Wednesday, October 11, 2017

David, The Sequel

Finishing up the story of David, King of Israel and Judah - We left off with things going pretty well for David as he repeatedly defeats his enemies.

So all good, right? Nope. Not for long. After exterminating other tribes for a while, he gets in trouble the traditional way - can't keep his hands to himself. One day David sees Bathsheba. You may have even heard of Bathsheba as the story still has popular appeal. People hate adultery when it is them or their friend who is cuckolded, but they love it as entertainment. Bathsheba is married, but David does the wrong thing and summons her and sleeps with her. Even worse in religious terms - he did it while she was still purifying from her monthly visit. Bad idea. She winds up pregnant and lets him know. So, he does the decent thing (I kid), and tries to get Uriah, the husband, to go home and sleep with his wife so he won't realize it wasn't his. But Uriah was a faithful soldier and stayed with his men, as they were at war. Good guy. So, David asks Joab, his nephew (who remember he cursed, but still employs as his commander in the field) and asks him to put Uriah where the fighting is fiercest and then abandon him to his fate. That worked out well. After Bathsheba mourned, she came to be David’s wife and bore him a son. Really, what else is a girl going to do around 1200 B.C. But God was pisssssssssed.

Maybe David didn’t realize the trouble he was in. Soon, he was raging about a rich man who took the lamb of a poor man rather than his own livestock to feed a traveler – David wanted him killed for it. But, we never find out what happened to the guy because Nathan points out to David that he will be punished for it if he does it. Maybe his point was – stopping talking about other people and consider yourself. Nathan prophesizes that someone from his own household will sleep with all his wives. Kings hate it when that happens. Almost as an afterthought, Nathan adds – oh, and God is going to kill your son. God does make the baby he had with Bathsheba sick. At first, David is sick with worry himself – but when he learns that the baby actually died – he goes about his business, saying, well, now he’s dead, so, move along everybody, nothing to see here. In fact, he goes to Bathsheba and they make another baby they call – Solomon. You probably have heard of Solomon too. But, we’ll get back to him later on in the story.

In the meantime, Joab is kicking the Ammonites’ butts and tells David to come take a city or they will name it after Joab instead. David does, and takes the defeated king’s crown, a big shiny one too. Not a good time for the Ammonites, as he takes all their cities. See, not all so bad. Except. . .

. . .  something creepy happens. One of David’s sons, Amnon, follows in love with his sister, Tamar – I think a half-sister. On the advice of David’s brother he pretends to be sick and tricks her into coming into his bedroom. Then he tries to have his way with her. She tries to talk him out of it, so, he rapes her. Then she doesn’t want to leave, because that would be a worse shame (I guess) and just like that, he now hates her more than he loved her. So, he has her thrown out. Their brother Absalom hears about it and tells her to relax, and she lives in his house, a bitter woman. Absalom says nothing to Amnon, but two years later he gets David to send Amnon on a trip with him and he has him killed. David hears about it back home and mistakenly thinks all his sons are dead, but that just turned out to be a silly rumor. It is little touches like that which make you think maybe there is some historical basis for it as there is just no point to the plot twist.  Still, Absalom flees and for three years stayed away. But David, knowing Absalom had avenged the rape of his sister, had already forgiven him. Kind of. I mean, families fight, right? 

Joab knows that David years for Absalom to return. He creates a bizarre artifice by sending a servant to David with a wacky story I’m not even going to trouble you with, because, frankly, I don’t really understand it - but at the end, like a protagonist in a Dan Brown novel, David figures out that Joab is behind it the ruse and says to him, okay, go get Absalom. Now it’s really going to get weird.

Joab brings Absalom back, but David orders that Absalom not see his face. Why, you might reasonably ask. I don't know. A few years go by and Absalom sends for Joab who ignores him. So, naturally, Absalom has his servants burn down one of Joab’s fields. Joab comes and says – Hey, what the hell, or something like that, and Absalom says he just wanted to get his attention. He asks to see his father and if he did anything wrong, David can put him to death. It is all arranged and Absalom goes to his dad, falls to the ground, and David forgives him. Of course, he does. These people are nuts.

Not surprisingly, Absalom, a proto-politician, starts cleverly winning the hearts of the Israelis. When David learns this, he deals with it calmly and rationally - screaming like a lunatic that everyone with him should flee for their lives. At the very least, it was an over-reaction. So, David and his people fled to the wilderness, but he sends a few back of them with the Ark to be spies.

Absalom comes to Jerusalem, and was now king. He asked his advisor Ahithophel (say that three times fast) what to do. This is what Ahithophel tells him:

“Sleep with your father’s concubines whom he left to take care of the palace. Then all Israel will hear that you have made yourself obnoxious to your father, and the hands of everyone with you will be more resolute.”  So they pitched a tent for Absalom on the roof, and he slept with his father’s concubines right in front of everyone.

That would probably get big ratings, even today. But it would have to be on cable.

Both Absalom and David thought Ahithophel gave great advice. But Absalom also calls for Hashei, who is David’s secret mole in Jerusalem, and charged by David with countering whatever sound advice Ahithophel gives. Leave aside sleeping with David's concubines, Hashei gives what sounds to me like the same advice Ahithophel gave, although waiting a little longer to attack. But, for some reason, it seems like better advice to Absalom.

Hashai then sends two priests to warn David that Absalom is coming for him. But, the priests are seen and Absalom’s men follow them. Fortunately, a couple hid them in the well. Their pursuers had to be idiots, because they didn’t find them. The priests got to David and warned him in time (although – if Absalom was following Hashai’s advice, there should have been no rush – plot flaw!)

And if you think Ahithophel would figure it all out and ruin Hashai’s schemes, think again. The big baby went back to his hometown and hung himself. Once again, things are looking up for David. The two armies prepare to fight. His men persuade David to stay behind but he asks them to be gentle with Absalom for his sake. But Absalom is riding on his mule when his hair gets tangled in a tree branch and he’s left hanging there. How is that even possible? Joab and his men kill him and bury him in a pit. Maybe they did it gently.

When David learned of Absalom’s death he wailed: “O my son Absalom! My son, my son Absalom! If only I had died instead of you—O Absalom, my son, my son!” Personally, I wouldn’t have given the jaw of an ass for Absalom myself, but you know Jewish parents.

Joab, hearing that David was mourning, went to him and gave him a piece of his mind. “Today you have humiliated all your men, who have just saved your life and the lives of your sons and daughters and the lives of your wives and concubines. You love those who hate you and hate those who love you. You have made it clear today that the commanders and their men mean nothing to you. I see that you would be pleased if Absalom were alive today and all of us were dead. Now go out and encourage your men. I swear by the Lord that if you don’t go out, not a man will be left with you by nightfall. This will be worse for you than all the calamities that have come on you from your youth till now.”

This is why I like Joab more than David. Obviously, he was a violent guy, but he actually made sense a lot of the time. A lot more than David did, anyway.  What’s wrong with God that he preferred David?

David went back to Jerusalem. He didn’t kill the concubines who Absalom had slept with. He just confined them for the rest of their pathetic lives. I suspect that was seen as merciful and just for this – because, after all, the concubines were at fault, right? At least in the bronze age mind they were - I guess.

In any event, now the Israelis and the Judeans don’t get along so well. An Israeli named Sheba blew his trumpet and called away the men of Israel. Joab went after them. They came to a great rock and Joab went to meet Amasa, who fled with the Israelis, and who, for reasons I can’t even begin to understand, David had earlier promised to put over Joab if he played ball with him. So, while they were walking towards each other, Joab did the prison yard thing and secretly took his knife from its sheath and “took Amasa by the beard with his right hand to kiss him.” Then, he disemboweled him. They moved on and came to a city where Sheba was holed up. They were battering down the wall when a woman came to it and called for Joab, asking him to relent. He said they would if they threw down the head of Sheba. Next thing you know, over the wall comes Sheba’s head, and, they all went home. That’s how business was sometimes handled back then, and, frankly, as horrific as it sounds, it spared a lot of lives – probably the life of every person in that city, for example - save Sheba, naturally.

Here’s another good example. God brought famine to Israel because Saul, long dead himself, had put the Gibeonites – who were not Israelis, but lived around there too – to death. The sins of the fathers are visited upon the children. God could have said "you know what, live and let live," but, who can see the ways of the Lord? David asked the Gibeonites how to make it right with them. They asked to be given seven Israelis to put to death. So David gave them seven of his subjects, Saul’s descendants, and the Gibeonites put them to death and exposed their corpses. Then David exposed the bones of Saul and Jonathan, the latter who was, of course, his own good friend. Famine over, just like that. If only it was really that easy.

David was getting older. His men killed some more Philistines, but they decided, no more war for David. He was too old and valuable. Now David had many warriors, and frankly, it gets tedious when the Bible lists them, which it does to some extent. But, then David called for Joab – good old Joab – who should have been king if you ask me, and had him, against his will, go through the land and count all the fighting men. There were 800,000 in Israel and 500,000 in Judah. For some reason that again defies reason, this was a sin. God spoke to David’s seer and gave him three choices, three years of famine, three months fleeing his enemies or three days of plague, to atone for his sin. David liked the last one best and God’s angel wiped out 70,000 Israelis with plague. But, God stopped him before he wiped out Jerusalem.

The seer then came to David and told him to go build an altar to God on the threshing floor belonging to so and so. David did so, insisting on buying the place, rather than just accepting it as a gift, and, God then stopped the plague entirely. Don’t ask me what happened to God stopping it at the end of three days, which was the original deal. The Bible is often not that consistent.

As David became very old he couldn’t stay warm. So, his attendants got him a beautiful young virgin to keep him warm. Lucky her, though she took care of David, he did not sleep with her – I presume this is what it was like with Hugh Hefner in his last days.

David’s son, Adonijah, a handsome and spoiled brat, tried to become king and threw a big party. But, he didn’t invite Nathan – you remember Nathan – or David’s son Solomon, who was promised the kingship. Bathsheba and then Nathan went to David and said – hey, what about your promise to Solomon? So, David, having nearly run his race, made Solomon king.

The big wrap up where I wax ineloquent and think about life, death and other such things.

And I could go on and on with Solomon. All this brutality I have related to you was in 1 Samuel and 2 Samuel of the Old Testament. Samuel himself, who I didn’t mention until now, was probably the last important prophet of Israel. He anointed both Saul and David earlier on, but was barely having been mentioned in the very books named for him. Nevertheless, they are two of my favorite books in the Bible, which I’ve read more than once, because I like the stories. You can see that there is more to it than you learned in temple or church, but it doesn’t exactly put David in a good light. That is supposed to be the moral lesson – David’s sins and God’s rebuke and then forgiveness for them. That is supposed to be the moral - but, I don’t see it. It seems to me that the lesson of the Bible is, whether you are good or bad, life isn't fair. You could say that's just my opinion, and it is, but it is also real life.

Reading the Bible is not a religious thing for me, although there are what I think are spiritual aspects to it.*  One reason I like reading it is much the same reason some people like The Game of Thrones (“TGOT”). It’s entertaining, particularly if you like gratuitous sex and violence. But, there are literate, historical and lingual reasons I like it too.

*Years ago I came up with my own definition of spirituality, which resonated for some people I tried it out on. I still like it, though I’ve tinkered with the original - Spirituality is a pleasant feeling of connection to the universe that some people identify with one or more supernatural beings.

I tried reading TGOT but couldn’t get through it. I’ve never watched the show on television. A friend of mine mocks me because I like made up stories from thousands of years ago but not ones someone made up now. He’s got a point, but it’s really an overstatement. I love a lot of modern fiction and even fantasy for various reasons, and don’t feel obligated to like or dislike any of it, without regard to some rational. But there is also no doubt I rarely like fantasy except when it invokes stories or myths from long ago and the mythology, names and places have meaning to me separate and apart from the story I’m reading. It’s as broad as the difference among The Once and Future King, Peter Pan and Beatrix Potter. Stories by authors who share these interests gives me the feeling of a connection to history and through it to the universe. I realize that is a feeling, not a physical manifestation, at least outside my brain. I accept it without being able to fully explain it. And it is important to me, for reasons I can’t explain either. At some point our ability to explain these things ends with a closed door. Some people think they know why they are this way or that, but they - we - really don’t. I’m very comfortable with uncertainty. So, I’ll just finish the story -

And soon David died, going to rest with his ancestors, but not before giving instructions to Solomon to kill Joab – because, well, as I said, these people were just crazy. If anyone deserved  David’s friendship and to be King of Israel and Judah himself, it was Joab, in my view. David was 70 when he died, which was a long natural life.  I, his namesake, am now 58, only 12 years younger than he was. Of course, my life and death is not linked to David's because of a name and I don’t know when I will die (though for some bizarre reason, I frequently tell people I will die at 66). I hope it is a long time from now, until pain makes it more some imaginary duty instead of pleasure, but you never know. 72-73 is an average, not a given.

I live – we live - in a different place and time than David did -- a much, much better one in my view, though one built on the foundation of his time, if he actually lived. There is no direct proof or strong circumstantial evidence that he did, whatever you may have been told, though the name and story has come down through history, never having lapsed. Whether there was a King David or not, the heritage is there, even if we can only name our grandparents or great grandparents and have to stop there. Because of reading and writing, we are not just products of those we are genetically descended from, but innumerable other peoples and civilizations, some of which we know and some we don’t. Some people don’t even care about why they feel the connection to their ethnic ancestors. Maybe most people. They just want to be told that they are this nationality or that religion, even if they literally know nothing about it. Whatever story, true or not, they’ve been told as children is good enough for them and that is what they preserve.

I may sound all judgy in the above rendition of the Bible. I am from our 21st century perspective, of course. But, I’m really not picking on the Jews at all. Find a group at that period of time, or for thousands of years, that didn’t behave in a similar barbaric way, at least to our eyes, and survived for long when they came in contact with other fierce people. If you do find one, good chances you are relying on their own legends and not the truth. There are snippets in the Bible and the Jewish culture that has come down to us which are far superior to other cultures, but it was a culture in its infancy compared to what we know today. No one should base their ethics upon the behavior of Biblical characters because often they were examples of human failures, frailty, cruelty and sin.  Humanity, like a single human, had to start somewhere.

The Bible itself is a collection of stories, real or imagined, laws and poetry emblematic of a continuing tradition. It tells of a fairly substantial period of time, roughly a millennium to a millennium and a half, and may be fairly said to be a significant part of the reason we now live in what seems to us an enlightened, if highly imperfect, culture, though no doubt future cultures will find us barbaric too. I hope so, at least. It is a step by step thing, but the Jews have been evolving for thousands of years more intact way than most other groups. The fact that Bibles are printed by the millions today in hundreds of languages, even if rarely read in their entirety in any of them, alone tells you of the impact of this early and continuing culture. Nevertheless, each of us is a product not just of one strand of people, but many peoples, particularly in the modern age, who though out history have influenced one another, merged and split off from one another in innumerable ways. I feel as much an heir to the Greeks and to the American founders, just as they were children of each other and many other groups.
We know from watching tv and reading the news that life can still be filled with horrors of Biblical proportions and there are people who wish to still live with laws and mores like those of earlier centuries, butchering or enslaving others. As we know from recent events there are people in America with full access to our diversity, enlightenment ideas and technology, who murder and destroy with no clear rationale and many more who would if they could. But, overall, not so much either, and when I leave my home to go get a sandwich, there is never a thought in my mind that someone is coming to kill me. It is not for nothing I like to say to people almost every day – We are not only the luckiest people in the world – we are the luckiest people in the history of the world. Some days it is harder to believe than in others, but nevertheless, I still think it is true.

Wednesday, October 04, 2017

David and the Game of Thrones

When I was growing up, I could take a rock and literally hit the houses of two other kids named David. It wasn’t very far. One was across the street and one next door. And, if I threw the rock as far as I could, then ran picked it up and threw it again, I could hit the homes of two more Davids. 

There were a lot of Davids where I grew up. I lived in a neighborhood with a fair amount of Jews and Jewish parents were partial to the name. It was so popular, it was number 2 for boys after Michael the year I was born (1959) according to one baby name website. Right now it is not that popular – down at number 45 in 2016, according to another baby centered website.

You might be aware that it’s an Old Testament name and that King David, once a lowly shepherd, and slayer of the colossus Goliath, was one of the most revered figures in the Bible.

What you may not know is that he was quite the character and his life (or fictional life - no way to know) would make for a very dramatic mini-series. Of course, they’d have to leave a lot out or rate it X. I haven’t written about the Bible in a while*, so I thought I’d relate his story in a summary and breezy way. There's a lot of violence, but also a lot of sex and backstabbing. George R. R. Martin, author of The Game of Thrones, did not invent the genre. The Bible was way ahead of him.

*5/22/07 - "Would you have father Abraham for your father?" and 2/11/15 - "Atheist and Bible to marry! Read all about it!" come to mind.

I’ll mostly use the King James Version as my source, because I prefer it to all other English versions. As always, I do not need to be comprehensive – you can read the Bible if you like – but simply will write about such things as are on my mind now and which I think might interest someone who is not too religious and has any interest in history or literature.

I am simply following the Old Testament here, and do not go into the later interpretations and traditions among Christians, later Jews (in the Midrash), Muslims or even Hollywood or modern literature. There are, even in the Bible (of course) contradictions. So has it always been.

So, once upon a time . . .

There was a battle between the people of Israel and the people of the Philistines, both who were arrayed on the sides of mountains looking across the valley at each one another, when a Philistine known as Goliath of Gath came forth. Let us just say he was a big guy with metal armor, a hell of a big spear and a shield bearer.

Goliath issued a challenge to the Israelis. Let one of them fight him. If the Israeli could kill him, then the Philistines would be their servants. But, if Goliath killed him, well, you know.

And he issued this challenge for 40 days. You’d think they’d get bored and just fight after a few days, but apparently, they’d rather Goliath just issue this challenge. Big as he was, I expect the Israelis just looked down at their sandals or pretended to be pulling off a hangnail.

Now, there was a man of Bethlehem, Judah by the name of Jesse. He had a bunch of sons. The three oldest followed the Israeli leader, Saul, to battle . . . or went listen to Goliath issue his challenge day after day. Jesse also had a son named David. David was his youngest and he tended to his father’s sheep. One day, Jesse asked David to take some bread and cheese to the army.

When David got there, it looked like there was going to be a battle. But, Goliath of Gath came forward again and issued his challenge. And the Israeli men, perhaps trying to cajole some witless fool to fight Goliath, said, whoever kills him would be made wealthy by the King, get the King’s daughter – always big in these stories – and free his father’s house, whatever that means.

David, hearing this, asked who was this uncircumcised Philistine, that he should defy the army of God. David’s oldest brother reproached him, asking him who is looking after the sheep and wasn’t he the naughty one.

Eventually, someone repeated David’s words to Saul, who called for him. David repeated that he would fight the Philistine. David told Saul a rather unlikely story of a lion and a bear who took a sheep from his flock, and that he slew them. You see, David had the Lord on his side, and the Gathian was just one more beast to him.

Saul gave David a weapon and some armor, but David rejected them, not having tested them. David went out to meet Goliath and his shield bearer armed with just a staff, some stones and his sling. Not surprisingly, Goliath mocked him a bit, but David came back with a rejoinder that must have gotten some cheers from his side – “Thou comest to me with a sword, and with a spear, and with a shield: But I come to thee in the name of the LORD of hosts, the God of the armies of Israel, whom thou has defied” and other bravado.

Goliath came towards him and David moved towards him fast. And quick as you can say “Jack Robinson,” David nailed Goliath on the head with a stone from his sling shot. Running up to Goliath, David climbed a top him, drew Goliath’s sword and cut his head off. And so was born one of the most iconic moments in history – at least literary history, which is familiar to hundreds of millions of people in the world even today.

You can imagine, the Philistines took one look at David holding the giant head and tore off, running wee, wee, wee, all the way home, or something like that.  David put his armor in his tent – though where he got a tent from is not clear to me – but carried the head with him when Saul called him. It was traditional in ancient times to ask whose son someone was, and so Saul inquired of David, who told him he was Jesse’s son.

Saul’s son was Jonathan. Jonathan and David made a pact with each other and Jonathan gave David his sword and other weapons, even his clothing.

After that, Saul put David “over his men of war.” And though David behaved himself admirably, when Saul found out that women were praising David more than him, well, you can imagine how he felt. An evil spirit from God came upon Saul, and he hurled his javelin at David, intending to pin him to the wall.  Had he hit him, I’d likely have a different name today.

Saul, who sounded a little unstable to me, then put David over “a thousand,” that is, a large group of warriors. He also promised his eldest daughter, Merab, in exchange for David’s fighting for him.  For reasons I can’t fathom, Merab was given to someone else, but his other Daughter, Michal, was in love with David (which, by the way, probably means “beloved” or “beloved one”). The whole point was to ensnare David to die in battle. David was told rather than a dowry, which was traditional and unaffordable to David and his family, he could pay Saul with one hundred Philistine foreskins.  Yes, foreskins.

Apparently, David was quite good at getting Philistine foreskins, for he brought back twice as many as required. In that way, David won Saul’s daughter. But Saul became even more afraid of him and his enemy. At least, so we learn in 1 Samuel 18, although the writer appears to have forgotten that Saul had already tried to pierce David’s flesh with a spear himself, and the whole bunch of them seemed a little crazy. Family was tough, even in those days. Saul told his son Jonathan, among others, to kill David. But, Jonathan ratted out his dad and sent David into hiding. All for no good purpose, as Jonathan soon talked his Dad out of killing David, who went out and killed a greater bunch of Philistines. But, not for long. Soon Saul changed his mind – the evil spirit from the Lord again visiting him, and he tried once again to pin David to the wall. Fortunately, David slipped away. Saul was more aggressive this time and planned to have David killed in the morning. Saul’s daughter, David’s wife, advised him to run and he did, out the window. Michal though played, maybe for one of the first times in history, the ole dummy in the bed trick, while David escaped. I kid you not.

And Saul continued to pursue David, but Saul’s son, Jonathan helped him escape and David fled and gathered to himself the sword of Goliath and fled again and feigned madness in fear of another king. And David’s family came to him.

In the meantime Saul gathered his people and inquired of them, and slew many of them he felt helped David. And so a game of hide and seek ensued, with David always a step ahead of Saul.

Until at last Saul entered a cave where David and his men hid. And rather than slay Saul, he cut off a piece of his clothing secretly. When Saul left the cave, David followed him and calling to him, showed him how he had spared his life and prostrated himself. Saul wept and declared that David was more righteous than he was.

Saul then promised David would surely be kings, but made David swear he would not cut off Saul’s seed and destroy his family name. And then Saul went home and David and his men back into their cave. If you think I understand what just happened, you are wrong because it seemed like they patched things up – but apparently not.

David then came upon a rich sheep herder, who refused him help. David girded his sword and with his men went to slay him. But, the herder’s wife, Abigail, interceded and begged him off. Soon the old coot died because the Lord, who wasn’t shy about smoting someone in the Old Testament, smote him.  And David took Abigail and another woman to wife. And it was a good thing, because back at the fort, Saul had given David’s first wife, his daughter, to another man.

Good story so far, right? Sex and violence sells. They are going to sell more.

Soon after Saul and his men head out after David again. This time, David sneaks into the camp and, rather than kill Saul, or let his man do it, he takes Saul’s spear and some water, and steals off. This time when Saul and him face off, David shows him the spear and lets him again know that he spared him. And again, Saul forgives him and they go their separate ways. I wouldn’t trust Saul for anything.

Then David went into the land of the Philistines, even to Gath, from whence came Goliath, and is given land. And then David went on the warpath, and “smote the land, and left neither man nor woman alive, and took away the sheep, and the oxen, and the asses, and the camels, and the apparel, and returned, and came” back to the Lord of Gath, who seeing David had attacked Judah and Israel, and made them abhor him, would be his subject forever.

Now the Philistines came to Israel, and the Lord of Gath brought David with him. Saul, panicking, sought out a seeress, though he had driven all those with familiars or wizards out of the land. And she raised the spirit of Samuel, the holy man, who Saul and David had known, and let me tell you, Samuel made Saul feel pretty small about what was going to happen, and Saul was going to depart, feeling weak and tired, but the seeress, being a nice girl underneath it all, made something for him and his men to eat. So Jewish.

But then, the other lords of Philistine, being numbskulls, insisted that David not fight alongside them and convinced David’s new lord to send him packing. So, back to the land of the Philistines David went.

It was a good thing, because while the men were out fighting an Egyptian raiding party had come in and grabbed all of the women and children. David and his men followed, and finding one left behind by the Egyptians, treated him well, promised not to kill him, and he led them to the party. David and his men killed almost all of them, except for those who escaped by camel, and recovered their families. David, showing some of the wisdom he’d become famous for, gave equal shares to the men who were exhausted and guarded the baggage and then sent gifts to some of the elders of the tribes of Judah.

Meanwhile, things did not go swimmingly for Saul. Without David to defend them the Philistines beat them silly, killing Saul’s men, even his sons, even Jonathan. Saul asked his armor bearer to run him through, but he wouldn’t, so Saul literally fell on his sword to avoid being abused by the uncircumcised Philistines, who found him, cut off his head and strapped up his body. Some Israelis took him down, burned his body and buried his bones under a tamarisk tree. Tradition.

An Israeli came to David in the land of the Philistines. He told David what happened and that Saul and Jonathan were dead.  David asked him how he knew. Saul, it turns out, dying, couldn’t quite manage to turn the corner himself, and asked the man to kill him. David and his men lamented. Then, because David was, albeit "wise," still a member of a barbarian tribe, he had the man killed because he had killed Saul - even though Saul asked him to do it.

Now David moved back to Judah and was made king over it. And one of Saul’s sons was made king of Israel. Some of Saul’s men and some of David’s met around a pool and decided to fight. It was a ridiculous fight, at first seeming like a very violent contest and then a ridiculous chase scene that may have inspired Benny Hill (those who don’t know who Benny Hill is – he was a very silly man). At the end of the day though, David’s men overwhelmingly triumphed.

The war went on and David triumphed more and more and had some kids. In the meantime, Saul’s son, the king of Israel (you wouldn’t remember his name if I told you) insulted the commander of the army, Abner, whose name is easy to remember, asking him why he slept with his father, Saul’s, concubine. Abner was fit to be tied and went to David and offered to trade allegiances and make him king of Judah and Israel. David said fine, but only if you bring me back Michal, his wife whom Saul gave to another man. So, this Abner did, and a pitiful scene arose, with Michal’s new husband following them the whole way, crying. Finally, Abner told him to go home, and just like that he did.  Abner convinced the elders of Israel to accept David. He went and told David what he had done and was allowed to leave in peace. Everybody’s happy.

But, it never lasts long in the Bible. When Joab, David’s general returns, he learns that Abner had been there and allowed to leave in peace. He tells David that he was hoodwinked, Abner just wanting to spy on him. Not to mention, Abner had killed Joab’s brother in battle. Joab goes and gets Abner, takes him aside to talk, but plunges his dagger into him, killing him. David finds out, curses Joab and his family, which in Biblical times is a big deal, and orders a funeral for Abner. Much lamenting ensues. David’s followers say to him to eat something (so Jewish) but he refuses to eat until the sun goes down. That doesn’t seem like such a big deal, but it somehow lets everyone know that David had no part in killing Abner. David whines that he is king, but the “sons of Zeruiah” – his nephews, Joab and his brother, are too strong for him. We’ll see about that.

In the meantime, it wasn’t going so well for Saul’s son, the king of Israel, either. Two Israeli banditos came to see him and stabbed him. They fled to David and told him that he was avenged. But, David, remembering that he had put to death the man who brought him the news that Saul was dead, decided he could do no less with these two, and his men hacked them to pieces. He found Saul’s son, and buried his head in Abner’s tomb. That makes little sense to me, as Abner and the king parted enemies, but, these fellows are hard to explain.

Is this all brutal enough for you Game of Throne's lovers? I assure you – it gets worse.

The Elders of Israel came to David and offered him the kingship. He had been king of Judah 7 years. Another 33 he would rule over both. But, the citizens of Jerusalem resisted him, sort of saying, “Nyah, nyah, nyah, you can’t get us.” Using a water-shaft, he did and took the city, renaming it the City of David. The Philistines attacked again, twice, and twice he defeated them. He had, after all, God on his side, and that’s hardly a fair fight.

But, God also had his testy side. David sent for the Ark of the Covenant, upon which God was enthroned. How this is different than having an idol, I’m not sure, but it isn’t looked upon so. In any event, as the procession was occurring, the Ark was shaken and one of the escorts put his hand on it to steady it. God took offense at this, because in the Old Testament, he was a temperamental and jealous fellow, and zapped the poor guy.

Now, we haven’t had any female characters getting crazy, but that’s about to change. David was now afraid of the Ark, so he put it in someone’s house for a few months. When all went well, he had it brought to the city. It was a big party. They sacrificed some animals and David started “dancing with all his might.” His first wife, Michal, who had recently rejoined him, saw this, and for whatever reason women have to get mad at their husbands, this qualified. When she saw David dancing, she said “How the king of Israel has distinguished himself today, going around half-naked in full view of all the slave girls of his servants as any vulgar fellow would.” You can just hear a more modern version of Michal snarling, "Why don't you just go dance with your little whore girlfriends?"

David, of course, got on his high horse, frat boy that he was, and mocked her father (though he was always defending Saul to others) and her family, sort of saying, "God picked me, your family sucks, nyah, nyah, nyah. And I’ll dance like a fool if I want to." But, he was right, and Michal never bore any children. Personally, I kind of feel sorry for her.

Soon after David admonished himself to his friend, Nathan, that he was keeping God in a tent while he himself lived in a house of cedar. I get his point. He wanted to build God a house. But Nathan had a vision and God revealed to him that he never asked David for a house, but he was going to reward David by making his child king, and the kid would build him a house. It’s actually an important chapter for Jews but also Christians and Muslims, all of whom believe David’s life was revelatory for their own religion, because it promises that David’s house and throne and kingdom would last forever.

Then David and his men went all about basically kicking ass and taking names, defeating all comers. “David reigned over all Israel, doing what was just and right for all his people.” Here’s an example of Davidian justice, so that you get the idea:

“David also defeated the Moabites. He made them lie down on the ground and measured them off with a length of cord. Every two lengths of them were put to death, and the third length was allowed to live.”

Sounds more like an obsessive-compulsive serial killer to me, but . . . . Arguably, in modern terms, David was plain nuts. But, you can see how royalty would love the message of David. In one chapter he finds one of Saul's descendants, a lame son of Jonathan, and treats him wonderfully, even though Saul repeatedly tried to kill him. 

It worked out well for everyone there, but, sometimes we know kindnesses are met with suspicion and it doesn’t always work out so well. Another time, David sent some envoys to a local tribe, trying to be nice to the son of a man who was good to him. But, that leader’s advisors told him that David was just trying to spy on them. So, he cut off half the beards of the envoys and also the garb around their buttocks. You can imagine them returning to David with half beards and their asses hanging out. David told them to keep their distance until their beards grew back – yes, that’s the apparently the part that bothered him. It wasn’t a good idea for the other tribes though. Much as they tried, David kept defeating them.

That’s all for this week, but I’m going to do Part II next week. It’s going to start getting even more Games of Thronish. Stay tuned. Same Bat channel, same Bat time. And if that doesn’t mean anything to you, then you are probably just a lot younger than I am.

Saturday, September 16, 2017

Emergency birdie update

This is an Emergency birdie report!

I admit it when something obsesses me. I always liked birds, but the last couple of years I'm just crazy about them. I'm not the only one either. Yes, many of my friends look at me when I'm talking about them as if I'm crazy (or crazier than they already though), but l also know a lot of people really interested, some much more than me.

Lately, my obsession has heightened my awareness of them and whereas, I think like most people, I used to just note a bird, now I'm looking at its features intently as soon as I see it and boring my evalovin' gf (and others) by identifying it verbally, if I can. Unfortunately, it is rare I have my camera on me when I see one flying by, or to be ready to snap a picture if I do, and the cell phone camera is rarely sufficient for smaller birds. Unlike cows, birds are often on the move and you only get a few seconds before they are gone.

A few weeks ago while at my pond (see previous "birdie" posts) I suddenly noticed a little gull shaped bird flying by. It was smaller than most gulls. I stared at it like a panther its prey and could see it had grey wings and a completely black hooded head. It flew off. Although I had my camera next to me there was no time to take a picture.  I hoped it would come back to the same spot as many birds do. A few weeks later I saw what I thought was a pair of them, but I was looking into the light and couldn't be sure. I've been trying to track it down in my bird books and I'm pretty sure this is it - it is a little gull - that's its name, little gull. It looks like this:

Related image

As my gull flew by I could not see its underside, but only the upper wings and head, so its body may or may not have been white.  It was not making any noise or doing anything notable, just flying by, so I can only say that New York is in its range, I couldn't find anything else that fit the bill (pun intended) and I am pretty sure it's what it was.

A few weeks back I stepped outside to greet some workmen. There was a small bird on the front lawn - not unusual - pecking into the ground. At first, I thought it was a small crow or maybe a starling. But, just as one of the workers was stepping out of the truck he heard me say, "What the f*** is that?" He looked and said, "A bird." He wasn't wrong, but that's not what I meant. "I know that," I said. "But look at it. It has a black body and a brown head. I don't know what kind it is."  He said, "Ask him (his partner). He's a scientist." I was a little surprised that the guy who was going to rip out the kitchen was a scientist (he explained later this work paid much better) but he immediately said it was a grackle. I didn't think that was it but just said, "Oh, thanks." A few seconds later its mate flew down, and then they looked at me looking at them and then flew off.

The scientist was a nice guy and I think intelligent, but he was a marine biologist, not an ornithologist, so I decided to look in my books (I love my bird books) and online. I couldn't find a grackle that matched what I saw. So I did what I always try to do - I just perused until I found it. The brown-headed catbird. It looks like this:


That was definitely the birds I saw on my front lawn.

As I've pointed out in prior Birdie posts, the birds' behavior is also of unending interest to me, even though they are usually creatures of habit. I love it when they do the same thing day after day. But sometimes they step out of character and it is more interesting. I don't know why, the other day, a mallard picked up and try to swallow what was obvious a feather. Birds know feathers. Sparrows and swallows often pick them up to carry away, I'm presuming to their nests. One mallard did it and then a second, watching, tried too. They both gave up after a few chews. I mean, ycchhh, even for a bird. But what made them try? Did they think maybe it was food?

And for a few days last week the three main families who inhabit the shore of my little pond, the swans, the geese and the mallards, were visited by a stranger - a sea gull. One plopped himself down in the midst of them. Not a few minutes flight away there are thousands of other gulls at the shore. But, he must have wanted to be here, because he stayed for about three days before leaving, I'm guessing to find other gulls.

In the meantime, I think I hear the mockingbird in my backyard imitating his neighbor the cardinal. Gonna go look.

Meanwhile, I have to tell you I have been photographing the swanlet the pair had at the pond all year since it was born. It is almost full grown and many of its feathers have turned white. I will put some photos together when he's all white and you can see the change over time. This is not a particularly attractive time for the young swans as the gray and white does not mix very well. He's like an ugly duckling.

I also met a man at the pond who also comes there frequently and belongs to the Audobon Society. He had a bird book in his car and we discussed what we have seen at the pond for a good while. That doesn't happen to me a lot. He mentioned that the male swan here now is not the same as the one last year. That swan died after getting tangled up in a fishing line. He himself cleans out the fishing lines left at the pond frequently. I don't go in the water, not having waders, but I do clean up the shore and curse out the bastards who leave their junk there. "Bastard!!!" (and much worse).

This has been an Emergency birdie report!

Wednesday, September 06, 2017

THE SUN IS OUT - NFL SEASON IMMINENT!

Ahhhhhh - football is here. The long night is over. Starts Thurday.

As fans know, the Lions' QB, Stafford, just signed an insane contract, making him, by averaging, the highest paid QB.  When you look at the highest paid QBs long term or this year alone, makes no real sense. It is a consequence of the salary cap and the desire to lock QBs in on long term deals.

Here's the top ten for 2017:

Joe Flacco, $24.55 million
Carson Palmer, $24.125 million
Kirk Cousins, $23.943 million
Matt Ryan, $23.75 million
Matthew Stafford, $22 million
Aaron Rodgers, $20.3 million
Cam Newton, $20.166 million
Philip Rivers, $20 million
Eli Manning, $19.7 million
Andrew Luck, $19.4 million

Now the top 5 have all proved they are NFL starting QBs. But, imagine anyone other than Brady getting more than Rodgers. And where is Brady on this list? He's down a bit, getting only $14 million this year (only a million in salary and a $13 million deferred signing bonus from several years ago. In the end, I believe (though it is a little complicated), he cares more about winning than making extra millions, his wife makes insane amounts of money (still, by far, the highest paid supermodel in the world), he brings in another 12 mill or so in endorsements (though P. Manning still makes more, as do Newton and Wilson). Consequently, he doesn't care that much.  

Here's my list of, if salaries were for one year and rational, what the QBs should make this year. Admittedly, after my top ten, it gets fuzzy and after 20 really fuzzy. At the bottom, there is no real order - those guys are either just barely there or unproven.

Brady - Even if everyone says, he is the GOAT, he is still under-appreciated. 14-1 TD/interception ratio last year was unheard of, even over 12 games. And, if he played not one game until the SB, he still might be on top. 
Rodgers - The only QB who could make some argument he should get as much or more than Brady. 
Ryan - This is based on this one past year, though he did not produce in the second half of the SB. Brady was the real MVP for the season, in my mind, but you can justify, after the regular season, giving it to Ryan.
Brees - A future Hall of Famer for sure, who is every year among the best in the league, although reportedly, he may care too much about his stats. He is phenomenal, but the numbers from a team that passes, passes, passes, is padded a little.
Roethlisberger - Another future Hall of Famer who produces every year he plays and isn't hurt. But, seriously, find something to call him other than "Big Ben." Commentators say it so often it has become ludicrous.
Wilson - Sometimes I think he is underrated. Every year though, he has to become more of a pocket player. Getting hit doesn't work out well in the long term. Ask RGIII and Luck.
Carr - One of the best of the young men who got to start early on in his career. Lets see how he recovers from injury. Raiders are a real question mark this year.
Prescott - Some think he is the best young player in the league. I'd still put Carr ahead of him, but you could convince me otherwise. Phenomenal rookie year.
Cousins - He doesn't get the credit he deserves. Look at his accomplishments on a mediocre team.
Bradford -  Some might be shocked I'm rating him so highly, but he's a very good traditional pocket QB who was hurt his first two years and has since played on mediocre teams. But, he produces. He hasn't won, but he hasn't had a chance.
Newton - One of the most overrated players in the league, he still makes the top third. He had his one great year. Otherwise, he is a dangerous weapon that often misfires. No excuse for not winning the SB two years ago.
Smith - Does anyone know he's still playing. Very steady, but not great QB.
Rivers - Great talent. People argue whether he is a hall of famer. I'm on the fence too but leaning no. He may have seen best years.
Hoyer - Better than everyone thinks. The Browns made a huge mistake. But, he's now a journeyman who has yet one more chance to prove himself.
Wentz - He has potential. He could be another Foles though, never quite making it.
Taylor - Talented, like a little Cam, but has never really shown enough.
Flacco - I actually like Flacco a lot, think he could have been near the top, but, other than their unexpected SB year, I don't think he has ever showed much except in flashes.
Palmer - Too many years hearing what talent he has.
Stafford - Too many years hearing what talent he has.
Dalton - Too many years hearing what talent he has. These last three QBs are just never quite there and their time is running out.
Mariota - Could be a great someday. Still not there though.
Winston - Same as with Mariota.
Luck - most overrated QB in the game. He throws endlessly and I hope he has learned it is not fun to get sacked. I'd say he can be very good, but he's definitely not great. And, as we know, it has been a long time off. I include him expecting he will start game two or three.
Manning - I know he won 2 SBs, so maybe I'm wrong. But, most of the time, he doesn't seem all that good. He has an incredible opportunity this year. If he doesn't produce, he belongs here. If he does, I was wrong.
Siemian - He can go up or down from here. I'm not expecting that much.
McCown - A journeyman, who had one good year (a few games).

Unproven or not really good at all:
Bortles - So far shown very little.
Goff - So far shown nothing.
Kizer - Unknown
Savage - Unknown
Cutler - So tired of hearing what talent he has. Despite his once astronomical salary, he has always been bad to mediocre.

Who is going to win the 2018 SB? The Pats says I. Anything can happen in the NFL and injuries, sometimes to the best or key players, often do.

Who will they play? I think the Seahawks. For brief flashes last year, the Hawks were the best team in the league. They were the only team I feared the Pats facing. And when they did, they crushed them. Some are arguing that getting Sheldon Richardson is not a big deal. I think it is. Again, injuries can change everything.

Who would I like the Pats to face? The Giants, who are hard to predict. They beat Dallas twice last year and their defense is among the elite teams (Seahawks, Pats, Texans and Giants).  I see them again being a wild card, but not going far. But, if like in previous years, they surprise everyone, I will be happy. Because if there is one thing Brady and Belichick would like, it would be to avenge their two defeats.

Short post today. Let the games begin.

Monday, August 28, 2017

Killing the Dream - again

I was puzzled a few weeks ago when I received a comment from Bear, a rare steady reader (if only to occasionally torment me), blasting me on my Martin Luther King, Jr. (“MLK,Jr.”) post. I was puzzled because I hadn’t posted it yet. Or thought I hadn’t. I must have hit publish rather than save. It was only perhaps a quarter finished, perhaps less and it was unformed. So, realizing my error, I deleted it. Unfortunately, having done that, I remembered that among my digital skill set is the habit of deleting things I’ve written online before I’ve saved them somewhere else. So, I start again. Which can be a good thing. Sometimes. In any event, apologies in advance that this is going to be one of my longer posts. I had a lot to say. It was impossible to say everything without going on forever.

So, how did I start? Hmmm. Can’t remember. Maybe something like this:

The beginning

Recently, posting on the death of Muhammad Ali, I mentioned in passing that growing up, many of my heroes were black athletes. Ali, Hank Aaron, Willy Mays, Gayle Sayers, O.J. Simpson (yeah, well, who knew?) and many others. But, though I don’t know that I ever discussed it with anyone, I also thought a lot of MLK, Jr. In fact, I remember even in the ‘90s after I had shed my knee jerk liberalism and tried to appraise both sides fairly, I was disappointed in many Republicans, including my favorite, John McCain, for rejecting a national holiday for King. I doubt you would find that today, but it is the nature of conservatives to be dragged after the coach of cultural change, only to finally jump aboard, brush themselves off and say – ‘bout time you guys got here.

I still think of King as heroic. Not just him, but many of those involved in the Civil Rights movement, which mostly we think of as the ‘50s and ‘60s, but really extends back before the founding, if you include the Mennonites and Quakers, who were not black, but were anti-slavery long prior to independence.

MLK, Jr.

I don’t intend a history of abolitionism or civil rights. This is a Philippic against the second assassination of MLK, Jr., by those who ironically see him as his heirs. Naturally, he is not literally killed again. It is his message, if you prefer the spirit of his movement, that has been perhaps served a fatal blow. The title of this post is derived from a book, Killing the Dream  (Gerald Posner). In reality, “The Dream” wasn’t killed. King was. But, metaphorically, his message is now being killed – it may have already died.

I’m not talking about everyone on the left or all Democrats. I know many are mortified by much of what they see, but they are very quiet about it. However, there is no doubt that there is a strong movement on that side of the aisle to make diversity and some form of affirmative action predominant, sometimes even a form of apartheid. And there is a too deep silence on the left, if not approval, among the media, politicians and many others of the left, for what are sometimes fascist acts of violence or calls for anti-white discrimination or an end to free speech.

But, let me step back a moment and give you what I believe are King’s main tenets from his own words. You’ll forgive me (well, some of you), in that I have to summarize a lot and when you do so, it is impossible to avoid the claim of cherry picking or over-generalizing. But, his message was actually quite consistent. The following from his speeches articles and books, and they are not cited. If you want citation, comment:

True peace is not merely the absence of some negative force—tension, confusion or war; it is the presence of some positive force—justice, good will and brotherhood.

Privileged groups rarely give up their privileges without strong resistance. But when oppressed people rise up against oppression there is no stopping point short of full freedom. Realism compels us to admit that the struggle will continue until freedom is a reality for all the oppressed peoples of the world.

If the American Negro and other victims of oppression succumb to the temptation of using violence in the struggle for justice, unborn generations ill live in a desolate night of bitterness, and their chief legacy will be an endless reign of chaos.

The alternative to violence is nonviolent resistance. This method was made famous in our generation by Mohandas K. Gandhi, who used it to free India from the domination of the British Empire. Five points can be made concerning nonviolence as a method in bringing about better racial condition.

[T]his is not a method for cowards; it does resist. The nonviolent resister is just as strongly opposed to the evil against which he protests as is the person who uses violence. His method is passive or nonaggressive in the sense that he is not physically aggressive toward his opponent. . . . [I]t is nonaggressive physically but dynamically aggressive spiritually.

A second point is that nonviolent resistance does not seek to defeat or humiliate the opponent, but to win his friendship and understanding.

At the center of nonviolence stands the principal of love. . . To retaliate with hate and bitterness would do nothing but intensify the hate in the world. Along the way, someone must have sense enough and morality enough to cut of the chain of hate. This can be done only by projecting the ethics of love to the center of our lives.

[W]e speak of a love which is expressed in the Greek word agape. Agape means nothing sentimental or basically affectionate; it means understanding redeeming good will for all men, an overflowing love which seeks nothing in return. When we love on the agape level we love men not because we like them, not because their attitudes and ways appeal to us, but because God loves them. Here we rise to the position of loving the person who does the evil deed while hating the deed he does.

One is the development of a wholesome social organization to resist with effective, firm measures any efforts to impede progress. The other is a confused, anger-motivated drive to strike back violently, to inflict damage. Primarily, it seeks to cause injury to retaliate or wrongful suffering. Secondarily, it seeks real progress. It is punitive—not radical or constructive.

[T]here are three different views on the subject of violence. One is the approach of pure nonviolence, which cannot readily or easily attract large masses, for it requires extraordinary discipline and courage. The second is violence exercised in self-defense, which all societies, from the most primitive to the most cultured and civilized, accept as moral and legal. The principle of self-defense, even involving weapons and bloodshed, has never been condemned, even by Gandhi, who sanctioned it for those unable to master pure nonviolence. The third is the advocacy of violence as a tool of advancement, organized as in warfare, deliberately and consciously.

[T]here is more power in socially organized masses on the march than there is in guns in the hands of a few desperate men. . . All history teaches us that like a turbulent ocean beating great cliffs into fragments of rock, the determined movement of people incessantly demanding their rights always disintegrates the old order.

I am convinced that for practical as well as moral reasons, nonviolence offers the only road to freedom for my people. . . .

When Negroes marched, so did the nation. By the same token, a group of ten thousand marching in anger against a police station and cussing out the chief of police will do very little to bring respect, dignity and unbiased law enforcement. Such a demonstration would only produce fear and bring about an addition of forces to the station and more oppressive methods by the police.

Our most powerful nonviolent weapon is, as would be expected, also our most demanding, that is organization. . . .

There is no easy way to create a world where men and women can live together, where each has his own job and house and where all children receive as much education as their minds can absorb. But if such a world is created in our lifetime, it will be done in the United States by Negroes and white people of good will. It will be accomplished by persons who have the courage to put an end to suffering by willingly suffering upon others. It will be done by rejecting the racism, materialism and violence that has characterized Western civilization and especially by working toward a world of brotherhood, cooperation and peace.

Even if I didn’t deal with the moral dimensions and question of violence versus nonviolence, from a practical point of view, I don’t see riots working. But I am convinced that if rioting continues, it will strengthen the right wing of the country, and we’ll end up with a kind of right-wing takeover in the cities and a Fascist development, which will be terribly injurious to the whole nation. I don’t think America can stand another summer of Detroit-like riots without a development that could destroy the soul of the nation, and even the democratic possibilities of the nation.

I have a dream my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by content of their character. I have a dream today!

What is truly amazing about the movement, is that blacks, and others, had good reason to be violent then. I do not see that as the case now.

I saved the most famous for last and of course I left out many things that could have been included if I was just going to quote him for the sake of it. Now, for my standard lecture on race in America. I say standard, because I have said the following in writing or orally in debate many times.

No reasonable educated person is unaware of five centuries of oppression by Europeans and then Americans against indigenous Americans, Africans, Asians, women, gays and other minorities.  It was not a new thing. There is an ancient and long history of oppression worldwide of one group of people enslaving, murdering, plundering or oppressing another, or many others. But in the last 500 or so years, with some exceptions, Europeans and their colonies had become generally better at it than almost anyone else, particularly in their own homelands and in what we now call third world colonies. And it is ludicrous to disagree that the current state of affairs did not arise as a result, at least in the largest part, from this oppression.

But, as this century progressed the world suffered through two globally fought wars, killing millions and millions, but also, slowly seeing a rise in the British Commonwealth, Europe and America, from abject prejudice and oppressive laws to societies which started to live out their dreams of equality and fairness to all. It was far from perfect. There still is prejudice, of course. And there are still unfair laws. But, there are also unfair laws in the other direction giving benefits to minorities in order to make up for the unfairness of centuries. Most people in Western Europe and America are for those laws, though some against.

I don't agree much with President Obama, but I did when he said, “What is true for me is true for a lot of African-American men — is there's a greater presumption of dangerousness that arises from the social and cultural perceptions that have been fed to folks for a long time," he said. "And I think it is not as bad as it used to be, but it's still there, and there's a history to that."

My own personal experience is that it is not even close to as bad as it used to be. I’m only slightly older than BHO, but my memories are probably not much different. When we were growing up, there was still Jim Crow in the south and prejudice was everywhere, racial, ethnic, religious, sexual, etc. In my 58 years, it seems we live in two different worlds. We’ve now had a black president (bi-racial, but he identifies and is considered black by virtually everyone) twice and he was elected largely by white votes as well as black. We have affirmative action, we have civil rights laws with teeth, we have even disparate impact laws which prohibits actions that are not even intended to be discriminatory but which are deemed to affect one group more than another.

That does not mean everything is equal everywhere, of course. We have private property in our country – thankfully – and it is can be bought or inherited or stolen. After centuries of oppression, it is not equally distributed as in the game of Monopoly. Some people are born rich, some poor, some in the middle. And while there is some strong evidence that passing down property through (mostly family) inheritance is actually the best way to ensure good use of property overall and growth of the economy, not surprisingly, some people will be haves and others have nots. Attempts to “level,” or various levels of socialist systems seem always to fail – in fact, one only need look at the former USSR, which though powerful, failed miserably, and communist China, which though becoming collectively powerful, decades ago had to adopt more capitalist policies, and still has an average per capita income which we consider poverty level. It also seems a beacon for corruption, even greater than exists everywhere else.

And I do not mean there is not prejudice on every side. There is plenty of prejudice in our country, which might be a natural human state. The question is – what is done with that prejudice? Prejudice is, after all, opinion. And opinion is supposedly protected by the first amendment and is considered, among the first of our rights. Likely everyone has some prejudice, for or against this or that group.

A reversal in power

Power is a scary thing. People, once powerless, who gain it, are often not happy to simply co-exist – they want revenge and to be in power themselves. They want to destroy those they see as the enemy and often use the same methods and tactics they once decried. None of this, of course, has anything to do with King’s dream. It is quite the opposite, arguably The Nightmare.

As anti-discrimination laws and a general improvement in the ways people treated one another have changed over time in the past few decades, and particularly a change in attitudes, people who were very oppressed seem not oppressed anymore at all – at least under the law. The last group that was quite openly oppressed by law in this country were gays or LGBT, whatever you want to call it. It is less than 15 years ago that it was criminalized. It is only a few years since they can openly serve in the military and since they can marry. That has, through changes in law and policy, been legally eradicated, and it is about time. The question now, though not a main topic today, is not whether they are oppressed, but whether the government have the right to force those who do not approve of same sex marriage or other aspects of the “gay community” to accept it in their private lives or businesses.

But, something else has happened by the increase in protection for formerly oppressed people who by numbers and blocs, form powerful groups. And they have, many of them, great energy and are exercising it. And perhaps many of them want retribution.

How power is exercised

Another change in our culture is in how power is wielded. The media has always been critical since our founding and quite powerful, particularly in shaping opinion. It has exalted status in our country, also protected by the first amendment. And, generally, we consider it, in large, a good thing. There has always been an ideological split in the use of the media. Back in the founding period, Jefferson and Hamilton could each have their own press to try and shape opinion. Nowadays, the media, at least in our country, is, except for small pockets like talk radio and Fox News, largely liberal. You read the New York Times or Washington Post headlines any given day and there are no two sides – at least not two equal sides. The same goes for network television, which is still incredibly powerful in its reach.

In the past decade or so, the power of social media has arisen in some areas to sufficient size to dwarf the “old” media. In a world where many, if not most, people get their “news” from social media, where lives can be destroyed by being “shamed,” where people can be virtually driven out of the digital society, lose their jobs and so forth, and where modern technology enables far greater organization of forces, those who are not adept at it will be left behind in many aspects of their lives.

Not surprisingly, the young adapt to the use of social media first and foremost in order to communicate and organize. It has also always been the case that youth is more “liberal,” they used to say “red” or “pink,” than older people, who are more interested in keeping what they’ve gained in their lives and having peace and quiet.

We have seen, and I don’t think I need to give examples, of how the use of social media and modern communications has been used to organize for things like protests, riots even terrorism. I’m not suggest therefore that modern technology is a bad thing. If you use it, you know its incredible power to give you to access to a world that did not exist a few decades ago.

The Obama effect

Barack Obama was elected president in 2008 and then again in 2012. At the beginning of 2008, few people thought he had a chance. Whether he was bi-racial or “black,” many people thought that, whatever the polls showed, many people would not vote for a black and therefore he would never be able to get enough votes. But, he won the primaries, demonstrating greater political ability and poise than his older, more experienced opponents like Clinton and Biden, and most people “white” people didn’t really care about his heritage. He had it right when he said that yes, some people who declared for him would not vote for him, but there would be others who said they wouldn’t, who would vote for him. The polls were fairly accurate.

Many people celebrated the election in America of a “black” man, some thought we were entering a “post-racial” era and that America had finally grown up. Many Black voters, who overwhelming went for him, were over the moon, some declaring him “my” president and quickly determining that he was the “greatest” president ever. He received, virtually immediately, a Nobel Prize, which even he admitted was undeserved.

I’ve written extensively of what I thought of his terms (not that I ever finished the ten reasons he was the worst president in my lifetime – I think I got up to 8). I expected him to be a bad president for policy reasons and he was even worse than I thought. I have never had a problem liking people I disagreed with (or not liking those I did agree with) and I liked him personally. He has a lot of qualities which are pleasing including a sonorous voice, a great sense of humor and incredible poise and presence. And though some said it was racist to say so – he was articulate – at least compared to almost every other president in my lifetime (excepting Clinton, but not Reagan – who, whatever he was, it was not eloquent). I don't think there have been any presidents I’ve seen equal to him in these characteristics.

But, along with his foreign policies, which I believe weakened our country, I thought his greatest weakness as a president was his handling of racial tensions. He did worse than a bad job. Racial tensions, which had been so greatly reduced in my life time went in the other direction. This may be a natural consequence of a “community” gaining rights and power over time. But, again, without reiterating in detail, whenever a crisis or racial incident came to the front, he reflexively took sides. When the Gates debacle in Cambridge, Mass. occurred he leaped in, and had to step back (the famous “beer summit”). When George Zimmerman shot the teenage Trayvon Martin in Florida – he publicly said that Martin could be his son – not Zimmerman. I watched the show trial. The evidence was so in favor of Zimmerman – even the prosecution witnesses – that his innocence was obvious. Obama never retracted a word after the trial. When Ferguson, Missouri erupted, he also waded in, as did his attorney general. There a police officer shot another teenager, but this one a huge man who was attacking him. The federal investigation which found great fault with the local government there, also found the officer justified.

I’m not suggesting that there did not need to be deep changes in policing there and elsewhere. I believe police reform should be ever ongoing everywhere. But, what arose from Ferguson was a general lynching of police everywhere. I’m sure that police officers, black and white, have wrongfully shot blacks, just as I am sure that it happens with white victims. From it sprang the “black lives matter” movement and the “hands up, don’t shoot” meme, though investigation found that it was a complete lie that Brown had his hands raised asking not to be shot and it is still said by many that Brown and Martin were “murdered.”

These two incidents in Florida and Missouri were earthshaking in our country, and unfortunately characteristic of BLM. They seize upon the worst cases and make it the center of their movement. It didn’t matter if the white shooter was innocent and was being attacked. All that mattered was skin color.  

The death of non-violence and non-discrimination

What we’ve seen in the past year or so has gotten worse. It is now at a cultural crisis stage where even the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights has essentially okayed violence against white supremacists by those who don’t want to allow them to speak or march.

The vast number of instances in the past year or so requires me to summarize. We’ve seen -

Black Lives Matter (“BLM”) taking over political rallies by intimidation and politicians cowed into giving up microphones.

BLM marching while chanting "death to cops."

Numerous cop shootings inspired by BLM’s call for death to cops (at least 3 of the cop killers last year admitted being inspired, at least in part).

Trump’s rallies literally attacked - so that he even had to cancel one and on another occasion, he had to be sneaked in by the secret service.

College campuses taken over by racial protesters demanding campus deans step down – and it works.

The repeated use of mob violence to stop conservative speakers from voicing their opinions essentially because they were conservatives.

Students demanding apartheid against whites and demanding the firing of a teacher, who actually is very liberal, because he said it was wrong. Trump supporters tortured and beaten.

These were not one off events. They are organized and a movement. They have been happening repeatedly.

Now, perhaps I missed it. Were Hillary Clinton’s supporters tortured and beaten, her rallies stopped by violence and threats against her? Have white racist groups  marched, chanting death to cops? Have white supremacists shot cops after being inspired by these marches? Have they taken over political rallies? If you say yes, your examples are likely decades ago (one social justice warrior I know after 9/11 said that the KKK should be investigated for murder because the government was concerned about Islamic terrorism). Have liberal speakers been literally chased off campus or stopped from speaking? Have conservatives demanded safety zones for their opinions on campus where free speech is shut down, or that the school requirements be changed to suit whites? Possibly some of these happen in reaction to the call by our new revolutionaries. I’m sure it will not get very far.

I heard when discussing this on occasion, that it is anecdotal and cherry picking and that in fact violence by the right is much more prevalent. It certainly is much more publicized if it happens, and, as opposed to left wing violence, attributed to everyone of that ideology. Almost everything people believe that is political is anecdotal in nature (as it is with virtually everything in our lives). If you hate Donald Trump, think he is a tyrant – do you have studies that mathematically prove it so? Of course not – you’ve heard him speak and you formed an opinion. These events I’ve described above have happened so frequently that even the media can’t drown it out with anti-Trump messages. If you want to see them, they are there. In fact, all politically educated people know about them – many just justify it by excusing acts because of past oppression.

But, the events of August 12th has raised it to a new level.

August 12th      

Let me go back a bit. Last year I read of a violent Klan march in Bakersfield, California described as a “violent Klan rally.” I believe it was a NY Times’ piece, but I could be wrong. I was surprised because the FBI had essentially crushed the Klan many years ago, forcing the remnant to forswear violence. And, the fact that they are idiots or reprehensible doesn’t take from the fact that they had generally kept that promise. So, I tried to find a video of what went on in Bakersfield. And what I saw was, not the Klan being violent, but protesters (the ones they showed were black or mostly black) beating the tar out of the Klan and the police not even stopping them – just asking them to stop beating them up. Imagine, you are in management of a company where labor is on strike. Walking into the building you are attacked by strikers. The police are there, but just running from person to person saying – please, leave him alone. Is that okay? Is it okay because at some time in the past, companies would hire thugs (“strike breakers”) to beat up strikers? You can reverse it if you like. Suppose you are in labor . . . blah, blah, blah. . . and the police just say – please, leave him alone? Is that okay because at some time in the past the mob was heavily involved in unions?

On August 12, we had an incident, not only disgusting in itself, but to which the reaction by the media and government was so pro-fascist that I’m literally saddened and have lost a lot of optimism about our country. Yet few people realize it because of the acts of a deranged young Klan or Nazi supporter drove his car into the crowd, killing one young woman. He is arrested and charged with murder. Good call. But, where is the outrage at what happened to him and his crazy friends before that?

What happened? The Klan and other white supremacists were marching – with a permit – to protest the taking down of a statute of a confederate general. Perhaps some were not white supremacist as we’ve heard. I do know many people who do not want that done who are not racists. It doesn’t matter to me. I would not march with a significant number of people I believed were racist unless I could make a significant effort to distinguish myself from them.

"Counter protesters" showed up, not just to jeer, but wearing armor and carrying weapons. One man was videotaped using a homemade flamethrower – a flamethrower!!! The counter-protesters interrupted the march – for which there was a permit, beating the white supremacists and I expect others, who fought back. It was a full blown riot – but the police, under orders, refused to help. They mostly stood by, protecting themselves, while people – yes, loathsome people, were beaten by other loathsome people. The odds were overwhelmingly in the counter-protesters favor.

One of the organizers of the counter-protest was a group called Antifa, which I understand means anti-fascist. They are barely mentioned in the media, and when they are, they are not excoriated for violence, but often praised, as if they are heroes. Yet these same marchers were literally claiming the streets, chanting, “Whose streets? Our streets.” Are those not fascists themselves? Of course they are.

This is my definition of a fascist as it is what I think people meant until last week when they used the word - Someone who uses force or intimidation to impose their political will on others, and often are inspired by their race or religion.

The outrage was, not surprisingly, directed foremost at the driver of the car, James Fields, a young, no-doubt, idiot. But also at the protesters in general.

President Trump, doing the president thing of making a speech did something horrible – he condemned violence by both sides. Or many sides, as he put it. As usual, he was inarticulate. As usual, the reaction to him was hysterical. He was attacked not only by Democrats, but by many in his own party and many others, including business men. They claimed he was supporting the white supremacists and had to take it back. Clearly, what they are demanding is that he admit that right wing violence is wrong, but left wing violence is fine – not to be mentioned.

And, he crumpled. He made a statement condemning white supremacists. Did he think it would help him? He should have stood his ground and condemned white racists, black racists and supporters of either side. What is the difference in racism between those chanting “white lives matter” and those chanting “black lives matter?”

Republicans have reason to hate Trump. He’s severely harmed their party. He’s done some good things in office despite the criticism – or things that some people think are good - but others things that aren’t so good. In my view, more bad than good, but, it is hard to be objective with the constant rain of criticism. Clearly, he is incapable of leading, only attacking like a child when he doesn’t get his way. It got him in the White House but left him incapable of governing. There are still enough Democrats in congress and a few Republicans who so despise him, he cannot act legislatively, only by presidential power.

You think I’m exaggerating? You think that weapons fell out of the sky into the hands of the counter-protesters. You think the guy who showed up with the flame-thrower just happened by with it in his pocket. Watch the videos.

The police stood by on orders from the Mayor of Charlottesville (so it is reported – they were just standing there behind shields) not protecting anyone that I could see. However loathsome Nazis and the Klan are, they had a right to march, a right to protest under the first amendment. The Supreme Court long ago held in the famous Skokie Illinois case that even those who offend others, like Nazis marching in a Jewish neighborhood, have the same free speech rights as everyone else.

More, it is not the job of the police to stand by idly or to protect people from being offended, but to protect the speaker who is offending them. To do otherwise is the death of a minorities’ right to speak. This is not my say so. This has been the law for quite a while. It wasn’t always the law, but for the last 50 or so years it has been established clearly.

What shocked me more than even a manipulative media which has spun this whole story as if only the white supremacists were violent, more than the cowardly politicians like Mitt Romney and Sen. Rubio, both of whom made peace with Trump but clearly despise him, was the action by the Commission on Civil Rights.

I watched a Commission meeting in horror as a proposed amendment to a statement condemning the white racists was made, asking that violence be rejected on all sides. It was not only rejected, but the proposer of the anti-violence amendment was lambasted for raising it by the commissioner himself, who essentially claimed that all of the fault was on the Nazi/Klan side and that “they” drove a car into innocent people. When people make such an outrageous lie in a controversial issue it is often because they have no real argument. Other members who voted against the amendment claimed they were only for non-violent protest, and that their statement which condemned only the right, was clear it was against violence – they just wouldn’t really make it as clear as this amendment requested.

The woman who made the request for the amendment was literally shamed by the commissioner (who appeared by phone) as if she had requested an amendment that said – white supremacy rocks! She was deferential and obviously aware she had to be brave herself.

If you had read my blog for any period of time, you would see that I am usually fairly optimistic about whatever we are going through. But this is a bad time and it is not because of Trump, who I believe would love to work with Democrats. I can’t and won’t support him. He is what I said he was years ago, the worst thing ever to happen to the Republican Party and completely unsuitable for the presidency. However, I’m sorry, even with the wall, even with stupid comments about Muslims and Mexicans (stupid, but frequently exaggerated by others), he is not a fascist or authoritarian. In fact, so far he has been less authoritarian than the much more polished and personable Obama, who disobeyed court orders (those who call him authoritarian ignore that Trump, for all his egotism and bluff, actually obeyed the probably unconstitutional judicial rulings which stayed his executive orders), made his own law (or through his cabinet – like Kathleen Sebalius), unconstitutionally went to war with Libya for no reason (crazy as Qaddafi was, Libya helped us in the war on terror), ignored the WPA, etc. I’ve said it many times – I wouldn’t vote for Trump for dog catcher, but he’s president and can be overruled and made unimportant by future presidents. The “resistance” is hurting the country, because many cultural changes (like crushing free speech – have far longer consequences) Obama was just more likable. I personally like Obama, but his policies and the tenor he set for society were ruinous and the media gave him a pass on almost everything he or his administration did wrong.

Killing the dream – those who judge on the color of skin rather than the content of their character.

I need to do something to point out that this is the most important section:

**********PLEASE READ THIS IF YOU READ NOTHING ELSE**********

Although King was not really original (much of his movement was admittedly based on Gandhi’s Satyagraha principles),* but he was incredibly effective and an amazing leader. There were, of course, many other civil rights leaders, but he is the most famous and beloved. I do not doubt that it was not just his deep resonant voice and eloquence, but his insistence on non-violence and his clarion call for judging others by the content of their character and not the color of their skin. You could generalize it and say . . . and not by their DNA or not by qualities peculiar to their birth.  

*I wrote a post (10/30/08) showing that a even good part of King’s I have a Dream speech was “borrowed” from other civil rights leaders. As I said there: “But, don’t think I’m here to trash King. That’s not the point. King is a genuine American hero. He was a great man of remarkable courage, character and principle and we are a much better country because of him. But, I am also a believer in not letting anyone become too much of a cult figure. And, I do not believe that we should necessarily lessen the accomplishments of great men and women in our minds because of relatively minor faults. Notice, though, that last sentence is certainly qualified.

Plagiarism was certainly a King flaw, and we can’t just excuse it, but, overall, it does not significantly reduce a speech that can still make us shed tears. Nor does it make much of a dent in his heroic and inspirational life story. What it does for me, I hope, is help me consider a “great man” in a more realistic way.”

Much of my discomfort in the past few years is based on the reversal – by those who should be his legitimate heirs - of King’s dream. They do not want to be judged by their character. And they certainly don’t want to judge you by your character.

Obviously, judging people by their skin color or other genetic markers, is generally frowned upon in modern society, although there is still a great deal of it. For example, many people who aren’t overtly racist still believe that people should stick to their own kind. They are receding as mixed marriages grow. Those who have been most vehement about judging people by race, religion, etc., like the KKK or Nazis are considered loathsome by most of society, including myself. If you want to argue with it, don’t say, what about the Nazis or KKK? – I agree. But, does that legitimize violence for those who oppose those groups?

Rather than be theoretical, let me give concrete examples of how the present movement has made skin color the important concern.

“Black Lives Matter.” Yes, black lives matter, but no more or less than white ones or any other ethnic or racial group. I understand what some are saying, sub rosa – everyone knows white lives matter, but they don’t know or think black ones do. Leave aside that I don’t know any grown up – even from when I lived in the Bible Belt, who thought black lives didn’t matter. In fact, one of the most vocally racist people I knew down there also helped care for a black man and felt quite affectionate towards him. But, you can’t support an argument that this is the actual meaning, when people who say “all lives matter” have to immediately leave the party, a la Jim Webb, or are booed down. Try saying “All Lives Matter” at a BLM rally and see how it goes. If your argument is not racial superiority, than you can’t mind people saying “all lives matter” or “white lives matter,” if they are trying just to be fair or if they feel like victims too.

All whites are automatically racist. The only member of BLM that I know (if member is the right word), who I happen to be very fond of, told me with great emotion that he went to a seminar entitled “How to be the least racist white professor you can be.” In other words, if you are a white professor, you are a racist. If I am off a word or so - sorry. He’s also told me that it felt bad when he was told he was racist at meetings but that he doesn’t object. But, he explained how he had used me as an example at the seminar because I don’t realize how “hurtful” my racist jokes are. He actually couldn’t name a racist joke I’ve told or when (it has been many years because everyone has gotten so freaking sensitive they’ve ruined ethnic humor – to me, the joke was always how outrageous the joke was), although I can tell you that I often make fun of the hyphenated American labels, the most frequent one being African-American, because it is almost the only one you regularly hear. If that makes me a racist, then I guess I am. I still love ethnic humor, and that includes jokes about any groups people put me in.

No, it’s not just him or a handful of people who feel that being white is synonymous with racism. The ACLU – the supposed protectors of civil rights, recently took down an ad that featured a little white girl as representative of their group – because using a little white girl was racist. Amazing. There are articles I’ve read with titles like “Why I’m done explaining myself to white people.” The theory is that if you are white, you are privileged and if you don’t accept it, you are either racist or obtuse. I am never going to argue with you that blacks have suffered unimaginable oppression in this country, and right up into my lifetime, and there is still a great deal of color prejudice.

Reparations based on color.  Many people believe that blacks should get a stipend or be paid for what some of their ancestors suffered. I have had any number of white friends suggest this to me too. They can never explain how it could be done in a fair way – why other people whose ancestors were oppressed should not get paid too, how you decide who is black (if you are bi-racial? A quarter? Will we back to calling people mestizos) or how that doing so wouldn’t be the most racist pigeonholing possible, akin to the Nazi racial laws. What about blacks who are wealthy, or what about whites whose ancestors were not in America during slavery, or were but were abolitionists, or who never participated in Jim Crow? Do they all get or have to pay reparations? What about American Indians? Jews? The Chinese? Do they get paid for their suffering? At least the American Indians can say their treatment was comparable. They were simply eradicated in large part of forced to live on reservations.

America is really the one country in the world where for the most part of two centuries people from all over came and still came. There is already a great diversity among us. And, it has also led to many problems because of it, whatever the benefits. People say it is our strength. But, when I look at a list recently published as to the most successful societies (many of them Scandinavian, they were largely non-diverse.

There’s an answer, of course to why whites who have no actual blame should pay blacks who are not slaves themselves, nor were their ancestors slaves – if your skin is white, you are responsible for the behavior of some people of the same skin color who lived long ago for the economic success of people of black skin color, whether or not their ancestors were ever slaves (obviously, they were not). In other words – it is all about skin color. If that is the case – if that is the argument - how is it different than the Nazis? How is it different from the concept of blood libel?

The truth is, we already have reparations of a sense in our country, although it is not direct payment. We have, not only anti-discrimination laws but federal disparate impact laws which now hold that even where there is no intent of discrimination – the fact that different groups are effected differently means that the law is automatically discriminatory. We also have many programs which give contract advantages to those deemed minorities (women too) and give them better opportunities to get jobs.

Colleges: If you follow what has been going on at college campuses, there have been demands all over the country for administrators to resign, if they were determined by the students who attend the schools to not have done enough about diversity or racism. Many of these deans and presidents are as cowardly as the CEOs and politicians, plus many of them receive golden parachutes and actually are glad to leave. We can add the demands for “safe zones,” the most anti-education, un-academic, not to mention unconstitutional idea you can come to. Well, that’s an exaggeration. At least at one school, minority students demanded a day where no whites were allowed on campus. The one professor, also a progressive, who had the common sense to say, that’s not a good idea, was lambasted – still, I believe. What’s it all based on? Skin color. Nothing to do with character there. I don’t think most schools have been affected. 

But, it is a growing problem.

The usual comeback

I often comment online. I enjoy it, although I don’t make a lot of people happy. Some people appreciate it, but most political websites are either conservative or liberal, and I am not what you would call well thought of on any of these – it seems I am forever taking the unpopular position, because the articles and comments are so one sided, and therefore I’m usual deemed a member of the opposition by other commenters. Mostly these days I write on the NYTimes, where I am either ignored. People who write the approved thing – Trump, Bush or Republicans suck – get lots of “recommends,” some thousands. On my best days, if not ignored, I get a handful. It doesn’t matter if I get any, but I notice when I get any attention, it is often in the form of a slew of angry comments in reply – sometimes scores of them. I try to comment back to the polite people, but sometimes it is too late to post. In any event, because the topics of this post comes up a lot, I write on them a lot. Plus, I have debated it with people I know, if they aren’t the type to get volcanic over disagreement.  So, I’m aware of the usual comebacks. Here’s a list of the four main ones: 


       One, that I’m a racist, Trump, KKK or Nazi supporter;

     Two, that I make a false equivalence between Nazis and those who use force and intimidation, to force their opinions or defeat the free speech rights of Nazis on racial grounds (that’s not quite what they say – they call the latter group “protesters” – I just couldn’t help myself).

     Three, that I am cherry picking facts or using anecdotal evidence.

Four, only some act badly. You can't blame the whole group.

I’ll address them briefly (hah):

     One, if you want to think I’m a racist, Trump, KKK or Nazi supporter, go ahead. I can’t stop you. It isn’t even a little true, but that doesn’t seem to stop anyone these days. It’s enough they say it or want to believe it.

     Two, I don't see a moral equivalence yet. Maybe soon, as the Nazis/Klan have gotten a lot of press thanks to the protestors, and are fighting back. Shields’ car attack may be the least of it. But, right now, the moral scale is tilted against the fascist opposition and oddly, in favor of the hate groups that are pitiful replicas of monstrous groups of the past. Yes, the fascists who go to Klan/Nazi marches (Charlottesville was legal) with weapons and armor (including, at least, one flame thrower), who you can see on previous marches beating up the white supremacists on video, who are not interfered with by the police (sometimes like in pre-Nazi Germany), who shut down speakers or destroy their venue, who chant death to cops or whose streets/our streets, who deface public property, break windows, bloody noses, burn cars, attack political rallies, and yes, kill cops - those are the less moral group. Do they get a violent reaction? Yes. And that is their goal. B/C they are bigger, more powerful, have the media, both parties and probably most Americans behind them. It's still fascist behavior. But, we used to have a country where anyone could have an opinion and protest, even if the rest of us thought they were reprehensible. We now have a country of people who support the new brown shirts and don't realize that if YOU, who think they are on their side, disagree - they will destroy you too.

Three, I kind of covered this before. Political opinions are almost always based on anecdotal or incomplete evidence. I base mine, like everyone else, on what I feel I have seen enough of to believe. If someone can correct my facts – e.g., show me H. Clinton rallies that were shut down, videos of Nazis or the KKK beating up people who didn’t come to fight them, etc., I’ll consider it.

People only say that you are cherry picking or being anecdotal when they disagree with your conclusion. I’ve never had anyone say it to me who agreed.  And I notice, when I do rely on anecdotes or what I’ve experienced, those who say . . . well, that’s anecdotal (often I say it first), don’t have any more scientific evidence than I do.

Four, well, someone or other on Fox actually caused a ruckus by saying, in effect, don't say that you are innocent if you are standing with people who chant "The Jews won't replace us." I agree. But, you also can't say you are innocent if you stand with those chanting "black lives matter," or "death to cops," or are rioting. And, Gandhi was a great example. When people who supported him were violent, he would end the protests and even go on a hunger fast until it stopped. I don't expect anyone to do that - but I do expect them not to lend their time, name or resources to a movement that has become virulent. At the very least, be vocal in distinguishing yourself and condemning those who are violent or threatening.

The End

I feel like I’ve said more than enough on this subject, although I could write a lot more about the culture of victimization by people who have it so much better than most people in the world. I wrote as much as I did because it is worrisome. Regular people talk about it all the time, but only when they know it is not someone who is going to call them a racist. I had a talk at the beach the other day with a middle aged American born in India. She didn’t need to read this post to give me similar thoughts. She told me how worried she is about the younger generation, with everyone being taught that they are a victim and the way to get “justice” is to prevent the other side from talking or try to destroy their business or life. Good to see even the immigrants think it’s crazy. 

Good luck, everyone. Watch out for flame throwers.

About Me

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I started this blog in September, 2006. Mostly, it is where I can talk about things that interest me, which I otherwise don't get to do all that much, about some remarkable people who should not be forgotten, philosophy and theories (like Don Foster's on who wrote A Visit From St. Nicholas and my own on whether Santa is mostly derived from a Norse god) and analysis of issues that concern me. Often it is about books. I try to quote accurately and to say when I am paraphrasing (more and more). Sometimes I blow the first name of even very famous people, often entertainers. I'm much better at history, but once in a while I see I have written something I later learned was not true. Sometimes I fix them, sometimes not. My worst mistake was writing that Beethoven went blind, when he actually went deaf. Feel free to point out an error. I either leave in the mistake, or, if I clean it up, the comment pointing it out. From time to time I do clean up grammar in old posts as, over time I have become more conventional in my grammar, and I very often write these when I am falling asleep and just make dumb mistakes. It be nice to have an editor, but . . . .