Friday, January 13, 2017

Don't Let Washington Rule


Oh, the essay's I've written that you haven't read!

I've muddled through a couple of different posts for my blog this week that I never finished, and never published.  They were dripping with sarcasm, and heavy with despondency.  They would have probably been well-received by some readers, and summarily rejected by others.  And it's not like I mind controversy, or not holding a popular opinion.

But I'm so over this election.  I'm so over both Barak Obama and Donald Trump.  This season of politics has been the most disappointing one of my entire career as a member of America's electorate.  Not just because of who won, or of who lost, but because both of them managed to get nominated by their respective parties. 

The problem with America right now isn't the politicians we elect, or even nominate.  The problem with America right now is us - the electorate.  Most of us are so selfish, myopic, and fearful, we exploit whatever we can in the name of freedom to construct our own little fiefdoms.  Fiefdoms not just of geography, or even economy, but of religious viewpoint, sexuality, education, race, and even healthcare (or lack of it).

Religious political conservatives gloat that Donald Trump has been chosen as God's man for this appointed time in America, but they fail to realize that, by the same measures they use to rationalize their claim, Barak Obama was God's man for the previous eight years in America's history.

Liberals with potent voices - such as Hollywood stars and the mainstream media - lament the horror of a Trump presidency, even as they ignore the anger within the electorate that propelled a total political neophyte into the White House.  Donald Trump is many things, but one of the biggest things he is right now is a solid refutation of the past eight years, an epoch that liberals generally enjoyed.
Meanwhile, precious few people actually seem interested in balancing extreme viewpoints.  It's a lot easier to create a snicker-inducing meme and post it on social media than it is to research for one's self various sides of the same issue and evaluate the facts independent of partisan bias.  It's more fun to make fun of people we don't like than even consider the possibility - however remote - that we ourselves might be wrong.

So I start writing something, and before long, I've broken so many rules that I impose on myself about trying to remain objective, and refraining from personal insults.  Believe me, if I wanted to be a super-popular blogger, with hundreds of thousands of loyal readers, it wouldn't be hard for me to simply parrot the platform of whichever side I wanted to consistently promote, and ridicule anybody who's not standing on it.

I could be cute, or snarky, or bullying, because those things aren't hard to be.  What's hard is trying not to insult somebody else, especially when I deeply disagree with the things for which they're advocating.

After this past election, I hoped the national mood would simmer down a bit.  But that hasn't really happened.  Instead, everybody seems to be either bracing for all you-know-what to break loose and sink our ship of state, or they're bursting with anticipation for all you-know-what to break loose and totally sink Washington DC's standard operating procedures.

Of course, for people of faith like me, the Sunday School answer would be prayer.  Praying for everyone in leadership, those leaving leadership, those opposing our new leadership, and those excited for our new leadership.  And yes, I've done some of that.

Yet I have this nagging doubt that just because Trump won, which Christ-followers would say indicates that God has anointed him to lead our country, that doesn't mean the good times will start rolling.  If, indeed, the past eight years weren't good for the folks who supported the man Trump is replacing.  Even a basic study of the Old Testament kings who ruled Israel proves that just because God allows something, it's not necessarily enjoyable for us.

Trump's ways are not Washington's ways.  But more importantly, God's ways are not our ways.

I'm trying to turn my gaze from Washington to God.

Are you?


Monday, January 9, 2017

Humble Strength


I'm no ultimate authority on anything.  But the Bible is.  I believe it's the ultimate authority on everything.  So maybe you don't take the stuff I write seriously, but if you believe the Bible is literally God's holy word, then you can't ignore what it says, can you?

As we lurch ever closer to Donald Trump's imminent presidency, perhaps now more than ever, you and I need to be preparing ourselves for how we should represent Christ when the media - mainstream, social, left-wing, right-wing, and otherwise - strips the final prudence filters from our nation's narrative. 

So, let's remember some truths that won't change like the political tide:


Clothe yourselves, all of you, with humility toward one another, for “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.” Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you.
  - from 1 Peter 5


What causes quarrels and what causes fights among you?  Is it not this, that your passions are at war within you?  You desire and do not have... You covet and cannot obtain, so you fight and quarrel... You ask and do not receive, because you ask wrongly, to spend it on your passions.  You adulterous people!

Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God?  Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God... Therefore it says, “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.”

Submit yourselves therefore to God.  Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.  Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you.  Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded... Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will exalt you.
  - from James 4


Pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall.
  - Proverbs 16:18


"In quietness and in trust shall be your strength."
  - from Isaiah 30:15


Let brotherly love continue.  Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for thereby some have entertained angels unawares.  Remember those who are in prison, as though in prison with them, and those who are mistreated... Keep your life free from love of money, and be content with what you have... Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever. Do not be led away by diverse and strange teachings, for it is good for the heart to be strengthened by grace... Do not neglect to do good and to share what you have, for such sacrifices are pleasing to God.
  - From Hebrews 13


Finally, all of you, have unity of mind, sympathy, brotherly love, a tender heart, and a humble mind.
  - 1 Peter 3:8


Thursday, January 5, 2017

Dementia: When is Home Care Not Enough?

For some basics on dementia in general, click here.
 
 
If you have a dementia patient in your family, there may come a time when you will be forced to grapple with this question:  Is it time for professional memory care?

My family has been forced to answer this question twice; first with my Dad, and then with his sister.  I've also talked with a number of families at the memory care facility where Dad lived for ten months.  So, if you are facing this situation, the information you'll read below isn't merely theory or supposition.

For purposes of this discussion, I'm going to assume that your loved one isn't currently living alone.  I can't really imagine a loving scenario in which a person who has been diagnosed with dementia is allowed to live by themself.  If your loved one has lived alone up until the point of their dementia diagnosis, they will need to either be moved into the home of a loved one who will become their primary caregiver, or someone will need to move into their home to act as a caregiver.  Remaining alone is not an option.  Dementia is going to demand big, significant changes from people who most love the patient.  And living arrangements constitute a major part of this disruption.

Granted, depending on the degree of dementia being displayed by your loved one, at least in their early stages, perhaps it won't be necessary for them to have 24/7 care.  But that scenario will likely not last very long.  You see, it is not fair for people with dementia to be intentionally left alone when there's a risk that they could wander off, accidentally burn themselves, or otherwise harm themselves or others.  In many cases, it would be akin to leaving a two-year-old alone at home for hours on end - and a caregiver who allowed that to happen would likely be charged with abuse.

So now, you've arrived at the point where keeping your loved one at home is not just a burden, or a sacrifice, but it has devolved into something else.  Something that appears to be demanding from you a level of resources that your body, your brain, and your emotions seem far too taxed to meet.

If you are fortunate enough, and are able to patch together the finances to pay for professional memory care, here is when that care might be timely:


1.  If your loved one consistently displays no recognition of their current surroundings, it may be that placing them in professional memory care will be less distressing and disruptive to them than you think.  Of course, this applies mostly to dementia patients who are currently living in an environment they should otherwise recognize, such as their long-time home (longer than a couple of years), or even perhaps in the home of a relative that they've visited for years.

If they've lived in their current environment for only a couple of years, it's to be expected that they won't readily recognize it.  Remember that a hallmark of dementia is the gradual loss of memory, and that loss is measured from where they are today.  It's called "short-term memory loss."  The shorter the memory, the quicker it's lost.

If they can't remember how to find their way around a home in which they've lived for only five years, or even ten, that may not be as significant as if they can't find their way around the home in which they've lived for thirty years (which is how it was with my Dad).

And, if they keep saying they "want to go home," and they're still at home, chances are they'll keep saying that if they're in a memory care facility.  "Home" to them likely means someplace familiar to them from their childhood, not anyplace they've lived recently.  If they are particularly religious, "home" can also come to mean Heaven, or whatever constitutes eternal reward in their religion.


2.  If your loved one is consistently belligerent or combative to the point of trying to physically fight with a caregiver, it might be safer for you - and for your loved one - to be in a facility where trained staffmembers know how to better avoid things like flying fists or gnashing teeth.  Verbal abuse may be emotionally draining for you and other caregivers, but when the abuse becomes physical, things become far more dangerous because it likely means your loved one no longer can distinguish between proper acts of frustration and baser impulses of aggression.

It's not that professional memory caregivers wear body armor or are incredibly nimble, but they have more experience at recognizing warning signs of aggressive behavior.  They also have the ability to summon assistance quickly - something you probably don't have at home.


3.  If your loved one has lost the ability to talk, or clearly communicate basic needs, then it could be that you miss important signs that they are suffering from something compromising their quality of life.  Most memory care facilities will likely require you to sign a "Do Not Resuscitate" waiver when you place your loved one in their care, so this isn't about extending their life.  But quality of life - however tentative and ambiguous that may be at this point - remains important.  Things like pain and other internal discomforts might be more easily detected and monitored by professional caregivers.  Having different staff members in different shifts working with your loved one also creates a broader base of evaluation and trouble-shooting, another benefit you likely don't have at home.


4.  Most reputable memory care facilities will invite prospective families to visit during mealtimes, so you can see for yourself in real time how the staff interacts with their residents.  The facility where my Mom and I placed Dad encouraged us to share a meal with him as well, but he was actually in the hospital at the time of our exploratory visit.  My point is, however, that if your loved one can eat a meal in the dining room of a memory care facility, and eat their meal along with a room full of other dementia patients, they're a likely candidate for professional care.

Indeed, mealtimes in a memory care facility are not for the faint of heart.  It is quite distressing to watch grown adults struggle to eat, or protest eating, or having to be fed.  If your loved one can tolerate an environment like that, it's a sobering indication to you that the experience won't be as traumatizing for them as you fear it might be.


5.  Some other considerations include the degree to which your loved one tolerates interaction with others.  There were times when it seemed my Dad enjoyed being around other residents in his memory care facility.  A good facility will have coordinated activities and live music that are surprisingly stimulating, yet things you may not be able to regularly provide in your home.  My Dad's place also prioritized getting residents out of their rooms during the day; only the sickest were regularly kept in their rooms.  Carpeting helps minimize excess noisiness, but it also has to be kept clean for sanitary reasons.  If the flooring isn't carpeted, make sure it's not slippery.  There should be no trip hazards, like throw rugs, or furniture with legs or feet that protrude from its undersides.

Speaking of sanitation, make sure there are no trash cans simply left out in the open - dementia patients love rummaging through them, which is a big health hazard.


6.  For some dementia patients, particularly those whose families are struggling with the enormous monthly costs of professional memory care, it may become unnecessary to have actual memory care.  If your loved one becomes exceptionally low-functioning, bedridden, severely detached from their environment, and otherwise incapacitated, a regular nursing home may be able to provide enough care without the expensive memory care pricetag.  If you're fortunate enough to have an elder care specialist as your loved one's physician, your doctor will help you determine if or when you can forgo professional memory care.

Of course, remember that many nursing homes, for whatever reason, still do not provide the type of care to dementia patients that you'd think would be obvious.  A friend of ours had his wife, with full-blown Alzheimer's, in a highly-respected rehabilitation nursing facility after surgery to repair a broken hip, and the nurses there would put a platter of food in front of her - covered by a plastic bowl to keep it warm... yet the woman had no idea food was under the plastic bowl.  They'd give her a cup of yogurt or pudding as a snack, and not remove the aluminum foil top.  They'd even give her a plastic cup with a beverage inside, a plastic cap on top, and a straw, yet the woman didn't know how to drink from a straw.  At her memory care facility, none of those things ever happened, because the memory care staff knew what dementia patients can't comprehend.


7.  If and when you visit professional memory care facilities, ask whatever questions you have.  This is a big deal, so don't be embarrassed by treating it like one.  If you feel rushed by the staff, or if you get the sense they are being evasive, let those be red flags for you.

When you're walking the halls on your facility tour, does your host acknowledge residents and employees by name?  Does the place employ at least one full-time nurse?  Ask if any local hospice companies are on a black list of theirs - a memory care facility that is zealous about their residents' health likely will prefer some hospice companies over others.

Visiting during a mealtime won't be comfortable for you, but it will be an eye-opener, and you need raw honesty, not sugar-coated platitudes.  If the place smells, feel free to ask why.  Don't necessarily assume it always smells like that, because bodily function incidents happen constantly in these types of facilities.  But if every hallway smells, and the furniture smells, and the smell is more of a stench, those aren't good signs.

Look for how well exit doors are locked and marked.  Is there a fence around the property?  What is the front door protocol?  Is there a staff member stationed nearby to prevent a resident's "escape"?  Are there security cameras?  Dementia patients tend to fall a lot, as their sense of balance is lost; do they archive videos for family members to review after an incident?

I'm not sure what a good resident/staff ratio is, but at Dad's place, I believe it was 10:1, not counting office and kitchen staff, and that seemed adequate.  They aimed to give each resident three showers a week, but with people like Dad, who could be quite belligerent at shower time, Mom and I were satisfied if they could get him in for two! 

Whatever your family is able to decide, please understand that you will likely feel some degree of guilt.  That seems pretty normal and unavoidable among all the families I know who've placed loved ones in memory care.  These are stressful decisions that not only drain you financially, but also emotionally.  All I hope to do with this information is help you in the decision-making process, and perhaps give you some things to consider that maybe hadn't already dawned on you.

Hopefully, someday, perhaps before you or I get to be the age of our loved ones with dementia, a cure will be found, and our families won't have to go through what we are.  Until then, however, like one nurse told us, "you've gotta do what you've gotta do" when it comes to loved ones whose minds are being stolen by dementia.



Wednesday, January 4, 2017

And the Lefties Keep Whining


Artists tend to be a peculiar brand of humanity.

Whether they're acting on television or the Broadway stage, or painting a canvas, or writing a novel, the discipline of creativity that good artists cultivate for themselves often produces quirks and penchants within their individual personalities not commonly displayed in the general public.

Usually, the rest of us presume that these quirks and penchants - often heavy with emotional effect - are part of what makes an artist a good artist.  It's the drama of creativity, and understanding how to interpret whatever it is they're trying to interpret for their creative craft, right?  Some artists even manipulate their quirks into a new identity for themselves in a way that celebrates their peculiarities, and enhances the public's recognition of them.

Theirs is a rich tapestry of cultural engagement and intellectual stimulation that makes the arts so endearing and entertaining, right?  Even when most artists tend to embrace a more bohemian and non-conservative aesthetic.  In a way, their differences from the rest of us can make them that much more entertaining.

So, how should we react to a new video released yesterday by a group of Hollywood types called "Humanity for Progress"?  This video, posted to the group's Facebook page, "demands" that Congress actively oppose anything the future president Donald Trump might do that threatens the civil liberties of a host of pet project people who are supported by Tinseltown's liberal elites.  In other words, if Trump proposes legislation that somehow harms gays, or women, or blacks or Hispanics, then these artists want Congress to block that legislation.

On their video, these celebrities (actually, I only recognized two of them, and apparently there's a New York City real estate developer in the mix, maybe as a bitter business competitor of Trump's?) seem almost panicked.  They make it sound as though Trump has already decreed that our planet's entire population should be executed, their anger is so brittle, and their sanctimony so palpable.  It's as if they've already tried, judged, and sentenced Trump to be utterly guilty and incapable of reform from the vile, dehumanizing things he said and did during his campaign.

Ostensibly, this video's audience is intended to extend not simply to our members of Congress in Washington, but to people across our country - and indeed - our planet - who are as equally alarmed by the depravity Trump is preparing to unleash on civilization as we know it.

Yet... isn't this mostly a fancy new promotional video for a bunch of "celebrities" many of us don't know?  Publicity is king in Hollywood, after all.  As is excessive liberalism, of which Hillary Clinton is considered a goddess.  In fact, the group "Humanity for Progress" is simply the new iteration of Hillary's old Hollywood fundraising troop, "Humanity for Hillary."

Hollywood hates to let a beloved movie franchise die, you know.

And frankly, there's nothing wrong or particularly inappropriate with a bunch of Hollywood folks producing a dark video grimly reminding elected representatives of things a segment of the electorate wants accomplished.  On a bare-bones level, this video is nothing more than a "We The Undersigned" letter to Congress, similar to what politicians receive from their constituents all the time.  This video even encourages viewers to tweet or e-mail it to their members of Congress as a form of populist solidarity with the tenets of leftist Hollywood agitation.

And hey; that's cool.  We all have the freedom to do that, right?

What's odd, however, is that Trump hasn't even been sworn into office yet.  He hasn't done anything as president.  Which makes this video mostly just another petulant hissy fit because a bunch of people didn't get what they wanted.  These actors fire out a volley of presumed people groups they fear Trump will target with discriminatory actions, and they're setting a contentious tone for their side simply because, apparently, Trump has already set a contentious tone for his.

It's like they're starting a bar fight before the bully who scares them has even left his house.

I'm no fan of Donald Trump, as regular readers of this blog well know.  I didn't vote for him, or for Hillary.  But if we expect some decorum, civility, and "humanity" from our new White House occupant, does it help to start picking fights with him and the congress over which he'll preside when we've still got two weeks before his inauguration?  Just because Trump may have his own personality issues doesn't mean we need to let our own behavior become militant, does it?

So many liberals are having such a hard time grasping the concept of Hillary's defeat, their petulant antics aren't coming across as being superior to Trump's, but actually kinda beneath Trump's own theatrics.

One of the women participating in the video complains about special interests in Washington.  “We know the majority of the American people, regardless of who they voted for, do not want a regime that permits hate and monied interests to run rampant,” rhapsodizes Liz Garbus.

Never heard of her?  Me neither - I had to Google her, and I learned she is a celebrated director and producer of documentary films.  She is also a fellow of the Open Society, which is funded by left-wing philanthropist George Soros.

Sheesh...  Talk about "monied interests running rampant!"



Tuesday, January 3, 2017

Feminists Lost to Trump? Not Exactly


Feminists will deride this essay as mere proof that I'm just a man.

Because I'm going to offer scant sympathy for the notion that Hillary Clinton's presidential loss represents a loss for womanhood in general, as many American feminists lament.

The special interest groups that have been bewailing Donald Trump's surprise win last year are legion.  Virtually every demographic except heterosexual white men have been going through various stages of withdrawal and remorse over the erstwhile Republican, and the specter of doom they fear is about to consume our White House.  And women have been at the forefront of this consternation, particularly those who were confident that Hillary would smash the Oval Office's glass ceiling.

In her recent article, "Feminism Lost. Now What?" New York Times senior editor Susan Chira presents a survey of significant American feminists and their various perspectives on what Trump's win - at a woman's expense - means for women's rights.  Should women stay the course and continue with their current tactics, or should they strike out on a new course of action, and if so, what should that new action look like?  And how deeply should feminists internalize Hillary's loss for themselves?

"There is a fear," explains Chira, "that women’s issues... could be trampled or ignored" by a Trump presidency.

After all, reasons Chira, "a majority of white women voted for him, shattering myths of female solidarity and the belief that demeaning women would make a politician unelectable."

Yet Chira's angst seems little more than another battle cry in what's become a convoluted saga.  It's a saga for some abstract non-male prototype in which certain key benchmarks, prescribed by our society's metrics of power, represent not just an interpretation of equality with men, but, at the same time, a prissy refutation of the benchmarks men typically use to evaluate themselves.

In other words, ardent feminists can't see themselves as equal with men until they not only occupy the same exact socioeconomic and political positions as men, but until they also convince society at large that equality itself is more important than competence, merit, and integrity.

Chira and her sisterhood seem oblivious to the fact that many American voters - both men and women - simply did not want Hillary to be President, no matter her gender.  Hillary is no model of virtue, nor a uniquely qualified administrator of American political doctrines.  For Chira and other feminists to be so despondent over Hillary's loss, they must have been blind to the former First Lady's incredible flaws, not just as a presidential candidate, but as an immoral money-sucker who hobnobs with obscure warlords, and an enabling wife who kept her philandering husband on a long leash for her own career's advancement.

Indeed, had Hillary won, it would have been a black mark against strident feminism, since it was her husband's presidency that laid the groundwork for her campaign.  Hardly the description of a self-made feminist, unless ignoring one's husband's sexual indiscretions is part of the feminine mystique?

Chira briefly touches on the fact that many younger liberal women flocked to Bernie Sanders, but she fails to see that these young liberal women did so not to refute feminism per say, but probably because they considered Hillary a profoundly bad candidate.

Hey:  Sometimes gender really doesn't matter.  But Chira sees the means to an end as the price to be paid for a non-male occupant of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.  In other words, Chira wasn't as concerned about Hillary's drawbacks (which she readily enumerates when describing Trump) as she was that little American girls still won't get to see a woman in the White House anytime soon.

Yes, Trump is a seedy womanizer who spews vulgar opinions about women - even his own daughter.  And yes, Hillary's campaign dug up plenty of women who claimed Trump sexually abused them.  But if police reports weren't filed by those women at the time of their alleged abuse, what is there for the rest of us to believe?  Except that some of the same stuff Hillary's own husband may have done to women is suddenly horrible when her presidential opponent has the same skeletons in his closet?  Why should women voters feel flattered by such duplicity?

Chira and her sisterhood also seem unable to recognize the price feminism may be paying for its strident push for abortion rights, particularly at a time when popular opinion on the topic of abortion shows no overwhelming support for the practice within the general population.

Chira also sees a racial dynamic at play, since exit polls showed so many white women voting for Trump, as opposed to black women, who mostly supported Hillary.  Yet even here, Chira can't prove that race itself was a factor, or simply that black people generally vote Democratic for a variety of reasons, and perhaps they were more willing to vote Hillary this time even if they were doing so while tightly holding their noses in disgust?

In other words, black women may not have been playing a racial card or a sexist card by voting Hillary.  Perhaps, they were merely voting against somebody the Democratic party has traditionally portrayed as unfavorable to blacks of any gender, with that somebody being whomever is running on the GOP's ticket.

Chira also mentions the notion of equal pay, but again, that issue is widely misunderstood by the public, and flagrantly misconstrued by the mainstream media.  Most statistics on the subject merely lump salaries women earn in one pile, and the salaries men earn in another, and view the contrasting amounts as indicative of sexism.  But that is not the way to calculate whether women and men are being paid unfairly.  Salaries need to be matched by the job, not the gender.  If more women are clerks than men, and clerks generally get paid less than the type of jobs men typically hold, the resulting disparity doesn't mean women are being discriminated against.  It merely means that women hold different types of jobs than men do.

So, all the way around, Chira's is a tired and waning argument, not just of the elitist feminist manifesto, but also of her disappointment than most of her fellow sisterhood didn't swallow their integrity and just go ahead and vote for Hillary since she was a woman.

As if doing so would make women equal with men.  Shucks, how many men voted for Trump because he is a man?  Not that Trump deserved to win the election, but he didn't win because he is a man.  Talk to enough people who voted for him, and it could easily be argued that he won because he wasn't Hillary.

Not Hillary, the woman; but Hillary, the corrupt, deceitful, duplicitous presidential candidate.

Actually, when it comes to feminism, American voters may have done womanhood a favor by keeping Hillary out of the Oval Office.  At least we've preserved the ultimate glass ceiling crack for somebody who actually might be worthy of the scar.

You'd think Chira would appreciate that.


Monday, January 2, 2017

Wounded TX Politician Wants Nanny Gun Law


"Shoot fire."

It's not a redundant command.  It's a colorful expression we've got here in Texas, and you pronounce it "chute-fahr."  As in, "Shoot fire, that sure was a dad-gum stupid thing to do."

(Chute-fahr, that shore wuz a dad-gum stew-pid thang ta dew.)

A Texas state legislator got hit in the head by a bullet during New Year's festivities yesterday morning, so now he's contemplating a new law that will limit celebratory gun shots.

Yes, the politician got hit in the head, by a bullet, but nobody shot at him.  But he did get shot.

It seems like just about every New Year, we Texans hear about somebody who gets injured - or killed - by bullets falling back to earth after being shot straight up by partying gun owners.  This tends to be mostly a Hispanic tradition, with the idea being that shooting guns into the air is harmless fun, while making a lot of racket, which is also fun.

But the obvious corollary to firing bullets into the sky seems lost on the folks who perpetuate this nonsense.  Gravity is still in effect, meaning that what goes up must come down.

And fortunately for Armando Martinez, representative of District 39 in far South Texas, home to many Hispanics, the bullet that came back down and hit him on his head didn't kill him.

"A couple more millimeters," Martinez explained to a reporter, "and we wouldn’t be having a conversation today."

He's being released from a hospital, grateful to still be alive, and brandishing a new-found respect for projectile trajectory physics and ballistics science.  In fact, he's so sobered by his close call, he believes a new law is just the thing to protect others from risking a similar wound - or worse.

It's the nanny-state mindset at work, of course.  And in this case, a law telling people something that should be obvious also helps Martinez avoid the delicate political dance over the fact that Hispanics are the people group who disproportionately practice the thing he wants to outlaw.  Martinez is a Hispanic male, and culturally, Hispanic males are expected to brandish a swagger of "machismo" that traditionally validates their masculinity.

And if you think that's a bigoted assessment of Hispanic masculinity, you try to find data on the number of Hispanic women who celebrate New Year's by shooting their guns into the air.  Although, to be fair, this isn't just a male Hispanic problem.  Across the Middle East, for example, gunfire into the air has become a staple of wedding and Eid celebrations.

For Martinez, back here in Texas, legislation probably provides a way to avoid marginalizing his own machismo.  But is it necessary?  For one thing, within the boundaries of virtually all municipalities across Texas, it's already against the law to fire a gun.  Period.  Unless you were shooting something or someone in the course of protecting life or property, the cops have every right to haul you off to prison.  In Martinez's case, it sounds as though he and his fellow revelers were likely on some unincorporated land, away from an urbanized area, but so far, nobody has bothered to report on whether or not the person who fired the gun whose bullet hit Martinez had broken any existing laws - or whether anybody drove home inebriated.

Nevertheless, at what point do we stop writing laws that should be obvious?  And if it's not obvious to many members of the Hispanic community, why is it apparently so politically incorrect to saturate Hispanic-centric communities with the common-sense message that "shooting guns into the air means bullets fall down somewhere."

Since Martinez claims to be a representative of and for Hispanics in Texas, would he consider it an insult to his masculinity to launch a state-wide campaign to educate his fellow Hispanics - men, particularly - on the potentially-lethal results of "celebratory gunfire," as he calls it?

"Everybody knows better than to get a gun and fire it up in the air because what goes up must come down,” Martinez says.  But if that were true, why was he out there early Sunday morning with all the other folks shooting guns into the air?

Or is Martinez saying that nanny-state laws are the price people pay for not taking personal responsibility for their actions?

A bullet falling back down to the ground doesn't make nearly as much noise as when it was initially fired, but it can still cause significant collateral damage.  Kinda like nanny-state laws, as they accumulate, using threats to discourage behavior by people who should otherwise be able to make good decisions on their own.

Over time, our individual incentive to make good decisions proactively risks being marginalized by a government more interested in conformity than integrity.  It's as if the government can justify its existence by pointing out that, without their intervention, people would still fire bullets into the sky with an expectation of impunity.

As if the bullets disappear into outer space or something.

Come on, people!  Apparently it's the same type of magic as expecting legislators to be selfless public servants.


Monday, December 19, 2016

Elite Media Blames You and Me for Syria


The mainstream media is angry at us, the American public.

It's not just righteous indignation from elite international reporters, who have a tendency to swagger through assorted geopolitical crises like vagabond proclaimers of lost virtues.  Ivory tower academics, and sanctimonious employees at humanitarian relief agencies, are also mad at you and me.

They're trying hard to refrain from pinning the fall of Aleppo on president Barak Obama.  Since, after all, the media has unilaterally decided that Syrian's president Bashar al-Assad should have been overthrown.

Did those Western war correspondents hold some sort of meeting a while back, in which they determined that rebels fighting Assad somehow merited their favor?  Otherwise, how could it be explained that just about everybody within the sociopolitically liberal mainstream media seems appalled that Assad reclaimed Aleppo from rebel hands last week?  Indeed, Western big media outlets have been seething against Western electorates across the globe who apparently sat at home and did nothing to prevent a key collapse within the rebel opposition.

As if you and I are complicit in Syria's six-year-long bloodbath, and cruel facilitators of what one United Nations official calls "the biggest humanitarian emergency of our era."

Consider a headline from yesterday's New York Times as a representative sample of the media's ire:  "Assad's Lesson From Aleppo: Force Works, With Few Consequences."

"It is not the first victory that Mr. Assad has secured with overwhelming force in the Syrian conflict. But his subjugation of eastern Aleppo has echoed across the Middle East and beyond, rattling alliances, proving the effectiveness of violence and highlighting the reluctance of many countries, perhaps most notably the United States, to get involved."

This particular article in the Times bitterly sums up much of the elitist angst that has been smoldering just below the surface in many reports from war correspondents who think those of us consuming their sobering descriptions of Syria's atrocities simply don't care.

"Analysts have begun to add Aleppo to the list of places where humans have failed to stop tragedies committed against other humans, as in Grozny, Rwanda and Srebrenica," we're told.

"Because of smartphones and the Internet," lectures the Times, "the Syrian conflict has arguably been better documented than any armed conflict in history. But that has still failed to bring about accountability."

An expert in the prosecution of war crimes is quoted.  “Aleppo is now the symbol of how far we have retrenched,” scolds that expert.  “It is part of a worldwide move away from a global village.  Countries are turning back into themselves.”

Bad, bad world citizens.  Here we've been, we who are the wise and learned elite media, trying to get you Western peasants to force your leaders and armies to engage in Syria's awful civil war for six years, and all you've done is vote for silly backwards notions like Brexit and Trump.

Read enough of these articles from Syria's front lines, and this is the impression you get from smug reporters who presume their vantage point provides them an accurate assessment of what they think they see unfolding in front of them.

And yes, to a certain extent, we Westerners back home are weary of war news from the Middle East.  It's confusing to us, and incessantly bleak.  If we can't get the gist of it from a few sound bites, most of us simply aren't going to get all riled up over what people half a world away from us are getting all riled up over.

Sometimes, isn't another country's war another country's war?

Besides, it's not as if the mainstream media has been a trustworthy resource for all that led up to Syria's current conflict.  Who believes the mainstream media has played a nonpartisan role in the gathering of information during this war?  And who trusts the mainstream media to be objective as victors emerge and battles wind down?

It's no secret that big media, along with many international political and humanitarian groups, make a point of minimizing the religious angles of Muslim-centric strife.  Sometimes this is a strategy on their part so their staffers can simply survive within conflict zones, but mostly it's an intentional campaign to de-stigmatize Islam in the minds of Westerners who already perceive the religion with deep skepticism, if not outright suspicion.

With Syria's civil war, however, to remove religion as a component in the crisis removes most of the storyline.

And it's a dizzying storyline, thanks in large part to that religious component.  There isn't just Islam.  There isn't just radical Islam.  There is Sunni, Shi'a and Kharijite, Hanafi, Maliki, Shafi'i, Hanbali, Ẓāhirī, Qarmatian, Ismaili, Fatimid, Nizari Ismaili, Musta’li Ismaili, Hafizi, Taiyabi Ismaili, Imamiyyah-Ja'fari-Usuli, Alevi, Zaydi, Ibadi, Alawite, Druze, and Taiyabi.  Then there are the Kurds, the Islamic State, the YPG ("People's Protection Units"), the PFLP ("Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine"), Jabhat al-Nusra, Hezbollah, Ahrar al-Sham, the FSA ("Free Syria Army"), and reportedly dozens more religiously-motivated militias.

Indeed, the list of players in Syria's current war quickly proved to be far more complex than any media outlet could simplistically categorize.  Most mainstreamers took a default position of opposition against Assad, ostensibly since he's a dictator, but it soon became apparent that the rebels weren't just fighting for freedom from Assad's rule.  Most rebels want to enact even more draconian religious-based laws than Assad's, which would further deprive Syrians of basic types of freedoms Western journalists value, but the media couldn't hammer that inconvenient truth into their progressive narrative.

After Russia and Iran vested themselves in Syria's war, it seemed as though the mainstreamers were thoroughly flummoxed over who the good guys were, or the bad guys.

Then there's the whole sovereign nation thing, and the validity of any rogue players who try to overthrow established governments, whether in Syria or elsewhere.  Here in the West, frankly, we taxpayers are tired of being blamed for meddling in regime changes.  We can't seem to pick the "right" side, or win anything anymore; not just militarily, but politically, and socially.  And a lot of that blame over these failures gets levied - rightly or wrongly - by the same international elites that now blame us for allowing Syria to unravel.

Indeed, speaking of sovereignty, the world's major defenders of conventional liberty - the United States and Britain - still haven't finished licking our wounds from our ill-advised foray into Iraq concocted by Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld.  And voters in both Britain and the United States remain reluctant to send soldiers off to another war in the Middle East because it's now obvious beyond a shadow of a doubt that we really don't understand what's going on over there.  Not just us ordinary voters, but even the tenured civil servants within our intelligence communities, and our big-talking politicians.  It's as if we have a different way of processing information within our Western mindsets than many folks do in the Middle East.

We want peace, because peace is how society can flourish.  However, many folks in the Middle East mostly seem to want to settle old scores.  We bargain to achieve shared objectives, they prevaricate.  We generally tend to value human life, they generally tend to value emotions.  We build, they bomb.  We use smartphones to sell consumer products, they use smartphones to recruit for jihad.

Mainstream media operatives jeer at our oversimplifications and stereotypes, but theirs are just as blatant.  Assad isn't the only bad guy in this civil war; in fact, there aren't any good guys that the mainstreamers have been able to identify and idolize.  So they've tried to manipulate public opinion by telling us about the kids being crushed by falling apartment buildings.  They photograph the Boy From Aleppo in the back of an ambulance, and for a moment, the world recoils, shocked at the loss of innocence.

But even President Obama has stood off to the side, after winning a Nobel Peace Prize before completing his first year in the Oval Office!  Nobody on Capitol Hill from any party was ever able to compose a compelling political narrative for why Syria's conflict was anything more than a vicious skirmish between hell-bound Islamists.  And all of those refugees turning tail and running the other way - if this was truly a civil war, why weren't they picking sides and staying to fight for what they believed in?

Much has been made about the West's begrudging acceptance of hundreds of thousands of Syrian refugees.  Yet while a discernible amount of the vitriol displayed against those refugees has been simple ethnocentrism, the rest of it has been uncomfortably legitimate.  After all, who would come and help us if we had a civil war in America?  In Germany?  In Sweden?  And why are grown men not staying to fight for their viewpoint?

Over the years, some reporters have acknowledged that many able-bodied people remained in Syria not because they couldn't afford to flee, but because they support some rebel faction, or Assad.  So all these other refugees are people who don't support anybody?  How does that work?  And if they don't support anybody, how do so many get out of the country alive?

The whole thing just doesn't make any sense to us.  And it obviously hasn't made sense to the mainstream media reporters who have walked the streets in war-torn cities like Aleppo.  Sure, they've seen human savagery that is repulsive to them, but they apparently can't analyze it well either.  They sure haven't been able to package it up and send it back to America and England in easily-digestible bites for the rest of us.  But they also haven't taken the time to objectively parse out the intricacies of the situation that help make it so complex.

Some non-mainstream news outlets have tried doing so.  But in-depth analysis of Syria's quagmire is a undesirable product for advertisers to pay for.

So, then, are we Westerners to be blamed because we need to have international news stories like Syria's civil war broken down in elementary particles?  Are we too busy, spoiled, stupid, or immature to appreciate the many facets of this conflict?

Or has the mainstream media run full-tilt into a wall it cannot scale?  We've already seen how many mainstreamers really don't understand evangelical Christianity, at least as far as their ability to analyze us in the wake of Donald Trump's election victory is concerned.  Maybe the mainstream media really doesn't understand Islam either?  Or, at least, radical Islam?

And just what, exactly, do all of these vaunted journalists think the United States could have done?  We don't even know how many sides were fighting against each other.  How would we have picked a group to win?  To win what?  How do we determine the Assad regime would be worse than any of the other players vying to replace his leadership?

Throwing photos onto social media of kids dying and old women crying doesn't tell us who's right and who's wrong.  Lamenting the plight of millions of homeless Syrians and refugees doesn't tell us whether those folks supported the fighters we should support - or shouldn't support.  Simply observing chaos unfolding in front of you and yelling at the rest of us to do something doesn't give you the right to complain when we don't know what to do.

It's been said that the only thing necessary for evil to triumph is for good people to do nothing.  Yet how many Americans are genuinely ambivalent over Syria's crisis?  Besides, sometimes, can't doing something just to do something actually make a situation worse?  If you don't know what to do, refraining from involvement can be a good thing.

Perhaps what mainstream journalism has realized involves not just the frustrating dependence most Americans have on sound-bite information these days.  Perhaps mainstream journalism is also realizing that since it's sold its legitimacy to political correctness, it's not an accurate purveyor of news any more.  And the general public has caught on.

Not that popular opinion should determine what's newsworthy or accurate.  The truth should determine that, and sometimes, truth and popular opinion are not the same thing.

But at least when it comes to Syria's bloody war, and whatever brutal scar it has inflicted on the history of humanity, some things will defy our best intentions.

Don't blame the public if you can't convince us otherwise.