Within Limits, or Without

Original file: Roberto Mura; This file: WikiPedant [CC BY-SA 4.0], via Wikimedia Commons
There are, for purposes of this post, two types of people.

One type views life as a competition for limited resources, a dog-eat-dog struggle in which the top dog deserves the choicest pieces of meat, because without their leadership the pack would have no meat at all. In this view, dominance is proof of innate superiority. Pack members too sick, stupid, or slow to hunt must either survive on scraps or die. Even the loss of a few otherwise worthy individuals is just a cold hard fact of nature.

The other type believes that our heritage of savagery doesn’t define us. That humankind is adaptive, even transcendent, expanding our knowledge and understanding to discover and implement unlimited new resources. And that one of those resources is people themselves. That most of the sick, stupid, or slow can be nurtured to contribute. And that feeding a few deadbeats is a small price to pay for getting a deserving person through hard times.

It is not my purpose here to debate which view is more valid. Evidence for either abounds, depending on where our sight focuses.

Visit a public food pantry and you’ll certainly find a lot of ugly, stupid people it seems the race could do without. Or watch the tabloid parade of disgrace across the TV screen with Maury Povich or Jerry Springer.

On the other hand, in that food pantry you’ll also find folk obviously deserving of charity, with whom life has dealt unfairly. Families financially ruined by medical debt, or by loss of their trade, or simply unable to find work sufficient for their needs. Beyond that food pantry, count the number of military veterans now homeless, sleeping in the streets they fought to protect.

Again, it is not my purpose to debate which of these views is more valid. I would like, however, to point out what seem to me a few inconsistencies with the first.

Oddly, the camp of limited resources seems least likely to conserve those resources. It weakens environmental protection standards, often simply by underfunding their enforcement. It doubts scientific consensus on climate change, preferring to err on the side of risk for business sake, rather than exercise caution.

Justifiably, the dog-eat-dog camp is also most vocal about religion, whether Western, Middle-Eastern, or even state-enforced Eastern atheism. In this view, religion (or atheism) provides a codification of behaviors to keep stupid, lazy people from destroying civilization from within.

But oddly, the choice of texts cited seems inconsistent with a dog-pack, limited resources viewpoint.

Consider the prime figure of Christianity, the Christ from which it takes its name: “I tell you, don’t be anxious for your life: what you will eat, or what you will drink; nor yet for your body, what you will wear” (Matthew 6:25). Granted, this is not the only teaching in the book, but it’s an undeniable statement by the utterly central personage, a statement that must be confronted and somehow obeyed, or the entire book falls into question.

Or these words by the central personage of Islam: “Kindness is a mark of faith, and whoever has not kindness has not faith,” and “The ink of the scholar is more sacred than the blood of the martyr.” Again, these are not the only statements of Muhammad, but they cannot be downplayed or ignored for the sake of militancy.

Or the paradox of communist atheism’s party-enforced orthodoxy, in light of these words by its patron Karl Marx: “For each new class which puts itself in the place of one ruling before it, is compelled, merely in order to carry through its aim, to represent its interest as the common interest of all the members of society.”

Again, it is not my purpose here to debate the comparative validity of dog-eat-dog competition versus open-handedness. But it’s likely obvious which of the two I find unsuitable. And by contrast, which gives me the most hope for the future.

I don’t claim to be a Bible scholar . . .

I don’t claim to be a Bible scholar. I’m an atheist nowadays. But here’s what I do claim:

I grew up Blue Collar. We never worried about food or clothes, but we had little discretionary income. So when I was 9 years old, my brother and I each memorized 100 Bible verses to earn our way to summer camp. We did it again the next year. And I did it again at 11 to earn a Christian bookstore gift certificate.

(Please take a moment, imagine yourself at that age, standing in front of a group of church elders, reciting 100 Bible verses from memory.)

There was some overlap, mainly what Evangelicals call “The Romans Road,” centered on “For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23); “For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord” (6:23); And “That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved” (10:9).

That overlap aside, all told I memorized roughly 250 different verses from ages 9-11. And started reading them in context. By age 18 I’d read the entire Bible, most of the New Testament several times over. In my early 20’s I spent an hour every morning in what Evangelicals call their “prayer closet,” alone with the Bible, a Strong’s Concordance, and God.

I read in Mark 12:28-31, “And thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind, and with all thy strength: this is the first commandment. And the second is like, namely this, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. There is none other commandment greater than these.” And this from 1 Thessalonians 5:22, “Abstain from all appearance of evil.”

These are examples from a Bible filled with calls to righteousness, love for all people, kindness, and mercy. Especially from what Jesus called “my blood of the new testament, which is shed for many.”

These are the guideposts by which I was taught to measure Christianity.

As an atheist, I don’t care whether people are Christian or some other faith. Politically, I can accept the argument that God ordained Donald Trump to be President. For “hath not the potter power over the clay, of the same lump to make one vessel unto honour, and another unto dishonour?” (Romans 9:22, which would also mean God made me to be an atheist Democrat).

But to those who cheer when Donald Trump insults or mocks his opponents, or say “Boys will be boys” to his sexual escapades, or call misogyny “locker room talk,” or ask him to autograph your Bible, please don’t bullshit yourself and others by calling yourself a Christian. RTFM

If we don’t stop squabbling, America, we’re doomed.

Here’s a summary of the US Senate’s 2nd bipartisan report on Russian interference in our society. If we don’t stop squabbling and get our act together, America, we’re doomed.

Takeaway: Russia spent more than $1.25 million per month prior to the 2016 election, and even more ever since, to make you and me argue about gun rights, kneeling at football games, police, and immigration. As a nation, we fell for it, because we’re too lazy/stupid to check our sources and stop shouting talking points.

Note. Senate. Not the House.

Here’s a summary. Don’t assume it’s an attack on Donald Trump, because that is utterly not the point. Set aside your pride, frustration, or rage and realize that if we can’t talk to each other, Russia wins. That’s the point.

Section 1: Introduction.

In 2016, Russia’s Internet Research Agency masqueraded as Americans online to polarize our opinions, and to promote their favored candidate. The Senate took up this topic as part of their mandate to evaluate threats.

Section 2: Findings. (Each sentence summarizes one paragraph by quotation.)

“The IRA sought to influence the 2016 U.S. presidential election by harming Hillary Clinton’s chances of success and supporting Donald Trump at the direction of the Kremlin.

“The Russian government tasked and supported the IRA’ s interference in the 2016 U.S. election.

“Russia’s history of using social media as a lever for online influence operations predates the 2016 U.S. presidential election and involves more than the IRA.

“The preponderance of the operational focus . . . was on socially divisive issues — such as race, immigration, and Second Amendment rights — in an attempt to pit Americans against one another and against their government.

“The IRA targeted not only Hillary Clinton, but also Republican candidates during the presidential primaries.

“No single group of Americans was targeted by IRA information operatives more than African-Americans.

“The nearly 3,400 Facebook and Instagram advertisements the IRA purchased are comparably minor in relation to the over 61,500 Facebook posts, 116,000 Instagram posts, and 10.4 million tweets that were the original creations of IRA influence operatives, disseminated under the guise of authentic user activity. [So ad spending was a drop in the bucket.]

“The IRA coopted unwitting Americans to engage in offline activities . . . not just focused on inciting anger and provoking division on the internet . . . targeted African-Americans over social media to influence [them] to sign petitions, share personal information, and teach self-defense training courses; [and] posing as U.S. political activists . . . requested — and in some cases obtained — assistance from the Trump Campaign in procuring materials for rallies and in promoting and organizing the rallies.

“The IRA was not Russia’s only vector for attempting to influence the United States through social media in 2016.

“IRA activity on social media did not cease, but rather increased after Election Day 2016.

“More than 80% of the disinformation accounts in our election maps are still active … [and] continue to publish more than a million tweets in a typical day.”

https://www.intelligence.senate.gov/…/do…/Report_Volume2.pdf

The Death of Dobie


The night before, he staggered to the back of the house, the back bathroom, to lie down on a towel to die. I spent the night on a sleeping bag next to him, dozing, waking to feel if he was still breathing, my hand on his side or in front of his nose.

At daybreak he woke, and I carried him to my recliner, held him in my arms while we slept a few hours. Then he got up, heaved, and staggered back to the towel.

It was Sunday. We tried to keep him going with subcutaneous fluids every two hours, hoping to get him to the vet Monday morning for appetite enhancers to regain his strength. The fluids perked him up each time, but by afternoon I knew it was cruel to bring him back for two hours at a time.

So I held him, weeping, while convincing the family we had to let him go.

The vet had an hour to drive to his office. We were only half that distance away, so we had to wait a half hour before leaving home.

It was a miserable 30 minutes. As his kidneys shut down, he heaved again and again, and I cleaned him up each time. I gave him an injection of muscle relaxer, and then Jennifer drove, while I held him in that towel, and Kate cried in the back seat.

An IV injection. He was gone instantly.

Jen drove back, and I carried him to my study, to prepare for burial. But I could not put him down. The feel of his fur. The softness of his ears. The familiar scent when I buried my nose in the scruff between his shoulders.

Christine brought over a wooden box with hinges, a latch, and bright colors all over. I laid him in, fur wet with tears, on the towel with his favorite stuffed toy, ragged from years of play, and covered him with the tattered Spider-Man blanket he always lay on in my lap. His collar went atop, with one each of the two treats he loved.

Then I went out to dig a hole in the front yard.

I’m 63. The temperature was 89. Christopher allowed me to dig the first foot of hard, dry Nebraska clay, then he let me help him finish it. I lowered the box in, Jen & Kate said their goodbyes and crumbled a clod each, then I shoveled the rest and reset the sod.

Next month we’ll plant a red maple nearby.

Today I went out to sit by the grave with a shot of tequila and tell him thanks for unflaggingly caring for this family, for choosing me as a four-week-old puppy (another story), for having a few annoying habits so I wouldn’t feel like I couldn’t measure up, and for trusting me so utterly.

My grief has shifted a bit, from what I’ve lost, to the grace of letting him go as my final act of love.

That’s the best I can do for now.

Thanks for listening.