The soul of a country

Slavery
The art of the deal!

 

People don’t realize, you know, the Civil War, if you think about it, why? People don’t ask that question, but why was there the Civil War? Why could that one not have been worked out?”
— Donald Trump

A hundred and fifty years ago, a war was fought for the soul of this nation. On one side was the belief that this country should be a place where all people are free. On the other was the belief that one man should be able to own another. That is why the Civil War was fought, Mr. President. It is simple to understand, I promise you. Really, it is.

Of course, many from the South, your Attorney General being one, will tell you that the Civil War was a war of aggression, that it was about state’s rights vs. the tyranny of the federal government, and all that. So I can see why you might be confused, and wonder if maybe we could have just made a deal. I mean, for a deal maker such as yourself, anything is possible, right?

But here is the thing. There was a deal on the table: end slavery. That was it. That was the deal. End the practice of treating people like chattel. The South could have agreed to this and the war could have been averted. But instead, the South got up from the table and went home. No deal. Slavery was so important to the southern economy that the South would rather have created its own slave nation than give it up. And the rest, as they say, is history. You should read it sometime. Get a picture book if the words are too hard. Have Ivanka read it to you as she’s tucking you into bed. It’s important.

But what about a compromise, you say? Isn’t that the art of the deal? Come back with a counter offer until both sides reach an agreement? But what would have been agreeable in this case? The deal was no slavery. Not some slavery. No slavery. There is no possible compromise in a situation like that, unless you think that some slavery is acceptable. Is that what you think, Mr. President? That some slavery would have been acceptable to avert a war?

Make no mistake, even Abraham Lincoln struggled with this question, and wondered if perhaps preserving the Union at all costs was more important. But as this excerpt from a letter to his friend Joshua Speed makes clear, he believed in something more:

As a nation, we began by declaring that “all men are created equal.” We now practically read it “all men are created equal, except negroes.” When the Know-Nothings get control, it will read “all men are created equal, except negroes, and foreigners, and catholics.” When it comes to this I should prefer emigrating to some country where they make no pretence of loving liberty—to Russia, for instance, where despotism can be taken pure, and without the base alloy of hypocrisy.

We already know what you believe, Mr. President. We already know how you read it. There is little doubt in your interpretation that all men are not created equal. That, indeed, all men are created equal except. We hear about it whenever you give a speech to your supporters. Make America great again for everyone except. The rules should apply equally to all except. We welcome everyone to this country except. Every citizen should vote except. And so on.

Wars are fought for many reasons, and one reason is when except is not an option. The Civil War was fought because “all men are created equal except” was not an option. We continue to fight that battle as you aggressively seek to eradicate the accomplishments of our first black president. Because, as we know, in your world anyone can grow up to be president except. But that is not an option. It was never an option. It will never be an option. Some things are worth fighting for, Mr President. Some things are worth going to war over, even dying over. The soul of this country is one of them. There is no deal that can erase that, whether you understand it or not.

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Filed under Politics, Race

Old Dog. New Tricks.

A voice

A voice from the wilderness!

  • 50 months.
  • 106 blog posts.
  • 89 followers.
  • The rise of Donald Trump.

It was February 28, 2013 at 12:05 PM that I officially kicked off this blog with a nod to Saint Thomas Aquinas, and yet another voice was added to the cacophony. And I didn’t really care at the time if the blogosphere really needed another voice. I just knew that I needed to add my voice, if only as a venue to get things off my chest and out in the open where I could look at them, analyze them, deal with them. Self help, if you will, with some strong encouragement from my wife.

Writing has always been therapeutic for me, and blogging seemed to be a good venue for that. And so I went with it, setting up this blog, churning out a good number of posts for the first few months, going through a crisis of relevance after about a year, renewing my resolve, and then finally getting settled in. Now there’s a word for you: settled.

What does ‘settled’ mean for me on this blog? Well, I seem to have settled into some recurring themes: politics, climate change, robots and technology, some ramblings about race, and so on. I seem to have settled into blogging less frequently, although I would like to change that. I feel like I have settled into a certain style and voice, and I feel more comfortable with that voice. And there’s something to be said for that, being settled and comfortable with one’s voice.

But here’s the thing: we are now living in manifestly unsettling times, and in unsettling times being settled is not the answer. Unsettling times require us to get off our settled asses and perhaps do some unsettling things, like marching for a cause, or going to those town meetings and getting fired up, or finding the courage to dissent or resist. And most importantly, not just being comfortable with your voice, but using it in whatever way you can to make a difference.

So here I am. 50 months and 106 blog posts into this thing. Time to get unsettled. Time to find some new tricks. Time to join a class on blog writing to learn some. Hopefully I will be able to use them to get my voice out there. Because these are unsettling times, and I have a lot more to say. Stay tuned!

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Filed under General Grunting, Uncategorized

Our pet companions and the cycle of life

One of my companions is dying.

This is not my first rodeo. I have had many pet companions in my life, and some have lived long lives, and some have had their lives abruptly shortened. But either way, each has left a unique, cherished mark on my life that I would not change in any way. But while that does not negate the sadness and sense of loss that I feel when the end occurs, there is a lesson even in that.

In one of my first blog posts about robots, I wrote this:

My dog is much more than something that barks and performs tricks. When she greets me at the door, she teaches me the value of companionship. When she’s hungry or wants to go out, she reinforces the responsibility that comes with caring for another living being. When she snuggles up to me on the couch, she is rewarding me for the trust I have earned from her. When she sleeps between me and my wife on the bed, and we are both holding her, she acts as a conduit between us that enhances my feelings of coexistence and connectedness. And when she ultimately moves on to doggie heaven – as all dogs do at some point in time – she will teach me an important lesson about grief and the cycle of life. As all my dogs have.

Every pet we have is like a mini cycle of life: From the time we get them as a little peanut and have to teach them the ropes, through their adolescent and adult years, and into old age when we have to tend to them and ease them on. And every one of these little cycles reinforces both the connection we all have as living beings and the impermanence of that connection. I cherish my dogs and cats not only because I love them, but because I know that the time I have with them is limited and precious. And that is the way it should be with all of our friends and companions, animal or human.

So as I ease my companion in his final days and help him move on, I will try to focus less on the grief and more on the remembrance and duty I have to repay him for the companionship he has provided me over the years. And the thing about our animal companions is this: They do not concern themselves with remorse or death. They are creatures of the moment, and my remaining moments with him should be the same.

 

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Filed under Philosophy, Uncategorized

I don’t know what to do with Real Americans.

Editor’s note: the title and tone of this post were inspired by Brit Bennett’s essay “I Don’t Know What to Do With Good White People.”

I seem to be surrounded by Real Americans these days. Real Americans determined to make America great again; Real Americans determined to round up those illegals and send them back home; Real Americans who want to deal with those crime infested inner cities by warehousing people of a certain color; Real Americans who never threw their sheets and ropes away, but kept them in the closet for a day such as today; and so on. Continue reading

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On Consciousness, part 3: The Robots

Note: for a discussion on the evolutionary basis for consciousness, please review part one of this series. For a discussion on the human condition with respect to consciousness, please review part two.

Will a machine ever become conscious? In order to answer that question, we must first deconstruct it. When that question is posed, it is usually asking two things: First, will machines ever be conscious in general terms (whatever that means), and second, will machines ever be conscious in the way that humans are conscious? Since the second question is the easiest to answer, I will address that one first. Continue reading

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To Resist

Back in February of 2014 I wrote a post entitled To Dissent. I encourage you to go read it, but I want to quote the final paragraph of that post:

The times are always tumultuous for dissent, now more than ever. But if we are to regain the balance between the government and the people, if we are to take charge of the destiny of our societies and our species, if we are to make a better life for ourselves and our children, if we are to proactively look towards the future instead of reactively running from it, if we are to continue to rise to the challenges provided to us as intelligent, sentient beings, then we must on occasion stand and make ourselves heard, even if our legs are shaking – especially when our legs are shaking – because to not do so is to disregard and dishonor the great gifts bestowed upon us by those who have courageously done so in the past.

Hannah Arendt is perhaps most famous for her discussion of what she termed the ‘banality of evil.’ In studying how the atrocities perpetuated by Germany under control of the Nazis came about, she reached the conclusion that great evil can only come about through the compliance of the people; that the truly bad can only happen when good people put their heads down and, whether from fear, or tiredness, or dismay allow it to unfold unchecked. Continue reading

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Filed under Politics, Uncategorized

Climbing out of the rabbit hole

As always in a democracy, there are issues where we can agree, and there are issues where we cannot agree. I can agree, for example, that the establishment has done a poor job of protecting the middle class. I can also agree that it has done a poor job of allowing minorities to enter it. Where I cannot agree is that the person gleefully supported by David Duke and white supremacists is the right person to fix it. I will never agree with that. Ever.

Continue reading

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Filed under Philosophy, Politics, Uncategorized