November 27, 2008

AND YET AGAIN, WITH FEELING

There is no better land to live for.





(You can view this message, rather than read it, on PJTV by clicking here. It's absolutely free and requires no registration; just select your connection speed on the left and off you go. That's how I'd prefer you see it, for what that may be worth.)




Tuesday night of last week, I got a call from a good friend of mine. I just wasn’t in the mood to take it, you know? You’ve been there. Anyway, he didn’t leave a message.

The next day got away from me, but the day after that I called his cell on the way to work just to catch up. His wife answered the phone. And then I found out that my good friend Richard had died in his sleep the day before. Just like that. Gone. He left a wife, a five year old daughter, and a son who’s not yet one.

So this is my Thanksgiving message. It’s not dreary or sad at all – on the contrary.

You see, my friend Richard worked for Boeing. He was a defense contractor, and, like so many of his fellow employees, he was a true-blue patriot who loved his country and spent his life making sure that she did not come to harm. I am thankful to him for that… to Richard and all those others, and I am thankful to live in a time where the very idea of a person in their mid forties simply up and dying is so stunning and unheard of that it takes a week just to process it. It’s because of men like Richard that we don’t have to worry about armed invasion – a fear borne by pretty much every human throughout all of recorded, and pre-recorded history. And I am especially grateful to the millions of other hardworking, dedicated people that have so far pushed the boundaries of medicine and science that death itself – which was commonplace for my father’s generation – now seems surreal and almost unnatural.

But of all the things I am thankful for on this most American of holidays, nothing surpasses the pride and gratitude I feel to live in a country where I may sit in this chair and write about whatever I damn well please, without fear of retribution or intimidation. It’s an amazing right. And I’ll continue to sit here and rail against the things I feel hurt our country and our people, knowing in my heart that the instant the people I oppose so passionately actually start to suffer the loss of their rights or freedoms I will be there defending them – armed, if necessary – and that the vast majority of them will do the same for me.

There was a headline on the Drudge Report on Tuesday about a Russian analyst predicting the break-up and fall of the USA. Don’t hold your breath, comrade. Today, all across this country, millions of people who go head-to-head on red state/blue state issues will go home, eat a bunch of turkey, and then passionately, perhaps violently, go at it again watching Auburn take on Alabama, or Florida play Florida State. And we’ll get about as hot and excited as we do about politics, and none of it will matter. Because when all is said and done, we’re all Americans, together. That’s not something that Russian analyst – or just about anyone else who’s not a part of this raucous, screaming family – has ever been able to figure out.

My office is located just a few blocks from LAX. Driving in to work today, I watched a Qantas 747 rotate, climb into a clear blue sky, and head on out to sea. I’ve been on that flight… twelve and a half hours at 85% of the speed of sound, and nothing but water after the first mile. We watch movies and eat dinner, perhaps sleep for a while, eight miles above the earth, flying through the sub-zero air with the speed of a musket ball.

This is a world of miracles. My friend Richard helped build them. We’re pilots, Richard and I, and pilots say “our friend has ‘Gone West.’” Someday, when they are older – and if I haven’t gone west myself – I’ll tell his children what kind of man their father was, and the part he played keeping this magnificent family safe and free and, for the most part, thankful.

Have a great Thanksgiving, everyone. We earn it, every year.

Posted by Proteus at 4:18 PM | Comments (59)

November 21, 2008

TRAINING DAY

In which a lunatic has an aneurism over apparently nothing.

Next April, I’m going to turn fifty. I’ll be fifty years old. Good lord.

Somehow, I’ve managed to get this far without working in a large corporate office. So today I got my first taste of a world that most of you are already much more familiar with than I am: the world of modern American big business. So what lit me up like a Fourth of July skyrocket was something that seemed to mean nothing at all to the other 23 people in the room, because today, for the first time, I had to attend a mandatory sexual harassment training course.

Now, before I get up a really good head of steam and a decent running start, let me say a few things.

First of all, I work for a great company, full of creative and terrific people, and, by some miracle of chance, not a one of them are stupid, boorish, authoritarian or in any way less than smart, well-meaning people. I understand, also, that the reason for these sessions is to provide legal protection to the company, so that if a harassment claim is made, they can say, “look, we did everything we could to combat this sort of thing.” I get all that.

I also understand that other companies are not this fortunate, and that racial, sexual and other forms of harassment go on daily and cause great harm, both in terms of productivity, and more importantly, spiritual well-being. No one should have to endure attack or intimidation. So if you think this is going to an appeal to “lighten up,” you’re going to be disappointed. For me, this is not about actual harassment, which needs to be ruthlessly exterminated from the workplace. This is about something else again.

Where do I begin?

Well, first of all, I find it deeply offensive to my personal sense of honor and integrity to be punished or otherwise lectured on something I did not do. Period. And to be subjected to two hours of second-grade style, “who can tell me what Johnny did wrong by telling Sarah she has a hot body” lecturing infuriates me on many levels.

To begin with, I do not need to be told this is inappropriate behavior. I already know that is inappropriate behavior. I learned that was inappropriate behavior not from the State of California or a battalion of corporate lawyers, but from my parents, who raised me to be polite, well-mannered, and who spent much of their own youth trying to form me into a civilized gentleman. I know, I can see the smiles on many faces already. It’s like I’m speaking in Aramaic.

I was treated to a video that had precisely the same emotional pitch and condescension as the old ABC After-School Specials, which is appropriate when aimed at 10-year-olds but in a room full of adults was unimaginably cloying and infantile. In this helpful lecture on the evils of hateful stereotypes, a clueless, insensitive white male managed to offend everyone without the dimmest awareness of his own boorishness until confronted and re-educated (with a rising string section!) by emotionally advanced, sensitive (yet strong!) women and his solemn, understanding (but firm!), black male superior.

I’m getting a little tired of this movie. I see this movie everyday.

But what really set me off was learning that there are “protected categories” of people who apparently have special claims on being harassed, and that these groups include, but are not limited to:

“Race, color…” [in case you happen to be green or of some color not associated with your race] ”…religious creed, sex, national origin, ancestry, citizenship status, pregnancy, childbirth…” [this being different from pregnancy presumably only if you are actually giving birth right there in your cubicle] “…physical disability, mental disability, age, military status or status as a Vietnam-era or special disabled veteran, marital status, registered domestic partner or civil union status, gender (including sex stereotyping and gender identity or expression), medical condition (including, but not limited to, cancer-related or HIV-related), or sexual orientation.”

These – including but not limited to -- “protected categories” are areas in which “harassment” is especially hurtful, as far as I can understand it… which is not very far at all. Can you – offhand – think of any kind of harassment that does not fit into these categories? I suppose saying hateful things about the Florida State football team is okay as long as I don’t use the word “Seminoles” (which would then become offensive on the grounds of race, color, religious creed, national origin, ancestry and military status; to which, I will add as a Gator fan regarding FSU grads, mental disability and – what the hell – sexual orientation.)

All of this is mere sophistry and cover of course, for the essence of the 22 page workbook I received (and for which I was not given a crayon with which to write nor a gold star when it was completed) was boiled down to a single sentence, in bold italics at the bottom of page 15:


It is not the intent of the alleged harasser, but the impact on the recipient.

It doesn’t matter if you meant to hurt someone. As long as someone was hurt, then harassment took place.

Now at the end of all this, the facilitator – who is clearly a lovely person, for this is not aimed at her – smilingly told us not to be paranoid but just to be careful not to offend anyone. And the other 23 people nodded happily and made jokes and goofed around to show how lighthearted and un-paranoid we suddenly all were. And yet, this harassment and sensitivity training did not succeed fully, because there was one person who was offended, and who in point of fact felt extremely harassed. And that person was me.

Perhaps, in future editions of the handbook, we can add another victim group to the protected category: rational adults. Perhaps I might contribute a chapter to this sensitivity training. Something like:

“The rational adult is a small and shrinking minority in the workplace. His cultural heritage – which is just as valuable as anyone else's! – has taught him that “personal responsibility” means he has a right to feel insulted, offended and harassed when being lectured on things that he did not do, nor would ever contemplate doing. In this ancient and primitive culture, a person’s “honor” and “integrity” are relied upon to govern behavior. If such a person unknowingly gives insult, they will “apologize.” According to their tribal ethics, people who intentionally harm, insult or harass others deserve to be fired on the spot.”

I am told this course was “preventative” – to stop harassment before it happens. Fair enough. Tomorrow, perhaps, we can have a course on how to prevent office electrocutions by sticking screwdrivers into the sockets, or a poison-prevention class involving two role-players and a gallon of copier toner, or perhaps we can facilitate a upper-level meeting to try and determine what warning placards may be missing from every object and sharp corner in the building, or a support group for those people rendered incapable of speaking or smiling for fear of giving some kind of unintentional offense to someone. These are all areas ripe for new legislation and demanding of state funding. Because when you really get down to how much unintentional offense there remains left to give, you can see we have a genuine crisis on our hands.

Look, there are two ways to prevent young children from drowning:

1.Place barricades, gates, locks, and other restraining devices around any body of water large enough to immerse the child’s head in; in addition, provide education, audio-visual instruction, role-playing and other methods to inform young children on the dangers of inhaling large amounts of water – whether it be fresh water or sea water – and to provide the funding, continuing outreach and community activism necessary to make sure that ALL Americans are prevented from encountering these deadly dangers wherever they may be found.

Or:

2.Teach your kid how to swim.


My parents – remember them? – taught me at an early age that what people said or thought or wrote about me did not have the power to hurt me – only I can allow them to do that. My self-worth, self-respect and self-esteem are earned, and not given, and are therefore mine – impervious to anything in the outside world, which is why I am willing to sit at this desk, as the only one of 24 happy, smart, creative people, and look like some reactionary nut case for being enraged about the fact that we willingly submit ourselves to insults to our personal honor and integrity that our forefathers would never, ever have countenanced. And I am ashamed on behalf of them. But just me. No one else thinks anything of it at all.

And so, with smiles and good will all around, behind a plate of donuts and cartons of morning orange juice, we again fall another step from the adult world of action and consequence, to the warm, friendly, everlasting childhood of kindergarten, where no one’s feelings can ever be hurt and teacher is always there to make sure – in her gentle but firm way – that there will never be harmful consequences to your actions because your actions will be so curtailed in advance that offending someone – like feeding and housing yourself – are things that we simply no longer have to worry about any more.

And the endless sleep, in the warm, clean, fluffy bed, continues unabated.

Forever.

Posted by Proteus at 11:12 AM | Comments (162)

November 6, 2008

A FLAG, ON A HILL

As Civil War battles went, it was a small and insignificant affair. But in terms of story – and especially, in terms of lessons – it’s one of my favorites.

The war had not yet fully turned in October of 1864. And even though Stonewall Jackson had been dead for well over a year – killed by mistake by his own men at the Battle of Chancellorsville -- the Shenandoah Valley still belonged if not to Jackson then to Jackson’s ghost, for it was there that he and his “foot cavalry” had won their eternal place in Valhalla. Jackson’s tactical brilliance and the endless series of Union routs still hung like clouds of gunpowder in the valleys and hollows of the Shenandoah.

And so it came as no surprise to either the Union or the Confederate soldiers on the banks of Cedar Creek to see, once again, a blue rout – men throwing down rifles and knapsacks and running for their lives, dodging perhaps the few hissing musket balls fired at their backs, but completely unable to escape the jeering and the insults and that high, horrible Rebel yell, as that pack of feral wolves descended on their camps, drank their coffee, ate their rations and sat going through their personal effects, admiring photos and reading letters from their sweethearts. Not a loss, but a rout. Another rout. The latest in an ongoing series of routs without end. Or so it must have seemed.

The Union general was a young man, new to his command, and who in point of fact had been back in Washington during the defeat. But as he rode toward the sound of the guns that morning, curiosity turned to apprehension, and apprehension to something worse, as he crossed Mill Creek and came upon a low hill, to see before him “the appalling spectacle of a panic-stricken Army.”

Phillip Sheridan was his name, described by Shelby Foote as a man with the face of a Mongol Warlord and hair so short and dense it made his head look like a bullet with a coat of black paint.

Sheridan’s first instinct was to form a straggler line and prepare for the final Rebel assault. But the Rebels were too busy celebrating. And after he caught his breath, Little Phil noticed something surprising: not a broken and routed army fleeing for their lives, but small groups of men boiling fresh coffee, speaking to one another calmly and cheering him as he rode by.

One of his aides described him at that moment: “As he galloped on, his features grew gradually set, as those carved in stone, and the same dull red glint I had seen in his piercing eyes when, on other occasions, the battle was going against us, was there now.”

You bet it was.

The closer Sheridan came to the battle, the more cheerful and animated his defeated men became. Encountering a small group of them, Little Phil would stand in the saddle, and give a jaunty salute – as if to congratulate them on a great victory, rather than another humiliating defeat.

The result was electric, if not universal. Amid the cheering, one infantry colonel – whose descendents perhaps would go on to become campaign advisors – stood in Sheridan’s path and begged him not to go on.

“The army’s whipped!” he cried.

“You are, but the army isn’t,” growled Sheridan, who then put the spurs to a horse who’s back was taller than he was and rode to the scene of the disaster, shouting, “About face, boys! We are going back to our camps! We are going to lick them out of their boots!”

His men were not beaten. They just needed leadership.

“We are going to get a twist on those fellows, men!” he shouted, pounding down the pike. “We are going to lick them out of their boots!”

And that’s what he did, too. He and his routed army went back to that field and licked those Rebels right out of their boots.

“Run!” he shouted, standing in the stirrups. “Go after them! We’ve got the God-damnedest twist on them you ever saw!”





Battles don’t always go that way. But sometimes they do. It depends on whether the individual soldier still has any fight in him.

It has been a source of delight for me these past few days to see nothing but evidence of this, all across our defeated lines. Nowhere have I heard a shred of defeatism or despair. On the contrary. In point of fact, the magnanimity and graciousness I have seen in defeat in so many places on the right tells me that this is an eager and seasoned army, one able to look defeat in the face and own up to the errors in tactics and strategy that got us there. And nowhere do I see a call to abandon our core principles and sue for terms, but rather that our loss was caused precisely by our abandonment of the issues which we hold dear and which have served us so well on battlefields past.

So consider this, my fellows in arms:

On Tuesday, the Left – armed with the most attractive, eloquent, young, hip and charismatic candidate I have seen with my adult eyes, a candidate shielded by a media so overtly that it can never be such a shield again, who appeared after eight years of an historically unpopular President, in the midst of two undefended wars and at the time of the worst financial crisis since the Depression and whose praises were sung by every movie, television and musical icon without pause or challenge for 20 months… who ran against the oldest nominee in the country’s history, against a campaign rent with internal disarray and determined not to attack in the one area where attack could have succeeded, and who was out-spent no less than seven-to-one in a cycle where not a single debate question was unfavorable to his opponent – that historic victory, that perfect storm of opportunity…

Yielded a result of 53%

Folks, we are going to lick these people out of their boots.

There is much to do. That a man with such overt Marxist ideas and such a history of association with virulent anti-Americans can be elected President should make it crystal clear to each of us just how far we have let fall the moral tone of this Republic. The great lesson from Ronald Reagan was simply that we can and must gently educate as well as campaign, and explain our ideas with smiles on our faces and real joy in our hearts. For unlike the far-left radical who gained the Presidency on Tuesday, we start with 150 million of the most free and intelligent and hard-working people in the history of the Earth at our backs, with a philosophy that -- unlike theirs, which has resulted in 100 million dead in unmarked graves -- has liberated and enriched more people and created more joy than any nation or combination of nations in our history.

How can we lose this greater fight, my friends? How can we lose, unless we give up?

Posted by Proteus at 6:56 PM | Comments (285)

November 4, 2008

HISTORIC

It is with the utmost sincerity and genuine goodwill that I wish to congratulate Barack Obama and the millions who supported him on your historic win this evening.

My hope is that this will lift your spirits from the traumatic eight years they have endured, and restore to you the conviction that this is, and was, and always will be your country as well as ours. I hope that, over time, you may come to see in this great victory tonight perhaps a sense that the cards are not and were not hopelessly stacked against you, and that tonight you simply did what we conservatives did on this same evening four and eight years ago – make a better case to the American people. And you did it by a far greater margin than we did on either of those occasions.

To our liberal and Democratic opponents: this night is yours. Indeed, the next four years are yours. Starting soon I will begin again to argue as best I can against many of the policies and philosophies that President-Elect Obama represents. I hope you will keep in mind that I do so not out of personal animosity towards him or his supporters, but only towards the ideals he espouses, and that only because in my studies of history and human nature I have found many of them to be unsound.

When he is inaugurated, President Obama will be my president. He cannot be otherwise. I will disagree with him at just about every turn, likely, and that is my right and duty as an American. However, in an emergency he will have my unqualified support, and I will always wish him wisdom and hope that he may do what is best for this great country of ours. I do not wish – I do not ever wish – to see my country suffer so that I may gain political leverage. If at this same time four years from now, President Obama has acted in such a way to make us more prosperous, more safe and more free, it will be my greatest pleasure to admit I was wrong about the man. I look forward to that day. I hope to see it come to pass.

Regardless of all of that, we have together achieved something noble and magnificent tonight. We have, after a long and hazardous journey, taken the final step in erasing the one real stain on our nation's history. That war is not over, but it is won. And we may all take a great deal of pride in that.

This much, from the bottom of my heart, for you and your side.

As for our side... We have tried, and failed. Tomorrow we will try again. And then we will begin, with a confident and joyous heart, to examine how we have failed the American people in regard to making clear the moral and philosophical underpinnings of our philosophy. For anyone that fully understands these philosophies, presented calmly and with wit and humility, will come to our side and never leave.

So again, to Senator Obama, Senator Biden, and all their families and supporters -- please accept my deepest congratulations on a spectacular victory.

Posted by Proteus at 10:51 PM | Comments (203)