Perspective

350 million is more than a third of a billion. There are more than a third of a BILLION people in the United States, representing by far the greatest variety of beliefs, backgrounds, and lifestyles in the history of the world. It’s impossible to fully conceive of what that number represents in the real world.

I point this out because the fear-mongering media outlets we might like–whichever they may be (they’re all basically the same business model)–love to magnify small exceptions so we can all have a loathsome Other to hate. No matter how insignificant, some marginal extremist presence that’s different from the audience any given outlet caters to will magically be made to seem like a looming threat to everything that audience holds dear.

But it’s all just smoke and mirrors. Because this amazing society is far larger than we can even comprehend, much less identify, quantify, and target.

Take that universal enemy, Westboro Baptist Church. Whenever they get up to their shenanigans somewhere, it’s a great opportunity for people of nearly all walks of life to bemoan the oppression this inhuman boogeyman represents, and to score some easy social capital by publicly proclaiming their intent to fight this evil army.

Except the total number of people in this group is only about somewhere between 40 and 70. That’s it.

To put that in perspective, this imminent threat to our sacred way of life consists of less than 0.0000002% of Americans.

The same could be said of any number of gross abominations against whatever flavor of the sociopolitical spectrum you prefer. They’re just tiny blips on the radar, footnotes that history won’t even bother to include at the bottom of any page.

The lesson, as always, is thus:

unite

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Some Quotes From Orwell’s 1984

Evergreen insights into the nature of the Left, labelled with current concerns.

 

ON MILLENNIAL SOCIAL JUSTICE WARRIORS:

With those children, he thought, that wretched woman must lead a life of terror. Another year, two years, and they would be watching her night and day for symptoms of unorthodoxy. Nearly all children nowadays were horrible. What was worst of all was that by means of such organizations as the Spies they were systematically turned into ungovernable little savages, and yet this produced in them no tendency whatever to rebel against the discipline of the Party. On the contrary, they adored the Party and everything connected with it. The songs, the processions, the banners, the hiking, the drilling with dummy rifles, the yelling of slogans, the worship of Big Brother — it was all a sort of glorious game to them. All their ferocity was turned outwards, against the enemies of the State, against foreigners, traitors, saboteurs, thought-criminals. It was almost normal for people over thirty to be frightened of their own children.

–Part I, chapter 2

 

ON THE UNCRITICAL WORSHIP OF EDGY INNOVATION

Anything old, and for that matter anything beautiful, was always vaguely suspect.

–Part I, chapter 8

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Donald Trump As a Book of Mormon Villain

Perhaps you’ve noticed that I hardly write much about politics anymore. That’s because I’m so deeply disheartened at where every side is at in our country now, and I’m not sure I even have anything useful worth saying about any of it. But there’s at least this one thing.

I continue to be surprised and scared by Donald Trump’s popularity on the right.

Six months ago, I would have said that if anything good were to come out of this new administration, it might be a real focus on media bias, which is pervasive and truly dangerous (it almost certainly contributed to the shooting of Congressman Steve Scalise, for example), and which Trump has actively highlighted.

covfefeBut now it’s clear that, if he’s done anything at all, he’s set back the issue at least twenty years. Consider his infamous “covfefe” tweet. Everybody laughed at the weird typo (which he said was caused by typing at night while getting tired), but the real story was ignored: the president of the United States, in bed at night, felt sorry for himself and wanted to garner sympathy by lashing out at domestic critics, but he was so sleepy that he screwed it up.

And he’s in charge of defending the free world.

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Response To A Pro-Trump Meme

I fixed a meme I saw online last week by adding a quote from the Book of Mormon. I’m not comparing Trump to Mormon, I’m comparing the American people to the Nephites, perhaps in a similar state of civilizational decline. You’re looking for salvation in the wrong place, and it’s a sign of imminent collapse.

It bothers me how many people are openly praising Trump as a deliverer. That’s too close to idolatry for my taste. Those on the right who do this with Trump are no better off than those on the left who did it with Obama. Looking for a temporal savior never ends well.

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The Only Two Things I’ll Say About Trump’s Firing Of Comey

It’s like Michael Jackson having little boys stay at his ranch: it may be completely innocent, but only a fool opens himself to that much liability and credible scrutiny.

Also, the completely predictable dog and pony show on both sides of the aisle this week reminds me of Dave Barry’s summary of Comey’s adventures last year, ending with, “This forces Republicans and Democrats to again swap positions on whether Comey is a courageous patriot or total scum.” Still relevant!

Three Reactions To The LDS Church Dropping Boy Scouts For Older Teens

This is a very good thing. Besides the great insights in today’s Deseret News article, I think the following:

1. Yes, Scouting has been ineffective for older boys. The last time I was a Scout leader, it was with Venturing, and the program could have been better. Boys that age are either Eagles (or close), or have checked out completely. I was taught at multiple trainings that unless a boy was almost done, to stop hounding him on it and move on to whatever their actual needs and interests were–I spent most of my time in that calling focusing on other things, personalized for the boys we had. This advice now seems to be spreading institutionally.

2. I’ve long been concerned that Scouting has become something of a cult in part of the Church–some people are so obsessed with it that the rituals, uniforms, emblems, etc. of Scouting have become a false priesthood. Really. That alienates a lot of boys, and distracts others. A focus on actual saving ordinances, growth, and service is good. The activities of Scouting–camping, fishing, hiking, etc.–are awesome and will stay, but the activity arm of the auxiliary needs to be in better perspective. I once served with a bishop who said that Duty to God was more important than Scouting, and he was widely ignored. He was ahead of his time.

3. Let’s be honest, a lot of this is Robert Conquest’s second law in action–“Any organization not explicitly right-wing, sooner or later becomes left-wing.” Scouting is trying to kill itself and our efforts to intervene have been unsuccessful. Today’s announcement is not the end of this for the Church or for Scouting. They will keep getting worse, and we will have to keep pulling further away.

An Open Letter to the Nevada State Senate About Senate Bill 225

To the Nevada State Senate:

Though Senate Bill 225 may have been introduced with the best of intentions, I must urge the Senate not to pass it, for three significant reasons.

  1. It could lead to an unsafe environment where predators may operate.

The mother of a transgender student (and a major proponent of this bill) was recently interviewed by the Las Vegas Sun about the “bullying” her child had been subjected to at school. It boiled down to not being allowed in the opposite gender’s locker room (https://lasvegassun.com/news/2017/mar/22/parents-lawmakers-want-anti-bullying-law-at-privat/). It appears, then, that this is the kind of situation SB 225 is meant to rectify (Section 6.3 of the bill, for example, can be read this way).

In March 2017, Kristen Quintrall, who describes herself as “pretty progressive and tolerant,” was at Disneyland with her young son and reported seeing an aggressive man in the women’s restroom, ogling them. This was not a transgender person—it was a man taking advantage of the current policies there about transgender people to create a hostile and dangerous situation for women. (http://www.thegetrealmom.com/blog/womensrestroom)

There have been many recent incidents of women being assaulted in public restrooms, particularly at Target, which has promoted itself as a bastion of “non-discrimination” regarding gender and its bathrooms (http://downloads.frc.org/EF/EF16F27.pdf).

Surely, Nevada does not want to create unsafe spaces for women and girls, much less open itself to the legal liability which will ensue from policies that set up the circumstances under which such tragedies could occur in the first place.

Please note that this objection has nothing to do with transgender people themselves. In the interest of serving their wants, we would also be creating a serious problem for many others. If this bill passes and leads to universally open locker rooms and bathrooms, heterosexual predators will abuse this policy and innocent women will suffer. We cannot stick our heads in the sand and ignore that.

  1. It could restrict freedoms of speech and conscience.

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This must be that famous liberal tolerance I’ve heard so much about!

A month ago, I posted this simple announcement to a public Facebook group for teachers in my county: “There is a new private Facebook group for CCSD teachers on the right of the political spectrum. Message me if you’re interested.”

Among the comments I got were these:

  • “I’m just curious…what do teachers on the right of the political spectrum support? Unequal access to quality education? Removing free breakfast and lunch from schools, so that students can worry about being hungry instead of learning?”
  • “Maybe a different profession????”
  • “Is this where you guys rally to vote yourselves out of a job or figure out ways to turn in your students or their parents?”
  • “The request…is a slap in the face.”
  • “There are teachers there? Really?”
  • “You guys need your own page!!! I agree!”

In addition, one woman tracked down my salary information as listed elsewhere online, screenshot it, and posted it, with a threat that I was being watched.

I never replied to any of those comments, but I wonder if any of these people realize how ironic their complaints are–their hostility illustrates exactly why I wanted to make a place where conservative teachers could talk without being insulted.

Or maybe I should have just said, “Do you want more Trump? Because this is how you get more Trump.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

So You Think 1984 Is For Liberals? Let’s Ask Instapundit.

Orwell-c-cIn January, the New York Times gleefully reported, “George Orwell’s ‘1984’ Is Suddenly a Best-Seller.” Their angle was clear: the URL for the story includes “george-orwell-donald-trump.”

Don’t get me wrong: I’m always happy when liberals start reading classics. But as usual, the “progressive” interpretation of things is completely devoid of historical context.

I’m not just talking about the anti-communist criticism underlying the book’s commentary. Of course we can’t expect American SJWs to catch on to that.

I simply mean their tacit assumption that this text is uniquely tailored to their snowflake-friendly conception of the world, tunnel-visioned as it is.

Just ain’t so, I tells ya.

For every clever parallel some 2017 progressive draws between Orwell’s masterpiece and their jaundiced vision of the contemporary political landscape, conservatives have drawn dozens of far more meaningful comparisons over the years.

Consider this: the excellent, conservative news aggregator Instapundit got tons of mileage out of 1984 references all throughout the previous administration. Searching for 13 salient terms there produces these results:

memory hole” : Number of uses during Obama administration–84

always been at war” : Number of uses during Obama administration–13

doublethink” : Number of uses during Obama administration–12

thought police” : Number of uses during Obama administration–25

Newspeak” : Number of uses during Obama administration–51

Anti-sex League” : Number of uses during Obama administration–10

thought crime” : Number of uses during Obama administration–13

doubleplusungood” : Number of uses during Obama administration–9

Ministry of Truth” : Number of uses during Obama administration–24

Two Minutes Hate” : Number of uses during Obama administration–4

war is peace” : Number of uses during Obama administration–13

prole” : Number of uses during Obama administration–39

Big Brother” : Number of uses during Obama administration–90

Can liberal news commenters equal this litany of allusions during the Trump years?

 

 

Political Differences, part 2

Strange that the alt-Right and the Tea Party each gained such prominence within just several years of each other–beyond a common antipathy to illegal immigration, they have very little in common.

The policy goals of the alt-Right seem to have more in common with the neo-cons of the early 2000s than they do with constitutional conservatives. Consider the current popularity of trade protectionism and the zeal for interventionism, for example.

Is there a relationship between the decline of the Tea Party and the rise of the alt-Right?

[Here is a great discussion of the alt-Right, particularly what Latter-day Saints should do about it. A couple of remarks from yours truly are part of a great discussion in the comments.]

Political Differences

Conservatives and liberals obviously see things differently, but lately I’m impressed by how their differences reflect preferences for opposing sides of the same coin. On issues from Obamacare to no-fault divorce, from abortion to welfare, our reporting and commentary reflect a choice of one value over another.

For example, conservatives see the social changes of the last half century or so and focus on how there is less cohesion, less community and stability than there was before. Their priority might be the success of the group, not the safety of the individual. “The needs of the many outweigh the needs of the one.”

(Ironically, conservatives seek to ensure the success of the group by preserving the freedom of the individual.)

Liberals will look at the same issues and focus on how some old problems have been at least partially alleviated for some people by the same changes. Their priority might be the safety of the individual, not the success of the group. “The needs of the one outweigh the needs of the many.”

(Ironically, liberals seek to ensure the safety of the individual by engineering wholesale change in the group.)

Perhaps this is why conservative media is more likely to report on big-picture stories of societal decline and abuse of systems, whereas liberal media is more likely to report on intimate stories of individuals being abused, but ostensibly being helped by institutional evolution.

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Why This Teacher Isn’t Afraid of Betsy DeVos

Some opinions are universal. “Bacon tastes good.” “Adam Sandler movies are stupid.” “Oxygen is totally the best atmospheric gas for human respiration.”

Among teachers, another example would be, “Betsy DeVos would be bad as Secretary of Education.” But I don’t agree.

I’m not pro-DeVos, I’m just not anti-DeVos.

As is usually the case, many of the arguments against her are spurious. One meme I saw criticized her for her personal donations to Christian schools. That was it–the menacing specter of Christian schools must clearly be a minus. And the bear thing? Besides being exaggerated by a hostile press, if everybody who’d ever choked under pressure and said something dumb were disqualified for public service, nobody would ever be able to do anything, including me, and including you.

“DeVos will destroy public education!” my colleagues say. I spent last year saying that the similar argument for Trump (“Electing Trump is our last chance to save American from total destruction!”) is likewise misguided: if something–be it education or America itself–is in such sorry shape that one person can easily save or destroy it, then we truly are already doomed. If Betsy DeVos is capable of destroying public education, then public education certainly needs to be destroyed. Let’s scrap this rubble heap and rise from the ashes.

Not that I really think such will be the case. Her administration will not damage public education…but neither will hers or anyone else’s help it.

About a decade ago, during some other school issue-related kerfuffle, I heard a teacher complain about how the right wing wanted to end the Department of Education. She ranted and raved a while, then stopped and shyly asked a group of us, “When was the Department of Education started?” I didn’t have the heart to tell her that this august, esteemed institution harkens all the way back to the days of…Jimmy Carter.

To put it another way, the Department of Education is younger than Tom Brady or Peyton Manning.

This government boondoggle actually does have some significant power to plague teachers with pointless paperwork, but that’s about it.

So, whether DeVos gets in or not, I really couldn’t care less. Somehow, I expect that my classroom will proceed just the same.

 

These Two Screen Shots Should Come In Handy

These screen shots will make good responses online when people do these two annoying things:

 

When someone claims that their policy view is the “inevitable” one, the one “on the right side of history,” or that their beliefs are the ones that always and automatically represent “progress”–

pratt

 

When someone randomly spouts emotionally charged political ideas–

simpsons.png

(I look forward to seeing this one used against me…)