faith, life, depression, struggle

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Endless, endless conflict

I am grieved this morning as I look at a photo essay on, titled (appropriately enough) Planet War. There are currently at least 33 conflicts still ongoing in our world, keeping the brutality machine operating at a steady clip. Of course, it's the personal stories of the innocent civilian victims that break the heart. As Stalin is misattributed with saying, "One death is a tragedy. A million deaths is a statistic."

I'm not picking on Africa here. Endless war is in the nature of that hideous, corrupt manifestation, the human soul. Also on, the New York Times' East African bureau chief, Jeffrey Gettleman, has an insightful article on why efforts to quell these wars on the African continent never amounts to much. He writes:

I've witnessed up close -- often way too close -- how combat has morphed from soldier vs. soldier (now a rarity in Africa) to soldier vs. civilian. Most of today's African fighters are not rebels with a cause; they're predators. That's why we see stunning atrocities like eastern Congo's rape epidemic, where armed groups in recent years have sexually assaulted hundreds of thousands of women, often so sadistically that the victims are left incontinent for life. What is the military or political objective of ramming an assault rifle inside a woman and pulling the trigger? Terror has become an end, not just a means.

Why do we endlessly destroy each other? All the old reasons, of course. Nationalism. Tribalism. Greed. Fear. Hatred. Sadism. Faith, even! James put it so perfectly in his epistle to the Jerusalem church:

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, so you murder. You covet and cannot obtain, so you fight and quarrel. You do not have, because you do not ask. 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.
—James 4:1-4 (ESV)
Here's another thing: The "them" of child soldiers and rapacious militia leaders who terrorize their fellow humans ... is me. There is nothing in them that is not also in me. If the Milgram experiment at Yale and the Stanford prison experiment taught us anything (actually, confirmed what the Bible teaches about our very nature), it's that every one of us is capable of being the Nazi, of causing grave suffering to our fellow human beings under the right circumstances.

There is no hope in this world. Hope lives in Christ, and I live in Christ by the grace and mercy of my Lord alone. Aside from whatever change He has wrought within my heart, I fear and hate the motivations that move within me. May God forgive me for my wicked heart.

Monday, February 22, 2010

More Wipers

Grow up and be a man. Drop dead right where I stand.

Want it so much. Look but don't touch.

One of my all-time favorite bands, the Wipers:

Saturday, February 20, 2010

I. Want. to. Die.

Now. NOW.

I surrender

These must be salad days for feminism. Not that feminists have accomplished all their goals; far from it. But they have made enormous strides. College admissions and graduates are tilting heavily female, and boys are demonstrating more problems socially than ever before. As research summarized in Science Daily points out:

Boys face high rates of a variety of mental health issues, in addition to lagging behind girls in academic performance and college attendance, according to two new papers by University of Alaska Fairbanks researcher Judith Kleinfeld.
Still, boys are in far more serious trouble, she argues. The gender gap in reading and writing at the end of high school, for example, is far wider than the gap in math and science ever was. More than a quarter of American male high school graduates can't understand a newspaper article, compared to about 10 percent of girls.

So what's the problem, really? Haven't we all learned by now that all men are rapists, oppressors, progenitors of the patriarchy? Brutal, violent thugs? Yep. Learned. I've taken it to heart, certainly. I hate myself for being male, and for being white, and often for being human, too, since that embraces the first two necessarily. 

Wait—does feminism really embrace the destruction of maleness and males? Of course it does. All revolutions have as their goal, ultimately, the destruction of perceived oppressors. When they're honest, the leaders of such revolutions will admit freely (or even celebrate openly) this fact. Most of the time, though, it's couched in language of justice and, when a sop is called for, reconciliation.

The truth is that we are all at war with each other, constantly, and within ourselves, against ourselves. Conflict, struggle, violence and destruction are the facilities of life's essence. We make human existence more tolerable by concealing this reality with the language of love, mercy, forgiveness, etc. But as the example of South Africa shows, all the well-intended initiatives in the world of giants among us, such as Nelson Mandela, inevitably deteriorate into vindictive violence without end. South Africa is now the homicide capital of the world, and no one—black, white, or otherwise—is safe.

And here is the bitterest irony of all: Suicide is still viewed as an inappropriate response to informed self-hatred, to society's growing disgust with who you are because of your gender, because of history, because of plenty of things that are outside your control. Thus was it always, of course; ask any African American or Native American. Hatred, murder, oppression is the human way.

Life is the greatest curse of all. I don't know what I did prior to my birth, or whether I did anything; I don't know. But I do know that God created a being, me, whom He hates. The Bible:

13As it is written,(V) "Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated."
 14What shall we say then?(W) Is there injustice on God’s part? By no means! 15For he says to Moses,(X) "I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion." 16So then it depends not on human will or exertion,[b] but on God, who has mercy. 17For the Scripture says to Pharaoh,(Y) "For this very purpose I have raised you up, that I might show my power in you, and that my name might be proclaimed in all the earth." 18So then he has mercy on whomever he wills, and he hardens whomever he wills.—Rom. 9:13-18

So, obviously, God hates some of us. God delights in creation, but God also delights in destroying those He created for the full vengeance of His justice. This demonstrates to us that God is to be feared. And I do fear Him.

I have given up on the idea of salvation, however. I believe I am damned. I take God at His Word, and I fear Him like I fear nothing and no one else. Why, oh God, did you make me just to destroy me? Your glory is manifest without me; all whom you enable will see, will understand, will fear and glorify you. I fear and glorify you, because you are God. As David wrote:

10Now therefore, O kings, be wise;
   be warned, O rulers of the earth.
11(P) Serve the LORD with(Q) fear,
   and(R) rejoice with trembling.
12(S) Kiss(T) the Son,
   lest he be angry, and you perish in the way,
   for his(U) wrath is quickly kindled.—Ps. 2:10-12

"God is love," eh? Maybe, but He is more than that, too—He is the Judge, the Destroyer, the Annihilator, the Tormentor.

But I must say that there is nothing about that fact that makes me even vaguely unique. I am a number; nothing more. One more for the trash pile. All that remains for me is to be hardened further, then judged and sent to hell to suffer eternal conscious torment. I know it's coming. I fear it like I fear nothing else.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Known, judged, condemned

Here's what I still don't get: How can God stand the smell of me? The very sight of me? I can't bear either. And I can only sense a small portion of the rot and dross in my wasted soul.

God sees it all. He knows every dark, dank corner of me. The filth of my mind, the tumor that is my heart, my wicked notions, my blank stare, my empty brain. He knows that I look out at the evil world as though that somehow excused the evil me.

And I know the standard Christian response: He sees Christ. Really? He can't see past Christ? He's not blind. Yes, I know Christ paid in full for my sins, but then there is the old man, that part of me that just keeps sinning, blithely pretending it's, well, the "old man," the former me that is still with me. So it's not so former, is it? It's not so old. It's now. It's me.

What do I do when I'm convinced I'm going to hell, yet I'm anxious to get this life over with and face what's inestimably more horrible than even this? Ah, there's the conundrum. The end of this awful life leads to a far worse judgment.

If God is good, then I am evil, and I have earned every inch, every second of this, and so much more. Why was I even born? I wish I had never been here. I wish I had never drawn one breath. Not just for my sake; for all those I've hurt, all those I've damaged. I need to be destroyed. I need to be gone. It's all I want, nothing more. Just let me go, please God, and then do what you must.

Too Far Down

Quite possibly the grimmest song Hüsker Dü did; here Bob Mould solo.

Where is too far? Is that where I decide (again) that I can't take it any longer?

Overpopulation hand-wringing: What happened to "choice"?

Brendan O'Neill, an eminently sensible journalist, has a great opinion piece up over at Spiked Online debunking the purported "taboo" of overpopulation. As he points out:

I have a question. If overpopulation is taboo, unmentionable, so inflammably risqué, then why can you not open a newspaper, switch on the box or listen to any one of millions of green activists without hearing someone say: ‘There are too many people’? Overpopulation is in fact the Great Mentionable, the Continually Mentioned, the Mentioned So Frequently It Almost Makes Me Want Me To Do My Own Bit For Population Reduction And Top Myself. Both the mainstreaming of Malthusian thought, and the simultaneous insistence that it is a non-mainstream, out-there, super-brave point of view, reveal much about the pessimism and defensiveness of contemporary eco-thinking.

He gives some hilarious examples of "evidence" that overpopulation is affecting every corner of everywhere, and how this is simply assumed, without actual evidence. Much of what one thinks about this subject depends on one's view of the human race and its place in the natural order, one's view of carbon output vis-a-vis climate change, and one's general attitude about the state of the world. For me, that depends on where I am with regard to depression, very often. In my clear-thinking moments, I think much of this is overblown anti-human demagoguery, flying in the face of the purported belief in a woman's "right to choose." Guess that "right" only applies to women in the West? (It certainly means that the right to exist doesn't exist for either gender, which of course renders all other rights easily ignored and abrogated as the need arises.)

As the Stephens (Levitt and Dubner) point out in their conventional wisdom-toppling new book, Superfreakonomics, most of our problems do in fact have solutions rooted in human ingenuity of one sort or another. I think most of us agree that we need to be more considerate of environmental impact in everything we do, and most of us have done just that. But we also need to understand that the ecosphere is not made of fine china. Much, much worse things have happened to life on this planet in the past, and both the planet and life on it have survived. That's obviously not an excuse to do what thou wilt with the earth's resources, but it is a helpful reminder that we are more than a) the sum of our genes and b) the inverse of our carbon output.

If human activity is the exclusive, or even primary, forcing on the general warming trend (that hasn't been active since 1998—temperatures are stable or cooling since then—which suggests that other factors may have a role, too, but let's not get too far removed from the human blame-a-thon for now), there's a lot of explaining yet to do. In addition to the question raised by the previous parenthetical, how is it that the planet cooled post-World War II, as industrialization went into overdrive? Shouldn't the opposite have happened, if indeed we are the primary climate force? And even if there's a delay in result, shouldn't any cooling trend have been impossible, since human industrial activity—and greenhouse gas output—has been ratcheting ever upward since the Industrial Revolution and the invention of the automobile? I have so many questions, and I am not impressed by the patronizing answers offered by the climate-disaster magisterium any more than I am soothed about the scandalous "science" practiced by some in that movement.

As always, this comes down to "cui bono"—who benefits? The Al Gores of this world are poised to cash in on government-forced climate-change concessions. They'll do so as the poor struggle to shoulder the additional costs of Western sanctimony.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

The big idea: small communities, small churches, small governments

I am not an anarchist. But I'm convinced that only one thing can save our way of life as Americans: the dissolution of the United States as a federal entity.

It is becoming clear to me that government must be held closely accountable, as cumbersome as that can be, and that only local government can be truly accountable. National government—at least, in a nation this large—merely ensures that government is removed from the governed, and between the governed and the government, much mischief is made: Lobbyists, lawyers, influence peddlers, all of it. All represent some corner of our society, typically an industry, a labor union, a nonprofit or group of nonprofits—all with money to be made from "representing" their constituents' interests. No matter which major party dominates at any given point, the result is the same. What we now have is a de facto empire based on a fascist model of government-industrial relations, with a democratic vote that amounts to little, if anything at all. What will change this? Nothing in our current system can.

This is not new. Anyone with even a vague grasp of U.S. history knows our own government has lied, stolen land, killed citizens without cause, approved the enslavement of human beings, engaged in the unprovoked invasion of other countries, etc. For all the darkness the Confederate battle flag represents, the Stars and Stripes has presided over far more brutality and inhumane conduct than the CSA standard did, and that's saying quite a bit.

The brutal fact is that governments lie, cheat, steal, plunder, enslave, murder their own citizens, murder the citizens of other nations, and enrich themselves. Washington's blog has a nice roundup of some recent examples of governments admitting they've engaged in false flag terrorism against their own citizens. He writes:

Forget the claims and allegations that false flag terror - governments attacking people and then blaming others in order to create animosity towards those blamed - has been used throughout history.
This essay will solely discuss government admissions to the use of the false flag terror.

It's worth reading the entire (and brief) roundup of examples, all linked to source material. If you have been living in denial about the nature of government—no shame in that, we all have at some point—I hope this will help remove those blinders.

The only hope, I truly believe, is decentralization. This boils down to one thing: secession. It makes sense. What has the Northeast, with its distinctive culture and way of life, to do with the Southwest? A shared language (to some extent), and little more. The Pacific Northwest has its own unique culture; it has little in common with that of the eastern Midwest states. And so on. Such movements are already established, and they are not exclusively of the Left or Right. Vermont's is perhaps as active as any. One of the most vocal advocates of Vermont's secession (and decentralization in general) is Kirkpatrick Sale, a historian I greatly admire. A speech he gave not so long ago on this very subject:

Also prominent in Vermont's movement: Dr. Thomas H. Naylor, a professor emeritus of economics at Duke University.

Secession can, and should, be peaceful. It should preserve the good relations that already exist between states and regions, while completely pulling the plug on the swamp of corruption that is Washington, D.C. Secession has an ugly reputation, thanks to the barbarism of slavery, but it needn't revisit that ugly past. To the contrary, African Americans would be better represented in a seceded South than they are at the federal level now. There is exactly one African American U.S. senator, and he was appointed. Only 9 percent of members of the U.S. Congress are African American. Meanwhile, African Americans represent significant numbers of state houses, city mayoral offices, etc. throughout the South. Those numbers represent power, and that power ensures that no retreat to the evil of the past can take place—not that any sane person would want such a thing.

So what form would a collection of smaller governments take in relation to one another? Perhaps a confederation, with defense responsibilities shared by the various states. Or not. The floor is open. The ideas can be debated, and a compromise struck, by appointed or elected (another issue to be debated) representatives to a confederated convention.

This is no panacea. It is, rather, a suggestion for a peaceful course for positive change for all of us.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Failing to love as God intends and commands

I am a failure at many things, but none so keenly hurts to think about as my failure to obey the Great Commandment: "But when the Pharisees heard that he had silenced the Sadducees, they gathered together. And one of them, a lawyer, asked him a question to test him. 'Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?' And he said to him, 'You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.'" (Matt. 22:34-40, ESV)

I am put in mind of this by a wonderful post/meditation by Andrew Mills, one of the writers who contributes at At his own blog, he writes:

Anton Szandor LaVey was the founder of the Church of Satan.  He said a lot of things.  And sometimes he stumbled onto some truth.  He once said, “You cannot love everyone; it is ridiculous to think you can. If you love everyone and everything you lose your natural powers of selection and wind up being a pretty poor judge of character and quality. If anything is used too freely it loses its true meaning.”  In a sense he was correct, and in a sense he was way off base.

When asked which of the laws were the most important, Jesus replied that the command to love God and love our neighbor are the two laws upon which all other laws are hung.  This is good news.  We are not bound by the crushing weight of the Law.  But it is also very bad news because Dr. LaVey was actually kind of right.  When we really get right down to it, we are utterly incapable of loving God with all our heart, soul, and mind as we are commanded.  And we are utterly incapable of loving our neighbor as ourselves.  That is where many of us skim over the words.  We see “Love God, love others” and then we sort-of mumble through that whole “with all your heart, soul, and mind” and “as yourself” part.  I can love my neighbor…but in the same way I love myself?
Mills had me hooked by leading off with a quote from LaVey, admittedly. I used to read LaVey with regularity, before my own conversion in April 2000. (Not that I immediately stopped reading him then, or swore off reading "such things" at that point; far from it. There are entire parts of the Satanic Bible that make good sense, in fact; much of it is simply a more direct, realistic form of humanism, but the "Satanic" part scares people off or attracts them, and LaVey was a master of generating publicity.) 

LaVey describes what humans mostly mean when they talk about "love." It's very selective. Even among us who claim to love more than what/whom most love, it is still selective. One need think of American politics for, oh, half a second to recognize the sweeping truth of that statement. We love whom we love, and we hate whom we hate, by our nature.
To that, Jesus says, "Not good enough. Not nearly good enough." His own words (from the "other" part of the Sermon on the Mount, post-Beatitudes): "You have heard that it was said, 'You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.' But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven. For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? And if you greet only your brothers, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect." (Matt. 5:43-48, ESV)

We are called to love relentlessly, as God does. Not selectively; relentlessly. We are, in fact, called to strive for perfection in love. Impossible, says any sane human being. Correct, says any other sane human being. But ... again, in His own words: "But Jesus looked at them and said, 'With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.'" (Matt. 19:26, ESV)

Mills goes more deeply into this, too:

The problem is not that I have so many units of love to give, and if I give a certain amount of it to one thing then there is none left for the rest.  The problem is confusing the types of love.  If I love my career in the way that I should love my wife it is a problem.  If I love long walks in the woods in the rain disproportionately to the way I love my son, there is a problem.  If I love anything in the way that I should love God, then there is a problem.  The problem is not supply of love, the problem is priority, proportion, and source.
As we said above, if I try to love things out of order, things get screwy.  If I try to love myself more than my neighbor, things go a bit haywire.  If I confuse “love” with “like” and try to force myself to feel amicably for everything and everyone around me (and worse, if I try to do it on my own steam), then things fall apart quickly.  I don’t know if he ever realized it, but what LaVey was revolting against in these statements was actually a corruption of the Truth about Love.  The smartest guy I know always says, “If the devil can’t get you to do something wrong, he’ll get you to do something right in the wrong way.”  If we can’t be persuaded into a miserable hatred of the world around us, then we can pretty easily be manipulated into a washed-out and ineffectual love that leads to resentment.  Or we can be persuaded that we just don’t have enough love to spare for everyone. (Emphasis mine)
Guilty. Very guilty, I am. There is my failure, my repeated failure, pretty much the continuum of my failure to love God. I often fall into misanthropy—the "miserable hatred of the world around us." I see unbridled injustice, wickedness on a grand scale, continual justification of the same, and .... the same tendencies within my unguarded heart. I fail, I fail, I fail, again and again. If even the slightest filament of my salvation depends on my performance, I am utterly doomed. So what can I do?

Cry out, again and again, confessing that I am what I am: a lowly sinner, made worthy only by the atonement of Jesus Christ and the grace of God, whose mysterious and overwhelming love never ceases to awe me. How on earth could God love someone as wicked as me? The same way He could love any of us wicked, wicked people, a love so great that He sent His only Son to die for our sins. Greater love hath no man. And that impossibly high standard is the end of our race, the goal we continually strive for, reaching where we have no power by the strength and inspiration of the Holy Spirit. It's the only way it could happen; because with God, all things are possible.

So, each moment—no matter how bad the last one was, no matter how miserably I failed—presents a new opportunity to cry out, to reach out, to pray, to love. And that, to me, is a miracle. I love the God of miracles.

Image ©

Monday, February 15, 2010

Branding and politics

Yes, the medium is the message. Nothing to do with actual policy, actual values, a system of values ... just style. And that's how we respond, as citizens—not to an idea, a principle, but to the smooth machinations of message masseurs and masseuses.

I was pointed to this site by Laird Wilcox, founder and curator of the Laird Wilcox Collection at the University of Kansas. Mr. Wilcox has built the nation's largest trove of extremist literature—dating back at least a century—for research use. His expertise on the subject of media/message makes his opinions on the subject invaluable to my eyes. With his permission, I am quoting from the e-mail comments he appended to the above link:

This is a great video, although it necessarily simplifies some things for the sake of brevity.  One thing he didn't get into is that different personality and character types respond differently to certain symbolic styles.  In this case, the Obama symbol has certain stereotypically feminine and collectivist characteristics (rounded, smooth, vaguely pastel) while the Bush symbol has masculine and individualistic features (strong, angular, high contrast).  "Branded" is a good term for this. 
In spite of the symbolism, Republican and Democrat are basically "brands" that mean relatively little.  Like "Dodge" and "Chevrolet" they are far, far more alike than different, but the differences are crucial to the brand loyalists.  The key to the future is to think outside the conventional brands and construct something that more directly addresses the problems we face. 
Both political parties are so compromised by special interests, bureaucratic staff constraints, media pressure and conventional prejudices that making major changes in direction is nearly impossible.  Outsourcing of jobs and manufacturing has been an unmitigated disaster, for example, but the pressure on both democrats and republicans to resist significant alterations to this arrangement is overwhelming.  Only an independent movement outside of the two-party system can change it. 

I agree completely with his comments.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

The Congressional Hack Caucus

Solid New York Times investigation into the oh-so-high-minded Congressional Black Caucus, the Democratic Party (de facto) bloc of political movers and shakers. Seems the high-mindedness ends where the money trail begins:

In 2008, the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation spent more on the caterer for its signature legislative dinner and conference — nearly $700,000 for an event one organizer called “Hollywood on the Potomac” — than it gave out in scholarships, federal tax records show.
At the galas, lobbyists and executives who give to caucus charities get to mingle with lawmakers. They also get seats on committees the caucus has set up to help members of Congress decide what positions to take on the issues of the day. Indeed, the nonprofit groups and the political wing are so deeply connected it is sometimes hard to tell where one ends and the other begins.
Even as it has used its status as a civil rights organization to become a fund-raising power in Washington, the caucus has had to fend off criticism of ties to companies whose business is seen by some as detrimental to its black constituents.
These include cigarette companies, Internet poker operators, beer brewers and the rent-to-own industry, which has become a particular focus of consumer advocates for its practice of charging high monthly fees for appliances, televisions and computers.

Of course, caucus members swear the money doesn't influence their positions or votes. If only:

But caucus members have attracted increasing scrutiny from ethics investigators. All eight open House investigations involve caucus members, and most center on accusations of improper ties to private businesses.
And an examination by The Times shows what can happen when companies offer financial support to caucus members.
For instance, Representative Danny K. Davis, Democrat of Illinois, once backed legislation that would have severely curtailed the rent-to-own industry, criticized in urban districts like his on the West Side of Chicago. But Mr. Davis last year co-sponsored legislation supported by the stores after they led a well-financed campaign to sway the caucus, including a promise to provide computers to a jobs program in Chicago named for him. He denies any connection between the industry’s generosity and his shift.
Wow, a Chicago politician whose vote is for sale? Say it ain't so! The stench has gotten bad even by Washington's subterranean standards for, er, "ethical behavior":

But caucus members have attracted increasing scrutiny from ethics investigators. All eight open House investigations involve caucus members, and most center on accusations of improper ties to private businesses.

Of course, the GOP doesn't even bother with the high-mindedness. Republicans happily sell their votes to the highest bidders. What continues to amuse and disgust me is that members of both parties continue to blithely ignore the crave money-grubbing of their elected leaders, the craven corruption of their elected leaders, and their own craven greed in keeping their hands held out for more money from other people.

It will always be true: We get exactly the government we deserve, and we prove it every November.

Secular saints, brutal truths

At the behest of our Beltway betters, we Americans tend to lionize some of our leaders no matter their actual merit, based largely on myth. Certainly, one of the most canonized of our politicians is our sixteenth president, Abraham Lincoln, whose presidency was one of the worst (if not the worst) for individual liberties. Joseph Sobran touches on this in his recent column for Chronicles magazine:

Though Lincoln was largely right about slavery, he was wrong about secession—a separate question, as most Northerners once understood.  During his war, millions of Northerners who opposed slavery also recognized the right of a sovereign state to secede from the Union.  This led Lincoln to crack down on dissent, closing down hundreds of newspapers (many permanently) and having a few thousand war critics arrested.  His excellent biographer David Herbert Donald calls his presidency the worst period for individual liberties in American history.

Lincoln's hagiographers typically point to the extremes of the times in justifying Lincoln's behavior, as though the Constitution were no more than a guide for times of relative peace and prosperity, rather than a binding document that limits the scope of federal government. (Some of these same people hypocritically express outrage when a politician they don't approve of does the same to less of a degree; witness the opprobrium visited upon Pres. Obama's predecessor.) Nowadays, even to bring any of this up is to flirt with charges of racism, just as mentioning any of Martin Luther King Jr.'s obvious, well-documented shortcomings (plagiarism, his predilection for prostitutes in spite of being married and a minister) will earn one the same descriptive. Indeed, Lincoln was hardly a friend to "Africans" (as he called the slaves):

Lincoln, we should also remember, was a passionate segregationist, a fact Krannawitter barely touches on, though it might interest our new President to know that the Great Emancipator’s preferred solution was to abolish slavery and to remove all “free colored persons” from the United States. In 1862 he proposed an amendment that would authorize Congress to pay for this huge project. “I cannot make it better known than it already is,” he wrote in his State of the Union Message to Congress, “that I strongly favor colonization.” Nor was this a sudden enthusiasm; he had been arguing for it since the early 1850’s. As President, Lincoln did in fact create colonies for black freedmen in Haiti and what is now Panama, giving up on the cause only when these fizzled out. Very few blacks were attracted to such schemes; the United States was the only homeland most blacks had ever known, and it was naive—indeed, utopian—to think they could easily leave it and adapt to Africa.

So why does this matter now? I speak here as a white Southern male: the rest of the country HATES us to this day. I have run into this time and again; the legacy of the Civil War is still with us (and it's most evident in those who are the first to cry, "The war is over!" in one breath and then trot out the usual stereotypes about Southern Americans in the next). Fine; so be it. The legacy of slavery is still very much with us all; one need only note that there is never any significant change in white-black race relations in this country, as the dance between heirs of racism and heirs of victimhood continues apace.

That is also true, although always hushed in favor of the brutality of slavery, of the extermination of Native Americans. This legacy is still very much with us, too, but it is quiet, indeed. Like it or not, we mostly live on stolen land, on crushed lives. Yet the line to make recompense—to, er, give the land back—would be a very short one, indeed. One wonders why there has still been no (ultimately empty) apology from Congress, as with the slavery apology from last year? Or the 1848 assault on Mexico (along with a promise to, what, give the proposed "Reconquista" back to Mexico? How many liberals in the Southwest would be ready to give up their homes so Mexico could reclaim that land? Again, I'm guessing that's a short line.

I read an interesting book a few years back—a survivalist, small-press-run book titled Civil War 2 by Thomas Chittum. Chittum's simple point was this: Multi-ethnic empires, such as ours, cannot last. They break up from within, as old wounds never heal, new identity group pressures emerge, on and on. The opening line of the book always stuck with me: "America was born in blood, bathed in blood, and will die in blood." I believe it's true. Because for all our fine language and furious efforts to dress up our intentions as something noble, they are, at the end of the day, about protecting our own, no matter how it came to be our own.

The simple fact of the matter is that human nature is tribal. We identify with our own. Oh, we mouth platitudes about reaching out across the lines of race and culture, about integrating our social places, etc. But what about our neighborhoods? Ever hear of well-heeled liberal whites moving into poor black neighborhoods in order to extend the arms of brotherhood, or do the realities of poverty, crime and poor school districts magically prevent that from happening?

I am pointing no fingers at anyone here that I don't also point at myself. I am that evil, too. I pray to the Holy God of heaven that He will continue to change me, to make me the lover of all humans as He commands. I can't do it on my own, I know for certain. My heart is too dark, too stained with sin. I fear the others. Hell, I hate the others. And I fear and hate myself, all the same.

Who can change me? Who can overcome the evil man that I am? It took a crucifixion to get there, and worse, a great chalice of righteous wrath—God's wrath—poured out on the Lamb's soul. The Beloved had to pay what I will always be far too poor to pay. For this, for the ways He continues to love me thusly by working my salvation outward from within me, and for reasons that to this day exceed my feeble attempts to name them, I love Him and glorify Him this morning.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Jeff Buckley

Another musician I love, also covering—here, Leonard Cohen's amazing song, "Hallelujah." (Several good versions of this, including Leonard's original and K.D. Lang's heart-rending performance.) I love the delicacy of Buckley's rendering:

Like Johnny Cash, Jeff Buckley is gone. He left us way, way too soon. I miss him.

Johnny Cash

Here he covers the great Trent Reznor (Nine Inch Nails) song, "Hurt."

"I wear this crown of thorns upon my liar's chair
Full of broken thoughts I cannot repair ..."

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Grinding on and on ...

May I die before I explode. There is great violence in me. I have no idea what to do with it. I am a bent, broken, twisted hulk of wreckage, come bounding down the road toward innocent bystanders. I understand the man who kills in anger. I understand the man who commits violent suicide in public.

It's the right way to say FUCK YOU ALL to the whole world. And there is nothing else to do.

I know these things are completely wrong and utterly immoral, but I understand the rage. It does not let go. It swallows me whole. It just keeps demanding more, taking more, leaving me dry and shattered.

I just want not to exist. Just to be gone. I know this is wrong, but it is the only thing I want.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Once again, the Southern Avenger nails it ...

I can add nothing to his thoughts on the "Tea Party," Sarah Palin, etc. Spot on, on all counts.

I am completely removed from both sides of the endless (and endlessly pointless) debate between the two "major parties." Both sides love massive government, both sides have no idea how they're going to pay for it, so they kick the bomb down the road for their children and grandchildren to deal with its detonation. I am convinced that we get exactly the government we deserve—nothing more, nothing less.

Monday, February 1, 2010

One moment, then the next; one day, then the next

There is something to surviving from one moment to the next, particularly since that's not guaranteed for anyone. Death is always near; life is short. Whether getting through a moment, or even a day, is good or bad, I don't know; I've thought about it from many angles, evaluating whether my life is worthwhile on different scales, and found myself wanting when weighed in the balance. No surprise there. But still, there is the instinct to survive, and I guess that's wet-wired into the DNA.

Since I exist, basically, to pass on DNA (which I have not done, and for which I deserve some credit, I guess, since humans seem to cause nothing but sorrow and misery for other humans and all other life on this planet), I see little value to what Camus saw in The Myth of Sisyphus—the value of pushing the rock that much further, of experiencing anew the weight and feel of the rock, even though I know it will roll back down again, and I'll have to go down there and start pushing again, only to have it roll back down ... It's never done. It's futility defined. I suppose it's too Camus' credit that he could see Sisyphus happy in this fate; I cannot. My failure, I suppose. But futility it is.

Which is human life. Solomon wrote about this:

All things are full of weariness;
   a man cannot utter it;
the eye is not satisfied with seeing,
   nor the ear filled with hearing.
What has been is what will be,
   and what has been done is what will be done,
   and there is nothing new under the sun. —Ecclesiastes 1:8-9 (ESV)

Weariness, indeed. Life wears itself down. Life contains its own death, as surely as the seed dies and the tree it gives birth to, in death, also dies. It all comes to a merciful end.

I am conflicted here, too. I long for an end to this seemingly endless spell of depression, and yet I know that the end I long for is the end of much more than how I feel right now. It is so utterly unimaginable to me that life could possibly be any better than this, and yet it was, not so long ago.

Or is that just how I want to remember it? My mind plays tricks. I imagine things different as I construct memories sometimes, without knowing it. Reality check can come when others share memories of the same events, and they differ in details or even meaning from mine. I don't trust my own (unless it's negative), so I trust theirs.

As the snow came over the weekend, I found a kind of solace in the midst of all this. I long to be covered in the snow, to feel it just blow over me and hide me, wipe out all sight and hint of me. Not to be, of course, but the thought was sweet. I slept, hours and hours. Just slept. Sleep was close enough.