Saturday, August 27, 2016

Saxons

It was not part of their blood,
It came to them very late,
With long arrears to make good,
When the Saxon began to hate.

They were not easily moved,
They were icy — willing to wait
Till every count should be proved,
Ere the Saxon began to hate.

Their voices were even and low.
Their eyes were level and straight.
There was neither sign nor show
When the Saxon began to hate.

It was not preached to the crowd.
It was not taught by the state.
No man spoke it aloud
When the Saxon began to hate.

It was not suddenly bred.
It will not swiftly abate.
Through the chilled years ahead,
When Time shall count from the date
That the Saxon began to hate.

-- Rudyard Kipling --

     It would seem at this time that campaigns of condemnation amounting to outright hatred have become “ho hum,” “just one of those things,” and “nothing to write home about.” This is especially the case when the target of such a campaign can be associated with some behavior, attitude, or concept that the public has been exhorted to hate. And there are more such campaigns, whether organized or not, than ever before in American history.

     Remarkable, eh? It calls an old Tom Lehrer song to mind:

     Of course, there are more “behaviors, attitudes, and concepts to hate” being urged upon us today than ever before, too. I’m on the negative end of many of them, so I’m more than merely aware of the vilification being heaped upon them (and me).

     Make no mistake about it: If you hold to certain beliefs, many of which are well supported by evidence, there’s a significant body of people who: 1) hate you for it, and: 2) encourage others to hate you as well. Moreover, their hatred is fundamentally insincere. They don’t hate you out of the true, visceral perception of a profound moral wrong willingly embraced. They “hate” you and exhort others to do so because they hope to get something that way, usually through the political system.

     Welcome to the age of strategic hatred.


     John Hinderaker of PowerLine has a few words for us about the fomenting of hatred:

     I don’t think we have said much about Hillary Clinton’s speech in which she denounced Donald Trump as a racist of the “alt-right,” thereby confusing, no doubt, most of her audience. Much could be said about Hillary’s smears–a Republican racist running for president? Not again!–but I want to comment on just one aspect of it: her claim that “the billionaire businessman’s campaign [is] one that will ‘make America hate again.'”

     My question is: where has Hillary been for the last eight years? Has she failed to notice that she was part of an administration that went a long way toward making America hate again? Her boss, Barack Obama, deliberately fomented racial conflict for the purpose of political gain.

     Indeed. Yet Barack Hussein Obama wasn’t the originator of strategic hatred; he saw that it had been used effectively by the Left and by various left-leaning special interests, and adopted it for his own. He put it to use to excite racial hatred – specifically hatred among blacks toward whites – perhaps hoping that it would solidify his grip on power and cow the Republican opposition into acquiescing to his policies.

     But in social systems as in mechanical systems, action will always be met by reaction. The rise of racial animosity among blacks toward whites has evoked an equal but opposite feeling among whites toward blacks. As American whites are six to seven times as numerous as American blacks, this is not a lever that favors black aspirations, regardless of their nature.

     If we look at the illegal-immigration problem through this lens, the same sort of picture appears. Hispanic populations in California and the Southwest have become ever more militant and demanding. The majority of that demographic is in this country illegally. The more aggressively quarrelsome it becomes, the greater the reaction against it among American whites.

     Focus your attention on any identifiable group – feminists, homosexuals, Muslims, Bernie Sanders-style social fascists, or left-liberals generally – and the picture is essentially the same: those that have promoted the hatred of persons outside their group have elicited reactive hatred in equal measure. They should fear the probable consequences. However, most are either too arrogant or too stupid to do so.


     We come now to the nascent coalescence of those reactive hatreds: what’s been called the Alt-Right. Theodore “Vox Day” Beale has prepared a sort of bullet-point definition of this agglomeration. After his sixteen individual theses, he says:

     The Alt Right is a Western ideology that believes in science, history, reality, and the right of a genetic nation to exist and govern itself in its own interests.

     I have no doubt that whether or not he believes that summary to be an accurate characterization of the Alt-Right, Beale sincerely wants it to be so. Unfortunately, at this time that’s not the case. Many persons – possibly the majority – who’ve adopted the Alt-Right label are moved by a reactive animosity toward a single group they perceive to have targeted them or their priorities. Mind you, those folks might be absolutely correct about having been so targeted. That doesn’t mean that they subscribe to the broader list of convictions Beale has enumerated.

     Because the Alt-Right is at this time mostly a notion being entertained by writers and commentators, it’s easily put to use by propagandists for purposes of their own. Under this video on the subject there’s a brief statement that many who might otherwise find “Alt-Right” a suitable label for their convictions would reject:

     Equality is bullshit. Hierarchy is essential. The races are different. The sexes are different. Morality matters and degeneracy is real. All cultures are not equal and we are not obligated to think they are. Man is a fallen creature and there is more to life than hollow materialism. Finally, the white race matters, and civilisation is precious. This is the Alt-Right.

     Mind you, I agree with that statement. However, tone matters, and the tone thereof is belligerent, off-putting to many. Worse, the video nods to a kind of neo-anti-Semitism:

     Unjust, untrue, and deplorable – yet it was probably inevitable. The Jews have been scapegoated for centuries, both in Europe and here in America. Yet no people anywhere more passionately desires to be left in peace. Their “influence” arises from being above-average achievers, especially in scholarship and commerce...things a decent person can only admire.

     But when “the Saxon” begins to hate, he tends to lose a portion of his power to discriminate fairly. Old resentments, including some that were and are utterly unjust, will be lumped in with the newer ones.


     The next few months will surely see further discussion and polemics about this subject. It will be critical to remain critical: i.e., to insist upon the critical distinctions among facts, desires, opinions, values, and assumptions. Whether the term “Alt-Right” requires a firm, widely accepted definition will be part of the discourse. The “conventional Right,” which many regard as too Establishmentarian for the needs of the times, will participate – and not in a fashion that favors its competitors.

     For my part, I’m certain only of this: the old labels conservative, liberal, libertarian, socialist, authoritarian, et cetera will not be sufficient to express the passions that have flared in this era of pervasive and often strategic hatred, much less to contain them. Our discourse has already moved beyond them. It will move further still...and our actions will move with it.

Friday, August 26, 2016

A Credo For Our Time

     This comes from the worthy proprietor of A Nod To The Gods:

     I have had enough of hearing Obama say “This is not who we are as a nation”. I don’t get who the hell he is talking about.

     Letting perverts into a girls locker rooms and bathrooms is not who I am.
     Bringing in muslim refugees from around the globe without knowing who they are is not who I am.
     Letting illegal immigrants in by the millions across the southern border is not who I am.
     Providing free healthcare for people with no ambition while fleecing the people who do work to subsidize them is not who I am.
     Letting gender confused mentally ill people into the military and positions of power in the Pentagon is not who I am.
     Allowing alphabet agencies destroy business’s across the country in the name of global warming climate change is not who I am.
     Having the Vice President claim the American peoples support for Turkeys’ Erdogan is not who I am.
     Giving a terrorist country billions of dollars and nuclear capability is not who I am.
     Allowing a radical black activist cult into the White House is not who I am.
     Releasing terrorists back into the battlefield to kill more Americans is not who I am.
     Putting the country into debt more than every previous President combined is not who I am.
     Allowing militant minority groups to sue a business because of their beliefs is not who I am.

     I am a hard working, hard partying, divorced, remarried father of three that believes in less government, secure borders, and a moral code of conduct for a society that has devolved into chaos. I am God fearing man who thinks that welfare should have a sunset time frame, illegals are not allowed access to tax payer benefits, each state should be allowed to regulate themselves, gay people can be gay but not militant, minorities should be held to the same standards as everyone else and given no preferential treatment. Illegal immigrant criminals held in our jails and prisons should be returned to their homelands, and a very large wall should be constructed on our southern border.

     That is who I am. Not everyone believes the way I do which is fine, I have never claimed that what I believe is what we are as a nation, that would be foolish.

     So before you talk for me and my fellow Americans remember at least half of us are nothing like you. A majority of Americans were not part of a choom gang, are not closet muslims, did not get special access to college, did not start a grievance business as a community organizer, did not gain affirmative action access to the senate, and did not become POTUS due to the color of their skin. So before you say “It’s not who we are” remember we are nothing like you and never will be….so shut the fuck up about “Who We Are” because you have no idea.

     BRAVO!!

On Evil Part 2: Other Mental Barriers To Recognizing Evil

     As I said in the previous piece, the great majority of Americans disbelieve in evil because they don’t want to believe in it. Even when evil intentions are plainly on display, with not even a gesture at disguise, we look for ways to exculpate the evildoer. Consider these frequently employed phrases::

  1. “He was badly raised.”
  2. “He didn’t know any better.”
  3. “Well, in light of past injustices...”
  4. “How else could he get what he needs?”
  5. “Our nation / race / religion has done worse.”

     The list could be extended, but the above are the most common parries to a judgment of evil. But note that while the above might explain the genesis of evil intentions – i.e., the conscious desire to wreak harm upon innocent others – the evil of them remains untouched. It can be explained; it cannot be excused.

     Let’s look at each of the above attempts in turn.

     1. “He was badly raised.”

     Stipulate that this was the case. It’s exceedingly rare that any child is raised in a complete absence of influences other than his parents. He will have aunts and uncles, cousins, acquaintances near to his own age, the parents of those acquaintances, teachers, and neighbors. These days, he’ll also have electronic contact with a much wider world. The probability that a child can reach the age of responsibility completely ignorant of what must and must not be done approaches zero.

     2. “He didn’t know any better.”

     The similarity to excuse #1 is considerable. Is it plausible? Hardly. At any rate, we didn’t accept it at Nuremberg. Those trials were predicated on the postulate that an adult must “know better” – that no amount nor intensity of propaganda can overmatch the conscience with which each of us is equipped.

     The sole exception to the Nuremberg principle is the sociopath: the man from whom the conscience is apparently absent. The existence of such a creature, possessed of human capabilities but no moral governor, is intolerable. He must be treated as we would treat a rabid dog: with a bullet to the brain.

     3. “In light of past injustices...”

     Two wrongs cannot make a right. Vengeance is sometimes justifiable as proper retribution. Victimizing the innocent is not. Nor can we merely wave aside harm done to bystanders and say “collateral damage.” While such damage is inevitable in warfare, a good-faith attempt to minimize it and a good-faith attempt to redress it afterward are morally mandatory.

     4. “How else could he get what he needs?”

     Need is one of the worst-abused words in any language. Strictly speaking, no one needs anything. Death is always an available option. Viewed less starkly, one’s survival needs are bare-minimum nutrition, clothing, and shelter from the elements – and how often does some villain pleading “need” restrict himself to those things?

     But let’s be hard on ourselves. Let’s imagine a uniquely tough case:

  • Smith doesn’t have adequate food, clothing, or shelter, or the means to purchase them.
  • He cannot acquire them by honest effort.
  • He has no family and no friends who would succor him.
  • There are no impersonal charities available to him.

     What of it? Would Smith’s circumstances excuse the victimization of Jones, who might need those things just as badly? For that matter, imagine that Jones is unbelievably rich; would that make it just for Smith to steal from him? Ask first why Smith has no friends who would help him voluntarily, for in the answer to that question lies the key to Smith’s predicament.

     Smith’s dire straits make it understandable that he might victimize Jones. Excusing it is another matter.

     5. “Our nation / race / religion has done worse.”

     Stipulate that this is so. It’s still no excuse. It cannot be, else the great-great-grandchildren of pre-Civil War slaveholders would be personally morally liable for the deeds of their forebears. But the truly vile aspect of this attempt at excusing present evil is that the perpetrators are almost never victims of any objective evil; indeed, in our present age the evildoers are among the most favored, most pampered categories of men. More, their victims are almost never connected in any way to those of “our nation / race / religion” who perpetrated evil in the past.

     But to cope with the above requires than men think – that they disregard cant and volume; that they refuse unearned guilt; that they ask hard questions and demand specific answers; that they marshal the courage appropriate to their convictions; and that they uphold a single, uniform standard for right and wrong. These are apparently difficult requirements to satisfy in our time, place, and circumstances.

     There’s more to say about our mental aversion to recognizing evil than a single essay can cover, of course. Yet the subject is far simpler than most people make it, owing to the advance among us of “moral relativism” and the tendency to “think” with our wishes rather than with the logical faculties of our brains. The required standards are utterly simple, objective, and irrefutable. They were elucidated a long time ago, first by Confucius:

     Repay kindness with kindness, but evil with justice.

     ...and a bit later by Jesus of Nazareth, the Son of God and Redeemer of Mankind:

     Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.

     It cannot be put more plainly than that.

This Must Go Viral

     It speaks for itself:

     Spread it far and wide. Please!

Thursday, August 25, 2016

Conversations

     This one happened at a nearby gas station.

FWP: Hello!
Flo: (peers at me uncertainly) Hi. You’re from the parish, aren’t you?

FWP: Yes, and that’s the problem. I’ve been a member of the parish for thirteen years, and no one has taken the trouble to introduce himself. So I’m taking the bull by the horns. (Sticks out hand) Hello, I’m Fran.
Flo: (shakes hands) Hello, I’m Flo. Pleased to meet you.

FWP: See, wasn’t that easy? And you’ve sat three seats away from me for over a thousand Masses by now. Say, the tall good-looking fellow who always sits next to you—
Flo: My husband?
FWP: If you say so. What’s his name?
Flo: Oh, that’s Bill.

FWP: Very nice. Believe me, I understand the reluctance to walk up to a stranger and introduce yourself. You never know who might turn out to be an Islamic terrorist.
Flo: (giggles) Are you an Islamic terrorist?
FWP: (smiles naughtily) Are you sure you’d be able to trust my reply?
Flo: (giggles nervously) Well, you have a nice day.
FWP: You too!

     You know, I’d never seen an elderly woman leave rubber pulling out of a gas station before...

On Evil And Meaning Well

     “Don’t tell them that I meant well.” – Lord Adron e’Kieron, in Steven Brust’s Five Hundred Years After

     If there’s a principal metaphysical flaw in the understandings of most Americans today, it would arise from the widespread disinclination to believe in the reality of evil. This is a consequence of the general benevolence that characterizes the American mindset. Many tend to assume that others’ moral and ethical postulates are congruent with their own: i.e., as they wish no other man harm, they assume that no other man would wish to harm them. This partially disarms them before the genuinely evil man.

     Then again, American society is founded on a degree of interpersonal trust that exceeds anything found in any previous civilization. Without the assumption of general benevolence generally felt, our nation would not function nearly as smoothly as it does. So the disinclination to believe in evil, even when instantiated immediately before one, isn’t an entirely bad thing.

     The usual deflection consists of five words:

“I’m sure he means well.”

     That sentence provides cover for a multitude of crimes.


     “I aim at evil and I will achieve evil.” – Robert Putney Drake, in The Eye in the Pyramid

     Among the unpleasant facts I had to accept in growing accustomed to my own powers was this one: The man who habitually, precisely, and coldly distinguishes among facts, desires, opinions, values, and assumptions is the rarest of all creatures. Nearly everyone “thinks” with his wishes at least some of the time. Thinking with your wishes can get you killed. It’s one of the greatest and deadliest of the flaws of Mankind: so great and so lethal that I sometimes wonder how we emerged from Cro-Magnon ancestors who simply had to know better.

     Therein lies the greatest of the dangers that arise from the disbelief in evil: not only do we not believe it, we don’t want to believe it. Thus, given any way to dismiss its existence from consideration, the great majority of us will do so. Hence the destructive power of “I’m sure he means well.”

     It can be difficult to fathom the mindset of an evil man, or a man bent on evil in some particular context. The difficulty, coupled with the desire that it not be so, makes for a very steep emotional hill. It gives the evil man an edge he will not fail to exploit.

     In an early passage in The Silence of the Lambs, Hannibal Lecter asks FBI trainee Clarice Starling whether she considers him evil. She responds, “You're destructive. It amounts to the same thing.” He mocks her for her inability to see the essential difference:

Evil lies in the intention, not in the consequences.

     Evil is inherently a matter of the will. He who wills evil is evil, at least for that instant, whether or not he achieves his aim. He who “means well” might be many unfortunate things: foolish, ignorant, clumsy, or lacking in vision. But no matter how destructive the consequences of his deeds, he is absolved of evil intention, and therefore of evil.

     This appears circular at first blush. A brilliant novel, James Blish’s Black Easter, draws the matter in high relief:

     “Look at it this way for a moment, Dr. Ware. Very roughly, there are only two general kinds of men who go into the munitions business: those without consciences, who see the business as an avenue to a great fortune, eventually to be used for something else, like Jack here — and of course there’s a sub-class of those, people who do have consciences but can’t resist the money anyhow, or the knowledge, rather like Dr. Hess.”
     Both men stirred, but apparently both decided not to dispute their portraits.
     “The second kind is made up of people like me: people who actually take pleasure in the controlled production of chaos and destruction. Not sadists primarily, except in the sense that every dedicated artist is something of a sadist, willing to countenance a little or a lot of suffering — not only his own, but other people’s — for the sake of the end product....
     “War doesn’t satisfy me any more. It’s too sloppy, too subject to accident. It excuses too much.”
     “?” Ware said with an eyebrow.
     “I mean that in time of war, especially in Asia, people expect the worst and try to ride with the punches, no matter how terrible they are. In peacetime, on the other hand, even a small misfortune comes as a total surprise. People complain, ‘Why did this have to happen to me?” — as though they’d never heard of Job.”
     “Re-writing Job is the humanist’s favorite pastime,” Ware agreed. “And his favorite political platform, too. So in fact, Dr. Baines, you do want to afflict people, just where they’re most sensitive to being afflicted and just when they least expect it, right or wrong. Do I understand you correctly?”
     Baines had the shuddering feeling that he had explained too much, but there was no help for that now; and in any event. Ware was hardly himself a saint.
     “You do,” he said shortly.

     Dr. Baines, the CEO of “Consolidated Warfare Services,” has taken a hand in fomenting wars for decades. Until his declaration of intent to black magician Theron Ware, his above-board operations could be seen solely as a search for market opportunities. Once Baines has declared his greatest desire to Ware:

     “I would like to let all the major demons out of Hell for one night, turn them loose in the world with no orders and no restrictions—except of course that they go back by dawn or some other sensible time–and see just what it is they would do if they were left on their own hooks like that.”

     ...his evil intent can no longer be concealed. Yet many would strain to do so anyway, perhaps with a dismissal such as “He’s just being dramatic.” (And indeed, quite a lot of drama emerges from loosing forty-eight major demons upon the defenseless and unsuspecting human race. Read the novel. I highly recommend it.)

     Baines, a fictional character, may or may not exist in the real world. However, the will to wreak harm upon others surely does. Whether those who will such harm achieve their aims is independent of their essential evil.


     I intend this brief piece as a precursor to a more extended examination of evil and our mental defenses against accepting its existence. For the moment, Gentle Reader, let it stimulate some thoughts.

     In other words: More anon.

Back from secret mission.

The Colonel's back from a secret mission disguised as a visit to a certain government installation cleverly disguised as a Veterans Administration health facility in an unnamed Montana city.

A delightful nurse there pointed out to the vending machine tech that one of the machines dispensing ice cream would not dispense the very last item in the stack.

The tech promised to tweak the machine to solve this problem, whereupon this lady volunteered helpfully that, "It doesn't take your money. I just makes you sad."

Perhaps that should be filed under the "You had to be there" heading but it struck me then as now as hysterically funny.

I was fortunate to catch Michael Savage's show afterwards. He had a lot to say about the evil that is George Soros. Worth a listen if you're not depressed enough now: 8/16/16 podcast.

The rest of my trip home was less pleasant as the automobile electrical wiring system gremlin took up residence in the beloved Honda (450,000 miles) resulting in a short causing all instrumentation to cease to function. The car was still drivable and I made the command decision to believe that my cooling system and oil pathways would not also cease to carry vital fluids around inside the engine for the duration of my trip. And who needs turn signals anyway? Also, my air control valve persisted in its problematic behavior which I could cure with the occasional reset of the computer. A rough-running engine in the middle of @#$% nowhere is one of life's downers.

These problems occupy my time back at home now and are not without entertainment value, though chasing the short involved is not proving to be an easy thing to do. Just take off the instrument panel and figure out which of 50 wires is rubbing somewhere on the chassis. Intermittently.

I've been indifferent to blogging of late but appreciate the kind words of Mr. Guizepppe Veritas who contacted me privately. I did run across some choice comments on Zero Hedge yesterday that warrant republication here.

Until I get around to that and my usual routine, allow me to recommend Ervin Nagy's The False Mythos of Migration at Gates of Vienna. As always anywhere on the internet, the comments are choice, especially the one of Snowy. As you read the comment you can only say that what he or she's written is absurd but we all know it is the stone cold truth.

A la Sherlock Holmes, after you eliminate the impossible idea that Western leaders are acting out of a spirit of good will toward their people and intend to preserve the nation states over which they preside, you are left with the conclusion that they are malevolent destroyers bent on the destruction of the highest and best civilization ever known.

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Your Mid-Morning Outrage

     Just in case you might be disposed to treat all the Boys in Blue as strictly guardians of justice:

     It's not just asset forfeiture being used by law enforcement to take property away from people. With civil asset forfeiture (as opposed to criminal asset forfeiture), property is deemed "guilty," even if its former possessors are not. Kaveh Waddell of The Atlantic is highlighting another way law enforcement agencies are taking possession of property: by calling it "evidence" and playing keep away with former defendants who've had their cases dismissed or have been acquitted.
     Last summer, Kenneth Clavasquin was arrested in front of the Bronx apartment he shared with his mother. While the 23-year-old was being processed, the New York Police Department took his possessions, including his iPhone, and gave him a receipt detailing the items in police custody. That receipt would be his ticket to getting back his stuff after his case ended.

     But the ticket is worthless. His case was dismissed but no one involved in the seizure of his items showed any interest in returning them. He brought the court's dismissal to the NYPD to retrieve his iPhone but the property desk claimed it was being held as "arrest evidence" -- even though there were no more criminal charges forthcoming. He was sent to the District Attorney's office to ask for permission to obtain the no longer needed "evidence," but the office was less than interested in helping him reclaim his belongings.

     Clavasquin needed to get a release from the district attorney’s office stating that his property would no longer be needed for evidence. Over the following three months, he repeatedly called the assistant district attorney assigned to his case, but he neither got a release nor a written explanation of why he was being denied one.

     Then, with the help of an attorney at the Bronx Defenders, a public-defender office that had been representing him since the day after his arrest, Clavasquin sent a formal written request for the district attorney’s release. He got no response.

     Clavasquin's iPhone was seized in the summer of 2015. His case was dismissed in December. The phone is still in the possession of the NYPD while Clavasquin has continued making monthly service contract payments for a phone he can't use.

     Clever, eh? If the iPhone is “evidence,” then clearly the police can’t release it; it might be critical to an investigation-to-be! What investigation, pray tell? We have no need to tell you.

     The Police Department of the City of New York has long been regarded as a model for other urban law enforcement agencies. “New York’s finest” have been repeatedly held up as examples of bravery and thoroughness in the pursuit of justice. If the NYPD can be corrupted by the lure of ill-gotten gains, what law enforcement institution is immune?

     Ever seen Prince of the City, Gentle Reader? Ever wonder how much of it is fiction and how closely it mirrors the true state of law-enforcement practice? Maybe you should.

Warning Shot

     If you think Hillary Clinton doesn’t really intend to repeal First Amendment protections of freedom of expression, think again:

     Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton’s campaign has sent out a fundraising email arguing the website Breitbart News has no “right to exist,” and suggests that if elected, the website will be shut down entirely.

     “We’ve had a conservative media in this country for a while,” says the email, sent Thursday and signed by deputy communications director Christina Reynolds. “I don’t always like what they have to say, but I respect their role and their right to exist Reynolds’ acknowledgment that the regular conservative media has a “right to exist,” though, is used to contrast it with Breitbart, which apparently has no such right.

     “Breitbart is something different,” she says. “They make Fox News look like a Democratic Party pamphlet. They’re a different breed altogether — not just conservative but radical, bigoted, anti-Muslim, anti-Semitic conspiracy peddlers who never have been and never should be anywhere near the levers of power in this country.”

     Miss Reynolds’s gambit is a typical entering-wedge ploy. She accuses the Breitbart site of all manner of sins it’s never committed. She’s counting on popular revulsion at such sins, without any objective evidence thereof, to fuel a campaign to shut Breitbart down. She’s hoping to get enough concurrence with her “free speech is all very well, but you have to draw the line somewhere” cant – as with most such aspiring censors, she’d never actually say where “the line” should be drawn once and for all – to disguise her real agenda.

     The real agenda, of course, is absolute State power over all forms of communication above the level of a conversation over the back fence. Breitbart might be the first to face the guillotine, but it wouldn’t be the last. Liberty’s Torch would be loaded into a tumbril sooner or later.

     There are three absolute requirements for the maintenance of a free society:

  1. Education;
  2. Weaponry;
  3. Communications.

     The Democrats are demonstrably hostile to all three things. They’ve already conquered our educational institutions. They’ve made significant inroads against our right to keep and bear arms. Should they saw through the third leg of the tripod, freedom will be dead and doomed for as far forward into the future as any man alive today can see – and Hillary Clinton has promised to further that attack.

     That’s what we’ll face should the Democrats, the Republican Establishment, the Main Stream Media, and the NeverTrumpers succeed at installing Hillary Rodham Clinton, by leaps and bounds the most corrupt, most deceitful, and most venal figure ever to attain federal power, in the White House this coming November.

Your Early Morning Outrage

     Note, please, that it’s coming from a Republican:

     NEW ORLEANS – The Good Samaritans who rescued hundreds, maybe thousands of people during the Great Flood of 2016, are not happy after a state lawmaker announced that he wants government regulations on future actions by the citizen heroes.

     Some of those Good Samaritans, a loosely-organized group called the 'Cajun Navy,' are being interviewed by media around the country, but that attention is nowhere near the pushback lawmakers are discussing when it comes to possibly breaking the law in the future if they save lives again....

     Republican State Senator Jonathan Perry of the Vermillion, Lafayette area, is working on legislation that could require training, certificates and a permit fee to allow these Good Samaritans to get past law enforcement into devastated areas. He said some were turned away.

     “At the end of the day, there are going to be two things that are going to be the hurdle when you approach it from the state’s standpoint,” said Sen. Perry in a radio interview. “Liability is going to be number one for them. They don’t want the liability of someone going out to rescue someone and then not being able to find them (the rescuers) and, secondly, there’s a cost.”

     Jonathan Perry deserves to be tarred, feathered, and ridden out of town on a rail. At the very least the Louisiana Republican Party should drum him out of its bosom, disavow any concurrence with his obscene notions about requiring a license to save catastrophe victims, and make an unambiguous proclamation of its support for the now nationally famous “Cajun Navy” that leaped into action in flooded Louisiana while the state and federal “emergency management” agencies were still pulling their thumbs out of their asses.

     I would hope that if some officious “public servant” were to obstruct a private-citizen Good Samaritan under like circumstances, the Samaritan would thrash him to within an inch of his life. Considering that Supreme Court decisions have held that the State owes you nothing, such a “public servant” (“If there’s anything a public servant hates to do, it’s something for the public” – Kin Hubbard) would be a de facto accessory to the negligent homicide of unnamed persons. Horsewhipping would be too good for him.

     I’ll be back later, after my blood pressure has gone down a bit.

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Frame Stories And Interlocutory Narration

     Sorry, Gentle Reader, but I’m so thoroughly sick of politics and current events just now that I can’t bring myself to rant about them. Not that there’s any lack of material for a full-throated Fran Porretto tirade, mind you. The world is still going to Hell in a handbasket, and flesh-eating zombies are still busily ripping away the bottom. I’m simply not in the mood.

     (Hey, it works for wives worldwide, doesn’t it?)

     So, as I often do at such moments, I’ll slather you with a brief discourse about fiction. If you’re a writer, you might find it interesting. If not...well, what else do you have to do with the next ten minutes that would be more entertaining or edifying than reading Liberty’s Torch?


     Many a storytelling technique has gone by the boards these past few decades. Though novelist and critic David Lodge has told us that “everything is in and nothing is out,” nevertheless it’s obvious to anyone who reads widely that certain forms are less frequently found in contemporary fiction than was once the case. Consider, for example, the epistolary novel: a tale told in letters sent by and to the story’s characters. I’ve encountered only one recent example of such: Steven Brust and Emma Bull’s Freedom & Necessity. (Wikipedia, however, lists several other contemporary examples, including Andy Weir’s The Martian.)

     A format such as that is often called a “frame story” or “framing device.” In effect, the writer tells two stories, one enclosed by the other, in a single volume. The “outer” story might be separated in time from the events of the “inner” one; indeed, this is usually the case. However, the two stories are linked in an unambiguous fashion: by protagonist and subject matter.

     “Frame stories” can achieve an end that was once pursued in a different fashion, via another technique deprecated today: the omniscient narrator, not bound to any character’s viewpoint. The writer can use the frame to introduce a narrator other than himself. He then permits that narrator some of the liberties that were once marks of the omniscient-narrator style.

     Among the requirements of the “frame story” technique is that the writer must have “two stories to tell.” They needn’t be wholly separate. In fact, they shouldn’t be, for the “outer” story exists to narrate the “inner” one. Therefore, they must be firmly linked, whether through their characters or their focus.

     Focus is always important. The “outer” story, however important to the characters in it, dictates the focus of the “inner” one by the selection of scenes and events described. Whatever the circumstances of the “outer” narrator, he must be principally concerned with the “inner” narration. The Kevin Spacey / Kate Winslet / Laura Linney movie The Life Of David Gale is a highly dramatic example of this requirement: the “outer” narrator, David Gale (played by Spacey), is facing execution in a few days’ time...but his focus is on the key events of his life other than the one that brought him to that condition, rather than on his “outer”-time jeopardy.

     I’m fond of this technique, as anyone who’s read Chosen One, Polymath, Priestesses, or Love In The Time Of Cinema might imagine. One of my two novels-in-progress uses it as well. A few readers have bridled at it – I can’t imagine why – while others have noted it with surprise and pleasure. I find that it often goes well with my subject matter, which is episodic though focused on the life and times of a single Marquee character.

     One of the criticisms that’s been leveled at my stuff is its patina of archaism: the resemblance between my style and that of writers of bygone days. The frame-story approach and the interlocutory narration it supports, approaches no longer favored by contemporary writers, are part of that. But when your core story is episodic in nature, being spread over a long time interval and omitting the greater part of the events thereof, framing is exceedingly useful for emphasizing what really matters. Much of the history of even the most significant, most active, and most compelling character is “just day-to-day life.” It would be boring to the reader to need to sift through it all, to say nothing of the burden it would impose on the writer.

     Episodic novels are also disfavored today. There’s a notion going about that dramatic unity is impossible when the events of the novel are widely separated in time. Needless to say, I disagree. Dramatic unity isn’t just an artifact of causally linked events closely spaced in time; it can also arise from the evolution of the Marquee characters’ natures and significance: more specifically, the reasons they do what they do, and the effects they have on those around them.

     The speculative genres – science fiction, fantasy, and horror – feature few examples of the episodic novel, and therefore few examples of the frame story. In part, this is because the technique is unsuited to the sort of adventure tale most frequently told in those genres. But in equal or greater measure, it’s because the events in speculative novels tend to occur over short time spans. Nevertheless, some examples exist; the ones that leap to mind at once are Isaac Asimov’s Foundation Trilogy, in which the “narrator” of the frame is the Encyclopedia Galactica, and Robert A. Heinlein’s Time Enough For Love, in which Heinlein’s perennial rogue-hero Lazarus Long tells of the high water mark events of his two thousand year life.

     What examples of frame-story narration have you encountered in your reading? When has it struck you as suitable and well exploited, and when has it seems an unnecessary intrusion upon the “real story” you were being told by the interlocutor character or device?

     (Cross-posted at my fiction-promotion site.)

Monday, August 22, 2016

Unacknowledged Invasions

     Before we begin, let me be quite specific:

     Invasion n: A warlike or hostile entrance into the possessions or domains of another; the incursion of an army for conquest or plunder.

     That’s from Webster, Gentle Reader. When a force hostile to the inhabitants of territory X enters that territory, that force is invading that territory, especially if it does so illegally.

     Now let’s have a snippet from the usually reliable Joel Kotkin:

     ...two compelling books out this year led me to more somber thoughts about the prospects for the decline and devolution of western society.

     One, “Submission” by the incendiary French writer Michel Houellebecq, traces the life of a rather dissolute French literature professor as he confronts a rapidly Islamifying France....Ultimately, fear of Le Pen leads the French left into an alliance with the Muslim Brotherhood, handing power over to an attractive, clever Islamist politician. With all teaching posts requiring conversion to Islam, Francois in the end “submits” to Allah. Francois’ motives for conversion merge opportunism and attraction, including to the notion that, in an Islamic society, high prestige people like himself get to choose not only one wife, but several, including those barely past puberty.

     The other declinist novel, “The Family Mandible” by Lionel Shriver, is, if anything more dystopic. The author covers a once illustrious family through the projected dismal decades from 2029 to 2047. Like the Muslim tide that overwhelms Francois’ France, the Brooklyn-based Mandibles are overwhelmed in an increasingly Latino-dominated America; due to their higher birthrate and an essentially “open border” policy, “Lats” as they call them, now dominate the political system. The president, Dante Alvarado, is himself an immigrant from Mexico, due to a constitutional amendment — initially pushed to place Arnold Schwarzenegger in the White House — that allows non-natives to assume the White House.

     Collapse is from within.

     Reflect on that final, four word sentence. Do the novels Kotkin summarizes above describe collapses – or the consequences of unresisted invasions?

     Few alive today have vivid memories of the World War II domestic milieu. The United States, once it entered the war, embraced an economic fascism that imposed rationing of virtually every desirable good upon the civilian populace. It wasn’t an easy time for our armed forces, of course, but civilians were required to sacrifice, too. No, it didn’t rise to the level of serious privation for many. Among other things, more Americans maintained private gardens back then than today. But the point here is that our counter-invasion of Europe and our progress westward across the Pacific against the Japanese Empire had consequences for all Americans, not just those in uniformed service.

     All invasions have consequences for everyone involved. The Germans are relearning that particular lesson as we speak:

     BERLIN (Reuters) - For the first time since the end of the Cold War, the German government plans to tell citizens to stockpile food and water in case of an attack or catastrophe, the Frankfurter Allgemeine Sonntagszeitung newspaper reported on Sunday.

     Germany is currently on high alert after two Islamist attacks and a shooting rampage by a mentally unstable teenager last month. Berlin announced measures earlier this month to spend considerably more on its police and security forces and to create a special unit to counter cyber crime and terrorism.

     "The population will be obliged to hold an individual supply of food for ten days," the newspaper quoted the government's "Concept for Civil Defence" - which has been prepared by the Interior Ministry - as saying.

     A country being invaded cannot rely upon the smooth operation of its civilian logistics. Germany is being invaded by a force hostile to German laws, German customs, and the German people: Muslim migrants. The invasion being undeniable – and undeniably violent – the populace must prepare for interruptions in the usually smoothly functioning German economy. That this is taking place with the connivance of the German federal government doesn’t change the facts. But don’t say any of that to Angela Merkel.

     The United States is undergoing a quieter invasion than what the Germans are suffering. Our invaders are mainly Central Americans who enter at our southern border. Supposedly they come to enjoy the benefits of the superior American economy. While that might be so, the hostility of those illegal alien invaders to American law and norms could hardly be plainer. Little by little they’re transforming California and much of the Southwest into a single giant exclave in which English is seldom spoken, American law is not respected, and American law enforcement is hesitant to enter. But our political elite refuses to recognize that invasion, quite as staunchly as the political classes of Europe refuse to recognize theirs.

     One consequence of these invasions is a significant shift in racial, ethnic, and cultural attitudes among the invaded. In Britain, France, and Germany, a resurgent consciousness of national allegiance and cultural identity can be detected. It has the political classes of those countries terrified. Well it should, for the political classes have openly encouraged the invaders while castigating the native populations to become “more tolerant.” In the U.S., we’re seeing a gradual stiffening of Anglo-American cultural pride: a willingness to assert the superiority of Anglo-American norms against the demands and insinuations of the invaders. This development has the American political class worried; for a proud Americanism of the pre-war variety to reassert itself would be deadly for the transnational-progressivist project and those with whom it seeks to replace us.

     Another consequence is the doffing of masks among the elite’s outer guard:

     Traditional American culture is, as a matter of historical fact, a mostly white, European and English culture. Identity politics has simply been one very effective weapon among a whole arsenal the Left has deployed in its war on tradition. We should fight this effort and sympathize with those most aggrieved by it, but we should not let our sympathy push us to adopting the same tactics or thinking as the Left.

     What’s this? Asserting an American culture – a “white, European and English culture” – would be wrong? Why?

     Black pride is to be celebrated. Asian pride is to be celebrated. Latino pride is to be celebrated. But white pride is denounced everywhere....There are many reasons for this sorry state of affairs, too many to list here. But it’s worth noting that, say, Irish pride or Italian pride have no sinister connotations. This points to the fact that the designation “white” came into existence as the cultural and political opposite of “black” at a time when being black invoked either slavery or Jim Crow. In this context, white isn’t really an ethnicity so much as an ideological construct about racial superiority.

     Great God in heaven! One of the very best writers on the Right has jumped onto the “legacy of slavery” bandwagon! By that “logic,” whites are not allowed to be proud of their extraordinary achievements or the country they built – and don’t give me any guff about slavery – because it resonates with racism!

     Well, there’s no degree of intellect or erudition that can wholly compensate for cowardice. Remember what National Review did to John Derbyshire. I’m sure Jonah Goldberg does.

     In point of fact, America has been invaded – a process still in progress – by persons who disavow white laws, white customs and norms, and white morals and ethics. Many from Central America are technically Caucasian...but in their hostility to the overarching white culture of this nation, they constitute as much a threat to us as any Wahhabi Muslim.

     I could go on for many pages about this. The details of the invasions in progress in the First World are many and horrifying. But I’ll note one more aspect of our danger, one that pertains not to migrants but to persons already here, some of them descended from ancestors who were brought here against their will.

     The urban riots that have beleaguered this country for fifty years and more – most recently, the ones that ravaged Baltimore, Milwaukee, and Ferguson – are race riots, nothing else. They occur only in those regions where blacks are numerous. They involve violence that appears purposeless, except for the looting involved. They amount to a war by blacks against whites. The localities in which they occur make that plain.

     And how have our political masters responded? Not with firm and timely suppression of the violence, but with attempts to appease, to conciliate. Yes, just as they endeavor to persuade the Israelis to appease HAMAS, whose charter openly and unambiguously calls for Israel’s destruction.

     This should go without saying, but it’s been ignored so completely for so long that I think I’ll put it in large font:

That which is attacked must defend itself or die.

     That applies just as imperatively to a race under siege as to a nation.

Sameness Screed Part 2: Priorities

     Some of my less attentive correspondents reacted to this piece by asking “What’s wrong with X?” where X is one of the motifs / plot elements I decried therein. One particularly plaintive fellow demanded to know “How am I supposed to get recognized if I don’t write what people are reading?”

     It’s a good question, but the answer is another, equally good question: “Let’s suppose you’ve done that: you got recognized – i.e., you’ve developed an audience – by writing about space wars, or time travel, or vampires, or werewolves, or some such. What then?

     If your highest priority is getting a readership – and I’m not disparaging this – then what if what you’ve really wanted to write about this whole time is something infinitely distant? Once you’ve developed a readership from those tired old tropes, how many of your readers do you expect will follow you into the realm(s) you really want to explore?

     My priorities as a reader are entertainment, edification, and the diversion available from good storytelling. Worthwhile fiction, for me, must be fresh, original, and innovative. I get very little pleasure out of the threadbare elements I enumerated in the first screed. Time was, when they hadn’t been overused, I could enjoy some of the little twists contemporary writers used to innovate around them. I even tried my hand at one of them (details to follow). That time is behind us.

     Now, I’m probably not typical. But then, Liberty’s Torch isn’t a typical sort of blog. What I post here reflects my personal opinions and preferences. A number of writers have made considerable sums by exploiting those worn-out tropes. Perhaps you might do so, too.

     However, we live in an era in which differences of opinion strike many persons as declarations of war. “That ain’t my style, said Casey.” I vent; I declaim; sometimes I even orate. And others may differ. But in the idiom of an old friend, that’s why there’s chocolate and vanilla.

     But I mustn’t allow this to conclude without a specimen of genuine originality wrapped around one of the most overtired of all the treadless tropes.



     Kenneth MacMillan laid the filing on the scarred pine workbench and stared into Jared Tillotsen's eyes. "You can't be serious."
     The lawyer's mouth tightened. "I am."
     "There have to be a thousand reasons why I can't hear this."
     Tillotsen nodded once. "I await Your Honor's decision and explanation."
     MacMillan snorted. "Don't get shirty with me, Jared. I've known you since..." The judge trailed off. Mentioning that was in bad taste, and always would be. "First, the class needs at least one stakeholder who's willing to appear in open court."
     Tillotsen's lips quirked at the pun. "I have one."
     "You're kidding!"
     Tillotsen said nothing. His eyes rested lightly on the judge's countenance.
     "With all the restrictions we'd have to put on him, with all the hazards he'd have to face to come before us, he'd still be willing to do it?"
     Another nod. "It's a she, actually."
     MacMillan waved the irrelevancy aside. "Second, no precedent has been established under which one of them may prosecute a legal action against one of us, much less all of them against all of us."
     "I'm aware of that, Your Honor."
     "It doesn't appear to disturb you."
     "It's why I brought the case to you."
     I should have known my reputation would land me in hot water someday.
     "Well, third, what justiciable controversy exists to propel the action?"
     Tillotsen pointed to the stapled sheaf of papers on the workbench. "It's on the front page, Your Honor."
     And indeed it was, in the blackest of letters:
    
    
MURDER.

    
     MacMillan tore his eyes from the accusation and regarded the lawyer at length.
     Tillotsen wasn't looking well. He'd lost a great deal of weight. Most of his hair was gone. His pallor was extraordinary, as if his flesh had been coated in plaster. The effort of standing upright appeared to tax him to the edge of his resources. He probably thought he disguised it well, but MacMillan had caught him leaning against the crate beside him, and panting as inconspicuously as he could.
     "You still aren't...?"
     Tillotsen shook his head.
     "You're going to die, Jared."
     Something like amusement flickered across the lawyer's face. "Not likely, Your Honor. Now, as to the matter at hand -- ?"
     MacMillan ground his teeth. He shifted his weight and nearly toppled the stack of detergent boxes on which he sat. "You ask far too much. I can't let this proceed for all the reasons we've already discussed and a great many more."
     "I ask," the lawyer said in a formal cadence, "that you do justice. We have a theory of rights that explicitly authorizes this case."
     "We have a theory? No, Jared, they have a theory. We have laws, no more. And none of our laws even nod sideways to your action."
     Tillotsen nodded and shoved his hands into his pockets. He stepped around the crates and mop buckets to stand before the sole window in MacMillan's chambers. The building's parking lot was all that lay beyond. The lights showed few cars scattered below. The lawyer stared down at them as if they could be decoded into a message from God.
     "On what are our laws based, Your Honor? Are they merely matters of expedience, little adjustments of social mechanisms that have no moral significance?"
     MacMillan would have flushed, were he able. "You know better, Jared. They codify the basis of our survival. There's no deeper morality than that."
     Tillotsen awarded the judge a knowing smile. "You never disappoint me, Kenneth. How many years, how many cases have I brought before you? And you have yet to miss the point. You always find the principles beneath each case, and you never betray them. Even when I've lost, I've never disagreed with you at the end. And that's why I'm here tonight."
     MacMillan started to speak, stopped and clamped his mouth shut much too hard. He suppressed a grunt of pain. "You expect me to elucidate a theory of rights that will cover this case, for the purpose of allowing the case to proceed in the first place, when all our legal practice and everything deducible from it forbids me even to look at your papers! Jared, the strain of being your hero is getting to be too much for me."
     Tillotsen turned back to the window. MacMillan rose and went to join him.
     The darkness was at its deepest point. The brilliant arc lights shone upon an utter stillness below. Few of the office tower's windows were illuminated. MacMillan and Tillotsen were close to having the building to themselves.
     "I'd like a dinner break, Jared. It's been a long evening, and I've had nothing for quite a while."
     Muscles rippled along the lawyer's bony jaw. MacMillan was struck by a realization. "Your... client is in the building, isn't she?"
     Tillotsen continued to stare through the window. "She is."
     "Which room?"
     "Six twenty-four." The answer came without hesitation, delivered in a mechanical monotone.
     She must be as extraordinary as he is.
     MacMillan laid a hand on the lawyer's frail shoulder. "I'll have to sleep on this, Jared. What you've asked of me is far more than I can commit to after an hour's thought. It goes to the root of our society's existence. It could affect more than even you realize." He clapped Tillotsen's shoulder gently. "Go to your client. Take her home, make sure she gets there safely. Come back tomorrow and I'll have an answer for you. And, Jared?"
     "Yes, Your Honor?"
     "Don't expect too much from me."
     Tillotsen nodded and went silently from the room.
    
***

     The sound of the door opening catapulted Ann Mears into a state beyond terror. She leaped from her chair, dropped to the floor and slithered under the pile of scrap cardboard, struggling to restrain a shriek.
     "Ann?" Jared Tillotsen's voice was soft in the darkness. "It's all right, it's only me."
     That's bad enough.
     Tillotsen's reassurance wasn't enough to bring her out of concealment. She held still and listened until she was certain that only the lawyer was there with her. When she'd finally garnered the courage to leave the shelter of the piled garbage and stand upright, she found him leaning against the doorjamb, a glint of kindly humor in his eyes.
     "The judge suggested that I take you home," he said gently. He started to offer her his arm, then chuckled and let it fall.
     "What..." She swallowed and tried to calm herself. "What did he say?"
     "He needs time, Ann. Your kind don't have standing, by the usual reading of our laws. Therefore, the class action is ab initio invalid. The judge has to find a basis for even conceding that you and yours could file such a suit." The corners of his mouth rose. "I think he wants to, but without a well reasoned basis, our people would simply ignore his decision."
     "How long do you think it'll take him to decide?"
     "He said to come back tomorrow. Can you?"
     "Can your friend stay with Melissa again tomorrow night?"
     Tillotsen nodded.
     She offered up a silent prayer for strength. "Then I'll be here."
     He gestured at the door, and followed her out.
    
***

     MacMillan couldn't sleep. He writhed in the confines of his bed, shifting from one position to another, but his real discomfort marched within his skull.
     Jared Tillotsen was an idealist and a crusader of the best kind, or the worst, depending on whether you agreed with him. In MacMillan's eyes, the law could boast no brighter jewel. Tillotsen would take no case that didn't square with his sharply defined views of justice. He was bulldog tough once the contest was joined. Yet he never deviated from principle. When he lost on the merits, he accepted the defeat and tried to learn from it. When he won, he was as gracious as anyone could ask.
     The lawyer idolized Kenneth MacMillan. The wonder of receiving such a paragon's esteem was exceeded only by the burden of carrying it.
     Tillotsen had laid a blueprint for the destruction of their society before MacMillan and had asked him to rule on it. His belief in the rightness of the cause was written on every fiber of his rapidly deteriorating body.
     There will come a point where his course will become irreversible. Even if he recants, his body will no longer be able to recover.
     MacMillan was certain that the lawyer knew as much.
    
***

     The judge nodded once, very slowly. "It can proceed."
     Delight spread across Tillotsen's face. "And the basis, Your Honor?"
     MacMillan grinned. "You put me in an impossible position. I had to ponder it for quite a while. What basis exists in our jurisprudence for determining whether a particular creature does, or does not, possess rights? Only a hearing in a recognized court. I cannot reject Miss Mears's claim summarily based on no standing, because the rejection itself would entitle her to file for certiorari as to why I had rejected it. One way or another, she's entitled to stand before me and demand to know whether she has rights in our eyes, and why. That alone would compel me to concede them."
     "And all her people as well?"
     The judge nodded again.
     Tears welled in Tillotsen's eyes. He leaned heavily against the pallet of paper towels beside him. "Thank you, Kenneth. Have you set a date?"
     "Monday next, in the main room in the basement. Your action will be first on the docket. I expect it'll be heavily attended, so you'd better be ready."
     Tillotsen nodded without looking up. The weakness that was stealing over him had never been more visible. MacMillan fought down the urge to take the lawyer in his arms.
     "Jared, forgive me for saying so, but I can't believe that you're going to last until then."
     Tillotsen pulled himself upright, forced himself to stand straight. "I'll be there, Your Honor."
     "I hope so, considering all the trouble this will make for me." The judge shifted uneasily on his crate. "You're going to lose the class action, you know."
     The lawyer grinned. "I expected to. No matter what you decide about standing, it would be ex post facto to permit any prosecutions. But that's not the main event."
     "Jared, do you really think they'll help us, after all the history we have with them?"
     "Yes. The basis of every unforced exchange is mutual advantage, and we have a lot to offer them."
     And they to us, of course. "Do you suppose I might meet your client now?"
     Tillotsen's grin vanished. He was silent for several seconds. "Do I have your word that she'll leave here unharmed, Your Honor?"
     "Jared!"
     The lawyer's jaw clenched. "Please just say yes or no, Kenneth. I haven't made arrangements to protect her from you tonight, and you can see that I'm not up to the job myself."
     The judge sputtered. "I could simply follow you to where she's waiting, if that were on my agenda."
     Tillotsen would not relent. "Yes or no, Kenneth?"
     A hand closed around MacMillan's heart and squeezed. He took a deep breath, let it out slowly, and rose. "You have my word that I will not commit physical violence against your client, nor permit any other of our people to do so, tonight or on any other occasion. Now please, Jared, bring her here."
     The lawyer turned and left.
    
***

     Ann Mears was barely able to walk. With each step her knees tried to buckle and send her to the floor. Her backbrain screamed that she was going to her death. Only by separating her body from her consciousness and running it on automatic was she able to continue forward.
     At some point during the walk from room 624 to the fifth floor janitor's storage area, Tillotsen had taken her arm. She hadn't noticed at first, but when the frigid clasp on her flesh penetrated the fog around her thoughts, her entire body turned to ice. Yet she would not pull away. She did not want to offend him. She did not want to discover the consequences.
     He ushered her into the storage room with gentle, formal courtesy. A dim light seeped in from the parking lot. It silhouetted a stooped male figure perched upon a cardboard box. The figure did not move, but allowed Ann and Tillotsen to approach.
     "Good evening, Miss Mears. My name is Kenneth MacMillan. I'm pleased and proud to meet you at last." The old man smiled.
     At the sight of those pronounced canines, so well suited to their legendary purpose, she almost succumbed to the urge to flee, but Tillotsen squeezed her arm gently and she stood her ground.
     "Good evening, uh, Your Honor. Is that the title you use?"
     MacMillan nodded. "Just as do judges of your kind. The dignity of the court and all that. I suppose Jared has told you that I'm going to permit your action to go forward?"
     "Yes, Your Honor, just before. Thank you."
     The judge chuckled. It was the strangest sight Ann had ever seen. There was no bloodlust in the eyes under those bushy gray brows. There was wisdom, and honor, and a considerable amount of respect. Ann's fear subsided.
     "I..." MacMillan halted himself and gave another chuckle. "I was about to say I've been dying to meet you, but that wouldn't be quite right, would it? I've been looking forward to this encounter, Miss Mears. Jared has told me only a little about you, but just on the basis of your presence before me, I think it safe to say that you're the most courageous person your species has ever produced."
     It pricked a laugh from her. "Thank you, Your Honor. But if you could hear my knees knocking you might not think so well of me."
     "To the contrary, my dear." The judge waved at Tillotsen. "Jared has said he can protect you for the hearing on Monday. Have the two of you discussed it?"
     She glanced up at the lawyer. "We have."
     "And you're satisfied?"
     She nodded.
     "Then I suppose there's no more to be said about the practical arrangements. But Miss Mears, please take care in all things." MacMillan's expression became somber. "You'll be the first living human to appear in one of our courts in all our history. Those around you will have no cause to love you and every reason to wish you ill. You must avoid anything that might be construed as a provocation, no matter how elaborate Jared's protections are. No religious emblems. No perfume. No mirrors. For the love of God, no wooden stakes! And don't approach anyone in the room without Jared's approval, and him at your side. Are you comfortable with those restrictions?"
     She swallowed. "It won't be a problem, Your Honor."
     "Good." The judge seemed about to dismiss them when she found her voice.
     "Sir, why did you decide to allow our suit? It has to be the biggest threat to your people that they've ever faced. If we win, your own laws will forbid you to feed on us."
     MacMillan was silent for a long interval. Ann wondered if she had triggered something she would regret. Tillotsen remained impassively still beside her.
     "I am not an elected official, Miss Mears. I hold my responsibilities because our people hold me in high regard. In part, because I am the oldest of our kind.
     "There are not many of us in the world. How could there be? Perhaps twenty thousand on this continent, and perhaps twice that on all the others together. We will never be a populous species. You living humans, who... provide our sustenance, must always outnumber us dramatically.
     "For at least ten thousand years, there has been war between us. I, whose memories span three hundred seventy-two years, have never known anything else. Though we feed upon you, ours is a miserable and frightened existence, a continuous cowering in the dark before your superior numbers and other advantages. The human who believes in the reality of our kind may fear us, if he should chance to leave the lighted places, but the vampire fears humankind in all places and times.
     "War is no species's preferred state, Miss Mears. We want peace, just as you do. We want stability, just as you do. We want the privilege of walking the earth openly and without fear, just as you do. But Jared has convinced me that until we cease to look upon you as our cattle, that can never come to pass.
     "So on Monday, I will take a bold step. I will allow you to claim rights before me, rights to life, liberty and property that would not accrue to a mindless meat animal, and I will uphold the claim. News of my decision will spread through our numbers from that night forward, and our world will change."
     "Will it, Your Honor? Laws seldom change the behavior of the living."
     MacMillan grinned ruefully and stared at his knees. "I know, Miss Mears. Before I... crossed over, I was a judge among living men. Vampires are different. We have always had very little, and our laws have always been few." He looked up with an expression of entreaty. "We'll be gambling that your world will change as well, though it will surely take longer. Will you do what you can to hasten it?"
     Ann nodded. "I will, sir."
     MacMillan rose and moved slowly toward her, one hand extended. Tillotsen released his grip on her arm, allowing her to stay or go as she wished.
     She raised her own hand and took the judge's in a soft clasp. His flesh was cool to the touch, as was Tillotsen's, but it closed on hers with a suggestion of strength that no creature, living or undead, would dare to challenge.
    
***

     "He's a great man."
     Tillotsen squeezed her hand. "He is."
     "Will he be putting himself in danger?"
     The lawyer shook his head. "Kenneth MacMillan could never be in danger among other vampires. You would never believe the love we have for him. He's the glue that holds us together."
     "Still..."
     Another squeeze. "Don't worry about it, Ann. Just be ready on Monday." He opened her door for her, then gasped strangely and bent double, hands pressed to his middle.
     She stooped and took his head in her hands, and his eyes met hers. She could not read those eyes, the eyes of a man dead longer than she had lived. But her concern seemed to reach him, and he straightened and smiled.
     "I'm all right."
     Vampires lie no better than humans.
     "How long has it been, Jared?"
     He shrugged. "I've ceased to keep track. A month, maybe."
     "Since you met me, right?"
     He nodded.
     In time, it will change. We'll come to accept them, make provisions for them, learn how to synthesize what they need. But for now, only the old ways will do.
     "Melissa's not going to make it, you know."
     She would not have believed that he could become paler still, but he did. "Are you sure?"
     "Yes," she murmured. "Jared, would you... change her for me?"
     His mouth dropped open. "You honor me more than I can say, Ann."
     Not half as much as you deserve.
     "It will have to wait until after the hearing on Monday, though. I can't risk it before that. I've grown too weak."
     Ann gathered both the lawyer's hands into her own. "Thank you, Jared. For everything. When..." A rush of grief flooded through her, momentarily washing away all her words. "When she wakes up as one of you, I didn't want to have to fear my own daughter."
     "Or for her to fear her mother," he whispered.
     Ann Mears came to a decision. She gestured Tillotsen across her threshold. "Come in, Jared."
     His eyes clouded with confusion. "Why, Ann?"
     She reached up and pulled his head down to hers, brushed her warm lips across his cold ones.
     "I want to fix you something to eat."

     [“Class Action,” © 1997 Francis W. Porretto. All Rights Reserved Worldwide.]

==<O>==

Reviews Desperately Needed

     I keep hoping, but hope is a poor marketing strategy, so:

     At age 28, Jana Tyrell is already the foremost actress in the world. But she wants the love of a good man, and they’re not so common in Hollywood. She finds it in a most unexpected place: Onteora County, NY, a land that produces geniuses and heroes as if they’d been sown there by God. Her target, engineer and Web writer Tim Beaufort, will be rocked by the changes Jana brings to his life.

     Anyone who promises to read this short Los Angeles / Onteora County romance novel and review it at Amazon can have a free copy in .MOBI (Kindle), .EPUB, or .PDF format.

     This is honor-system stuff, Gentle Reader. I can’t enforce the terms. Neither can I keep you from giving your copy to someone else who’s made no promises (and from whom I’ve received no revenue). But I need reviews. Reviews sell books. So here we are.

     Indicate your interest either by email to my Yahoo address, or in the Comments, with a contact email address of your own. Don’t forget to specify your preferred format.

Sunday, August 21, 2016

The Narrow Gate: A Sunday Rumination

     And he went through the cities and villages, teaching, and journeying toward Jerusalem. Then said one unto him, Lord, are there few that be saved? And he said unto them, Strive to enter in at the narrow gate: for many, I say unto you, will seek to enter in, and shall not be able. [Luke 13:22-24]

     The above passage from the Gospel According to Luke is often held up as a sort of concurrence with the following famous passage from Mark:

     And Jesus looked round about, and saith unto his disciples, How hardly shall they that have riches enter into the kingdom of God! And the disciples were astonished at his words. But Jesus answereth again, and saith unto them, Children, how hard is it for them that trust in riches to enter into the kingdom of God! It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God. And they were astonished out of measure, saying among themselves, Who then can be saved? And Jesus looking upon them saith, With men it is impossible, but not with God: for with God all things are possible. [Mark 10:23-27]

     Both passages appear to state that there’s a contradiction between worldly wealth and entrance into eternal bliss after death. They’ve been used by preachers down the centuries to threaten their better-off congregants into surrendering their money to the church. But what such preachers carefully omit to explore – before their congregants, at least – is the Judean context within which Jesus made the statements above.


     First-century Judea was a society rife with evils of several kinds. First, there was the practice of slavery, then as in all ages a method of garnering the profits available from other men’s labors without their consent. Many wealthy men of that time became so through the exploitation of slave labor. Needless to say, that sort of thing has never sat well with God...though the religious authorities of the time tended to look the other way.

     Second was the frequency of pillage. A man’s home was anything but secure against robbers. Neither was a lone traveler safe even on the most heavily traveled roads. That wasn’t merely an alternate way to enrich oneself; it was also an inducement to obsession with protecting one’s wealth and property that could reach unhallowed levels. Considering that among the soldiers of the Roman occupation were many who practiced pillage when they believed they could get away with it, the threat was severe indeed.

     Third was the habit, especially among the already wealthy, of traveling heavily laden with one’s possessions rather than leaving them at home. That partook both of the fear of pillage mentioned above, but also with the love of luxury that characterized many of the wealthy of that time. It might strike contemporary Christians as strange, especially considering that what qualified then as luxury would barely get the attention of a typical poor American today. Yet it was commonplace.

     Fourth, a tidbit seldom mentioned in sermons. Jerusalem was the center of wealth and power of Judea, and thus where many wealthy men lived, conducted their businesses, or both. But Jerusalem was also a walled city, fortified against large invading forces from the time of the Judean kings. A man traveling with his possessions had to enter or leave the city through one of its gates. One of those gates, an unusually low and narrow one, was therefore called “the eye of the needle.” Getting a laden camel through it was deemed well nigh impossible.

     The picture Jesus sketched with the above passages comes into much clearer focus in light of those facts.


     From Main Street to Wall Street to Washington
     From men to women to men
     It's a nation of noses pressed up against the glass
     They've seen it on the TV
     And they want it pretty fast

     You spend your whole life
     Just pilin' it up there
     You got stacks and stacks and stacks
     Then Gabriel comes and taps you on the shoulder
     But you don't see no hearses with luggage racks

     [Don Henley, “Gimme What You Got”]

     Americans are probably more focused on worldly gain than is good for us. We strategize, strive, and scratch for that next big strike: the next promotion, the big bonus, the bigger house in a better neighborhood, the fine foods and beverages, the nice clothes, the fine furniture, the luxury cars, the fancy toys...even, sometimes and most deplorably, the trophy spouse “worthy of the station I’ve achieved.”

     Yet none of that is inherently sinful. It’s the obsession with wealth, the mindset that excludes God and neighbor, that imperils one’s soul.

     The two Great Commandments never cease to apply:

     But when the Pharisees had heard that he had put the Sadducees to silence, they were gathered together. Then one of them, which was a lawyer, asked him a question, tempting him, and saying, Master, which is the great commandment in the law?
     Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.

     The love of wealth can crowd out other loves. This seems so perfectly obvious to me that I blush to state it this explicitly. But as I’ve said innumerable times here and elsewhere, obvious really means overlooked.

     The omission of the qualifying observations given here allowed priests of the late First Millennium to terrify many Europeans into giving all their worldly goods to the Church out of chiliastic panic: i.e., that the world would end with the millennium, and that only the voluntary surrender of all one’s wealth to the Church would grant one a chance of admission to heaven. Needless to say, the Church offered no refunds on January 1, 1001.

     All the same, there’s a red line to be observed: the line that divides the respect for the utility of wealth in this world from the Scrooge-like obsession with it that leaves no room for God or other men. If that line is respected, mere prosperity will not endanger the soul. If not...well, not only are hearses unequipped with luggage racks; Hell doesn’t provide its inmates with storage lockers.

     May God bless and keep you all.