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Bruce Springsteen as observer of life?

I enjoyed my military career…most of the time. Of late, I have some fear that I am in danger of becoming not just “that guy,” but even worse “that veteran.” You may have met him. You know, the one who is more than happy to regale you for hours with tales of his time in the Navy/Coast Guard/Marine Corps/Army/Air Force. The guy (or woman) who was, most likely, not quite as high speed and low drag as he or she remembers; not quite the “lean, mean, fightin’ machine” of legend.

That’s not who I want to be.

There’s so much more to be done. More to accomplish. The trick seems to be not allowing myself to focus on what was or to be daunted by the absolute truth that I have far less time ahead of me than I had way back when. I must focus on doing now, today, in this moment, what I can, knowing that the doing is in many ways its own reward, regardless of what it brings about in the long run.

Being active. Being involved with people and not allowing myself to retreat into that self-centered, reclusive and backward-looking existence that consists more of self-pity than anything else. Not all that easy for an introvert but absolutely essential.

*Sigh* Definitely a low energy day.

Intimations of mortality and all that.

Of licensing cars and drivers

No. Not really. This is the second in what will probably be about five postings dealing with arguments I frequently (as in almost inevitably) encounter when discussing the right to keep and bear arms (RKBA) and gun control. The first posting in the series can be found here. Oh, and my apologies to Francis Bacon.

I call today’s pro gun control argument the “we license cars and drivers so we should license guns and gun owners” argument. I don’t know exactly when I first encountered it, but it was a long while ago. Like I noted in the first post of this series, “arguments for the ongoing efforts to further restrict the right to keep and bear arms…are never new.” This is just one of many that occasionally rears its ugly head, brought up by yet another fresh-faced gun control advocate (GCA) who is convinced he or she has discovered The Argument. That is, the one that will justify severe restrictions (euphemistically referred to as “common sense”) on a specifically enumerated and protected right. What’s interesting about this one is that it covers so much ground, including registration and licensing of cars, licensing of drivers and state-mandated training. The argument is normally introduced something like this:

GCA: Well, we license and register cars. We license drivers – after they take a driving course and pass a written and practical test. We do all that to keep people safe. Shouldn’t we do AT LEAST as much with guns? After all, we’re talking about a deadly weapon, here.

There is so much there to be unpacked, it’s hard to know where to begin. Let’s start with this: to many people, this seems to be such a strong and reasonable argument. And it is. Until you scratch the surface. So, let’s do that. Let’s scratch the surface.

“We license and register cars.”

We do indeed do that. It is important to understand that the primary purpose of doing so is to generate revenue for the state. Taxes, regardless of the form they take, are always accompanied by one or more benefits we are assured they will provide. After all, it would be political suicide to declare “we’re going to take more of your money” and not suggest people will get something for that.* In the case of  the taxes or fees paid to the state DMV, a common use and justification is public road maintenance. This doesn’t seem too terribly applicable to gun ownership. GCAs, in my experience, are not inclined to mandate that the state spend funds to maintain my private gun range. What I’m usually told is one of two things. Either registration will help recover my property if one of my guns is stolen or it will help identify the owner if the gun is used in a crime and recovered.

Nonsense.

There already exists a method by which a stolen gun can be identified if it turns up. We call it the serial number. There is no stamp or tag affixed to a gun. If one is found, the only way to identify it is by its serial number. Registration would not change such a thing. I submit, then, that the whole “it will help you recover your stolen property” argument, at least as regards firearms, is bogus.

I am not a big fan of comparing what was done in country A with what was done in country B. Countries have their own cultures, which make comparisons suspect, at best. It is worth noting, however, that Canada abandoned its flirtation with gun registration due to cost and its failure as a crime solving tool. I’m calling the crime-solving benefits we are assured will arise from gun registration bogus, too.

In most states of which I am aware, do you know when cars have to be registered and licensed? When they will be used on public roads. You know, the roads for which the license and registration fees help pay, as opposed to the private roads that lead up to a hunting club’s deer cabin or someone’s farm or ranch.

Ultimately, of course, the idea of gun registration presumes the state has any legitimate need to know what specific items of personal property one owns. I am unaware of any such need. It is at about this point that someone will usually argue that “guns can be used to harm others” as justification for registration. In the hands of someone inclined to harm others, this is true. It also happens to be true of the commonly available items that make black powder, in the hands of a person inclined to harm and kill dozens or multiple score at a time. Think of a computer in the hands of a pedophile. All of those are bad. Some, so repugnant as to defy description. And none of them justification for the state knowing what items of personal property you own.

We license drivers – after they take a driving course and pass a written and practical test

This, too, is true. Overlooked, of course, are the following:

Drivers ed is, in the vast majority of cases, a course that is taken once in one’s life. In all the states of which I am aware, if a first time driver is past a certain age (which varies from state to state), no course is necessary at all. The written and practical tests are both simple and also of the take once in your life variety. I have had a driver’s license, at various times, in North Carolina, Tennessee, California, Arizona and Texas. I took drivers ed, along with a written and practical test, once. In North Carolina. In 1978. Since then, every time I renewed my license, or moved to a different state and got a license in that state, I have merely paid the fee charged by that state.

Those are not the sorts of things the GCAs who suggest “treating gun owners like drivers” seem to have in mind. They typically argue for additional and ongoing mandated training, along with the option for the issuing authority to decline to issue the license for…reasons. Meaning, of course, that they don’t really want to treat gun owners like drivers. It was just a handy way of trying to suck you into accepting what they actually wanted. Besides, driving is a privilege, while the RKBA is a specifically enumerated and protected right. No other right do they suggest licensing.

We do all that to keep people safe.

No, we do all that to generate income for the state to spend. The arguments for what GCAs want for guns and gun owners don’t hold up when applied to cars and drivers (a fair application, given that it is cars and drivers that are used as the justification).

Shouldn’t we do AT LEAST as much with guns? After all, we’re talking about a deadly weapon, here.

Which part of right vs privilege is unclear to you? At what point did you begin to conflate the two? Allow me to suggest that the “deadly weapon” argument provides an enormous clue as to what is going on. GCAs simply do not trust their fellow citizens, nor do they respect them, although the great majority of their fellow citizens will never commit a violent crime with or without a gun. Instead, they reserve their respect, at least as regards access to force and its tools, for government. This in spite of the appalling record government in general racked up during the 20th century in its use of force – against citizens.

Still, I’m willing to discuss treating guns and gun owners like we do cars and drivers, if you’re really serious. Here’s what I want on the table as regards guns, along with a corresponding reference to what we do with cars.

  1. License to carry a firearm and registration of guns – “treat guns and gun owners like drivers”
    1. Shall issue rather than may issue, just like with a driver’s license. I am unaware of  any state that makes a provision for the withholding of a license after a person successfully jumps through all the mandated hoops, including paying a modest (and sometimes nominal) fee.
    2. Renewal shall be contingent upon paying the renewal fee.
    3. Acquiring a license upon moving to another state, shall require paying the fee mandated by the new state of residence.
    4. Each license issued by the state of residence and is sufficient for use throughout that state.
    5. Each state shall recognize the licenses of other states, eliminating the legal risk gun owners encounter when transiting certain states with their home state legal firearm in their possession.
    6. Mandatory training shall be of the same sort as that for a driver’s license, as shall the test. Training can be obtained at a wide variety of state approved providers. After a given age, no such training will be mandated.
    7. No limits upon what guns one can own or carry. Just as a driver can own and drive a car of any horsepower and torque, any passenger capacity, fuel type or capacity, number of gears and type of transmission, there shall be no restrictions upon caliber, ballistic performance, number of rounds, length of barrel or type of action.
    8. No limits upon how much ammo a gun owner may possess, just as drivers can keep bulk fuel.
    9. Just as one can buy a car without possessing a driver’s license, no license will be required to purchase a firearm.
    10. A person can own as many firearms as he or she can afford, just as can be done with cars.
    11. Registration is to be limited to firearms actually used on public property and licensing limited to those who carry them on public property. You know, like with cars. If a person changes the firearm(s) used on public property, the original(s) no longer need to be registered.
    12. Licensing fees will be used to improve the shooting sports and access to them, just as the fees related to cars and drivers are used to do things like improve roads
    13. Any and all insurance shall be determined by the state of residence and shall be recognized as sufficient by any state the gun owner shall visit. If a person’s state of residence chooses to have no insurance requirements (think New Hampshire), then that too is sufficient. Bear in mind that since insurers don’t insure against criminal activity on the part of the insured, insurance is probably not the option GCAs insist it is.

If you are an advocate for “treating guns and gun owners like cars and drivers,” the above should be acceptable. If it is not, allow me to suggest you are either

  1. unaware of the laws regarding cars and drivers, or
  2. blatantly dishonest

FWIW, I could probably add more to the above list, but I think that’s enough to make the point.

*This is not to suggest taxes are never necessary. Rather, the point is that the purpose of a tax is to generate money for the state to spend. Whether the thing on which it is spent is desirable is a separate question.

 

If Oliver Wendell Holmes is the best you have…

you don’t have much. Allow me to explain.

It is my experience that arguments for the ongoing efforts to further restrict the right to keep and bear arms (RKBA) are never new. I get involved in discussions with gun control advocates (GCAs) on a fairly regular basis. If the discussion lasts long enough, then as surely as the sun rises in the east, the other person will make at least one of the following arguments*.

  1. No right is unlimited. There are restrictions on the First Amendment (like not being able to yell “fire” in a crowded theater).
  2. We require licensing, registration and training to drive cars
  3. Guns are made to kill people
  4. You love your guns more than you love your kids
  5. You are an ammosexual

I want, over the course of several posts, to examine each of these. I may periodically add to the above list. If I do, I’ll try to give the additions their own well-deserved treatment. For this posting, though, I will focus on #1.

No right is unlimited.

Really? I am struck speechless by this insightful thunderbolt. Or not.

Look, I agree that no right or liberty is unlimited. The disagreement we have is over what those limitations should be. Here’s the limitation that I am more than willing to accept. As long as what you do brings no harm to me or mine, I don’t care what you do. Likewise, if what I’m doing does not harm you or yours, I will not tolerate your efforts to tell me I can’t do it. What could be more fair than that?

A lot, apparently.

Some people, because of the tendency of a small minority of citizens to use the liberties we all enjoy to harm others, have decided to address that problem by restricting the liberty of the exponentially larger majority of citizens. To put it another way, it is an attempt to control the behavior of the criminal by limiting the liberty of the law-abiding. To put it yet another way, it declares a thing that is, in and of itself, neutral (or even good) to be wrong (malum prohibitum) because some third party might use the neutral or good (but now declared to be wrong) thing to commit an act that is wrong in and of itself (malum in se). This, we are assured, is just.

You will pardon me if I disagree. It is many things, but “just” is not one of them. Overreach? You bet it is. Authoritarian busybodies trying to tell other people what they should be able to do? Absolutely. But just? Not even close.

There are restrictions on the First Amendment (like not being able to yell “fire” in a crowded theater).

Yes, there are. Those restrictions are of particular importance to me because I was largely raised in and around newspapers and print shops. Not only was I raised that way, at one time I was one of three partners who started and ran a newspaper, back when they were much more of a thing than they are now. These days, I’m trying to learn to write well enough to successfully publish books. I have what is definitely a vested interest in the First Amendment, then. Let’s take a look at the things I could not legally do with our newspaper (and that I can’t legally do when I write and publish a book).

  • Libel. This is a form of defamation (making a false statement that harms someone else). It differs from slander in that slander is spoken while libel is written. If I commit a libelous act, I have opened myself up to a lawsuit. “My next door neighbor, Ignatius Reginald Jones IV, is a thief and abuser of virgin sheep” would be libel if I printed it (and if it wasn’t true). FWIW, I don’t have a next door neighbor named Ignatius Reginald Jones IV. I checked.
  • Publishing certain things related to national security could get me in big trouble. My understanding is that one of Tom Clancy’s books earned him a visit from the FBI. They were curious to know where he had gotten his information. He was able to demonstrate that it was all publicly available.

How did I deal with those things (and how will I deal with them in the future)? It’s simple, really. I decided to not commit libel or to publish national security secrets. Like I said, simple.

As for “yelling ‘fire’ in a crowded theater,” if that is your standard, I would encourage you to read up on the case regarding which Oliver Wendell Holmes made that statement (which was actually “falsely yelling fire in a crowded theater”), as well as subsequent cases. The case was Schenk v. United States.

Although there are some things that do not enjoy First Amendment protection, the courts have been pretty firm in rejecting attempts at prior restraint.

In practical terms, it worked out that there were many things I did not have to do when it came to starting and running a newspaper. Among those, I did not have to

  • obtain any sort of newspaper license, nor were there any typesetting or printing press licenses
  • promise to not commit libel
  • promise to not publish classified national security information
  • demonstrate any training or proficiency in or with
    • journalism
    • English grammar
    • business
    • typesetting
    • writing
    • printing press operation
  • justify why I needed or wanted to start a newspaper
  • gain the approval of any federal, state, county or local official before starting the newspaper
  • notify any law enforcement officer or agency of my intent to start a newspaper
  • agree to only publish number of copies per edition, or number of pages, or run number and type of ads
  • register myself or any of the equipment used

As for not being able to yell “fire” when I’m in a crowded theater, I most certainly can do so. Now, if I do so in the absence of a fire and people are injured in and ensuing panic, I might be legally liable. There is not, however, any mechanism in place to prevent me from doing so. I will simply not enjoy any sort of First Amendment protection. I sign no agreement to not use, or to not inappropriately use, the offending word. There is no hypnotist in the lobby to hypnotically alter my vocabulary for the duration of my time in the theater. No one will evaluate me to determine if I am likely to yell “fire!” There is no list of words I am not permitted to use.

I note that as I am writing books (or trying to), and writing here on this blog, the laws are essentially the same.

Laws restricting the right to keep and bear arms are dramatically different. I am unaware of any gun control laws, which if applied to the First Amendment, would not be both widely opposed and arguably overturned by the courts.

And thus, the title of this posting.

*Technically, 4&5 are assertions or accusations, not arguments, but they come up in almost every discussion I have.

Sometimes, I wonder…

Is it possible that Tom Kratman is just Mike Williamson on a full moon? I mean, I’ve never met either of them, so I have to wonder if anyone has ever seen them both at the same time.

Culture, philosophy and experience

I recently responded to a question on Quora (part of my “don’t spend all day on Quora” resolution means I have to be selective about the questions I answer). Part of my answer referenced an answer by someone with whom I disagree rather strongly. I didn’t make the reference, though, because I disagree with him, but because he gave a really good answer. I call it “really good” because he expressed himself well, the answer was honest, lacked anything approaching vitriol and addressed some aspects of the gun control debate that are often ignored. That’s what this post is about, the debate itself rather than who is on the right or proper side of the debate. More specifically, it’s about those often ignored aspects that seem to go a long way in explaining why at least some people take the position(s) they do.

Culture

When I was a kid in high school, one definition of culture was that “culture is the lens through which we see the world.”  It’s still a pretty good definition. I would even argue there may still not be a better one out there. If one comes from a culture of which privately owned guns are a significant part or one in which they played a significant part, or both, then it seems likely that one is more rather than less likely to have a positive view of both guns and the private ownership of them. Likewise, if one comes from a culture in which privately owned guns did not (and/or are not) a significant part, it seems reasonable to conclude that one would be somewhat more likely to have a negative view of guns and their private ownership.

There is more to culture than a country’s dominant culture, of course. Most countries have both various subcultures and even some counter-cultures, each of which has varying degrees of influence over their members. Subcultures can be defined as a group of people who have a culture with marks them as somewhat different from the dominant culture. Typically, they exhibit some aspects of the broader cultures within which they exist. Examples include the family (arguably the single most powerful subculture in existence, and one which tends to have multi-generational influence), military people, law enforcement officers and Star Trek fans.

In addition, there are countercultures. These are cultural groups whose values, norms, mores, etc run counter to the dominant culture. They are a sort of “opposition” culture. The hippie movement of the 1960’s is probably a good example. Others might include some feminist movements and the green movement.

All of these, cultures, subcultures and countercultures, tend to exert or exercise influence over their members, effectively changing how they see the world – including guns and gun ownership. There is, however, more to the debate.

Philosophy

If culture is the lens through which we see the world, then philosophy is the framework on which that lens is built. We might further define philosophy as “everything you know and how it affects you (or even how you let it affect you).” Philosophies, I submit, underlie cultures and influence their development. The US seems to be a good case in point.

More than any other nation, the US was an outgrowth of the Age of Enlightenment, especially the Scottish Enlightenment (along with the writings of John Locke, of course). Both the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution (including, very specifically the Bill of Rights) are very much Enlightenment documents. One makes the Enlightenment case for why a group of colonists should be viewed as something other than the most base of traitors. The other seeks, among other things, to prevent the very things against which those colonists rebelled.

It is hard to overstate, I think, the influence of the Enlightenment, with its views on individual liberty and the proper relationship between the people and government, on the US. If we accept the dates often given for it (1685-1815), then we might say the US was a product not only of the Age of Enlightenment, but of the Age when it was at or near its peak. Had events in the colonies occurred just a few years earlier or later, then it is arguable that those colonies would have remained loyal subject of England or become their own nation in a much more peaceful and mutually agreed upon manner (a la Canada). It seems equally likely that had that been the case, the view of many US citizens regarding guns would be different than they are.

Experience

One of the things I tell my coaching and hypnosis clients is that many of our behaviors, including the ways we tend to think, are habits. How do habits develop? A number of factors tend to produce habits, including experience. Our experiences tend to lead to habit formation based upon

  • how often we experience something
  • the emotional intensity attached to the experience

As regards guns, then repeated and emotionally positive experiences might be expected to produce a favorable view of them. Likewise, repeated and emotionally negative experiences might produce the opposite. More than that, if one has little experience, then the emotional intensity of one’s limited experience, and whether that was a positive or negative experience, would also seem likely to influence one’s view.

What about you?

All the above seem to be borne out in my life. Here’s some of what I know about myself. Perhaps it will at least serve to illustrate my point a little better.

My family of origin, on my father’s side and several generations before him, is from Scotland. The steward of the clan of which my ancestors were a part has noted two things. First, that my family is, indeed, of Scottish descent and second that “they did not leave Scotland willingly,” which has reference to the dangers of having alliances with too many people (leading to effectively having alliances with none). Regardless, though, what I find interesting is this: though I don’t remember my dad or any of my aunts, uncles or grandparents making any reference to family history in Scotland, these are names from my father’s side of the family: Thomas, Robert, Kenneth, Edwin, George, Evelyn, Nora, Fanny, Morris, Douglas. Let’s move on.

I was raised in a particular Protestant tradition, one that began is this country as a result of the efforts of a number of ministers, particularly Scottish Presbyterians (Scottish Presbyterians, incidentally, were highly represented in, you guessed it, the Scottish Enlightenment). One of those ministers had as his favorite philosopher, John Locke, who also happened to be Thomas Jefferson’s favorite philosopher. One of the primary points of this tradition, at least at the beginning, was that as pertains to Christianity, believers only needed to agree on a few major points. All the points of disagreement which had sundered believers over the years were viewed as not worth fighting over. To put it another way, other than for a few major points, which virtually all who claimed to be Christians accepted anyway, people were to be free to believe and practice entirely as they chose.

You could argue, based on the above, that I was predisposed to read Locke, or the Constitution (especially the Bill of Rights), or the Declaration of Independence, and agree with them. You would probably be right.

In terms of experience, I would note the following:

I’m a retired military officer, who began his career as an enlisted person under arms. I have spent my whole life around firearms, with the vast and overwhelming majority of my experiences being positive. They served for recreation, putting food on the table and defense of self and others. To the last point, I along with some friends and family members at different times and places, am alive because of firearms.

For me, then, culture, philosophy and experience contribute to my view of guns and gun ownership. It would, I submit, be odd indeed if I were to hold a negative view of guns and the civilian ownership of them.

What about the other guy?

The person whose answer I referenced above is different. He comes from a different culture. That culture is one which was not a direct outgrowth of the Enlightenment. Likewise, his experience with firearms has been markedly different than mine. While I don’t know the specific details, the little I do know leads me to describe his experience as both limited and truly tragic. I rather doubt that anyone who has not had an experience similar to his has any real idea of what it was like for him and those close to him. With all those things combined, it would be unlikely for him to have a positive view of guns and the civilian ownership of them; not impossible, but unlikely.

What does it all mean? 

Let’s start with what I think it does not mean.

  • It does not mean that every conclusion is equally valid in terms of its relationship to fact and truth
    • “your truth and my truth” is still specious nonsense
  • It does not mean that everyone who holds a different point of view has a legitimate and justifiable reason for doing so

On the other hand, it does mean that

  • not everyone who disagrees with me does so for nefarious reasons
  • not everyone who disagrees with me is inherently dishonest
  • honest people can look at the same data and disagree…honestly

There is a reason I seldom debate the right to keep and bear arms on the basis of numbers or statistics. I believe they are irrelevant, because I find liberty to be of far greater value than safety. Arguing about numbers is, at least many times, little more than ceding ground to our opponents. I’m a retired military guy. Why on earth would I do such a thing?

To the one whose answer I referenced above, should he read this, I would say this: I cannot adequately express my regret for what you experienced. That you were able to produce such a clear, honest and balanced explanation of your views says a great deal about your character, including your basic honesty. I wish you good fortune for the rest of your journey.

 

 

 

 

In honor of Stanley’s mom

When I was a kid, my dad cooked a lot. I figured that was just something dads did. I was surprised to learn that in the families of many of my friends, that was simply not the case. But, as I began to spend more time away from home, spending the night at the house of one friend or another, I came to understand why my dad cooked so much. It was self-defense.

I loved my mom dearly. Her love for her kids and the lengths to which she would go on their behalf was amazing (the same was true of my dad, but that’s not germane to this posting). There were a lot of things she did amazingly well. Cooking, as it turns out, was not one of them. There were a few dishes she made that were really, really good. There was also everything else she cooked. It simply wasn’t really her thing. With a few exceptions, she just didn’t enjoy cooking all that much.

Beans are a big deal in the South. Properly prepared, they can evoke images and memories of the farm (even if, unlike me, you were never fortunate enough to live on one), hearth and  home. Smooth and with a somewhat thick broth, they are flavorful and warming. Served with freshly baked and buttered cornbread, they are just the thing for a cool fall or cold winter day. Those weren’t the ones my mom cooked. The result was that I tended to avoid beans because the ones we ate at home were so, well, less than appealing. On the other hand, my parents raised me a certain way. If you accepted an invitation to someone’s house for dinner, you ate what they served and said “thank you,” regardless of whether you liked it or not – even if it was beans.

When I was ten years old, we moved to the little town of St. John’s, Arizona. One day, my best friend, Stanley (no, really), invited me to his house for dinner. Stanley’s family was from Mexico and I had never even tasted Mexican food (we had moved a lot but I’m from North Carolina and that was my first time in the Southwest, okay?). Anyway, his mom, who was convinced upon first meeting me that I, like her youngest son, was in danger of wasting away to nothing, created a feast. It was amazing! Still, I had tried to avoid the beans. After all, history and all that. Finally, though, it was inevitable. All I had left was a bowl of beans into which I had put the smallest amount I could without seeming rude. I took a deep breath, picked up a spoonful and put it in my mouth as though I relished beans and had been saving them until last so as to savor them at the end of the meal (politeness, remember).

Oh, my God.

They were amazing! Flavorful and seasoned with spices, many of which I had never even heard of, they were delicious. I was a convert to the Order of the Great Legume. Over the years, I’ve worked hard to learn how to cook beans. Sadly, I never learned how Stanley’s mom* made them. It was her recipe and I wasn’t cooking a lot, back then. What I’ve learned though, is that there are lots of varieties of beans and, as it turns out, lots of yummy ways to cook them.

Here’s one of them. Be advised this makes quite a few beans.

Ingredients

  • 1.5 lbs beans (about 3 cups)
  • 2 quarts chicken stock
  • 1 quart water
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 1/2 medium yellow onion, chopped
  • 3/4 tablespoon sugar
  • 3/4 teaspoon quality chicken bouillon
  • 3-jalepenos, slightly seeded and cut into half-rounds
  • 1 10 oz can diced tomatoes and chilis (aka Rotel)
  • 2-3 ham hocks
  • salt and pepper, to taste
  • lime wedges, to garnish

Instructions

  1. Soak beans overnight or use the quick soak method.
  2. Drain beans in a colander and rinse with cold water.
  3. In a skillet, saute onion, jalepenos and garlic in just a little unsalted butter until the onions are soft.
  4. Add the beans, chicken stock, water and sauteed vegetables to a large pot.
  5. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to simmer. Partially cover with lid and simmer for 1 1/2 hours. Add chicken bouillon and continue simmer for another 1 1/2 hours. If the beans are not tender, continue simmering until they are.
  6. Remove ham hocks to a cutting board and allow to cool. Once cool, remove all meat from the bones, chop and return to the beans. Continue to simmer until the juice is the thickness you desire. If you want lots of thick juice, add a little more chicken stock and remove about 1 cup of beans to a bowl. Using an immersion blender, puree the cooked beans and return to the pot. Allow to cook another 15 minutes.
  7. Serve with freshly baked cornbread and iced tea.

*Thank you, Mrs. Gonzales. You made quite the gastronomic impression on a snot-nosed kid from North Carolina.

 

Apparently, it can get worse

Have you ever wanted to write…something…about, well…something, only to find, at the last moment, that someone else has not only already written it, but arguably written what you would have liked to have written, the way you would have liked to have written it – only better? Yeah. It’s worse when someone else does it with two things you wanted to write about. And manages to do it with a single article or blog posting.

I have been struggling to find the words to express what I think about both the tempest in a teapot that is the kerfuffle over the Covington students and one Nathan Phillips, and the greater issue of American society and what seems to be an increasing intolerance for those who might disagree with someone else. *Expressive sigh* Today, I came across this blog post from Mike Williamson. By way of warning, if you are fainthearted or a member of The Perpetually Offended, it is likely not for you (yes, I put the warning after the link because, you know, this is my blog and you are presumably sufficiently an adult to read a bit further and – never mind).

I don’t want to go into any lengthy discussion of Nathan Phillips. Both Mike Williamson’s posting and this video by former Navy Seal Don Shipley do that far more than adequately. Heck, you can even watch the video here.

 

On the other hand, I do want to give a little time to one aspect of the issue of a seeming increasing intolerance for those who disagree with others.

During the years Barack Obama was in the Oval Office, I became convinced that political discourse in the US had reached its ultimate low. I had “friends” on social media platforms I eventually wound up “unfollowing” because their rhetoric was vile. As much as I disagreed with many of Barack Obama’s policies and ideas (which is to say, a lot), as much harm as I think those policies did, he did not commit treason (nor, I submit, anything even close to meeting the constitutional definition of treason), nor did he deliberately and knowingly attempt to destroy the US, nor was there justification for suggesting, as some did, that he should be shot or hanged. Surely, I thought, it can’t get any worse than this.

I was wrong.

I don’t think much of Donald Trump. I didn’t vote for him and would have strongly preferred someone else as President (except for the one I have seen described as “Dick Cheney in a pantsuit” – I wish I could take credit for that). He is, I believe, as much of an authoritarian as most other politicians. I suspect he, like most other national politicians, finds the Constitution and its provisions to be an unwelcome impediment to what he might like to do (the way the document and its provisions serve as an impediment are, by the way, are a feature rather than a bug). Still…

It is not okay to call for his assassination. It is a vile, disgusting and unethical thing to do. It will also likely get you a well-deserved visit from the Secret Service. It minimizes the pain and suffering of people with dementia to toss out accusations of it. Unless you have information you haven’t shared with Mueller, it has not been proven that Donald Trump is Putin’s pawn. There is no evidence that he plans to precipitate a civil war, “start World War III,” or to “have his supporters keep him in office longer than the Constitution allows.” The election of Donald Trump is not reason to call for the elimination of, among other things, the Electoral College, the US Senate, the US Supreme Court, the First Amendment, the Second Amendment, and US states. There is no indication I have seen that Russia funneled tens of millions of dollars into the US through the NRA or that Donald Trump is in violation of the emoluments clause. Insisting there is such evidence while jumping up and down and holding your breath until your face turns blue does not a compelling argument make. If you are a person who makes his/her living with words, you have no excuse, unless you spent a lot of time living out on a limb with Shirley, for claiming that “Donald Trump is literally Hitler.”

But, there is more.

As a person who grew up in a particular Christian tradition, I have seen the view of some rabid legalists mirrored in the modern American Left. In the church, it often takes the form of “if you don’t actively oppose x, or if you have anything that approaches regard for people who do x, you support it.” It is specious nonsense in the church and it is equally specious nonsense in politics. In modern American political and social discourse, that same reasoning can be found on the Left. “If you don’t actively oppose everything Donald Trump says and does, or if you think he has done anything at all positive, or if you, God forbid, held your nose and voted for him, you support any and every vile, evil thing of which he and his supporters are accused.” There is a reason a man I know has referred to the modern American Left (especially progressives) as “the new Moral Majority.”

And, of course, there is more.

Advocating violence because you disagree with others is a bad idea. At least, if you’re going to do that, have the nerve to do your own dirty work. Don’t call for others to dox a bunch of kids and leave them open to attack. Don’t encourage others to do what you, quite frankly, don’t have the balls to do. And, don’t make the mistake of thinking that if you do engage in your own act of violence, society will choose to say it’s okay because of the purity of your motives or that your victim won’t fight back. What is most likely to happen is that society will rely upon the rule of law to slap you down harder than you can imagine and certainly harder than what you will likely think is fair – and not care that you feel mistreated.

Which leads us to a problem greater than “simple” political violence. What happens if your victim chooses to fight back? Well, you could get hurt. You could get hurt as badly as your victim, or worse. You could even get dead (“I carry a gun because I’m too young to die and too old to take an ass beating”). It becomes, at some point, a matter of scale. What happens if you and your comrades (deliberate word choice) of equally pure motives all encounter enthusiastic and effective resistance? Do you work harder to make your point? How far do you go? How many more do you enlist in your quest?* More than that, what happens not simply to the particulars in a given fight, but to the nation as a whole if this thing spreads? LawDog had some thoughts on this, almost two years ago.

Of course, my concerns could be misplaced. All this could settle down and everything be fine. And it will be, if people are willing to step away, just a bit, from the edge.

*Just in case you are confused or inclined toward thinking I believe politically motivated violence (real violence, not pseudo-intellectual “violent words” or “microagression) is okay from the other side of the spectrum, allow me to disabuse you of that notion. I do not think it’s okay. From my perspective today, January 25, 2019, the biggest threat comes from the Left rather than the Right. That could change tomorrow, in which case I’ll be glad to call them out, too.