“Sliming” Hagel

In a most interesting follow-up to Chuck Hagel’s recent narrow endorsement by the Senate which launched this Republican into the Secretary of Defense seat, HuffPost’s Jon Soltz wrote a resounding endorsement of the man and made some intriguing points as well. To begin with, he thinks the appointment bodes well for veterans and for the Department of Defense generally since Hagel is the right man for the job and his position has been strengthened by the ordeal he has been put through. Further, he thinks it will be fun to watch those Senators who attempted to smear Hagel’s reputation and bring him to his knees kiss up to Hagel in an attempt to curry favor with a man who is now in a position to improve their political fortunes by sending defense contracts their way — or not. What goes around comes around.

           Chuck Hagel

Chuck Hagel

But what is disturbing in Mr. Soltz’s piece is the following tidbit about the amount of extortion the ultra-conservatives who attempted to block Hagel’s appointment are bringing to bear against those they regard as fence-sitting colleagues in their own party:

Politically, the faux fight over Hagel’s nomination has dramatically shown a Republican Party in complete disarray, in the midst of their own civil war. On one hand, there are some Republican senators who, today, put the nation above politics, and refused to engage in sliming a great American veteran. On the other hand, there is an increasingly shrill fringe right who, in conjunction with the same neoconservatives who led us into Iraq, continue to show that they will put anything — even American security — below their own self-aggrandizement and continued campaign to oppose anything the Obama administration says or does.

That fringe wing continues to threaten senators with primary challenges, which has specifically scared formerly moderate senators like Lindsey Graham into joining their ranks. It wasn’t just obvious. It was completely transparent. In an NPR piece, South Carolina Republican State Senator Tom Davis didn’t even try to hide it:

Davis says “[Graham’s actions against Hagel] masks votes Graham has taken that conflict with small-government ideals. Graham voted for the bank bailout, once worked on climate change legislation and voted for the recent fiscal cliff deal that allowed taxes to rise on the wealthiest Americans.
“All of those things have caused individuals to wonder whether or not [Graham] is representative of the type of conservative or the type of Republican that we need in Washington, D.C., right now.”

We have all known for some time that this group of nutters marches to its own drummer — a drummer, by the way, with no sense of rhythm whatever — and we can only hope that they will soon march right out of the political picture as just another bad dream that we will all wake up from with a start. I say again: we can hope this will happen. But they have the Big Bucks behind them and they are nothing if not fanatical about what they regard as their “cause” — which is euphemistically called “small government.” Their dream is to live in a country where they can increase their immense wealth with minimal government interference, even though they want a gigantic military behind them for protection and are always among the first to cry for help when their business interests are threatened.

Davis’ comment that Graham is not “the type of Republican we need in Washington, D.C. right now” couldn’t be more wrong. The kind of Republican we all need in Washington right now is precisely ones who have no allegiance whatever with the neo-cons and their wealthy backers. This country was founded on the sovereignty of the people, not the few wealthy nut-cases who want everything to go their way and will resort to extortion to make sure it happens.


His Own Man?

You’ve got to like Chris Christie of New Jersey, the rebel Republican Governor who refuses to play by the Republican Party rules. In fact, you have to admire any politician these days who refuses to play by the rules of their party, though you do have to wonder about their political future. The name of the game these days is money and independent politicians have to garner a huge popular following to even keep close to those who are funded by the Big Spenders.

Governor Chris Christy

Governor Chris Christie

In any event, Christie has refused to play the roles assigned to him, first by having the gall to thank Barack Obama when he sent Federal help to the state of New Jersey after the carnage from Hurricane Sandy. (Heavens! What is the world coming to?) He was recently denied an invitation to speak at the Conservative Political Action Conference because he doesn’t mouth the strict party line on gun control: he does not oppose the state’s current laws, which, according to a 2011 scorecard from the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence, are the second strictest in the nation after California. (Gasp! What next?) Most recently he has indicated that he will not join a dozen other Republican governors in refusing to become involved with the Affordable Health Care Act, since that is regarded by the party faithful as a Democratic plan — despite the fact that it was initiated in Massachusetts by Mitt Romney several years ago. In any event, what Christie said in accepting Federal assistance in accordance with the Affordable Care Act was most refreshing. According to a recent HuffPost story his reasoning was as follows:

“These folks are consistently among those who need help the most — men and women who have suffered trauma in their lives, live with mental illness, rely on New Jersey’s emergency rooms for primary health care, or those citizens who lack insurance or access to treatment in other ways,” Christie said.

“These folks” are the poor who are in desperate need of health care and can’t afford it. Christie seems to be placing their needs above his own political future. Or so it would seem. If he is an astute politician, as I suppose he is, he may see the end of the stranglehold the ultra-conservative, true believing, Tea Party types have on the Republican Party and may be placing himself at the head of a group he hopes to draw from the middle ranks of the Party. It would make sense. After the recent election, the Republican Party is in shambles, divided into several unequal parts and a strong leader who emerges from the middle might well pull the party faithful with him and begin to build a new consensus. Let’s hope so for the future of our Democratic system. We need two healthy parties that will work to accommodate one another and even agree to compromise from time to time. As things now stand the two Parties are drawn up into warring camps throwing stones and accusations at one another across an ever-widening chasm.

I speculate, of course. I have no idea what Christie’s plan is. But I do admire him for giving the finger to the Powers-That-Be in the Republican Party and for doing the right thing — regardless of what his reasons might happen to be.

About Fairness

One of my blog buddies, Barney, recently wrote an excellent blog about a couple of readers he lost because the opinions he stated on his blogs were deemed unfair or perhaps even offensive. He made an interesting comment, that “fairness in opinion is passionless.” Indeed so. Further, it is impossible to please everyone and a writer of blogs who is intent to get people thinking about pressing issues shouldn’t even worry about offending some. It is inevitable.

But more to the point, how is one to be fair when he or she feels strongly about an issue and is convinced that a conclusion that is sure to offend someone is the only one that can reasonably be reached at the moment? For example, let’s take the matter of climate change about which the weight of evidence has come down heavily in favor of the claim that continued use of fossil fuels will further damage the earth on which we depend. On this issue, the denial of that claim is almost entirely on the side of the Republicans and an honest opinion would have to find fault with that party on this issue — as long as 74% of the Republicans in Congress continue to deny publicly that there is a problem. What constitutes “fairness” in this case?

This month’s Sierra magazine, for example, has a brief article by Paul Rauber noting that those who are “fossil-fuel-friendly” in this country have launched a campaign against clean energy. We know by now how the game is played, and we know from their voting records that those “f f f” folks support conservative Republicans in political offices — almost exclusively. As Rauber says in his article, “Leading the movement to repeal [renewable energy standards in 29 states] are the libertarian Heartland Institute . . . and the American Legislative Exchange Council, which crafts ‘model legislation’ for conservative politicians to introduce in their home states. ALEC’s major donors include Peabody Energy, the world’s biggest private coal company; Exxon Mobil, and ultra conservative dirty-energy industrialists Charles and David Koch.. . . ALEC’s fill-in-the-blanks vehicle to roll back clean energy is the Electricity Freedom Act, written by staffer Todd Wynn. It casts renewable energy standards as a regressive tax…”

As Rauber goes on to point out, this claim is false, since states such as Colorado, for example, have shown that that state’s renewable energy standards will save its “customers $100 million over 25 years.” In a word, we have lies and half-truths being promulgated to push an agenda that favors the short-term thinking of wealthy individuals and corporations that simply refuse to admit there is a problem and are not only willing but eager to promote policies that will ensure higher profits at a cost to the planet and the health and well-being of future generations. How is one to be fair in a case such as this?

Barney imagines his lost reader, whom he calls “Mindy,” worrying that since corruption is rife on both sides of the political aisle (which is certainly true), one should not come down on one side in this — or any other issue– without also pointing out the foibles of the other side. But what if there is no “other side” in a case such as this? And it does seem to be the case that the political right is almost entirely of a mind to deny climate change and focus exclusively on profits and keeping their well-paying jobs, while those on the left are more aware and seem willing to work toward a solution.

In a word, the Republicans have shown themselves opposed to measures to encourage the use of alternative energy which seems a no-brainer from the point of view of saving the planet, while the Democrats on this issue, at any rate, seem to be in support of measures to phase out our dependence on fossil fuels and pursue alternatives that promise hope for the future of the planet on which we all live. The exception is those few Republican politicians who live in states where a great many jobs are involved in the manufacture of solar panels and wind turbines. But on the whole, it’s not possible to be entirely fair at all times, and in some cases it shouldn’t even be attempted.

All Dressed In White

One of the more bizarre incidents I have come across recently involved three students who attended a high school hockey game involving Red River High School and Fargo Davies High School in North Dakota. A recent fad in the area is to attend high school hockey games dressed in white — as the students do at the University of North Dakota.  But these three students (?) decided to dress in Ku Klux Klan outfits, complete with hoods and eye slits. A photograph was taken by a visiting student who was aware enough to wonder if the three were “racist,” and the incident has drawn considerable reaction in the region.

But the thing that interested me the most was the comment by the Athletic Director, Todd Olson, presumably an adult. Olson attempted to dismiss the incident as a tempest in a teapot — you know, kids will be kids. No, Todd, kids just being kids is when they wear tee shirts to a game in a hockey rink where the temperatures are low enough to freeze the nipples off a brass monkey. But Todd persists,  “To be very honest, I think you’re looking for something that is not there.”  Wrong again, Todd, there is something there and it is called “ignorance,” and as an educator you should be doing everything you can to eradicate it wherever you see it.

Photo From "Inforum"

Photo From “Inforum”

In this day we have come to expect the unexpected from young people. Further, we also expect the kids to be ignorant of their history and have no idea how offensive those hoods might be to minorities in this country who have had to deal with the hatred and prejudice of twisted minds for years in the South. And, granted, the likelihood of a black student attending a high school hockey game in North Dakota is slim indeed, still one would hope that the adults in this school would try to make this a learning experience for those kids and perhaps teach them a bit about American history, race hatred, and white prejudice. At the very least someone might have approached the three and suggested that they remove the hoods — if not themselves.

One of the truly disturbing things about the incident is that it involved young people who are supposed to be open-minded and liberal in their thinking: many see them as the hope for our future, even though recent studies have shown that they are even more self-absorbed and stressed out than their parents are. But even if we assume that those three students, presumably, who wore those robes thought it would be funny and had no idea what they were doing — which is a distinct possibility — one would think that at some point before they sat down, or during the game, someone around them would have pointed out how inappropriate their behavior is. Clearly the student who took the picture realized how offensive it was, but he only made the comment later, after going public with the photograph.

Given all the negative fall-out from the incident, we can hope that the school will, in fact, turn the situation to their advantage and make of it an object lesson. And they might start by having a long talk with Todd Olson.

Joseph Conrad On War

The following excerpt from Conrad’s The Mirror of the Sea was written in 1906. It is a powerful piece written by one of the great minds of the late 19th and early 20th century and seems to me to rather timeless in its import, especially since this country spends more on the military than the rest of the nations of the world combined.

“. . .it may be argued that battles have shaped the destiny of mankind. The question whether they have shaped it well would remain open, however. But it would hardly be worth discussing. It is very probable that, had the battle of Salamis never been fought the face of the world would have been much as we behold it now, fashioned by the mediocre inspiration and the shortsighted labours of men. From a long and miserable experience of suffering, injustice, disgrace, and aggression the nations of the earth are mostly swayed by fear — fear of the sort that a little cheap oratory turns easily to rage, hate and violence. Innocent, guileless fear has been the cause of many wars. Not, of course, the fear of war itself, which, in the evolution of sentiments and ideas, has come to be regarded at last as a half-mystic and glorious ceremony with certain fashionable rites and preliminary incantations, wherein the conception of its true nature has been lost.. . .We are bound to the chariot of progress. There is no going back; and, as luck would have it, our civilization, which has done so much for the comfort and adornment of our bodies and the elevation of our minds, has made lawful killing frightfully and needlessly expensive.

“The whole question of improved armament has been approached by the governments of the earth in the spirit of nervous and unreflecting haste, whereas the right way was lying plainly before them and had only to be pursued with calm determination. The learned vigils and labours of a certain class of inventors should have been rewarded with honorable liberality as justice demanded and the bodies of the inventors should have been blown to pieces by means of their own perfected explosives and improved weapons with extreme publicity as the commonest prudence dictated. . .For the lack of a little cool thinking in our guides and masters this course has not been followed, and a beautiful simplicity has been sacrificed for no real advantage. A frugal mind cannot defend itself from considerable bitterness when reflecting that at the battle of Actium (which was fought for no less a stake than the dominion of the world) the fleet of Octavianus Caesar and the fleet of Antonius, including the Egyptian division and Cleopatra’s galley with purple sails, probably cost less than two modern battleships, or, as the modern naval book-jargon has it, two capital units. But no amount of lubberly book-jargon can disguise a fact well calculated to afflict the soul of every sound economist. It is not likely that the Mediterranean will every behold a battle with a greater issue; but when the time comes for another historical fight its bottom will be enriched as never before by the quantity of jagged scrap-iron, paid for at pretty nearly its weight in gold by the deluded populations inhabiting the isles and continents of this planet.”


Who Cares?

I have blogged about the drone kills before, though the posts have not been overly popular. I don’t think people like to think about these anti-terrorist tactics that may strike some as in themselves terroristic. This is especially so since mistakes have been made in the past and a number of innocent lives, estimated at the end of last year to be around 145, have been lost in those attacks. And it has been revealed recently that even the targeting of American citizens anywhere in the world (except the United States) has been approved — if they are suspected of terrorist tendencies. At what point do we balk?

A poll recently revealed that 77% of the Democrats polled approve of the drone kills. That number astounded me, and it makes me wonder if that many Democrats would approve of the flights if they were ordered by a Republican president. It doesn’t seem to me that any citizen should simply approve of what his or her President does simply because they happen to be of the same political party. If something is wrong, it is wrong no matter who orders it.

But, speaking of wrong, in a recent speech  in his home state of South Carolina covered by Yahoo News, Senator Lindsey Graham seemed to be bragging as he had the following interesting remark to make about these drone attacks:

“We’ve killed 4,700,” the lawmaker said. “Sometimes you hit innocent people, and I hate that, but we’re at war, and we’ve taken out some very senior members of Al-Qaeda.”

Graham’s dismissive aside about the innocent lives that have been taken is extremely offensive. And I hesitate to point out the fact that the same intelligence community that is providing information about who are and who are not “very senior members of Al-Qaeda” failed to provide adequate information to this government about the attacks on the Twin Towers or the more recent terrorist attacks on the American Embassy in Benghazi. So we don’t really know how many innocent lives have been lost in these strikes.

But what is especially disturbing about Graham’s remarks is his claim that we are at war. We are not at war, though we have coined the phrase “war on terror” to hide our shame. Indeed, we are the best protected nation in the world with 300,000 troops stationed overseas and oceans on either side of this continent. But even if we were in a war declared as such by this Congress, we should hesitate to approve of tactics that are known to have “residual effects,” as they say, in taking the lives of innocent people.

How would we feel about this if these drone attacks were ordered by, say, Iran, and they targeted the Secretary of Defense (or Senator Graham for that matter) and they happened to “take out” several dozen innocent American lives at the same time? I dare say there would be outrage and cries for retaliation — as well there should be. What we would not want done to ourselves we should not want done to others.There is simply no way these attacks can be defended on ethical grounds.

But if you are keeping score, “they” killed 3000 people in the 9/11 attacks on the Twin Towers; we have now apparently killed 4,700 of them. We’re ahead. How sickening.

Can A Book Be Racist?

I recall having a discussion with a colleague years ago about racism. I accused him of being racist in his grading policies since he graded his minority students more leniently than he did his other students. He objected that this couldn’t be racism, since he was treating the minority students more favorably. I thought that treating his students differently because of their race — regardless of how he treated them — was still racist, that that all students should be held to the same standards. I still think that is right, though I am not nearly so sure as I was at that time. In fact, I am not nearly so sure about many things I was sure of 20 or 30 years ago!

But the question of what constitutes “racism” is a tricky one. As I noted in a blog several months ago, Chinua Achebe, the African novelist, wrote a scathing attack on Joseph Conrad’s novella Heart of Darkness because Conrad’s narrator, Marlowe, uses the “N” word repeatedly. Achebe insisted that the book was “racist” and that people should not read it for that reason. I published an essay defending Conrad on the grounds that while some books might be called such, this one is not. The fact that the narrator used an offensive term in a novella set in the early part of the twentieth century was simply an accurate depiction of the way people used the word in those days. In addition, it is not clear that Conrad himself can be accused of racism, and his novella certainly didn’t encourage or, worse yet, promote racism. On the contrary. I argued that if you read the novella carefully you can see that it is the Europeans who are under attack. The native people in the novel are in every way superior to the whites who are there to exploit them and their continent in a greedy attempt to take everything they can profit from– especially, in this case, ivory. We know from reading Conrad’s biography, furthermore, that he was sickened by what he saw when he visited the Congo late in his years with the British merchant navy.

What was happening in Achebe’s case, I felt, was that he was unable to get past Marlowe’s use if the “N” word, which is offensive to the people so designated — now. Out of deference to black people we should assuredly not use a term they find offensive, even though they might use it themselves. The one who is the target certainly is in a position to determine what words are or are not offensive. But it makes no sense to accuse a man who wrote in 1902 of being “racist” if he is using language that was not regarded as offensive at that time. Edith Wharton, for example, uses the term as well. And there are other terms that were in general use at the time that we now recognize as offensive and it would be a mistake to dismiss those writers out of hand because they weren’t able to determine 50 or 60 years down the road what words would be found offensive by future readers.

One of the common practices in our schools, in so far as any of these books are read at all in the schools, is to substitute acceptable words for the offensive ones, thereby protecting the young from the words that might offend someone even at the cost of altering the nature of the work being read. I am not sure where I come down on this question, because I have such a high regard for great writers and object to any attempt to alter their works. But I am not the one being targeted by the offensive terms, so I don’t really have anything to say about it. In the end, though, I would prefer if the kids were read the books as they were written and the teachers used the reading as an opportunity to talk about racism and the language that some find offensive. It seems to me that we are missing out on an excellent educational opportunity.  It’s a tough call.

Pandora’s Box

The Supreme Court recently indicated that it will address the question of campaign spending limits. We have already seen how the court leans on this issue in the “Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission” case in which the court, in its wisdom, saw fit to insist that corporations are persons and in the name of “free speech” should be allowed to contribute to politicians as much as any wealthy individual would. The current case will determine whether there are any limits whatever on what a person (or a corporation) can give to a political candidate and, given that the court agreed to hear the case, the bets are that the court will remove those limits entirely, which are minimal as things now stand. As we are told in a recent HuffPost story;

WASHINGTON — The Supreme Court announced Tuesday that it will hear a case challenging the per-biennial cycle limit on campaign contributions from individuals.

The case, McCutcheon v. Federal Election Commission, argues that the limit on what individuals are allowed to give candidates ($46,200 per two-year cycle) and parties and PACs ($70,800 per two-year cycle) is an unconstitutional violation of the individual donor’s free speech rights.

The present court has tended to lean to the right on issues such as this since Sandra Day O’Connor left the court. Thus, despite the 1976 Buckley v. Valeo Supreme Court decision, which upheld limits set in 1971 on how much money an individual could give to any one candidate, the present Court is almost certain to lift those limits entirely in the name of free speech. Many believe it is a foregone conclusion. But then so was the decision regarding the Affordable Care Act which the Supreme Court upheld to the surprise of nearly every student of the history of the Court. So there is hope.

The problem stems from the fact that the Constitution was written at a time when the major concern was the abuse of power on the part of the Executive. The framers understood power and the need for balance, of course. They had read John Locke and Montesquieu and were very careful to see to it that no one branch of the government became so powerful that it overshadowed the other two, though they did tend to err a bit on the side of the Senate. But the framers never fully considered the effects of great wealth on the workings of an ostensibly democratic government — though several of them, like Thomas Jefferson, saw the possibilities: recall his concern that “a rich country cannot long be a free one.”

In any event, there is nothing in the Constitution about corporations and about PACs or about the limits of spending on political candidates. This allows the Court to refer to whatever portion of the document that seems to them to be appropriate to make a case for whatever decision they regard as politically expedient — not unlike those who read portions of the Bible to support their own take on Judeo-Christian teachings. And given that this Court leans to the right, it is most likely that we will see all limits removed from campaign spending, in which case we can conclude with assurance that the government will henceforth go to the highest bidder.

Pandora’s Box was opened with “Citizens United” and we saw how ugly that got in the last election. What we are about to see, in all probability, is all of the remaining contents of that box in the coming months and years. Barring a Constitutional amendment on spending limits, or a sudden and unexpected shift to the left by this court, we may be witnessing the end of America’s experiment with democratic government.

A New Hero!

I apologize to readers for continuing to circle back to the question of the types of people we revere as heroes. But I have always thought, since I first read Homer’s Iliad, that the heroes a culture admires tell us a great deal about that culture and the values it holds dear. My most recent blogs were about the sad examples of Michael Jordan who seems to be totally self-involved, and the group that picketed after the death of the renegade cop, who seem to be simply misguided. In both cases, it seemed to me, we had examples of types of persons who are hardly admirable, much less heroic.


But I have found a person who is worthy of the title of “hero.” It is Elizabeth Warren, a first-term Senator from Massachusetts who is not only sharp but also a woman of principle who seems willing to take on the powers that be. She is like a breath of fresh air in Washington – the city of stale air and an excess of money and lazy self-interest. A recent story that has gone “viral” on You-Tube shows Senator Warren taking on bank regulators over the issue of penalties for ripping off the public. You remember: the banks are the types this government bailed out recently with a slap on the wrist. They apparently paid their fines with some of the $700 billion they received from the government to help bail them out of the difficulties they got themselves into. Iceland, in contrast, simply let their failed banks go under and the government bailed out the investors. And their economy at present is in fine shape, thank you very much.

In any event, a recent story and film clip on the internet show Senator Warren making fools of the bank examiners as  the following exchange makes clear:

“We do not have to bring people to trial,” Thomas Curry, head of the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency, assured Warren, declaring that his agency had secured a large number of “consent orders,” or settlements.

“I appreciate that you say you don’t have to bring them to trial. My question is, when did you bring them to trial?” she responded.

“We have not had to do it as a practical matter to achieve our supervisory goals,” Curry offered.

Warren turned to Elisse Walter, chair of the Securities and Exchange Commission, who said that the agency weighs how much it can extract from a bank without taking it to court against the cost of going to trial.

“I appreciate that. That’s what everybody does,” said Warren, a former Harvard law professor. “Can you identify the last time when you took the Wall Street banks to trial?”

“I will have to get back to you with specific information,” Walter said as the audience tittered. . . .

[Warren concluded the exchange by noting that,] “There are district attorneys and United States attorneys out there every day squeezing ordinary citizens on sometimes very thin grounds and taking them to trial in order to make an example, as they put it. I’m really concerned that ‘too big to fail’ has become ‘too big for trial,'”

If you haven’t seen the video, you owe it to yourself to check it out (here). Warren is relentless. All she needs is a white charger or a cape and her image would be complete. The bank examiners look very uncomfortable and, try as they will, they are unable to prevaricate, a dodge they are very skilled at.  It will be very interesting to see if Senator Warren is able to have a major impact in a city that seems to swallow up principled politicians. In the meantime, I simply say: Go Elizabeth!!

Renegade Cop

You have probably read or heard about the ex-cop Christopher Dorner who killed three people on his way to a mountain cabin where he was surrounded, killed a deputy sheriff, and then apparently shot himself before the cabin burned to the ground. All reports indicate that the man had anger issues and his dismissal from the LAPD was apparently the last straw that turned him against the very laws he had supported for years. He has become something of a cult hero, as we learn from articles like the following:

LOS ANGELES (AP) — Dozens of protesters rallied outside Los Angeles police headquarters Saturday in support of Christopher Dorner, the former LAPD officer and suspected killer of four who died after a shootout and fire this week at a mountain cabin following one of the biggest manhunts in recent memory. . . .

The 33-year-old has already inspired a burgeoning subculture of followers. While most don’t condone killing, they see him as an outlaw hero who raged against powerful forces of authority, and some even question whether he really died.

There’s already a song about him! We really are desperate for heroes so the fact that a man like Dorner would emerge from this terrible incident as an “outlaw hero” is not all that surprising, I suppose. For one thing, we all feel oppressed from time to time by those in authority who would insist that we do things their way. As Dostoevsky would have it, we all, perhaps, want to “assert our independence, to go against social conventions, against the despotism of relatives and family.” It is a natural, human impulse to want to resist those who would thwart our will: just ask any mother of an adolescent child. But as we grow older we are supposed to become accustomed to authority, learn to accommodate ourselves to others, and recognize laws and constraints as necessary for us to get along with one another. Or perhaps we do not grow up! It does seem at times that this culture worships youth and does everything in its power to hang on to youth well into old age. Just take a peek at the AARP magazine sometime and check out the ads that promote products that promise to help people look and feel younger!

We find men of all ages in locker rooms across the country slapping each other on the backs, snapping towels, and telling dirty jokes — just like high school. College is regarded by the majority of its students as a time to have fun, not to grow into responsible, well-informed adults. Immediate gratification is the order of the day. Postponing gratification is the sign of maturity. And we can see from the level at which the commercials on TV are directed that marketers clearly think they are selling their products to eighth graders. Perhaps they are.

In any event, when a cult forms around a man who went berserk and shot three innocent people in imitation of Rambo (as he himself is reported to have said), then we need to stop and wonder where we have come in our resistance to legitimate authority and adulation of those who openly flaunt it at the expense of innocent lives. There was something clearly wrong in the workings of Dorner’s mind that led him on his rampage. But there might also be something wrong in the workings of the minds of those who would place him on a pedestal and think that this man was in any way admirable. We really do need to be careful whom we revere as heroes. I seriously doubt that the man could walk on water, feed the multitudes with a few loaves and a couple of fish, or emerge alive from a cabin engulfed in flames and surrounded by law enforcers.