Saturday, February 28, 2015

Michael Sam and the Veterans Combine

They, the gay rights advocates, want so much for it to happen don't they? They and their supposedly objective media allies want Michael Sam to become the first openly gay American football player so badly that they simply must play up (no pun intended) any chance he has to get into the NFL. You can read about his latest attempt to enter the manly man's sport here: http://www.si.com/nfl/2015/02/27/michael-sam-nfl-veteran-combine?xid=aol_home&icid=maing-grid7%7Cmain5%7Cdl9%7Csec1_lnk2%26pLid%3D620572

Apparently Mr. Sam has been invited to the veterans combine, where players beyond the college draft go for tryouts which might prove them worthy and able of roster spots on American football teams. And he has to make it, you know. Someone somewhere must want him because, well, he's gay, and it must be proven that gay guys can be on equal footing with anyone else in everything else.

But why? If he's so comfortable with who he is, what does he have to prove? If the media and the general society are so all right with openly gay men being among them why must there be an openly gay man in the National Football League?

Because they (the media) aren't all that comfortable with who those people are. Nor is Michael Sam all that comfortable with who he is quite frankly. The need to prove one's self is all too often little more than a reflection of an inferiority complex. People comfortable with themselves rarely feel the need to prove anything to anyone. Yet those uncomfortable with themselves are always waving flags and calling attention to themselves. It's because they know deep inside that what they support isn't right.

That's just human to a degree. But it ignores the idea that being too concerned with perception might only make us too aware of our faults. We can't help but suspect that both Michael Sam and the media know in their hearts that they go against the grain not because of their cause but, rather, because they know they are not right about themselves. Because they know that what they support and who they purport themselves to be is something errant. And they can't accept that. They can't accept that they are indeed human and might be wrong. That would subject them to having to rethink and change themselves. It's too much of a blow to their ego to accept the truth: they are indeed human, and could indeed be wrong about their perceptions of themselves.

And here we thought conservatives were so absolutist and unyielding. You learn, if you're truly open to new ideas, something new every day.

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Freedom From the Afterlife no Bargain

We believe it was Jean-Paul Sartre who opined, roughly anyways, "If there is no afterlife, then the only honest response is despair". Maybe he said it, maybe it didn't. But the point behind the idea is quite true nonetheless. If there is no afterlife, then all that we do, every single thing that we do in this life, is for naught and devoid of meaning.

You don't think so? Then, dear friend, you delude yourself. If making this world a better world, whatever that means, entails doing what you can when you're here, well, all of that can be undone very easily. Much of what has happened in history was readily outwitted by events after the principals had died. But it won't matter to you any way you slice it. You will be out of existence, with no say in the matter. Your work, your life, will disperse into the mists of history, wafting away as the steam from your morning coffee. No one will notice, at least least once your generation passes. And you too will be forgotten. Every nonentity will be released from memory. Everyone's memory.

You fight for freedom, eh? Yours, or someone else's? As it is, that indeed may serve you well. While you're here. If we leave everyone else alone you can be left alone. It sounds profound. Annoying profound, perhaps, because it really stands for nothing more than what you want. If there is nothing beyond your human frame, then what you want seems rather petty, if you give it a moment's thought. It's nothing but a great sounding idea tied to a caramel latte. It seems great, yet is quickly gone. Freedom within decay, freedom with no bounds or construct, isn't freedom. It is at best reaction to nothing more than animal desire.

We aren't pessimists. We're optimists. But we can't help but see our atheistic, agnostic friends as naive at best. We feel that their philosophy, whether freedom loving or socialistic, must at its root be pessimistic because it isn't based on anything but what they happen to want, for their own selfish pleasures. If that isn't the basis for pessimism, what is?

In the meantime, we will keep trying to do what is right because its right. We will keep believing in people because they have a dignity which is beyond modern times. It is there because, one way or another, people last forever. If you can't believe that, well, don't believe it. It's your funeral.

Saturday, February 21, 2015

How to Think Well

The people who are the most bigoted are the people who have no convictions at all.
G. K. Chesterton

Ayn Rand, though a very entertaining author, has her philosophical flaws. But if she is right about anything, she is right about this so far as it goes: you must have a philosophy to live by or you will have no bearings for judging your actions. You will have no way of interpreting what to do or when to do it.

Too many people lack this. Set aside for the moment whether any given philosophy is right. That is surely the next question to ask, but it isn't the point just now. The thrust of today's commentary is that a framework is necessary for us to determine the value of our life's, in fact even of our daily, work. Certain frameworks will prove to be wrong; indeed we suggest that there can only be one right set of guidelines when all is said and done. But again, we are veering from the issue at hand.

Rand says, if we remember her correctly, that if you do not discipline yourself towards thinking about things at the least within a context of ideas which you take as a given, you will eventually merely wander from day to day, from idea to idea, and find yourself eternally at the influence of other forces without regard for what you may actually want or need. You will discover, if the thought ever actually develops in your mind, that you have not become an individual of any value. You will be a sheep. The time of slaughter will one day consume you, as you will have no way of defending yourself from it.

Or something worse will happen. You would become a petty little dictator, self assured that all that you do is itself the standard of right and wrong. And why not? You would be at the point where whims and passing fancy will guide you, or, more correctly, you will be the flag proudly fluttering in the wind, too proud to know that it is the air which unfurls you and not your own knowledge or will. As the breeze fades and dies, so do you. And what will be seen of you as you are opened to the world?

So you need a philosophy. You need some way of determining whether the people and events around you are evolving into things useful or things destructive. You need coherency in your life. You need to, in the words of that old saw, stand for something lest you fall for anything. This approach may well leave you standing for the wrong things in the end. Still, your only chance of being found by the just and true lies in the firmness of your stance.

Monday, February 16, 2015

Presidents Day 2015

Today is Presidents Day. We are expected to celebrate our Presidents, even the ones who weren't that good or memorable. And we do that at the expense of the ones who truly do merit a certain reverence. Washington, Lincoln: you guys are as good as Millard Fillmore or James Buchanan.

To be fair, the official holiday is still known, at the federal level, as Washington's Birthday. That is how it should be. The importance of General Washington to our history simply cannot be overstated; it is widely held by historians that we would not have survived as a nation without his leadership. His demeanor, the respect he commanded: he was the one person Americans would unite under, and they did.

It is not fair to his memory that we are now expected to think of all the men who served as President. Many of then simply don't merit the recognition no matter what they may have sacrificed in gaining the office. It is not fair either that the Monday Holiday Law bounces Washington's Birthday around for the sake of convenience. Further, it is not fair that such days are marked more by sales, weekend trips, and days off work more than for what the holiday is supposed to represent: a reflection on important even ts and figures in our history.

Try doing that, instead of or before whatever else you want to do today. Think about what Washington means to our being here this day. Read a passage about him, even if it's simply on Wikipedia. Take a second and look at a dollar bill or a quarter and reflect on why we would put the image of an old general on our coinage. Remember while you do that that our ability to do all the things we take readily for granted are only so because of the work and sacrifice of men like our first President, and be even for the moment grateful.

Then go ahead and do what you like. We suspect that the General himself would approve of it.

Sunday, February 15, 2015

Obamacare and the Nanny State

Today is the day. If we may borrow from the soothsayer and adapt his warning to Caesar to fit an anxious American public 'Beware the ides of February'.

Okay, we're slightly beyond the middle of February. But we're close enough to the middle of the month that we feel we can get away with it. Today is the day where you must have health coverage or pay a penalty. The penalty is...well, we don't care what the penalty is, because the real issue isn't about penalties. It's about government overreach. It's about the eventual totalitarianism where the nanny state must, in the end, become manifest. And it is manifested in Barack Obama and John Roberts.

See? There are no independents in the nanny state. A Democratic President and a Republican Chief Justice of the Unites States Supreme Court have agreed that if you don't have health insurance you can be compelled to buy it, or suffer tax penalties. Take that, heathens who don't think government can cure all ills.

That's how the nanny state solves problems. You don't have something it believes you should have? Well, then, we'll order you to get it. Soon after that, we'll order you to eat your vegetables.

We are not arguing that having health insurance, or eating your vegetables for that matter, are not good ideas. They are. But if health care is all about issues between the doctor and the patient (and their religious leader, if we may be so bold as to once more implicate the political left in its hypocrisy) then on what grounds can the government order you to have or do something which you may not need? Indeed, on what grounds can a moral government order you to do or not do anything beyond what is obviously and directly dangerous to an, ahem, healthy body politic, such as prohibitions against murder and theft? And even then we see that the mere prohibition or encouragement at times will fail. Still, at least such laws reflect a greater truth wherein human beings are expected to respect other human beings in their natural and reasonable rights.

What respect is there in an order to do what may be unnecessary, and therefore up to the person to decide if they want it?

We'll leave the answer to that question to you. But, having asked it, we will give you our answer. The ACA and its supporters in the Supreme Court if not the larger body politic are tyrants of the worst kind: arrogant bureaucrats and general busybodies in the guise of Mary Poppins. King George would be proud of you both, Mr. Obama and Mr. Roberts. And of your political supporters, even and especially those who voted for you, Mr. President.

Sunday, February 8, 2015

Canada got this one wrong

Canada through its Supreme Court has struck down anti-assisted suicide laws. Many US States have or are considering doing so as well. A set of twins in Belgium, where euthanasia is legal, were allowed to be euthanized on the grounds that their lives were destined to be intolerable. They had been deaf since birth and were going blind but were not terminally ill or suffering physically. They simply could not stand the thought that they would lose further communication with the world and each other.

To have a basic human sympathy for their plight is understandable. Yet to think it all right for them to die merely because they feared the future says something even more about their outlook on life, and of the real value of human life that societies which allow euthanasia actually hold. It says that a human life can be judged not worth living for any reason at all, even such a one as inconvenience.

Yet all lives have their inconveniences, don't they? All lives have pain and suffering, or, at least, ample opportunities for horrible conditions. If someone at some time can end their life simply because conditions grieve them, then shouldn't we all end our lives as they will all at times and invariably be hurtful? Are not all of our lives, strictly in terms of suffering, not worth living? What point is there to suffering anyway, again strictly in terms of suffering?

Did anyone say Helen Keller to these guys? Why do you have to have full command of all your senses in order for your life to have value? Does it show a defect in American society and the broader world that we (generally) do not allow euthanasia? Or does show a defect in those who want to be euthanized? It's a fair question to ask, no matter how many folks may think it crudely put. Is it okay to kill someone, even yourself, merely because you don't like your life for any reason?

We euthanize animals, don't we? Yes, but essentially because they are not sentient, they are not self aware. They do not have the obvious gifts which human beings do. They are below us. Their lives do not and cannot have the meaning ours can and do. They react; we reflect. We have an idea of the value of life; they do not. Equating people with the lower animals only goes to prove our point further: too many in modern times simply do not believe that human life has a dignity which badgers and beavers do not.

Did you have a choice in being born? No? Then why should you think you have a say in when you die?

We are not talking here about people taking actions, soldiers, for example, which might result in their death. They are not willing themselves to die but are rather willing to risk death for a cause greater than themselves. We are not mere animals; we are sentient, thinking beings on a much higher level. The voluntary risk of death by some is in fact a recognition that there are things about human society which must be preserved. Why? Because of our right to life, and our responsibility to live well and rightly.

In the end, our lives are not ours anyway. If so, we would have willed our births and not simply have had them foisted upon us. As it is, it is below the dignity of human life, even a willing human life, to kill itself merely to avoid anything, even suffering. Our lives are not so shallow as to be ended as with the dumb animals. Assisted suicide as such is not justice. Further, it does not reflect respect for the dignity of human life in any way, shape or form. It is killing a human being. Killing one. Society dresses the issue in prettier language simply because to state in in plain English might cause people to actually realize the evil inherent in such acts.

It is evil to pretty up death by suicide. Especially selfish ones which are below our intellect.

Saturday, February 7, 2015

God to Stephen Fry: what's this pretense to intelligence?

If the British actor Stephen Fry were to meet God he would have little consideration for Him other than disdain. "What's this about bone cancer in children?", he would demand of the Almighty. So he said in an interview a few days ago. You can see it here: http://www.theguardian.com/culture/2015/feb/01/stephen-fry-god-evil-maniac-irish-tv

Now before you get too hot and bothered about such impudence, and we can certainly understand your feelings there, let's keep in mind two things. One, Mr. Fry is not asking God such questions for information and enlightenment but rather as an attack without a care about truth and rightness. He's made up his mind that God (if He exists) is a jerk and that's that. Fry isn't looking for truth. He's looking for a straw man to support his preconceptions of an all powerful being.

But point two is the one upon which we must expound. Let's be fair, friends: it is okay to ask God questions, even questions which at first glance may seem impertinent, if we indeed ask them in search of understanding. In that sense, it's okay to ask even of God what about bone cancer in children?

Any God worth having can answer that. The short answer by the way is this: philosophically, no creation can equal its creator. A man might create a chair, but the chair is certainly not equal to the man. It can't be: the man simply cannot give all of himself to something else. Ergo God, being perfect, can't give His perfection away because He can't give all of Himself away. This must mean that creations, being less than their Creator, will be imperfect. And that means that human bodies will suffer problems: they can't maintain themselves perfectly. It helps to stress that this is a philosophic and not theological point. It can be accepted and understood by the seriously religious and the scientist equally if each are willing to be reasonable.

Would Stephen Fry care to address that point? We doubt it, because his mind is made up: God is contemptible. Yet we Christians are the close minded bigots in the western world.

Sunday, February 1, 2015

Super Bowl 2015

Football combines the two worst things about America: it is violence punctuated by committee meetings

- The Wall Street Journal

Today is Super Bowl Sunday, that day not really a holiday yet feels like it just the same. It should be a fun day, and that's all well and good. But for those of you who think that all the hoopla makes football America's game, here's a bit of medicine for you.

It's not.

There is no denying that football games in general and today's match in particular carry with them a lot more drama than a June baseball game or a November hockey square-off. Yet there's need to jump to conclusions: if there were only 16 to 19 baseball or hockey games per season per team, you would get a tremendous amount more hype for every one of those too. It's the numbers, or, rather, the lack of them, which appear to make football more appealing to the sporting masses than the other games. To borrow an idea from the economists, simple supply and demand tell us that the fewer there is of something the greater the interest.

Look at the facts: for all the talk about all the excitement in each game, there's barely ten minutes of actual play. There again, the point can be made that, as there is a lot less going on than in most games, each play means more. We see that the rare numbers are what manufactures importance rather than actual play.

Still, go ahead, have your party and eat too much and hoist a cold one. But remember that it is the high atmosphere which creates the excitement, and not the game itself.