Sunday, August 24, 2014

Erick Erickson: Erick Erickson: Idiot or Concern Troll? You decide

I read a discussion over at Hot Air Which was so stupid it made me dust off the old blog for another go around. When I read the source of the stupidity I found it to be so shallow and lacking solid thought, I half wondered if Erick Erickson wasn't pulling off some sort of elaborate concern troll.

BUT I will elaborate my reasons first.

The second was bringing Dr. Brantly and his co-worker back to the United States. The number of angry calls into my radio program from well meaning conservatives, comments across social media, opinion columns, agreement thereto, etc. really boggled my mind. Here are two Americans risking their lives to help others and we are supposed to turn our back on them, leave them there, or criticize their decision to go in the first place? That’s not the America I know or love. The level of outright anger, fear, and bitterness over the decision to take care of American citizens and the lack of knowledge and understanding that formed the foundation for the anger, fear, and bitterness really left me wondering what is going on.

Thats right folks some one who has been on the Internet for more then 6 months does not understand a fundemental rule of the Internet: Anyone can say anything they want to say on the internet, and will no matter how stupid that thing might be. The fact he runs a website that has moderated comments and he takes stupidity on the internet seriously makes me strongly doubt this entire article is a geniue hand rubbing by Erickson. Furthermore Erickson has a talk radio program. Talk Radio callers are picked for the most interesting nature (interesting being making people want to listen to the radio) nature of their comments. If Erick was truly concerned about those angry calls he would just not take them and not give their idiocy an actual soap box...which is what he is doing with his blog post here.

And at the end of this statement we see yet another reason not to take Erick Serious.

That’s not the America I know or love. The level of outright anger, fear, and bitterness.....

So as a so called Christian and Conservative thinker you encounter people who are lost from the idea of the America you all love instead of showing LEADERSHIP and being a LIGHT to others, you mearly rub your hands in woe. Ignorance about a disease is easy to fight. If you fight the ignorance you can deal with the fear and anger. And then you can discuss the debate about people walking into certain death being saved, to what end do we do that? There is value in that debate and their is substance in that debate. Do we encourage people to take more and more risks until we cannot help them. Is that a better alternative then not helping them. This is a perfectly valid and reasonable debate of ethics. It goes and takes a deeper look at morality and it leads to a deeper insight and thought.

To start, Christian conservatives were roundly assailed by other conservatives for daring to provide aid and comfort to children whose parents had shipped them across the border. Some could not distinguish between giving a child a teddy bear and supporting Mexican drug cartels. It was all one or all the other. In fact, many Christians, myself included, want expedited deportations and a secure border. But we also want to make sure the children, some victims of human trafficking, were taken care of, fed, and comforted.

But to some on the right, that is aiding law breakers. The anger and hysteria directed at conservatives engaged in private charity had all the makings of a leftist police state making us care about how we choose to spend our own money.

Latin American Countries have serious economic problems. And I want to take this deep case and use a famous analogy.

If your neighbor has a fire, you would take your firehouse and help him. But what if your neighbor always had fires and always relied on you to help them? Is that charity or subservience? Is that charity or is that dependency? In this case there are a variety of social and economic factors pushing illegal aliens into our country from Latin America. When faced with these challenges countries like Mexico (and others) provide aid to these immigrants going north. They do so because it prevents them from having to make a hard choice and hard reforms. Pass on the cost of their economic failures to their neighbor in the north.

Providing charity to suffering children in this situation is a valid response and I think a necessary response. But bad actions by state actors (on both sides of the border) have encouraged illegal aliens to migrate north. This charity will serve as a further encouragement for people to flee their countries rather than make them better. This will serve as a further encouragement to their "leaders" to encourage and help then go rather than to fix their country. Are we being penny wise and pound foolish with our generosity? That's a valid debate to have. Is the debate being engaged in a productive manner: Absolutely not.

The last is the present situation in Ferguson, MO. The rush to win a fight and lay blame instead of mourning a loss and praying for a situation just leaves me perplexed. The rush to “change the narrative” with bad facts to replace bad facts by some folks who keep the ichthys on their car unsettles me.

The Conservative movement is far from united here. But as in the above comments there is a valid debate to be had, just a debate that is served by people who would rather hand wring then engage it constructively.

In the 60s-80s Conservatism embraced Law and Order as a response to the social permissiveness that seemed to encourage crime. (And it may encourage crime but there are far more sociological factors involved in crime for a blog to do them justice). Many bad people who were doing bad things were put into jail even into the 90s. A dear friend of mine reminds me that Superman I with Christopher Reeves spoke of the power of crime that infested New York City. Even an upscale reporter like Lois Lane had 5 or 6 chains on her door. In the 1990s the efforts of Law and Order Conservatism bore their fruit. Violence and crime were in a massive decline and the police were heroes. Crime is still lower then it was when we embraced as Conservatives Law and Order. The problem with Wars of Social Policy is they are wars that can never end and their soldiers continue to fight them. We have seen the "Warrior Cop" and the rise of "Total Information Awareness" to try to provide a total and complete security for the American People. Such an absolute never exists and promotes a sense of paranoia about the world in the soldiers set to protect us. And over time that Paranoia leads to serious errors in judgement.

Errors in judgement that lead to events that happened in Ferguson. We can mourn the loss of a human life, but a mourning for a stranger is less important in this then embracing an anger at what has become of those heroes who liberated us from the world of the first Superman movie. The concern of the movement should not be about prayer (but praying for peace should be vital) but it should be about spreading knowledge, and bringing about intellectual clarity in the conservative movement so we can apply that clarity to the problems we face.

What do we get from Erick Erickson and Ed Morrisey? Hand Wringing and concern trolling of the first order. The problem is not one of conservatives wanting to be uncharitable, its a problem of is being charitable a constructive response or a response that will make problems worse? Lets have that discussion.

Monday, May 26, 2014

The Elliot Rodgers story was interesting enough for me to crank open Blogger

I stopped blogging a while ago, because what I used to use a blog for no longer really interested me or drove me. But something on the internet happened worthy of my commenting on.

A troubled young man in California killed a bunch of people with firearms

Was he mentally ill? Probably, but not to the standards that the law uses to determine guilt or innocence. He allegedly had Aspergers, but I tend to find that diagnosis often a very dubious one.

I want to talk about what the news and events are making me think about in my head. Thats the great thing about the internet you can publish a rant, screed, or manifesto and no one will stop you. In the case of Elliot Rodgers no one may even read it until you gun down a group of people.

We live in a world fighting among tensions of Independence and Interdependence. The Angst he felt that lead him to take an act of violence is found in the fissure between these two forces.

I remember a brother of a former roommate when he came to visit us. He, I, and my Roommate's girlfriend were all sitting and having some good social time. My roommate's brother questioned her on if she had any single girlfriends she could help me date. He came from an older school in this country (and one we see in Asia and Latin America.) If a good young man is single, and a good young woman is single that's a problem you as the community of friends around them need to help them with. This sense of community and interdependence existed here until the 60s and 70s.

Then the experience of finding a relationship became more individualized, commercialized, and commoditized. The fact it did this during the time period we tended to view such things as "bad" in society is at best a unintended consequence and most likely comes from a negligent attitude we have towards social policy.

This same tension between Independence and Interdependence we see at play in places of crime and violence. Not only at the local level but at a global level. From the 1920s to Present Islamic Extremism is about people who feel unable to control their lives and be able to live the type of lives that they want because a broader community ostracizes them from that life. Being unable to self-actualize or live their own true life they resort to violence to get the power to change their life. You see people in a colonial frame of mind looking at the people who take their resources (of value like oil) and shipping them north. They see a power in drugs and use that power to assert violence and control. To live a life in dignity.

You see people who live in a community where the social nexus (their church) tells them that society is devilish, that the people (who are different from them) in society are devilish, and that trying to succeed in that devilish society makes you devilish. Is it any wonder such people seek to rebel against the society they view as wicked and deny any respect or dignity to the people or things in that society?

Communities when focused on power and control become corrupt. That power and control may be in singling out those who are "wrong" or it may be in maintaining their internal power by promoting a pessimism of the mind that destroys the humanity of those it is fed to and promotes in them an attitude that seeks to destroy the humanity of the other.

I am reminded of a great sage's words when I think of that.

"If I am not for myself, then who will be for me? And if I am only for myself, then what am I? And if not now, when?"

The tension between the Individual and the community has been with us for a long time.

But Rabbi Hillel's words (in refrence to this particular social disorder) point me in this direction

#1: If I am not for myself, then who will be for me?

If you cannot respect yourself, no one will ever respect you. If you cannot seek to better yourself no one will treat you as well as you want to be treated.

#2: And if I am only for myself, then what am I?

While we must center ourselves on G-d and ourselves if we are only in such a enclosed space you lose your humanity. If you only represent your own needs at the expense of others you are not behaving as a human being should.

#3: And if not now, when?

If you are not going to respect yourself now, when will you respect yourself? What will it take for you to treat yourself with respect and Dignity? Will it take others to do it for you? (and as we already see in his first point they wont...). If you cannot be one in a community of others what is stopping you?

"That which is hateful to you, do not do to your neighbor. That is the whole Torah; the rest is commentary. Go and study it."

Rabbi Hillel was pointing that the central point of G-d's law is to start your interactions with others based on a sense of human dignity. and starting that dignity with yourself. You know what you hate, you know what drives you to despair... doing it to another is wrong and is against the world g-d wants us all to live on. The rest of the Torah (or the broader social order implict in the Torah) is commentary. At a foundation this is to teach us how we must not treat others badly, based on what we know to hurt ourselves.

And if we do not treat ourself with respect, others will instinctively feel we do not respect them (because we are incapable of respect for ourselves). And in that position we repeat something we view as hateful to ourselves in every interaction we make.

It is this venom that Elliot Rodgers drank daily.

I am not going to say I understand the hate and pain that made him kill people, I don't understand it anymore. But it took the great collapse of the world that happened in 2008 ( a collapse I feel we have not yet recovered from, and still have much to pay for) I finally came to a place where I understood the desire to do the most ultimate form of violence -suicide-. So I cannot say that the emotional/social/psychological/spiritual despair he felt which lead him to killing is beyond my intellect.

The loss of Community and Family as institutions as our society has atomized itself more and more leaves people like Elliot Rodgers isolated and alone in the world. And sometimes those people feed on their own venom. Elliot Rodgers found other people who were just as hurt and just as lost to share venom with.

We as a society need to rebuild our communities and families. We need to stop drinking the bitter cynicism our post-modern (or as one of my professors once called it post-post modern) society nurses on and begin to promote that which is good and has value in our world. We should build a better world on the duty to make the world a better place then it was given to us.