Abolishing the Electoral College is Not a Good Idea

Many years ago, I used to think that abolishing the electoral college was a good idea. To be honest, I felt that way for the majority of my life. But that was until I studied more about the history and purpose of the electoral college, and then I slowly came to realize that even though situations like 2016's election debacle are a distinct possibility, our existing electoral system actually makes a lot of sense.

The following videos came out over a year ago, and they explain not only why the electoral college is essential when trying to prevent a candidate from only focusing on specific states with high populations, but also why the abolition of the electoral college would have drastic outcomes.

Do You Understand the Electoral College?
The Popular Vote vs. the Electoral College

To summarize these two videos - doing away with the electoral college sounds like a good idea when you're upset at the results of an election, but it's really not.

That being said, the word which best describes most Americans after this year's election is "angry." And I get it. You're probably angry. I'm angry. Millions of people are angry. This year's election sucked.

But that being said, impassioned and uninformed responses are not the best way to bring about the changes which our electoral process so desperately needs. If people really want to make a difference, they need to encourage the Democratic Party to abolish their ridiculous system of "Super Delegates," which is what helped HRC to unfairly steal the DNC's nomination from Bernie Sanders, who most-likely could have defeated the Drumpf.

Some Thoughts About Freedom

An acquaintance of mine recently posted the following image to Facebook, which has rapidly become the central repository for all sorts of stupidity:

anarchists-are-idiots

Just for perspective, I have traveled to other countries where its citizens cannot build a house - ever.

Or drive - ever.

Or go fishing - ever.

Or do pretty much anything they want - ever.

These unfortunate souls often have to work 7 days a week for less money per month than our minimum wage workers make in two hours. But most-importantly, these citizens cannot speak their mind about how messed up their country is - ever.

Unlike the dude who created that meme.

The schmuck who created that image has no idea just how many personal freedoms he actually has; so now he takes his over-privileged life for granted and believes that a few inconveniences in a free society are some sort of bondage.

What an ungrateful idiot.

 


UPDATE: See 7 Harsh Realities Of Life Millennials Need To Understand for more information; especially point #4.

What I see on Facebook all day now...

This is what I see every time I log into Facebook now:

Facebook Person 1: "Your candidate is terrible!"
Facebook Person 2: "No, your candidate is terrible!"
Facebook Person 1: "My terrible candidate is nowhere near as terrible as your terrible candidate!"
Facebook Person 2: "No way! Your terrible candidate is more terribler!"
Facebook Person 1: "Not a chance! Your terrible candidate is the terriblest!"
Facebook Person 2: "Whaddabunchacrap! Your terrible candidate is the most-terriblest terrible candidate EVER!"

Blah, blah, blah... Can we get back to people posting hideously-insecure "If you're my friend you'll repost this" drivel and ridiculous urban legends which are easily refutable on Snopes? Isn't that really what FB is all about?

[Deep Sigh.] Sad smile


UPDATE: I recently found the following image which sums up my sentiments exactly:

FacebookArgument1
FacebookArgument2
FacebookArgument3

Politics, Plagiarism and the Press

To be honest, I could care less about the Trumps, or the Clintons for that matter. From my perspective, this is going to be a lousy election year. But that being said, the amount of attention that a single, stupid, and seemingly-insignificant speechwriter gaffe is generating in the press and social media these days is enough to make me want to hurl. (Although I will admit to finding #FamousMelianaTrumpQuotes pretty amusing; almost as much fun as #BrianWilliamsMisremembers.)

In case you've been living under a rock for the past 24 hours, the following article should catch you up on what happened at the Republican National Convention (RNC) yesterday; Melania Trump's speechwriter lifted a handful of phrases from a speech by Michelle Obama at the Democratic National Convention (DNC) eight years ago:

The Melania Trump Plagiarism Scandal
https://www.plagiarismtoday.com/2016/07/19/melania-trump-plagiarism-scandal/

The above article does a good job of pointing out just how much was copied, which amounts to around two paragraphs in which Melania Trump's speech was either substantially copied or paraphrased from Michelle Obama's speech. In my college days, if I had used the same level of copying or paraphrasing in a term paper without proper citation, the best-case scenario is that the entire paper would have been rejected, and the worst-case scenario is that I would have justifiably received an "F" in the class. However, as the above article points out, Melania Trump is not alone in the recent history of presidential campaign plagiarism.

To begin with, and what is most amusing to me, is that the same speech by Michelle Obama at the 2008 DNC leveraged a few phrases from Saul Alinsky's "Rules for Radicals" book without proper attribution, although to be honest I think those few phrases were probably added by Michelle's husband since he was a big fan of Alinsky's work. (However, if someone wanted to be as obnoxious as everyone in the press is being today, one could make the argument that Melania Trump's plagiarism is simply carrying on a tradition of campaign speech misappropriation by potential First Ladies which was first established by Michelle Obama.)

Nevertheless, if the gaffe in Michelle Obama's speech was indeed the fault of her husband's, that would not be too surprising, as Barack Obama has often quoted other authors' works in the past without proper attribution. Here are just a few examples:

Obama by the Numbers: Twice-Told Tales, and Nine in a Row
http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2008/02/19/AR2008021902342.html

Obama's State of the Union Was Tantamount to Plagiarism
http://www.usnews.com/opinion/blogs/alvin-felzenberg/2011/01/26/obamas-state-of-the-union-was-tantamount-to-plagiarism

The Obama Plagiarism Scandal
https://www.plagiarismtoday.com/2008/02/20/the-obama-plagiarism-scandal/

Bush speechwriter accuses Obama of plagiarism in State of the Union
https://www.yahoo.com/news/blogs/sideshow/bush-speechwriter-accuses-obama-of-plagiarism-in-state-of-the-union-143818874.html

You might be tempted to take the following video with a grain of salt based on its origin, but it does do a good job of showing the levels to which Barack Obama (or his speechwriters) will go when leveraging other people's speeches:

When Obama Plagiarized Speeches from Deval Patrick and John Edwards
http://youtu.be/H6pDCvXNVTE

And of course, I could go on about John McCain, Rand Paul, Ben Carson, and a host of others, but let us not forget Joe Biden, who seems to have made a career out of plagiarism. I love how Joe Biden not only stole material from other people - he actually stole other people's life stories and substituted them for his own. He also fabricated his academic records, and eventually his web of intentional deceit forced him to drop out of the 1988 presidential race. Of course, Biden went on to become the Vice President later, proving to future generations of politicians that outright plagiarism will not necessarily be the end of your career. Nevertheless, here are just a few articles about Biden's many transgressions:

The Write Stuff? Why Biden's plagiarism shouldn't be forgotten.
http://www.slate.com/articles/news_and_politics/history_lesson/2008/08/the_write_stuff.html

Biden Admits Errors and Criticizes Latest Report
http://www.nytimes.com/1987/09/22/us/biden-admits-errors-and-criticizes-latest-report.html

Biden Admits Plagiarism in School But Says It Was Not 'Malevolent'
http://www.nytimes.com/1987/09/18/us/biden-admits-plagiarism-in-school-but-says-it-was-not-malevolent.html

The Biden Plagiarism Scandal
https://www.plagiarismtoday.com/2008/08/26/the-biden-plagiarism-scandal/

All of this is just to say, a lot of people in politics have plagiarized other people, and the frequency with which it occurs does not make it right. However, from where I am standing it seems as though the way in which today's press has latched onto this single incident with such venom while essentially giving a multitude of other offenders a free pass is more than a little lop-sided. I guess we can see which candidate the mainstream media has chosen, as they have done in the past.

To be honest, nothing in this mini-scandal is going to do anything to sway me any more against either candidate; at the moment, the following image seems like my best option. And just to make sure that I give credit where it is due, I am pointing out - for the record - that I plagiarized it from someone else.

Giant Meteor 2016

 

 

 


POSTSCRIPT:

The following information was interesting, albeit somewhat outside the original scope of the blog, so I intentionally omitted it from my main narrative. However, I thought that it was worth adding to the end of this post. In an odd turn of events, Barack Obama has also been accused in the past of plagiarizing from Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., who in turn was guilty of plagiarizing other people:

Boston U. Panel Finds Plagiarism by Dr. King
http://www.nytimes.com/1991/10/11/us/boston-u-panel-finds-plagiarism-by-dr-king.html

So the saga of Melania Trump quoting Michelle Obama who quoted Saul Alinsky has a rich tradition in politics. Perhaps nothing is original anymore?

Open-mouthed smile

Obama at Hiroshima

I have seen a great deal of Internet chatter over the past 24 hours regarding President Obama's speech at Hiroshima, with the central theme for most of the comments being a condemnation for any attempt by a United States President to apologize for dropping atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Before I continue, let me make two facts perfectly clear: 1) I am no fan of President Obama, and 2) I fully support President Truman's decision to end World War II as expeditiously as possible. Let me address those two points out of order.

The second point in my introduction is difficult for many people of this generation to understand. Years of revisionist historians have deluded the weak-minded into a semi-apologetic state with regard to the decisions which were made in the latter years of the Second World War in order to quickly bring that conflict to a definitive end. By the summer of 1945, WWII had been raging for six years. Over 70 million people had perished as a result, and Japan's personal contributions to those death tolls were in the millions. However, the Empire of Japan impudently refused to surrender despite all indications of its imminent defeat. As a result, the U.S. would have had no choice but to invade Japan as it had done for Europe, and the war would have continued for several years. The expected number of military and civilian Japanese casualties which would have occurred as a result of such an invasion varies greatly depending on the source, but the numbers are generally in the millions; with the most-conservative estimates of at least one million per side of the conflict. So if we were to hypothetically assume a 'lower' number of just one-half million Japanese casualties as a result of an invasion of Japan, (and that number is excessively low by almost all estimations), then hundreds of thousands of Japanese lives were spared by bombing Hiroshima and Nagasaki instead of invading. While I agree that arguing in favor of mass destruction seems counter-intuitive, the fact remains that a lower number of deaths is a preferable outcome - even if you are comparing a quarter-million to a million.

That being said, the first point in my introduction should be self-evident. To put it mildly, President Obama has been a bad president; he has managed to consistently bungle both domestic and foreign policy. All of the goodwill from countries around the world who celebrated with the United States upon the election of our first African-American president has evaporated as President Obama's misguided policies have continued to erode world-wide opinions of our once-great nation. When regions of our country erupted with racial violence, President Obama is the one man who could have stepped in and asked all sides to lay down their arms and restore peace. This was President Obama's single-greatest opportunity to behave like the President of the United States, and having done so he could have created a lasting legacy. Yet he did nothing. In short, President Obama has consistently failed in his duties and responsibilities to this country.

All of this brings us to President Obama's actions during this last year of his presidency; he is desperately searching for what will become his "Legacy." Like most presidents, he wants to be remembered for the good that he has done, and he needs something monumental to overcome his many shortcomings as president. His recent overtures to the Communist dictators still in power in Cuba are a perfect example of the levels to which his political distress have plummeted; attempting to normalize relations with an out-spoken Communist-ruled country which possesses Cuba's horrific human rights record is unconscionable. (In past years I have spoken with political refugees who have fled that corrupt and inhuman regime; the sufferings of Cuba's people have been abominable, and to recognize the Castro dynasty as legitimate nullifies its victims' anguish.)

So it hardly came as a surprise to hear that President Obama intended to become the first sitting U.S. President to visit Hiroshima. As I mentioned earlier, he needs something significant by which to make himself remembered. And yet, I was immediately suspicious as to what he would say. Neither common sense nor the presence of facts to the contrary have ever stopped 'Great Liberal Minds' from apologizing for things about which they should not feel remorse. As such, it was with a small sense of trepidation that I watched President Obama's speech at Hiroshima earlier today.

Despite my admitted dislike for President Obama, I listened to his entire speech - and not just the sound bites which opposing Talking Heads have been posting. In addition, I vowed to keep an open mind as I listened. As a result, I did not see any part of President Obama's discourse where he "apologized" outright, nor did I necessarily consider any of his statements vague enough to be misconstrued as an apology. That being said, his speech was often redundant, naive, and simplistically idealist in nature.

Yes, war is evil.
Yes, many lives were lost in WWII.
Yes, peace is a good thing.
Yes, no one should ever use another atomic weapon.

I think everyone understands those ideas without having them drowned in waves of political rhetoric. But to be fair, some might argue that even though these these concepts are a given within civilized societies, they still need to be expressed. Perhaps that is so. However, those thoughts would have been considerably more palatable had they not been voiced in such a long-winded fashion. It took President Obama 17 minutes to convey a series of ideas which should have been whittled down to a five-minute speech at the most.

But the one thing which I heard that was truly deplorable was President Obama's continuous pontification about the need for peace in the world, yet his personal track record on the subject is atrocious and hypocritical. President Obama ascended to his office built on the empty promises that he would end U.S. participation in the wars throughout the Middle East, and yet he has continued to escalate the various conflicts, and through his mismanagement of declining situations he has made matters arguably worse in most areas of that region. I could go into detail about ISIS, Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, Israel, Syria, etc., but those subjects are really outside the scope of this blog.

However, what is within the scope of this blog is the president's continuous escalation of drone-based bombing campaigns. Personally, as a veteran I am openly in favor of killing terrorists with minimal risk to U.S. personnel, and unmanned drones fill that role quite nicely. That being said, President Obama cannot wax poetic about the necessity for peace and the end of bombing campaigns while simultaneously sanctioning innumerable bombing campaigns throughout the world. Such behavior is deceitful and duplicitous.

In the end, perhaps this is where President Obama may ultimately find his legacy. When several decades have passed and the dust of history has settled on his presidency, Obama may be remembered simply as 'The Great Hypocrite.'

Election 2016

I've decided that I'm voting for this guy this year...

Geddy for President

Don't put him down as arrogant. (Unlike some other candidates,)

 

PS - Yeah, sure he's Canadian, but since when has a lack of citizenship slowed down anyone's chances for candidacy? Smile

We Need Less, Not More Idiots

A friend of mine recently posted the following video from Jacob Appelbaum on Facebook:

"We Need More, Not Less Democracy"

I have a lot of problems with this video, and I would love to go through this speech line by line and address each ridiculous point that Appelbaum makes, but that would take more time than I have available. Granted, Appelbaum makes some valid points in this video; for example: "We will not bomb Syria [or any other country] into peace - at best we may bomb it into submission. Submission is not the same thing as peace." This is true, however - submission as an alternative to war is still a palatable solution for many people, but I digress.

That being said, when you set aside a few bright points, you quickly realize that for all his flowery rhetoric, Appelbaum is an idiot. For lots of reasons. Here are just a few.

Appelbaum is an idiot because he naively believes that spontaneous peace erupts in the vacuum that would exist if a war suddenly ceased. There are a million things wrong with that argument. First of all, Appelbaum's point of view presupposes that everyone wants the same things that he wants, whether that is "peace" or something else. However, Appelbaum is too shuttered behind his self-imposed exile of naïveté to realize that - even at the most-basic level - everyone has different definitions of peace and security. This difference of opinion has led to wars in and of itself - here's a simple example: some people foolishly believe that peace means "no war" for everyone, but it doesn't. For some people the word "peace" means removing the possibility that there may ever be another war, which typically means disarming everyone. While universal disarmament sounds attractive, many people justifiably lack the faith to believe that peace will continue to exist, and therefore disarming means that they will be ill-prepared in the event of another war, which threatens their sense of security. Because of this all-too-realistic expectation, when one nation is told to disarm, they might choose to say "no." So what can the rest of the world do when faced with this situation? The remaining nations can choose to: 1) do nothing, in which case the world will have a heavily-armed nation which is waiting for the next dictator to gain power and start a shooting war, or 2) forcibly disarm that nation, which means that everyone is going back to war in order to promote peace. Yes - everyone laying down their arms forever would create "peace" by the textbook definition, but that peace will not last. Someone sooner or later will want something that someone else has, and no amount of socialism, or communism, or redistribution of wealth, or any other left-leaning solution will ever alleviate that fact. If we managed to somehow create a world in which everyone's essential needs were met - e.g. food, shelter, security, health - someone will still "covet their neighbor's wife." That is human nature. We should still strive to provide food, shelter, security, and health for everyone, but we need to provide these things under the full knowledge that no matter how equitable we try to divide whatever resources are available, everyone will always have a different definition for what is "fair." And that's how wars begin.

Appelbaum also fails to realize the logic (or illogic) of the adversary in this situation, which I will explain based on my years in the intelligence services. Nations of the west are perceived as "wrong" by certain non-western nations because the west believes things that go against non-western points of view. A case in point is freedom of speech, and examples of how this difference is perceived has manifested itself in the acts of terrorism at the Charlie Hebdo offices in Paris and the art exhibition in Garland, Texas. In both of these cases, artists believed that it was their right to express themselves through their art, whereas other people believed that it was their right to kill these artists for expressing themselves through their art. (Yes, you can blame radicalized religion in this specific instance, but that doesn't matter - the same situation will present itself for dozens of other root causes that have nothing to do with art or religion.) However, in this specific situation, the attackers believed whole-heartedly that it was their right to open fire, because - from their perspective - the artists fired the first shots in this "conflict," and as such the attackers were justified to retaliate against the west. However, because the attackers genuinely believed that they were responding to provocation, they believe the west is wrong if it chooses to retaliate. And if the west retaliates, the attackers are once again entitled to bomb, kill, maim, etc.

What Appelbaum is too naive to realize is that you cannot reason with enemies who believe that they have been attacked and therefore allowed to retaliate when you have not actually attacked them. Appelbaum foolishly believes that with enough diplomacy and "democracy," the opposition will magically realize the wisdom and logic of his arguments, but that's simply not the case. When Appelbaum says stupid things like, "We need more, not less democracy," he is clearly assuming that democracy is a gift that is wrapped up with a pretty bow and found under a religiously-appropriate form of ritualistic foliage at a certain time of year. Don't get me wrong, I'm very pro-democracy; but when some nation doesn't want a democracy, what is Appelbaum going to do about it? Force democracy on that nation? If so, then he's at war again. If a nation has a despot in power but the bulk of its people want a democracy, what is Appelbaum going to do about it? Encourage their rebellion? Train their rebels? Take sides when civil war erupts? If so, then we're looking at another political quagmire like the dozens of intrusive maelstroms in which the United States has been embroiled (or has created) all over the world. This is - once again - the trouble with idiots like Appelbaum; they believe that democracies happen spontaneously with no wars or loss of life, and that's just not the case. Revolutions are often protracted and painful; liberty comes at an extreme cost.

On a complementary point of view, Appelbaum is also an idiot because he genuinely believes that if everyone stopped fighting, the terrorists would suddenly stop acts of terrorism. This is a very, very foolish belief, and many a conquered civilization throughout the history of the world has believed that refusing to fight means the other side will stop fighting as well. That is NOT the way that human nature works; a potential adversary who also happens to be a pacifist is simply an easy target, and not a laudable peer. Martin Niemöller was a noted theologian and pacifist in the mid-twentieth century who adequately summed up the inevitable effects of pacificism when he wrote, "First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out - because I was not a Socialist. Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out - because I was not a Trade Unionist. Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out - because I was not a Jew. Then they came for me - and there was no one left to speak for me." Niemöller's comments were certainly meant to express his sense of self-condemnation for refusing to help out when he had the opportunity, but Niemöller's attitudes at the time were a direct result of a prevailing sense of anti-war pacificism that was sweeping across Europe prior to WWII. Many thousands of people at that time believed that peace at all costs was the only answer, and these people are directly responsible for the Nazis gaining power throughout Europe. Chief among these pacifists was Neville Chamberlain, the British Prime Minister during the 1930s, who foolishly believed that if the world simply gave Hitler everything he wanted, (through a program called "appeasement"), then Hitler would eventually stop asking for more. Chamberlain's naïveté is equally as condemnable as Appelbaum's. (The latter of the two being a petty academician who has never actually had to face the prospect of war, and therefore he can safely pontificate about his unrealistic visions of the world from the security of what he thinks is an ivory tower, but it's really a house of cards.)

Another sheer indicator of Appelbaum's idiocy is his circular arguments about the failures of the world's intelligence services and the need to reduce the amount of government surveillance. Appelbaum is too stupid to realize that these are not exclusive concepts: if you want the world's intelligence services to succeed, that means you need more surveillance. If you want more privacy, that means the world's intelligence services will not succeed. Period. Note that this does not mean that I personally advocate more government surveillance; I am simply aware of the fact that intelligence services do not succeed where there is no data to analyze. To suggest reducing the amount of surveillance data while condemning the lack of intelligence results is a really stupid thing to do. But then again, considering that the source of this suggestion is Appelbaum then stupidity is a given by this point.

In the end, most of Appelbaum's arguments are circular, and he's too stupid to realize it. He has an admirable level of passion, but he obviously lacks the intellectual wherewithal to grasp the basic concept that the rest of the world does not see itself as he sees it. To restate what I said earlier, everyone has different definitions of what constitutes peace, security, fairness, equality, justice, etc. These are ideals, and we should certainly strive for them, but we need to do so with the full knowledge that there will always be wars, insecurity, inequality, injustice, etc.

Consider the following quote John Stuart Mill:

"War is an ugly thing, but not the ugliest of things: the decayed and degraded state of moral and patriotic feeling which thinks that nothing is worth a war, is much worse. When a people are used as mere human instruments for firing cannon or thrusting bayonets, in the service and for the selfish purposes of a master, such war degrades a people. A war to protect other human beings against tyrannical injustice; a war to give victory to their own ideas of right and good, and which is their own war, carried on for an honest purpose by their free choice, is often the means of their regeneration. A man who has nothing which he is willing to fight for, nothing which he cares more about than he does about his personal safety, is a miserable creature who has no chance of being free, unless made and kept so by the exertions of better men than himself. As long as justice and injustice have not terminated their ever-renewing fight for ascendancy in the affairs of mankind, human beings must be willing, when need be, to do battle for the one against the other."

Ultimately, war is an evil concept envisaged by evil people, but conversely peace without consequence is most-often a stupid concept embraced by stupid people. War has it's place, and peace has its place; and sometimes you paradoxically need one to have the other.

Jury Duty

I received the following notice for jury duty in the mail a few days ago, (although I edited out all of the actual personal data before posting it here):

I am somewhat ashamed to admit that the first thought which came to mind was:
"Crap. I do not want to do this."

The second thought that came to mind was: perhaps I shouldn't be so quick to dismiss my 'Civic Responsibility.' I am eternally grateful that I am a citizen of the United States, and trial by peers is one of our cherished legal rights which is not available in other countries around the globe.

But over the ensuing days I thought about this a little more, and I began to form the opinion that I have already fulfilled 2,973 days of civic responsibility during my time in the military. Now, for those of you who have never served in our nation's armed forces, you may think that is an unfair attitude. But let me be very clear: during my eight years of military service, the Army owned my life 24 hours a day, and it often made good on its possession. I spent hundreds (if not thousands) of hours working in abhorrent conditions in obscure areas around the planet which the average person doesn't know about, and I did so at any hour on any day - regardless of the weather, physical discomfort, or extended separations from loved ones. During my tenure in uniform I endured countless nights trying to sleep in a makeshift lean-to in subzero temperatures, scorching desert heat, and torrential downpours. I also missed dozens of holidays, birthdays, anniversaries, etc. So believe me when I tell you - we veterans have already done more than our fair share for society. With that in mind, I started to think that all honorably-discharged veterans should be exempt from jury duty.

But then again... as I continued to ponder the subject, I began to think about what the impact to society would be if we exempted all veterans from jury duty.

As I watch the news, I am amazed at the lack of responsibility that is so prevalent in North America. When someone does something bad, they generally refuse to accept responsibility for their actions. But when society attempts to punish a person who has done something wrong, large-scale riots break out in protest. When these riots inevitably destroy cities, their apologists claim that none of the rioters were at fault - it is their 'oppressors' who are the evildoers. But the worst part is - if someone is ever taken to trial for their part in these tragedies, the courts often let the guilty parties go without punishment. A group of defense attorneys were able to successfully use the following defense: "They were simply part of a mob; individual actions do not matter."

Well - let me be perfectly honest: I do not share that opinion. I whole-heartedly believe that if a person screws up, they are personally accountable for their actions; I do not care about the actions of any moral degenerates who may have been surrounding them at the time. If you individually break the law - you are individually guilty. Period. And when you are punished, it is not the arresting officer's fault - it is your fault. (Likewise, if you are pulled over for speeding, it is not the police officer's fault if you get a ticket; you broke the law, so you have to pay the fine.)

In the end I came to the following resolution: even though I may not want to give up a day of my life to serve on a jury, perhaps I need to. Our society desperately needs more people who are not afraid to use the word "Guilty" when it needs to be used. So even though I will undoubtedly be bored for most of the day, I will be bored with a better attitude.

 

PS - If you are a lawyer who is selecting jurors and I'm in the pool of potential peers, I believe everyone is guilty of something. Food for thought. ;-)

Thank You Obama and Boyd for Demonstrating Your Historical Indifference: It is Far Worse Than ISIS or Christian Violence

Someone I know posted a link to the following blog by Greg Boyd on Facebook. The title alone piqued my interest, and because I like to keep an open mind, I read it with genuine curiosity.

Thank You Obama for Denouncing "Christian" Violence: It is Actually Far Worse Than ISIS

This article was obviously written in response to President Obama's recent comparison between the barbaric practices of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) and the actions of Christian Crusaders from centuries ago. President Obama was speaking at the annual National Prayer Breakfast, which is hardly the appropriate forum to make such a comparison, but just to set the mood for this discussion - here are the president's exact words from Mr. Boyd's blog with regard to the recent spate of murders that have been committed by ISIS:

"Unless we get on our high horse and think this is unique to some other place, remember that during the Crusades and the Inquisition, people committed terrible deeds in the name of Christ."

President Obama has taken a considerable amount of criticism from Christians for that statement, and at face value that criticism might seem justifiable. However, that particular sentence is being taken out of context, which makes it somewhat difficult to evaluate on its own. To be fair to President Obama, here is a more complete quote from his speech, which adds a little more depth to his earlier statement:

"So how do we - as people of faith - reconcile these realities? The profound good, the strength, the tenacity, the compassion and love that can flow from all of our faiths - operating alongside those who seek to hijack religions for their own murderous ends; humanity has been grappling with these questions throughout human history. Unless we get on our high horse and think this is unique to some other place, remember that during the Crusades and the Inquisition, people committed terrible deeds in the name of Christ. In our home country slavery and Jim Crow [were] all-too-often ... justified in the name of Christ."

By including the quote from President Obama within the context of his original discourse, his intended meaning does not seem to suggest that he possesses an anti-Christian ideology like most pundits are proclaiming. To be sure, President Obama's speech was poorly-worded and poorly-delivered in what was probably the poorest choice of locales. But what is worse, the President's examples are poor history, and while I could easily expound on the foolishness of his revisionist narrative, I will gladly refrain from doing so in favor of simply addressing Greg Boyd's equally lamentable indifference to the history of Western Civilization.

To begin with, it is sheer lunacy for anyone to attempt to draw a comparison between the actions of present-day terrorists with the actions of uneducated, Medieval warriors from 1,000 years ago. I whole-heartedly acknowledge that quite often the actions of the Crusaders were horrific and condemnable, but those actions took place many centuries ago and there is nothing that can be done about those atrocities now. However, the world can do something about the atrocities that ISIS is currently committing. For those reasons alone, making a comparison between these two sets of objectionable behaviors is completely ludicrous. In fact, making such a comparison is even worse if you hope to garner some degree of sympathy for ISIS, because comparing their current behavior with those of the Crusaders would seem to suggest that the members of ISIS have failed to evolve during the past 1,000 years. Christian armies are not currently marauding across the Middle East and oppressing the innocent - but ISIS currently is. This means that Europe and other Western Cultures have obviously moved past what is considered by many to be a dark period of religious dominance, imperialism, and intolerance, even though ISIS remains fully-engaged with theologically-sanctioned slaughter.

But let us set aside the comparison between the behaviors of two disparate cultures that are separated by a millennium. Instead, let's look at a few important historical subjects. But before I continue, I need to stress that I do not know Mr. Boyd personally. He could be a great guy, and I mean him no disrespect. However, based on his discourse he seems willfully dismissive of history. His rhetoric consistently employs a very common argument that I often hear about the Crusades, which is this: when you want to portray Christians badly, simply bring up the Crusades, regardless of the fact that nearly 1,000 years have passed since that time. While I agree that Christians should not attempt to ignore the atrocities of the Crusades, it is also true that anyone who wants to bash Christians by mentioning the Crusades desperately needs to get some new material. If the best that you can do is to bring up something from the Middle Ages, you really need to rethink your argument.

With that in mind, if you were to believe Mr. Boyd's blog - which would be a very foolish thing to do - you could easily infer that the Crusaders were a bloodthirsty mob which ravaged the Middle East on a quest for glory at the expense of the peaceful Muslims which inhabited the region. Nothing could be further than the truth, and it would seem that Mr. Boyd is simply regurgitating the uninformed drivel that was passed down to him as a by-product of his higher education.

Let me briefly step back in time to frame this historical discussion, and it is completely necessary for me to paraphrase a narrative from Jewish Scripture in order to put a few things in perspective. It is very important that you realize that I do not mean for anyone to believe the story that I am going to relate - you are welcome to believe that this is a fairy tale which is best reserved for Sunday Schools. But it is absolutely essential for you to understand that the inhabitants of the Middle East believe this story, which serves as an ancient foundation for unrest in the region.

According to Jewish Scripture, in approximately 2000 BC, God promised to give a son to an aging Abraham and his wife Sarah, and from that son God would make a great nation. However, when Sarah could not conceive a child, Abraham and Sarah grew impatient. So they took matters into their own hands, and Sarah offered her handmaiden, Hagar, to Abraham. Hagar had a son with Abraham, and she named the boy Ishmael. Many years later, Sarah gave birth to a son, whom she named Isaac. When sibling rivalry ensued between Ishmael and Isaac, Sarah insisted that Hagar and Ishmael be sent away. Hagar took her son and left as instructed, and when she felt certain that she was doomed to die in the desert, God spoke to her and told her that her son, Ishmael, would also become the father of a great nation. (Genesis 16:1-18, 21:8-21, and 25:16-18.)

As I said earlier, you need not believe the preceding story as historical fact, but you need to understand that many inhabitants of the Middle East believe it to be true.

With that in mind, the present-day Jewish population of the Middle East traces its heritage back to Isaac, and the present-day Muslim population of the Middle East traces its heritage back to Ishmael. The descendants of Isaac believe that they are the true inheritors of God's blessing to Abraham, and therefore they are the heirs to God's promises for a great nation in the Middle East. They base this claim on the fact that God made His promise to Abraham and his wife, Sarah, and not to Hagar. Conversely, the descendants of Ishmael believe that they are heirs to God's promises for a great nation in the Middle East because Ishmael was the first-born son, and according to regional traditions of the time, the first-born son has the principle inheritance.

Leaving aside the Jewish and Muslim Scriptures, the kingdoms of Israel existed for several centuries, although many of those centuries were spent enslaved to other kingdoms which had conquered Israel. When the Jewish revolts of the first century AD failed, Jerusalem was sacked by the Romans in 70 AD, and the kingdom of Israel ceased to exist. Many Jews and Christians fled Judea, (this exodus was called the Diaspora), although considerable numbers of Jews and Christians chose to remain in the area despite their loss of national identity. As Christians made their way throughout the Mediterranean and European regions, they faced tremendous religious persecution due to their unwavering faith and subsequent refusal to convert to the religions of their host countries. Christian pacifism led to their widespread slaughter and martyrdom, although eventually their example of "turning the other cheek" and forgiving their aggressors won over the hearts of their oppressors. When emperor Constantine embraced Christianity in the 4th-century AD, Christianity became the official religion of the Roman Empire, and thereby most of Europe. In addition, the ancient city of Jerusalem was under Roman rule, and therefore it passed peacefully to Christian control, (or more accurately to Byzantine control). In short, Christianity spread throughout Europe based on a lack of aggression, and not by violent overthrow.

Jumping ahead a couple centuries, Mohammed rose to power based on proclamations that he was the last prophet of God. Mohammed asserted that - as a direct descendant of Ishmael - he was heir to the kingdom that was promised by God to his forefathers, and anyone who followed him would be part of that kingdom. At the age of 40, Mohammed began to preach the message of Islam publicly, and he soon began a campaign of military conquests throughout the Middle East to spread Islam through violent oppression (Jihad). To Muslims, each new conquest was not new territory to them - they were the rightful heirs based on their promised inheritance. As they conquered each region, any non-Muslims residing in the conquered territories were offered few fates: forced conversion to Islam, paying the jizya (which is mandatory tax on non-Muslims), enslavement, or death. (It should be noted that the jizya is little more than an early form of a "Protection Money" racket, where non-Muslims are paying for their 'protection' from Muslim harassment.)

The stark contrast between the first centuries of Christianity and the first centuries of Islam is incontrovertible; early Christianity triumphed through pacifism and forgiveness, whereas early Islam conquered through violent subjugation. A series of Muslim rulers spent the next several centuries rampaging throughout the Middle East, Northern Africa, and Southern Europe. By the start of the second millennium AD, Jihadists had brutally conquered much of the Mediterranean region. (As the Muslim armies made their way through the Middle East, Jerusalem was one of their most-prized conquests.) In each region they conquered, the existing Jewish and Christian populations were confronted with the fates that I mentioned earlier: conversion, jizya, enslavement, or death.

After centuries of militaristic aggression, the armies of Jihad stood poised to conquer all of Europe. When faced with that possibility, the European nations banded together under the Crusades and - with the Pope's blessing - set out on the First Crusade to halt the advance of Islam and retake Jerusalem. In this particular instance, one could rightly make the argument that the Pope - and thereby the Christian Church - had no just cause to promote warfare based on the theological tenets of their religion. However, the political situation of the time must also be considered; European leaders were often preoccupied by wars between their countries, and therefore they could seldom agree on any unifying purpose - even when their inaction might result in their own destruction. By rallying the individual nations for a single cause - however misguided or misrepresented that may have been - the Pope managed to unite the disparate European nations to join together and thereby preserve Europe from Islamic domination.

I should mention, however, that Mr. Boyd attempts to play games with his English vocabulary when he suggests that the Christian-affiliated armies were not called "Defenders," but rather that they were called "Crusaders" because they were consumed with offensive actions rather than defensive actions. I disagree - they were called "Crusaders" because they were sent out by the Pope and they believed that they were on a "Holy Crusade." Their mission actually was - at least in part - to defend Europe. For Mr. Boyd to make such an assertion - especially as someone with a Ph.D. - is rather poor form.

For the sake of reference, the following video illustrates the staggeringly-large scope of Islamic conquests over the centuries, and it compares that with the relatively minor impact of the Crusades; I highly suggest that you watch the video before you continue reading.

Jihad versus Crusades

As you can see in the video, for several centuries the Muslim armies wreaked havoc across the entire Mediterranean region - where they routinely slaughtered or enslaved the native populations of each territory. In contrast, the Crusades were a collection of relatively minor skirmishes. What's more, after the First Crusade, most of the subsequent Crusades were abysmal failures which have done little more than to serve as the foundation for Muslim hatred of Western interference in the Middle East.

However, it must be reinforced that the Crusades were not a situation where a group of Christians woke up one morning and decided to march to Jerusalem and kill its peaceful inhabitants; the Crusades were launched as a reaction to centuries of violent oppression at the hands of invading Jihadists. It should also be repeated that Christians facing persecution in the first centuries of Christianity won over their oppressors by following the tenets of their religion: pacifism and forgiveness. While the Crusaders may have embarked on their journeys with the blessing of the Pope, that did not mean that they were actually Christians, nor does it mean that they were following Christian Scriptures. In fact, the opposite is true; the Crusaders were going to war in direct opposition to Christian beliefs.

On that same thought, much has been said of the condemnable actions of the Crusaders when they sacked Jerusalem: the invading Crusader armies killed Muslims and Jews throughout the city, which is hardly following the foundations of the Christian faith. However, that method of warfare was true for all conquering armies of the time; the Muslims behaved in a similar fashion when they conquered new territories, as did the Persians before them, and the Romans before them, and the Greeks before them, etc. The nature of warfare until recent history had always been that of systemic slaughter. While it does not excuse the behavior of the Crusaders, you must consider their actions in light of their time period and their society - their actions were neither worse nor better than the Muslims whom they were conquering. In a similar manner, when the Muslims retook Jerusalem, thousands of Crusaders were slaughtered.

Having expounded on the history of the Crusades long enough, there are literally thousands of better examples of violence that were committed "In the Name of Christ" that would have made both Mr. Boyd's and the President's statements considerably more valid. For example, I would consider the centuries of bloody wars between Catholics and Protestants in the wake of the Reformation even more apropos as discussion points for their position. But that being said, choosing the Crusades as a fodder for their arguments simply displays a wanton disregard for historical accuracy.

When considering Mr. Boyd's and the President's other examples, I have to agree - the Inquisition was inarguably a horrific episode in Christian history. But once again - the people engaged in torture and genocide were not following Christian Scripture. To restate my earlier premise, there is a world of difference between claiming to behave "In Christ's Name" and actually following Christian teachings. However, that does not excuse the actions of the Inquisition, nor does that absolve true Christians for failing to bring an earlier end to the Inquisition, (although many Christians died in their attempts to do so). Likewise the people who abused Christian Scripture to justify years of slavery and Jim Crow laws where decidedly un-Christian in their behaviors, and it should be noted that thousands of genuine Christians spent several decades fighting against those who justified slavery and racism based on false interpretations of Scripture.

The behaviors of false Christians are what led Gandhi to say, "I like your Christ, [but] I do not like your Christians. Your Christians are so unlike your Christ." Or, as Brennan Manning once summarized, "The greatest single cause of atheism in the world today is Christians who acknowledge Jesus with their lips and walk out the door and deny Him by their lifestyle." In other words, when people claim to follow Christ and do not follow Christ in their actions, they are not Christians, and they easily confuse non-Christians who cannot tell the difference.

As I mentioned earlier, committing atrocities on behalf of Christ is a violation of the core principles of Christianity. Over the two millennia since the foundation of Christianity, countless despots have justified their actions by claiming that they acted "In the Name of Christ," or they have convinced others to follow their orders based on a personal revelation from God. There is a section of dialog from the recent movie The Book of Eli which illustrates this concept perfectly; in one particular scene, the film's antagonist describes the Bible in the following manner:

"IT'S NOT A @#$% BOOK! IT'S A WEAPON! A weapon aimed right at the hearts and minds of the weak and the desperate. It will give us control of them. If we want to rule more than one small, @#$% town, we have to have it. People will come from all over, they'll do exactly what I tell 'em if the words are from the book. It's happened before and it'll happen again. All we need is that book."

Carnegie (played by Gary Oldman), from The Book of Eli (2010)

Even though the film is purely fictional, this statement has a ring of truth to it; many people have abused Christianity for their own, selfish ends. That does not make them Christians, and their actions are easily identifiable as contrary to the Christian beliefs of forgiveness and pacifism. Conversely, Islam was founded as a "Religion of the Sword," where violent subjugation of non-Muslim peoples and places was foundational to the spread of that religion. There is an irrefutable difference between the two religions in that regard, and to compare the two is utterly ridiculous - with one exception: condemnation of their evil actions. Those who commit evil in the name of Christianity are acting in opposition to the tenets of Christianity, and their acts are to be condemned. Likewise, those who commit evil in the name of Islam - even if they are acting in accordance with the tenets of Islam - are also to be condemned. Evil is evil - regardless of the motivation.

In a savage turn of events, Mr. Boyd probably owes his physical existence to the Crusades, for without the Crusades the marauding armies of Jihad would more than likely have conquered all of Europe. And since each of us is the by-product of thousands of chance encounters between our respective ancestors, it is very likely that a Muslim conquest of Europe would have altered the face of Western Civilization to the point where someone in Mr. Boyd's family tree would never have met someone else, and as a result he would not have been afforded the opportunity to dispassionately persecute the actions of the Crusaders from the relative safety of the religious freedom that has been afforded to him by centuries of sacrifices on his behalf.

Just the same, it wouldn't hurt if both President Obama and Greg Boyd brush up on their history before they attempt to draw a comparison between the actions of 21st-century terrorists and 12th-century Crusaders. Because in the end, trying to compare the two simply makes them look silly.


Update: I discovered the following op-ed piece after I had published this blog; it's a great read on this subject: Obama's Morally Confused Prayer Breakfast Lecture