Showing posts with label politics. Show all posts
Showing posts with label politics. Show all posts

Tuesday, October 27, 2020

Talking with My Dad about Fact-Checking


My dad and my brother at a BBQ back in 2013.

The other day I was emailing my dad an article that The New York Times put out which fact checked the final presidential debate from this past week. My dad's response, was more or less what I expected:

The NY Times is long known to be a left of center publication.  Hence their reporting reflects their acknowledged philosophic points of view.  The Times “fact checkers" are only preaching to the choir. The “fact checkers” are hired by the Times.  Would these folks opine contrary to the Times editorial board and expect to remain employed?  Do you actually believe the Times would publish opinions that are not congruent with the established editorial opinions of the paper?  It would be the similar if I sent you an article from the “Federalist” or from Fox News.  Both data sources have an ax to grind.  

My dad is very conservative, having been a devotee of Rush Limbaugh and Dr. James Dobson for most of his adult life, although the above was much softer than his usual assessment of the current political climate. What I found interesting was his position: the relationship between a paper's policy bias and its inherent "truthfulness" changes depending on the observer's own political alignment. Someone who is "liberal" would praise the Times for its desire to "uncover the truth;" whereas, someone who is "conservative" would cynically claim that the fact checkers were hired in bad faith. (I mention these in quotes to emphasize the relative absurdity each designation has attracted over the past few decades.) Of course, the reality is somewhere in the middling grayness. For instance, I would opine that most of what Fox News puts out on their network are news stories with an original spirit of truth, but filtered through a lens that confirms the biases of their viewership. The original story may actually be factual, but the interpretation detracts from the "truthfulness" of the presented story, to such a degree that the final result is no longer true. I think this goes the same for other news outlets on the left side of the isle, though to a lesser degree. In this instance, the final story still retains the original "truthfulness," but now is veneered with a layer of interpretation that deviates from the original meaning of the story. 

To illustrate the ways this can happen, I have prepared an example meant to be an objective description (hypothetical of course) of events. (Remember though, true objectivity is impossible, regardless of viewpoint.)

Statement A) 

Today, at 5pm, a protest occurred in downtown Los Angeles. Joe Smith, Professor of Black Studies at UCLA, organized the event to bring awareness to a recent event where Black suspects were detained and suffered injuries. After 2 hours, a fight broke out between protestors and counter-protestors. The police were called in response leading to the arrests of 3 protestors and 2 counter-protestors. 

Typically, journalism reports the above and adds subsequent commentary to interpret the event. So a Fox News newscaster may include additional commentary on top of Statement A to create an entirely new Statement B:

Statement B) 

Today, at 5pm, a student protest occurred in downtown Los Angeles. Joe Smith, Professor of Black Studies at UCLA, organized the event to bring awareness to a recent event where Black suspects were detained after resisting arrest and suffered injuries. After 2 hours of what local business owners described as complete chaos, a fight broke out between protestors and counter-protestors wearing MAGA campaign clothing. The police were called in response leading to the arrests of 3 protestors and 2 injured counter-protestors. 

The above adds additional descriptive information that, while technically true, distorts the original meaning of the information. The addition of "student" will delegitimize the protestors as being politically immature. The addition of "after resisting arrest" justifies the injuries sustained to the detained men. The addition of color commentary from eyewitnesses charges the event with subjective emotional energy. The addition of "wearing MAGA campaign clothing" assumes that the protestors were agents of anarchy, whereas the counter-protestors were supporting a return to order by the current Executive administration. The final addition of "injured" insinuates that the protestors were violent and the counter protestors were not. 

The same kind of additions can be added for a left leaning message:

Statement C:

Today, at 5pm, a protest occurred in downtown Los Angeles at Bunker Hill. Joe Smith, Pulitzer Prize winning professor of Black Studies at UCLA, organized the event to bring awareness to a recent event where Black suspects were unlawfully detained and suffered injuries. After 2 hours of peaceful demonstrations, a fight broke out between protestors and armed counter-protestors. The police were called in response leading to the arrests of 3 protestors and 2 counter-protestors charged with intimidation and brandishing a deadly weapon. 

The additional details highlight the location of the protests taking place in a cultural center of downtown Los Angeles. The organizer, Joe Smith, is given credibility with his past achievements. Adding that the suspects were "unlawfully" detained suggests systemic injustice in some form contributed to the circumstances surrounding the arrest. The quality of the demonstrations as "peaceful," gives sympathy to the protestors, who are threatened with violence by "armed" counter-protestors. The final detail of the 2 counter-protestors being "charged with intimidation and brandishing a deadly weapon" further indemnifies the actions of the original protestors.

So, yeah, subjective statements are fucked up.

Given the above, we have only looked at statements, and how objective data can be modified with commentary to create a subjective message. But this kind of influencing can go to additional lengths to influence the subconscious of the subscriber. The curating of related and unrelated stories in a segmentation of news media can add an additional "metastory" on top of everything that then further tints the overall interpretation of all events in the given time frame. Depending on the publication's perceived audience, the metastory will adhere to a particular philosophy, the objective to confirm the bias of the readership. Late author and semioticist, Umberto Eco describes this in his satirical novel Numero Zero, which analyzes the underlying methodology of tabloid media (which in this case, concerns the various regional conflicts and cultural eccentricities of Italy in the early nineties):

"I know it's commonly said that if a labourer attacks a fellow worker, then the newspapers say where he comes from if he's a southerner but not if he comes from the north. Alright, that's racism. But imagine a page on which a laborer from Cuneo, etc. etc., a pensioner from Mestre kills his wife, a newsagent from Bologna commits suicide, a builder from Genoa signs a bogus cheque. What interest is that to readers in the areas where these people were born? Whereas if we are talking about a laborer from Calabria, A pensioners from Matera, a newsagent from Foggia and a builder from Palermo, then it creates concern about criminals coming up from the south, and this makes news..." pg. 46-47

So the idea Eco summarizes (from the point of view of Simei, the Editor-in-Chief of the fictional magazine, Domani) is that, if a newspaper advocates for a specific philosophy, there are ways to use objective data to make a subjective meta-statement that will guide the reader to a specific conclusion. For instance, Fox News might report three of the following (hypothetical) stories in a 24 hour news cycle:

  1. "Obama congratulates Hillary Clinton on her new book in a Facebook post."
  2. "Clinton Foundation fired an employee for [unspecified] misconduct."
  3. "Wikileaks obtains emails involving a large investment made by Hillary Clinton in a German technology firm."
The fictional stories above, when viewed separately, are entirely unrelated. Their objective descriptions are, also, fairly innocuous (other than #2). The curation of the stories is, by no means, an accident however. Even when read separately, a Fox News subscriber can draw a number of conclusions from each story: 
  1. [Indicates a close association (professional and personal) between Hillary Clinton and Barak Obama.]
  2. [The Clinton Foundation is corrupt.]
  3. [Hillary Clinton is beholden to foreign interests.]
 And from these conclusions, the subscriber infers a larger metastory, with greater implications to the news conscious population as a whole: "Hillary Clinton is a corrupt politician, trying to cover up a scandal that involves foreign companies, and Barak Obama endorses/is aware of/is complicit in/benefits from it." And, so, the final story is a work of fiction, synthesized from objectively factual data. Therefore, even innocuous stories can contribute to misinformation. Eco describes a similar effect in an essay that was delivered to the Associazione Italiana di Semiotica in 2009, titled Censorship and Silence. Specifically he states that the OVERsaturation of meaningless information can crowd larger conversations, or direct attention away from other potential scandals. Boris Johnson appeared to be doing this in June of 2019 when he shared some interesting personal hobbies, which some speculated to be attempts at disrupting Google search results.

I highly recommend looking at Abbie's research into conspiracy theories and how they develop

But, getting back to original matter though, concerning my dad and his statement about fact-checkers and confirmation bias. All I can say is that, despite the addition of color commentary, the original event or detail depicted in a news story still must remain objective. "Obama was the 44th president of the United States," is an objective fact. "Christmas Day will be Friday, December 25th in the year 2020," is an objective fact. To say that fact-checkers are biased is a difficult proposition. This is because we live in an ecosystem of independent bodies that can verify the truth independent of a "fact-checker" by referring to a primary source (poll, dataset, audio/written/photographic testimony, etc.).  Therefore, if a single fact-checker reports something incorrect, there are another ninety-nine available to dispute the claim. This is how peer-reviewed academic journals function. And the process by which they operate have given us countless advances in modern science and medicine. To reject objective, independently verified data is a problem because the validity of data is independent of subjectivity. If the data hurts the observers' feelings, then that is not a weakness of data, that is a weakness of the observer. In the end, it's fundamentally an act of weakness and cowardice that not only endangers the individual, but endangers the safety of those within the individual's sphere of influence. 

So I will just say that, yes, it is true that bias exists within the news continuity. That is unavoidable. However, rather than dismiss bias, it is better (actually) to accommodate for it. When it is accepted that bias exists in the wild, and that it can be dissected and explained, there is greater benefit for everyone. Seeking the historical and cultural origin of various flavors bias helps explain why someone in a population might think a certain way. The faith one puts in bias helps us be aware of how information could be corrupted in transmission via wishful thinking. Most important, accepting the risk of bias forces observers and listeners to be held accountable for the dissemination of false information. 

If we can't accept that responsibility, then we might as well just embrace the middling death of democracy and spirited debate. 



Sunday, September 6, 2020

It's Time to "Defund" Evangelicalism

Normally, I wouldn't barrage you guys with something like this, but, I keep recycling these thoughts over and over. And it's reached a point where I just need to let it go and move on. Sorry, in advance. But as a reward for your tenacity, enjoy some DankChristianMemes while you read!

In 2007 a book came out called, "unChristian: What a New Generation Really Thinks about Christianity…and Why It Matters." Of  course, it made the rounds in my church circles, telling us what we already knew, but the impact the book has made has radiated outward through time, retaining it's relevance (especially now). 

Clarification needs to be made between "evangelizing" and "evangelicalism" before proceeding. 

The basis of evangelizing comes from the words of Jesus before he ascended into heaven. In the synoptic gospels, these passages occur typically at the conclusion of the books. Specifically in Matthew 28:16-20, the Apostle Matthew writes: 

Now the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain to which Jesus had directed them. And when they saw him they worshiped him, but some doubted. And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.

Evangelizing, specifically, is the act of going out and telling people the gospel (ie. the "Good News"), which can be understood in a variety of ways, but can be ultimately summarized as communicating the truth that Jesus made amends to God on our behalf out of love for us and now we can live a life with Him and for Him. It however does not mean establishing distant trading empires to extract resources, enslaving and homogenizing ethnic minorities, or nationalizing refugees. Purely, it is an act of communication and service. It is impossible to coerce someone to believe in God (ie. trust Jesus at his word), but it is possible to demonstrate his love selflessly by being forgiving, capable of love, and willing to serve those Jesus came to serve. This is not the same as participating in corporate worship (ie. going to church), being a member of a social/political organization, or engaging in spirited debates on social media. It, by definition, requires intimate proximity to the party being "evangelized."


This labored definition, which could be so much longer, is meant to make unambiguous the process and means through which "evangelizing" is undertaken. Evangelizing is, from a distance, unimpressive and without pomp. It's capacity is to be miraculous and is considered to be one of Paul's described spiritual gifts that Christians receive when accepting the truth of the gospel.    

Evangelicalism is a confederacy of smaller institutions and organizations that combine to form a massive movement in the United States. (Use of the word "confederacy" is unrelated to Evangelicalism's initial justifications for Slavery in the United States.) The institution, in my personal experience, has iconic membership aspects; that is, much like a bank's functions (interest, return on investment, and lending) coalescence to become a piece of the American Banking institution. For example, the church I attended in Escondido, California growing up allied with popular cultural movements and affiliations associated with American church organizations including, but not limited to: "conservative" politics, Pro-Life, Anti-Gay, Nationalism, American Exceptionalism, support of the Israel nation state, Dispensational Eschatology, and Anti-Immigration. Evangelicalism is supported by multimedia platforms, like radio, television, and printed materials, which serve to spread information pertaining to theology, social movements, denominational conferences, theology, political endorsements, and charity initiatives. Churches, depending on size, commonly operate with an executive board of elders that report to a "senior pastor," who's primary role can be as singular as Sunday teaching, to a myriad of responsibilities that cover the vision/direction of the church, counseling services, fund raising, branding, marketing, and ministry oversight (childcare, youth group, senior outreach, etc). The only reason why I bring this up is because these functions are just as apart of the American Church's identity as Evangelicalism is associated with the previously stated points. 

Again, this labored definition is meant to distinguish Evangelicalism from other institutions that involve an "organized" expression of Christianity, such as the Emerging Church (moderate) and the Emergent Church (liberal/syncretic with concurrent, cultural movements).


The problem with Evangelicalism is that it fundamentally escapes the purview of the Gospel and it's core teachings, instead substituting extra-biblical interpretations of scripture as orthodoxy, as well as syncretize with conservative ideology, which itself has become a state religion that mythologizes and deifies particular government institutions/principles. (Fascist and Authoritarian governments attempt the same thing, much to the dismay of contemporary, civilized nations.)   

One of the lamentable failures of Evangelicalism is the substitution of commentary/interpretation in place of sola scriptura (the idea posed by Martin Luther during the Reformation, that scripture alone was the authority of the church, as opposed to Rome). Instead of seeking answers in the teachings of Jesus and His gospel, the interpretation of others takes precedence, and the believer ceases to consult scripture for truth, but blindly accepts current culture's "truth." For instance, on the issue of immigration and the seeking of asylum, Matthew 2:7-15 describes Mary and Joseph fleeing for their lives as Herod maneuvers to seek out his potential opposition and eliminate it: 

Then Herod summoned the wise men secretly and ascertained from them what time the star had appeared. And he sent them to Bethlehem, saying, “Go and search diligently for the child, and when you have found him, bring me word, that I too may come and worship him.” After listening to the king, they went on their way. And behold, the star that they had seen when it rose went before them until it came to rest over the place where the child was. When they saw the star, they rejoiced exceedingly with great joy. And going into the house, they saw the child with Mary his mother, and they fell down and worshiped him. Then, opening their treasures, they offered him gifts, gold and frankincense and myrrh. And being warned in a dream not to return to Herod, they departed to their own country by another way.

Now when they had departed, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream and said, “Rise, take the child and his mother, and flee to Egypt, and remain there until I tell you, for Herod is about to search for the child, to destroy him.” And he rose and took the child and his mother by night and departed to Egypt and remained there until the death of Herod. This was to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet, “Out of Egypt I called my son.”


 The irony that Joseph would seek refuge in the country of his ancestor's persecutors notwithstanding, Jesus in his infancy (guided by God's provenance) takes on the role of immigrant and refugee. Later on in the same gospel (Matthew 18:4-6), Jesus asks his disciples to undertake their walks with him with the humility of young children. He concludes this thought with the following:

Whoever receives one such child in my name receives me,  but whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him to have a great millstone fastened around his neck and to be drowned in the depth of the sea.

But, despite the very words of Jesus himself, the instruments of Evangelicalism prioritize the needs of the state over the needs of his children. Even worse, the network of affiliated organizations that align under the unified banner of Evangelicalism user their platforms to convince their congregations that nothing is wrong with turning away those that seek aid and refuge. 

Aside from the antithetical stances that Evangelicalism takes on immigration as a whole (including refugees and asylum seekers), Racism is prevalent in the culture of Evangelicalism (or, at least, implicitly) because of its silence on the topic of equality among those created in the image and likeness of God. Liberty University (a "bastion of the Christian Right") and Bob Jones University both encouraged (and in the latter's case, enforced) the separation of couples based on race. Historical institutions of Evangelicalism defended the practice of slavery with scripture. Bishops William Meade and Stephen Elliot noted that the institution of slavery was a part of God's plan for the world, assuming a prototypical argument for the "White Man's Burden." However Frederick Douglas rightly denounced the words of of those like Meade and Elliot stating,

Between the Christianity of this land and the Christianity of Christ, I recognize the widest possible difference—so wide that to receive the one as good, pure, and holy, is of necessity to reject the other as bad, corrupt, and wicked. To be the friend of the one is of necessity to be the enemy of the other. I love the pure, peaceable, and impartial Christianity of Christ; I therefore hate the corrupt, slave-holding, women-whipping, cradle-plundering, partial and hypocritical Christianity of this land. Indeed, I can see no reason but the most deceitful one for calling the religion of this land Christianity...

The amplification of these evils extend from the nationalization and mythologizing of Christianity's impact on key moments in the formation of the United States government. The ongoing argument I often hear is that the United States of America was founded as a "Christian" nation. This is strange considering that the resounding majority of the founding fathers were Deists or nominal Christians, heavily influenced by Enlightenment Deism. Why this is important is that Evangelicalism, rather than joining the rest of Christendom in curbing the excesses of capitalism and the policies that conflict with the Gospel, the incorporated cogs in the machinery of Evangelicalism equate the combined successes of America's institutions with God's favor and approval. The reality is that Jesus's Kingdom of God transcends national/political institutions (as well as the divisions of sex, ethnicity, and wealth.) Jesus, multiple times in the gospels, rejects the mob's wishes to nominate Him a leader against the provisional Roman government in Palestine. In fact, he goes so far to say that it is right to pay taxes to Cesar. The theocratic tendencies of Evangelicalism conflict with Jesus's mission to unite the entire world under one Kingdom of God, in that it advances a false narrative that the USA is anointed by God (due to a  nationalist interpretation of the Book of Revelation).  


For the sake of brevity, that this alone could go on and on, I will stop here. Evanglicalism as it stands wields an influence that is implicit and far-reaching in our culture and our traditions. It feeds a narrative that denies the sovereignty of God and his providence (in that if non-christian voices exist in a national conversation, God/Jesus/Holy Spirit will somehow lose His ability to work and minister to those who answer to Him). It attempts to support, without the aid of scripture, the demonizing of immigrants out of unjustified fear. It entertains the worst aspects of the pharisees that Jesus denounced by "praying loudly" in public spaces (saturating the media with feigned piety), being "whitewashes tombs" (the artifice of piety despite endemic moral failure), and removing themselves from those "defiled" (supporting and executing policies that harm the most vulnerable of individuals, foreign and domestic). 

It is my hope that Evangelicalism will be tested and broken under the weight of it's own egregious deeds, so that we can all move on and pursue Christ, unimpeded by cancerous and unfounded theology that distorts the Gospel.   

Jesus said to him, “No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God."

Luke 9:62


Sunday, January 20, 2019

15 Years Later, Still Christian, Highs and Lows


My life everyday.


It occurred to me, while walking home from my usual writing on the weekends at Starbucks, that I have been a Christian for approximately 15 years. I was “saved” (in common evangelical parlance) when I was 16 years old, on September 21st 2005 at Emmanuel Faith Community Church, in Escondido, California. (All these dates are speculative.) I was thinking about the past today, as I find myself in a period of renewal in my life (something that I thought I’d never say again). 
                What Christianity means to me has changed markedly over this period of time, which covered the formative years in my young adult life and my college/post college years. (Somewhere in these later years I became an adult. Not sure when…) When I was younger, Christianity was an almost inexhaustible source of social validation. Before being a Christian I had no peer group, no close friends. I was not technically a “nerd,” or some other social strata of untouchable, but someone with social anxiety acting out because I wanted people to love me unconditionally. It made me unbearable to be around. It made me tease and sometimes sexually harass women that didn’t like me the way I liked them, all while enduring the same treatment and abuse from “alpha” males and burning anger in me like a furnace. The saving grace (no pun intended) of joining a Christian community—much to my future self’s amusement—was that, by being a member of this community, no one could justify turning me away. Of course—much to my, then, present amusement—most of the people that had, over the years, viciously teased me or made fun of me, were members of the High School group. I had essentially found a community that would accept me, more or less, because it was doctrinally mandated.
                Another thing that I didn’t appreciate at the time was the culture that the evangelical community had ingrained into my peers. Nor did I fully understand how pervasively uniform evangelical culture was. Everyone went to the same summer camp. Everyone went to the same church. Everyone watched the same films. Everyone read the same books. The creative and critical freedom of this culture was completely absent. If anyone went to a different church, those members of the community were considered “the other,” as if the “body” (a term that conflates multiple people groups of orthodox communities into one global entity) could be dissected into splinter cells and organizations.
                Much of my difficulty progressing in Christianity at the time was the woefully inadequate preparation I was given, in anticipation of going to college. Once I got to UCSB, I found myself at constant odds with different cultures and groups, only realizing after the fact that the only way to continue was to either forsake God and the church, or adopt a ridged and conservative worldview, one without any room for new ideas, people, or competing worldviews. As I will later illustrate, the church that I had gone to, Emmanuel Faith Community Church, had constructed a worldview that included a false dichotomy where non-established and experimental ideas constituted an attack on biblical principles. (I later discovered this idea was endemic across all of Escondido, that many churches existed in fractured and disparate associations with one another.) I had taken these ideas to college, creating a theologically black and white outlook on the world, causing me interpersonal pain and anxiety.
                The subsequent years was a rollercoaster of different ideas, even including a phase where I subscribed to Reformed Theology, which was becoming popular during the late 2000s. But what really made me want to write this today was after I found myself listing different things I took issue with in the current Church culture that trouble me, and cause me anxiety. I wanted to share this list, and therapeutically refute the points. I do this for myself, but I also encourage any of you to do the same. And if you aren’t necessarily a subscriber to the saving work of Christ’s resurrection, maybe you can appreciate the insanity of our current day along with me…

  • I was taught that the homeless deserve to be homeless. That they did something wrong, or currently do something wrong that causes them to be homeless. But if all have fallen short of the glory of God, why do we separate homeless people into this separate category, as if to say our poor decisions do not equate to those made by the homeless? And why do we have so much confidence in ourselves as to imagine that we are somehow immune to the circumstances that befell them?
  • I was taught that Jesus was/is a conservative, that established ideas are more reasonable because they are accepted by the majority of the dominant culture. But what then do we make of the Great Schism of the Orthodox Church rejecting the Principles of the Roman Catholic Church, considering that, at the time, the Roman Catholic Church was integrating itself with politics and making doctrinal decisions to consolidate personal wealth and status among heads of state? What then do we make of the “liberalizing” of the Roman Catholic church, when Martin Luthor called for a “Reformation” of church practices that harmed believers, encouraged them to be illiterate, and not exegete text for themselves? What then do we make of abolitionists, who fought for the rights of those that were forcibly removed from their homes, to work without pay, to be treated as livestock, when they too were made to bear God’s image and glorify God. What then do we make of the controversial policies made towards immigrants, where we justify the separation of children from their parents, forgetting so conveniently that Jesus, Mary, and Joseph were victims of a cruel regime persecuting families for their political and religious affiliations, not unlike Slobodan Milošević’s ethnic cleansing against Serbian Muslims and France’s persecution of Jewish community during the Dreyfuss affair?
  • I was taught that extra effort should be spent towards disenfranchising the LGBTQ community, for their embrace of relationships that are condemned in biblical teachings. But what then do we make of the absence of legislation that prohibits Atheist’s, Hindus, Muslims, Agnostics, and Buddhists from getting married? Why are the LGBTQ community included in social, philosophical, and political policies that inflict harm on their constitutional right to “Life Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness,” when even the New Testament encourages believers to “Love your Neighbor as yourself,” which in context was a splinter group of Judaism corrupted by indigenous, pagan beliefs that the Jewish community went to great lengths to avoid and disparage?
  • I was taught that belief in Christ inherits a responsibility to politically ally with any candidate that is considered conservative. But what then do we make of Donald Trump, president of the United States and protector of our national secrets, who fails the test of leadership presented in 1 Timothy 3:2, where even the most simple pastor must be “…above reproach, the husband of one wife, sober-minded, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, able to teach”?
  •  I was taught that gun ownership is patriotic and the defense of property is categorically “American.” But when, as the bible teaches in Luke 6:29, “To one who strikes you on the cheek, offer the other also, and from one who takes away your cloak do not withhold your tunic either,” how can we justify the death of a home invader, the taking of a life, when we believe that God is sovereign over history and time, that all things that come to pass are his will alone and cannot be overridden by our intervention?

I could go on…
                So many of my friends from over 15 years ago have forsaken Christ for some of these ideas, and while my younger self would have zealously blamed them for not being able to see past the faults of people, whose fallibility is a basic tenant of Christianity, I cannot blame them now. While I can accept that doctrinally, it is impossible to lose the favor of God, that we are constantly regenerated and made better by the Holy Spirit, I can also appreciate the absolute slog that affirming belief in Christianity can become, when so many of your peers seem to profess, outwardly and adamantly, ideas that irrefutably oppose the Gospel in theory and practice. Sometimes you feel alone and isolated. Sometimes you think the world has gone mad. But other times it is necessary to remember that humanity was never good in the first place, that there was no “golden age” of Christian orthopraxy, or otherwise. But like death and taxes, I can only conclude, with great certainty, that Christ continues to be king and that our hope in the gospel is sure, and that the actions of a person or nation cannot, will not, compromise the integrity of Christ’s death and resurrection and the implications of the aforementioned.

Here’s to another 15 years.

Tuesday, May 29, 2018

The Enemy is Us


Here’s a thought:

Any view is defined from the opposing end of that view’s spectrum. The idea came to me, while I was entertaining guests at a birthday party for my daughter. I was able to “geek out” with a couple of guests, and in the pursuit of doing so I heard someone tell me that “most comics are left of center.” The context for the statement was that there was a particular group that was advocating “right-of-center” comics, but that they were met with fierce opposition from within the community. (I wasn’t aware of this, but I assume that all hell broke loose because of it.) I found the idea odd, that we need comics written “right-of-center.” No comic book writer/film critic/author writes content that establishes a worldview based on their enemy’s characterization of them—that is, I wouldn’t specifically write a book that was “liberal” because a critic of mine suggested that I was “liberal.” I would assume that they would write a story that reflected their own beliefs. I write stories that discuss things that interest me. I am not out to incite arguments. But I write what I write because I find that content interesting to me.
I find, that when someone (person B) characterizes your views (person A) as their opposite, what is happening behind the scenes is an instilling of existential competition, to validate beliefs of the original critic (person B) as valid, or more valid. I see this a lot in religion because I am a Christian and people are often insecure about their faith (myself included). I see instances where a layman witnesses same-sex marriage become validated by popular culture or reads about a scientific finding that sheds doubt on aspects of Christian orthodoxy, and their initial reaction is to characterize the supporters of those positions as being in opposition to his/her own. It’s therapeutic, ultimately, to be validated by creating an enemy. The stakes are higher now. And because enemies ultimately “lose,” we are invigorated when we read or hear something that sheds doubt on our opponent’s position.
The unintended effect is that we create our enemies as a toxic pursuit to escape our fears, rather than confront them and try to make sense of them.
What should we do, then, to avoid this?
Sorry, I have no idea. But I have thoughts.
See, going back to my opening point. If I write something that inadvertently challenges the worldview of another person, the onus is on that offended party to confront me and ask me in an understanding way why I have that position. Because I am not intentionally trying to offend someone. I’m, in most cases, just writing a story, or creating art, that resonates with me. The specter that we create of our enemies is a strawman that we sling mud upon rather than making an attempt to bridge the gap and attempt to understand any view different from our own.
Another interesting example: there was a time when I thought I was going to be a pastor of a Christian church. The unfortunate thing about this, was that I was very involved with the viewpoint of a certain pastor and I had purchased all his books and followed all his sermons. When I would confront a viewpoint that was different or, worst, in opposition to this pastor, I would write it off as poor scholarship on the opponent’s part. Then I was told an interesting anecdote as I was venting my frustrations our on my sponsoring mentor. If you read one author (his works in total), then you are a clone. If you read two authors, you’re confused. If you read three authors, you begin to develop an ecumenical understanding of knowledge pertinent to that topic.
This applies to everything: cooking, knitting, philosophy, politics, video games, religion, film, etc. What I don’t want you (reader) to take away from this is that your viewpoint is invalidated, or diminished, once you’ve reached this point of ecumenical understanding of your topic. What I desire you to take away is that people believe certain things because it’s personal to them, and there is a story behind that belief. When enough people are like-minded, they coalesce into a larger entity that takes core values (but not all of them) and synthesizes a new position that lacks the multifaceted explanations of certain beliefs.
In light of social media, I am convinced more and more that Facebook and other platforms are a cancer to our ecumenical understandings because they have condensed conversations and familiarity into statements and surface level understanding.
Chew on that for a bit.

Monday, February 26, 2018

LIBERALS AND CONSERVATIVES MUST READ THIS!!!

Ignore the title for now. It'll make sense later. 

Lots of good new this week. I’ve never ran Facebook ads before. I went in with little expectations. My results were a little too good to be true, though the actual book sales remain to be seen for week one. (I won’t know that for at least three weeks.) I reached a total of about 2600 people. 206 “Likes,” 8 “Shares,” the latter two are the most important. I had the opportunity to extend the campaign over the weekend, but opted not to. Typically the highest traffic days on the internet are Monday and Tuesday mornings between 8am and 10am. Between that and finishing Underground Airlinesa solid alt-history slave narrative—I feel fairly accomplished. All that is left is to finish Gödel, Escher, Bach: An Eternal Golden Braid, and I can finish book three and begin writing, possibly, a spinoff novel for Tall Men. The key, as I’ve said time and time again is being productive and not making excuses. Don’t call yourself a “writer.” “Writers” post their shit for free on Deviant Art. “Author” is a coveted title that I’ve always owned, because I believe in what I do. “Authors contribute to the cannon of Western/Eastern literature. They participate in the global discussion of genre and literary theory. That’s an extreme, zero-to-sixty mentality, but, then again, I’ve always been an extreme kind of person—all in, all out. But I digress.

It's bubble of non-offense I give offense to

I catch myself in the act often, that is agreeing with myself. This self-congratulatory exercise makes me comfortably numb, as in the Pink Floyd song about heroine. Being “on the same page” is an addiction that I find myself struggling to combat, especially within the medium of social networking. While I have some conservative friends, they aren’t really “conservative” in the almost pejorative sense that would inform the opinion of a “liberal” or a “democrat.” (In quotes as well because these terms too are just conventions used to typify the positions and beliefs of certain segments of social/political discourse.) Though I’ve met some of the conservative ilk (my father included), and had wonderful and challenging discussions with them, this line of open communication hardly lingers beyond conception. In fact, it disappears. Like the ephemeral dust devil in a vacant lot, there seems to be substance to the conversation, but only moments later it dissipates into nothingness.

This particularly bothers me, and I’ll list a few reasons why:

First, typically those who are “conservative” or “liberal” conceive of themselves as being agents on a larger political stage, burying their own identity into hot-button issues and fetishizing the objects of their unknowing worship (guns, birth-control, legislation, et. al.). While there are implied, expected behaviors that emanate from these exterior labels, the partisan participation in government stands as the most prominent feature of these two groups. Democracy, our current form of government, hinges on the open line of communication between all citizens (excluding members of the above terms, because they undermine this whole process). But rather than be challenged by opposing viewpoints, we consign ourselves to the echo chambers of our collaborators, engaging in one-sided, non-offensive exercises of mutual agreement. While there are a many things that “conservatives” believe, of which I do not, these beliefs are founded on life experiences and ethics unique to another segment of society that we, the outsider, have no familiarity with. For example, there is legitimate cause to value the hard work put into founding a farm or a small business, but we must attempt to understand the values of someone raised in section 8 housing and their position of continual despair and stigmatizing, how that affects their productivity and “success”. We must also not lie to ourselves (ie “I deserve X because Y” or “because of circumstance X, I should have Y”) and think that we, the individual, are outside of the mutual agreement made between each citizen—that is, to be putting back into the social, financial, and political systems what we receive. In reality we are all in the same boat, same country, same brotherhood/sisterhood. So we must listen to each other with empathy and patience, or else risk demonizing a person. Just like the army, we are only worth as much as our weakest member. Instead of ostracizing the weakest, we ought to invest into them and become stronger for our efforts.

Secondly, if we remain in our tight-knit circles of group-thought, the ultimate end is abject cynicism. Facebook is the most regretful offender of this as an unrelenting disseminator of information. Most of it is bad information, or poorly structured. Worse, our reputation is invested into our opinions, our “voice” is quantified to metrics, our validation meted out in concise, impersonal injections. So, in an effort to be right, we willfully take liberties with the truth, equivocate, and outright lie vindictively—most of the time, that is. Other times, when we share information that confirms our bias and worldview, the information may be correct, but the supplier poorly states it, thereby making it confusing and allowing all kinds of people to draw seemingly disparate conclusions. On the spectrum of news and content, we are sensitive to the most outlandish of this kind of information: some of it true and most of it false. I see it all the time in my feed. Hyperbolic bullshit of the highest order! What is more frustrating: seeing things objectively true, but the information being ignored and kept under the roiling waters of false information. When I earlier mentioned that cynicism is the ultimate end of being in a bubble, it is because of the above. Seeing the truth trampled, day in, day out, brings us to despair and disillusionment: the latter being the seed and the former the water. When it all blooms the cynic bursts forth into the light, then bitterly turns in having had enough of this shit.

The last aspect, of why living in a bubble is noisome and detrimental to being a human being, is that we always live long enough for us to be the villain. This requires less explanation, as it could just be another addition to my previous point, but typically, after seeing your own side “lose” so many times the next logical step is to become dissatisfied with the position. Sick of seeing your side unable to fix gun-control legislation? Eventually, the thought will enter your mind: “this party does nothing for me. I need to leave it,” and one will start actively looking for information that confirms their new bias. Conversely, one grows older, accumulate some modest prestige, some possessions, earns a promotion at work, and then disparagingly look down on those around you for their apparent inefficacy. (Looking back on the idealists, we scoff and call them naïve and positivistic.) Then, like a thief in the night, your sentiment for the poor disappears and is replaced by a nagging need to register for the Republican Party. I can’t think of a different scenario for the contrary position at the moment, but you can catch my meaning.

Why this is on my mind is because I look back on the great movements of history longingly, while participating in my own folly. The great movements and events of yesteryear (The Civil Rights Movement, World War 2, The New Deal, etc) where Americian came together to accomplish something, are long gone due to our willingness to participate. Even if we are, we focus only on those who share our views. I am reminded of this as I see people tearing each other apart and the future, once imagined bright by people such as Gene Rodenberry, now is murky and stagnant.

Anyways…  That’s it from me.


Back to work!

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Gum Chewing Racism

Chewing gum, occasionally I bite my lip on accident, feel my teeth sink in just a little bit. It hurts a lot but after a while the saliva in my mouth coagulates the ruptured skin and I’m back in business. This has been happening a lot lately, chewing gum. It helps me forget and relax, kicking in my monkey-amygdala brain.

I keep getting the best ideas in the worst possible places. When I try to remember them I feel like I’m wandering in a fog and trying to make out shapeless blobs of cohesive thought. I had an Idea about racism, seeing that that is the flavor of the week. Since Trump took office I’ve only been able to conceive of myself as an oppressor even though I’ve never seen someone as being lesser than myself. (A note. I have plenty of racist thoughts in my head that make me consider Jesus’s sermon on the mount, wherein he suggests that the act of being angry is equivalent to murder. Does that mean that because I’ve had a racist thought that I’ve also considered someone to be sub-human?)

The quintessential quality of a “white person”—at least what I assume to be, in the context of a American everyman raised in the “good part” of town with minimal hardship—is a very human one. The preservation of property. It’s easy to look at material possessions as a right, when in fact the ownership of property is merely by chance. Unless I suddenly won the lottery, the acquisitions of life, liberty, and happiness is a slow going affair. So slow, in fact, that by the end of it all the hard work and chance luck just blurs together into one concerted effort. I find myself harboring bitterness toward my neighbors as if I’ve built up a life for myself in a one bedroom apartment. In reality I’m paying a slumlord a pound of flesh while being angry at my neighbors for littering. I don’t own the streets, or the hedges, or the sidewalks. But I’m under the pretense that I own the space that I occupy. Maybe this is spurred on by the concept of social contract?

Social Contract, as I conceive of it, distilled to its essence is about fairness. (This is the zeitgeist of the 21st century, correct? That meaning is fluid and taylor-fit?) And what we perceive as "unfair" is in violation of the social contract. My psychiatrist tells me that this isn't a realistic way to live, and I agree. Holding people accountable to a contract they never signed with me is tantamount to giving someone a roofie and sociologically fucking them.

In other, less-introspective, news, I got notes back from Desmond on my second book. Reading them has become a bit of a past-time for me, a one man roast on my labors which, I find extremely funny. It's soothing, also, to know that your work is taken less seriously by others than yourself. It's a safety net, placed under your ego, so that when it all falls apart you have a place to land. Like most first drafts, everything is raw and disconnected. Ideas are inconsistently spread across the canvass and need to be thinned out to an even grade. I've done this before with my first book and it's a very frustrating process, though worth wile. And whats interesting is that I've tried to write a second book in between drafts, a shorter novella that I'm really happy with, a tangential work that helps me vent creative frustration. I'm finishing it this weekend and giving it out for another round of notes.

I'm really bad at ending my blogs.

So that's it.

Go back to work. 

Saturday, June 24, 2017

It's Not About The Lemons

I had this very bizzare, very “Santa Barbara” experience at the farmers market today.

I was picking up the essentials (lettuce), as I am wont to do every Saturday morning. Usually there is a vendor selling Meyer lemons (great for salad dressing), so I found one quickly and went to pick out four of them (50 cents each) and fumbled with three of them, attempting to reach a fourth. This woman, who came after me, swooped in and started grabbing the ones I was going for. I made a comment that I was grabbing at least one more and she looked at me unapologetically, holding her $5 cup of coffee from the Handlebar, and just said, “sorry.” (What she meant to say was, “Fuck you and your lemons!”)
A phrase that I own and coin often is something akin to, “I’m a socialist. But it would never work in America.” There are variations of the same phrase that I often rehearse but the essence is there. I say this to my chagrin because I have been influenced in my life by events that make me pine for fairness. (Getting beat up at school, being viciously made fun of, and raised up under unremarkable circumstances. Also, my own parents have never even read my first book.) It has made me characteristically cutthroat and exploitative and I often wonder if there is an alternate timeline where things were better. At its core I’ve always felt enamored with a political and social mindset where people shared their resources to make the world a better place.
Facebook, among other outlets, sings the same familiar tune. (And when played backwards, you hear the Satanic inverse.) But I don’t think people practice what they preach. I’m a god damned positivist and I don’t practice what I preach. The socialist voice in America isn’t the same pitch and timbre of the places where this actually works, and I think for the most obvious reasons.
American nationalism peaked at the conclusion of the War of 1812. Subsequent spikes are the work of foreign wars and social upheaval, intermittent incidents in a long national history of eulogized selfishness. Even a Christian cult emerged, Mormonism, which nationalized religion and mythologized America’s origins, placing the United States at the origin of the universe. (The opposite was the Jehovah’s Witnesses, a Christian cult emerging at the height of political corruption in the United States, which eschewed all appearances of nationalism.) At both of these peaks and valleys, American expression remained steady in its love of self-interested wealth. Our constitution is rooted in the Pursuit of Happiness, appended by the inferred, “And if you infringe upon mine, why I oughta’…”
The contrast that we see in Europe, the social milieu that makes socialism so viable, is their roots in tribalism that goes back thousands of years. There has always been infighting between states, but uncanny internal bonds. And while there has always been a sectarian conflict between ethnic groups within states, once these states matured past the frustrations of religious and class warfare, there has been a reasonably steady peace. War has also hardened these bonds on kinship. For instance, Russia has repeatedly attempted to invade Finland over the past thousand years, with the Fins rebuffing many, if not all of the assaults. The shadows of Empire have also strengthened national resolve, in the case of Norway being a property of Denmark for nearly 500 years. (They celebrate their “independence” every Seventeenth of May.)
In the United States where we are so blessed with an abundance of natural resources, acquired over the centuries through many shrewd dealings, our sordid gains have likely made us complacent. Combined with the mentality of Frontierism, prosperity through expansion and entrepreneurship, we have inherited a mindset from our forebears that is untenable in our exhausted real estate. We expect wealth and receive it from the least of our peers: migrant workers, wage slaves, immigrants, etc. Even myself, a proponent of ensuring we invest in our citizens through community programs and education, I have everything to gain from an economy that favors my willingness to exploit the labors of others.
All this came to a head, flashed before my mind, as I sarcastically, non-confrontationally, replied, “Wow, this IS Trump’s America.” It is very likely that I will not see this woman again, but given the demographics of Santa Barbara, she is statistically likely to be a Democrat, a social progressive, anti-corporation, pro-choice, drive a fuel-efficient vehicle, and pro-immigrant. Yet, at our core, we are a despicable people trained to look out for “number one,” and like a handful of Meyer lemons, we are more concerned about our welfare than that of others. Imagine the paradigm shift that I experienced when I saw this complete reversal in Norway when I was able to spend time there. I constantly compare my brief time there with my lifetime here. And while I’m sure that Norway has its own kind of culture shock due to its inherent bureaucracy and insistence on social conformance and enculturation of immigrants, the underlying spirit of their social contract is present and palpable.
Enough with myself bitching about lemons…

My second book is coming along with the first draft complete and being out for feedback among my inner circle for notes. I am hoping for another set of great comments from my brothers of other mothers Desmond and Bern. Soon I can start draft two and really dig deep into it.

My daughter Eowyn continues her external gestation. She’s doing good, and my wife also.

Monday, November 7, 2016

Thoughts on Conservatism and Progressivism

I’ve been reading a new book called Does God Make a Difference? Taking Religion Seriously in our Schools and Universities. Though I’m only halfway through, the message is rather inspiring for the advancement of liberal free education. Initially when I started the book, I was confronted with reservations about Nord’s thesis that religion needs to be taught as live, viable options to cultivate a comprehensive understanding of worldviews around the world.  The book was spurred on by the secularization thesis, which was posited during the 60s, that eventually the idea of “God” would become marginalized to the point of irrelevance. Nord’s thesis contends that the secularization hypothesis has been thoroughly nullified due to the increase in spirituality around the world. You might have noticed my use of the word “liberal free” education. This is in reference to Nord’s distinguishing between two schools of thought that provide the backbone of western education: Liberal Arts education and Liberal Free education.  The two schools underscore the advancement of what we would recognize today as progressive and conservative arts education. Isocrates (I believe this is the man Nord references, though I have had some beers and the book is still at the office) understood the importance of classics and their value to education. This would be reflected in earlier schooling models when students would learn Greek and Latin, girding their education with the cornerstones of Western philosophy and epistemology.  (It would be akin to studying drama and emphasizing the importance of classical acting methodology, replete with Shakespeare and Greek classics over more modern, experimental acting models like method acting.) Liberal Free, the second of the two is emphasized by Socrates, who argued that uncertainty in self-knowledge compels the individual to continually learn and reform their education; hence the progressive tone.  
                All this talk in Nord’s book got me thinking about the difference in conservatism and progressivism.
                The US election this year is very chaotic. Much of the conflict has been poured out on the existential meaning of America. (As in the 50 territories that constitute the United States of America.) The two party system, a broken system in my opinion, has created a cultural divide across the US between two very unrealistic extremes: Conservatism and Progressivism. There are many touting the return to a greatness of America. This is vague and needs definition. What made America great exactly? America is the product of political experimentation. It is constantly changing, reforming to compliment the current state of affairs. The contrarian voice in this is that of Progressivism, which was the zeitgeist of the 1890’s to the 1910s. Teddy Roosevelt ran on a platform of social reform to improve the quality of American lives in the workplace and at home, and bolstered America’s presence on the world scale. (By invading Cuba and building the Panama Canal.) Progressivism works by momentum. (America was sick of the rampant political corruption of the post-Civil War period.) Consequently, it is paralyzed by inactivity and the quagmire of modern American politics. Progressivism only works so far as the freshness of its ideals. Progressivism and Conservatism both lack a full solution to social and political issues in the modern day.
                I covet my identity as a political moderate. I think that it helps me see with steady eyes. When the past is worshiped with such ferocity, impregnated with nostalgic pandering, we are waging a hopeless battle to live in the past and not be forward thinking and anticipatory. It is better to understand the past so that it will inform our future. There are great lessons to learn from classical literature. The foundation of Western Civilization is important and the specters of Classical Learning still haunt us. There is value in understanding where we come from. Humanity is static in its desires. We really haven’t changed much in the last 10,000 years. Men and Women to this day love and kill. They are proud and arrogant. They fight for what they love and appeal to others to join them on crusades against enemies real and ideological. There is still plenty to encounter there.
                My only issue with those that keep looking forward is that they unfairly caricature the past. Fresh ideas promise change but have no baseline to test against. There is also an assumption of positivism, that progressivism is fundamentally idealistic. Idealism lays the path for change, but it does not establish it. Establishing change requires brokering deals and compromise. Change also takes time and thoughtful execution. I am not surprised at all that Obama Care did not do what it intended. A government funded health plan works only so much as the people are willing to pay into it and our reticence to adopt a Northern European healthcare model underscores the painful reality that our economy thrives on selfishness. Consequently, we are also not Northern Europeans, or possess the requisite cultural beliefs that are unique to their Socialist States. Perhaps a slow, continual movement towards that ideology would bring more fruitful changes?
                I am not convinced that voting for Hilary Clinton will bring about the revolutionary Golden Age that we envision. Every hopeful presidency begins with the promise of some form of political activism or Executive strong-arming. But I am certain that voting for Trump will usher in a dangerous new era of politics that will not overthrow the free world, to the extent predicted by the Huffington Post-esque outlets, but initiate a steady erosion of our already waning power. The line between conservatism and progressivism is now thin and collapsing due to the decrease in election ethics of either side. That is what I’ve noticed. Now, each side is an extreme and their proponents, extremists. Our only hope is a return to the fold of reasonable discussion. I would encourage my readers to read the news of foreign nations to gain a holistic and outside perspective of our country’s shenanigans. Even if the news is churned out by propagandists, supposing that we as readers have the acumen for sorting out truth from fiction, it is all worthwhile to ingest, even if we have to hold our noses. Food for thought.  
                Now, if you’ll excuse me, I need to read up what I’m going to vote on tomorrow.



XOX

Saturday, September 17, 2016

History in the Making

I've only just started to question my Americanity.

Cleaning out my bookcase has led me to read again. I'm the kind of person to visit bookshops and buy books, only to never read them. My bookcase is a massive 7 foot tall, 6 feet wide hardwood behemoth. Plenty of room has been reduced over the years to an overburdened mortuary of titles. If the existential purpose of a book is to be read, I have read most of them, leaving them to die some kafka-esque death, smothered to death by comic books and my wife's cooking magazines.

One of the many titles I've begun to investigate is Robert Remini's A Short History of the United States, a chronicle of the nation's past and present, from the early settlers of North America to the bustling coast-to-coast megalopolis we are now. I was taught American history in school at the high school level, where I took AP US History, which I then took out of obligation. Only now as I find myself becoming aware of my citizenship do I value the idea of American history. It's important to understand the past victories and defeats of any nation. The United States is prestigious enough, so I've been told, to explore and encounter.

Halfway through I'm struggling. Much evil has come of this country. Though that is the same of any nation. (We are not exempt from fault simply because of the O'Sullivanite principals of Manifest Destiny that implicate and enunciate the divine like a crude incantation.) Germany has done as much wrong as France, or Britain, or Spain. So maybe I'm just coming to terms with my station in the world and position in time. Stricken by "White Guilt" because from a young age I was told I was evil because of the color of my skin. But it really grinds my gears to hear people utter the successes of the nation with no little regard of the skeletons lurking nearby.



Last night I was on Facebook and one of my old christian familiars prompted my viewing of the above picture.

Understanding that I am aware of my limited exposure to American history, its myriad interpretations and subjective deductions, and that I have really only read one of three books that I plan on skimming in the coming months, I feel that I have at least some knowledge of history that forces me to call bullshit on this wildly positivist statement.

I feel capitalism isn't some new invention, though it's identity was defined profoundly during the industrial revolution. My opinion is that the marketplace of ancient Rome operated on the founding principals concerning the exchange of goods for services. Agriculture, skilled-labor, and prostitution are all safeguarded by the passing of money between hands. And all instances are some form of exploitation at one point or another. What makes me mad though, mad enough to weep my righteous tears on digital papyrus-on my day off no less-is that this statement is likely invoking the golden age of American capitalism, which was at the epicenter of the industrial revolution. It also happened to be the most notorious age of corruption in american history. As if the entire House and Senate were populated by Trump disciples, sowing the seeds of conspicuous corruption.

Remini's primary aim of his book is to follow the delicate dance between Federalism (a strong, centralized government) and Republicanism (a loosely constructed confederation of states under a common banner). And in his treatment of the development of American politics, he takes pains to establish the identity of the South as finding its origins in corporate colonies, owned by trading companies and established to run like businesses. Contrast this with the North, which was comprised primarily of Religious and Political refugees of continental Europe, which established colonies to espouse an array of philosophical principals, benefiting from the paternal neglect of Mother England. From the very beginning, the cosmopolitan climate of the north fostered the growth of a common identity that would precipitate the American Revolution. The hubris of the North would punish the South by levying tariffs against foreign exports. The South consequently couldn't export their cotton to England. The North would consolidate its infrastructure because of the increased interstate trade and growing of the domestic economy.

The picture above, in light of the following, so infuriates me because the "capitalism" of the South was borne upon the backs of slaves. Remini is clear to discourage the nostalgic pastoral imagery of antebellum south, with its wide plantations manned by hundreds of slaves. In reality, there were few plantations of this kind, the majority of slave owners being single households, with one slave or two. Pages could be written on the treatment of slaves and the post-Civil War Reconstruction efforts to establish Jim Crow laws to oppress ex-slaves. But even afterwards, our great nation was built on the backs of sweatshop workers exploited by trusts and monopolies. The country was fantastically wealthy, but hardly just, and the resulting opposition to the Gilded Age launched the Progressive Movement. Teddy Roosevelt, a figure enshrined by conservatives for primarily hunting related photos and surviving an assassination attempt (only to deliver a 90 minute speech afterwards), was dedicated to workers rights for women and children, the conservation of national parks and monuments, and thwarting corruption. I hardly think he felt the companies that forced women and children to work 12 hour days, with no respite to speak of, were "serving [their] fellow man."

Clearly my views will change on this over time, as most things do. As I read more American history, my knowledge will solidify into something more than lip service to the author of the week. But let it be known that I have made the attempt to understand our current state of affairs. I am not a sheep! Knowledge and its accrual keeps us from accepting bullshit like this and worshiping ideals without the foundation of experience and learning to stand upon.

Until Next Time

XOX