There is a problem with black culture

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There is a problem with black culture.

You probably instantly assumed that I am racist because I said that – a white dude making a blanket statement that there is a problem with black culture. Here, one sentence in, is where we need to make our first differentiation.

If I say that there is a problem with black people, then that is a racist statement. It makes an assumption based on race. If I say that there is a problem with black culture, then I am condemning an idea, a viewpoint, and a mindset. There is literally nothing racist about that – it defies the very definition.

There is a problem with black culture for several reasons; however, the core problem can be boiled down to a single issue: it assumes that blacks are treated unequally if they are not treated with privilege. It denies the existence of a universal, blind standard by which everyone deserves to be treated, regardless of race, color, religion, sex, or creed. That standard is the foundation of justice and of equality. Whenever one people group demands that they be treated as above the standard, or outright denies that that standard exists, there is a significant problem which cannot be overcome as long as that viewpoint is held.

A few weeks ago I was part of a discussion on a forum at a university where I used to teach. The subject of the discussion was people of color (POC) and white privilege. The viewpoint that was almost universally held by those representing the POC stance was comprised of two positions:

  1. That people of color were institutionally repressed, and that white people couldn’t possibly tell them they weren’t because white people didn’t know what it was like to be a POC.
  2. That white privilege exists universally for all white people, and that no matter how many exceptions that were pointed out (e.g., all of the white people on the discussion board talking about how they were paying for college themselves, how they had worked since they were 13, came from poor backgrounds, et cetera), the POC were able to see white privilege in everything white people had and did, even if the white people didn’t see it themselves.

The level of intellectual dishonesty here is astounding. Here was a group of people simultaneously claiming that POC knew exactly what it was like to be white, even to the point of claiming that the white people themselves didn’t understand it, while simultaneously invalidating any white opinion because they didn’t know what it was like to be a POC. When I pointed this out, you can probably guess what the response was: I was labeled a racist.

When I inquired into the justification of how people actually came to believe this double standard, the answer was a reference to what was currently being taught on the university in social science classes. Apparently it was being taught that white people couldn’t possibly experience racism because racism, at a definitional level, could only be experienced by those who had traditionally been oppressed. The fact that all people groups have been oppressed by those of other races at some point in their history aside, this is mind-blowing. The concept of racism had been removed as an objective standard (i.e., racism is when discrimination occurs based on race) and been replaced by an entirely subjective standard (i.e., racism can only be experienced by POC at the hands of white people). One may be tempted to laugh at the sheer absurdity of this viewpoint, but you would quickly be sobered when you see tweets like this:

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The worst part is that none of these tweets fit the current definition of racism as it is currently taught in America, even in institutions of (supposed) higher learning.

The Black Lives Matter movement has given these people a voice, and it is within this movement that we find some of the starkest examples of what is wrong with black culture. For example, watch what happens when someone proposes that Black Lives Matter in a white neighborhood, and contrast that to what happens when he holds an All Lives Matter sign in a black neighborhood.

The worst reaction he got was a dismissive, perhaps even disrespectful, laugh when he held the BLM sign in a white neighborhood. The typical reaction he got in a black neighborhood by even proposing that all lives were equal was repeatedly being physically attacked. This double standard, this denial of an objective reality, is at the heart of the problem.

Blacks have been oppressed. So have whites. So have Native Americans, and every single other race in the history of the world. To assume that systemic racism must exist because it once existed is the epitome of ignorance, and no conversation about social justice can progress until an objective standard with equal and universal standards is acknowledged.

 

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Dear Christians, Your Stance on Abortion is a Joke

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Dear Christians,

Your stance on abortion is a joke.

Now, let’s get a couple of things out of the way first.

  1. I am a Christian.
  2. I believe life begins at conception.
  3. I believe abortion takes a human life.

I’m not the typical person you see denigrating the conservative Christian position on abortion, so this should make for an interesting blog post. Throughout this election season I’ve repeatedly listened to good friends of mine (the majority of whom are conservative, Christian, and view abortion as “our nation’s genocide”) talk about how they could never vote for an opponent who was pro-choice. Generally this has always led to the point in the conversation where they say that, regardless of anything, they’re voting for Trump.

Realize this isn’t about Trump. I’m not going to tell you to vote for him or not to. What it is about is recognizing that Trump was a supporter of all forms of abortion, even elective partial-birth abortion, right up until the point he started campaigning for president on the Republican ticket. At that point it became politically necessary for him to claim that he was pro-life, regardless of any intentions to do anything at all about it. It is important to recognize two things: first, that the top four presidential candidates (Clinton, Trump, Johnson, and Stein) are all actually pro-choice; and second, that all it takes to win the evangelical vote on this issue is to tell Christians what they want to hear and then simply not follow up on it.

After a recent conversation with yet another Christian who claimed that the entire basis of their support for any elected official lay solely in their position on abortion, I conducted an informal poll and asked approximately one dozen college-educated, conservative Christians who identified abortion as their top issue to name the last time any legislative effort was made to outlaw abortion. Not a single one could name a single time, nor could they indicate that their support for a candidate would wane if he claimed to be pro-life but made no effort to act on that belief for his entire political career. In other words, the real Christian position on abortion is predicated on the kindergarten-level stance that someone only need to say “the magic words” to get their vote, and that immediately and permanently let both the voter and the candidate off the hook to do anything at all about it.

When I taught at a university I had a young, idealistic freshman approach me regarding abortion, defending it as the substantive issue upon which Christians should base all of their votes. She then went on to claim that no Christian could ever be a Democrat, and that the Republican party was the sole refuge of anyone claiming to love life. I asked her the same question I did of the others mentioned above – when was the last time the GOP did anything at all to change the status quo? Crickets. I then presented her a very specific situation: in 2002, when President George W. Bush was enjoying a 90% approval rate, when the Republicans controlled both houses of Congress, with a balanced (and arguably slightly conservative-leaning Supreme Court), did the GOP do anything to outlaw abortion?

No.

Instead, what they made the focus of the entire government was a defense against terrorism in the light of 9/11. The legitimacy of 9/11 and terrorism is unarguably legitimate, so that aside, let’s pit the two scenarios against each other. On 9/11 approximately 3,000 US citizens died. According to conservative Christians, abortion represents a national genocide in which approximately 50 million have died since 1973.

50,000,000 versus 3,000, in the context of a government’s position on saving lives. Seems to be a bit of a non-issue, right? TO put this in perspective, here is a chart outlining the relative number of US deaths from terrorism and abortion during the same time frame.

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If the GOP had actually adhered to its ideological position that abortion is one of, if not the key issue in protecting the lives of American citizens, shouldn’t it have placed terrorism beneath abortion in the priority list? Absolutely. What did it do? Not a damn thing – and Christians didn’t challenge that.

To throw in a quote from my favorite superhero, I think Batman probably sums this up best.

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Christians excel at recommending we outlaw solutions without coming up with an actual answer. Jesus addressed this in Matthew 23:3-4 when he said, “They preach, but do not practice. They tie up heavy burdens, hard to bear, and lay them on people’s shoulders, but they themselves are not willing to move them with their finger.” Planned Parenthood and its policies, with all of their heinous ugliness, at least presents a solution. When a woman is facing the reality of an unwanted pregnancy, one that will change her life forever with the presence of a child she doesn’t love and doesn’t want to raise and would likely be unable to find an adoptive family for, she has a couple of choices. She can approach the side of the line represented by Planned Parenthood, where she will find acceptance, guidance, and a list of choices that, regardless of their ugliness, represent a way to live her life and ensure that a child will not grow up unwanted and unloved. Or, she could approach the side of the line represented by the Western Christian church, where she is instantly condemned as a whore for having the pregnancy, a murderer for even thinking about abortion, and an outcast when she seeks alternative options such as an adoption. What do you think she will choose? Do you see why Christianity is losing the cultural battle here?

If one family in every third church in America adopted a child, all of the children currently in the US foster care system who are eligible for adoption would find a home. Let that sink in. One family in one out of every three churches in America. I’ve spoken with multiple families who wanted to adopt and chose international over domestic adoption. The reasons range, but the most relevant and oft-cited reason is that domestic adoption laws often present a complicated scenario where the birth mother could later have a claim to access, and even parental rights, for the child. As long, painful, and expensive as the international adoption process can be, there is usually not this risk. No one wants to enter a situation where the child they adopt could possibly be forcefully taken from their family later in life, and this is completely understandable.

However, that shows Christians where their real fight lies. Abortion is not a legal issue; it is a cultural one. If Christians truly want to save lives, they should realize that the process Jesus outlined in founding Christianity was to redeem the social condition through the Christian’s presence as salt and light in everyday life, rather than by legislative action of outlawing anything they deemed to be sin. The Christian’s fight with regards to abortion should not be in outlawing the procedure, thereby driving abortions underground and actually costing lives (when the entire claimed basis of the movement is to save lives), but rather in presenting loving, grace-filled alternatives and an accepting refuge for those women in often-controversial situations. Christians should be fighting to change domestic laws to facilitate adoption, and then creating an environment where the church is begging to redeem unwanted children. Instead, the church is known only for being a bastion of hypocritical condemnation.

I say “hypocritical” because Christians are unwittingly responsible for thousands of abortions within the church each year. All forms of “the pill;” i.e., oral contraceptives, use abortifacients as a third line of defense. The first two lines of defense in oral contraceptives are actually contraceptive in nature – third line of defense is abortive, making the lining of the uterus unable to facilitate the implantation of a fertilized egg – and a fertilized egg, according to conservative Christian beliefs, is a life that has already formed. The linked article above estimates that even at infinitesimally low odds, it is likely that the pill is responsible for tens of thousands of unintentional and unknowing abortions each year. It is time for Christians to stop standing on the “holier-than-thou” ground they have planted their flag on for decades and recognize that, based on scientific evidence, many of the people you go to church with on a weekly basis are using a product responsible for abortions, all the while condemning others who engage in the practice.

Abortion is a legitimate healthcare issue. Without legalized, medically sanitary abortion, abortion would still continue, but it would look absolutely horrible. Per the US National Library of Medicine National Institutes of Health, approximately 42 million women choose abortion each year, globally, with nearly half of those procedures deemed unsafe. Approximately 68,000 women die each year from unsafe abortion procedures, making it one of the leading causes of maternal mortality at 13%. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), every 8 minutes a woman in a developing nation will die of complications arising from an unsafe abortion. Outlawing abortion does not solve this issue (if you think it does, let me know how that war on drugs is going). Without cultural support for legitimate alternatives (e.g., adoption), making abortion illegal simply makes it unsafe for both the mother and the child and ironically presents a situation where MORE life is threatened rather than saved.

So, in the end, the Christian’s stance on abortion is an absolute and utter joke for several reasons:

  1. It relies on a juvenile and immature response to a complex and legitimate issue by simply requiring any candidate for any office to say some magic words to gain the Christian’s undying allegiance.
  2. It is a viewpoint founded on the position that we need not actually do anything, nor attempt to find any solutions, just as long as we judge those considered “more evil” than us.
  3. The viewpoint ignores science and legitimate healthcare issues (e.g., the chemical composition and effects of oral contraceptives and the legitimacy of legalized abortion in the world of healthcare) in favor of a hypocritical, judgmental basis that simply states “Don’t do that!” without event attempting understand or explain why.

If you want to be culturally relevant; if you want to present actual solutions steeped in love and grace rather than cliches and bumper stickers wrapped in judgment, then I would challenge you to rethink your position on abortion and what should be done about it. Be a solution in a world of problems.

The Importance of Being Offended

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Over the course of the past few months I’ve seen a lot of people (on both sides of whatever fence you decide to put up) discuss how offended they are by someone exercising their rights in one way or another. I’ll go ahead and state that there are a lot of things people do that I disagree with, but I’ll also unequivocally state that I’m incredibly grateful that we live in a country where people can exercise those rights, and do so in controversial fashion. It’s important to realize that the First Amendment wasn’t written to protect agreeable or incontrovertible topics – those don’t need protecting. It’s equally important to note the First Amendment’s place in the Bill of Rights for several reasons.

First, nothing in the Bill of Rights was included in the original Constitution because the original framers considered everything in the original ten amendments to be the kind of things that go without saying. They also didn’t write “eat if you get hungry” and “don’t forget to breathe” because, well… they figured you’d know what to do. However, after realizing that some things were so important they needed to be explicitly clarified, they wrote the Bill of Rights.

And the very first thing to be explicitly protected were controversial expressions of religion, speech, press, peaceful assembly, and criticizing the government – i.e., pretty much blanket covering everything people like to get offended by.

Most majority Muslim countries have blasphemy laws protecting only or mainly Islam. In Pakistan, article 295 of the penal code stipulates that “derogatory remarks” about the prophet Muhammad “by words, either spoken or written, or by visible representation, or by any imputation, innuendo or insinuation, directly or indirectly” shall be punishable by death. One woman, Aasia Bibi, was actually sentenced to death under this article. In a number of Muslim countries, such protections are included in the terms and conditions of internet service providers.

Christians love to point out how backwards these laws are, but then we see something like this: In Britain, a blasphemy law that protected Christianity alone was repealed only in 2008. In South Carolina it’s illegal to perform work on Sunday. Thankfully, there’s an exception in there (only for Charleston County, though) for folks who believe the true Sabbath is on Saturday – they can apply the law towards that day of the week. In California, animals are prohibited from mating within 1,500 feet of a place of worship. Last year a lawmaker in Montana tried to pass a law that would make it illegal (punishable by prison time) to wear yoga pants in public).

No religious group or political party has a corner on idiocy. Yes, the exercise of freedom can be offensive – but that’s the point of freedom. Freedom should not be inhibited unless it actually impedes upon the rights of others; until it reaches that point, it’s completely legitimate and should be (and is, here) protected.

This was the approximate conversation between me and a buddy when I first heard about the whole Colin Kaepernick issue:

Him: “Dude, did you hear what Colin Kaepernick did??”
Me: “Who’s Colin Kaepernick?”
Him: “He’s a quarterback for the 49ers. He refused to stand for the national anthem!!”
Me: “Oh.”
Him: “What do you mean, ‘Oh’? You’re a veteran! You’re patriotic! Doesn’t this offend you??”
Me: “No.”
Him: “Why not???”
Me: “Because literally nothing Mr. Pumpernickel does affects me at all. I didn’t even know who he was until two seconds ago.”
Him: “But he did it because he says blacks are oppressed in America!”
Me: “OK. That makes him an idiot. I still don’t really care.”

And that was pretty much the end of the discussion. What one entitled black person in a league comprised of 68% black people who makes hundreds of millions of dollars believes doesn’t concern me in the least. I disagree with him. I think he’s wrong. I think he’s a moron engaging in attention-seeking behavior.

So?

And that’s the point. Being okay with people doing offensive things that don’t affect your rights is required to be free.

Stephen Covey, in his book 7 Habits of Highly Successful People, wrote about two circles: a circle of concern, and a circle of influence. One of the things he noted about successful people who were generally happy in life is that their circle of concern (i.e., all of the things they cared about and allowed to affect their happiness) generally approximated their circle of influence (i.e., the things they could directly affect). People who are frustrated and unhappy are constantly offended by people and issues far beyond their circle of influence.

If you can be okay with other people acting in an offensive way, as long as it doesn’t actually impede anyone else’s rights (and the right to not be offended doesn’t exist, BTW), then you can truly participate in this wonderful thing we have freedom. If you can’t be okay with that, then realize that you’re no different than the people on the opposite side of whatever issue you’ve chosen who want to create a safe space by banning you – there’s no different between the two parties.

Be offended. It’ll be okay.

Let’s Cut the Racist Crap

There has been quite a bit of talk about racism in the news lately, particularly with regards to police interaction. If you’ve spent any time at all on this blog you know I’m a firm believer in police accountability, and as a libertarian I certainly think that we should always be wary of government power and its potential for abuse. That aside, I’m tired of all of the allegations of racism and the crap that keeps popping up. For example, I saw this a few days ago:

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It is difficult for me to believe that with a black president, a black attorney general, a black Secretary of Transportation, a black Secretary of Homeland Security, an incredibly diverse Supreme Court, and the most diverse Congress we’ve ever seen that we can take the position Colin Kaepernick did when he said, “I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of color.”

Yes. Please tell me how you’re oppressed.

The biggest problem I have with Jon Stewart’s statement and Kaepernick’s belief is that it sets us up to see racism everywhere, even if it isn’t happening. This isn’t rhetoric; it’s actually scientific, and I guarantee it’s something you’ve experienced yourself.

Have you ever learned a new word, heard of a new concept, or seen a specific type of car for the first time? Chances are that, if it made enough of an impact on you, you saw it everywhere over the next few days. You may have watched The Princess Bride for the first time and now everyone around you is using the word “inconceivable;” perhaps you recently read about how the Arctic ice sheet is shrinking while the Antarctic ice shelf is growing, and now all you see are environmental articles everywhere. This is something known as the Baader-Meinhof Phenomenon.

Our brains are designed to recognize patterns, and upon the introduction of new information (particularly if the information is shocking, mind-blowing, or perspective-altering) we subconsciously hyper-focus on that information. The result is that we see something that is, in all likelihood, relatively rare, but now we see it everywhere. You bought a Prius for the first time, and now you notice the fourteen other Prius’s in your neighborhood; you had a foodgasm at a Thai restaurant for the first time, and now for some reason you see three Thai joints on your commute to work.

The Baader-Meinhof Phenomenon is referred to in some psychological circles as “frequency illusion” because the mind distorts what we’re actually seeing into an assumption of much higher frequency than is actually occurring. One of the things I’ve noticed about discussions with people who allege systemic racism is an almost always ever-present statement akin to this: “I had no idea that this was a problem, but ever since X happened (I started dating a black guy, I attended a conference on hidden racism, I watched a documentary) I see it everywhere!” This is the Baader-Meinhof Phenomenon playing out in real time.

A friend of mine recently shared an anecdotal story on his Facebook feed about his first encounter with racism. My buddy is black, and tells the story of how he and another black friend were pulled over by a white cop in a white neighborhood when they weren’t doing anything wrong – they’d broken no traffic laws, their car was in good condition, etc. Now, if you believe that all white cops are racist it would be easy to assume this was the reason for the stop. However, the introduction of three other pieces of information may shed light on the subject: both of these guys were teenagers at the time (16-17 years old) and the stop occurred at two in the morning in a neighborhood the car was not registered to when the cop ran the plates. Of course, it’s certainly possible that the white cop pulled over the kids because they were black; however, it’s far more likely that the cop was suspicious of two teenage guys cruising at two in the morning in a neighborhood they didn’t live in.

The above story illustrates another danger of feeding the Stewart/Kaepernick narrative to people: it causes them to attribute any incidental occurrence to a causality of racism, even if other (far more applicable) circumstances are at play. When I was in high school and college I worked part-time as a server at a local restaurant, and one thing I learned very quickly was that two types of people who frequented the restaurant didn’t tip well: Christians, and black people. Now, I’m a Christian so I don’t have any inherent bias towards religious types, but I can tell you that my heart sank every time I saw people pray before a meal because I knew my chances of getting a good tip just went down by 50% or more. The same occurred with black people. Now, perhaps this was a (very consistent) phenomenon that only occurred where I was at the time; perhaps you’re a black Christian who tips very well. However, I can tell you that the experience was so consistent that the restaurant had to implement and enforce a policy that servers couldn’t trade tables based on race or religion. None of the Christians or black servers at the restaurant had any problem serving people from those demographics, but when you’re making $2.13 an hour plus tips you quickly develop a pretty hard bias against people who have consistently demonstrated an unwillingness to tip. If you wanted a good tip, you went for white males who didn’t pray – and that’s not because we were racist or anti-religion.

I’m currently a loss prevention retail manager, and I recently arrested a couple of girls who had pushed out nearly $500 worth of merchandise without paying for it. For the uninitiated, that’s called “shoplifting.” When I got them into my office the very first words out of their mouths were, and I quote, “You only arrested us because we’re black.” No, it had much more to do with the fact that you just stole a bunch of stuff from my store.

Racism exists – I’m not going to argue that. But when we start telling people that the only reason blacks could possible receive anything but deferential treatment from the world is that systemic racism is everywhere we create a false narrative. We unintentionally contribute to racism by creating a divide where one race feels entitled and the other feels threatened, and the more we perpetuate this the deeper the divide grows. Morgan Freeman said it best in this interview clip:

How do we fix racism? Stop making it a constant narrative is a great first step. This has nothing to do with sweeping legitimate issues under the rug, or ignoring what’s really happening. It has everything to do with stopping giving credence to false narratives that are, to a great degree, largely ignorant and honestly, idiotic. For example, Colin Kaepernick’s statement that blacks are oppressed and treated unfairly is undermined significantly by the fact that he’s part of the National Football League, which has a racial makeup that’s 68% black and only 28% white. He’s also sitting on top of a $114 million contract with a $12 million signing bonus – yes, let’s talk about the oppression of systemic racism.

If legitimate racism exists, let’s talk about it. If we assume people are mistreated just because they’re black, that’s a load of crap and we need to call it for what it is.

Vulnerable

The response of the body and the soul are the same
To gird self with armor, to flee from the shame
The scars form without, to protect the within
I rip off the callouses, again and again

My natural instinct, not feel pain more than once
But my deepest desires are more than my wants
I will not grow dull, to a pain stricken world
A white flag of surrender, I slowly unfurl

The wisest of counsel, to remain not exposed
My invulnerable cloak feels its death throes
For I will not feel dull to the hurt all around
Mail and plate are removed and thrown to the ground

Here I stand, full exposed, and naked by choice
That the world for a moment may hear my small voice
You may be alone – I’m alone here with you
Stricken, wounded, abandoned…but now there are two

I’ve one life to live, this the life that I choose
Reaching into the tempest, that I may be you.

-Jason Crathes

The Conversation – Keynesian and Austrian Economics

Gary Johnson describes himself as fiscally conservative – what does he mean by this?

Well, there are many elements to fiscal conservatism, but one of the most foundational is the difference between Keynesian and Austrian economics; two different schools of thought regarding how macroeconomics work. Below is a great infographic from The Austrian Insider. (It may seem a bit complicated at first, but don’t tune out – I’ll break it down below.)

(image)Keynesian vs Austrian Economics

Keynesian economists essentially believe that savings are bad for the economy at large. Savings pile money into bank accounts, under mattresses, and in cookie jars – what this prevents is the money circulating in the economic system. Wealth is created (slowly), but it isn’t out in the economy working, and that’s why Keynesian economists view it as bad. The fluid flow of money and credit through the system is what allows the economy to function.

Austrian economists view savings as good; when people are given an incentive to save, they protect themselves from personal tragedy (like being laid off, or unexpected medical bills) and from public disaster (like Hurricane Katrina wiping out their possessions). Although the rate of growth may not be as explosive, it builds on a more solid foundation that can withstand this big thing called “Life,” where the only constant is change (and not always good change, at that). These savings will eventually be spent, but generally only on sound investments.

If you boil it down even further, Keynesian economists believe that the fundamental responsibility of stimulating the economy and protecting citizens from inevitable disaster, small and large, lies with the government, and that through effective central planning and monetary policy, the government can effectively eliminate economic slumps and keep us on track for steady growth without any real setbacks. Conversely, Austrian economists believe that the fundamental responsibility for how the economy works lies with the consumer, and that each individual should have the power, the freedom, and the responsibility to manage their own money. Austrian economists accept that booms and busts are part of normal economic cycles, and that both small- and large-scale setbacks can be weathered through personal responsibility (e.g., savings) and wise choices (e.g., sound personal investment strategies).

The clearest difference between the two schools of thought is that Keynesian economics believes that the most important economic factor is spending money, and Austrian economics believes that saving money is the most important economic factor. Austrian economists assume that spending money will happen (after all, you can’t just stop eating, paying rent, and buying clothes) and that saving money puts the onus on the consumer to make wise choices, thereby building a firm economic foundation that can withstand the shocks and challenges of life. Keynesian economists believe that with a strong enough central government, savings are essentially unnecessary – there will always be a program to bail you out of whatever problem you may get into.

OK, so that all makes sense. So how do these two schools of thought affect you and me, as consumers and taxpayers?

Well, the US government has operated under Keynesian principles since the creation of the Federal Reserve bank in 1913. One of the effects of this is what is known as the fractional reserve banking system.

On the surface this looks good: effective investment of capital makes the economy work. There are several problems inherent within the system, however. One of them is answering the question of what happens when a certain percentage of people decide to withdraw their money from the system – since that money is now spread all over the place, most of it not really existing, what happens? The Keynesian answer is what’s known as a bank holiday: close the banks and prevent people from withdrawing their money. Wow, that doesn’t sound very empowering. Let’s hope that never happens.

Another problem is that fractional reserve banking places huge pressure on investments to actually be sound, while failing to put in place solid measures for that to be accomplished. Let’s take the recent housing bubble, for example. Let’s assume, for simplicity’s sake, that every single investment in the chain in the above video was placed into the housing market. Since everyone was buying, property values skyrocketed – until everyone realized that (a) they were participating in a buyer’s frenzy and the real property values didn’t support the price tags, and (b) banks were lending to many borrowers who did not possess the ability to pay the bank back. When people started defaulting on bad loans and property values collapsed, all of the money and credit created in this balloon rapidly evaporated – because 90% of it was fake to begin with. That’s a problem.

In a fractional reserve banking system everything works well as long as the money created by the expansion of credit continues to exist (e.g., there’s no significant devaluation of assets the value is used to create, like the housing market collapsing), very few people ever default, and few people withdraw their money from the system at any given time. When those things happen, this shaky façade of a system is at risk of collapse – and Keynesianism’s answer is more government bailouts, exactly like you saw in the Great Recession.

Libertarianism’s basic philosophy embraces the role of small failures in life by allowing us to experience, first hand, what is good and bad behavior. For example, if you’ve ever sold anything on Craigslist and accepted a bad check, you know that you’ll never accept a check again. You risked something, you lost, and you learned from that mistake. A Keynesian response to this would be to create a government program where you could submit proof of having received a bad check and be reimbursed by the government. This rewards bad (i.e., unnecessarily risky) behavior by bailing you out of a situation you never should have put yourself in – now, there’s no need to avoid accepting checks. People would take advantage of this and start writing bad checks for stuff all over Craigslist, most people would accept the bad checks because they know they’re going to sell items more quickly, at a higher price, and still get paid regardless (if the check is good, by the buyer – if not, then by the government). The government then picks up the tab, and pays for it in one of two ways: by taxing you more (so it can pay you for risky behavior) or by printing new money (which slowly destroys the purchasing power of the money you already have by inflating its value). Imposing new taxes is never politically popular, so since 1913 the easy answer has been to create more money. Unfortunately, the effect of that has been to erode 95% of the purchasing power of the dollar in the last hundred years.

Over the past hundred years we’ve experienced incredible economic growth, but it has come at a cost. The current US debt stands at more than $19.3 trillion and continues to grow. The greater problem, however, is what is known as our unfunded liabilities; these are things we’ve promised to pay, can calculate the approximate cost of, and are bills coming due within the next few decades. These are things like Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid – we know people will use them, and we can do a pretty good job of calculating the approximate cost. These costs currently run in the range of a staggering $127 trillion. To put that into perspective, in 2015 the federal government took in a record-setting $3.2 trillion in taxes – more than it ever has before. In order to pay for the programs we’ve already obligated ourselves to under the Keynesian mindset explained above, we would need to continue to tax at this record-setting rate and then spend every single federal tax dollar we took in on these unfunded liabilities for the next forty years to fund them. That, on its face, is simply impossible.

This is a problem that must be addressed, but neither Trump nor Clinton have made it a central tenet of their platform. Conversely, the very first sentence on Gary Johnson’s campaign website under the “Issues” tab addresses our current financial situation specifically. Johnson also rightfully calls this arguably our single greatest threat to national security. Johnson has spoken about our financial situation at every opportunity.

Government growth, government debt, and government unfunded liabilities are unsustainable. This is probably the single greatest issue in the presidential campaign, and it deserves to be addressed as such.

The Conversation: An Introduction

There are a few things we can all go ahead and agree on:

  • Trump and Clinton are the respective GOP and Democratic nominees.
  • Those who are going to vote for Trump and Clinton have already decided to do so, and there is absolutely no convincing them to vote for the other.
  • The vast majority of people vote along party lines.

There are also a few things the majority of Americans can likely agree on:

  • The two party system is broken, for a variety of reasons.
  • Most Americans feel like they’re voting for a lesser of two evils in any given election.
  • Most Americans feel like voting for someone they truly believe in is wasting a vote, and essentially casting a vote for the other side.

So with that in mind, let’s assume a couple of things. First, you’ve likely already decided who you’re going to vote for, and there really isn’t a chance of dissuading you. Second, discussing Trump versus Hillary in almost any context, sharing memes, poking jabs at the other side… none of this is going to do any good with regards to gaining more votes for your side. The lines have already been drawn. The conversation thus far has been almost exclusively about two people, and any discussion of the issues at hand has been almost completely forgotten.

So let’s start a conversation. What’s the harm? Let’s talk about Gary Johnson. No, I’m not trying to persuade you to vote for him (I’ve already assumed your mind is made up and you can’t be dissuaded). I think that one of the main things that the Johnson/Weld ticket brings to the table is the opportunity to examine the status quo, the two-party system, from the outside. We can go ahead and assume that this ticket isn’t going to win the presidency.

So why not talk about it? Why not use this opportunity to discuss the actual issues, rather than throwing jabs at Trump or Hillary. Let’s forget, for the moment, about Trump’s supposed arrogant belligerence (as seen by the detractors) or his propensity to speak his mind (as seen by his supporters). Let’s forego Hillary’s criminal activities (as seen by her detractors) or her extensive political experience (as seen by her supporters). Let’s forget about the people, whose supporters have already been assembled along ideological lines, and let’s have an actual conversation about the issues this country faces.

Johnson brings that opportunity. We can forget about the actual election, the results of which may have already been decided but not yet seen, and for a few months we have a unique opportunity to bring a fresh perspective and a new accountability to the system by simply asking that we talk about the issues. We should have a conversation, not about the people who are running, but about where this country actually needs to go to move forward. We can skip the dirty politics, the cheap shots, the clever but stupid memes full of low blows, half truths, and personal attacks. We can simply talk about what should happen, regardless of who is elected.

Is that something you can get behind? Just having a conversation – that’s all I ask. This isn’t the opportunity for anyone to grandstand and beg for votes; this isn’t the place for us to persuade someone to switch political parties or exchange cheap shots about pasts and character. I’m simply inviting you to take part in something I’ve termed The Conversation.

Will you join me?

The Conversation

The Problem Is Us Versus Them

Us Versus Them

Unless you’re living under a rock, it seems like the only thing people are talking about over the last 24 hours is black versus white, cop versus thug, and rare is the person who isn’t taking one side or the other. People are reminding us that black lives matter, telling us that to be a person of color is to be a target, and that certain minorities live in daily oppression for fear of their lives – all the while the other side is reminding us of how much we need police in our lives, how much we owe the thin blue line, and if we really have a problem with law enforcement then the next time we have an emergency just call a crackhead instead.

Stop it. Seriously. Stop it, all of you.

First off, the overall problem is that everyone is turning on each other. This whole thing is becoming an Us versus Them scenario, we’re squaring off, and the entire situation is devolving into a rapidly downward spiraling scenario of hostile and fatal acts. We’re Americans, together. Yes, there are several problems which need to be addressed. But the most important thing we need to remember is that we’re in this together.

Now let me address both sides. I’ll start with law enforcement, because I always start with authority. You have the greater responsibility.

There is a problem with the law enforcement community in America today. The problem is that you have a higher allegiance to your own than you do to the law. The main topic that cop apologists seem to be spouting these days is compliance with both cops and the law, and they’re searching for all of the subtle nuances to condemn Philando Castile, who notified the police he was legally armed, didn’t move until he was ordered to, and then reached for his ID after being specifically told to, and was shot five times. Somehow in that seemingly clear situation we can find enough murkiness to let the cop off the hook completely.

Funny how none of that murkiness was apparent in the case of John Biehn, a former cop who was arrested three times in 11 hours for DUI, then let go each time. Why did he leave active police work? He left the force after an incident in 2004 when he went on a drunken rampage at a housing complex, firing his gun at random and shooting out several windows. Three residents testified that Biehn pointed the gun at their heads and tried to shoot them. Others said Biehn fired at them but missed. Not only was he able to be peacefully apprehended, he was acquitted of attempted murder and assault and his sentence suspended.

Let’s talk about Erasmo Mata, Jr, a Pharr police officer who was charged with raping a minor five times, all on duty, all in uniform, and all while other members from his police department stood by and watched. “The Pharr Police Department did an internal investigation, but the family claims Chief Villescas told them not to hire an attorney and that he would personally take care of the allegations against the officer. While the officers were terminated, neither Mata, nor the officers who allegedly watched, initially faced any criminal charges for the 2013 attacks.” It wasn’t until the family of the victim reported the crimes to the Texas Rangers and he was investigated by someone outside of his own department that Mata was indicted.

Or we could talk about Eric Roberts, an Oklahoma State Trooper who raped a woman he pulled over on a traffic stop. After he was arrested multiple other women came forward and revealed that he had done the same thing to them, showing Roberts to be a serial rapist.

Virginia State Trooper Chris Allen Carson was was originally charged with forcible sodomy, aggressive sexual battery and indecent liberties with a child after exposing himself, providing pornographic materials to, and sexually assaulting a child. Carson exposed himself to the child and masturbated in front of and with him. One night, Cook said, the boy woke up to find Carson performing oral sex on him. The presiding judge in this case ruled in a similar case to give a non-police officer 66 years in prison, a hefty fine, and required the perpetrator to register as a sex offender. In this case, however, the presiding judge approved a plea bargain for the cop sentencing him to 9 years (and then suspended all but 30 days of it), and did not require the cop to register as a sex offender.

We could discuss William Monberg, who was pulled over for drunk driving and was so inebriated he didn’t even realize his penis was hanging out of his pants, couldn’t perform basic sobriety tests, and couldn’t even understand what the police officers who stopped him were saying. He was cuffed and put in the patrol car… until the police officers realized he was also a cop, at which point they uncuffed him and took him home instead of to jail.

None of these are anomalies, but are becoming increasingly frequent. If you want more stories like this, click here. The problem isn’t necessarily that horrible people become cops – in any profession you’re going to have people who do the wrong thing, to abhorrent levels. The problem is that, all too often, the thin blue line covers for their own. Guys, when these kind of actions are happening, you’re not law enforcement officers – you’re a gang. And that’s why people hate you.

The only ones who can change that are you. No one outside of the law enforcement community can bring integrity back to it. You have to stop being worried about being a “bro” and start being worried about enforcing the law among your family first and foremost. People like Erasmo Mata should be executed… and you’re covering for them. Is it any wonder that people feel the need to start doing the executing themselves?

It is a common saying among LE types that “the most important thing is coming home safe at the end of your shift.” With all due respect, no. It isn’t. You signed up, commissioned, and put on a badge to protect and serve. Sometimes that involves sacrifice – which may involve taking a bullet, or it may involve losing your job because you did the right thing. Stop acting like your personal safety, career, and the personal safety and career of others wearing the badge is the most important thing in the world. It isn’t. Making the community you signed up to protect and serve a better and safer community, is. And you’ll have to sacrifice to do it. If you’re not ok with that, put down the badge.

OK, now for the other side.

There is a problem with the black community. Seriously. First and foremost let’s cut the crap about you being oppressed in America. You’re not. If you think you are, pick pretty much any country in Africa where your ancestors may have come from and look at the problems THOSE people have. The average per capita income across Africa is $315 annually. The life expectancy of someone born in Africa is decades below the world average. Cannibalism is still an active problem in multiple places in Africa. If you want to gripe about problems black people who were born in America face, realize it’s the equivalent of a 26-year-old man complaining about that one time he stubbed his toe when he was two.

If you want to complain about problems your ancestors faced, then realize first that if you can’t name who those ancestors were or tell their story, you need to shut it. 95% of the people I know, black or white, can’t name their great grandparents, let alone trace their lineage back to days when slavery was a thing in America. So if you’re not even sure if your ancestors were ever slaves, then quit whining about the troubles your people faced. Here’s a hint: study history. Every race has been enslaved, and every people group has had troubles unimaginable to our twenty-first century, first world minds. Just because you assume your ancestors had trouble doesn’t mean you get to wear a chip on your shoulder.

You have incredible opportunity just by being in America. You don’t face the problems your ancestors did. If you think either of those statements is incorrect, you’re just flat out ignorant.

But let’s talk about actual problems with the black community. The rate of fatherlessness in the black community has ballooned to an unbelievable 72%. While this is a problem in other communities (31.2% in Hispanic/Latino communities, 20.7% of white communities), it is at an epidemic level among blacks. White people did not make black males abandon their children. Cops did not force this level of fatherhood absence. This is a black problem, with measurable and demonstrable social repercussions, which holds the black community back and down – and it is caused by blacks. And, more importantly, it can only be fixed by blacks. Whites and cops can’t make the black community embrace fatherhood.

Black mothers abort their children at an exponential rate compared to other communities. Whatever you think about abortion, you should recognize that it’s generally not a sign of exceptional social health. While blacks comprise only 12.8% of the population, they account for nearly 36% of abortions in America. In New York City in 2012, more black babies were aborted (31,328) than born (24,578). Whites and cops don’t make the decision to abort black babies.

The black community loves to highlight the relatively few black people who are killed by cops and security guards each year. However, they neglect to relate the other side of the story, where over the last thirty years 93% of murdered blacks were killed by other blacks. That statistic alone makes the whole #BlackLivesMatter movement absurd on its face – if black lives matter, then tell the black people that.

If you want to look at the number one killer of black people in America, statistically speaking it is the black mother. The number two killer of black people in America is the black man. There is a problem with the black community. No, it doesn’t make me racist to call obvious facts obvious facts.

No one outside of the black community can fix this. Whites can’t come in and tell you how to parent, or live your lives in such a way that the aforementioned problems disappear. In fact, if they do, they’re called racists. If whites say there’s a problem, they’re called racists. If whites stay silent and simply address the problem by jailing an equivalent percentage of blacks as are committing crimes in society, they’re called racists. Let’s get over the two-year-old name calling and simply face the facts.

Again, the problem is that each side is acting like they’re inculpable and the others are completely evil. We’re turning this into an Us versus Them situation and ignoring the reality that there are massive, society-impacting problems on both sides of the fence, and that the only solution is an infusion of integrity by the people in those groups. This is not an external problem. It cannot be fixed by an external solution. The problems within the law enforcement community can only be fixed when the law enforcement community decides it wants to, and the problems within the black community can only be fixed when the black community decides it wants to.

As a white, non-law enforcement officer, I’m cheering for both of you. God help us all if you don’t.

Grace & Redemption

A friend approached me recently with a struggle she was experiencing; in the aftermath of the Orlando shooting, some “Christians” were suggesting that those who were murdered deserved what happened to them because they were gay. This broke her heart (and mine), and she wanted to know what to do with this. How does one handle someone wearing the moniker of absolute love, total forgiveness, and undeserved redemption but spews a message of hate? How do we respond to that? How do we wrap our minds around that concept?

There are several key realizations which must occur here. The first is that all of us deserve the harshest judgment for our sins, and being shot to death is probably the most pleasant thing any of us deserve. These victims deserved it no more than any of the rest of us.

The second is that during Jesus’ time of ministry the harshest judgment, criticism, and outright physical beatings he administered were reserved for the most religious. In the midst of a ministry Jesus explicitly declared as not for the purpose of condemnation (John 3:17), he explicitly and repeatedly condemned those who spread a message of hate, condemnation, and legalistic adherence to a set of rules they could neither explain nor follow themselves.

“They tie up heavy burdens, hard to bear, and lay them on people’s shoulders, but they themselves are not willing to move them with their finger.” – Matthew 23:4

In fact, the religious members of the day actually tried to “trap” Jesus several times by putting sick people in front of him and watching to see if he would heal them, so they could condemn him for doing so. Talk about perversion.

This is the second realization: no harsher judgment will occur than that which is reserved for those whose responsibility is the ministry of reconciliation (2 Corinthians 5:18), whose sole identity is found in the basis of love (John 13:35), and whose highest standard is remembering the sin from which we have been saved and extending that same love and forgiveness to others (Matthew 18:21-35, emphasis on verse 35).

The third thing we’ve got to wrestle with is how we approach actions that others are engaged in which we disagree with, and which we may consider to be morally questionable, objectionable, or perhaps even reprehensible. How do we approach this issue with Christians and non-Christians?

The latter first: how do we deal with what we believe to be sin in the lives of non-believers? First and foremost we absolutely must recognize the different roles of those involved. It is the natural tendency of humans who believe they have truth to convict others of their sin. All of us do it; if we believe something is right and true, we want to go on a crusade and set the world straight. In Christianity, however, that’s not our job. In John 16:8 Jesus specifically states that it is the role of the Holy Spirit to convict the world of sin and righteousness and judgment. It is not our job to convict others of what we think is their sin.

We humans and Christians also excel in judgment. It’s natural to have opinions, and there’s nothing wrong with wrestling with issues and deciding in our own mind where we stand on something. However, when we begin to judge our neighbors and decide for them where they stand before God, we are the ones guilty of the greater sin.

I have a friend who is vocally and blatantly pro-choice. When you get to know her; when you dig into her life and hear her story, you find out that she was raped, held hostage, and denied medical services until abortion was no longer an option – and she doesn’t believe that anyone should be forced to be a parent. Sure, the issue may seem black and white to us who have never been there… but what of her?

Another buddy of mine is divorced, and his wife divorced him because he was repeatedly unfaithful to her. Seems black and white to us. That is, until you find out that his wife kidnapped his kids when he was at work one day, took them 2,000 miles away, and held them hostage with a list of demands and threatened to withhold any contact with his kids until he caved. He didn’t even know if his kids were alive for almost four days. Once they got back together, she threatened to repeat this on a weekly, and sometimes daily basis, until he was driven so far into anxiety and depression, not knowing whether his kids would be at home at the end of each workday, that he attempted suicide. When he woke to the reality of the selfishness of suicide and his kids’ need to have him there, he pulled himself up by his bootstraps and asked for a divorce – his wife threatened to mentally and emotionally abuse the kids if he left, and proceeded to start to do so right in front of him. So partially in an effort to cope, and partially because he knew it would make him so repulsive to her that she would finally agree to the divorce and not take it out on the kids – he cheated. He cheated repeatedly until she divorced him. And now Christians look at him as a divorced adulterer, a failure as a husband and a father, who is too worthless to redeem or love.

What does God have to say about our tendency as humans and Christians to judge others as failing to abide by God’s laws?

“There is only one lawgiver and judge, he who is able to save and to destroy. But who are you to judge your neighbor?” – James 4:12.

Billy Graham put it this way: “It is the Holy Spirit’s job to convict, God’s job to judge, and my job to love.” It doesn’t get much simpler than that.

Holy Spirit's Job

Nowhere in the New Testament are we commanded to judge. However, do you know what Jesus’ final charge to his disciples was before he died?

“A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” (John 13:34-35) Jesus explicitly states that our primary responsibility and our sole identity in him is love. Period. No ifs, ands, or buts. This commandment may seem quaint, and even naïve to us, unfortunately – that is, until you realize the context.

If you want to know what underscores this even more, go to this passage in the Bible (John 13) and scan above this. Do you know what Jesus did immediately before he said this? He washed the feet of all of the disciples, including Judas Iscariot, and then looked Judas in the eye and told him he knew Judas was going to betray him to his death, and then turned and looked his other disciples in the eye and immediately told them their primary responsibility was to love! And then immediately he turned to his #1 guy, his closest disciple, and simply and clearly states that within the next 12 hours his #1 guy is going to utterly, completely, and vocally abandon him to his death. And still Jesus loves, and doesn’t condemn.

Jesus did not give us his primary commandment in an environment of comfort, in a place of victory in his ministry, or in a moment of elation. Jesus told us to love others as he washed the feet of the man he knew was about to betray him to be tortured to death within the next 24 hours, and Jesus was so overcome with physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual stress that within an hour he was literally sweating blood and the Son of God was literally begging his Father to not make him go through with this. With that as the background for his message, he chooses to tell us that our primary job on this earth is simply this: love.

Lest we be tempted to judge the struggling believer as someone who should have it all together, let us remember a few examples from the Bible.

  • Abraham is remembered in Scripture as a man of faith, but when the Bible tells the story of Abraham’s 175 year life it only tells the 25 year period of when he was most faithless, and struggling to live up to what God had called him to do – and God was repeatedly faithful in the midst of Abraham’s repeated lies, betrayals, and mistakes.
  • David is called the man after God’s own heart, and after God had given him everything he lied, cheated, and murdered. This was after he became a believer – and God describes him as a man after his own heart after David acted in this way.
  • Elijah was so close to God that he was one of only two men to never die, yet he was suicidal in the midst of his ministry.

If you read through the “heroes” of the faith it reads like an orchestra of broken instruments; people who claimed to be redeemed and were utterly broken, sometimes beyond recognition. These were people who totally did not have their shit together. Yet in the midst of this litany of fragmented, cracked, damaged, and ruined instruments, God orchestrated the most beautiful love song the world has ever heard.

The song of redemption.

And this song is the one song he has charged us to play during our time on earth.

In the end, Jesus is the God of the skinned knee, the Lord of the bruised shin, and the Savior of the stubbed toe. I’m convinced that his proudest moments come when those who have failed, who are naturally weak, and who have no redeeming factors simply try – and fail. And try again. And fail. And try again.

And our only job is to be there to help each other stand back up after we’ve fallen. Let him who is without sin cast the first stone.

Keep Calm, And Carry On

In 1939, as Britain prepared for their involvement in the second world war, experts predicted air attacks on major metropolitan areas. A preemptive public relations campaign was launched in an effort to raise and sustain the morale of British citizens during the indescribable horror of what would be known as The Blitz. The most poignant surviving reminder of this morale-raising campaign is a widely recognized poster with a simple phrase: “Keep Calm And Carry On.”

Keep Calm & Carry On

As I write this, I have just returned to a hotel room from which I was evacuated due to some burnt toast down the hall setting off the fire alarm; it interrupted my nap, it inconvenienced my morning… but that was it. I cannot imagine being raised from bed by sirens, night after night, to sit in a crowded subway tube listening to bombs going off overhead, not knowing if your family, friends, and home would survive the night. When faced with an inconvenient fire alarm with no real repercussions I can keep calm and carry on, but The Blitz? It’s a simple message, true. But is it too simple? Is it simple to the point of being naïve, or even childish?

Yesterday fifty people were killed when a shooter opened fire in a crowded night club in Orlando. A terrorist inflicted mass murder on Americans, and within minutes liberals were already crying for more restrictive gun laws and conservatives were demanding retribution. The focus was a panicked, emotion-driven frenzy of demanded action. In the midst of this impassioned, agitated turmoil, perhaps it would do us good to remember a simple lesson from the past.

Keep calm, and carry on.

In 2001 our world was rocked by another attack that changed the face of America. In the aftermath of that we forgot the lessons of the poster from the Blitz and we demanded action – and act we did. We surrendered essential liberties, possibly forever; we engaged in torturing innocents to “preserve our way of life;” we passed legislation which enabled the indefinite detention of American citizens without being formally charged; for the first time in American history we authorized the assassination of American citizens without a trial; we began spying on Americans en masse; we systematically deconstructed the Constitution in the name of patriotism; we placed normal Americans on “no fly” lists and restricted their travel without charging or convicting them of anything; we’re now entertaining a presidential candidate from one of the main political parties who believes we should discriminate based upon religion. In short, this flurry of action accomplished but one thing: we became something America was not. We lost who we were.

Yes, Orlando was an act of war. It was an act of terror. It was an act of heinous cowardice perpetrated against innocent, unarmed civilians in a dastardly way. Now everyone has a different solution to the problem.

Woah, slow down there. Wait a second. Who said this was a problem?

Certainly it is bad. It is, without a doubt, something no sane person ever wants to see occur once, let alone ever again. But that doesn’t necessarily mean it is a problem that needs to be solved. In the same way the Blitz in London wasn’t a problem, but a symptom – a temporary condition faced by a united nation mobilized against what it believed to be unspeakable evil. The Blitz was merely a symptom of good fighting against evil. And in the face of that, the people knew that they must unite, support each other, and… keep calm, and carry on. This was not a problem which demanded an altered course simply because they faced opposition – it was a symptom that they were headed in the right direction.

Facing the horrors of the Blitz didn’t mean they were doing something wrong. Nowhere in life should we expect that doing everything right means that life suddenly ceases to be hard, or difficult, or sometimes outright painful. As Captain Picard on Star Trek once said, “It is possible to commit no errors and still lose. That is not weakness… that is life.”

It is possible to commit no errors and still lose

Yes, yesterday in Orlando we lost something. We lost lives. We lost friends and family. We lost a sense of peace, of safety, of harmony. The closer we are to the madness that occurred the more our world was rocked. But in this moment of tumult, of terror, of pain, we should know that this is not a problem, but rather a symptom. And in this case, it is a symptom of something good: freedom.

Thomas Jefferson warned us of this when he wrote that “the tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots and tyrants.” This quote is most often used to conjure images of active warfare, but such is not always the context in which it must appear. Jefferson knew that freedom is a dangerous aspiration, for to live free is to abandon many comforts and safeties of what can only be known by living as a slave. Living free sometimes costs us something.

The reason that terrorists engage in terrorism is to create a sense of fear – and thereby incite action which causes us to voluntarily surrender our liberties, our freedoms, and our independence. Franklin Roosevelt once said that “We have nothing to fear but fear itself.” We would do well to remember that. When our world is rocked by senseless, hateful fear, we can choose to focus on that, or we can remember something else.

We can remember that these Americans were targeted because they were exercising liberties unknown in most of the world.

We could guarantee that this would never happen again by forbidding gatherings, by outlawing nightclubs, by telling Americans that their actions should be dictated by the constant, paralyzing fear of the worst possibility, however remote, that could ever happen. We can spread dissension by hating Muslims, or people with guns, or gays. We can allow fear to divide and conquer us as we assume violence against us is a “problem” that needs to be fixed with “action.”

Or we can keep calm, and carry on.

We can refuse to be cowed into submission by terror. We can demand that our way of life not be constricted, denied, and shaped by fear. We can go forward from here with the rallying cry, “Try what you will, but you will not terrorize us out of our freedom!”

These Americans were killed because they were exercising their liberty. Let us not dishonor them by surrendering our own. Let us honor their memories by remaining free, by living as Americans, by demonstrating with our lives that we aspire to something higher. In the face of fear, let us be courageous. While others demand action, let us remain calm. When this is labeled a problem, let us recognize it is but the price of remaining free.

Let us keep calm, and carry on.

Dangerous Freedom