Sunday, December 25, 2016

Objects of Reverence

It's Christmas Day, and I am up before anyone else in the house. Prime time for pondering.

It's also the first day of Hanukkah, so Hannukah Sameach to all of my Jewish friends!

It is my Jewish friends who have me pondering this morning.
It is the normal practice for them to write "G-d" when referring to God.
I don't really understand this.
My understanding of The Name of God is generally as follows:
  • God is completely incomprehensible to us.
  • He communicates to us in terms that we can understand.
  • He has given us a Name that we may use to address Him directly.
  • That name translates to: "I AM"
  • In Hebrew, it is abbreviated "YHWH"
Now, "god," (small g) can refer to anything that is the focus of worship. Even the Bible and Torah refer to other gods in such a way.
"God" (Capital G) refers to the primary deity of any religion under discussion, but it is more like a title, such as "President."

In older times, names were considered very personal and private. In some cultures, people had their personal names, which were only used by intimate friends and family, and another name they used for public purposes. It might even be possible that an acquaintance never even knew the real name of someone he interacted with on a daily basis for years!
I once went to a car dealership with a German friend, whose father was raised in East Germany, and the salesman kept referring to my friend's father as "Frieder." He seemed oblivious to the annoyance he was causing, although it was plain to everyone around us. The salesman would have had a much better chance at a sale if he'd referred to him as "Mr. [name withheld]." Germans tend to be much more formal; Often people who have been friends for decades will still call each other "Herr Schmidt" or "Herr Muller" or whatever the case may be.

In our time, when some children speak to their parents on a first-name basis, we have lost much of this reverence for the one thing that is most intensely personal to anybody. In my day, we referred to people older than ourselves as Mr. _____ or Mrs. _____ and used their family names. This made the army's practice of referring to each other by last names almost natural to me.
I still have difficulty calling older people by first names, even when they introduce themselves by them - which is usually the standard; You call people by whatever names they use to introduce themselves, and use titles (Doctor, Pastor, and so on.)
Sales people operate on the philosophy that people like hearing their own names, and that may be true nowadays. But it still gets on my nerves when they pepper their conversation with the names of their sales targets. I've walked away from sales pitches when my name is over-used.

It is easy to understand why we should not use The Holy Name off-handedly.
It is also easy to understand why we should use the same discretion when referring to God, in any manner, considering that He is the most powerful being in existence and eminently worthy of our awe and worship.
When referring to Him casually, Jews use the term "HaShem," which translated to "The Name." They don't abbreviate this as "H-Sh-m."
The reason they don't write The Name is that they don't want to disrespect it by placing it on anything that will end up being discarded.
There again, I can understand the idea, but not why they would give such reverence to a word that amounts to little more than the title of an office.

What I don't understand is our cultural acceptance of the mistreatment of our nationally revered symbol: The Flag.
There are those who actively disrespect it, of course, but I am not referring to them.
I am referring to those of us who respect the flag, stand and salute when it passes, or when the national anthem is played, or fly it regularly outside the home.
We show such respect for it... And yet we use postage stamps depicting the flag, even though we know that the envelope to which they are attached will be discarded in the garbage.
It is often printed on clothing (which we are not supposed to do) which ends up being discarded or used as cleaning rags (which is why we are not supposed to do it!)

I like the old ways, and so I use titles and Mr. and Mrs., and I even hold on to envelopes with flag stamps, to be burned properly, as with any flag that is past its service life. (I can't do much about the postmarks...)
I have little hope of getting the rest of society to go back to these ways, but I do what I can, and that is to live as though these things were our cultural standard.

I apologize if this essay seems disorganized; I just wanted to get the thoughts out before the rest of the family got up and claimed all of my time for the rest of the day.

Merry Christmas to all, and God bless!

Saturday, June 7, 2014

I am a Regressive.

I get disgusted by the whole PC thing.
I get even more disgusted with these new "progressives."
They fail to understand that not all change is "progress."

In the "good old days," it was unthinkable for a gentleman to be rude to a woman. We held doors, stood when they entered the room, and never used objectionable language in their presence (true gentlemen never used it anywhere.)
The louts who did those things - or worse - were dismissed as having no class, and in many circles, that caused shame.
Shame and humiliation can be powerful forces for maintaining a polite society.
When a man was guilty of assaulting a woman, not too many people would care if he was taken out behind the woodshed and given a lesson in "laying hands on people."
Few objected if a rapist was flat-out killed.

Enter the feminist movement, where a few loud-mouthed so-called "women" (sorry.... "womyn") demanded that we stop treating women with respect.
Women were called upon to treat men with active disdain and derision. We became the enemy.

Then there's the modern "the-criminal-is-a-victim-of-circumstance" liberal. Suddenly nobody is responsible for his crimes.
This is why you get a longer sentence for killing an elk than committing rape.
(A cop faces 6 years for killing an elk,
and a man who raped a 20 year-old girl got 30 days )

Nowadays, children get trophies just for being alive. They are not allowed to feel shame or humiliation (and thus, humility!) and they are taught that it is bad behavior to make others feel shame.
This is TERRIBLE for our society.
People SHOULD feel shame when they fail. This motivates them to succeed.
As a soldier and an aviation mechanic, when I fail, people can die. But according to liberals, my feelings are more important than those lives that depend on me - so nobody is allowed to make me ashamed of my failure or hurt my feelings.
Still wonder why I can't stand liberals and PC people?

We need to start ignoring the pansy liberals and start looking back to when people had manners and acted civilized.
That means wearing a hat. Properly.
That means that a T-shirt is underwear.
You don't go out in your underwear. You cover it. Even if it means keeping your shirt collar buttoned.
It means being courteous; Waiting your turn, letting ladies and the elderly go first through the door, and holding it for them.
It means using foreign phrases like "Please" and "Thank you."
It means NOT using foul language in the presence of women and the elderly, and preferably not at all.
It means treating service personnel as you would treat your parents.
It means treating your customers as you would treat your parents.

It means mocking and scorning the people who dress and act like idiots until they are ashamed to walk out of the house without at least looking in a mirror, and would die of humiliation if they got caught treating a stranger with anything less than common courtesy.

I think that if we could do this, the problem of sexual harassment and rape would be all the more shocking... due to its rarity.

These beliefs make me the opposite of "progressive."
I'm okay with being regressive.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Revenge or Justice. You Can't Have Both.

    With the recent atrocity in Oklahoma, where three black teens (Okay; two and a half) shot to death a 22-year-old white man, comes a lot of noise by a very diverse group of people:
The death-penalty crowd demands immediate execution for anybody – even a minor – who commits murder, rape, child molestation... Jaywalking...
    The more moderate crowd wants to wait until the murderer (rapist, child molester, etc) is convicted of the crime.
    An even more moderate crowd wants to wait until all of the proper appeals are denied.

    Then there's the punishment crowd. Some want to punish the offender, his immediate family, his role models (teachers, ministers, sports figures) and his hamster along with him, in the most brutal manner possible.
   The more moderate and popular crowd wants the offender killed in the manner he used on his victim(s).
    The most modest crowd just wants it over with; A needle in the arm is fine with them.
   Of course, the more liberal crowd just wants life in prison.
    The most liberal crowd of all doesn't even want that. Many would like to “understand” and/or “rehabilitate” him.

    Where do I stand on the issue?

    We have laws in place to deal with crimes, and a system of justice that is imperfect, but better than the law of the jungle.
    I am all for due process of law, waiting for conviction, running out appeals, and then a painless death with only the appropriate witnesses.

    Privately, I would take great satisfaction in knowing that the murderer suffered a long and agonizing hell on Earth – In fact, I'd like to cut off his arms and legs, put out his eyes, pull out his tongue, and then turn him over to his family to take care of him for the rest of his miserable life. They would be denied any possibility of welfare for the duration, and God HELP them if they somehow “lose” the boy, or if he has an “accident.”

    But, for all the satisfaction I would take in that, I would be terrified of any government that could impose such a sentence.
    The government's job is justice, not revenge.
    Doing what my animal nature wants is revenge, and it is right that the government will not allow us to give in to our animal natures in this way.
    If a man comes home to find his wife in bed with another man, killing both of them right then and there is a crime of passion, and might be excusable. Killing a man who is trying to harm you isn't even a crime!
    But sitting down to plan out the death of another man for any reason other than because you have sure knowledge that he is a threat to your own life is pure murder. Even in such a case, there are authorities you are supposed to call to remove the threat for you.
    Conversely, a government that kills in hot blood is a tyranny.
    Government must consider justice, determine whether justice will be served with the death of a particular person, and then cold-bloodedly set a definite plan, with methods, timetables, and authorities to carry out the deed. It does this by having laws that are public knowledge before the crime is committed, people to arrest, arraign, try, and judge, and all of these people must depend on twelve average citizens' understanding of the law to get such a sentence imposed.

    Let justice run its course, let a prosecutor convince a jury that the accused are guilty of the crime, and then give the appropriate sentence, according to the law. Since they are minors, the law only allows life in prison; If we don't like that, then we must work to change the law. It won't matter in this case, since the law at the time of the crime must apply (no ex post facto!) but it will give us a fuller sense of justice if it ever happens again.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

George Washington Carver

Originally posted in May of 2006, but certain recent events have made me want to post it again.

I like to watch educational TV. The history channel, Discovery, Science... you name it.

The other day, one of these channels ran a feature on the life of George Washington Carver, and it was fascinating.

As I was driving this last Sunday night, thinking about the program and the life of the man, I began to wonder about some things.

Where is the so-called (and largely self-appointed) "Black Leadership" these days? They should be holding him up as an example of what can be accomplished by one man in America. I was certainly inspired by this story of the boy born into slavery, who went on to become one of the top twenty (if not one of the top ten!) greatest Americans of all time. The only time I recall hearing about Carver in school was the first grade, circa 1979, from a white teacher. At that time, I don't recall there being a single black student in the class. (There was one, in later years, and I believe a total of three in our whole school.)

Any true "Leadership" would hold George Washington Carver up as the ultimate success story for black Americans. Instead, these "Leaders" rail on opression and blame, essentially telling the flock of sheep they lead that they aren't good enough to do anything for themselves, and it's up to other people to stop "opressing" them and "holding them down."

I believe this "Leadership" is afraid of Carver. They wish that he had never existed. If their flock ever pay attention to this history, they will notice that even in an era when "He's black" was the only excuse anyone ever needed to refuse admittance anywhere, there was a boy who put himself through school, a man who put himself through college, and he had the unmitigated gall to go on to become a highly respected college professor and agricultural researcher in the heart of Alabama, arguably one of the most bigoted states in all the South.... Some sixty years before affirmative action! (And just incidentally, saved much of the South from economic disaster which would have resulted in famine, plague, and death for many thousands of people, black and white.)

But these "Leaders" have little worry. Any attempt by a teacher to inject any real substance, such as studying this inspiring man's life, into the curriculum of a public school will be met with protests and threats. They'd much rather the schools be teaching kids about condoms.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Observations of a Veteran

On The American Way of Life
Originally presented as an essay for Memorial Day.

I am a soldier.
I have served overseas and I have seen the enemy.
I have been shot at, and have hidden in a bunker as bombs exploded all around me. I have talked with other soldiers at some length; soldiers who have also been shot at, bombed, and mortared.
Not one of us was ignorant of the American way of life when we enlisted. We all know about backyard barbecues, where people gather to drink cheap beer and eat disgusting hot-dogs and hamburgers that may actually contain real meat... Possibly.
We know about the commercialization, where shopping has become more important than honoring dead soldiers. (Or a living Savior.)
We know about American Idol, which people find more important than paying respect to - or even thinking about - those who have fallen in battle.
We are fully aware of the ungrateful, the disrespectful, and the actively hateful people who have no interest in or respect for what we do.
And yet, we still do what we do.
So why do we do it?
The answer is surprisingly simple.
We do it so that people can have backyard barbecues with bad hot-dogs, good shopping, and yes, even American Idol.
We fight so that people can live the lives they choose without fear that somebody is going to tear them from their homes in the middle of the night - or as happens all too often in parts of the world, in broad daylight. We fight so that children never have to think about the evils that men can visit upon each other. We do it so that people can have their toys and their beer, and can say whatever they want, without worrying that someone will come along one day, waving their AK-47s, and take away everything they have worked all their lives to attain. This still happens in many parts of the world, and we fight to keep it from happening to our own people.
Many people complain that by participating in these very American activities - shopping, watching TV, barbecuing, and so on - that people are somehow dishonoring or cheapening the memory of those who have fought so hard to make this life possible for them.
I disagree.
I believe that every time an American buys a cheap toy for his child, every time he pushes the button on the remote control of his 60" plasma TV, and every time he buys a beer at a NASCAR race, he is honoring those dead soldiers by taking advantage of the opportunities that they have spent so much of their blood to win for him.
Any parent who has worked to give his child a better life than he has had can understand this. The parent struggles and sacrifices so that the child will never have to know struggle and sacrifice. The parent takes some pride and satisfaction when he sees that his child has it easier than he ever did.
Why would it be any different for a soldier?
Many people make a lot of fuss and bother about how modest and humble soldiers seem. "The quiet professional" is considered quite a compliment.
But look at it from our point of view:
We do our job for the purpose of preserving what we already know. It was our way of life long before we decided to go out and defend it. We know what we are buying with our blood and sweat. When we come home and see how Americans behave, we take a certain quiet satisfaction in knowing that we helped keep people free to enjoy the beach on a saturday afternoon, or pay too much for cotton candy at a carnival in the park.
This is especially true when we have been to places where such things could never happen; Places like Afghanistan, where religious fanatics sweep through town and demand either your money or your children to fight their battles, and if you refuse, they kill you and take your money and your children anyway.
In places like this, there is no money to support NASCAR races or carnivals in the park, because warlords sweep in wherever there is any prosperity and take all of the wealth for themselves. In places like this, people have no time to go to the beach because they are constantly working to produce enough food to keep themselves alive. Often, after they have produced that food, somebody will come along and take it from them. For most of these people, there is no hope for a 60" TV, a nice car, or decent medical care.
Soldiers who have been there have seen this for ourselves, and when we get home, we know just how good the average American has it.
I am not proposing that we stop rendering honors to those who have fallen in battle; Indeed, we should honor them more often than we usually do.
What I am proposing in this essay is that it is not any form of dishonor to their memory when we enjoy the the things that make us so uniquely American. Do not worry that people go shopping on Memorial Day, or get a little crazy on the 4th of July.
These are the things which make us American, and it is for these things that we willingly offer our time, and occasionally, our lives.

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Please Stop Screwing Up My Language

The English language is a precision instrument, much like a surgeon's scalpel. Many have used it to great effect: Poe, Dickens, Twain, Agatha Christie, Steven King, J. K. Rowling, and many others use exactly the right words to get exactly the right meaning across to their readers.

As with any tool, practice makes perfect. You can't even get the best use out of a hoe until you actually use it and learn its peculiarities. With a tool that has as many moving pieces as the English language, you can expect to spend a lifetime mastering it. Even learning to use it well takes a lot more time and effort than many people are willing to give.

What I find amazing is that many people who are handed this amazing tool actively refuse to learn its proper use. While some use it well, others try to use this surgeon's scalpel as a machete, or worse, a sledgehammer. Consider the numerous so-called modern "musicians."

Shakespeare wrote: "Shall I compare thee to a summer's day?"
[insert name of rap "artist"] wrote: "Smack up some bitches and hos, yo."
Or the average teenager: "Hey I want 2 cum ovr their 2 c u it's definately ben to long"

This is why some literature is "great," and most of the stuff cranked out nowadays is "shit."
Comparing them is much like comparing a live Mozart symphony to something that came out of a Gameboy, or perhaps a center cut of prime rib to a Big Mac.
Teenage texting language is more like the difference between the Mozart and a guy making fart noises in his armpit. When we see this, those of us who love the language start plotting how to slip poison into the Big Mac sauce.

Is it any wonder that people who live in poverty are usually the very ones who have refused to learn the proper use of the most effective tool that mankind has ever created?
It is certainly not politically correct to say this, but the tool that they have so cheerfully abandoned to rust away in the overgrown fields of their minds is the very tool that would have lifted them out of their poverty, both social and financial. In other words, the blame for most poverty lands squarely on the shoulders of the impoverished. They seem to prefer the Big Mac, because getting the prime rib requires that they, like, work, and stuff.

There is hope, though. Even as neglected and dilapidated as it is, this tool can be restored, and it can start benefitting even the most culturally impoverished person, any time he decides to clean it up and learn how to use it properly. The longer it is neglected, the longer it will take to clear out the weeds, but the rewards are worth the effort.

Wednesday, August 31, 2011


There is probably nothing more disturbing to a driver than the realization that despite everything your antilock brakes can do, it is not quite going to be enough.

On a related note, why is the rear end of a car built like a fortress, and the front end like an eggshell? I ran into a Kia, and there is a small dent in her bumper. My Mercedes' whole front end is smashed. The hood is wrinkled, the grille crumbled into hundreds of pieces, the light lenses and brackets are destroyed, the radiator got pushed into the fan... only the fenders and the directional lights were undamaged.
I understand the whole idea of energy-absorbing construction, but why does it have to absorb that much energy from a 10 MPH collision?