Monday, May 30, 2016

Always Remembering Memorial Day

From five years ago, Remembering Memorial Day:

American war dead, Flanders Field, Belgium
Memorial Day... it is enough to remember today those who have fallen in defense of our nation. But it's not all we can do, for them or for us, and to leave it there, I think, deprives them, and you, of an important part of what they died for. It seems to me that you can remember them even more completely if you will remember what it was that they gave their lives in defence of. If you remember why it was that their lives came to be remembered on this day, then you can in some sense repay them and also deepen your own position in your own life.

Do you remember what Memorial Day was designated for you to remember? It has changed over the years, but it began as 'Decoration Day', back in 1868, on May 30th, a day chosen because it didn't mark the anniversary of any battle - an important point - as a day to officially mark, what people had unofficially been doing across the land on their own for some while, decorating the many, many graves of those who had 'died in the late rebellion'. After WWI, when many more graves were dug, the day was changed to Memorial Day to remember all of those who have died in service of their country, in all of its wars.

But what does it mean to remember? What can it do? Remember... the members of our lives who were lost can never be re-membered... those who are gone are gone forever, but in the service of... what? Why did they give their lives? Why decorate the graves of soldiers, those who have gone before their time, lives which were violently lost... why? Family and friends will remember their fallen family and friends, they have no need of a national holiday to do that, there is no use for you who they do not know to pretend to remember those you never knew - but that is not what we pause this day to remember.

What did their untimely deaths have to do with your life here and now?

Does their death have any relevance to your life? Asking another question might put us closer to the trail, what relevance can your life have to your nation without remembering why they lost theirs?

Memorial Day is a day of remembrance for those who gave their lives, the 'last full measure of devotion' in the service of the United States of America, but not just to their homeland - any country can do that, and they do - nothing exceptional there.

But we are an exceptional nation, and simple remembrance will not do, because simply defending their homeland is not what they did or why they did it.

Why did they do it? What did it mean?

Maybe it'll help by looking at it from the perspective of the Oath which led them into the military life which put their own lives at risk for yours,

"I, (NAME), do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; and that I will obey the orders of the President of the United States and the orders of the officers appointed over me, according to regulations and the Uniform Code of Military Justice. So help me God."

That is what they risked and lost their lives for, was it worth it? Do you grant their lost lives a value in yours? And that is the heart of it isn't it? Does the life they lost have value in yours?

Well, if you can say the words "your life", as something you live, something which you value and have some measure of control over, then yes, their lives were lost in service of your being able to think of your life as yours, and that - that is something which should cause you a spasmed breath, one abruptly caught in your chest in reverence and awe... that another's last breath was let go as 'darkness veiled his eyes' not just so that you could draw your previous, current and next breath as you wish, but so you could do so in a state of liberty.

Now I think we're getting closer to re-membering them and memorializing their life, through yours. Let's chase that a little further.

What does it take to say 'your life'? What does it take to live your life? What must you do, absent simply having others take care of you, what must you do to live? First off, you must use your head, you must think... but just thinking isn't enough to continue living, after all, you could very well choose to think that by imagining very clearly and distinctly that your shoe would become a salmon if you declare it so, but such thinking would do nothing to advance your life. For your thinking to benefit your life, it must be productive, and to do that it must reflect reality... your life will continue on only if at least some of your ideas help you to transform the reality you face on a daily basis into those materials and conditions which benefit your life... food, shelter, etc, IOW 'nature, to be commanded, must be obeyed'.

For your life, to be lived, you must be free to think, for your thoughts to benefit your life you must see to it that they respect reality - cherish truth -  for your freedom of thought to be anything other than a mockery, you must be free to put them into action, and again, for your thoughts and your actions to be a benefit to you, rather than a mockery, you must be free to retain and use that which your thoughts and actions have produced, and what they produce is called property.

Today, for the lives we remember having been lost, to have meaning and value to us, your life must be able to be lived in the spirit which they gave their own lives up for, that of liberty; the liberty to live your life in the pursuit of happiness in your life.

Those we memorialize today gave their last full measure of devotion in service of the document which makes that possible, the Constitution of the United States of America, a document which outlines the ideas necessary for ensuring your ability to live your life, in liberty and pursuing happiness. They gave their life for the ideas which best reflect the reality of life and the requirements of man living in liberty so that in his life, if he applies his thoughts to actions which serve to produce the materials he needs, that will enable you to live your life and pursue the happiness you seek in life, secure in that property which you expend the actions of your life in producing.

The Constitution was designed to do just that. It was worth fighting and risking death for, because it was seen as the means to securing a life worth living for, for themselves, their families, and their posterity - you.

The Constitution, was designed with a profound understanding of human nature in mind, and was structured in such a way as to give voice to the major perspectives of life so that:
  • - the people at large, concerned in the issues of the moment, shall have a voice in the House of Representatives
  • - the states shall have a voice through those people who have lived successful will have a perspective favorable for preserving everyones property through their voice in the Senate
  • - these two perspectives shall be combined to use create legislation operating for the benefit of the people, within certain enumerated powers
  • - when both houses agree upon laws, the nation has a voice in the President as chief executive, to reject or sign legislation into law and see to it that the laws of the land are faithfully executed
  • - the law itself has a voice in the Judicial branch which is concerned that laws are applied justly to the people in whose name they were written
These branches are structured in such a way, utilizing the famous checks and balances, so as to have just enough interest in the other branches as to wish to see them function well, as well as to wish to preserve their own branches from becoming slighted and unbalanced.

The founders knew well that most states fall into ruin not under promises of harm but under promises to better the conditions of one group or another for the betterment of all. And so our system is designed to keep each branches desires to 'do good' in check, by the other branches benefit as well, and that none gains power over the others - each must see 'their point' of the other and work together, securing a state that enables you to live your life in pursuit of happiness.

But the people who ratified the constitution didn't think that the original document, which united government into balanced cooperation, was enough to secure the liberty and freedom of the governed, and so they insisted that it also specifically uphold and defend a few key rights, Rights which long experience as Englishmen... and then as Americans deprived of those rights, knew would be required to prevent a new tyrant from turning their government against their liberty 'for their own good'. They demanded the Constitution be amended to secure the peoples liberty to live their own lives, secure in their property and associations and activities which seemed to them to best hold the promise of pursuing happiness through, and that produced the Bill of Rights.

This foundation of government was and is an ordering of ideas, designed to enable each persons actions the liberty to act and secure their property without violating others rights in pursuit of the same, so that each person can have the incredible gift of being able to live their own lives as they see fit.

This is the Constitution which was, and still is, worth fighting for, and risking dying for, because it makes possible the kind of life worth living, lives in which each person might choose to pursue; and the idea of living in service to that, of making not only your own, but others lives livable... is a glorious pursuit, and those in the military who offered up their life in service of it... they are truly worth our pausing on at least one day a year, in solemn remembrance of the life they offered up to make your life a possibility.

Remember them, thank them, and with them in mind demand the liberty to live your life secured under, and securing, those laws which they gave up their life defending, do that, and you will truly be memorializing their lives and making their sacrifice worthwhile.

In 1915, inspired by the poem "In Flanders Fields, Moina Michael replied with her own poem for Memorial Day:
We cherish too, the Poppy red
 That grows on fields where valor led,
 It seems to signal to the skies
 That blood of heroes never dies.

In Flanders Fields John McCrae, 1915.
 In Flanders fields the poppies blow
 Between the crosses, row on row
 That mark our place; and in the sky
 The larks, still bravely singing, fly
 Scarce heard amid the guns below.
 We are the Dead. Short days ago
 We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
 Loved and were loved, and now we lie
 In Flanders fields.
Take up our quarrel with the foe:

To you from failing hands we throw
 The torch; be yours to hold it high.
 If ye break faith with us who die
 We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
 In Flanders fields.

Wednesday, May 04, 2016

The bitterest losses are those handed to you by your fellow supporters.

Blame is a tricky thing to assign in an election, and most of the substantial reasons for the difficulties of this election, I went over in a previous post. But there's no doubt that one key reason for why Cruz lost this one, was the inability of his supporters to convert those who weren't inclined towards him, to him. And one of the key reasons I've seen for that, and tried to warn against from early last summer on, was the ineffective and counterproductive obsession that many of his supporters had, to either begin their every comment with, or give prominent place to, an insult to those that they should have been trying to persuade.

So come on all of you out there (many of you Rubio supporters too, you know who you are) who've so enthusiastically enjoyed your memeing and shouting of 'Drumpf!', 'Stupid!', 'Cultist!', take a look at Cruz's loss and withdrawal from the race, and take the bow for it that you so richly deserve.

I'll do my best not to be bitter about it.

No promises.

Tuesday, May 03, 2016

It's time to vote - Why? The Primary reason for Voting

It's time for a number of states to vote again, and so it's time to ask the question that few seem to give much thought to - Why Vote?

If any of the following reasons, are the fundamental reasons for who you're voting for, then you're voting for the fundamentally wrong reasons:
  • Voting for your political party - wrong!
  • Voting for who you think can win 'the' election (primary or general) - wrong!
  • Voting for who you think is the most [intelligent or principled or effective or conservative or ___] candidate - wrong!
Nope. No. Huh-uh, wrong, all wrong. Sorry, but although those may be factors, when taken as reasons for voting, they are amongst the key reasons for why we are in the mess that we're in today.

So why should we vote?

For that one reason which does not change from election to election, from year to year or from crisis to crisis, for that reason that does not change as candidates come and go, or even as political parties rise up and fade away - it doesn't even matter if we're talking about a popular vote or the voting by delegates. Through it all there is one thing that is constant and remains the same, and that is that the office which the candidate is being elected to, is there to serve a defined purpose for your (Ward, Assembly, City, County, State, Nation), and the fulfillment of that purpose, in as most favorable a fashion as is possible, is why you cast your vote.

That's it. Candidates are merely a means to that end.

If you're voting for any other reason, then every vote you cast is miscast, and can, in some sense, even be a harmful one. It can also be harmful if you fail to distinguish between the purpose of a primary (and oh my is there ever a lot more to say about those, in an upcoming post), and that of the general election.
  • In the Primary election, you cast your vote in order to fill that office with the candidate that is, in your judgment, best able to fulfill its purposes, and will most responsibly utilize the powers of that office.
  • In the General election, you are voting on how that office, and its powers, will be occupied and utilized.
If that difference isn't clear, in the General election, you are no longer dealing with your personal wish lists, but with reality; not your preferences for it, but the actuality that will follow from the results of that election. In the general election, it is incumbent upon you, as a citizen,  to give full and careful consideration to the matter of who that office will be occupied by,  as a result of that election, rather than as another means of giving vent to your personal feelings about the options remaining for you to choose from.

And given that the purpose which that office fulfills, is the reason for your voting, then in all elections,  you should be looking at what that office's purpose is, and at the powers it entails,  and only then at how well, or ill, a particular candidate might be able to fulfill it. Since for most of us the most recent election just passed, or held today, or coming up soon, is a primary election for determining your political party's candidate in the general election for President of the United States of America, lets start with the oath of office that the winner of the general election will take, and the oath of office, says:
"I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will faithfully execute the Office of President of the United States, and will to the best of my Ability, preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States."
, which, it seems to me, means that in order to judge whether a candidate is a good candidate for executing the duties of the office, they, and you, ought to be familiar with what the duties of that office are, right? And to do that... you might want to bone up on the rest of Article 2, beginning with Section 1, Clause 1... not to mention the rest of the constitution too, of course.

Spoiler Alert: The Constitution doesn't say anything about health care insurance, student loans, making America great again, who can marry who, building fences, minimum wage, or much else about what is being talked about in this election cycle. No, it pretty much sticks to limiting govt to its defined powers (see Article 1, Section 8 (clauses 1-18), the roles of the Commander in Chief, and defending the constitution by passing no laws that violate its laws or infringe upon our individual rights, especially those noted in the Bill of Rights.

Just sayin'.

Although if you'd like to broaden that view somewhat beyond the oath of office, you could do worse than following the admonition that Congress used to issue to territories that were petitioning to be admitted to the union as states, that they should order themselves so that they,
"... when formed, shall be republican, and not repugnant to the constitution of the United States, and the principles of the Declaration of Independence..."
Meaning that, in considering whether or not the office of the President of the United States will be faithfully executed, shouldn't a part of your consideration involve taking into account how that candidate might further those principles, or be repugnant to them? And what is your responsibility in the matter?

And what if none of the available candidates shows an understanding and commitment to the principles of the Declaration and the Constitution... or to the Rule of Law, or towards Liberty itself? What then? Do you stay home? Vote for a negligible candidate? Write in someone else's name?

In the Primary, where selecting the candidate that is, in your judgment, the best for executing the duties, responsibilities and powers of that office... you could make a case for those options, but what about in the actual election, where it is not about your preferences, but about the actuality of how that office will be occupied? Can you then legitimately consider staying home? Voting for a negligible candidate? Writing in someones name?

Leaving aside whatever strange stroking that might give to your own ego and vanity, ask yourself this: Will such a 'vote' contribute anything towards how the principles of the Declaration, the Constitution, and our liberty, might be employed, or abused, through that office, or to the benefits or damages that will result because of who succeeds in entering the office?

I'm gonna go out on a limb and say... no. Not at all, and you're blowing smoke up your own butt if you think it does.

Why do I say that?

Well, if this were a card game, or maybe a game of monopoly, and you noticed that one or more of your fellow players were cheating, you could, in good conscience, leave the game and refuse to play along, right? Why? Because you can leave the game!

You cannot, however, short of leaving the country, leave 'the game' of a Presidential election, or its effects on you, on your fellows, or on your position and responsibilities as a citizen. You are encompassed by it. You cannot opt out, while remaining within the nation's geographical boundaries. Pretending as if you can, is not only a sophistic pretense more worthy of petulant children than responsible adults, but worse, it cannot fail to aid that office holder who will do the most damage to the nation through that office... which you made no meaningful effort to oppose their being elected to.

Oh, sorry, what's that? Are you saying:
  • 'At least I'm not helping XXX candidate!' I'd never violate my principles to do that!'?
Are you not listening?

#1, you do not, Should NOT, ever, in any meaningful way, VOTE FOR a Candidate! Not for any Candidate!

We should only elect candidates for the purposes of executing the duties of that office as effectively as possible, in order to fulfill its purpose as defined by our laws. Yes, the office will be filled by a person, but they aren't the purpose of your vote, it is - candidates are but a necessary means to that end.

Note: Casting your vote for that candidate which you judge will best execute the duties of that office, or bring about the least harm through it, is not the same as voting for a candidate - it involves putting your focus on the office, rather than on the officeholder.

Voting primarily for a candidate, or a party, or even a pet litmus issue, is a short cut to disaster. Why?

Because Voting for a candidate, immediately and necessarily means that rather than focusing primarily upon the purposes of the office and the principles and policies best suited to executing its duties, your focus would instead be upon personalities - both theirs and yours. And if you let yourself get sucked into voting for candidates, becoming personally invested in them, then you are prone to being blinded by your passions for them, and you will almost inevitably be sucked into defending that individual person or party, or issue, rather than upon the purposes of that office, and the quality of the principles and policies which the officeholder will support, and - see if this sounds familiar this year - you will be drawn into petty disagreements and arguments and fights that have very little, if anything to do with those purposes which your vote is intended to serve, such as, oh, I dunno, things like "... you know what they say about small hands...", or "...their face annoys me...", or "... he's a little liar...", etc., comes readily to mind for some reason.

And if you focus upon the candidates personally, then you might even wind up saying incredibly poorly thought out statements such as: "I'll NEVER vote for ___! They're a ____ Scumbag! Hashtag #NeverTrump, #NeverCruz, #NeverKasich", even at the cost of putting a potentially worse candidate (hello Hillary or Bernie) in that office, who very may well be committed to horrendously more destructive purposes, principles and policies those candidates you are so upset at, which would that office, and its powers, upon the entire nation.

Choosing not to vote, or casting your vote in a manner that can have no impact on who the winner will actually be, are actions that make it more likely that the greater evil will win - that is what it means to choose the lesser of two evils.

Never choose the lesser of two evils! Don't Do That! Don't be that guy!

Instead, being mindful of the principles of the Declaration of Independence, and the Constitution, and the Liberty of We The People which our laws derive their just powers from, and being mindful of the Power which the resulting holder of that office will have over all of those, and all of us, due to their being elected to that office, you must cast your vote where it will best advance, or most thwart the greatest threat, to them.  Nothing less can provide any service to any of them, at all!

Being Principled doesn't mean being destructive
If one of the candidates poses a more immanent threat to our liberty than the other, then it is your duty as a member of the republic (not of a Party, but of the Republic) to oppose them with as much power as you have available - and assuming that you stand for the Rule of Law over mob violence, that means voting, and it also means that staying home or writing in a useless name as a 'protest vote', can and will do nothing to thwart the greater threat to our republic, and there is no excuse for that.

Please, don't give me any crap about your being too 'principled' to vote for XYZ candidate, if they, and not your guy, win your primary! Hogwash!

Principles by their very nature require you to be mindful of the bigger picture, focusing on the whole, and not obsessing myopically on a particular part. By failing to take into account the primary purpose of your actions - you are not demonstrating that you have a sound conception of what principles even are, let alone what they are for. That is Not making a principled stand, and that is Not making a stand for Liberty - it is deserting it in its greatest hour of need (and probably because of your feelings for a candidate... am I right?).

Principles are not ends in themselves.

Principles are not substitutes for thinking.

Principles are guides for thinking well, they are a means to, not the ends of, principled thought.

Principles are what virtue and experience have shown to be reliable guides to wiser thought and actions - what do you suppose qualifies as 'wiser' thinking? Thinking that primarily strokes your ego and polishes your vanity, doesn't, I'd hope, qualify, does it? Principled thinking - what was once commonly known as Prudence, practical wisdom, means guiding your thoughts along principled paths, towards sound, long-range actions, ensuring that the best outcomes are most likely to be achieved. But if you are aiming your thoughts and actions at no further point than the guides to those actions, such shortsightedness cannot be wise, and they cannot be described as acting in a principled manner.

To focus upon you guides themselves, as if they were your ends, is but another form of the ends justifying the means - and isn't that what a principled person most recoils from?!

Employing Prudence in the voting booth, requires focusing upon the long-range intentions and effects which the office being voted upon will be turned towards; what will be brought about through that office, is what your choice in the voting booth should reflect and be striving towards. It is not about stroking your own vanity, but about giving as much aid as you're able to give, to, in the case of either the primary or general election for the President of the United States of America, the preservation of the constitution and our republic for which it stands; if you don't understand that that is the wisest course of action to aim towards, or that you'd prefer to allow your own shortsighted pride to take precedence over such considerations, then you are, politically speaking, no matter how many doctoral degrees you might have behind your name, an uneducated rube.

Are you voting for a candidate who is knowingly, avowedly, serving Socialist, Communist, Marxist and/or 'Progressive' aims?
If so, then you are voting in direct opposition to our Constitution and to the principles of the Declaration of Independence, and it is a self evident fact that you and I have little at all in common philosophically or politically; that you are in pursuit of regressing our nation, friends and family, towards a land that will be ruled over by those who are primarily in pursuit of power, and that you would prefer to give them power over your own choices, than to suffer making them yourself, that you would rather be ruled over, than to rule over your own life; that you are willing to subject others to that same fate, because you fear having responsibility for your own life. You, like some of my friends and family, may very well be a nice person in most respects, but, IMHO, the state of your political thought is a putrid wasteland. You are voting for regress, you are avowedly pro-regressive, and advancing towards what is evil - may God have mercy on your soul.

Are you still abstaining from voting because you refuse to choose the lesser of two evils?
You should Never, EVER vote for the lesser of two evils. You should either cast your vote in service to that which is the greater Good (qualitatively speaking, not in the quantitative or utilitarian sense), or in opposition to the worst evil - that is all. If you are unsure why, take a few moments to think about the meaning and implications of the word 'evil'.

Will your vote aid the best, or thwart the worst, use of the office of the President Of The United States? Or not?

Worst of all, refusing to vote for either, means deserting the field and letting that greater evil advance unopposed - deliberate passivity in the face of evil, is evil. Choosing not to vote, is choosing the lesser of two evils. Choosing to cast your vote for an avowed leftist, rather than a flawed or even foul candidate from the right (and if you find the two comparable, you need to examine your premises), is choosing the greater of two evils.

If there is not someone in the race representative of what you can comfortably vote for - one which will best serve the office's purposes through appropriate principles and policies - then you must cast your vote for that candidate that will best serve as opposition to the Greater Evil - not for the person, not for the candidate, not for the party, but with an awareness of those ideas and policies they will be brought to that office if you don't oppose them - meaning once again, though from a slightly different perspective, that you Do Not choose the lesser of two evils, instead you consciously, with full awareness and consideration for how that office will be employed, you use your vote to pit the lesser evil, against the greater evil, but you should never, ever, cast your vote for an evil.

Anything less, is so much less than zero.