"An unlimited power to tax involves, necessarily, a power to destroy; because there is a limit beyond which no institution and no property can bear taxation." ~ John Marshall
Random Thoughts on the Big Wave
Good articles here on Strike The Root develop one single theme; authors tell readers what we are going to tell you, then we tell you, then we tell you what we told you; and all is wrapped up in a neat bundle. Sorry, but this one will be different. The only common thread below is the tsunami. These thoughts are what happened to catch my interest in the wake of the disaster, as one member of the freedom-loving fraternity.
The Ugly Conservative
On January 3rd the car radio delivered part of that day's "Howie Carr" broadcast, billed as a Conservative radio talk show out of Boston. Mr. Carr was under the surgeon's knife at the time and his guest host called himself "BB." The chosen topic was that Bubba Clinton had just called on all Americans to give generously to charities serving victims of the tsunami in South Asia, and a caller came on the line to say Hell, No! He explained that anything that sonofabitch Clinton wanted him to do, he would automatically do the opposite (so far, so understandable) and anyway, "Have 150,000 people died? So what? They were only people who stole our jobs. Screw 'em!" I'm pretty sure I have that quote verbatim. Notice, the caller combined two views: a vigorous opposition to Bill Clinton on a Conservative show (hence, he's a Conservative) with an utterly callous lack of compassion or even empathy for human suffering on a massive scale. For good measure, he clarified that he was a protectionist; though I sensed that his neck was so red he probably couldn't pronounce that word, let alone spell it or debate its alleged economic merits. Now, BB isn't responsible for what his callers say on the air, but he sure is responsible for how he handles them; and I report that BB did not jump all over this sorry excuse for a human being. He paused, demurred just a little bit, and said he understood the viewpoint. He added that (unknown to the caller) President Bush had just joined Clinton's appeal for donations and, since Bush was "his president" he would have to think hard whether or not to make a donation. I don't say all Conservatives are like BB and his caller. I know that some religious ones were among the first to sense the appalling extent of the tragedy, and to be the first off the mark to organize aid. But it's quite clear that Conservatism does include the world-view that BB's caller expressed, and therefore that people like him elected George W. last Fall--even though what's his name, Kerry, bid hard for the votes of those whose jobs had been "exported." If we may roughly align them with the angry folk who bought in to Ross Perot's anti-free trade rhetoric of 1992, there are probably about 10 million of them. They surely have many merits, and in many ways may be the salt of the American earth; but they seem to have this sick, shocking, savage flaw: they despise foreigners, and oppose the free flow of labor. They are just one more example of the "freedom, but" crowd.
The Deluded Theist
Like it or not, we are being run by a bunch of theocrats. A major motivator behind GW's push into the MidEast is a religious vision of an Apocalypse, or at least of a major victory over the dark forces of Islam; and so it is for millions of his fundamentalist supporters. There can be no doubt that he would not have been re-elected without them. Catch the Reverend Falwell in a Freudian slip and he'll allow as how Mohammed was "evil." Just the very thing we need, to live in harmony with the rest of the world and de-motivate a repeat of 9/11. Now, I must say again that fundamentalists were the first to act on the news of the tragedy, and that's very much to their credit. But their basic, driving belief is that there exists an all-powerful, all-loving, all-knowing God who created and maintains the Universe. And the tsunami exposed that belief to total ridicule. You can, if you must, visualize a personal creator; in which case, the Earth's tectonic plates are his doing and so is the creation of homo sapiens at a time when the two could still come into collision. You can have one who knows everything, sure; in which case he knew precisely when those particular plates off Sumatra would slip and produce the killer wave. But what you cannot do, by the Aristotelian law of the nonexistence of contradictions, is to add to those the view that this creator is also all-loving. Yet theists insist on trying to do exactly that.
The terrible photograph of "what tsunamis do" recently shown on Strike The Root is a record of what the creator did, if he exists, on the day after much of humanity celebrated his alleged personal visit to Earth as a baby. And there is no way whatsoever that that action can be classified as one of loving kindness. Either the creator lacked the power to prevent the massacre, or he lacked the inclination (or, of course, he doesn't exist at all) and so the idea combining omnipotence with omnibenevolence is a myth pure and simple, yet theists persist in believing it. Some will try to wriggle out of the corner by adding a further contradiction, namely that the creator is a "just" God who metes out punishment when He sees fit. Sure. So he suddenly slaughtered 90,000 Moslems in revenge for 9/11? I don't think so; and the other 60,000 were Buddhists and Hindus and, yes, Christians, so it will take a deal of spinning to explain that selection for sudden death. Not least because a terrible number of the victims were children, playing innocently on the beach. It's a pleasant myth, the stories of a loving God in whose arms we can feel secure, and there's no denying it has brought great comfort to mankind. But myth it is, and if humanity is to grow up and realize our potential, we are going to have to get rational and lay aside childish fairy tales like those of government and god.
The Vanishing American
At this writing (1/6) the State Department says there are 36 confirmed Americans dead in the tsunami zone, and 2,600 not yet accounted for. I am not blaming any bureaucrat for the discrepancy; the nature of the catastrophe must make such counting incredibly difficult. But it occurs to me that this news uncovers information valuable to freedom seekers; for apparently, at present the government does not "track" Americans leaving the country. When biometric IDs are implemented everywhere, don't count on this for long, but it means that when you fly off for a weekend in Thailand, Uncle will be none the wiser. When you return, he will know, but not until. So, just suppose you happen not to have been seen in public since just before Christmas, and suppose you really, really want to get out of Uncle's sight--to "drop out" as the phrase has it. Many freedom seekers have good reason to do exactly that. Then as far as Uncle knows, you acted on an impulse to celebrate the holidays in Phuket, and were tragically swept out to sea and lost. Your friends notice your absence about now, and make some of the 25,000 phone calls to the State Department asking where you are, and after several weeks in which you continue a low profile in, say, a campground in the woods near Portland, OR (see Dain Fitzgerald's recent STR article) that "missing" category changes to "presumed dead." And hey, presto, you are permanently off the radar of the IRS, DEA, ATF or whoever is hottest on your tail and all you need is a new name and a modified appearance . . . for which many authors in the Loompanics catalog stand ready to help.
It would be flip to quote the old clich'; "it's an ill wind that blows nobody any good," so I won't; but the sad fact is that we can do nothing about the killer wave, but some of us can, right now, do something about the killer government.