Sure, our 64-year-old cease-fire with North Korea may be about to end. And the Kurdish referendum on national independence could be about to draw Turkey, Iraq, and Iran into a full-scale shooting war. Yes, the entire island of Puerto Rico is a desolated wreck of human suffering. And Russia seems to be moving military chess pieces around the Risk map-board in preparation for taking back some more big chunks of the former Soviet Union.
So by all means, let’s follow the President’s lead and focus 97% of our energy and passion on fighting a bitter culture war over pregame football ceremonies. Makes perfect sense.
In fact, it makes so much sense, I’ll weigh in here by blorching all the random thoughts I’ve been having about it onto a single page. Blorch sequence commencing in 3 . . . 2 . . .
Thought 1. The whole anthem protest gimmick was dying from lack of oxygen until Mr. Trump poured gasoline all over it and flicked a smoldering Twitter cigarette butt on it a few days ago.
Protests, to be effective must shock and offend. An act of protest loses all power the moment it becomes boring or cliche or simply ignored. It’s why “Occupy Wall Street” ultimately fizzled out.
And we were aaaaalmost there. Then . . . well, you know. #MAGA
Thought 2. By the way, I’ve always found these NFL anthem protests grating and wrongheaded. Why? Because the national anthem is the wrong target if you’re trying to make some point about policing. Policing is a local issue–reformed at the local level. The national anthem is . . . you know . . . national. It’s right there in the name.
If the police department in St. Louis is broken, then it’s the responsibility of the people of St. Louis to fix it. And they’re in the best position to know what’s broken. Disrespecting our service men and women–past and present–is just counterproductive and ugly and dumb.
Of course, part of the liberal mindset is to reflexively and unthinkingly believe that every human problem can be and should be solved by the (messianic) federal government. When a Progressive says to himself, “there oughta be a law” . . . he always means a Federal law.
Thought 3. Of course, Mr. Trump knew exactly what he was doing when he verbally poked his finger into the chests of the tiny handful of NFL players who were routinely sitting out the anthem. He was baiting the “blame America first” crowd in order to gin up his base and rally knee-jerk support. And the players, the media, the usual politicians, and a big chunk of the country, all inhaled the bait!
With more emotion than reason, they immediately went all in and started kneeling all over the place. And average Americans who love their country and appreciate those who serve in the military—also with more emotion than reason—reacted just you would expect them to.
The President couldn’t possibly have hoped for a more desirable outcome than the immediate over the top response by the players and owners, and the accompanying media frenzy. His approval numbers are already climbing, now that hundreds of players have willingly chosen to play their designated part as the villain in this melodrama.
Yes this is very bad for our society, but it’s great for the President.
Thought 4. Free speech (for conservatives and Christians) on college campuses has been under vicious assault recently, but we were beginning to win that argument, primarily because we clearly held the moral high ground. You could feel the tide beginning to turn.
But now we have conservatives cheering the President’s calls to force players to respect the anthem or be fired.
It’s hypocritical to, in one breath, tell college deans they need to allow conservative speakers to speak on campus without threats or intimidation because free speech rights are absolute. And with the next breath endorse firing or fining players who take a knee while country superstar Jodi Lee Whassername belts out the Star Spangled Banner.
Don’t misunderstand. I love this country fiercely. But the call to force reverence for the national anthem is idiotic. And more than a little creepy. (I’m looking at you Lou Dobbs.)
No person who doesn’t truly love this country; doesn’t appreciate the freedoms it provides, or doesn’t appreciate those who have died or risked their lives preserving those freedoms, should be forced to pretend that they do.
You know who has to force a fake smile and pretend to love their government? People in North Korea.
Thought 5. On the other hand, I’m all for exercising your free marketplace rights to turn off NFL games on principle as long as the players, the league, and the networks like ESPN/Disney insist on injecting “issues” and PC politics into sports. I certainly have.
On principle, I avoid ESPN dot com if at all possible. And I turn off game broadcasts that show me anthem kneelers. Kneeling is the players’ right. Not watching their game is mine. We’re all good. No one is being forced to do something that violates their conscience.
Thought 6: On the left there has been a lot of silly romanticizing of all the players who knelt during the anthem this last Sunday. The narrative is that they were courageously striking a blow for civil rights and equality.
Please. If a player wasn’t taking a knee in the weeks prior to last weekend, but did so after Mr. Trump’s tweet storm, then be honest. His kneeling wasn’t really about a cause. It was about pushing back at the President. Speaking truth to power, as they say.
Thought 7: I feel really bad for Coach Mike Tomlin. Everyone, both left and right, completely misread and misconstrued his approach to handling this unnecessary, idiotic poop storm.
Last Sunday, he, like most other NFL coaches was faced with the challenge of trying to keep his team united while hurricane-force winds of a culture war tried to rip the locker room apart.
Many members of his team wanted to kneel during the anthem. A lot of others, both black and white, wanted to stand. Tomlin made one request of his team: “Whatever you do . . . do it together. Talk about it. Vote. And be unified 100% in what you do.
Well the team couldn’t agree. Passions were running high. There were strong convictions on both sides. Yet Tomlin continued to place the emphasis on 100% unity.
So displaying savvy worthy of King Solomon, Tomlin essentially said, “Okay, if we can’t be unified in what our posture is going to be during the anthem, we’ll skip it.” The team stayed in the tunnel during the anthem rather than provide some dramatic spectacle for the benefit of the gawking cameras.
Immediately, social justice warriors on the left, looking through the lens of their preferred narrative, praised the Steelers’ “boycott” of the anthem. Conservatives saw the headlines about the “boycott” and began a verbal crucifixion of Tomlin and the Steelers.
In reality, Tomlin’s team didn’t “boycott” anything. He simply said, in effect, “We didn’t ask for this mess. A handful of activists and politician trying to stir the pot put us in this no-win situation. So we’re going to sit this dance out. We choose “none of the above.” Let us know when ya’ll stop being bat poop insane.”
There was just one problem. Tomlin’s goal and strategy was to keep the whole team unified and doing the same thing—together. But at the last minute, Steelers offensive lineman Alejandro Villanueva stepped out of the tunnel before the anthem was completed. So he–a former Army Ranger who did three tours of duty in Afghanistan–came to attention and put his hand over his heart. As the cameras rolled and snapped away, the lone Steeler, a former war hero no less, stood for Old Glory.
Villanueva the patriotic veteran became an instant hero among those grieved by the anthem protests. His picture was shared endlessly on social media. His jersey rocketed to the top of the list of most sold.
So, in the very same way liberals attached a false narrative to Tomlin’s “boycott,” conservatives instantly crafted their own false narrative around Villanueva’s hand-on-heart emergence from the tunnel.
As FoxNews.com reported, Villanueva later said in an interview: “Unfortunately I threw my teammates under the bus, unintentionally. Every single time I see that picture of me standing by myself I feel embarrassed.”
I have tremendous respect and admiration for Villanueva, but I understand why he’s embarrassed. His coach tried to bring some non-political sanity to a political circus. Tomlin tried to keep his players from being cynically used pawns in some larger war. And Villanueva inadvertently cut his legs out from under him.
Tomlin is still being roasted on social media by a lot of the God-and-Country folks I usually agree with. But they’re dead wrong. I think his voice was the wisest, sanest, most reasonable one I heard last Sunday:
“We’re not going to play politics. We’re football players, we’re football coaches,” said Tomlin. “We’re not participating in the anthem today, not to be disrespectful to the anthem, to remove ourselves from the circumstance.”
Amen, coach. Thanks for trying to bring us what most of us really want . . . sports as an entertaining refuge from our ugly politics.
Permit me to point something out that isn’t widely understood or acknowledged in our Postmodern, Bizarro-World times.
Whereever the gospel of Jesus Christ has spread and taken root, the lot of women has radically improved. Conversely, the places where Christianity is least historically present and welcome . . . these are the most hellish places on our planet to have the misfortune of being born a girl.
For the whole of human history, the default setting in our fallen world has been to treat women as property or sex slaves. Paganism is the original “rape culture.”
Jesus shocked the sensibilities of the dominant culture in His day by welcoming women into His inner circle–accepting their worship and follower-ship. And wherever the movement He launched has spread—relentelssly, progressively, although imperfectly—women’s lives have improved and their status has risen.
This, in part, because redemption produces more civilized, responsible, peaceful, compassionate men.
Western Civilization is, in essence, a manifestion of Christian civilization, a.k.a., the Kingdom of God. The Gospel is the greatest force for human equality ever unleashed. The seeds of the end of slavery in Europe were scattered from Britain’s Protestant pulpits. It took longer, but the same was true in North America.
The Gospel is the greatest force for human equality ever unleashed.
The Abololitionist movement was born and fueled by churches. Just as most of the concern, energy, and money for fighting modern slavery (in the form of human trafficking and sex slavery) is coming from Christian people in Christian ( and formerly Christian) nations.
Perversely, a majority of the self-identifying feminists of our day view Christianity as Enemy Number One, while being inexplicably willing to accommodate Islamic Culture and actively embrace Hindu Culture in the form of Eastern Mysticism.
A few facts for your consideration on this International Women’s Day:
- Forced Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) is widespread across Africa, the Middle East, and south Asia—whereever Islam or Animism is the dominant cultural force.
- FGM is spreading across the world with emigration and refugee flows, amplified by high birth rates among the practicing communities.
- Rape is pandemic in India and the nation serves as a major hub for the international trade in sex slaves.
- By some estimates, more than 30 million people are living as slaves right now. Most of them are women. And the bulk of these are living in India, China, Pakistan.
I am a husband to an extraordinary woman, and father to three more of the same. A few weeks from now, twin girls will be added to our clan. How grateful I am they were born in a Gospel-infused, Gospel-informed culture.
It is a privilege I seek and pray for every little girl in every corner of the world.
Skipped the telecast but heard there was much earnest fist-shaking at the current president.
Younger viewers may be excused for assuming this is some sort of new phenomenon. For those of us with longer memories, there’s a weary familiarity:
- These same characters said the same things about George W. Bush with the same levels of righteous ferocity. This, even though W. wasn’t all that conservative and was, by all available evidence, a profoundly decent human being.
- And the usual suspects said similar things about W’s father—who was even more moderate and temperate than his son.
- Of course, a previous generation of Hollywood elites mocked, derided and denounced Ronald Reagan as a war-mongering, simple-minded nutjob as well.
No, this isn’t new. Things are simply back to normal for when a Republican sits in the Oval Office. Mr. Trump may or may not be a monster (although he has filled his cabinet with competent, decent, admirable people.)
Thus, the fist shaking in Hollywood tells us nothing—other than that after an eight-year break—our nation’s actors get to play the most coveted, most romantic role of all: That of the courageous artist “speaking truth to power.”
In an effort to be less essay-y, here’s the first in a series of bite-sized comments and observations about events in the news.
Mr. Trump seems to have no intention of moderating his practice of popping off on Twitter. At some point soon after the inauguration, one of these 2:00 a.m., 120-character spleen ventings is going to trigger a market crash or major international incident. Mark my words. However . . .
As regular readers of this blog well know, I’m no Trump fan. But I must admit that his cabinet appointments have been very good, in my view. If he makes a comparably good nomination to the Supreme Court, then his administration will be off to an encouraging start.
The Obama Administration has used it’s final weeks in office to undermine and further isolate Israel. Here’s a big inconvenient truth . . .
As I’ve pointed out before, all conflict in the Middle East—including the ongoing horror show in Syria—is rooted in the 1500-year-old Sunni-Shiite rift. If the world’s Arabs, Muslims, and UN bureaucrats got their fondest wish and Israel ceased to exist tomorrow, that war would only intensify. With the distraction of Israel removed, Sunni and Shia would continue slaughtering one another in earnest. Imagine a hundred Aleppos.
But sure, Mr. Kerry . . . stubborn Israel is the “obstacle to peace” in the region.
Yes, the Russians had a preferred outcome in the recent U.S. presidential election. So did the Chinese. And the French, British, Micronesians and North Koreans. In fact every rational nation-state on earth roots for a side in every U.S. presidential election, in accordance with their own national interests.
The Russians clearly favored Trump although their broader goal is simply weakening our nation by undermining public confidence in the system. The Chinese were pulling for Clinton (a sketchy relationship between the dictatorial Chinese regime and the Clintons goes way back.
That said, Mrs. Clinton lost because she was an unappealing candidate and ran a crappy, incompetent campaign. Full stop.
But yes, the major parties in our previous election gave us a choice between a candidate in bed with the Chinese and and one sympathetic to Putin. That’s a lose-lose proposition for the U.S..
Speaking of meddling in the elections of sovereign foriegn nations . . .
Did you know that Mr. Obama’s campaign organization dispatched a team of his best advertising and social media gurus to Israel in 2015, in an effort to unseat Benjamin Netanyahu? They did. He failed. But he tried.
The infamous “Russian Hack” of the recent presidential election was basically two compromised email accounts, those of long-time Clinton associate John Podesta and the DNC.
What most Americans don’t recall (or never heard about at all because the mainstream media downplayed it) was a massive and successful Chinese cyberattack on the actual U.S. government back in 2015.
That attack exposed reams of personal information, including social security numbers, of roughly 4 million current and former federal employees. There was no high profile expulsion of Chinese diplomats after this embarassing breech came to light.
Indeed, there was no publically disernable response at all.
Want to see something deliciously awkward? Here’s ABC White House correspondent John Karl asking Mr. Obama’s spokesman why the Russian hack was treated as a big deal while the much more serious Chinese attacks were a non-issue.
For a brief history of cyberattacks on the U.S by foriegn governments, Reporter Sheryl Attkisson’s “Eight Facts of the ‘Russian Hacks‘” is most illuminating (and troubling).
Back when I was convinced Hillary Clinton was going to win the election, I believed that meant a war with crazy Russia was a small but increasingly real possiblity; but that military conflict with crazy China would be unlikely. I’m convinced Trump’s surprise victory reverses that equation.
Odds of conflict with Russia lower. Odds of onflict with China, higher.
Riots and looting broke out across Mexico last week when the government raised the price of gas. History reveals this is the inescapable result in any nation in which the government seizes the power to set prices and wages.
Watched the Golden Globes and it confirmed what I already knew. Left-wing Hollywood is nearly delirious with secret, giddy delight at the opportunity to courageously “speak truth to power” again.
It’s been eight long years since the world’s most pampered, privileged, and coddled people could signal their virtue to one another by shaking an angry fist at the White House and wagging a shaming finger at the rest of us.
Many of these frequently use their formidible creative gifts to hack furiously at the civilizational branch upon which we all sit.
NRO’s David French, on Streep’s speech, neatly encapsulates my thoughts:
“I have no particular affection for Trump, but I positively loathe the condescension, alarmism, ignorance, and self-regard of the wealthy Hollywood Left, and each of those elements was on full display in Streep’s speech.”
Please read the whole thing. French makes some very important points.
Also re: Ms. Streep . . . When you’re a Progressive and you’ve lost Piers Morgan, you know you’re on thin ice.
For the fourth night in a row, noisy throngs of the usual suspects have marched through the streets of Dallas and other urban centers chanting silly chants:
“Hands too small! Can’t build a wall!”
Of course, we all know and fear the awesome election-voiding, mind-changing power of a wicked burn that rhymes.
The marchers in each city are almost certainly the same tossed salad of marxists, anarchists and identity politics grievance mongers who can be counted on to take to the streets every time there is a left-wing cause to promote for sympathetic evening news coverage. And as is so often the case with these “spontaneous” uprisings, billionaire George Soros is paying the bills.
Now, I may be misreading the current situation but I get the impression that many on the Left are unhappy about the presidential election result.
As I’ve repeatedly pointed out, I was not, and am not, an enthusiastic Trump supporter. There were a half-dozen highly qualified Republican candidates I would have loved to have had the opportunity to support. But the major media, by focusing incessantly and exclusively on Trump during the primaries—both for ratings and in a cynical ploy to hand pick Hillary’s challenger—denied me that privilege.
The histrionics and pants-wetting by many Hillary advocates over the failure of their candidate has been one of the most extraordinary things I’ve ever witnessed. In addition to the protests, which in Portland have turned violent and destructive, we’ve had a torrent of embarrassing crazy talk from celebrities. So be it.
For the most part, the rage, name-calling, and foul-mouthed caterwauling that has followed Trump’s decisive electoral college victory has only served to reassure those Middle-American swing voters who now determine our national elections that they made the right choice.
By the way, I chuckled to learn today that more than half of the Democracy Now! protesters arrested in Portland last week hadn’t even voted. I’d bet a week’s pay that most of the others voted for third party candidates like Jill Stein.
Of course, if the average age of an outraged chanting hippie in the streets is 25, that means that he/she was roughly 13 years old the last time the Democrats lost a presidential election and around nine for the bitterly contested Bush vs. Gore outcome of 2000.
In other words, they have no experiential framework for putting this loss into context or perspective. What’s more, most have been taught a nonsense version of history by the educational system that is constantly reinforced through pop culture and media.
Compounding this is the liberal echo chamber they’ve lived in their entire lives—swaddled in a comforting blanket of media reassurance that they are right and righteous.
A big reason for the magnitude of the shock and awe for many is that they were so sure they were going to win. In fact, in the middle of the day last Tuesday, Hillary and her team were already popping champagne open on the flight back to New York.
Why? How? What now? Some strung-together random thoughts:
- Liberals spent the last eight years cheerleading Mr. Obama’s steady expansion of presidential and executive branch power (executive orders, weaponizing the IRS, EPA, Justice Dept., etc.) Conservatives warned them that this is a bad idea. They cautioned that the separation of powers built into the Constitution through a delicate system of checks and balances was a vital safeguard against tyranny. Now Progressives are pooping themselves at the prospect of turning that enhanced Executive power over to someone they loathe and fear. (See Proverbs 26:27)
- Over the last four years, even while middle Americans struggled through a stagnant economy that hemorrhaged real jobs while creating hundreds of thousands of new baristas, waiters, and bartenders, they:
- Had Obamacare jammed down their throats even though clear majorities opposed it.
- Had same-sex marriage jammed down their throats even though clear majorities opposed it (even in California, which passed a referendum on it, only to see it nullified by the courts.)
- Then immediately saw “transgender issues” pushed to the top of the dominant media culture’s national agenda, before most of the nation had a chance to process the end of marriage as civilization has known it for millennia.
- Saw the rule of law eroded and wages for the working poor weakened through encouragement of illegal immigration.
- Watched professional athletes use a local issue (policing) as a rationale to disrespect and show disdain for the national anthem.
- Spent eight years being called a racist by talking heads for expressing honest, legitimate policy disagreements with the President. (Chris Matthews, Bill Maher, The View ladies, ad infinitum.)
- Been the focus of a constant stream of mockery, derision, and condescension out of the media capitals of Los Angeles and New York–via television, movies, and music.
- Watched North Carolina be treated like a leprous pariah by pop stars and national sports organizations for passing a commonsense law to keep men out of ladies restrooms.
- Words like racist and misogynist are important. We need them. They describe real things. Which is why it is tragically wrong to abuse them to death as the dominant media culture has done for years now. When you use the word racist as a club to silence disagreement or shame-shun decent people who simply disagree with you, you drain these words of their meaning and power.
- When it became clear on election night that Donald Trump was going to win the presidency, after I picked my jaw up off my fuzzy slippers, I made the following prediction to my wife: “God help us. We’re going to see a bunch of celebrities running for president in four years.” Within 72 hours I’d heard Chris Rock, George Clooney, and Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson as potentially interested in running. Good luck with that.
- Finally, in one sense, it didn’t matter who won this election. A lot of bad things were already baked into the cake during Mr. Obama’s tenure, particularly during his second term. In fact, if you’re looking for a truly tragic election outcome, you’re late. It occurred four years ago. Everything Mitt Romney warned about during his campaign has come to pass. All of it. But he lost, in part because a critical mass of evangelicals and catholics couldn’t bring themselves to turn out for a Mormon because “magic underwear” or something.
I’ve been meaning to throw this out there for my fellow sci-fi nerds of a certain age who, like me:
- grew up on Star Trek reruns;
- have followed the various iterations of the franchise through the decades;
- and who invariably notice the political philosophies and ideas that undergird TV series and movies.
Trust me, all dramas have a political viewpoint and an agenda. We storytellers are always either teaching or preaching.
The original Star Trek series was optimistic, idealistic and infused with a confidence that the guiding principles of Western Civilization, although flawed in execution, were unambiguously good.
How the political philosophy of Star Trek evolved (or actually devolved) over the last 50 years was the subject of a long but fascinating essay by Timothy Sandefur in an issue of the Claremont Review of Books last year, titled “The Politics of Star Trek.”
As the insightful piece pointed out, these changes in underlying ideology track perfectly with the U.S. dominant culture’s descent into Postmodern self-hatred and relativism. (Today, the only thing that can safely be condemned as immoral is moral certitude.)
The original network run of the original Star Trek series unfolded when I was ages six to nine. I was aware of the series but it aired past my bedtime.
I do dimly recall, however, being roughly six or seven and working with a friend to convert a discarded cardboard refrigerator box into our own personal Starship Enterprise, complete with NCC-1701 scrawled on the side with crayon. It was subsequently converted, through some clever feats of retrofitting engineering, into a Batmobile.
Even so, like most fans of my generation, I became a devoted follower only after the series entered syndication and became ubiquitous in reruns for decades.
In 1987 Star Trek: The Next Generation revived and reinvigorated the franchise. That was the year I got marred and my new bride and I faithfully watched the new series each week and became invested in the characters.
Even so, the distinct shift in worldview within the franchise and its spinoffs stuck out to me from the beginning. Sandefur’s essay explores this shift in fascinating detail.
The latest reboot of the franchise, crafted by master scifi-fantasy storyteller J.J. Abrams, has once again remade the moral framework within which the familiar characters think and act.
Referring to Abram’s second Star Trek film, Into Darkness, a reinterpretation of the movie Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, Sanderfur notes, “By the time Khan reappears under Abrams’s direction, the fixed moral stars by which the franchise once steered have been almost entirely obscured . . . Having lost their principles, the show’s heroes cannot really explain, or understand, what differentiates them from their enemies, and so are rendered vulnerable to the very forces they once opposed.”
This clearly isn’t for everyone. But if you have consumed all the various iterations of Star Trek through the decades and enjoy smart discussions of big ideas (Hi Ted! Hi Jed!), then you will find this essay well worth your time.
A few days ago I called it the biggest under-reported news story of 2015.
I was referring to the damning series of stunning undercover videos exposing Planned Parenthood as a house of abortion horrors and as a key supplier/source for research labs eager to obtain intact baby parts.
Since then, the story has taken an Orwellian turn. First this:
How could this be? Perhaps this can explain the inexplicable: