If I Baked You a Cookie…

Some time ago there was a controversy surrounding a graduation at UC Davis (here) where an Illegal immigrant flew the Mexican flag during her commencement ceremony. As it is with the current climate surrounding illegal immigration, so it was then: controversy ensued. Many were outraged called it “a slap in the face of American taxpayers”, while others came to her defense that it such an opportunity is what makes America beautiful. And during that time I had an opportunity to discuss this topic with a friend.

mexican-flag

He asked, “Why is it that Americans attack minorities? Why do they always to try to take away their heritage. It is theirs, they are allowed to celebrate it. They have the freedom to do so.” I responded that the issue wasn’t all that complicated. It isn’t about hating minorities, nor about taking away whatever she had (though many would argue that we ought provide for citizens before foreigners), neither about questioning freedom of expression. The controversy was over thankfulness. Not understanding my point, I provided an analogy.

Imagine a young girl who was born to a family that couldn’t provide for her. The mother and father had an abysmal relationship and were generally abusive, they were not as wealthy as their neighbors, and, for the most part, could not afford to provide the education that she desired. So this young girl moves away and is adopted by another family. This family has a

mother and father who maintain a much better relationship and provides a home that is not abusive, they are wealthier than their neighbors, and are able to provide an education leaps and bounds above what she so desperately wanted. And now imagine, at the moment her dream is realized, she turns around and, instead of thanking her adoptive family, waves a picture of the family that was abusive to her. What would you say?

He responded in quite the same fashion, “I don’t understand the analogy. Why are talking about someone being adopted?” And so I provided another by saying, “If I baked you a cookie and gave it to you, who would you thank?” He responded, “I will not answer that question; It is irrelevant.”

That is precisely the problem striking many of our political controversies. We have begun to defend the indefensible. In our attempts to justify our beliefs we must force conflicts to be more complicated than they really are. It is as Chesterton once pointed out, we use elaborate theories to mask simplicity so as to avoid answering for our own beliefs. The controversy was centered around being thankful. Was she thankful for the country that funded her education or was she thankful to the country that didn’t provide a dime to her dream? It’s not about freedom of expression; It’s not about trying to force her to payback all of her financial aid; It’s about the outrage from a family that doesn’t understand why being thankful is something so hard to ask for.

Birth and Brain Control

With the explosion in the number of debates surrounding Planned Parenthood seeming to be biting at the heels of the Gay Right’s Debates, I wanted to share an article by one of my most cherished authors – G.K. Chesterton. It is not what he is arguing for which has brought this article to my attention, but what he is arguing against.

I wish to invite my readers not only to read his argument concerning Nature and Birth Control but to allow yourself to understand his argument and how it applies to Gay Rights and Birth Control. For I say this to all of my friends who marched with Gay Rights Activists upon the platform, “It is natural, therefore it is legitimate”, you have lost all rational basis to support Planned Parenthood’s attack upon “what is natural”.

Birth and Brain Control
by G.K. Chesterton

A correspondent has written to u last week complaining of the article signed “Heretic”, which condemned Birth Control not from a religious but a purely rationalist standpoint. The correspondent, Mr. Victor Neuburg, appears to give himself considerable airs of superiority because he is unable to believe in anything (except in Mrs. Stopes) and this is interesting, as illustrating a not g-k-chesterton1uncommon combination of the incapacity for believing with the incapacity for thinking. It will be quite sufficient to quote about four lines of his letter, which contain more complicated contradictions and inconsequences than we have ever seen in such a space; and which end with one of those abrupt abysses of the entire absence of humour which is more laughable than the best humour in the world.

He says that a man does not practice Birth Control “in order to indulge his passions, as a Heretic slipshoddly affirms; but in order that his quite natural (and therefore legitimate) sexual passion may have no unforeseen and undesired results.”

Why he should repudiate the indulging of his passion if his passion is quite legitimate, and why he should want to make the indulgence safe except in order to indulge it, the Lord only knows. He will pardon this theological expression; which we apologize for not putting in quotation marks, as he so haughtily presents all theological expressions. But the muddle is much more amusing than that. The passion, let it be noted, is not natural and legitimate; he distinctly says it is natural and therefore legitimate. So far so good. It is natural for a man to wish to rush out of a burning theatre, even if he tramples on women and children; it is natural and therefore legitimate. It is natural for a man called upon to face death or tortures for the truth (of Mrs. Stopes, let us say) to run away and hide; it is natural and therefore it is legitimate. That is quite understood; and so far we are all getting along nicely. But if everything that is natural is right, why in the world is not the birth of a baby as natural as the growth of a passion? If it is unnatural to control appetite, why is it not unnatural to control birth? They are both obviously parts of the same natural process, which has a natural beginning and a natural end. And Mr. Neuburg, who thinks all natural things legitimate, has no possible reason for interrupting it at one stage more than at another. As Nature is infallible, we must not question what progeny she produces. If Nature is not infallible, we have a right to question the passions that she inspires.

And then comes the joyous culmination and collapse; of calling a baby an unforeseen consequence of getting married. It would be entertaining to wander through the world with Mr. Neuburg, sharing all the unforeseen consequences of the most ordinary actions. Life must be full of surprises for him; he strikes a match and is indignant that it burns the sulphur; he throws a stone into a puddle and is irritated that it makes a splash; he keeps bees and is furious because they fertilize flowers; he breeds dogs and stands astounded before the unforeseen consequence of puppies. Wonder is a wonderful thing and, with less irritation, might be a beautiful thing. But we rather doubt whether anyone who argues like this has any right to a tone of such extreme intellectual arrogance.

* Bold is added by me for clarification.

The “Why Not” Society

 “Lest we forget at least an over-the-shoulder acknowledgement to the very first radical: from all our legends, mythology, and history (and who is to know where mythology leaves off and history begins- or which is which), the first radical known to man who rebelled against the establishment and did it so effectively that he at least won his own kingdom – Lucifer.” ~ Saul Alinksy, Dedication to Rules for Radicals

 When our government went through its partial shutdown, why would our president close our open-air monuments (effectively hiring security who would otherwise not be there)? When we begin our debate concerning healthcare and if a company should be forced to buy a woman’s contraceptives, why does our president shout that it is our prevailing system which continues the war on women? When we begin the debate on whether or not the Federal Government should enforce its laws on immigration, why does our president threaten to fight the states who decide it is upon themselves to enforce the law of the land? When a black person is shot, why does our president sympathize with that young man by saying he could have been his son, but when a white girl is shot he doesn’t sympathize with that young woman by saying she could have been his daughter? Why is it that our president has felt it his burden to select what he believes we should sympathize with and what we should not?

When I read from Obama’s Campaign Administration and heard from Alinksy’s Son that our president had been influenced by Saul Alinsky, I could not help but ponder, “If he was influenced by Alinsky, in what way was he influenced? What was Saul Alinsky’s philosophy and should I be concerned?” Whatever has come about from my thoughts about our president, I have come to realize something painfully clear: There are only a few books which have ever changed the way I perceive a presidency than Alinsky’s book Rules For Radicals. In the past I’ve hesitated to discuss these sorts of books because they are books of quite a different sort. They are not the books on ethics and values, about what is right in the world and what is wrong. Books like Machiavelli’s The Prince, or Von Clausewitz War, Politics, and Power, or Sun Tzu’s Art of War, are about power. They are about how to take power from those who possess it and how to keep it from those who seek it. They do not fret over the means, but focus upon the end. They distinguish only between the have’s and the have-not’s, between the powerful and the powerless. But I’ve decided to describe the twelve rules of Alinsky’s book because I believe we have begun to forget the old saying: The wolf comes in sheep’s clothing. If you were to thumb through history for every dictator and despicable person who has ruled through violence and fear, you will find that rarely did they come to power preaching that message. They preached a message of a strong economy and jobs for the needy; They preached a message of political stability; They preached a message of a strong nation. And what we will find throughout history is that those same societies who hear those messages, respond, “Why not?” Is not a weak economy a terrible thing? Are not a lack of jobs for the needy a problem? Are we not tired of political strife at the expense of the people? But they never, for a moment, pondered the costs or the motives. We must stop being the society that hears these messages and responds, “Why not?” We cannot continue to be so shallow as to hear someone preach that such-and-such a sin exists (as very well it may), and then assume that his solution is the only one in the land. We must become the society that asks, “Is he a wolf in sheep’s clothing?” Alinsky’s rules, if they cannot be followed by the man of virtue, should at least serve as a warning for the shepherds.

“[You must help]  the people in the community…feel so frustrated, so defeated, so lost, so futureless in the prevailing system that they are willing to let go of the past and chance the future. [An] organizer must shake up the prevailing patterns of their lives–agitate, create disenchantment and discontent with the current values, to produce, if not a passion for change, at least a passive, affirmative, non-challenging climate. [You must] fan the embers of hopelessness into a flame of fight.” ~ Saul Alinksy

Alinsky’s 12 Rules for Radicals:

RULE 1: “Power is not only what you have, but what the enemy thinks you have.” Power is derived from 2 main sources – money and people. “Have-Nots” must build alinsky-dedicated-rules-to-luciferpower from flesh and blood. (These are two things of which there is a plentiful supply. Government and corporations always have a difficult time appealing to people, and usually do so almost exclusively with economic arguments.)

RULE 2: “Never go outside the expertise of your people.” It results in confusion, fear and retreat. Feeling secure adds to the backbone of anyone. (Organizations under attack wonder why radicals don’t address the “real” issues. This is why. They avoid things with which they have no knowledge.)

RULE 3: “Whenever possible, go outside the expertise of the enemy.” Look for ways to increase insecurity, anxiety and uncertainty. (This happens all the time. Watch how many organizations under attack are blind-sided by seemingly irrelevant arguments that they are then forced to address.)

RULE 4: “Make the enemy live up to its own book of rules.” If the rule is that every letter gets a reply, send 30,000 letters. You can kill them with this because no one can possibly obey all of their own rules. (This is a serious rule. The besieged entity’s very credibility and reputation is at stake, because if activists catch it lying or not living up to its commitments, they can continue to chip away at the damage.)

RULE 5: “Ridicule is man’s most potent weapon.” There is no defense. It’s irrational. It’s infuriating. It also works as Masthead-Saul-Alinksy-copya key pressure point to force the enemy into concessions. (Pretty crude, rude and mean, huh? They want to create anger and fear.)

RULE 6: “A good tactic is one your people enjoy.” They’ll keep doing it without urging and come back to do more. They’re doing their thing, and will even suggest better ones. (Radical activists, in this sense, are no different that any other human being. We all avoid “un-fun” activities, and but we revel at and enjoy the ones that work and bring results.)

RULE 7: “A tactic that drags on too long becomes a drag.” Don’t become old news. (Even radical activists get bored. So to keep them excited and involved, organizers are constantly coming up with new tactics.)

RULE 8: “Keep the pressure on. Never let up.” Keep trying new things to keep the opposition off balance. As the opposition masters one approach, hit them from the flank with something new. (Attack, attack, attack from all sides, never giving the reeling organization a chance to rest, regroup, recover and re-strategize.)

saul-alinsky1RULE 9: “The threat is usually more terrifying than the thing itself.” Imagination and ego can dream up many more consequences than any activist. (Perception is reality. Large organizations always prepare a worst-case scenario, something that may be furthest from the activists’ minds. The upshot is that the organization will expend enormous time and energy, creating in its own collective mind the direst of conclusions. The possibilities can easily poison the mind and result in demoralization.)

RULE 10: “If you push a negative hard enough, it will push through and become a positive.” Violence from the other side can win the public to your side because the public sympathizes with the underdog. (Unions used this tactic. Peaceful [albeit loud] demonstrations during the heyday of unions in the early to mid-20th Century incurred management’s wrath, often in the form of violence that eventually brought public sympathy to their side.)

RULE 11: “The price of a successful attack is a constructive alternative.” Never let the enemy score points because you’re caught without a solution to the problem. (Old saw: If you’re not part of the solution, you’re part of the problem. Activist organizations have an agenda, and their strategy is to hold a place at the table, to be given a forum to wield their power. So, they have to have a compromise solution.)

RULE 12: “Pick the target, freeze it, personalize it, and polarize it.” Cut off the support network and isolate the target from sympathy. Go after people and not institutions; people hurt faster than institutions. (This is cruel, but very effective. Direct, personalized criticism and ridicule works.)

A Democracy of Five

I remember a few summers ago preparing my last speech for class. I was in class writing on our white board. I had trashed outline after outline; wrote and rewrote Venn Diagrams which, by this time, looked more like a kaleidoscope than an idea overlay; and lists of many point by point flow charts, hypothetical responses, and possible answers, all adjusted for time. I couldn’t find a topic worth speaking on, and every topic I could contrive appeared blurry as a tree in a dense fog. A few of my other classmates were worfivebarsking on the other side of the room, when one of them yelled my name and said, “Just make something up. You’re grades are high enough that you could walk out and still pass.” I remember quite distinctly what I said because it was perhaps the most natural thing I have ever said. I told him, “I don’t want to pass this class, I want to be the best in this class.” He looked at me, then the white board, back at me, laughed antagonistically, and said, “Good luck!” When I was finished, I had a speech aimed at addressing Gay Marriage, ObamaCare, and Christian Morality. My job was to present to one of the most liberal audiences I’ve had the opportunity to be around. Two of the most vivid and most repeated principles I remember from that class was “Know your audience” and “Know how they will respond.” Upon these principles hang the well-being of any speaker. But I could not have been more mistaken by how my audience would react. I was left puzzled with the silence, and then the abrupt applause left me speechless. But before I could ask the audience the question that was spinning in my mind, my professor interrupted. I can still hear her voice, and remember the confirmation in my dumb-founded expression, when she said, “Wait, wait! Is everyone in this room telling me that he can speak on Gay Marriage, ObamaCare, and Christian Morality and no one is offended?” In response, a student said it was one of the most interesting speeches he’s ever heard and even more so given how short it was. Looking back down at her clipboard, my professor confirmed my suspicions – I had gone way over time and was by far the longest speech. It wouldn’t be until several years later that I would be able to look back and realized the real principle I learned in that class. It doesn’t matter who your classmates may be, or who your neighbors may be. It doesn’t matter if one of them is a PETA supporter, a student of strict Jewish heritage, Gay Rights Activists, or Abortionist. It doesn’t even matter if, like me, you’re a “Conservative among Conservatives”. What I learned is that when everyone knows they’re in the same sinking ship, they will help each other survive. And that is the principle I learned: show the audience that we are in this together, and that our ship is sinking. If I could revisit that day and rewrite my outline to incorporate something of today, it would be this. I would take out my segment upon Gay Marriage and my argument about how California’s democratic process was destroyed by unelected officials, almost three thousand miles away. Instead, I would say, “The American people were told by five unelected officials how our culture is defined.” I would emphasize that while it was horrific that 35 million people could be swept under the carpet by five judges, it would be beyond comprehension that almost 300 million people could be silenced by the same unelected few. Whether you believe in the Right to Gay Marriage, the Right to Abortion, or the Right to Free Healthcare, the cost has been steep. As a wish from Rumpelstiltskin cost the dear maiden her child, so it has been for America – It has reduced our democracy to a democracy of five.