The Dance of Power


Sir Anthony Hopkins, one of the most gifted actors of our day, was reported to have passed away recently. Fortunately it was a hoax and he is still very much with us; hopefully we can enjoy his fine work for years to come.  Among his prolific contributions was an underrated film called “Instinct“, a movie lauded for its animal rights theme, but more properly viewed as an allegory on the nature of freedom. In one particularly poignant moment of the film (beginning around 1:40), Hopkins character, Dr. Ethan Powell, a primatologist who has devoted his life to the study of gorillas, bemoans the plight of a group of caged gorillas, and in particular one that he is responsible for having brought into captivity:

“…These are shadows of gorillas. Born in cages. Only the old male- he was free once. Still alive, Goliath? I named him that. I brought him here. This cage has broken him. Broken his heart, broken his mind. Made him insane. I did that.”                                                              
Powell opens the door to the old gorilla’s cage over the objection of his companion,
“…He won’t come out. You see? Even if he can. Not far from here is a fence, and on the other side of that fence is freedom, and he can smell it. He’ll never try to get there, ’cause he’s given up. By now he thinks freedom is something he dreamed…”                                     
No, I’m not changing this to a movie blog, and I suppose I’ve taken the long way round to begin making my point, but Hopkins role fit perfectly the concept that we lose our freedom sometimes because it is taken from us, and sometimes because we fail to take it back.

Here in upstate New York, our local Community College baseball team recently fell short in its quest for the national championship and it’s season came to an end in defeat. The only reason that is significant to anyone beyond the team and its fans is because it makes moot the fact that they would never have been able to pursue the championship had they been victorious. You see, this year the championship was to be played in North Carolina, and our dear leader, Governor Cuomo, has issued an edict in protest of that state’s “bathroom law”, prohibiting non-essential travel to that state for our state’s employees. Of course, eager young college kids playing America’s sport are hardly state employees, but the college administration, apparently cut from the same cloth as the governor, opted to back up the policy and prohibit the boys from playing in the championship had they succeeded in attaining to that level. Whether having nothing to play for contributed to their ultimate defeat, we cannot know, but we do now know that the college is willing to sacrifice students’ dreams and potential lifelong memories for a political statement. God forbid that the school might have afforded the team the freedom to decide for itself.

Up the ladder of government to the Whitehouse and we find the Obama administration releasing a letter to school districts “suggesting” that they tow the line on Title Nine, and interpret it to include gender identification as a protected class, making no prohibitions to who can try out for athletic teams or use specific restrooms, locker rooms, or showers on the basis of their supposed sex (the one they were born with), or their outward (or inward I guess!) sexual organs. Posed as a helpful suggestion for how to interpret title 9, the administration saw fit to include an unveiled threat concerning the loss of federal funding for districts who fail to comply. While this whole discussion, at the moment, is rightly referred to as a solution in search of a problem, it takes little precognition to recognize our destination from the direction this road is heading. Beyond our schools, the logic of carving out a protected status for gender identification will, to be logically consistent, need to eventually extend to women’s colleges, men’s clubs, girl scouts, boy scouts, our prison system, and beyond.

But something more basic is in play here than what makes a man a man or a woman a woman. Though such a controversy would have seemed absurd to all people who have lived before this decade; we have always had, and will always have, disagreements about how things should be run. Imagine if every disagreement between states was to be dealt with by boycotts and travel bans! I am not a fan of legalized prostitution, if governor would I then be compelled to follow Cuomo’s lead and prohibit non-essential travel to Nevada? (North Carolina is one thing, but Vegas? State employees would surely mutiny!) Colorado has legalized recreational marijuana; fortunately for us in New York, they are presently too mellowed to consider boycotting travel to our state for what they must consider our unnecessary infringement on our citizens’ right to get high. There was a time when local control of school districts was considered advantageous to education, now we see that federal money always comes with strings, nay, ropes that bind. It is a fine line, but an important one, do we elect a government to lead us… or control us?

Our nation was founded on a system of checks and balances. Those checks and balances do not insinuate a weak government. We were not founded to be a nation of weak leaders, nor of weak citizens. America was not to be a place where no one has power, that’s anarchy, but we were to be a place where everyone has power, even, by way of basic rights, the minority of the individual. In such a model we eschewed the stability of a static all powerful monarchy for the eternal struggle of freedom. The checks and balances of our system are the surging, oscillating, alternating dynamic of our republic. It is the dance of power, moving from the executive, to the the legislative, to the judicial, to the states, to the people themselves and then back again; it is the Tango of governments:

” In tango there is a ‘leader’ and a ‘follower’. Through the embrace, the leader offers invitations to the follower for where and how to step. The follower decides in what way they will accept the leader’s invitations. Both the leader and follower try to maintain harmony and connection through the embrace, and with the music, and so the dance is born.”



IMHO: With Donald Trump becoming the presumptive candidate for the GOP much has been said about people now “falling in line” to support him. We on the conservative side need to decide if after eight years of Obama we now want our own emperor to assume the template Obama has cast. Rather I think it high time to return to the dance floor and tango. Much in the way that Paul Ryan has been slow to blindly cast his lot with Trump, it is no crime to let our candidate know that he needs to dance, and that we will consider his lead on the merits and on how acceptably it will take us where we want to go. That kind of parrying has already yielded fruit for conservatives with the release of his “Supreme Court list “; he’s left himself a little wiggle room, but his lead is a response to conservatives playing hard to get. We may find Trump an intriguing partner, but we still need to be wooed. We do neither Trump or ourselves any favor by swooning into his arms. Absolute power corrupts not only the leader, but the led. A harmony of power strengthens us all; the music is playing… let’s dance!



Publisher’s note:  The original publication of this post reported the false reports of Sir Anthony’s passing as factual.  One of my reader’s corrected my gullibility in not doing my fact checking thoroughly, and for that I am both humbled and grateful.  I have corrected the text to reflect the hoax.      



Rebels and Rabbles

make america great

“I’m just deeply disappointed that once again we may have to
settle for the lesser of two evils.”

Howard Dean


In our now all too familiar four year cycle we are engaging once again in our presidential election ritual where we are asked to choose the less offensive of two offensive candidates to become the next leader of the free world. As always, we are told that the choice is obvious; in this case, better the narcissistic buffoon who at least makes claims of conservatism, than the progressive criminal who, despite dishonesty being her default position, proudly and truthfully eschews any hint of conservatism. Trump supporters are frustrated by the reticence of party bigwigs, talk show hosts, and principled conservatives to now and at once fall in line behind the presumptive candidate. If you’re not supporting Trump, then you’re supporting Hillary. The argument is a logical one, but how odd to be chided by those who supported a candidacy based entirely on emotion without reason, for a moment of irrationality regarding choosing between bad and worse.

This is not a case, as has been painted, of people needing time to heal from the disappointment of their candidate failing to win. Though there were many candidates, few except Trump had passionate followings, and Cruz was particularly a hard candidate to love. That being said, I don’t begrudge the Bushes, Lindsay Graham, or most of the other candidates for being slow to come around. Trump made the campaign intensely personal and not policy or performance based. He insulted their integrity, their appearance, their patriotism; and I can’t fault them for having difficulty in following Dr. Carson’s example, who Trump came close to comparing to a pedophile, and maybe being a little slower to join the group hug.

But ultimately, the reticence to support Trump is greatly due to who Trump is. All the talk about the lesser of two evils is fine, and given the imperfection of human beings I suppose we are always choosing someone who is flawed, but at some point the “evil” becomes more than a simple equation. Trump was of seventeen candidates my seventeenth choice. I will likely pull the lever for him, but certainly not enthusiastically; and since living in New York makes my vote moot anyway, I will at least momentarily consider the advantages of being able in years to come to truthfully proclaim, “Hey, I didn’t vote for him!” The lesser of two evils argument cannot be axiomatic. If somehow our only choice was between Hillary and Bernie, would we not be forgiven if we sat this one out? If forced to choose between Lucifer and Hitler, is there not an acceptable dignity in rejecting the choice altogether? Ah, but despite liberal bloggers’ insistence, Trump is not Hitler; and no, Hillary is not Lucifer; Lucifer is taller. In all likelihood, after some merited hesitation, the lesser of two evils argument still probably holds, if only because of the situation on the Supreme Court.

And so we move to the process of reconciliation. Media Trumpsters on Fox News and elsewhere are beside themselves that Republicans in huge numbers are pausing in their support for a candidate they find well lacking. The oath that the candidates took to support the eventual winner has been greatly ignored, which shows how meaningless oaths are when you’re dealing with politicians. The establishment Republicans see Trump as a threat to their power base, yes, but he is also their self proclaimed enemy, and he continues to ridicule them. It is reminiscent of President Obama mocking congressional Republicans and then criticizing them for being slow to cooperate; newsflash: people are human. Movement conservatives and Tea Party types having had highly successful mid term elections, and failing to beat Obama in his second run only because of their inability to flex enough muscle to find a more electable nominee than the establishment’s choice of Romney, thought that with this election their time had finally come. Hence, of 17 candidates, probably 13 or 14 at least would have been acceptable choices… and that was their doom. Having had the rug pulled out from under them, these rebels have seen their revolution apparently derailed by a rabble who have grown impatient with the plodding reasoned approach. These don’t care to hear about the history and fundamentals of our Republic. They know things are broken, and they want them fixed; they don’t care if it’s done by a rule book or a constitution. They don’t know or care what made America great, they just want to make it great again. They are oblivious to the sentiments of de Tocqueville and the quote attributed to him that America is great only because of her goodness, and instead look to the supposed shortcut to greatness, power.

The problem is that the rabble is insufficient to elect Trump, and other Republican office seekers will be slow to tie their wagon to what they perceive to be a sinking anchor. Conservatives will continue to be less than enthusiastic when like Romney and McCain before him, though for different reasons, Trump’s main selling point is that he is not as horrible as the alternative. I know that irks Trump fans, but that is the way things are. You have a few months to convince these folks one by one to join the ranks of the Trumford wives, or you could ask one man to adjust his disposition, Donald J. Trump. Trump needs to begin looking to build coalitions. He needs to stop insulting people whose support he requires, and he needs to warm up to his most natural ally, movement conservatives. Much of his allure has been his bravado, his brashness, and his confrontational approach, and that’s fine, but if he is the presumptive candidate, he needs to reserve his animosity and aggression for his opponents. The enemy of my enemy is my friend, and Trump’s most sympathetic moments with conservatives were when violent protestors tried to shut him down. There will be more of that, and conservatives and even moderates will be repelled by it and gravitate toward Trump, that is if he is not in the process of insulting or denigrating those who could be his constituents with a little diplomacy.

IMHO: Rebels find rabbles regrettable. The rabble puts an unfortunate cast on the cause of the rebel. That being said, noble revolutions seldom occur without the attention garnered by screaming demagogues, and rioting throngs. Along with the high minded movement of Martin Luther King Jr. were the less lofty race riots of the sixties. Half a century before the American Revolution “risings of the people” were common enough, with sailors, freedom seeking slaves, laborers and youth. The rabble of the day were not as well versed in the writings of Locke, or the Natural Law, but they knew that things weren’t right. Not all can respond with the same measured dignity as a Ghandi or an MLK, not all have the wisdom of a Thomas Paine, or a Jefferson. Not all possess the strategic mind of a Washington, or the genius of a Benjamin Franklin. Some only know their anger and impatience with those dragging them through the mud. These are the rabble, these are the mob, and truth be told they are as much an agent for change as their more noble brethren. They can not be left on their own though, lest our world descend into chaos, and it does no one any good for the adults in the country to take their ball and go home. Instead, the rabble needs to be educated, accepted, and respected. Rabbles are but rebels yet unredeemed.
Any poker player will tell you that every hand isn’t a perfect hand, but only fools fold every time they don’t get the cards they wanted. Professionals know how to make winning hands out of losing ones. Ultimately you need to play the cards you’ve been dealt, and this round we’ve been dealt Trump. If we play our cards right, we can still win.


“I sought for the greatness and genius of America in her commodious harbors and her ample rivers– and it was not there. In her fertile fields and boundless forests– and it was not there. In her rich mines and her vast world commerce– and it was not there. In her democratic Congress and her matchless Constitution– and it was not there. Not until I went into the churches of America, and heard her pulpits flame with righteousness did I understand the secret of her genius and power. America is great because she is good, and if America ever ceases to be good, she will cease to be great.”


New York, new york

weeping liberty

“Start spreading the news,
I am leaving today
I want to be a part of it
New York, New York. “

Frank Sinatra, New York, New York



Here in upstate New York we’ve recently had our primaries. You need to understand the burden of the upstater. As I travel and am asked where I’m from, my reply of “New York” is always followed by the caveat that I am from “upstate”, because I want to make clear that it’s not the same as being from the City. Up here we’ve always tended toward different values. With the exception of Tompkins County (New York City West), you’ll find most of the countryside up here plastered with pro 2nd amendment signs, Gadsden flags, and though I don’t really understand why, even the occasional confederate banner. Outside the major cities, politics generally run red, people go to church (or at least would if they weren’t so busy!), and not a few have at least a gun or two. When Ted Cruz spoke about New York values, we may have been a little offended, but we understood exactly what he meant… kind of like someone insulting your crazy cousin. It’s possible to love your state, even the Big Apple, and still be a little ashamed of what it has come to.

Some have become so frustrated with the dichotomy between downstate and upstate, with upstate usually coming up on the short end of the stick, that they have suggested splitting the state in two. Downstate would be the new smaller New York, and upstate would become a new entity, “New Amsterdam”, in homage to our Dutch forefathers and Henry Hudson I suppose. Such secessionist movements exist in many states, but for the most part are an arena for those who like to strike a radical pose without any real chance of changing anything. Just the same, if nothing else, calling for secession at least shows the world that you don’t share the values held by your downstate step siblings.

All that being said, it is disheartening that the recent primary results have shown the state to be remarkably homogenous. Republicans across the state, downstate and upstate, have chosen the second most narcissistic and inept candidate still in the race as their champion… only to be outdone in far greater numbers by the democrats statewide who chose the first most narcissistic and inept for their own. With these primaries New York, all of New York, may have propelled the nation to having to choose between Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton to lead our country. Having set aside our erstwhile contrarian persuasions we have bowed to the values of our downstate overlords, and set up a race where the principles we claim to hold have no representative. Of the wide array of republican hopefuls we have chosen the one least in line with what we pretend to look for in our candidates. Whether it be 2nd amendment, pro-life, traditional marriage, free trade, limited government… Trump always comes up well down the scale on conservatism. In the few days since the primary he has advocated moderating the GOP platform on abortion, criticized North Carolina for their “rest room law”, and sounded like a Democrat in promising to raise taxes on the “rich”.

On the Democrat side, I am certainly no fan of Bernie Sanders’ political agenda, but it seems he is sincere in his beliefs, and at least an honest man. Hillary and her cohorts seem to be unable to define a difference between a socialist and a democrat, and honestly, that’s probably because substantively there isn’t one. So given the choice between an old man with a misguided conscience, and an old woman with no conscience at all, New Yorkers across the state made the obvious New York choice; we’re with Hillary!

IMHO: Ted Cruz’s derogatory comments regarding “New York” values were in reference to Trump’s admission that his own values, given the fact that he was from New York, tended to be liberal and not conservative. Trump was ironically able to twist that to his advantage with low information voters, and effectively herd the New York electorate away from Cruz to a landslide victory in New York. It should not really come as a surprise to us here though, because even in upstate, we do seem to lapse into “New York values”. We are a state that seems particularly susceptible to “star power”. Hillary zeroed in on us for her senate run as a state that would elect her for her celebrity regardless of her qualifications. We have a governor who was elected because his name is “Cuomo”… c’mon folks, what other reason could there possibly be! Only jaded Manhattan, unimpressed by stardom refused to kiss the Trump ring. And we are a state that even in it’s most conservative bastions is far less principled in it’s conservativeness than other states. We even have our own brand within the GOP, “New York Republicans”, the original RINO’s. We value brashness, impatience and in your face disrespect. We don’t much worry about courtesy, and probably use our middle finger as much as anywhere else in the nation. As such, Trump is a natural fit for us. In much the same way that America fell in love with Archie Bunker, the character Carrol O’Connor played in the sitcom “All in The Family”; people love Trump for the character he portrays without realizing that the joke is on them. The chief reason voters give for voting for Trump is that he tells it like it is, though what he says is continually inaccurate. Besides this we now have the assurances of Ben Carson and Paul Manafort that there are two Donald Trumps, and that his rally persona is different from his real life persona… is that another way of saying that it’s all an act?
And so my apologies to Mr. Cruz and my conservative brethren across the land for our “New York values”. It’s time to admit to ourselves who we apparently are up here in “upstate”. Conservative values will be relegated to the back seat. Take down your “Safe Act” protest placards, your “Cuomo has got to go” signs, your Gadsden flags and your phony conservative facades; and enough of this “New Amsterdam” crap; we are for Hillary, we are for Trump… we are New York.


The 240 Year Itch



seven year itch

“When the itch is inside the boot, scratching outside
provides little consolation.”

Chinese Proverb



It’s hard to figure what Americans want. I’m not sure most of them even know. Jerry Seinfeld joked about how men watch TV; in describing their perpetual channel surfing behavior, he explained that men don’t care what’s on TV, they only care what else is on TV. We have come to that place with our government. We don’t care what we’ve had, what we have… we only wonder what else we could try that might be, well, something new. It doesn’t matter if it’s a better idea, just if it’s a different idea.

“Here’s a thought, let’s put Sarah Palin in for VP!”… “Hey let’s put a black guy in for leader of the free world, we never had a black guy… his politics don’t matter!” … “Let’s get a bunch of Tea Party kooks to run, doesn’t matter how stupid”… “Isn’t it time we had a woman for President? Hillary will do, never mind her baggage!”… “Hey did you hear what Trump said… let’s make him President!” …” No, Democratic Socialism, it’s different!”

One almost dare not ask what’s coming next. Now I have nothing against having a conservative woman for Vice President, even one that’s a little bit red-neck, nothing against a black president, I like Tea Party candidates, and maybe it is time we had a woman for President. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with going outside the world of politics to elect our leaders, and– well, no, not socialism, I can’t go that far!… but I have nothing against old jewish guys! That being said, there’s more to a good idea than just being different.

For over 200 years the US was the envy of the world. The combination of freedom and opportunity was a magnet to immigrants, and the system of checks and balances integral to our Constitution seemed to have provided this nation with as perfect a marriage between a people and it’s government as has ever existed throughout history. Ah, but even perfect marriages sometimes falter! One spouse becomes unresponsive and the other becomes unhappy. Someone’s eye starts to wander, and then their heart. Where commitment, communication, and a little counseling might have gotten them over the rough patch, they blame each other, and soon the only answer to the unhappiness seems to be to “see what else is on”. But seeing what else is on won’t ultimately bring happiness anymore than scratching the outside of the boot will assuage the itch on the inside. The unhappiness is on the inside. Likewise, arbitrary changes to the system of government that made the US the most powerful and prosperous nation on earth, will not make us a better country, the problem is on the inside. We like to focus our dissatisfaction on things outside ourselves. In a faltering marriage we pretend we were never in love. In a faltering nation we pretend we were never something special, or at least that we aren’t now. And so we tear ourselves apart; we condemn what we once extolled; we humanize our heroes, and then we demonize them. And when we have brought the exalted low, that gives us permission to throw it all away.

And so, as we rearrange the deck chairs on the Titanic, we might be better advised to look for the lifeboats. Social media is replete with jokes about wondering where the real candidates for President are, as if it were not we the people who came up with this bunch. We like to have heroes, even when they are not very heroic, and even more we like to have villains, who we transform into Satans; but the truly disturbing question is, what kind of people choose these kinds of heroes? What kind of majorities choose these kinds of villains? When did we begin to celebrate crudeness as candor? When did we redefine dishonesty as sophistication? When did bullying become a virtue? When did we decide it might be reasonable to abandon the economic engine that made us the richest nation in the world, to follow the advice of a 74 year old who’s never had a real job, and say, “what the heck, why not socialism… might be worth a shot!” You can tell a lot about people by the heroes that they worship. Flawed people prefer flawed heroes; we create our gods in our own image, so that we can feel more comfortable with our own low standards. We banish our idealized gods to mythology, and superheroes to the movies; our true leaders, our real idols look a lot like us, and we prefer it that way.

IMHO: We never like to blame ourselves. If we can’t find a way to blame someone else, our last resort is to blame our past selves. When a marriage gets rocky we’ll start by blaming our spouse. If that doesn’t fly we’ll blame our past self, “I made the wrong choice, this was never my destiny, I was never really in love…”. Rarer than Diogenes’ honest man is the individual who won’t shift the blame to another person, or even a past tense of themselves. How often have you heard someone own the blame entirely and admit that the only thing wrong with their marriage is that they’re not doing it right? With such an attitude comes responsibility, and with responsibility comes work. When it comes to relationships we are mostly all lazy, and rather than do the work we’d rather cast our lot to the wind and hope fate will send us something less demanding.
There’s nothing wrong with our system of government. It was a miracle when it was designed, and it remains miraculous; we’re just not doing it right. Burning down the house instead of fixing it will leave us all homeless, and entertaining a bevy of political oddities in the hopes that one will be the magic elixir that fixes everything is folly, and a scratching of the outside of the boot. All the lies, the bickering, the name calling, the finger pointing, the hatred… all signal that we have given up on the work it would take to be a virtuous people who would produce a virtuous government. We opt for something less; we opt for domination, we opt for winning at all costs; liberty we have found to be too laborious, so we consign ourselves to the ease of tyranny.
The salvation of a troubled nation is not magical, and we vainly search for a magician to scratch our itch. As with marriage, healing comes from love. Love for our heritage, even with the mistakes we’ve made. Love for the land, love for the people, love for our destiny and the goodness we have brought to the earth. We can shed a tear for our sins, and repentance is a powerful force, but self-loathing is only suicidal. Perhaps after 240 years the miraculous has grown tedious, and we no longer see the wonder; but we have something here worth saving. It’s not popular to say it anymore, but I love America.


“…My native country, thee.
Land of the noble free.
Thy name I love.
I love thy rocks and rills,
Thy woods and templed hills;
My heart with rapture fills
Like that above.”

My Country Tis of Thee


Finding Mr. Right


As my three beautiful daughters grew up, I had ample opportunity to express my opinion on the young men that they considered candidates for becoming my son-in-laws. Of course, none of the candidates were worthy of my angels; nor did any of them meet my criteria of “Mr. Right”. Early on though, I discovered one uncomfortable fact. Like Tevye in Fiddler On The Roof, I came to the realization that one doesn’t simply choose his own son-in-laws, they are chosen for him. Oh I advised, I cajoled, I complained… I threw tantrums; but in the end a choice was always made… and I was never the one who made it. Oddly enough, and despite my worst fears, the choices my daughters made turned out mostly to be good ones; and when they made a bad choice, their world did not end. The doom that I prophesied went mostly unfulfilled, because in the end I discovered I had given my daughters something more precious than advice. My little girls were now strong young women with the ability to face life as I had taught them, to overcome mistakes, and to thrive.

As our nation looks to choose our next leader, warnings of the Apocalypse abound on both sides of the political aisle, and even within the many factions of the Republican party as well. Donald Trump joins the long list of characters likened to Adolf Hitler, his hypnotic rhetoric apparently so hateful and sinister that he ought not be allowed even to speak; his silver-tongued oratory apparently so wickedly compelling that for the good of the citizens his witchcraft needs to be silenced. Those who compare our candidates, left or right, to Hitler, should read up a little on Hitler. And those who warn of apocalyptic doom should we elect the wrong president, need to return to their Bibles to see what a real apocalypse looks like. There are talk show hosts on the right, and progressive non-profits on the left who make their living by making us all believe that we are on the cusp of oblivion. Every election cycle we hear it. We heard it with Bush, we heard it with Obama. But even as bad as the current administration has been; and we’ve certainly incurred some damage; we are still America with a fairly good chance of electing someone totally different, relegating the Obama administration to “the wrong side of history”, and moving on. We have elected and survived a wide range of Presidents: Wilson, Hoover, the Roosevelts, Coolidge, Nixon, Carter, Reagan, the Bushes, Obama… It may be that America is not the fragile house of cards that we imagine it to be, one that can be toppled by whatever Hitler du jour we are presently designating. We conservatives perpetually espouse American exceptionalism, and the miracle of our Constitution and form of government. If it is a miracle, it is not a miracle of fragile freedom, many revolutions have brought temporary liberty, ours was something better. If our Constitution is miraculous, it is miraculous because of its durability; and we are exceptional as a nation because we are not easily subdued.

If we are indeed at the mercy of our leaders, then eventually we will fall. If we are like Sisyphus, condemned to roll the rock of freedom up the mountain only to see it roll back down, I fear we will not find his perpetual strength to guard and restore our liberty. Oh, I do believe that each generation must tend to the lamp of liberty, as Ronald Reagan warned,

“Freedom is never more than one generation away from extinction. We didn’t pass it to our children in their bloodstream. It must be fought for, protected, and handed on for them do the same, or one day we will spend our sunset years telling our children and our children’s children what it was once like in the United States where men were free.”

But we have begun to assume that passing on freedom means electing the right leader, and then depending on them to shepherd our liberty. Revolutions are seldom won by majorities, neither are they maintained by them. Our greatness as a nation has never been dependent on elections, or we would have fallen years ago. Our greatness as a nation is embodied in the ideas at its core, and the willingness of a remnant to pass on those ideas to the next generation. Yes, the lamp of liberty must be tended, but it is tended in the hearts and minds of our young people, not just the voting booth; and if we fulfill our duty, that lamp will still light even the darkest times, and fly in the face of the worst leaders. We like to think of the world in terms of heroes and villains. We blame World War II and the holocaust on the demonic Adolf Hitler, without considering the role of the german people, or the people of the rest of the world that made a Hitler possible. We suffer from the notion that a single man can destroy us, or that a single man can save us, when a bad leader can’t destroy a good nation any more than a good leader can save a bad one.

IMHO: The republican party has for many years been looking for Mr. Right, and their choices have often been as disappointing as my daughters’. Like the scornful father, with each new candidate our disapproval has become the more vociferous, “John? Are you kidding, he’s a RINO!” “Mitt? Oh please, he’s so establishment!” “Ted? What do you see in him, nobody likes him! He’s from Canada!” “Marco? I heard some bad stuff about him!” “Donald? He’s full of himself, so controlling!”
Again, like the father I once was, we take increasing offense at the fact that our choice is rejected, “What’s the matter with Rand, he seems like such a nice boy!” “Have you noticed John, he’s so polite!” “Ben is so smart, and a doctor!” “What about Mike? He’s a good Christian.”. Our devotion to our own ideal choice heightens our disappointment with the eventual candidate and we throw a tantrum full of doom, gloom, and allusions to the Apocalypse. We cut off our nose to spite our face, and we risk continuing the streak of progressive rule to 12 or possibly 16 years, thus helping to fulfill our own false prophecy.
Paradoxically, when we set our standards impossibly high, people tend to ignore us and make choices based on no standards at all. The anger and vitriol that we are seeing on each side of this election should tell us that we have made the election of a president more important than our brotherhood as a nation, our constitutional principles, and the Union itself. We treat each other as though we were villains, devils, morons, and degenerates because we disagree on the direction our government should take. Even in the narrowest of differences within a party we have resorted to name-calling, crude insults, accusations, and assertions of evil motives… and I’m not talking about the candidates. Maybe this has become a little too important to us; maybe we’ve made it into all that there is, and forgotten the weightier, more difficult parts of tending the lamp of liberty. Yes, vote. Make your best choice from the candidates available. But then be at peace, rest, tend to your flame. We are still America,  we’ll be ok.


Selling Our Soul

Tommy Johnson

” ‘What’d the devil give you for your soul, Tommy?’
‘Well, he taught me to play this here guitar real good.’
‘Oh son! For that you sold your everlasting soul?’
‘Well, I wasn’t usin’ it ‘ “

Oh Brother Where Art Thou


Thus the Coen brothers movie reconstructs the legendary account of American Delta blues artist Tommy Johnson meeting the devil at a crossroads and trading his soul for mastery of the guitar. The ethereal soul, shrouded in eternity, often seems of little value in the here and now; and we are apt to sell it, often in small pieces, for something we can use like fame, power, money, or physical needs and desires.

In raising my children there were ample opportunities to teach life lessons about the value of honesty. From the times when cashiers would give too much change, to the offers of cheating on the sales tax for the purchase of a used car; my response to their puzzlement over the scruples I inherited from the example of my own father would often be to assure them that if and when I succumbed to selling my soul, it would be for a far more substantial sum. We, the citizens of this once great nation, find ourselves at that same crossroads where Tommy sold his soul; and in our hand already is the pen with which we might sign away our destiny. As Esau traded his birthright for a bowl of lentils, we are in the process of giving up the essence of our Republic and its high calling for that which is base and of passing value. The enduring building blocks of freedom, goodness, liberty, and self-rule, we are now ready to trade for violence, dishonesty, anger and bondage. On the altar of party spirit we make ready to sacrifice the soul of America. Generations to come may look back on the decision we have made and ask with bewilderment even as we have puzzled over the decisions of other peoples, “For that you sold your everlasting soul?” Well, we weren’t using it anyway.

Somewhere between the impeachment of Richard Nixon and the exoneration of Bill Clinton a decision was made by a sufficient majority of voters that character really doesn’t matter when it comes to presidential politics. The greater portion of this majority has historically been composed of Saul Alinsky progressives whose “ends justifies the means” approach to politics has ever espoused the concept of might makes right, and as such, the moral purity or honesty of their candidates was far less of a concern to them than party purity and agenda.  It is therefore unsurprising that the left seems more than willing on this go round to bend forward for a tired old candidate who would more appropriately be led off to prison than the oval office. Republicans, though,have since Nixon been a little more circumspect with the candidates they put forward. Allowances have been made for presidential hopefuls who seemed a little less than brilliant, lacking in charisma, or even electability; but at the slightest hint of impropriety the candidate was quickly abandoned in the GOP. It is to be anticipated that in a party greatly composed of religious and traditional values voters, that adherence to the “high road” would be a deciding factor for potential candidates. In a nation that seems to have lost its way though, the “high road” has looked more and more like a dead end in the last couple of elections. So it would seem that this time around, republican voters have decided that if they are going to be dragged through the mud anyway, they might as well nominate someone more comfortable wallowing in it. Even evangelicals, faced with a choice of conservative christians, a pastor, the son of a pastor, a Catholic, a Seventh Day Adventist, or other perfectly viable candidates have instead opted for the morally deficient narcissist who most closely resembles the Antichrist. Forgive my hyperbole, but it seems that the angel on the electorate’s right shoulder has grown tired of defeat and is opting to don progressive garb to beat the devil at his own game. It may seem to be a better alternative to abandon the nature of our better angels than to perpetually lose elections to the greater of two evils, but in so doing we create a land where there are no angels… and there is only one place where there are no angels.

IMHO: Last night on the streets of Chicago we saw a caricature of what our nation will look like without its soul. Rule by coercion and violence. An end to free speech for those we disagree with, and quickly following, an end to freedom of all sorts. Power seized through force, not discourse. Anger. Hatred. War… Welcome to our American Hell. Passion in the political forum is nothing new, and to be expected for such consequential matters; but organizing to silence an opposing view… I thought we were better than that.
I am no Trump fan, as perhaps you have discerned. From his oft repeated reference to the Presidential term of office as a “reign” to his insistence that people will do what he tells them if he’s elected, it seems clear that he doesn’t grasp the Constitutional notion of public servant any better than Barack Obama or Hillary Clinton. Worse still, it seems that “We the People” are losing our appetite for liberty, and like so much of the rest of the world we cry out for a King, or a CEO who will relieve us of our burden of self-governance and keep us entertained with bread and circuses. If elected, Trump may surprise many of us and turn out to be a good President, stranger things have happened, but we have no evidence to expect that from what he’s said or done. Instead we have a candidate as adept at ignoring reality on the right- arguably the right- as Bernie Sanders is on the left. Like Obama before him, he assiduously avoids details, speaking in vague terms that allow the voter to project their own ideas onto his empty rhetoric. As Trump has said, he loves the poorly educated, and it is to those who have a poor education in civics, or to those who have set aside their education, that he appeals. His ability to garner the support of such as Chris Christie and Ben Carson suggests that he will continue to employ his admitted practice of influence peddling to deal his way through the presidency. That all being said, the chaos of what happened in Chicago last night outrages even those of us who are not Trump supporters, and while the organizers revel in the glow of having deprived Trump his rally, they have ironically only helped his campaign by reminding us that there are worse things than Trump.
The Donald’s most appreciated trait seems to be the fact that he speaks his mind, which I guess in this era of political correctness is refreshing to voters. Let’s face it though, if our neighbor spoke to us in that fashion we would not find it refreshing! There is such a thing as honesty with courtesy, candor with class. We risk the error that was made with Barack Obama, and again potentially with Hillary Clinton. It was indeed time to elect a black man to our highest office, but that particular black man was a mistake. It may well be time we had a woman for President, but not that woman. And so it may certainly be that we should look to a man who speaks his mind to lead our country, only let that mind reflect things worth speaking. It may be time we elected a citizen politician to the high office of President, but it remains a high calling, and it calls for a man of high character and principle. Truth be told, we have found a bully we suppose to be bigger than the bully who’s been bullying us, and somehow we imagine that this will free us from bullies.
Increasingly it appears that our choice in November will be between a rock and a hard place. In a free society people get the leaders they deserve. And that’s what I’m afraid of.