Dexter Justus

DEXTER JUSTINIAN Occaisional blogging by someone with too much free time...

Thursday, April 29, 2004

Wow, are we great at self-flagellation!

Days like today, I don't think we deserve to be #1. We have become a nation of such introspection and self-flagellation that it's almost impossible to the light at the end of the tunnel.

Take this. This is the kind of thing the left & Al Jizz will unite on to attempt to again tear down our efforts.

We have become a society so focused on finding and correcting our small mistakes that we overlook the glaring holes in our strategy. This is the kind of thing that (shudder to say it) the Army should have made pains to keep quiet by handling via captain's mast..

We know who are enemies are, and they will use this to drive up anti-US feeling to a fever pitch.

What is the worst 'abuse' this guy is accused of in interrogating POWs? Apparently, some people were made to stand on a box holding (dead) wires, and told they would be electrocuted if they stepped off the box.

And this will be compared by our media as equal in proportion to Saddam's real torturers. See, we're no better than the terrorists!

Days like today I'm not sure our civilization deserves to last. If we can't tell the moral difference between interrogating someone trying to kill our troops by threatening them with non-existant punishment, and CUTTING OFF LIMBS WITH A PAPER SHREDDER or RAPING MEN'S WIVE IN FRONT OF THEM, then our society has decayed to such a degree that perhaps, when the fall comes, we will have earned it.

Sunday, April 25, 2004

There's been quite a few articles about how bad an idea it is to reinstitute the draft. It's not really much of an issue now. The extensive coverage of Pat Tillman's story pretty much obviates Charlie Rangel's assertions about the racial and financial makeup of the armed forces. In the course of reading a lot of the coverage of the draft and reenlistment issues, however, I noticed one side issue that kept bothering me. There's a common misperception out there that the state of the economy is a driving factor on recruiting and reenlistment rates, and that it's tied clsely to the issue of military pay. There's no disputing that a statistical link exists. What bothers me is the assertion that the link derives from military personnel's financial considerations. I've always thought that's BS, and exit surveys over the years have backed this up. Economic concerns are rarely at the top of the exit decision.

Primary is family concerns. The wife gets tired of moving around. Second is leadership issues or job dissatisfaction. Third is morale. Fourth is money.

The main effect of raising military salaries comes about in morale and leadership departments.
I'll comment in more detail on this tommorrow evening when I get some free time.

Saturday, April 24, 2004

Shame on

I'm disturbed by what I saw on the NFL's official site regarding Pat Tillman's death:

WASHINGTON (April 23, 2004) -- Pat Tillman walked away from millions in the NFL to fight for his country in Afghanistan.

He paid with his life.

The former Arizona Cardinals safety was killed Thursday night in a firefight while on combat patrol with the Army Rangers in Afghanistan. He was 27.

"He paid with his life." Isn't that a phrase newspapers reserve for fools and criminals? That's the phrase you expect to see in a paragraph about the guy who won the first Darwin award by strapping a JATO rocket booster to his Ford Mustang in an attempt to break the land speed record. It's a phrase used to describe that kid who hitchhiked into the center of the wilds in Alaska to prove he could survive off the land and ended up dying. (Jon Krakauer's Into The Wild)

It's not phrase you use to describe a man who willingly gave up a large salary and died proudly defending his country.

Shame on the NFL.


Friday, April 23, 2004

The meaning of honor.

It's late and I'm hungry, but I just gotta comment on this. I'm sure everybody has seen the news that former Arizona footballer and Army Ranger Pat Tillman is dead, KIA in eastern Afghanistan. I heard nothing about this remarkable story until he was killed. I never heard that he walked away from a $3.2 million contract with the Arizona Cardinals to enlist in the Army in order to do his duty. I've already read lots from people amazed at his choice and sacrifice. Rush Limbaugh commented on the fact that, amazing as it was, he was just another soldier. There are thousands of young men in the Army and Marine Corps who have their lives on the line at this very moment defending your and my freedom to blog and bloviate at will. It is like the parable of the widow's mite. We are all equal before God. $3.2 million dollar contract or no, Pat Tillman knew what he was doing laying his life down for his country.

One of my favorite lines from Braveheart I think says it best. The scene: William Wallace, the commoner, has just been granted a knighthood. But the knighting ceremony dissolves into a acrimonious dispute between noble houses trying to curry favor. Wallace chastises the nobles for fools and backstabbing cowards and storms out of the room, with Robert the Bruce calling after him:

ROBERT THE BRUCE: Wallace! You speak strong words, William Wallace. But you must understand, these men have lands and title. It's much to risk!

WALLACE: And the common man, that leaves his wife and children at home, to die on the battlefield, does he risk any less?

Thursday, April 22, 2004

The Old Number Five Problem

Hello everybody. For my first post I thought I'd clarify my general stance on issues. I definitely think our society needs a conservative adjustment. The area that needs it most is what I like to call "The old number five problem," and it goes to the heart of whether or not our society will continue to grow and evolve, or whether our society will shake itself apart from within.

The old number five refers to 4000 years ago (figuratively speaking) when Moses came down the mountain with ten commandments from on high. I'm not interested in debating whether or not the Talmud is meant to be taken literally. In addition, this is going to seem pretty basic for anyone with a good religious background. Bear with me if you have the advantage of a strong background in this stuff. Not everybody does.

Some will argue that seeing the Ten Commandments as the basis of a society is outmoded, that our current legal and political systems have evolved past the need of such primitive ideals. I can't argue those points here as it would require a discussion of thousands of laws, cultural strains, and political structures in modern life. So just for the sake of argument, let's assume that the Ten Commandments are useful guidelines for any society. I just want to describe how.

Regardless of what you believe religiously, there's no doubt what the effect of the Ten Commandments is on a society, or what it was for a nomadic tribe of Aramaics. They provided a set of laws that help maintain a stable and rational, even if not completely crime-free society.

Some of the laws are behavioral, and directly contribute to the short-term viability of society (6,7,& 9: thou shalt not kill, steal, or lie. If everybody kept just these three, there'd be no jails.)

One of the laws is attitudinal (10: don't envy your neighbor's possessions or spouse,) presumably to make it easier for us weak-willed humans to keep 6, 7 & 9.

Four are religious, aimed at maintaining respect for God & eternal perpetuation of these laws (1-4: You shall have no God but Allah, don't worship idols or images, don't take God's name in vain, and keep holy the Sabbath.) Without societal respect for the dude these laws are supposed to come from, why keep them, after all?

The other two are also behavioral, but these are clearly aimed at the long term perpetuation and stability of society, with the family unit as the base. (5 & 8: Honor your father & mother, don't cheat on your spouse.)

I'll deal with number 8 another time. What I want to discuss here is the old number five. First let me state it the traditional way: Honour thy father and thy mother: that thy days may be long upon the land which the LORD thy God giveth thee." Many argue that a later Talmudic author added the second part, and it might indeed be unnecessary, but it helps explain what it's all about. Honor thy father and mother is the stated part of a two-way social contract: Parents, love, protect & properly raise your children. Children, respect & honor your parents, including their views and beliefs. Without both halves of this two way contract, it should be self-evident that a society cannot survive the harsh fortunes of a changing world for very long. Children who do not respect their parents will ultimately abandon the traditions their parents revere. In the case of bad traditions, this is a good thing. But if traditions are wantonly abandoned without regard to the intrinsic value of each tradition, even good or stabilizing traditions can be swept away with the bad, and the society will eventually collapse into a chaotic morass.

So if it's two-way, why is only one half of the two-way contract stated?
It was only required for God (or/via Moses) to state the child-->parent part of this contract for obvious reasons of genetics and biology. The fact is, (almost) all parents, and in particular mothers, have an involuntary genetic need to protect their offspring. It's obvious, it's common sense, and in recent years it's been proven time and gain with scientific tests to apply to all animals, to apply even more strongly to mammals, and to apply most particularly to humans. Mothers and fathers love their offspring, protect for them and (for the most part) do their best to provide for them.

Likewise, it's been scientifically proven that children involuntarily love and want the acceptance of their parents, even despite conditions of abuse, parental treatment. So why is the child-->parent part of the relationship mandated & stated? Simple. Children grow up, but not all at once. During adolescence and into young adulthood, children go through a largely hormonal rejection of parental influence, despite the fact that parents generally continue to love their children in the same way. If the rejection that helps children to develop their own personality is not tempered by this external societal respect for elders, the rejection of parental influence can widen to include a rejection of all parental values, including the constraints of those Ten Commandments.

How does a society get to this point? Well, that brings us up to the present--or rather, the present of 35 years ago. Sure! Blame it all on the Sixties and Seventies! Well... In some ways, I am. Not that it's "the baby boomer's fault" per se. In many ways, it was almost inevitable. The rapid changes and questioning of basic assumptions that has come to be filed under the heading "The Culture Wars," resulted from an unexpected coming together of new social, sexual, and civic values. It's not that parts of the culture wars were good and parts bad--its that so many of the changes that questioned the assumptions of our elders were so obviously and apparently for the better--civil rights for minorities, equality of the sexes, a more cautious approach to exploitation of the planet we live on--that much of society got ahead of itself, making rapid or ill-considered changes, smashing through unwritten barriers and ideals, with little regard for bad and unintended consequences. This was exacerbated by the suddenly limitless technological powers we (as a society) seemed to have available to us. If we can send someone to walk on the moon, the popular refrain went, we ought to be able to eliminate poverty.

The unintended result: a culture-wide questioning of societal assumptions turned prematurely into a culture-wide rejection of traditional values. Any tradition that was seen as time honored was suddenly suspect. The rejection of "old number five" culminated with the popular expression, "Never trust anyone over thirty." The problem with this ideal, as baby boomers generally found out, is that eventually they got older, a lot older than thirty. But because the culture had been so recklessly and swiftly altered, almost beyond recognition, many older adults suddenly found themselves lost, without an understanding of the reasons behind certain cultural norms and traditions, cut off from access to a rich culture of worthy and beautiful traditions.

It is we, their children, who have reaped the rotten fruit of their oat sowing. Generations X and Y. The generations that raised themselves. Our parents weren't there for us. In many cases, they were so busy questioning their traditions that they totally forgot they owed us something--being parents. So many of us have just plain done without parental guidance. How many of us have had, in our teenage years, to be the 'responsible ones,' waking up our hung-over parents for work, getting ourselves to the school bus on time, fending off Mom's boyfriend's advances, calling Dad who lives in a separate state to remind him we exist & need some help with tuition payments? Then we see our few friends, that, for whatever reason, come from a stable home. It's gotta make us jealous.

More important, we see the difference for ourselves. We know what is means to be considered second to mom & dad's 'self actualization.' We're not gonna be another generation of children raising children. Our children are going to honor their parents and traditions. So that their children will prosper and continue. So that our children's days will be long in the land that God gave them.

Wednesday, April 21, 2004

This is my first official blog post.
Sound off: I think it's actually a pretty brave thing to just hang it all out there & post what you think about life ... unless, that is, you're jsut posting to sound off, like I am right now.

Dexter Justinian Semper Est
Welcome to Dexter Justus, where right is always right.
Actually, I'm not as far right as the name would lead you to believe ("The right hand is always right,") but I feel it's a useful starting point for discussion on politics, religion (Catholicism), and space.