constitution intended criminal or insane people to retain the right to firearms?  No.  Can anyone on the political ‘Left’ reasonably argue that the Framers of the Constitution intended that the government should be able to ban all guns from the populace? No.  The Second Amendment is a double-edged sword, cutting against political extremists of both persuasions.

The government can never ban all firearms, leaving the people helpless against enemies foreign or domestic.  Individual citizens who are neither criminal nor insane, who are trained and "well-regulated," retain the right to keep and own firearms.

Other than when acting in self-defense against an immediate threat, individual citizens do not have the right to act in armed rebellion against the government.

Well-regulated militias, operating as a communal or political entity in support of the greater good of the people, have the right to use armed force to check the power of an out-of-control government that is exerting power in unconstitutional ways. In concept, the well-regulated militia is much like the jury.  The jury exercises its legal power to condemn a criminal based on well-considered facts, the law, and the good sense of the jury members acting in unison.  The militia may exercise its power to take arms against a rogue government based on well-considered facts, the law, and the good sense of the militia members acting in unison. 

A good faith interpretation of the Second Amendment and common sense dictate that:

·          Government should not attempt to prohibit law-abiding citizens from owning firearms appropriate for their own defense.

·         Government has the right to reasonably regulate firearms in support of public safety.

·         Only well-regulated militias should keep firearms of sufficient power to repel invader, put down an insurrection, or take down a rogue government. 

In practical application this means that any citizen who is not a felon or mentally unstable should be free to own and carry firearms for self-defense. Any citizen should be able to own one or two or several non-automatic pistols or rifles.

In practical application this means that ordinary citizens may be prohibited from owning weapons so powerful that misuse by a criminal or insane person might result in catastrophic loss of life, injury, or damage to property.

A reasonable interpretation of the intent of the Second Amendment implies that militias may hold powerful weapons (including automatic firearms) to be used in training, well-regulated militia activities, and cooperative response to any threat to the general welfare.  However, ordinary citizens, unless specifically authorized due to position as military or law enforcement officer or unique self-defense needs, should not own automatic weapons.

It is difficult to decide which of the two extremes usually offered as our ‘alternatives’ is more dangerous.  Far to the political ‘Left,’ extremists have actually called for the repeal of the Second Amendment, a part of the original Bill of Rights adopted in 1791.  Once our government starts repealing amendments from the original Bill of Rights, we are doomed to absolute subjugation.  Far to the political ‘Right,’ extremists vilify anyone even suggesting discussion of this continuing threat.  Those people are willing to let innocents to perish as long as they are not personally inconvenienced or politically contradicted. 

Bottom lines:

·         Law-abiding citizens have the right to keep ordinary and reasonable firearms for any purpose.

·         Criminals or the insane may be denied this right by due process in defense of public safety.

·         Only well-regulated militias have the constitutional right to keep weapons of catastrophic potential, including automatic firearms.

·         Individuals retain their inviolate right to self-defense but an individual, acting alone, does not have the right to instigate armed rebellion against the government.

·         Well-regulated militias, operating as a communal and political unit, have the right to use armed force in an attempt to check the power of a government that has illegally and unconstitutionally assumed for itself tyrannical power.

The Preamble to the U.S. Constitution states the purposes for which the Constitution was written.  The Second Amendment is masterfully designed.  In one sentence of 27 words it describes a right and affirms a principle that provides legal basis for three distinct elements of the Preamble.  The Second Amendment is designed concurrently to insure domestic tranquility, provide for the common defense, and promote the general welfare.

Any questions?
- Gryphem

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

An Open Letter to Michael Bennett

Mr. Bennett, I have been a fan of you and the Seahawks for years.  I want to remain a fan.  More importantly, I want to get Americans working together to address serious problems we face as a nation.  That’s why I must write this letter.  It is not the “negative backlash” you said you expect in response to your national anthem protest, but it is an expression of a different perspective that I hope you will try to understand.

I respect you as a player and as a person.  I believe you are acting with good intentions when you protest.  Although I respect you I do not approve of the disrespect for our country(and the majority of citizens) that is implicit in your protest.

I share your aversion to racism, violence, and injustice.  We should by rights be allies in this struggle.  But when I see your protest I do not feel a connection with you and your values.  You may not have realized it, but when you refuse to respect our nation I feel your disrespect personally.  When any citizen disrespects our nation, that person implicitly disrespects himself, his own family and community.  We are all Americans. 

We all know the United States of America was not born perfect.  We are not perfect today.  Yet throughout our history one of our greatest strengths has been the ability to improve ourselves.  That was true in 1787, in 1865, and in 1964.  Whether it remains true in 2017 is yet to be determined.

You indicate that you were motivated to sit with a towel over your head during the national anthem, at least in part, by the riots in Charlottesville.  Your words seem to demonstrate that you equate the alt-right racists in Charlottesville with our nation as a whole, or perhaps with ‘white America.’  If so, you are wrong about that.  Every society has members who offend, victimize, oppress others, who generally act in contradiction of the values of the society.  The presence of racism does not make America racist.  It makes America a nation that is contending with racism.

Numbered among the citizens of this nation are some who have committed crimes including theft, slander, rape, treason, and even murder.  Should we refuse to honor the United States because some citizens have committed crimes?  Of course not.  Numbered among the citizens of this nation are some who are racist.  We should no more disrespect our nation because of these flawed individuals than because of thieves and murderers.  Racists are not acting on behalf of the United States of America.  They are in fact contradicting centuries of true American values.A  merica is not racist.  Racists are racist.

The United States was founded on principles of equality.  We didn’t get it right at first, of course.  That’s why we had to fight a war among ourselves to end the evil institution of slavery.  Later we extended citizenship and the vote to African-Americans, Native Americans, and women.  The struggle for civil rights continued a century after the Civil War and in some ways continues to this day.  But progress has been made, and improvement should continue.  Please do not blame racism on the nation that has enshrined your freedom in the Constitution.  Our United States government and our society are not the enemy.  This nation and its people should be your (our) greatest allies in the fight to make real the promise of liberty and justice for all. 

NFL National anthem protests do not improve our nation.  They do not bring us together.  They divide us.  They disrespect the nation and direct contempt toward institutions that exist to preserve and promote justice.  They direct contempt toward some of us who work day in and day out to promote equality among all people.  They create antagonism between groups and persons who should be allies in this struggle.

We will not solve problems by blaming each other, or the nation as a whole, for faults of the past.  We will not solve problems by blaming each other for the faults of a few.  We will not solve problems by disrespecting the nation for the unjust or criminal activities of some.  We will not solve problems by separating ourselves into factions and blaming each other.  We will only solve problems by working together as people of goodwill.We are all America. 

You say you want to encourage bridge building, not separation or hate. I believe you.  So do I.  You should know that the national anthem protests are creating big walls and resentments on all sides.  Is the message you intend the message that is actually being received?  I don’t think it is. 

You say you want to speak out against injustice?  Great!  Please do!  The problems you are trying to highlight are important, and I commend your desire to bring attention to these issues so that our nation can become more just and equitable.  Can we find another way to focus awareness and effort?  A way that will make all Americans of good will feel empathy rather than frustration, motivate them to cooperate rather than turn away?

Let’s please stop this flawed tactic and begin to improve justice and equality in America by working together.  Let’s recognize that the vast majority of American people of all races and ethnicities are really on the same side in this struggle. 

Adelaar Gryphem

Friday, July 28, 2017

Purpose or Profit

According to an article I came across on a reputable career-oriented website, new research shows that “having a purpose in life” significantly improves your chance of making a lot of money.

Okay, I can understand that.  People with a sense of purpose tend to achieve what they set out to achieve.  Why wouldn’t that tend to be true in the realm of finance as much as in other aspects of life?  Good so far.  

The article goes on to make some good points about why you’ll live a happier, more productive life if you have some goal or objective that motivates you.  

But then it gets weird.  The author seems to feel a need to justify why we should strive for a happier, more productive life.  Isn’t it obvious that ‘happy’ and ‘productive’ are worthwhile in and of themselves?  Isn’t it self-evident that having something to live for is a positive and life-enhancing condition? 

Apparently not.  In order to persuade us that having a meaningful life is a good thing, the author writes, “finding meaning in your life… leads to happier and more productive workers and more money. This is an equation we can all get behind.”

Oh, now we understand.  Now we can ‘get behind’ the purpose-driven life.  Now we can justify the purpose-driven life in financial terms.  Now we know having a purpose makes us a profit.  Now we can justify having a purpose in life because it increases our income. 

The twist from meaning to money leaves me dizzy.  I always thought people with ‘a sense of purpose’ tend to find happiness in something more ethically satisfying than a fat bank account.  I guess I was na├»ve. 

All sarcasm aside, I wonder if the author is actually aware of the unspoken axiom underlying her article:  The only higher purpose that is truly worthwhile is to accumulate as much money as possible.

Such a sad and ultimately dysfunctional approach to life.  Futile.  Utterly and ironically without meaning or purpose.  

Well, I wish success to my friends who find their meaning in wealth.  I am not optimistic, though.  Research notwithstanding, I predict that anyone who goes seeking purpose in life with the ultimate goal of making a lot of money will fail to achieve one of those objectives or the other. 


Friday, October 14, 2016

An Attempt to Silence the Opposition

Earlier this week the New York Times published the accounts of two women who allege candidate Donald Trump touched them inappropriately.  Candidate Trump claimed the article was “libel” and demanded an apology.  Following is the response from a lawyer representing the Times.  [Warning: strong language.]

“You write concerning our article ‘Two Women Say Donald Trump Touched Them Inappropriately’ and label the article as ‘libel per se.’ You ask that we ‘remove it from (our) website, and issue a full and immediate retraction and apology.’ We decline to do so.

“The essence of a libel claim, of course, is the protection of one’s reputation. Mr. Trump has bragged about his non-consensual sexual touching of women. He has bragged about intruding on beauty pageant contestants in their dressing rooms. He acquiesced to a radio host’s request to discuss Mr. Trump’s own daughter as a “piece of ass.” Multiple women not mentioned in our article have publicly come forward to report on Mr. Trump’s unwanted advances. Nothing in our article has had the slightest effect on the reputation that Mr. Trump, through his own words and actions, has already created for himself.

“But there is a larger and much more important point here. The women quoted in our story spoke out on an issue of national importance — indeed, an issue that Mr. Trump himself discussed with the whole nation watching during Sunday night’s presidential debate. Our reporters diligently worked to confirm the women’s accounts. They provided readers with Mr. Trump’s response, including his forceful denial of the women’s reports. It would have been a disservice not just to our readers but to democracy itself to silence their voices. We did what the law allows: We published newsworthy information about a subject of deep public concern. If Mr. Trump disagrees, if he believes that American citizens had no right to hear what these women had to say and that the law of this country forces us and those who would dare to criticize him to stand silent or be punished, we welcome the opportunity to have a court set him straight.”

Judge for yourself (1) whether this candidate is morally competent to serve as President, and (2) whether the basic freedoms guaranteed by the Bill of Rights would long endure under a Trump presidency.