Nicht Neues am Westen (All Quiet on the Western Front), November 11, 1918

One hundred years ago, the ‘Great War’, aka the ‘War to End All Wars’ ended.  It was four years of senseless slaughter and ground a generation of European men to pulp.  Why?  The events which caused it, the handling of the war…all foolish.  Even the peace at the end was horrible.

*The war started because of a Balkan assassination, a terrorist act that drug the Serbian government in to conflict with the Austrians (not realizing their own secret police were conspirators).  Rather than cool tempers, the Russians and Germans saw it as a way to reinforce alliances and loyalties.  When that meant war, the Germans’ only plan was strike west which brought France and Belgium in (and because of the attack on Belgium, Britain as well)

*Or the cause is older–British hatred of continental power, whether it was 16th century Spain, Napoleon, or a unified Germany after 1870.  There’s a lot of documentation out there (Niall Ferguson has about 400 pages of endnotes in The Pity of War suggesting Britain welcomed war in 1914 as an excuse to fight Germany before Germany grew too strong to contain) that Britain intentionally avoided a peaceful solution.

*Fighting the war?  Read the documents and orders, especially on the western front.  Men are treated as a number in the ledger, nothing more.  They are something to expend, no different than bullets or artillery shells.  European leaders chose to avoid lessons of war–the trenches of the American Civil War or the addition of barbed wire and machine-gun positions to those trenches which came during the Russo-Japanese War.  Nope–those wars involve Americans, Asians…not “real” or “professional” soldiers.  So they applied 19th century solutions against 20th century technology.  And failed.

*Peace?  Britain and France made sure to screw over all of the Central Powers.  Theirs was not a peace meant to heal wounds, it was one of vengeance.  The Ottoman Empire was eliminated, its territories handed over (conveniently) to France and England.  Germany was forced to admit all guilt for everything, its industry was occupied, it was banned from a real navy, army, or airpower, and it was forced to pay cash to Britain and France for the cost of the war.  There were sane men who tried to prevent such a solution.  They understood Germany would not stand for it, would recover and seek an alternative solution.  One of those rational men headed France’s military during the war, French Marshal Foch.  He said on the treaty’s signing, “This is nothing more than a twenty-year ceasefire.”  He said that June 28, 1919.  On September 1, 1939, World War Two broke out.  He missed by 63 days (he was 99.14% accurate in his assessment).

*It was worse still.  The American president, Wilson, had entered the war naively, believing the Germans the bad guys, that Britain were the good guys.  He wanted to make the world safe for democracy and then, even though it was American financing which won the war against the Central Powers, Wilson permitted Britain and France to dictate terms, including the way the League of Nations was created.  Instead of the United States brokering a just peace between nations who all shared guilt for the slaughter which devastated Europe, Wilson returned home with nothing.  The US didn’t even join the League because of the numerous caveats–and fears of entanglement abroad (worries which existed before Wilson fought for the League unnecessarily).  Wilson blew his political capital and prestige on an impossible dream that every nation would get along if they had an organization to talk in.

So what?  This was a century ago?  It doesn’t matter.   Oh, but it does.  Can you picture a war breaking out because two leaders don’t like one another, one winds up with a bruised ego?  What about a regional power entering a fight with another–the two Koreas–which escalates when China and the US become involved?  Does that become the time for the Sovi–Russians to try and reoccupy Warsaw Pact nations?  Can those powers keep the fighting limited or when defeat nears, will someone use nuclear weapons hoping for a desperate win or ‘if we can’t win, no one else will either’?

Remember this day.  November 11 is far more important than 9/11 or 12/7.  It’s much more important than Memorial Day or Labor Day.  This Remembrance Day is to keep in mind that ungodly slaughter of 1914-1918 and the war spawned by its hateful end, 1939-1945.  We owe it to each other, our children, and their children’s children to never let anything like that happen again.  

“In Flanders Fields” –John McCrae (1872-1918)

In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.

World War One was accidental.  No one thought it would come to that.  They tried to put in place rules and treaties to prevent it happening again.  They failed, but the invention of atomic weapons created a stable, lasting peace–even in the middle of an arms race.  Eventually, the two main powers, the US and USSR, negotiated limits.  Those agreements are being disavowed now, you have China massively upgrading its arsenal….are we nearing the point of another accidental war, this time fought to the species’ extinction with nuclear weapons?

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Let’s Talk to One Another–and Learn

One of the trends in the 21st century is for people to associate themselves with only those who share their views already, a self-segregation based on economics, culture, politics, the works.  Some argue this is a natural phenomenon.  I think it’s a bad thing.

We learn when we talk to people with different views.  Perhaps we don’t come to agreement, but we realize they are human, too, and in many instances have come to their viewpoint rationally from their own life experiences.   I was thinking about this recently and wanted to write down a couple of those stories shared with me.  I think they are cool, small bits of history that don’t change the world necessarily, but are worth knowing regardless.

CALLIE:  When I was teaching for Eastern Illinois, I had an adult degree class on modern US History (1945-present…which was 1996 at that time).  The students ranged in age from 30-50.  Mrs. Callie was on the top end of that age range.  In any event, we wound up with a lot of discussion as the students gave their perspective on living through big events–sometimes to live through them with the eyes of a child or with one man, being stuck at Khe Sanh as a Marine in 1968 during the Tet Offensive.

Mrs. Callie’s story was fascinating–and something local, too.  She’d gone to school to be a nurse and was serving as one, happily married, too, when she was asked to quit by the NAACP Oh, yeah, should’ve mentioned she was a black woman.  Anyways, the NAACP asked her to quit her nice paying job to take a different one.  They wanted her to become a cash register operator at a department store…a national chain that had never had a black employee in its history.  Callie would be the first.  Indeed, you can tell that she was a young woman during the mid-1960s, the height of the Civil Rights Movement.

She took the job and hated it.  The other employees would try and take money from her register–because if the count was off, employees made it up with their own money, and if it was off too many times, they were fired.  They would deny her work breaks, make sure the bathroom would be occupied when she went to use it…dozens of things meant specifically to get her to leave.  No surprise, she grew tired of this.  One night, she went home and told her husband that at the end of the next week, when she got her paycheck, she was going to quit, go back to nursing, that she couldn’t take this any more.

Two nights later, when she got back from work, took her shoes off, and sat for the first time in nine hours, the phone rang.  She didn’t get up to get it–she knew her husband could handle it.  He called from where the other room that it was for Callie.  “Can you take a message?” she asked.   “No, it’s important,” her husband answered right away, so she got up, went and took the phone.  “Hello?”

“Mrs. Callie F———?  This is Dr. King.”  Yes, that Martin Luther King.  “I was calling because I heard you’re having a rough time and wanted to beg you to tough it out.  If that means I need to come up to Illinois, say the word.  Whatever you need, we will help.”

They had a five minute conversation.  In the end, Mrs. Callie didn’t need the help, didn’t have Dr. King visit, his call was enough.  It made her realize she was appreciated, that it wasn’t just a local thing.  She stuck it out.   Six weeks later, the chain hired two more black employees.

I learned so much from that–that the Civil Rights Movement was at work in smaller towns and cities across the country, but also that while it was a grassroots movement, there was coordination at a national level.  I would never have thought that Dr. King would know what’s going on in central Illinois…which is naïve on my part since it had been the NAACP that asked her to take on this Jackie Robinson-esque role in the first place.

Mrs. Callie F. earned her degree.  I looked her up on Bing before writing this.  She just retired after 20 years in a community supervisor role, making her city a better place.  That was an amazing class to teach.  I was blessed.

****

The other story comes from 2007, an LLCC Volleyball trip to Sedalia, Missouri.  We were in a tourney at a school that killed off their VB program after 2009, State Fair Community College.  We’d go there because of an amazing restaurant, the Little Big Horn...mmm…..I mentioned this to our driver on our trip out to Sedalia.

He disagreed.  Of course, he’d been to many places since he’d been driving charters twenty years at that point, but he was sure because of a very specific reason.  He’d been Bill Clinton’s charter driver during the 1992 campaign when Clinton was in Iowa making a name for himself during the state caucuses.  The driver said he’d had great food during that trip, so he was skeptical….we’ll come back to food in a minute.

I made a snarky comment about Clinton–I’ll make those comments about all politicians by the way.  There’s plenty of material in both parties for that.  That’s when he started talking about driving Clinton around.  It was fascinating.  He mentioned that the interior of the charter was set up to be a small home on wheels–because obviously he was having to go from campaign spot to spot non-stop.  The minute Clinton climbed on board and was out of sight of the public, he’d immediately strip down into a t-shirt and boxers.  In many instances, it was just him and the driver (Dwayne, I believe).

Dwayne said it was great–that Clinton was just a normal human being, talking sports, food, whatever.  He said Clinton made sure that the driver had everything/anything he needed, that it was great driving him around–right up until five minutes before Clinton had to climb from the bus.  At that point, Clinton put his suit back on and turned into a different person, Clinton the politician.  Dwayne said it was a total change of personality that shocked him, not that Clinton was two-faced or anything, but the energy the man needed to step off that bus and face crowds.  (He’s right–it’s a totally different skill to talk 1-on-1 than it is to try and make it seem like you’re doing that to a group of 100/1,000/10,000)

I asked if he voted for Clinton.  He said he did the first time, but not the second.  He liked Dole.  Fair enough.  I’d just been fascinated to hear what it was like to be the driver for a presidential candidate–the man who eventually won.

As for the Little Big Horn, Dwayne joined us when we ate.  When the meal was done, he put a toothpick in his mouth, leaned back and did an Al Bundythen said, “Coach, you know, you may be right.  That’s the best BBQ anybody but my dad’s ever made.”

 

We can’t walk in someone else’s shoes, but we can walk along with them.  Hopefully we appreciate their journey and it makes ours better as well.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Argument Time: The Greatest Rock Band of All-Time

Back in the 1980s, a baseball analyst (Bill James) created something called “The Keltner List”.  That was a list of questions, all able to be answered with a straight yes or no, to tell you if a player belonged in the Hall of Fame without resorting to esoteric statistics.

See?  The thing is, there’s a rock band out there that you can make an argument for it being the greatest of all-time and yet–it’s not in the Rock ‘n Roll Hall of Fame, even though the band has been around 40+ years and remains active.  That’s right–still active, still creating good music (unlike the Rolling Stones), not on an oldies tour of state fairs (Chicago, Beach Boys, REO Speedwagon, etc).  And yet?  No respect.

There’s a pretty simple answer for it–they aren’t native English speakers.  In fact, did you know, there are NO non-native English speaking groups in the Rock Hall.  Could you imagine the Baseball HOF with no Marichal or Clemente (or this year’s Vlad Guerrero selection)?

If you know rock, know some history, you’d recognize the band as The Scorpions (which has produced three of the six greatest guitarists in rock–>the Schenker brothers and Uli Roth, the other three being Terry Kath who founded Chicago, Jimi Hendrix, and Eddie Van Halen).  That’s like ignoring Tom Glavine and John Smoltz and only thinking of Greg Maddux!

In any event, let’s look at the Keltner questions:

1 – Is/was The Scorpions ever considered as the best band in rock?  Did anybody ever suggest they were?  No.   (The suggestion is/was made, but only across central/eastern Europe.  In English-dominated languages, never…but should a HOF devoted to music be restricted to artists from Britain-Australia-Canada-the US??  No!)

2 – Were The Scorpions ever the best in rock within their genre?  Yes.  The Scorpions are held up as the ultimate of the ‘big hair’ style of power rockers of the early 1980s.  I suspect we could answer this with a ‘yes’ as well if we were to talk about power ballads.  Everybody recognizes Scorpions power ballads whether it is Still Loving You or Winds of Change.

3 – Was any member of The Scorpions ever recognized as the best ever with an instrument?   Yes.  Obviously this is subjective, but you could argue that Michael Schenker (who went on to found his own group as well as UFO) was/is the greatest rock guitarist ever–and then you have his brother Rudi who could claim the title in the late 1980s when Eddie Van Halen started futzing around with keyboards more than his guitar.  Oh, wait, I forgot Uli Roth…man, that’s a lot of guitar-excellence coming through a single band!

4 – Did The Scorpions affect the evolution of other bands?  Yes–because of an interview I saw a couple weeks ago on YouTube.  The introduction to ‘The Sails of Charon’ clicked for a couple guys named Hetfield and Mustaine (Metallica and then for Mustaine, Megadeth) and according to Hetfield shaped quite a bit of the material on Metallica’s first couple albums ‘Kill ’em All’ and ‘Ride the Lightning’.  It’s not a connection I would ever have thought about or known about.  Hetfield said that in concern, Metallica will always try to get guitar riffs from ‘The Sails of Charon’ in at some point.

5 – Are The Scorpions good enough that they can play regularly after passing their prime?  Absolutely.  They still do, even though their prime is now about 15-20 years gone.  There are definite changes–they rest Klaus Meine’s voice strategically during performances and the guitarists likewise limit their running around stage and they now have a replacement drummer, but if they just stand and deliver, they’re close to their peak…you just don’t get as many of the theatrics, etc. anymore.

6 – Are The Scorpions the best eligible artist in history not in the Rock Hall of Fame?  Embarrassingly so.

7 – Are most bands of comparable impact in the Hall of Fame?  Yup, all of them.

8 – Does anything suggest The Scorpions are significantly better or worse than things like record sales would indicate?  Yes.  Their impact across the non-English speaking part of the world–and not just Europe.  They remain popular in Japan as well.  You also have a song that defines an entire era of European history and culture with 1989’s ‘Winds of Change’.  Pretty much every German knows the song and its significance–most Americans know the song, but since we can’t identify all 50 of our own states, have no idea of the song’s historical importance related to German reunification and the end of the Cold War.

9 – Is The Scorpions the best artist of its genre not in the Hall?  Yes.

10 – How many #1 songs did the band have?   Gold records?  Did they ever win a Grammy?   How many nominations? None.  ‘Wind of Change’ reached #1 in every tallied market in the world…except for the US and Britain.  Gold records–only 2…because they had 8 platinum or multi-platinum albums.  They have no Grammys, but have all sorts of international honors from every non-North American continent….(no, not Antarctica)

11 – Did the band have award-winning level songs?  How long was the band at a dominating performance level?  Were they ever on the cover of Rolling Stone?  ‘Wind of Change’ not winning is silliness (like Jethro Tull winning for being a metal band…).  In terms of peak-level performance, that would be from 1980’s ‘Animal Magnetism’ through 1990’s ‘Crazy World’–nothing but platinum albums (including a live compilation album in that–‘World Wide Live’).   Within the US, no Rolling Stone cover–but it was on the German and Russian version of the magazine (I hadn’t really realized when I started this just how universal/deep the Rock Hall’s English language chauvinism would run….)

12 – If The Scorpions were a concert headliner, would it be a great concert?  Yes, even now.  Peak-Scorpions saw them co-headlining the Monsters of Rock with peak Van Halen.  That’s just epic.

13 – Did The Scorpions have an effect on rock history?  Did they change history in any way?  Within music, were they style-innovators?  Style, no.  Rock history, no.  But ‘Wind of Change’ is (with some hyperbole) credited with helping usher the fall of the Soviet Union and smoothing over German re-unification.  Germans certainly feel that way.

14 – Were The Scorpions upstanding citizens?  Are they known more for controversial/illegal behavior?  I couldn’t find anything.  They make music.  They have stable home lives with kids (and grandchildren now).  Of course, maybe the fact they aren’t doing lines of coke or chugging Jack Daniels gets held against them by the Rock HOF.  One way or the other, The Scorpions aren’t really ‘bad boys’.

So–I think it’s pretty clear you’re looking at a Hall of Fame band.  The thing is–I put ‘greatest’ in the header.  There’s an argument to be made there.  I’ll make it brief.

  • A single (Wind of Change) that represents a historical moment completely.
  • Three of the greatest guitarists ever.
  • A voice/style you recognize immediately.
  • A peak level of performance capable of headlining anywhere/gathering attention worldwide.
  • A career spanning nearly 50 years, so that not only do you have a solid recording peak of 10 years, you have a career spanning 2/3 of rock’s existence

When we think of bands in the ‘greatest’ argument, they rarely have peak and longevity on their side.  The Beatles and Led Zeppelin didn’t last a decade, Pink Floyd has a great peak, but not the longevity, The Who’s longevity was a 100% money grab (usually to get John Entwhistle out of bankruptcy).  Chicago’s first 7-8 albums are brilliant, but then Terry Kath died and Peter Cetera became the dominating force, turning the band to pop from 1978-85 before he left and the band went into the wilderness of playing oldies venues, so you’ve got several good albums and about 15 of dreck.

I think, ultimately, it reduces the debate to three bands–peak plus sustained quality over decades of time.  Listed alphabetically:  Metallica, Rolling Stones, Scorpions.  All three have taken creative risks, all three have maintained most of their membership over the years (barring retirement with the Stones/Scorpions now), and all three have styles/sounds you can immediately identify.   Metallica was part of speed metal’s creation, the Stones were the bad boys of the British Invasion, and The Scorpions are the kings of power ballads–and you can never miss a Schenker guitar riff or solo.

So are the Scorpions ‘greatest’?  There’s obviously no way to no–but it’s fun to have the argument, right?

PS.  I think you can play devil’s advocate and throw Iron Maiden in to a greatest-ever argument because it’s got a high peak and longevity to go with it.  Just sayin’.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Philosophical Conundrum regarding a 20-year Issue in Volleyball

Before this begins–you have to understand a term: devil’s advocate.  Within the Catholic Church, it is known as ‘promotor fidei’, the Promoter of the Faith.  His job is to play the skeptic, to cast doubt on the canonization of an individual.  Did events/miracles ascribed to the person truly exist?  Are they as wonderful as everyone makes them out to be?

Also remember, I used to teach composition and rhetoric.  I was trained to look at multiple sides of an issue.  Want an argument for Hitler or Stalin being a force for good–I can make it for you.  Give me enough time, you’ll vote for him (I mean, after all, 49% of voters supported the Russian candidate in the US 2016 presidential election…)

So now you have a combination of me being willing to make arguments on either side and me thinking about the role of devil’s advocate…which invariably also made me consider the philosophies of Jesus and the New Testament.  You’ll see why that’s important in a bit.  Bear with me.

A large part of the ‘Me Too’ movement has been outing predators, predominantly men, who have accosted young women (and some boys, too).**  Most recently that’s included team doctors at Ohio State and Michigan State, some swim coaches, and the one I saw today–a diving coach at Ohio State as well.  Those are all recent developments.  The first story I heard was nearly twenty years ago–the case of volleyball guru Rick Butler.  Rather than go into details, I’ll just put a link here to the start of the Chicago Sun-Times’ investigative story.

As a volleyball coach, I know people who defend Butler and I know many who despise him.  I understand the arguments on both sides and I also realize nothing will ever  reconcile the views of the two groups.  Where do I stand?  That is irrelevant for this blog–I’m here to offer something outside the box if possible (that’s the blog title, right?).

So back to religion.  The Old Testament and New Testament are radically different entities.  Read them.  The God of the Old Testament is angry and throws smack down on cities, regions, individuals, sometimes for reasons that seem nothing more than capricious spite.  God of the New Testament?  Apparently, he’s changed his mind on things.  OT God wants payback and delivers it with hellacious fury; NT God turns the other cheek, counselling forgiveness.

I’ve seen people comment on the situation in various forums (hiding and reading forums…it’s always tempting to appear from the shadows and take part…)–and I know from their posts in non-volleyball subjects that they attend church regularly, that they claim to be Christian (meaning that they go along with the New Testament as the primary Holy Book rather than the Old Testament).

So back to Butler.  Butler is accused and has a substantial amount of evidence*** weighing against him, ranging from accuser statements to love letters he wrote to at least one victim.  For purposes of this blog, I declare him 100% guilty.  I’ll go further.  I’ll hypothetically say there are another 20 victims from 30+ years ago out there who are too scared or traumatized to ever come forward.

And now back to the New Testament.  It teaches forgiveness, right?  It doesn’t talk about vengeance or smiting wrong-doers.   Forgiveness is different than forgetting, by the way.  Never forget–but we’re talking about modern Christianity now, not the Old Testament.

Did you know ‘forgiveness’ is used more than 100 times in the New Testament.  It’s one of the most common nouns in the Good Book.

  • Luke 6:37 “Judge not and you shall not be judged.  Do not condemn and you will not be condemned yourself.”  To receive forgiveness from God,  a man must first be willing to forgive his fellow man, regardless of what the sin or trespass may be.

There’s a large part of theological theory that discusses this in relation to punishment.  Forgiveness is not absolving someone of their sin or crime–it is more like a commutation of the punishment.  If you go back to the Reformation, look at what Martin Luther talked about (never mind his downside and problems, such as his virulent anti-Semitism), he discusses forgiveness regularly–that forgiveness is the only way to heal, to be able to enjoy a blessed life.

So then, if you take Jesus’ healing of the palsied man as a metaphor (rather than fact), Jesus is ‘forgiving a sin’, thus restoring the other man to full life, giving him that ‘blessed life’.

Forgiveness is a divine act, releasing the forgiver AND the sinner from past actions.

And back to Butler.  In my role of devil’s advocate/promotor fidei, I’m not interested in those proclaiming his innocence.   Like I said–I’m presuming 100% guilt and more acts that are publicly unknown.  No, I’m interested in the “Christians” who believe him guilty and want him punished.  Shouldn’t there be forgiveness by Christians?  Time has passed–shouldn’t those involved forgive?  Again, not forget–forgive.

Has Butler changed from the man he was in the 1970s and 1980s?  I have no idea.  Should this even matter for another individual’s views?  It is not his faith/beliefs in question, but those of Christians.  The argument is from the religious standpoint.  Presuming guilt, if you are a Christian, shouldn’t you offer forgiveness to him?  Isn’t that your responsibility to your faith?

I’d love to hear what people think in terms of the theology.  It’s easy to be Christian sitting in a big, clean church or a gated community.  It’s easy when everything in your life is going well….but you read your Bible and you see Jesus among the lepers, working with the poor and downtrodden, even washing the feet of a prostitute.  He’s not there in a mega-church or a cathedral.  He’s in the trenches with those who suffer–and those who cause the suffering.

Can this be a civil conversation?  I’d like that, but I’m skeptical.  Civility withers on the vine of social media.  It becomes right vs. wrong, a fundamentalist, polarized world, and yet…the world is never so black and white.  We live in gray tones with every decision.  Thus, how does a person of faith reconcile the requirement of forgiveness with the alleged (or proven) acts of men such as Butler, Nasser, or Pryor?

Have you forgiven Butler?  As a Christian, there are two possibilities:

  1. Butler is innocent, thus there is no need for forgiveness.
  2. Butler is guilty in which case the Christian faith mandates forgiveness.

Other faiths?  They carry a similar message.  Buddhism does not mandate forgiveness, but extols forgiveness for the required integrity and strength of the act, that forgiveness prevents bitterness–it cleanses the spirit.  Islam permits revenge in an Old Testament sort of fashion, but also extols forgiveness–that he who forgives will be rewarded commensurately by Allah.  In Hinduism, forgiving someone who does not repent is seen as an act of the highest nobility.

So again–if he is guilty, have you forgiven him?

 

**The Me Too movement has also sought to eliminate more subtle forms of discrimination.  I note that here, though as a word of caution, be aware that some radicals within that group have publicly declared that they do not care if innocent men are hurt along the way if it advances the cause of ‘equality’ (whatever that’s supposed to mean)…I’d caution the advice of the Founding Fathers–it is better that a hundred guilty men go free than see a single innocent man wrongly punished.

***Much of this evidence is public record, mentioned in the Sun-Times article, or has been posted in certain coaching forums such as Facebook’s Volleyball Coaches and Trainers or the Women’s forum of Volleytalk.

The Folly of Absolutism and Abortion

Simply mentioning the word ‘abortion’ is guaranteed to close minds, especially in the United States, not least because almost no one pays attention to what Roe v. Wade actually says…and more of that is a-comin’ soon with a Supreme Court nomination fight underway.

When I taught Composition, I started the semester asking students to write an opinion paper providing their opinion (duh) on the subject.  Were they ‘pro-life’ or ‘pro-choice’ (this was almost thirty years ago…so you can already see that some things never change….)?  But as a teacher of writing and critical thinking, you should know there’s something coming….  The catch?  For their final exam, they were given the same topic, but had to argue the opposing point of view.

I think that’s important–in any discussion, for there to be real progress, you have to understand the other side and where they are coming from and how they reached their points of view.  Unfortunately, the willingness to discuss is receding from American civil society–that’s the fault of fundamentalism and absolutism.

So, to show the folly of taking a complete black/white view of ANY issue, especially one like abortion, consider the following two situations.  You have an either/or choice.  There are no ‘Yeah, but…’ permitted, no exceptions–we are dealing with absolutes here.

As context, please understand that the fundamentalist position on abortion is that a fetus has equal value as a human and that life begins at conception.

Situation 1: Your wife is in her third trimester of pregnancy–or perhaps she has started labor (this doesn’t matter for the scenario).  The doctor tells you it is serious–she can save your wife or save the fetus.  Who do you choose?

Are you really choosing the fetus?  If all life has equal value, what did you just declare about your wife’s value?  …or should she have the final say–since it is her life on the line?

–the problem is, that if we accept that she should have the final say because her life is in jeopardy, we’ve established the logic that a woman has the right to determine events within her own body (which is a pro-choice argument).

Situation 2:  You are in a burning clinic.  A woman has left her baby while going to the bathroom and can’t get back to the room.  In the same room, there’s a container of 50 fertilized eggs/test-tube babies, all ready to grow.  The fire is spreading and you only have the time to grab the baby *OR* the test-tube container.  Which do you grab?

Again–does anyone leave the baby?  Do you even think more than 0.5 seconds about it?  No, not if you’re honest with yourself.  Heck–put it out to sea…save a drowning baby or retrieve a container–no one goes after a container, but we all know adults who would risk their own lives to save a drowning baby.

–the problem is, if we accept that life begins at conception and you save the baby rather than the fertilized eggs, you’ve effectively murdered 50/100/1000 human beings.

Thus, the reality is that banning abortion is not the right choice and arguing for such a ban, claiming to be ‘pro-life’ is an attempt to pull on heart-strings (who is NOT pro-life because life is good, so opposing life must make you evil….) and not something that should ever be done.  Emotional appeals are the resort of arguers who can’t sustain a position with facts.

To be clear-I’m not arguing for abortion on demand or interested in valid arguments pro/anti abortion.  I know the arguments on both sides, I do my research.  What I’m arguing against is absolutism, fundamentalism, the idea that there is no middle ground, that abortion must be a 100% evil or else a 100%-available procedure regardless of circumstance.

There IS middle ground, there is room for valid debate–but to return to that point in our culture, we must first fight the addictive hate of seeing everything as us vs. them or that anyone opposed to us is automatically evil. 

If we go back only to the 1980s (before the Gingrich-led radicalization/polarization of Congress), you can see how this works.  Ronald Reagan, Bob Dole, et al. had differing views from their Democratic counterparts like Tip O’Neil or Daniel Moynihan and yet government functioned.  They realized the folly of absolute positions, that effective policy comes from discussion and compromise, that, in the words of Moynihan, “Everyone is entitled to their own opinion, but not to their own facts”.”

Work to help find that middle ground again–the area John McCain searched for in working across the aisle before his death.  And if you’re one of those all-or-nothing fundamentalists (far left or right)?   Well, you’re an enemy of the Republic.

The Wisdom of John McCain…

Senator McCain died this past weekend.  He’s been lauded in enough other places, there’s really no need for me to link to them or anything like that.  Instead, I came across a story of his wit in comparison to a couple of other guys…Bush and Obama.

Bush made a comment that when he looked into Putin’s eyes (Russia’s leader), he saw the man’s soul.  A nice, poetic sort of comment.

Obama talked about Putin and in the Russian’s eyes, he saw a man willing to ‘reset’ US/USSR relations.

McCain’s comment:  “When I look in the eyes of Vladimir Putin, I see three letters: K. G. B.”

In the end, as with many things when it came to foreign policy, McCain was correct.  I think the US will miss him more than the ignorance on the extreme right realizes–McCain worked tirelessly for free trade (a benefit to the US), NATO/Atlantic security (again, to the benefit of the US), to help Vietnam and the Pacific (putting away the grudge of his treatment to rebuild relations–it is peacetime, not war).

Have there been better senators in history?  Absolutely.  But I’d sure like a couple dozen more like John McCain in office right now.  I didn’t always agree with him, but there was never a question of him believing in the American system, that he understood good ideas came from all ends of the political spectrum, and that his opponents (Democrats) were good people, just with opposing ways to work things.

Godspeed, Senator.

PS.  Bless you for poking Trump in the eye by not inviting him while inviting the two men who kept you from the presidency (Bush/Obama) to speak and THEN poking Putin by having one of the men he tried to poison/murder by a pall-bearer for you.  I hope I get as good a last word in when they put me in the ground.

The Dietz Foundation

So–at the end of June, I started something.  Quite a while ago I was terminated by a different company after selling my first one to them–my ideas for how to run a business didn’t jive with the person hired to “supervise” me….a long story.

So for the past 18 months, from the point I knew my contract would get terminated, I’ve been debating whether I wanted to start another business.  I started Jolly Roger Games when I was 27.  I’m 50 now and that’s a whole lot different life situation.  I was leaning towards ‘no’, but changed my mind for a few reasons:

  • The irrational hate from partisans preferring to ‘win’ rather than help everyone
  • The blatant lack of knowledge of history and politics
  • The denial of science by 25% of the American population
  • A guy withdrawing a huge donation to a university because they didn’t do EXACTLY as he demanded–the donation wasn’t about doing good for students, it was driven by pure ego.

The thing is–it is easy to complain and decry these problems.  Everyone can complainBut are you going to do anything about it?  I decided that if I was going to continue to complain about the direction society has taken recently, I had to make efforts to change its direction, to make it better, and so–the Dietz Foundation. 

The intention of the Foundation is to promote education through scholarship endowments, funds to schools for purchasing alternative materials for education, and hopefully in the near-future, funds for teachers/school administrators to go to conferences to learn how to use games, group projects, etc in new ways–because the world is constantly changing.

I want to do that through producing games and books–just like a normal publisher.  The difference is that the profits aren’t going into my pocket–they are going back out there to do good.   The Dietz Foundation is non-profit.  Everything short of the kitchen sink is going back out there to do good wherever possible helping kids, helping teachers.  It reminded me of something from George Washington, written at the end of the Revolution:

“Nothing can illustrate these observations more forcibly, than a recollection of the happy conjuncture of times and circumstances, under which our Republic assumed its rank among the Nations; The foundation of our Empire was not laid in the gloomy age of Ignorance and Superstition, but at an Epoch when the rights of mankind were better understood and more clearly defined, than at any former period, the researches of the human mind, after social happiness, have been carried to a great extent, the Treasures of knowledge, acquired by the labours of Philosophers, Sages and Legislatures, through a long succession of years, are laid open for our use, and their collected wisdom may be happily applied in the Establishment of our forms of Government; the free cultivation of Letters, the unbounded extension of Commerce, the progressive refinement of Manners, the growing liberality of sentiment… have had a meliorating influence on mankind and increased the blessings of Society.”

Washington believed in education, felt that free learning was the only way the U.S. would ever reach its goals, maintain its status of respect among the nations of the world.

Anyhow–as this progresses, I’ll mention the DF here in the blog from time to time.  Want to donate?  Let me know–it’s officially a 501-c-3, so it’s a full tax-break.   It won’t take much–if I’ve got my calculations right, for every $5,000 I accumulate, I can endow a scholarship at a college or go to a high school and create two smaller ones.  For that $5,000, the Foundation could outfit a rural school with 5-6 years worth of modern technology or provide 20 schools with games for classroom use.

And that’s for $5,000!  Donations or not, I’m hoping the games the DF makes will supplement those donations to make a bigger difference.  Games are a sneaky way of teaching!

One last thing–this isn’t about donating to Harvard and Yale, the schools billionaires donate to to fill their egos.  This is about your land-grant colleges like Iowa State, your former ‘teachers colleges’ like Ball State, your community colleges like Allen CC or Lincoln Land and Lake Land College.  It’s about those hundreds of small schools that struggle because of low property taxes or poor state funding.