Perspective and Reaction

Why do so many liberals seem to overreact to events? Perhaps the basic difference in our worldviews hold the answer.

One of the many inherent benefits of conservatism is that, with an emphasis on heritage and tradition, a healthy respect for historical perspective comes automatically built in. Conservatives don’t overreact because we’re wired to play the long game. We base our lives on eternal verities and look for permanent solutions.

Progressive liberals, on the other hand, living in a state of constant flux dedicated only to the obvious here-and-now, have no such frame of reference. When all of world history is merely a monolithic march of one-dimensional oppression, then of course your more “enlightened” views make this era (and you yourself) the most important thing that has ever happened. Therefore, every trendy new issue becomes cosmically crucial.

Every loss becomes the most catastrophic tragedy ever, because as far as your values recognize, today’s event is the only thing that has ever even happened. All dissent becomes a profound personal insult, demanding retaliation of the highest order.

Their cultic obsession with their own myopia defines who they are, and cripples any chance they have of acting rationally in a civilized world.

Just once, I’d like to see a liberal react to an event with a nonchalant shrug and say, “Minor setback. Not a big deal.”

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Scarlet Letter / Trump Joke

slI love dropping bits of pop culture and current events into my classes. They often involve insulting famous people–it’s not personal or ideological, but teachers need to make things relevant and interesting, especially dry 19th century novels.

Today, as one class started their unit on The Scarlet Letter, I read the beginning with them and then summarized the flashback at the end of chapter 2:

“So this story is about a beautiful young woman who escaped poverty and married a deformed older man whose wealth gave her a life of travel and luxury.” I paused and they knew some punchline was coming.

“And then she became first lady of the United States.”

The REALLY Old Farmer’s Almanac

978053I recently read the Latin poet Virgil’s work The Georgics, a four-part poem about the world of rural shepherds. Pretty decent pastoral stuff, especially part I.

Still, with its emphasis on astrology, agriculture, and animal husbandry, I felt like I was reading an ancient Roman version of the Old Farmer’s Almanac.

“Flower of Scotland”

I’ve reached the age where, whenever I discover something new in this world that I love, I wonder how I made it this far without ever coming across it. Such is the case wth this weekend’s discovery of the song, “Flower of Scotland.” How did I, an inveterate Celtiphile and music lover, never hear this beautiful little song in four decades?

It’s wonderful–a Scottish “Edelweiss,” if you will. Here’s the most beautiful version I’ve found so far:

Conversation With a Fanatical Anti-Mormon

It’s actually the same guy from yesterday’s “conversation” post. In the middle of the night after that discussion, he sent me the random new message you see below. As with yesterday’s record, I reproduce this here for you because, of the many debates I’ve ever had with anti-Mormons, this is probably the very best. It’s certainly the most comprehensive.

For one thing, he really did look at my evidence and addressed it. That’s pretty rare.

But mostly, this just shows how shallow the thinking is from the anti camp. You see most of the usual games here–lots of random trivia used as a scare tactic, strong claims made and repeated without evidence, changing the subject, outright contradiction whenever it’s convenient, projection, etc.

Note that even after the dust settled, he had never even tried to substantiate his own claims about the Book of Mormon–I analyzed his own argument more seriously than he did. Also, not only did he never explain the evidence for the Book of Mormon, he literally admitted that doing so would be impossible.

Warning: this post is VERY long. But worth it. Enjoy.

sean1

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Women’s March

screen-shot-2017-01-21-at-7-42-41-pmEarly this afternoon I drove home from my job in downtown Las Vegas, and passed dozens of women who were mostly dressed up in expensive clothes, smiling from ear to ear, and holding very angry and predictably generic signs.

Honest question here: what exactly are today’s women’s marches about? I’ve seen dozens of their signs all over the news, and I can’t figure out what the point is. Tons of unrelated issues are reflected from one sign to the next. Based on the dominant messages they’re advertising, they seem to want abortion to be legal and sexual assault to be illegal, but isn’t that already the case? What am I missing?

The closest thing I can find to a unified message is a general hate of Trump, because of his admittedly crude comments about women. But if that’s the animating force here, what exactly are these marches meant to achieve? Didn’t they already express opposition to him when they voted for Hillary? What message is now understood that wasn’t already clear last week or last month or last year? And what do these protesters hope to achieve? What will actually become different in the real world because of this? Is there a concrete goal?

Or is this just a glorified pity party? Is this yet another chance for leftists to spout cliches and feel good about themselves? A community commiseration based on vaguely similar negative reflexes? It kind of seems like that. Honestly, sometimes it looks like leftists just have to pretend to rebelling against something because if they didn’t, they’d have no real identity at all.

Conversation With a Man Who Has Trump Derangement Syndrome

This week a friend of a friend posted this video on Facebook, purporting to show that Donald Trump’s supporters are evil and racist and bad and want to commit heinous civil rights abuses.

The following conversation ensued. I reproduce it here to display the total lack of logic and reasoning powers that some of these ideologues have.

trump1

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Conversation With A Climate Cultist

Whatever its merits and mistakes, climate change science has certainly created a cult of bandwagon fangirls, eager to advertise their righteousness and stigmatize any heretic. There is now an alchemy of magical thinking online, existing to distinguish the superiority of those who prize moral rectitude over the actual scientific method. I saw a tweet from one such zealous disciple this week whose smugness prompted me to respond. I think the exchange speaks for itself.

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She didn’t answer after that, and I didn’t think pressing the point would have been productive.

Allegorical Readings of Cormac McCarthy’s The Road

7ac78a6837587-560b93258816dWhat if the world of The Road isn’t a post-apocalyptic wasteland, but is just the same world around us? What if, morally and spiritually, we’re already living in the nightmarish hellscape of that novel?

The Man’s and the Boy’s journey isn’t archetypal, then, so much as it’s symbolic for each of us, trying to make our way through life in a society that in many ways is falling apart. McCarthy’s rapacious marauders are actually just the neighbors in our own communities. The devastated environment is the poisonously corrosive culture in which we all now live.

The Road could simply be about life in America in the early 21st century. Our protagonists are in the same position as many who try to preserve the heritage of civilization today.

Or, if we want a more specific application, maybe the wife-and-mother’s suicide was the major catastrophe that soured the world, and wasn’t due to it. The world only changed for these two men. Because of her loss, the world becomes this twisted, broken shell of its former self. The Man’s and the Boy’s journey is just them trying to soldier on in the wake of a lingering grief that they can’t escape. The novel proceeds from their vantage point, and everything else in the world is seen through the soiled lenses they now wear.

And you thought this book couldn’t get any sadder!

Symbolic Book Titles

I just had the idea to list books where the title is also the book’s chief symbol. So far I have:

  1. The Catcher in the Rye
  2. Lord of the Flies
  3. Ulysses
  4. The Bluest Eye
  5. The Bell Jar
  6. The Color Purple
  7. The Maltese Falcon

Please add more in the comments.

I’d also like to make lists of books where the title is an allusion (The Grapes of Wrath, The Sound and the Fury) and where the title is a complete sentence (Death Comes For the Archbishop, The Heart Is a Lonely Hunter).

Forcing Students To Revise Their Writing

My college classes this last semester had some of the best writers I’ve ever had in English 101. I felt very lucky to get to work with them. But there was one thing about those two classes that irked me to no end throughout our first two big essay units: no matter what I did, they wouldn’t revise their work.

I marked specific things on their papers and told them what to do to improve them, but much of that advice was ignored on subsequent drafts. And when I gave general feedback about writing style and missing elements, nothing in the next draft reflected that at all.

Few things are as frustrating for an English teacher as seeing their careful commentary on student work completely ignored by those students.

I even integrated some basic revision exercises into our classwork to remind them of (introduce them to?) the mechanics and mindset of revision. I labored the point that first drafts are never good enough–that strenuous attention to perfecting work is a must in any endeavor.

Finally, after the midterm, I decided to launch a nuclear attack on the subject, and after returning the first draft of their third essay project, I gave them these directions:

For the revised draft due next week, you must take the first draft and revise it as follows:

Choose any two or three of the five articles given below. Incorporate an analysis and discussion of each of them (as per the original directions) into your existing essay draft. HOWEVER, you may not add any new paragraphs–that total must not change–nor can you just add new sentences to the ends of existing paragraphs. The new material must be smoothly integrated into the existing essay–the commentary from the first draft must be revised to also address the new material.

There must be new material in *every* paragraph of this revised draft.

BUT, this new draft must also be no longer than the original first draft–this means that some material from the first draft must be condensed and/or eliminated, and what you add will have to be succinct.

Yes, that’s a cheap, sneaky way to micromanage their progress, and I hated doing it, but it did get results. The next drafts were substantially different, and they were even better. Now I just have to hope that as they go through future classes, and the rest of their lives, they keep the lesson in mind and continue living it.

Horowitz in Moscow

I first read about this concert over a decade ago, in Charles Kuralt’s memoir A Life on the Road.  Intrigued by Kuralt’s portrayal of the pianist’s passion, I picked up a recording of the performance on CD.

It’s an incredible musical experience. I can’t believe I’ve never written about it here until now. Vladimir Horowitz’s return to his homeland produced a night of sentimentality and triumph.