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

I Cannot Believe I'm Saying This, But...

There has been a great deal of babbling going on in the press about Sony's last-minute business decision to pull the almost-released movie The Interview before it hit the theaters. In Sony's defense, their actions were based on pressure from anonymous sources which were threatening to harm theater-goers.

Hollywood was quick to respond, of course, claiming censorship, threats to expressive freedoms, and violations of the First Amendment. Hollywood's reaction is hardly surprising, of course, since Hollywood routinely hides behind the First Amendment whenever they have done something wrong – whether it's undressing children in public in films like Moonrise Kingdom or favorably portraying sadomasochistic serial rapists in movies like Fifty Shades of Grey.

But all of this is an indication of something that is broken in Hollywood; people in the entertainment industry do not trifle with frivolous matters like right versus wrong; they are far too busy trying to turn a profit. It's kind of like Richard Oppenheimer describing the creation of the atomic bomb; he was so obsessed with the potential success of the project that he never bothered to consider the eventual outcome.

With that in mind, let's think about the content of The Interview for a moment. This is a movie about assassinating the current leader of an actual foreign country. Sony could have made this movie about a plot to kill the fictional leader of a fictional country, but they chose to make their target a real-life person who is currently the head-of-state for one of our most-condemnable adversaries. But what is worse is that this movie is not an action flick starring Jason Statham, Dwayne Johnson, Vin Diesel, or even Arnold Schwarzenegger – this is a comedy, which means that Hollywood is so self-absorbed that it hasn't bothered realize that it is taking the subject of a real-life assassination plot against a foreign national leader and turning into some kind of joke. What country wouldn't be offended when the cold-blooded killing of their chief executive is portrayed with such obtuse indifference?

Look at it this way, what if ISIS made a film where they sent the Middle Eastern equivalents of Harold and Kumar to the United States as part of a plot to murder President Obama? After Americans got over the initial shock that ISIS was somehow organized enough to create a movie, they would be appalled at the subject matter, and even more so that it was some sort of joke to our enemies. Why should Hollywood get a free pass just because we all think the Communists in North Korea are a bunch of thugs?

Let's consider another example: what if Russia made a movie about Lee Harvey Oswald, where they hired someone like Jim Carrey to portray Oswald as a bumbling idiot who was sent by the KGB to assassinate John F. Kennedy? Or how about an example that hits even closer to home: what if someone decided to make a comedy about the recent deaths of Michael Brown or Eric Garner? No one would in this country would remotely consider any of those tragedies for their comedic movie potential; every American would find all of those storylines morally reprehensible, degrading and disgusting.

I deplore North Korea's retaliatory actions against Sony just as much as the next person, and you cannot honestly expect the world to believe that the United States would take no actions in retaliation if the shoe was on the other foot. However, even though Hollywood jet-setters have been quick to speak out about CIA and NSA abuses, they pat themselves on the back and hold themselves above contempt when it comes to their own decisions. But just because we detest a petty dictator who is sitting on the throne of our enemy, that does not give Hollywood the right to mock his assassination in order to make a quick buck.

I'm sorry Sony, but the underlying plot of this movie was wrong. And I can't believe I'm saying this, but you should apologize to North Korea for your callous stupidity.

Communism Is Stupid, And So Are The Environmentalists Who Believe In It

A friend of mine recently posted the following article to Facebook:

Climate Movement Drops Mask, Admits Communist Agenda

I have to admit, I had never heard of the PJ Media website before, and at first glance it appears to be pretty right-leaning from a political perspective. With that in mind, I expected the article to be someone's paranoid and sensationalistic tirade about left-leaning environmentalists. But that wasn't the case; the article was full of real-world examples of just how stupid some people can be.

Before I go any further, I have to confess that I am pro-environment. I think that our current society is ignoring the irrevocable damage that it is causing, and most people are simply turning a blind eye to the situation because they think that disregarding the problem will not have any negative impact during their lifetime. That simply isn't true. The wanton destruction of vast portions of the globe in the last few decades has shown us that a few years of greed and neglect can cause irreparable harm to the environment. However, I also believe that our efforts must be tempered with common sense and actual scientific evidence to back up our actions. I do not ascribe to fear mongers on either side of an environmental argument; I want facts, not opinions. And when the facts do not support a hypothesis, I do not believe that "The Ends Will Justify The Means," so it is not acceptable to tell a lie in the hopes that the future will eventually prove you to be correct.

So - what does all of this have to do with Communism? In the article I mentioned above, the author attended a large Climate Change Rally in California, and he is shocked that the prevailing message is to overthrow the current government of the United States and supplant the existing political system with Communism. The justification for this hardline approach is the theory that capitalism is the single-greatest cause of environmental damage, and if we simply switched to Communism then the world would evolve into a blissful, global utopia.

And this is where I am obliged to interject - once again - that these people are morons.

Apparently these Communist apologists have failed to study the recent past of Communism, which has the worst track record in history when it comes to the environment. (Communism's environmental atrocities pale in comparison to the glaring humans rights violations and the millions of people who were slaughtered in the name of Communism throughout the 20th century, but I digress.)

I was living in Germany in 1989 when the years of Communist rule had finally brought the Eastern Bloc nations to the point of collapse, and the people in power were forced to open their borders to the West by millions of people who took the streets in unanimous protest against Communism. (An important lesson here is that millions of people who were forced to live under Communist rule rose up and overthrew their oppressors, whereas the article that I listed in the beginning of this blog illustrates the actions of a few hundred misguided people who somehow think that adopting a political system that everyone else opposes will somehow make their lives better. The word "ludicrous" comes to mind.) In any event, once the borders were opened, we were finally able to enter countries of Eastern Europe that had been closed to the West due to decades of Communist imprisonment and isolationism. What we saw was appalling - the Communists had trashed the environment beyond what the west could have surmised, and the damage was so great that I heard one prominent political figure from West Germany declare that it would be better to simply bulldoze all of East Germany into the sea rather than attempt to clean it up. Across the country the water was heavily polluted, acid rain from coal plants was destroying the forests, and most of the cities suffered from horrible pollution due to a complete lack of emissions filtering for transportation and power stations.

However, the actions of Eastern European Communists are not isolated incidents; one need only look at Communist China for a myriad of environmental atrocities. Moreover, the perpetual damage to Russian resources like Lake Baikal, Lake Ladoga, and the Aral Sea by the former Soviet Union cannot be undone. Communism does not breed environmental awareness; it completely ignores the environment. Forasmuch as California's Communists would try to urge everyone to rise up and overthrow their government in the name of environmentalism, those same fools are fighting a system that has done more for the environment than almost any country in history by regulating pollution, creating National Parks to preserve millions of acres of pristine wilderness, and countless other deliberate actions.

Could the United States do more to protect the environment? Yes, it could. We should be doing a lot more to help cut down on pollution, to use our existing resources wisely, to cut our dependency on foreign oil, and to research alternative methods for creating energy.

Is the political system of the United States free from corruption? Of course not. Any system is a by-product of its individual parts, and we have way too many people whose actions are more about personal gain than about caring for the rights and property of the people and environment that they are sworn to represent.

Is Capitalism free from corruption? Certainly not. The old Biblical adage that "the love of money is the root of all evil" is an apropos observation for much of the Capitalist world. Where there is money to be made, people will often chase after ever-elusive profits while ignoring the consequences of their actions. This leads to environmental disasters, and it leads to economic meltdowns like the Great Depression of the 1930s or the more-recent 2008 Recession. Capitalism has enabled people in power to drive multi-billion-dollar corporations into the ground, leaving thousands of their loyal employees out-of-work with no retirement savings, while the people who caused such debacles walk away with multi-million-dollar severance packages. These scenarios are also atrocities that should never happen again, although they are somewhat outside the scope of this blog.

In any event - in a free society, we are not powerless to act when see wrongs being committed; we have the freedom to do something about it. We can write about it, we can march in protest, we can push for legislation to make things better, etc. In a closed society (like Communism) you do not have the freedom to do anything about it. The Communist system controls every part of your life, and any form of dissention will be quickly suppressed.

With that in mind, I reiterate my earlier claim that anyone who suggests overthrowing our current system of government and adopting Communism in order to save the environment is a blithering idiot.


PS – For more information, here are some good articles about Communism's track record with the environment:

How Hippies Destroyed America

Someone recently posted the following image on Facebook, and even though I know they were simply trying to be amusing, I found it highly offensive... (for reasons which I will explain in a moment).

hippies-are-vermin

Unfortunately, posting an image such as this reveals how little someone actually knows about how much damage "Flower Power" and the so-called "Love Movement" did to America. While hippies may have been right about some things, (like environmental responsibility and ecological activism), they were dead wrong about most others. Here is a brief summary of a few of the lasting effects that the single generation of 1960s-era youth had on society: an out-of-control drug culture, the unchecked rise in numerous sexually-transmitted diseases, hundreds of thousands of PTSD cases of veterans traumatized by counter-culture attacks, and the embarrassment of our nation in the eyes of the rest of the world.

When you follow the emergence of the hippie movement, it is one that outwardly preached living in harmony with all of society, and yet inwardly its actualization was one of extreme selfishness and unbridled, destructive power. Timothy Leary's invitation to "Turn On, Tune In, Drop Out" encouraged a generation of youth to abstain from any semblance of civil and moral responsibility in favor of seeking personal, self-centered desires. In the span of a few short years, the hippies managed to negate nearly all of the hard-won victories of our country's "Greatest Generation," (those who banded together to survive the Great Depression and win the Second World War). Our country descended from an industrious world leader populated by hard-working, family-oriented citizens to a vicious brood of misguided, distrustful, lazy, addicted, self-worshippers.

Like much of the hippie movement, the so-called "Summer of Love" is something of an oxymoron, because it achieved the opposite of its intended goals. When thousands of lost youths descended on the Haight-Ashbury district of San Francisco, they did so with bold proclamations of free love, uninhibited creativity, and peace-for-all. Yet the size of this group collapsed the infrastructure of the local area, which was unprepared to deal with the sudden arrival of thousands of drugged-out, socially irresponsible vagrants. This should have been one of society's first warnings about the pure selfishness of the hippy mindset, but this event was largely ignored by anyone except other teenagers and twenty-somethings who were tired of listening to their parents telling them to grow up, get a job, and contribute something to society other than folk songs and clouds of pot smoke.

One of the rallying cries for the hippie movement was a general objection to the Vietnam War, and while I agree that anyone in their right mind should oppose war as best as possible, the hippies reacted in the worst possible way. Instead of gathering peacefully across the country, hippies engaged in numerous cases of what would now be referred to as "Domestic Terrorism." In their naïveté, thousands of youths openly proclaimed their support for Marxism/Leninism/Communism to overthrow the government of the United States, even though none of these impressionable youths had ever lived under such oppressive regimes, and many of these same degenerates would not have lasted a year if they had emigrated to the USSR.

Please do not misunderstand me - I fully support the right to peaceful assembly and vociferously objecting to war, both then and now, but there are proper ways to do so - and conversely, there are improper ways to be avoided. For example: hippies used to call my mom in the late 1960s while my dad was stationed in Vietnam, and they would pretend to be the Department of the Air Force calling to inform my mom that my dad had been killed in combat. This happened many, many times - and she would hug my brothers and me as she wept inconsolably for hours; my mom's life was probably shortened by several years due to insufferable grief caused by the heinously evil and unnecessary actions of these particular vermin who called themselves hippies.

There are two things that can be learned from the hippies' response to the Vietnam War:

  1. War is a terrible thing which motivates some people to do terrible things.
  2. The way some people choose to protest war is far worse.

Tragically, my experiences were not isolated incidents; the history of the Vietnam War on the home front is rife with examples of the complete failure on the part of the hippy movement to make their protests known while still treating veterans returning from battle like fellow human beings. (Many of these veterans were draftees instead of volunteers, and therefore they had no say in their years of military service.)

Some of the most-damaging aspects of hippie culture were the concepts of "Open Marriages," "Free Love," etc. In their efforts to rid themselves of any vestige of what they believed were their parents' outdated sensibilities, hippies managed to convince themselves that committed, monogamous relationships were a thing of the past, and they substituted "Do What Feels Good For You" casual relationships in their place. There is an age-old axiom which states, "Why buy the cow when the milk is free," and in keeping with that notion, the men of the hippy generation managed to convince the women of that era to abandon their morality in what was probably the most-condescending deception of women in the history of the United States. To quote Steve Martin, "Free Love ... was the single greatest concept a young man has ever heard. This was a time when intercourse, or some version of it, was a way of saying hello. About three years later, women got wise and my frustration returned to normal levels (Martin 2007, 100)." Despite the ill-guided assertions that the hippy movement gave birth to the Women's Liberation movement of the following decade, male hippies treated their female counterparts little better than objects for their own, self-desires. As a direct result, a conflagration of sexually-transmitted diseases spread across the country like a raging inferno, divorce rates skyrocketed, and millions of children were forced to grow up in single-parent homes due to the hippy-based philosophy that marriages need not be permanent.

Ultimately the hippy movement was a complete failure of society on both sides of equation: the hippies failed to behave in any fashion which reflects the better ideals of humanity, and the United States' government failed to effectively respond to the subculture which infested much of the Baby Boomer generation. Our nation still bears numerous scars from societal wounds inflicted by the selfish and amoral youth of the 1960s, and history will eventually reveal that their actions irrevocably damaged the fabric of our culture and hastened the demise of our once-great country.

On a personal note - forty-five years have passed since the time when my family was individually targeted and tormented by faceless cowards who publicly preached love for their fellow man while privately living for their own selfish gains. I have neither forgiven nor forgotten the traumatic pain that these so-called "Peace Loving Hippies" caused my family and our nation to suffer.


Martin, Steve. Born Standing Up: A Comic's Life. New York, NY: Simon & Shuster, Inc., 2007.

The Decline and Fall of the American Empire

When you study history, you are invariably introduced to Carroll Quigley's seven stages in The Evolution of Civilizations. In chapter 5 of his book, Quigley describes the seven states in the history of a civilization; these are:

  1. Mixture: The mixture of diverse, smaller societies to form a unique, larger whole.
  2. Gestation: The gestation of that large society, specifically in the development of a method for accumulating an economic surplus and investing it in methods of expansion.
  3. Expansion: A period of vigorous expansion in population, territory, technological competence, wealth, knowledge, etc.
  4. Conflict: A period of major conflict between societal elements or geographical areas within the civilization.
  5. Empire: The development of a universal empire ruling over the entire civilization, which far from being a golden age represents a precursor to decay and collapse.
  6. Decay: The decay of the civilization as exemplified in the ossification of institutions and structures within the empire.
  7. Collapse/Invasion: The collapse of the civilization, usually through invasion by a younger civilization that is in the expansion phase.

Every great civilization has gone through this formula - with no exceptions.

From my perspective, the history of the United States has emerged in the following way:

  1. Our Mixture phase was pre-1750s as European settlers began to arrive and colonize the East Coast.
  2. Gestation followed the 1750s through the early 1800s as the colonists won their independence from European rule and began to establish a new nation.
  3. Expansion was from the early 1800s through the 1860s as the new nation pushed west toward the Pacific Ocean.
  4. Conflict was from 1860s through the latter 1890s as the United States grappled with the Civil War and its aftermath.
  5. Empire was from the early 1900s through the latter 1950s as the reunified United States fought a series of World Wars and established itself as a dominant world power.
  6. Decay began in the late 1950s and early 1960s as the generation born during the post-WWII Baby Boom spat on the prosperity that had been fought for and freely given to them, and all vestiges of ethical and moral standards were removed from public education. This period was marked by dramatic rises in crime rates, drug proliferation, corruption, divorce, unemployment, abortions-on-demand, corporate greed, and worst of all - the political ineptitude which prevents anything from being done about it.

According to Mr. Quigley's formula, all that the United States have left to face are Collapse and Invasion; civilizations do not recover once they have entered the Decay phase.

What is tragically ironic is that the people who vociferously claim to be trying to save the United States, namely Progressives and Liberals, are actually doing the most damage. As Quigley illustrates in his book, when members of a civilization become so preoccupied with arguing about what they perceive are their "rights" instead of contributing to society and adhering to an ethical set of standards or morals, the fabric of civilization unravels, and eventually implodes as an emerging civilization invades and conquers.

In this present day and age, people are rushing headlong into their inevitable demise; all the while they are wearing blinders which prevent them from seeing what is obvious to the less-outspoken of their peers. It is a sad manifestation of The Emperor's New Clothes; and even though the irony is missed by those who are too foolish to see themselves as members of the deceived, future generations will have the perspective granted by history with which to judge this time period with impartiality (and thereby with greater accuracy).

Several hundred years from now, historians of that coming era will look back with amazement as they analyze how the American civilization was ripped apart by the selfish desires of those who claimed to be acting in the best interests of society.

In closing, I think the rock group Rush expressed that sentiment quite well in their song "A Farewell to Kings":

A Farewell To Kings
When they turn the pages of history
When these days have passed long ago
Will they read of us with sadness
For the seeds that we let grow

We turned our gaze
From the castles in the distance
Eyes cast down
On the path of least resistance

Cities full of hatred, fear and lies
Withered hearts and cruel tormented eyes
Scheming demons dressed in kingly guise
Beating down the multitude
And scoffing at the wise

:-(