Why We Value Human Life

Great-grandmother (89) meets great-grandaughter (9 mos.)

You can see terrible things on the Internet. And once you see something, you can’t unsee it.

Last week I stumbled across a video that I wish I hadn’t. Having watched it, I can’t stop thinking about it. And having thought about, it’s made me mindful of something very important and relevant about this particular moment in history.

That “moment” is one in which powerful forces are endeavoring to pull down and replace as many aspects of Western civilizational heritage as possible, and do so in the name of justice and equality. There’s a great and terrible irony in that, which I’ll get to in a moment.

The video I saw was security camera footage of a side street in the major Chinese city of Foshan. (My sincere apologies in advance for what I’m about to share with you. As horrific as this description will sound, it’s actually worse than what I’ll describe. And I will not be linking to it. You’ll just have to take my word for it.)

Although I’d never seen it or heard about, I’ve since learned that the video was leaked and went viral back in late 2011. (<-Wikipedia article)

The now infamous surveillance camera footage of a busy street shows a two year old little girl, Wang Yue, toddling out into the street and standing there for a moment before being hit by a very slow moving delivery van.

The child is knocked down and then the front, passenger side tire runs over her body. The puzzled driver pauses for a few seconds. The proceeds so that the rear tire also runs over her. I wish I could tell you that this is the worst of it.

The child lies in the street, moving perceptibly, as dozens of people walk by without stopping. One man literally steps over the toddler. There are people everywhere, but no one helps. No one intervenes.

Eventually, a another truck comes into view.

When watching the the video for the first time, you think, “Oh good, this driver will stop and get out of the truck to check on the child lying in the street.”

Oh, how I wish that was what happens.

The truck slows momentarily to assess the obstacle, and then keeps moving forward. The driver doesn’t even make an attempt to steer around little Yue.

She doesn’t move any more after that. But people continue to walk by her and around her, as if she’s not there.

As it turns out the video became a national embarrassment in China, and a horror and a byword around the world. But it illustrated a truth that many of us have known for a long time. Human life is cheap in China.

The fact is, human life is cheap in lots of places around the world. I’ve visited many of them. I’ve been to places where the locals think nothing of seeing a human body lying in a ditch or floating down the river.

Most of us who were born into Western cultures were raised with an ethic that assumed every human life was signficant. Even the lives of people we don’t know. We share a core cultural sensibility that human life is distinctly precious.

Even after 47 years of legalized abortion in the U.S., we’re still not comfortable with it as a culture. Christians (for the most part) oppose it. Feminists and Progressives reveal their discomfort with it by creating euphemisms like “lump of tissue” to avoid having to think about what they’re really talking about. There’s a deeply ingrained civilizational reason for that.

It’s the same reason the videoed death of George Floyd blew open a hole of horror and disgust so wide in the American public’s psyche, that Progressives, Marxists, and anarchists sensed (correctly apparently) that they could drive anything on their wish list through it.

And a long and ambitious wish list it is. Sensing the opportunity in the widespread revulsion at the taking of the life of a helpless black man, the enemies of Western culture blew right past police reform, and even past meaningful racial reconciliation, in order to advance a more radical agenda of symbolically and actually pulling down the Christianity-rooted civilization that has made the United States a land of opportunity and promise for numerous generations seeking a better life.

Yes, our esteem for human life is a product of that culture. But we take it for granted. And we think that most people all over the world hold that truth to be self evident, too. They don’t.

They don’t in the sprawling red light districts of Bombay and Calcutta. They don’t in the militia camps of the Congo. They don’t in the palaces of Saudi royalty. And they don’t in the work camps of China.

We also tend to think that this is the way people have always thought, but a review of history will reveal that this is not the case.

In all places and all times, human life has usually carried the same value as it did for those people stepping over the crushed body of a dying toddler.

Offering an infant to Molech.

It was true of the ancient Greeks. The Spartans famously required the city leaders to examine every newborn child to determine if it was fit to live.

Likewise, Aristotle argued that parents should be compelled by law to expose deformed or handicapped babies. To “expose” an infant was to abandon it on the city’s garbage heap so wild animals or the elements would kill him or, more commonly, her.

I recall reading a translation of a letter written by a Roman soldier in 1 B.C. The soldier was deployed far away from his pregnant wife. After encouraging her to take care of herself and the unborn child growing within her, he writes, “If you have the baby before I return, if it is a boy, let it live; if it is a girl, expose it.”

Early Christians in many Roman cities used to check the preferred exposure sites daily in order to rescue and raise abandoned babies . . . who were usually girls.

Girl babies back then, as now in many places around the world, are killed without a thought. But not in the U.S.. Not yet, anyway, although we now have our advocates for sex selection abortions and terminations for imperfect babies. But these advocates have clearly rejected the traditions of Western (Christian) Civilization.

Even so, we are still a culture that values life. It’s why, in the midst of the Covid-19 pandemic, our default response as a society is to risk impoverishing millions in order to preserve the lives of thousands. Even if a good number of those thousands were likely to die in the next year or so anyway.

That’s how much we value life as a culture. So, where does this ethic come from?

Certainly not from Eastern cultures. Not from Marxist ideology. Not from paganism. No, it is a legacy of a Christian heritage that, in ways unique among all the civilizations that currently exist, or have ever existed, holds human life to be precious.

As historian Tom Holland has noted in his extraordinary new book, Dominion: How the Christian Revolution Remade the World . . .

To live in a Western country is to live in a society still saturated by Christian concepts and assumptions. 

Even while our Western system of values is being rejected and vilified by several generations of Americans, that legacy persists. It’s in our cultural DNA. For the moment, anyway.

That brings me to the irony that I mentioned above.

Those pulling down the statues of “dead white men” and calling for an end to our economic and political “systems of oppression” are attacking the very thing that best produces the things they say they value most. 

For example, whereever the seeds of the gospel have taken root and flourished, cultures have emerged in which the value of human life rose. How could a faith built on “God so loved the world . . .” produce anything else.

When the New Covenant transforms a critical mass of people for multiple generations in a place, the status of women invariably rises. They go from being treated like property or children—as is the case in many cultures throughout history and across the world today–to enjoying largely the same rights as men. How could a Kingdom that affrims that “in Christ there is neither male nor female” have any other effect?

Slavery? The abolitionist cause rose and grew in Great Britain largely through the empire’s pulpits and prayer meetings. Then the same in the fledgling, expanding United States. Ultimately, the British Empire became the world’s most powerful force for ending the slave trade. And the United States fought one of history’s bloodiest civil wars over ending its expansion.

How could worship of a King who described His mission as proclaiming release to the captives and setting free the oppressed result in any other ethic?

Even the “animal rights” movement could (but won’t) see its ethical forerunner in the churches of Great Britain. The same men and women who formed the spiritual and intellectual hub of the abolitionist movement in Great Britain—William Wilberforce, Hannah More, et.al.,—voiced the first calls for “animal welfare” reform. And Christians wrote the world’s first animal cruelty laws in Ireland, England, and the American colonies.

Well, that’s not quite true. The first codified prohibition against animal cruelty is in the Bible. (See: Ex. 23:5; Lev. 22:8; Deut. 22:6; Deut. 25:4; Prov. 12:10)

Of course, the Christian ethic of championing animal welfare has mutated in our time into a belief in animal rights. That’s a very different thing.

That shift began in earnest back in the ’60s and ’70s. Back then, in their youth, the Boomer generation that runs most of the country’s institutions today, convinced themselves (with a lot of spiritual help) that the Western foundation that had delivered so much progress wasn’t bringing change fast enough. That, in fact, it was the problem, rather than the solution.

So they embraced modernized versions of Eastern religions. Those religions hold that “all” life is equally precious. That the life in insects and reptiles and chickens is no less sacred than the life of a child.

Jesus once rebuked the Pharisees saying, “You blind guides! You strain out a gnat but swallow a camel.” (Matt. 23:24)

It appears that in Jesus’ time, some of the ancient Pharisees had adopted a practice very similar to followers of the Jain religion in India–they drank water through a piece of cloth so as to not accidentally ingest a tiny insect such as a gnat.

The Pharisees did this because insects were unclean, forbidden food according to Levitical law. The Jain do this to this day because they are not permitted to take animal life in any form. For this same reason, they are not allowed to eat after dark because this might involve accidently swallowing a gnat.

The fruit of this ethic and similar ones is evident throughout the cultures rooted in Eastern religions. Elevating the value of animal life has the effect of diminshing the value and uniqueness of human life.

Thus we have exchanged the Christian, compassionate animal welfare ethic for a pagan religious paradigm that invariably results in death and misery for humanity. It’s no coincidence that places where this is the deeply-rooted dominant view are among the worst places on earth to be born poor, or a girl.

Which brings us to an unpleasant, under-appreciated reality.

The only alternative to the Western heritage currently under assault is— paganism. Not modernism. Paganism. Modernism is an expression and effect of the Kingdom of Jesus Christ.

In a very real sense, the battle lines currently being formed are about the re-paganization of the West. (Please note the number of wiccan, druid, neo-pagan, and gaia worshippers in the ranks of the Progressive vanguard.)

And that means that just a lttle farther down this path, a lot of very sweet, very well-meaning pastors and Christians who, with the best of intentions, have embraced this “social justice” moment are about to find themselves in an awkward position.

They will discover they’ve unwittingly become a part of the furious hacking at the limb we’re all sitting on and, in the process, having weakened the very institutions that hold out the best hope for advancing justice and equality . . . and life . . . for everyone.

Please, just stop.

Our Crisis of Empathy

{Note: I wrote the following post four years ago at the height of Ferguson-related protests and riots. Feels timely to me. But you be the judge.}

It was dark, but I could still discern in the headlights’ glare that a shotgun was pointed directly at my chest.

“Son, that’s a good way to get your head blown off,” said the voice behind the gun.

Perhaps I’d better back up and offer you some context here.

This was the mid-to-late seventies in rural Oklahoma. I was only 17 but this was not the first time a rural law enforcement officer had taken a look at my shaggy hair and fast car and decided I was a trouble maker. (That’s right, kids. I had long, thick brown hair.)

Only an hour earlier I had graduated from high school. At that moment, many of my classmates were headed out to keg parties to celebrate by getting blitzed.

Three other friends and I were headed over the mountain to a larger town to grab a nice dinner. You see we were the good kids. (eyeroll) We were walking the straight and narrow. Trying to stay out of trouble.

Halfway to our destination, as we passed through a tiny town notorious for being a speed trap, I noticed a pickup behind me with a flashing yellow light. I assumed it was some sort of road construction or utilities vehicle, so I eased over to the shoulder to let it pass. It didn’t pass, but rather stayed right behind me.

So, I pulled on over on a pitch black stretch of two-lane highway and stopped my vehicle.

The pickup stopped at a distance behind me, as a powerful door-mounted spotlight, commonly used in that part of the country for illegally hunting deer at night, illuminated the back end of my ultra-sweet 1972 Cutlass S. As I looked in my rearview mirror, all I could see was the blinding glare of that spotlight.

Deciding this might possibly be some sort of weird law enforcement traffic stop, I did what I had been taught to do in my Driver’s Ed classes. I remained in my vehicle, rolled the window down, shut off the engine, and waited. And waited.

Eventually I heard a person from behind my vehicle shouting for me to get out of the car. So I did so and started walking back toward that retina-burning light. That’s when I met Mr. 12 Gauge.

“Son, that’s a good way to get your head blown off.”

“Okay,” I agreed. I had no clue what he was referring to but I wasn’t feeling inclined to explore the matter.

He fired off a series of questions: Where are you coming from? Where are you going? Who is your daddy? (Seriously, he wanted to know who my dad was.)  Then he looked at my drivers license for a minute, handed it back, and sent me on my way with no explanation.

It was a terrifying, traumatizing experience. But quickly the residual fear I felt morphed into anger. In fact, nearly 40 years have past since that night and thinking about it right now still cheeses me off.

So do my memories of another run in—roughly six months earlier—with a local Neanderthal deputy sheriff. He, having made about a half-dozen incorrect assumptions about me, pulled me out of my after-school job bagging groceries, hauled me down to the sherrif’s department, and tried to intimidate me with foul, abusive language and crazy accusations that made absolutely no sense to me.

I can vividly recall my feelings of powerlessness and anger when dealing with a person with a badge and a gun who (wrongly) thought he knew something about me based upon the way I looked.

For a long time I really wanted to hate that guy.

Perhaps this gives me a tiny headstart in understanding why so many of my black friends and acquantances are battling a storm of mixed emotions at this moment.

I can’t possibly know what it’s like to live in their shoes (or their skin), but I can empathize. And I do.

I wish more of my fellow white brothers and sisters could find their way to some of this empathy. We’re so quick to minimize the real wounds good, decent black citizens carry around; and minimize the fears and resentments they live with every day.

This isn’t helpful.

On the Other Hand

I pray every one of my black brothers and sisters in Christ battling feelings of resentment and bitterness today (I see your social media feeds) can find some empathy for what law enforcement officers face daily—and especially nightly.

Being a cop, particularly in a major city, means dealing with the worst aspects of our society for a lot of your work-life hours. The job involves seeing and mopping up after the very worst that fallen, broken humans are capable of.

Addicts, pimps, prostitutes, child abusers, wife beaters, pedophiles, muggers, rapists, con men, thieves . . . the violent, the self-destructive, the drunk, the stoned, the cruel, the amoral, the twisted, the psychotic, the psychopathic. Police work requires wading around in all of these all the time—all while surviving and maintaining an awareness that the next person you encounter may very well be a decent human being.

It also means receiving training about staying in command of situations and speaking authoritatively. It is, by necessity, drilled into the police officer that losing control of a situation can easily get them killed.

I wish every one of the Black Lives Matter protesters throwing rocks and rebar at St. Paul police last night would do a few overnight shift “ride alongs” with a police officer. I suspect it would be an eye-opener.

Perhaps they might find some space in their wounded, angry souls for a little empathy as well.

Social Media Bubbles and Echo Chambers

Empathy for others has always been a challenge for all of us—for some more than others. But the advent of social media has ampflied this problem many fold.

We have built our own newswires out of sources that confirm our biases and people who see things just as we do. It feels good to have your assumptions validated. It feels bad to have them challenged. We prefer to feel good.

So, if a source or person brings us information that we don’t like—that doesn’t comport without preferred way of viewing things—we can mute or unfollow with the click of a mouse.

Thus the custom-made information bubbles we live in get purer and purer.

And we get surer and surer that the world is exactly as we believe it to be.

Stand? Kneel? Or Just Walk Away Shaking Your Head.

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.

Once the cameras stop showing up, once regular folks are simply annoyed rather than incensed, it stops being fun and turns into work.

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.

No wise deed goes unpunished.

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.

Some Words of Gratitude for the Gospel on International Women’s Day

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:

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.

 

A Quick Comment on the Oscars

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.”

Dave’s Dozen: 12 Brief Observations on the News

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.

1.

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 . . .

2.

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.

3.

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.

3.

 

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 . . .

4.

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.

5.

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.

6.

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).

7.

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.

8.

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.

9.

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.

And Meryl Streep is their queen. . .

10.

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.

CryBullies and Tantrums From Sea to Shining Sea

Photo: Margorie Owens, WFAA.com

Photo: Margorie Owens, WFAA.com

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.

They punted Hillary!!!

The bad people . . . they  punted Hillary!!!

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.

Deep Thoughts About Deep Space

Kirk and Spock

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.

Star_Trek_Picard_CrewIn 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.

220px-StartrekposterThe 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.

Check out:

Politics of Star Trek