You are currently viewing archive for May 2008
Category: American Culture
Posted by: A Waco Farmer
I hear people talkin' bad,
About the way we have to live here in this country,
Harpin' on the wars we fight,
An' gripin' 'bout the way things oughta be.

An' I don't mind 'em switchin' sides,
An' standin' up for things they believe in.
When they're runnin' down my country, man,
They're walkin' on the fightin' side of me.

First, in pursuit of full disclosure and intellectual honesty, please accept this relevant and noteworthy caveat:

Much has changed for Merle Haggard since 1970. In his dotage, the great voice of the common man in country music has argued for the impeachment of George Bush, endorsed Hillary Clinton for president in 2007, and wrote a song a few years back advocating U.S. withdrawal from Iraq.

Read my shoulder shrug and perplexed expression. But, oh well, God bless Merle and an America where one can switch sides and stand up for things that one believes in.

Notwithstanding, Merle's simple and powerful poetry from nearly four decades ago, generally, continues to resonate with me much more than his current political viewpoints.


I continue to meet too many Americans who gleefully exhibit complete disdain for our national heritage, evincing absolutely no perceptible appreciation for the good fortune of their birthplace, even as they enjoy the myriad privileges and blessings associated with American citizenship.

They love our milk an' honey,
But they preach about some other way of livin'.
When they're runnin' down my country, hoss,
They're walkin' on the fightin' side of me.

Jeremiah Wright: there is no dastardly act so heinous of which he could not believe the American government capable.

Michelle Obama: she finds nothing in our history of which she is personally proud.

Why is this a problem?

Quite often, we are who we say we are and believe we are. Of course, a healthy amount of skepticism regarding governments implemented and executed by the sons of Adam is a wise precaution--but rank and unadulterated cynicism produces a whole array of deleterious ramifications.

The American story is one in which we have consistently transcended our imperfections by working toward American ideals as expressed in our founding documents and "glorious" history. Over time, we have consistently outperformed reasonable human expectations, in part, because we have striven to be great and good. In large part, we believed that our heroic past demanded a heroic present as merely fair recompense for our birthright seeded with endless possibility. To whom much is given much is expected.

However, modern man sees the past as corrupt. Heroes are for suckers. George Washington was a slaveholder. Thomas Jefferson was a hypocrite. Andrew Jackson was a racist and a genocidal monster. Abraham Lincoln was a clever political manipulator.

In other words, our past was just as degenerate as our present. In fact, our moral impotence is actually more honest (from our culturally relative perspective) than the integrity and bravery of our ancestors, mustered only to propitiate a ridiculously disingenuous corporate ethos. That is, our predecessors were only heroic because their history had misled them into believing that they were somehow linked by "mystic chords of memory, stretching from every battle-field, and patriot grave, to every living heart and hearth-stone," which somehow required superhuman sacrifice and subordination of self for the good of a grateful and worthy nation.

They were fools--but we know the truth.

An' I wonder just how long,
The rest of us can count on bein' free.
Category: American Culture
Posted by: A Waco Farmer
Praise the Lord and Pass the Ammunition!

Down went the gunner, a bullet was his fate
Down went the gunner, then the gunners mate
Up jumped the sky pilot, gave the boys a look
And manned the gun himself as he laid aside The Book, shouting:

Praise the Lord and pass the ammunition!
Praise the Lord and pass the ammunition!
Praise the Lord and pass the ammunition and we'll all stay free!

Praise the Lord and swing into position!
Can't afford to sit around and wishin'
Praise the Lord we're all between perdition
and the deep blue sea!

Yes the sky pilot said it
You've got to give him credit
for a son - of - gun - of - a - gunner was he,
Praise the Lord we're on a mighty mission!
All aboard, we're not a - goin' fishin;
Praise the Lord and pass the ammunition and we'll all stay free!

"Praise the Lord and Pass the Ammunition" relates the partly true story of a chaplain ("sky pilot") and his reaction to Pearl Harbor. The song was a huge pop hit for Kay Keyser and his orchestra in late 1942. For a revealing window into our current sensibilities, view this You Tube video (with the actual music as sarcastic background to some classic conservative baiting) and then read the accompanying discussion (from the beginning).


One other hit song from the era (#1 in 1943):
When The Lights Go On Again All Over The World

Note: In truth, unlike 1943, only a small slice of America is actually at war today (the rest of us are drafting off the heroic sacrifice of a select few stalwart souls). For all those Americans on their third and fourth tours of duty, and all the families waiting at home, our sincere thanks. This song is dedicated to you.

When the lights go on again all over the world
And the boys are home again all over the world
And rain or snow is all that may fall from the skies above
A kiss won't mean "goodbye" but "Hello to love"

When the lights go on again all over the world
And the ships will sail again all over the world
Then we'll have time for things like wedding rings
and free hearts will sing
When the lights go on again all over the world

One last thought, FYI: The number one song again this week (three weeks running) is “Lollipop” by Lil’ Wayne: “She she lick me Like a lollipop; She she lick me Like a lollipop; She she lick Like a lollipop; She lick Me Like a lollipop….”

Unfortunately there is much much more to “Lollipop.”

Remember the bad old days when we sang silly songs that assumed God was on our side in a just war against evil doers? Thank goodness we have elevated our culture above that brand of provincialism.
Newsweek has a story on "The complete list of the 1,300 top U.S. high schools."

Public schools are ranked according to a ratio devised by Jay Mathews: the number of Advanced Placement, Intl. Baccalaureate and/or Cambridge tests taken by all students at a school in 2007 divided by the number of graduating seniors.

What this criteria measures, therefore, is the ratio of top college-bound seniors to the total number in their graduating class in each school. Notice that the results of the tests are not a factor, simply whether a student took one of the exams. In other words, the list is simply a ranking of the percentage of ambitious college-bound seniors in each school's graduating class.

Big deal.

(1) When I was a high-school classroom teacher, I figured my students could be divided into three groups: those bright hard-working kids I could take no credit for because they would learn in spite of me; those kids who for whatever reason could be reached by no one that year; and the large group in between whose learning or lack of it I could take credit or blame for. A better measure of school success, but hard to measure, would be how well a school does with this middle majority of its students--those whom the school has a direct impact upon their learning or not learning.
(2) This list accepts the falsehood that the real purpose of high school is to prepare students for college. Wrong. College is over-rated. I know the owner of a plumbing company in Lawton, Oklahoma. He anticipates a possible shortage of licensed plumbers in a decade or so. A licensed plumber starts work for his company at $20-25 per hour, based on experience. Getting a skill is important in life; getting a college degree may or may not be important. Vocational education matters also.
Wednesday night Martian Mariner and I went to see the movie Ironman. I confess a weakness for comic-book movies, probably the result of my passion for comic books as a boy. I would walk the ditches looking for pop bottles to redeem at 2 cents each; when I had 6 I could buy a comic, then 12 cents.

(In keeping with my conservative cred, we went to a theatre that shows first-run movies for $3.50 per ticket for all shows.)

He and I found the movie entertaining and well-done. The leads deserve applause for their performances. The special-effects worked, and did not overshadow the characters. Even the spoken Arabic was accurate and sounded like native-speakers, reports MM.

The basic plot: Robert Downey, Jr. (Stark) is an engineering genius who designs weapons; a playboy patriot who sees himself giving America the tools she needs to defeat her enemies. While in Afghanistan to demonstrate a new tactical missile, his convoy is ambushed and the attackers take him to a cave where he is held. During the ambush he noticed that the bad guys are using weapons manufactured by his company. He will be released, they promise, once he builds them the same missile. Helped by another prisoner, who tells him that Stark weapons have destroyed his village, he instead constructs a beweaponed suit in which he kills bad guys, destroys stockpiles of his company's weapons in the camp, and escapes. Once back home he holds a press conference in which he announces that his company will henceforth work for peaceful purposes, much to the annoyance of his business partner.

But, Stark has unfinished business, foiling the bad guys in Afghanistan who are using his company's weapons. He builds a new and improved suit, flies back, liberates a village, kills a number of bad guys, and destroys the weapons. Eventually he learns that his business partner has been selling weapons to both sides, leading to a showdown between the two of them, both in beweaponed suits. The good guy wins. (Thoughts below)

» Read More

14/05: Truly Heroic

Category: American Culture
Posted by: an okie gardener
In a healthy country, these men's names would be known and celebrated. Lance Cpl. Jordan Haerter and Cpl. Jonathan T. Yale, RIP.

This article from the Washington Post offers a sobering, even frightening, look at the future of Japan.

An excerpt:

The proportion of children in the population fell to an all-time low of 13.5 percent. That number has been falling for 34 straight years and is the lowest among 31 major countries, according to the report. In the United States, children account for about 20 percent of the population.

Japan also has a surfeit of the elderly. About 22 percent of the population is 65 or older, the highest proportion in the world. And that number is on the rise. By 2020, the elderly will outnumber children by nearly 3 to 1, the government report predicted. By 2040, they will outnumber them by nearly 4 to 1.

The economic and social consequences of these trends are difficult to overstate.

In the U.S. we have seen an overall decline in the birthrate for decades. Why? Many causes, but let me raise a few possibilities and questions.

When the social ideal for both sexes is a successful career, then couples will choose to have fewer children.

When the economic ideal for couples is a house their grandparents would have regarded as a mansion, plus travel and at least two nice cars, then couples will choose to have fewer children.

When the societal ideal for old age is a carefree extended vacation requiring invested money, then couples will choose to have fewer children.

When self-satisfaction and personal leisure are high priorities, then couples will choose to have fewer children.

When stable family life until death seems an impossible ideal, then couples will choose to have fewer children.

When the social ideal of the child-centered household means that children are terribly expensive, then couples will choose to have fewer children.

I do think that it is a responsible decision to choose to have a limited number of children for the sake of the environment (we seem to have obeyed one of God's commands, to fill the earth), but I suspect we have fewer children for lots of not-so-good reasons.