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Monday, May 27, 2024

The Civil Cold War Isn't Over

On April 9, 1865, General Robert E. Lee surrendered the Confederate Army of Northern Virginia to General Ulysses S. Grant at Appomattox Court House in Virginia. This is generally considered the end of the Civil War. As we know from history, the practices that divided us went on long after that date.

The animosity between those who advocated for the practices of the South has never fully dissipated into the sands of time. Robert E. Lee, along with other Southern leaders, were heroes to their people. While their contemporaries are long dead, their descendants carry forward their beliefs.

You might say, "They lost, we won! Get over it." Some have. Others haven't. Those who haven't still adhere to the slogan, "The South shall rise again!" Apparently, now seems as good a time as any.

It's ironic, then, that the Shenandoah County School Board in Virginia wants to restore the name of Robert E. Lee to a local school. Don't they know they are part of the North? I guess not. 

The Civil War was horrible. Any civil war pits family, friends, and neighbors against each other. There are no winners. We assume that without the Civil War, slavery would not have been abolished, but we don't know that.

Maybe the time for slavery to end was upon us in the late 1800s. Maybe had the anti-slavery movement gathered strength in another way, the outcome would have saved more lives, been more unifying, and resulted in the same eventual end to slavery.

We'll never know. In the meantime, the animosity continues to build, and nobody is doing much about assuaging it. The cold war may not stay cold forever.

Friday, May 03, 2024

We're All Going Mad!

Is it just me or are we all going crazy?

The news industry has been obliterated by social media. Now, we have no trusted sources, but those we randomly select. Pick your news and stay with it! They could be blowing smoke up your a$$, but at least it will be YOUR smoke.

A case in point is the current anti-Israel fervor on campuses across the U.S. Where are these kids getting their news? What information has made them so angry with Israel? Oh, wait! It’s simple, right?

People are dying in Gaza. The IDF is killing them. Therefore, Israel should stop. <- note the period there

If the world were only that simple. Wouldn’t it be nice if every issue just had one or two important factors? Sadly, we have so many issues facing us and every damn one of them is complex.

Once upon a time, there were people labeled Renaissance Men (they were all males -- sorry ladies and thems). The word may still be in use, but the definition has changed. These people used to know everything there was to know about human knowledge. 

Millions of people are inventing new things and ideas every day now. Nobody can be expected to keep up. We are inadequate to the task. With no universally trusted sources and growing complexity, there’s no answer in sight.

Back to our anti-Israel example. This current episode is part of a series. The kids who are protesting only watched the latest one. Their perspective is limited and narrowly focused. They need a “bad guy” to pin this human tragedy on, so they picked one -- historical perspective be damned!

Historical perspective could save us, but it’s too much work. Who wants to study the background of every issue facing us, when we can just pick a side and go with it? 

In the 1930s, the German economy was bad. People needed a fix. Along came Adolf Hitler, who blamed the whole thing on the Jews. Just get rid of them and we can go back to…oh, let’s just call it MGGA! We’ll use fear and intimidation to get everyone in line. Sound familiar? Hamas does it. Trump likes this strategy, too. 

If you’re a fan of Mazlow, you might know his hierarchy of needs: physiological, safety, love and belonging, esteem, and self-actualization (in order from base needs to the more esoteric). Note that if you threaten someone with fear and intimidation, you are messing with hard-wired reactions. It’s powerful…and effective. Despotic leaders everywhere know this.

The profile of the despotic leader throughout history is well understood. Yet, our lack of historical perspective leads us back to these people again and again. They offer us simple solutions to complex problems. Those other guys were making our heads hurt with all of their nuance. Why can’t the world go back to being simple? Maybe the slogan should be MASA (make America simple again).

Unfortunately, nobody can do that. Our puny brains can’t keep up, so we make stupid choices in the name of simplicity. 

One more case in point before I leave you, dear reader. DEI, which stands for diversity, equity, and inclusion, sounds like something everyone can get behind. Why is the social justice movement corrupt? The answer is complex, but Liberals would have you think it’s simple.

We have a history of racial discrimination in this country. Few would deny that. Those who do probably long for the “good old days” when being white meant you were special. The reality is that the vast majority of people don’t feel that way anymore. They accept that we’re all just people trying to live together.

DEI comes along and it casts our problems in racial terms. There’s a fundamental flaw with that thinking. Since the 1980s, rural America has been under attack. Agribusiness, bankers, lawyers, and insurance companies have decimated once-thriving economies. The mechanization of many jobs held by people across this country has destroyed the economies of small industrial towns.

While there are a lot of non-whites who suffer economic hardship due to the historical facts of their lineage, there are a lot of white people in the same boat for different reasons. When DEI initiatives exclude them from the party because of the color of their skin…let’s just say that it’s no surprise they want to burn the whole thing down.

Once you do the work to understand the whole picture, people’s crazy behavior starts to make sense. But that’s just too much work for most people. We just don’t have the time to keep up. So, we pick a side and hate the other one. Our technology is destroying us, and we’re helpless to stop it. Happy fucking Friday!

Friday, January 12, 2024

I Thought I was Safe -- I'm Not!

 I have led a very privileged life. My awareness of this is made real by my parallel awareness of the living conditions of most of the people on planet Earth. Resource distribution is uneven, and I won the resource lottery.

Growing up, I was not a practicing Jew. Nonetheless, unlike other religions, Jews are Jews whether they choose to be or not. For the most part, I didn't experience much antisemitism growing up. I received a few derogatory comments from other kids but not much more. I was aware that wasn't the case for everyone.

As I got older, I saw more evidence of antisemitism in society, but I was removed from it. I heard a Midwestern farmer complaining about the "Jew bankers" on TV and other minor evidence. Since the start of the war in Gaza, I've become very uncomfortable. Antisemitism has become mainstream.

The notion that Israel is committing genocide is the scariest of all. The IDF has the capabilities to flatten Gaza from the air leaving no civilians behind without putting a single Israeli soldier in harm's way. That would be genocide. In fact, that's what genocide looks like.

What is actually happening is that the IDF is sending many soldiers into harm's way and using air power in as limited a fashion as possible to conduct the war and minimize civilian casualties under horrific conditions. You see, Hamas has strategically positioned themselves to maximize civilian casualties. They have diverted massive funds that could have gone to help their citizen to build extensive military infrastructure under and around the civilian population.

Twenty thousand civilian casualties is a tragedy, to be certain, but given that this number represents less than 1% of the civilian population, under the circumstances, it shows tremendous restraint. Certainly, if the Israeli military wanted to commit genocide, they could do much better than this.

I would expect Hamas operatives to paint the IDF as barbarians intent on destroying the Palestinians, but now it seems that the world is piling onto this messaging with no actual facts in tow. Maybe I shouldn't whine about it. People all over the world are subjected to terrible injustices every day due to their difference from those chosen to be the "right" people.

We've come to expect the mainstream media to stick up for what is right, but "what is right" seems to have become increasingly ambiguous. Fox News' definition will be very different from MSNBC's. Nonetheless, we should be able to count on facts being allowed to speak for themselves.

The fact is that Israel is a Jewish homeland. It is the only place where a Jew can live and feel safe from antisemitism. Or so they thought. Many people call them colonialists. Yet, they don't call white Europeans living in the United States colonialists. They don't call people of Spanish descent living in Mexico colonialists. They call them Americans and Mexicans. Wars are fought, deals are made, and we accept the consequences.

For some reason, Israel is a special exception to this. Why? The answer seems plain and simple -- antisemitism. Nowhere is antisemitism stronger than in the Middle East. In a vast sea of Muslims lives a small country full of Jews, and millions hate that fact every day. The Jews have as much historical right to be in that land as anyone else, but nobody offered up another place, so they took what they were given.

I like to say that we're one alien invasion away from putting away our differences. Unfortunately, contrary to the plots of such movies, a species capable of interstellar travel would have no trouble dispatching our entire species. So, I continue to wonder if there's a way to end our tribal roots and live together as one species -- humans. 

Until then, hate me for being a Jew if you have to, but please don't hurt me. Can't we evolve at least that far?