“May have been the losing side. Still not convinced it was the wrong one.”

"This report is maybe 12-years-old. Parliament buried it, and it stayed buried till River dug it up. This is what they feared she knew. And they were right to fear because there's a whole universe of folk who are gonna know it, too. They're gonna see it. Somebody has to speak for these people. You all got on this boat for different reasons, but you all come to the same place. So now I'm asking more of you than I have before. Maybe all. Sure as I know anything I know this, they will try again. Maybe on another world, maybe on this very ground swept clean. A year from now, 10, they'll swing back to the belief that they can make people . . . better. And I do not hold to that. So no more running. I aim to misbehave." ~ Captain Malcom Reynolds

Monday, January 16, 2017

Remember His Legacy

With all the divisions currently affecting our nation, many sustained and/or manufactured by either a perpetual political class, I think it is important to take a moment and remember the Reverend Doctor Martin Luther King, Junior and his words. A man who truly did deal with systematic discrimination and oppression, and struggled for change as opposed to merely seeking to assign blame or gain riches from his stance. I am not attempting to discuss any of his successes or failures as a man - he was as human as any of us. But, the words he spoke should remind us of the legacy he attempted to leave behind.

I would hope that people on all sides take a moment to reflect - on how far we have come, on where work remains to be done, and on remembering the men who have struggled to continue building this nation into one where all men may be equal.


Letter from a Birmingham Jail
16 April 1963
My Dear Fellow Clergymen:
While confined here in the Birmingham city jail, I came across your recent statement calling my present activities “unwise and untimely.” Seldom do I pause to answer criticism of my work and ideas. If I sought to answer all the criticisms that cross my desk, my secretaries would have little time for anything other than such correspondence in the course of the day, and I would have no time for constructive work. But since I feel that you are men of genuine good will and that your criticisms are sincerely set forth, I want to try to answer your statement in what I hope will be patient and reasonable terms.
I think I should indicate why I am here in Birmingham, since you have been influenced by the view which argues against “outsiders coming in.” I have the honor of serving as president of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, an organization operating in every southern state, with headquarters in Atlanta, Georgia. We have some eighty five affiliated organizations across the South, and one of them is the Alabama Christian Movement for Human Rights. Frequently we share staff, educational and financial resources with our affiliates. Several months ago the affiliate here in Birmingham asked us to be on call to engage in a nonviolent direct action program if such were deemed necessary. We readily consented, and when the hour came we lived up to our promise. So I, along with several members of my staff, am here because I was invited here. I am here because I have organizational ties here.
But more basically, I am in Birmingham because injustice is here. Just as the prophets of the eighth century B.C. left their villages and carried their “thus saith the Lord” far beyond the boundaries of their home towns, and just as the Apostle Paul left his village of Tarsus and carried the gospel of Jesus Christ to the far corners of the Greco Roman world, so am I compelled to carry the gospel of freedom beyond my own home town. Like Paul, I must constantly respond to the Macedonian call for aid.
Moreover, I am cognizant of the interrelatedness of all communities and states. I cannot sit idly by in Atlanta and not be concerned about what happens in Birmingham. Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly. Never again can we afford to live with the narrow, provincial “outside agitator” idea. Anyone who lives inside the United States can never be considered an outsider anywhere within its bounds.
You deplore the demonstrations taking place in Birmingham. But your statement, I am sorry to say, fails to express a similar concern for the conditions that brought about the demonstrations. I am sure that none of you would want to rest content with the superficial kind of social analysis that deals merely with effects and does not grapple with underlying causes. It is unfortunate that demonstrations are taking place in Birmingham, but it is even more unfortunate that the city’s white power structure left the Negro community with no alternative.
In any nonviolent campaign there are four basic steps: collection of the facts to determine whether injustices exist; negotiation; self purification; and direct action. We have gone through all these steps in Birmingham. There can be no gainsaying the fact that racial injustice engulfs this community. Birmingham is probably the most thoroughly segregated city in the United States. Its ugly record of brutality is widely known. Negroes have experienced grossly unjust treatment in the courts. There have been more unsolved bombings of Negro homes and churches in Birmingham than in any other city in the nation. These are the hard, brutal facts of the case. On the basis of these conditions, Negro leaders sought to negotiate with the city fathers. But the latter consistently refused to engage in good faith negotiation.
Then, last September, came the opportunity to talk with leaders of Birmingham’s economic community. In the course of the negotiations, certain promises were made by the merchants–for example, to remove the stores’ humiliating racial signs. On the basis of these promises, the Reverend Fred Shuttlesworth and the leaders of the Alabama Christian Movement for Human Rights agreed to a moratorium on all demonstrations. As the weeks and months went by, we realized that we were the victims of a broken promise. A few signs, briefly removed, returned; the others remained. As in so many past experiences, our hopes had been blasted, and the shadow of deep disappointment settled upon us. We had no alternative except to prepare for direct action, whereby we would present our very bodies as a means of laying our case before the conscience of the local and the national community. Mindful of the difficulties involved, we decided to undertake a process of self purification. We began a series of workshops on nonviolence, and we repeatedly asked ourselves: “Are you able to accept blows without retaliating?” “Are you able to endure the ordeal of jail?” We decided to schedule our direct action program for the Easter season, realizing that except for Christmas, this is the main shopping period of the year. Knowing that a strong economic-withdrawal program would be the by product of direct action, we felt that this would be the best time to bring pressure to bear on the merchants for the needed change.
Then it occurred to us that Birmingham’s mayoral election was coming up in March, and we speedily decided to postpone action until after election day. When we discovered that the Commissioner of Public Safety, Eugene “Bull” Connor, had piled up enough votes to be in the run off, we decided again to postpone action until the day after the run off so that the demonstrations could not be used to cloud the issues. Like many others, we waited to see Mr. Connor defeated, and to this end we endured postponement after postponement. Having aided in this community need, we felt that our direct action program could be delayed no longer.
You may well ask: “Why direct action? Why sit ins, marches and so forth? Isn’t negotiation a better path?” You are quite right in calling for negotiation. Indeed, this is the very purpose of direct action. Nonviolent direct action seeks to create such a crisis and foster such a tension that a community which has constantly refused to negotiate is forced to confront the issue. It seeks so to dramatize the issue that it can no longer be ignored. My citing the creation of tension as part of the work of the nonviolent resister may sound rather shocking. But I must confess that I am not afraid of the word “tension.” I have earnestly opposed violent tension, but there is a type of constructive, nonviolent tension which is necessary for growth. Just as Socrates felt that it was necessary to create a tension in the mind so that individuals could rise from the bondage of myths and half truths to the unfettered realm of creative analysis and objective appraisal, so must we see the need for nonviolent gadflies to create the kind of tension in society that will help men rise from the dark depths of prejudice and racism to the majestic heights of understanding and brotherhood. The purpose of our direct action program is to create a situation so crisis packed that it will inevitably open the door to negotiation. I therefore concur with you in your call for negotiation. Too long has our beloved Southland been bogged down in a tragic effort to live in monologue rather than dialogue.
One of the basic points in your statement is that the action that I and my associates have taken in Birmingham is untimely. Some have asked: “Why didn’t you give the new city administration time to act?” The only answer that I can give to this query is that the new Birmingham administration must be prodded about as much as the outgoing one, before it will act. We are sadly mistaken if we feel that the election of Albert Boutwell as mayor will bring the millennium to Birmingham. While Mr. Boutwell is a much more gentle person than Mr. Connor, they are both segregationists, dedicated to maintenance of the status quo. I have hope that Mr. Boutwell will be reasonable enough to see the futility of massive resistance to desegregation. But he will not see this without pressure from devotees of civil rights. My friends, I must say to you that we have not made a single gain in civil rights without determined legal and nonviolent pressure. Lamentably, it is an historical fact that privileged groups seldom give up their privileges voluntarily. Individuals may see the moral light and voluntarily give up their unjust posture; but, as Reinhold Niebuhr has reminded us, groups tend to be more immoral than individuals.
We know through painful experience that freedom is never voluntarily given by the oppressor; it must be demanded by the oppressed. Frankly, I have yet to engage in a direct action campaign that was “well timed” in the view of those who have not suffered unduly from the disease of segregation. For years now I have heard the word “Wait!” It rings in the ear of every Negro with piercing familiarity. This “Wait” has almost always meant “Never.” We must come to see, with one of our distinguished jurists, that “justice too long delayed is justice denied.”
We have waited for more than 340 years for our constitutional and God given rights. The nations of Asia and Africa are moving with jetlike speed toward gaining political independence, but we still creep at horse and buggy pace toward gaining a cup of coffee at a lunch counter. Perhaps it is easy for those who have never felt the stinging darts of segregation to say, “Wait.” But when you have seen vicious mobs lynch your mothers and fathers at will and drown your sisters and brothers at whim; when you have seen hate filled policemen curse, kick and even kill your black brothers and sisters; when you see the vast majority of your twenty million Negro brothers smothering in an airtight cage of poverty in the midst of an affluent society; when you suddenly find your tongue twisted and your speech stammering as you seek to explain to your six year old daughter why she can’t go to the public amusement park that has just been advertised on television, and see tears welling up in her eyes when she is told that Funtown is closed to colored children, and see ominous clouds of inferiority beginning to form in her little mental sky, and see her beginning to distort her personality by developing an unconscious bitterness toward white people; when you have to concoct an answer for a five year old son who is asking: “Daddy, why do white people treat colored people so mean?”; when you take a cross county drive and find it necessary to sleep night after night in the uncomfortable corners of your automobile because no motel will accept you; when you are humiliated day in and day out by nagging signs reading “white” and “colored”; when your first name becomes “nigger,” your middle name becomes “boy” (however old you are) and your last name becomes “John,” and your wife and mother are never given the respected title “Mrs.”; when you are harried by day and haunted by night by the fact that you are a Negro, living constantly at tiptoe stance, never quite knowing what to expect next, and are plagued with inner fears and outer resentments; when you are forever fighting a degenerating sense of “nobodiness”–then you will understand why we find it difficult to wait. There comes a time when the cup of endurance runs over, and men are no longer willing to be plunged into the abyss of despair. I hope, sirs, you can understand our legitimate and unavoidable impatience. You express a great deal of anxiety over our willingness to break laws. This is certainly a legitimate concern. Since we so diligently urge people to obey the Supreme Court’s decision of 1954 outlawing segregation in the public schools, at first glance it may seem rather paradoxical for us consciously to break laws. One may well ask: “How can you advocate breaking some laws and obeying others?” The answer lies in the fact that there are two types of laws: just and unjust. I would be the first to advocate obeying just laws. One has not only a legal but a moral responsibility to obey just laws. Conversely, one has a moral responsibility to disobey unjust laws. I would agree with St. Augustine that “an unjust law is no law at all.”
Now, what is the difference between the two? How does one determine whether a law is just or unjust? A just law is a man made code that squares with the moral law or the law of God. An unjust law is a code that is out of harmony with the moral law. To put it in the terms of St. Thomas Aquinas: An unjust law is a human law that is not rooted in eternal law and natural law. Any law that uplifts human personality is just. Any law that degrades human personality is unjust. All segregation statutes are unjust because segregation distorts the soul and damages the personality. It gives the segregator a false sense of superiority and the segregated a false sense of inferiority. Segregation, to use the terminology of the Jewish philosopher Martin Buber, substitutes an “I it” relationship for an “I thou” relationship and ends up relegating persons to the status of things. Hence segregation is not only politically, economically and sociologically unsound, it is morally wrong and sinful. Paul Tillich has said that sin is separation. Is not segregation an existential expression of man’s tragic separation, his awful estrangement, his terrible sinfulness? Thus it is that I can urge men to obey the 1954 decision of the Supreme Court, for it is morally right; and I can urge them to disobey segregation ordinances, for they are morally wrong.
Let us consider a more concrete example of just and unjust laws. An unjust law is a code that a numerical or power majority group compels a minority group to obey but does not make binding on itself. This is difference made legal. By the same token, a just law is a code that a majority compels a minority to follow and that it is willing to follow itself. This is sameness made legal. Let me give another explanation. A law is unjust if it is inflicted on a minority that, as a result of being denied the right to vote, had no part in enacting or devising the law. Who can say that the legislature of Alabama which set up that state’s segregation laws was democratically elected? Throughout Alabama all sorts of devious methods are used to prevent Negroes from becoming registered voters, and there are some counties in which, even though Negroes constitute a majority of the population, not a single Negro is registered. Can any law enacted under such circumstances be considered democratically structured?
Sometimes a law is just on its face and unjust in its application. For instance, I have been arrested on a charge of parading without a permit. Now, there is nothing wrong in having an ordinance which requires a permit for a parade. But such an ordinance becomes unjust when it is used to maintain segregation and to deny citizens the First-Amendment privilege of peaceful assembly and protest.
I hope you are able to see the distinction I am trying to point out. In no sense do I advocate evading or defying the law, as would the rabid segregationist. That would lead to anarchy. One who breaks an unjust law must do so openly, lovingly, and with a willingness to accept the penalty. I submit that an individual who breaks a law that conscience tells him is unjust, and who willingly accepts the penalty of imprisonment in order to arouse the conscience of the community over its injustice, is in reality expressing the highest respect for law.
Of course, there is nothing new about this kind of civil disobedience. It was evidenced sublimely in the refusal of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego to obey the laws of Nebuchadnezzar, on the ground that a higher moral law was at stake. It was practiced superbly by the early Christians, who were willing to face hungry lions and the excruciating pain of chopping blocks rather than submit to certain unjust laws of the Roman Empire. To a degree, academic freedom is a reality today because Socrates practiced civil disobedience. In our own nation, the Boston Tea Party represented a massive act of civil disobedience.
We should never forget that everything Adolf Hitler did in Germany was “legal” and everything the Hungarian freedom fighters did in Hungary was “illegal.” It was “illegal” to aid and comfort a Jew in Hitler’s Germany. Even so, I am sure that, had I lived in Germany at the time, I would have aided and comforted my Jewish brothers. If today I lived in a Communist country where certain principles dear to the Christian faith are suppressed, I would openly advocate disobeying that country’s antireligious laws.
I must make two honest confessions to you, my Christian and Jewish brothers. First, I must confess that over the past few years I have been gravely disappointed with the white moderate. I have almost reached the regrettable conclusion that the Negro’s great stumbling block in his stride toward freedom is not the White Citizen’s Counciler or the Ku Klux Klanner, but the white moderate, who is more devoted to “order” than to justice; who prefers a negative peace which is the absence of tension to a positive peace which is the presence of justice; who constantly says: “I agree with you in the goal you seek, but I cannot agree with your methods of direct action”; who paternalistically believes he can set the timetable for another man’s freedom; who lives by a mythical concept of time and who constantly advises the Negro to wait for a “more convenient season.” Shallow understanding from people of good will is more frustrating than absolute misunderstanding from people of ill will. Lukewarm acceptance is much more bewildering than outright rejection.
I had hoped that the white moderate would understand that law and order exist for the purpose of establishing justice and that when they fail in this purpose they become the dangerously structured dams that block the flow of social progress. I had hoped that the white moderate would understand that the present tension in the South is a necessary phase of the transition from an obnoxious negative peace, in which the Negro passively accepted his unjust plight, to a substantive and positive peace, in which all men will respect the dignity and worth of human personality. Actually, we who engage in nonviolent direct action are not the creators of tension. We merely bring to the surface the hidden tension that is already alive. We bring it out in the open, where it can be seen and dealt with. Like a boil that can never be cured so long as it is covered up but must be opened with all its ugliness to the natural medicines of air and light, injustice must be exposed, with all the tension its exposure creates, to the light of human conscience and the air of national opinion before it can be cured.
In your statement you assert that our actions, even though peaceful, must be condemned because they precipitate violence. But is this a logical assertion? Isn’t this like condemning a robbed man because his possession of money precipitated the evil act of robbery? Isn’t this like condemning Socrates because his unswerving commitment to truth and his philosophical inquiries precipitated the act by the misguided populace in which they made him drink hemlock? Isn’t this like condemning Jesus because his unique God consciousness and never ceasing devotion to God’s will precipitated the evil act of crucifixion? We must come to see that, as the federal courts have consistently affirmed, it is wrong to urge an individual to cease his efforts to gain his basic constitutional rights because the quest may precipitate violence. Society must protect the robbed and punish the robber. I had also hoped that the white moderate would reject the myth concerning time in relation to the struggle for freedom. I have just received a letter from a white brother in Texas. He writes: “All Christians know that the colored people will receive equal rights eventually, but it is possible that you are in too great a religious hurry. It has taken Christianity almost two thousand years to accomplish what it has. The teachings of Christ take time to come to earth.” Such an attitude stems from a tragic misconception of time, from the strangely irrational notion that there is something in the very flow of time that will inevitably cure all ills. Actually, time itself is neutral; it can be used either destructively or constructively. More and more I feel that the people of ill will have used time much more effectively than have the people of good will. We will have to repent in this generation not merely for the hateful words and actions of the bad people but for the appalling silence of the good people. Human progress never rolls in on wheels of inevitability; it comes through the tireless efforts of men willing to be co workers with God, and without this hard work, time itself becomes an ally of the forces of social stagnation. We must use time creatively, in the knowledge that the time is always ripe to do right. Now is the time to make real the promise of democracy and transform our pending national elegy into a creative psalm of brotherhood. Now is the time to lift our national policy from the quicksand of racial injustice to the solid rock of human dignity.
You speak of our activity in Birmingham as extreme. At first I was rather disappointed that fellow clergymen would see my nonviolent efforts as those of an extremist. I began thinking about the fact that I stand in the middle of two opposing forces in the Negro community. One is a force of complacency, made up in part of Negroes who, as a result of long years of oppression, are so drained of self respect and a sense of “somebodiness” that they have adjusted to segregation; and in part of a few middle-class Negroes who, because of a degree of academic and economic security and because in some ways they profit by segregation, have become insensitive to the problems of the masses. The other force is one of bitterness and hatred, and it comes perilously close to advocating violence. It is expressed in the various black nationalist groups that are springing up across the nation, the largest and best known being Elijah Muhammad’s Muslim movement. Nourished by the Negro’s frustration over the continued existence of racial discrimination, this movement is made up of people who have lost faith in America, who have absolutely repudiated Christianity, and who have concluded that the white man is an incorrigible “devil.”
I have tried to stand between these two forces, saying that we need emulate neither the “do nothingism” of the complacent nor the hatred and despair of the black nationalist. For there is the more excellent way of love and nonviolent protest. I am grateful to God that, through the influence of the Negro church, the way of nonviolence became an integral part of our struggle. If this philosophy had not emerged, by now many streets of the South would, I am convinced, be flowing with blood. And I am further convinced that if our white brothers dismiss as “rabble rousers” and “outside agitators” those of us who employ nonviolent direct action, and if they refuse to support our nonviolent efforts, millions of Negroes will, out of frustration and despair, seek solace and security in black nationalist ideologies–a development that would inevitably lead to a frightening racial nightmare.
Oppressed people cannot remain oppressed forever. The yearning for freedom eventually manifests itself, and that is what has happened to the American Negro. Something within has reminded him of his birthright of freedom, and something without has reminded him that it can be gained. Consciously or unconsciously, he has been caught up by the Zeitgeist, and with his black brothers of Africa and his brown and yellow brothers of Asia, South America and the Caribbean, the United States Negro is moving with a sense of great urgency toward the promised land of racial justice. If one recognizes this vital urge that has engulfed the Negro community, one should readily understand why public demonstrations are taking place. The Negro has many pent up resentments and latent frustrations, and he must release them. So let him march; let him make prayer pilgrimages to the city hall; let him go on freedom rides -and try to understand why he must do so. If his repressed emotions are not released in nonviolent ways, they will seek expression through violence; this is not a threat but a fact of history. So I have not said to my people: “Get rid of your discontent.” Rather, I have tried to say that this normal and healthy discontent can be channeled into the creative outlet of nonviolent direct action. And now this approach is being termed extremist. But though I was initially disappointed at being categorized as an extremist, as I continued to think about the matter I gradually gained a measure of satisfaction from the label. Was not Jesus an extremist for love: “Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you.” Was not Amos an extremist for justice: “Let justice roll down like waters and righteousness like an ever flowing stream.” Was not Paul an extremist for the Christian gospel: “I bear in my body the marks of the Lord Jesus.” Was not Martin Luther an extremist: “Here I stand; I cannot do otherwise, so help me God.” And John Bunyan: “I will stay in jail to the end of my days before I make a butchery of my conscience.” And Abraham Lincoln: “This nation cannot survive half slave and half free.” And Thomas Jefferson: “We hold these truths to be self evident, that all men are created equal …” So the question is not whether we will be extremists, but what kind of extremists we will be. Will we be extremists for hate or for love? Will we be extremists for the preservation of injustice or for the extension of justice? In that dramatic scene on Calvary’s hill three men were crucified. We must never forget that all three were crucified for the same crime–the crime of extremism. Two were extremists for immorality, and thus fell below their environment. The other, Jesus Christ, was an extremist for love, truth and goodness, and thereby rose above his environment. Perhaps the South, the nation and the world are in dire need of creative extremists.
I had hoped that the white moderate would see this need. Perhaps I was too optimistic; perhaps I expected too much. I suppose I should have realized that few members of the oppressor race can understand the deep groans and passionate yearnings of the oppressed race, and still fewer have the vision to see that injustice must be rooted out by strong, persistent and determined action. I am thankful, however, that some of our white brothers in the South have grasped the meaning of this social revolution and committed themselves to it. They are still all too few in quantity, but they are big in quality. Some -such as Ralph McGill, Lillian Smith, Harry Golden, James McBride Dabbs, Ann Braden and Sarah Patton Boyle–have written about our struggle in eloquent and prophetic terms. Others have marched with us down nameless streets of the South. They have languished in filthy, roach infested jails, suffering the abuse and brutality of policemen who view them as “dirty nigger-lovers.” Unlike so many of their moderate brothers and sisters, they have recognized the urgency of the moment and sensed the need for powerful “action” antidotes to combat the disease of segregation. Let me take note of my other major disappointment. I have been so greatly disappointed with the white church and its leadership. Of course, there are some notable exceptions. I am not unmindful of the fact that each of you has taken some significant stands on this issue. I commend you, Reverend Stallings, for your Christian stand on this past Sunday, in welcoming Negroes to your worship service on a nonsegregated basis. I commend the Catholic leaders of this state for integrating Spring Hill College several years ago.
But despite these notable exceptions, I must honestly reiterate that I have been disappointed with the church. I do not say this as one of those negative critics who can always find something wrong with the church. I say this as a minister of the gospel, who loves the church; who was nurtured in its bosom; who has been sustained by its spiritual blessings and who will remain true to it as long as the cord of life shall lengthen.
When I was suddenly catapulted into the leadership of the bus protest in Montgomery, Alabama, a few years ago, I felt we would be supported by the white church. I felt that the white ministers, priests and rabbis of the South would be among our strongest allies. Instead, some have been outright opponents, refusing to understand the freedom movement and misrepresenting its leaders; all too many others have been more cautious than courageous and have remained silent behind the anesthetizing security of stained glass windows.
In spite of my shattered dreams, I came to Birmingham with the hope that the white religious leadership of this community would see the justice of our cause and, with deep moral concern, would serve as the channel through which our just grievances could reach the power structure. I had hoped that each of you would understand. But again I have been disappointed.
I have heard numerous southern religious leaders admonish their worshipers to comply with a desegregation decision because it is the law, but I have longed to hear white ministers declare: “Follow this decree because integration is morally right and because the Negro is your brother.” In the midst of blatant injustices inflicted upon the Negro, I have watched white churchmen stand on the sideline and mouth pious irrelevancies and sanctimonious trivialities. In the midst of a mighty struggle to rid our nation of racial and economic injustice, I have heard many ministers say: “Those are social issues, with which the gospel has no real concern.” And I have watched many churches commit themselves to a completely other worldly religion which makes a strange, un-Biblical distinction between body and soul, between the sacred and the secular.
I have traveled the length and breadth of Alabama, Mississippi and all the other southern states. On sweltering summer days and crisp autumn mornings I have looked at the South’s beautiful churches with their lofty spires pointing heavenward. I have beheld the impressive outlines of her massive religious education buildings. Over and over I have found myself asking: “What kind of people worship here? Who is their God? Where were their voices when the lips of Governor Barnett dripped with words of interposition and nullification? Where were they when Governor Wallace gave a clarion call for defiance and hatred? Where were their voices of support when bruised and weary Negro men and women decided to rise from the dark dungeons of complacency to the bright hills of creative protest?”
Yes, these questions are still in my mind. In deep disappointment I have wept over the laxity of the church. But be assured that my tears have been tears of love. There can be no deep disappointment where there is not deep love. Yes, I love the church. How could I do otherwise? I am in the rather unique position of being the son, the grandson and the great grandson of preachers. Yes, I see the church as the body of Christ. But, oh! How we have blemished and scarred that body through social neglect and through fear of being nonconformists.
There was a time when the church was very powerful–in the time when the early Christians rejoiced at being deemed worthy to suffer for what they believed. In those days the church was not merely a thermometer that recorded the ideas and principles of popular opinion; it was a thermostat that transformed the mores of society. Whenever the early Christians entered a town, the people in power became disturbed and immediately sought to convict the Christians for being “disturbers of the peace” and “outside agitators.”’ But the Christians pressed on, in the conviction that they were “a colony of heaven,” called to obey God rather than man. Small in number, they were big in commitment. They were too God-intoxicated to be “astronomically intimidated.” By their effort and example they brought an end to such ancient evils as infanticide and gladiatorial contests. Things are different now. So often the contemporary church is a weak, ineffectual voice with an uncertain sound. So often it is an archdefender of the status quo. Far from being disturbed by the presence of the church, the power structure of the average community is consoled by the church’s silent–and often even vocal–sanction of things as they are.
But the judgment of God is upon the church as never before. If today’s church does not recapture the sacrificial spirit of the early church, it will lose its authenticity, forfeit the loyalty of millions, and be dismissed as an irrelevant social club with no meaning for the twentieth century. Every day I meet young people whose disappointment with the church has turned into outright disgust.
Perhaps I have once again been too optimistic. Is organized religion too inextricably bound to the status quo to save our nation and the world? Perhaps I must turn my faith to the inner spiritual church, the church within the church, as the true ekklesia and the hope of the world. But again I am thankful to God that some noble souls from the ranks of organized religion have broken loose from the paralyzing chains of conformity and joined us as active partners in the struggle for freedom. They have left their secure congregations and walked the streets of Albany, Georgia, with us. They have gone down the highways of the South on tortuous rides for freedom. Yes, they have gone to jail with us. Some have been dismissed from their churches, have lost the support of their bishops and fellow ministers. But they have acted in the faith that right defeated is stronger than evil triumphant. Their witness has been the spiritual salt that has preserved the true meaning of the gospel in these troubled times. They have carved a tunnel of hope through the dark mountain of disappointment. I hope the church as a whole will meet the challenge of this decisive hour. But even if the church does not come to the aid of justice, I have no despair about the future. I have no fear about the outcome of our struggle in Birmingham, even if our motives are at present misunderstood. We will reach the goal of freedom in Birmingham and all over the nation, because the goal of America is freedom. Abused and scorned though we may be, our destiny is tied up with America’s destiny. Before the pilgrims landed at Plymouth, we were here. Before the pen of Jefferson etched the majestic words of the Declaration of Independence across the pages of history, we were here. For more than two centuries our forebears labored in this country without wages; they made cotton king; they built the homes of their masters while suffering gross injustice and shameful humiliation -and yet out of a bottomless vitality they continued to thrive and develop. If the inexpressible cruelties of slavery could not stop us, the opposition we now face will surely fail. We will win our freedom because the sacred heritage of our nation and the eternal will of God are embodied in our echoing demands. Before closing I feel impelled to mention one other point in your statement that has troubled me profoundly. You warmly commended the Birmingham police force for keeping “order” and “preventing violence.” I doubt that you would have so warmly commended the police force if you had seen its dogs sinking their teeth into unarmed, nonviolent Negroes. I doubt that you would so quickly commend the policemen if you were to observe their ugly and inhumane treatment of Negroes here in the city jail; if you were to watch them push and curse old Negro women and young Negro girls; if you were to see them slap and kick old Negro men and young boys; if you were to observe them, as they did on two occasions, refuse to give us food because we wanted to sing our grace together. I cannot join you in your praise of the Birmingham police department.
It is true that the police have exercised a degree of discipline in handling the demonstrators. In this sense they have conducted themselves rather “nonviolently” in public. But for what purpose? To preserve the evil system of segregation. Over the past few years I have consistently preached that nonviolence demands that the means we use must be as pure as the ends we seek. I have tried to make clear that it is wrong to use immoral means to attain moral ends. But now I must affirm that it is just as wrong, or perhaps even more so, to use moral means to preserve immoral ends. Perhaps Mr. Connor and his policemen have been rather nonviolent in public, as was Chief Pritchett in Albany, Georgia, but they have used the moral means of nonviolence to maintain the immoral end of racial injustice. As T. S. Eliot has said: “The last temptation is the greatest treason: To do the right deed for the wrong reason.”
I wish you had commended the Negro sit inners and demonstrators of Birmingham for their sublime courage, their willingness to suffer and their amazing discipline in the midst of great provocation. One day the South will recognize its real heroes. They will be the James Merediths, with the noble sense of purpose that enables them to face jeering and hostile mobs, and with the agonizing loneliness that characterizes the life of the pioneer. They will be old, oppressed, battered Negro women, symbolized in a seventy two year old woman in Montgomery, Alabama, who rose up with a sense of dignity and with her people decided not to ride segregated buses, and who responded with ungrammatical profundity to one who inquired about her weariness: “My feets is tired, but my soul is at rest.” They will be the young high school and college students, the young ministers of the gospel and a host of their elders, courageously and nonviolently sitting in at lunch counters and willingly going to jail for conscience’ sake. One day the South will know that when these disinherited children of God sat down at lunch counters, they were in reality standing up for what is best in the American dream and for the most sacred values in our Judaeo Christian heritage, thereby bringing our nation back to those great wells of democracy which were dug deep by the founding fathers in their formulation of the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence.
Never before have I written so long a letter. I’m afraid it is much too long to take your precious time. I can assure you that it would have been much shorter if I had been writing from a comfortable desk, but what else can one do when he is alone in a narrow jail cell, other than write long letters, think long thoughts and pray long prayers?
If I have said anything in this letter that overstates the truth and indicates an unreasonable impatience, I beg you to forgive me. If I have said anything that understates the truth and indicates my having a patience that allows me to settle for anything less than brotherhood, I beg God to forgive me.
I hope this letter finds you strong in the faith. I also hope that circumstances will soon make it possible for me to meet each of you, not as an integrationist or a civil-rights leader but as a fellow clergyman and a Christian brother. Let us all hope that the dark clouds of racial prejudice will soon pass away and the deep fog of misunderstanding will be lifted from our fear drenched communities, and in some not too distant tomorrow the radiant stars of love and brotherhood will shine over our great nation with all their scintillating beauty.
Yours for the cause of Peace and Brotherhood, Martin Luther King, Jr.
Published in:
King, Martin Luther Jr.

Sunday, January 15, 2017

Why I'm Leery About "Intelligence Reports"

So, I've had this one sitting on the burner for a bit. Then Hognose put up a post giving an overview of the U.S. structure and some of the responsibilities, so it seemed an appropriate time.

What has brought this to mind has been the explosion, particularly over the past year with the election and subsequent issues, of popular media reporting and discussion of "Intelligence" as used in the political and military context; i.e. - the gathering, analysis and reporting of information about other governments or entities. Unfortunately, while everyone is hearing and sharing these stories, there is often a significant lack of understanding as to what it all means, where it comes from, or how it gets reported.

As to why I feel I can write up this little post? Well, prior to transitioning to more "explosive" pursuits in my career, I began my military service working in what is euphemistically called the "Intelligence Community," working on a variety of levels for several years to include some national level programs. Since then, while conducting various anti-terrorism and bomb disposal duties, I have obviously had to maintain an association with the different agencies which provide threat information, and then apply it to my own duties. So I have more than a pedestrian understanding of how things are structured and work. Also, parts of this discussion will be necessarily vague due to non-disclosure agreements, and just good sense.

The particular facet I want to discuss, and which Hognose briefly hit on in his post, is the role (and often failure) of the intelligence analyst. To do so, you must understand the two basic sides of any intelligence organization - collection and analysis. Collection is the "guy on the ground," or the cell-phone conversation someone gathers, or the pictures from a satellite flying overhead. It's the raw data. Analysis is then taking all these different sources of information and using them to try and develop a coherent picture of what is happening, or is going to happen, related to the subject. They are separate elements for a number of reasons, from security, to specialization, access to a target, and most importantly an attempt to keep the "big picture" people from getting lost in details.

One problem with this comes in the disconnect. Yes, you don't want your collection guy to lose focus on his element, or get beyond the scope of ability or need - if the satellite is great at taking pictures, you don't try to ask it to record a phone call as well. Similarly, you hope that your analyst is able to keep the broad scope in mind, and doesn't fall victim to the "everything is a nail" approach because he's always been a hammer. This is purely human, by the way - and I certainly don't claim to be immune to it. During the "Cold War" era everything bad was automatically "Soviet," even with the most tenuous of connections, and this led to many people missing the rise of Salafist jihadis as a significant threat. Just like to a narcotics cop, everything they run into is somehow drug related. I'm a "bomb guy," so I have a preconception when I respond to stuff that I'm looking for explosive threats and booby traps. It's just how we're wired. Intelligence collection is similar, in that each discipline tends to focus on their own field and see it as the "most reliable," thus discounting or discrediting other sources. The goal of good analysis, then, is to take all of this and have a supposedly non-biased view of the gestalt.

Unfortunately, this isn't what happens. Since the 1970's there has been an increasing reliance on technology over the person within the intelligence field. Part of this stemmed from actual and supposed excesses which took place, particularly in the 60's, by the CIA and other agencies; resulting Congressional mandates attempting to put limits on what they did afterwards. Other elements were political in nature - the technologists presenting the argument that "they" could do just as much, get just as much, if not better, information than putting people on the ground. That it was better to do things remotely, with computers and radios and all our other tools, than to risk spies being captured or exposed. This trend has only exploded with the information age, and is part of the reason groups like the NSA are so huge. What it has done, however, is lead the analysis side of things to give more credence to their technology than to the "man on the ground" - this is exacerbated by the fact Hognose mentioned that most "analysis" takes place safely back in the D.C. Metro area, far from the actual location, and with the assigned analyst likely to have little to no exposure to, or real-life experience with the area he's reporting on. Sure, there are certain things which can be "taught," concepts and procedures to draw information together without having to put everyone overseas. But, to think that you're going to get great understanding (particularly of a foreign nation) without some form of exposure is as foolish as expecting someone to understand how a pizza tastes who has never eaten one. Yet the vast majority of analysts get little to no such background. Sure, they might understand the "Armed Forces of Socialist Eastwestistan" has so many tanks, so many patrol craft, and the Army is led by the King's first cousin. But they will have little to no understanding of why Eastwestistaners consider it rude to shake hands, or the role of religion in their public discourse, or why they never start military operations after dark. And, without this understanding, they miss key details. Similarly, they forget how global we have become, and discount most other areas as "backwards" because they don't match "Beltway D.C. America." Forgetting that, even in the wildest regions of the world these days, you're likely to find someone with a cellphone, another person with Internet access, and a third who has travelled and speaks more languages than that analyst ever will.

The second problem comes with politics (and, I dare say, is unavoidable) - the "Emperor's New Clothes" issue. Analysts, whether deliberately or unconsciously, tend to tilt things towards what "they" want them to be, and to report what they are "expected" to find. This can be as unintentional as the mid-80's support to Afghan "freedom fighters" against the USSR ignoring all the signs that such groups would be a future threat to others, or as deliberate as the recent concerns that U.S. military reports out of the Iraq region were blatantly skewed to show the fight against Islamic State forces was more effective than what actually was occuring. Either way, to one extent or another, it has a tendency to tint the reporting from what in a perfect world would be a relatively pure result. This is also connected to the politics of public exposure. The analyst is a shy creature, frightened of bright lights and criticism. The last thing an agency wants is to publicly be called WRONG on a conclusion, or to go against the prevailing social winds of what should be. Compare "Russia 2012" comments by the administration, in which Romney's statements of concern were viewed as cold-war holdovers, to "Russia 2017 is our foe" - Russia and their goals haven't significantly changed in that time, but the political and public perception of how they affect us has.

Finally, there is the whole "consensus" issue - in that, there is NEVER a 100% consensus, no matter what you hear. It simply. Does. Not. Happen. Not with 17 different agencies, different threshholds of reliability in terms of the information and outlook, and different resources. Intelligence agencies as a whole don't even LIKE the concept of saying something is 100% one way or another - they're drawing conclusions based on data, and projecting it forward. Think about the last family get together you had, and if you could get people to agree 100% on things? The "Intelligence Community" is a federal-level group of Uncle Ted, with all his opinions out at the dinner table. The only reason I bring this up is that if you ever see news reporting on a "unanimous consensus" among intelligence agencies, it's either over something irrefutable such as "the sky is blue," or a total lie.

As an example of the failures of analysis due to these issues, I have two examples from my own time:

In the first, we were on a visit to a nation for a few days, and myself and a coworker had an invitation to do a day's exchange with some of their Naval counterparts, to include a brief ride on one of their ships. One of our tasks and expectations during such events was to look for any significant changes in weapons or equipment, so as to know what was in the region, either as a possible concern for our forces, or in the event of a conflict. Now, all the documentation, background material, and briefings said that said nation was equiped with "Type X" man-portable anti-aircraft missiles - a rather dated technology at the time, but still in use. Well, here we are riding on this ship off the coast, and I make note of the fact that I am actually sitting on the outside storage containers for several "Type Y" missiles - a much more modern and advanced system, and one that it was kind of a big deal to know was out there. So, my partner and I manage to discretely retain some of the data we needed, finish up our day, and the next day we're typing up our report, to include this significant update.

Which lead to a fight with the analysts...

"Nope, they don't have Y. You're wrong, they only have X."

"They have Y. We saw Y."

"Not possible, the book says they only have X."

This went back and forth - to the point of we literally provided them with the lot and serial numbers from said cases to track the systems. Turns out that they DID have Y - provided to them under a State Department program, and not reported through "normal" military channels. But, because it wasn't in the analysts expectations or documentation, we must have been wrong... Because the left hand couldn't comprehend the right acting differently, it couldn't exist. It took over a year to get the appropriate information updated. A year in which this would have been a significant issue, had a conflict occurred.

In a different incident, and a different spot, I had an example of the over-reliance on technology.

There we were, in a position to watch another country's port facilities, and to see what their local Navy was up to on a day-to-day basis. All of which was dutifully reported up to THAT areas regional analysis group. Well, over a period of several days, we kept observing a nice mid-morning or mid-afternoon pattern of several of their patrol craft leaving the dock and going out of the harbor and into the open seas for a few hours of some coordinated maneuvering and training. Of course, going into our reports each day.

Interestingly, though, the summaries (passed on to commanders and such throughout the region) kept saying "We assess all units remained in port on this date." Over and over.

Why the discrepancy?

Because, none of their other systems showed anything - their technology based systems, things like communications, or satellites, or the like. And, if the technology didn't show it, then it must not have happened. No matter what the "guy on the ground" said. It wasn't a deliberate attempt to discount us; the analysts simply couldn't comprehend that a po-dunk third world military would have figured out the concepts of practicing for war without giving away communications, or other means of minimizing detection. They had become innoculated to the concept of technology superceding all other sources, and trapped in their little bubbles of perception were unable to consider other possibilities as being valid.

Unfortunately the problem is only getting worse, and more public. No matter what agency in question, the vast majority of their analytic staffs continue to build their nests in nice offices far away from the targets they consider, and to have little to no knowledge of the language, culture, or mores of the regions they are interpreting. Risk adverse agencies are reluctant to build a human intelligence capability worthy of the name, when any chance of an agent being captured, or caught in some alleged misdeed only threatens bad press. Most importantly, when the bureaucracy remains more concerned with power politics, budgets, and answering political whims rather than providing unbiased information, the leadership of the nation, and the people they protect, are ill-served. The problem is, in the modern age technology is enabling our adversaries to improve their capabilities faster than our analysts can adapt. Information and tactics which were once relatatively secret are now a Google search away. And, the more rapidly their conclusions become public domain through leaks and news reporting, the more likely analysts are to tilt their conclusions towards the prevailing political winds in an attempt to avoid controversy.

Sunday, January 8, 2017

The Neutral Zone

Detante is 4 degree weather, and two cats finding a way to share a warm lap.

Tuesday, January 3, 2017

We all know that guy.

This thought occurred to me the other day while watching Rogue One:

Sunday, December 25, 2016

History to Ponder

For those of you who are in the "Millenial" generation, you truly have no understanding of what it was like to grow up under the shadow of the Cold War. Between the threat of nuclear annihilation and mutually assured destruction, the posturing and rhetoric of proxy wars and political grandstanding, and the "us versus them" mentality which divided the world into two camps, the period of 1945 to 1990 shaped those who experienced it. I don't mention this as a "You kids don't know how good you have it," moment; rather it's a reflection on a time period and how it affected the world to this day.

I also won't take this as an opportunity to look at current parallels and trends, though that is also something worth considering...

But, keep in mind that up until the sudden fall of the Soviet Union and Warsaw Pact, numerous small things could have changed hisotry at any point. This article has an interesting discussion regarding some of these points in time.

Worth reading and considering how delicate the balance of history is for us all. Even when we don't realize it at the time.

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

The "Fake News" Label

Following the recent election one of the terms being tossed about by both sides was "Fake News" - the implication being that deliberately false information portrayed as true had caused an undue influence in one direction or the other. Left and right were both quick to toss this new label at the other's media and online sources, with even the President getting involved. Facebook and other sites were quick to trumpet their stand against "false information", only to be called out on their own biases and revenue streams driving the problem as well.

Something about the whole term bugged me from the start though - based on a mixture of cynicism, intelligence analysis and common sense I suppose.

First off, it doesn't pass the "smell test" in terms of conspiracy theories or other realistic issues. I'm not saying there aren't sites and individuals propogating false or deliberately slanted information for political, social or other purposes - that's a trick as old as mankind and social interaction, the Internet just makes it easier. But the concept of a vast right or left-wing machination only suddenly coming to light in this fashion doesn't work with the facts being presented.

Because the echo chamber issue is the second part of the equation, and again, both sides of the equation are suffering from it. People are tribal by nature, and tend to primarily associate with, and gather data from, those they view as "in their tribe" - be it by blood, religion, politics, or whatever. So, when Facebook, ABC, MSNBC, and Snopes all agree to "fact check" each other, all that happens is they reinforce their own biases and outlook, and filter out the information they don't agree with. The same happens if you get Drudge, Fox and others on the right doing the same. Then the issue just becomes who can shout their message the loudest, because people are only going to actually hear the information which reinforces their own beliefs, and conciously or not will dismiss that which doesn't.

Note, I am speaking of humans as a whole here, and include myself as subject to the same psychological flaws.

Of course, it is slightly ironic that much of the rise in alternative (and potentially "fake") news stories has come from the growing public distrust of the mainstream media, and lack of any effort to hide their bias or slanted reporting over the past two decades. Much like an abusive husband who wonders why his wife might up and leave him for another man, the conglomorates are stunned that viewers and readers have abandoned them in droves, and that the "Fourth Estate" no longer is viewed as a required information filter for the average person.

Coming back to the term "fake news", I had a realization today what it was that bothered me about it, yet how perfect of a social tool it is. Calling something "fake news" is a linguistic kill shot as Scott Adams would use the term. It is a powerful persuasive tool, because you can't disprove a negative as it were. Calling something "fake news" is like throwing dog poo on the subject - no matter how strenuously one can argue and attempt to prove otherwise, you can't clean it enough for people to really trust. Much like the old joke of "Senator, have you stopped beating your wife?" no answer will effecitvely remove every hint of doubt.

Apparently I'm not the only one having these thoughts, as my daily readings are uncovering. Another article here puts it succinctly, and outlines what I also agree is our best hope of addressing the issues - broadening your views. Let's step outside of our echo chambers now and then and see what we might learn.

Friday, November 25, 2016

Another model submission

This one is The Norseman Cometh, by Collapse Industries in 1/35th scale. The wooden base with water effects, bit of line, and SCAR-H I added, otherwise the kit is stock. Mostly resin but I think a couple of the parts were 3D printed. Quality is exceptional, and I have a few other kits of theirs on my wish list down the road.

My prior fiction post-apocalypse post was germinated from the ideas this kit gave me.

Picture quality can be blamed on the photographer; coincidentally the same villian is responsible for any small mistakes in the painting.

Winning at life

My kids gave me the best compliment ever last night -

According to them, I am the Patronus that Chuck Norris calls on.


Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Can the Republic Long Survive?

The run-up to, and aftermath of the 2016 Presidential election have brought into sharp focus the great divide within our nation. Along with an equally bright spotlight on the poor state of civics and government education in the United States...

First, a couple of facts to establish the status of things as I write this - because who knows what may change down the road. And, if only for my own sanity, it may be curious to look back upon this four years from now.

At the time I write this (almost a week after the election), if things stand then President-elect Trump will receive 306 electoral college votes to 232 for Hillary Clinton, and with a margin of 30 states carried to her 20. Depending on which source you find the popular vote totals vary and are in great dispute, but I tend to find the most credible do show that Clinton carried the overall popular vote by a small margin.

Interestingly, most sources state that voter turnout was LOWER this election than in 2012 and 2008. I find this curious, as myself and other commenters nationwide observed longer lines than any prior election, and with the online rhetoric I would have expected it to be higher. However - there always remains the possibility that many voters stayed home, particularly in states where the perception was the results were a foregone conclusion.

Despite allegations of voter fraud and vote tampering prior to the election and with voting machines during, as of this point no significant, factual data has come out showing this to be a major factor for either candidate.

There is no doubt that this was one of the most bitter, divisive campaigns in our history. I know for many people (myself included), it was as much, if not more, a case of voting against a particular candidate, rather than for one you believed in. In some cases this even seemed to outshine long-held party affiliations, which had effects on both sides. Additionally, even more so than the famous "Dewey Defeats Truman" headlines of a half-century ago, the Trump victory seemed to come as a shock to many in the establishment, media, and half of the populace of our nation.

Which has led to the issues at hand now. Protests from those who feel that Clinton should have won, or that refuse to acknowledge President-elect Trump. Calls and petitions for the electoral college system to be scrapped. Even though this is precisely the type of situation which the founders intended it for. Since, as many seem to have forgotten, we do not live in a democracy, but a representative republic. And, the electoral college is intended to prevent the "rule by the masses" of the more populated regions running roughshod over more rural localities.

Two maps which have been making the rounds bring this issue further into focus:

Half of the US population lives within the blue shaded portions of this map. In other words, this fraction of the nation has over 175 million people who could disportionately influence the way in which the remainder of this map is governed.

Interestingly, this map reflects the election results by county, as opposed to the earlier statewide totals. You'll note, that while there are some outliers, those same high-population counties are reflected as overwhelmingly voting for Hillary Clinton (and are traditionally Democratic-leaning locales).

Now, none of this is anything most intelligent readers haven't already noticed. But I wanted to establish the background for my thoughts. Because it is the aftermath of the election which concerns me.

In my own voting lifetime, I remember when politics and open discussion still co-existed. When someone could have an opposing viewpoint, but you could still hold an intelligent conversation and even be *gasp* friends. When, after an election, people accepted who won and loss, picked themselves up, and more or less moved forward as a nation. Sure, Reagan was despised by the Democrats (although that seems to be forgotten now), but at least the discourse was generally civil. I was far from a fan of the Clinton presidency, but I don't recall having to worry about my safety or the ability to do business or interact with those who were. Now? We get not only the protests, the calls for the system to be re-built because people don't like the results, but we get things like this (NSFW language warning):

Really? This is what the party which was worried about being inclusive, and didn't want "hateful" speech involved is putting out? Riots and destroying property and attacking people who didn't vote the way you like is now the way to get the system to change?

Because, that is what I'm used to seeing in third world countries, not in the United States.

Now, there are plenty of people already pointing fingers in either direction on events such as these. I'm not going to repeat the same stuff.

Because the issue is deeper than that.

I feel we really have become two nations, as the above maps reflect. One, primarily urban, in favor of more government and generally more liberal in outlook; the other, "flyover country," with relatively conservative values and politically wanting less interference from a Federal overlord. As far as parties (a pox be on the lot of them), generally Democratic and Republican majorities respectively.

This separation of outlooks is nothing new, really - in fact, it is part of what led to the electoral college system, as well as the House of Representatives/Senate structuring of our Constitution. We've certainly faced divided results before in this nation, and have made it through them.

The difference now isn't the divide, so much, as the resulting anger, frustration, and general pig-headedness on either side. In the space of a generation we've gone from having a large group of "undecided" voters for each party to woo, and a (generally) centerist agenda as a whole, to pendulum swings between right and left. From intelligent debate and reasoned thinking we have moved to 30 second sound clips and 140-character brain diarrhea. From a view of our neighbors as "fellow Americans," we now default to hate and disdain for those who don't agree with our views.

A number of things have influenced this, but I really think there are three main factors.

One is the information age itself. With each stride forward in technology we are innundated with more data; each candidate now finds their thoughts, deeds, and every word instantly shared worldwide. Not only does this lead to information overload, but it becomes impossible to separate the wheat from the chaff - every rumor takes on a life of its own, and takes root before it can be proven or refuted. Not only do the parties and candidates take advantage of it, but we ourselves encourage the monster... And, like anything else, you get too much of a good thing, and people lose the ability to discern what is important and valuable in all the noise.

The second is the media machine. While in this election it was far more blatant and biased than others, it is far from a new thing. Journalists (of every persuasion) now view themselves as important parts of the political influence machine; that it is their job to present the information so as to best support the appropriate "message." The Fourth Estate has become firmly entrenched in the process, and like the priests of old feel they are the only intermediary between the common man and the holy writ of doctrine.

Finally, there are the parties themselves.

Whether Republican or Democrat, both groups have long since given up any interest in truly representing their constituents, and instead are firmly focused on maintaining power and position at any cost. Politicians spend the vast majority of their time campaigning to stay in office as opposed to actually doing the job they were elected for. Promises to "change the system" or press for reform of any nature quickly are forgotten in D.C., where it's business as usual and don't rock the boat. We have developed a class of career politicians who feel entitled to the trappings and benefits of their station, and know better than the commoners what is right and wrong. While the third party option is an admirable idea, the failure of mainstream America to consider such possibilities leaves little hope for the near term potential.

President Washington was right when he warned of the danger of political parties.

I have probably another five paragraphs I could rant on that issue, but I'm not saying anything that's not clear to any intelligent person.

Instead, it's back to the root question - and it isn't based on the results of this election, but rather on the symptoms increasingly on display. The sickness, for want of a better word, which has infected America as a whole and driven us apart rather than pulling us together.

Because we are divided, at a level we haven't seen since probably 1860 - and we all know how that turned out. Urban America doesn't want to find common ground with their rural relations, and small-town America has no interest in the globalism and agenda of the east and west coast. Each side stridently protests the intrusions of the other upon what they view as how America should be.

It's not just that we have people threatening to leave the country because their side lost - it's that we have others saying "good riddence."

It's not that thousands of people are seriously petitioning that California should secede from the Union, but that equal numbers (if not more) would be happy to see them leave.

None of this even remotely addresses the outside issues facing us, nor their influences upon our nation and politics.

It's that both sides are more than happy to ignore the Constitution, to call for changes in our political process when it's to their benefit. Whether abolishing the electoral college, using (or removing) the filibuster, appointing or ignoring Supreme Court Justices, or any of the myriad ways people think "if we just had a little more power, then we could finally make things right."

Because, despite their protestations of equality, the left side is convinced that there is something fundamentally wrong and unacceptable about the right. Despite their words of "less government" the right is more than willing to allow the Federal system to regulate people's reproductive choices and other beliefs. Between one side pandering to anarchists and social justice warriors, and the other embracing the evangelicals and ultra-nationalists there is not much of a "middle ground" to be found.

I fear we are approaching a tipping point in our nation, from which we will be unable to recover our balance. While I have hope that President-elect Trump will be able to delay some of this, I do not forsee a reversal of course. Proposals such as term-limits would go a long way towards proving me wrong, but the very people who must vote to impose them have a vested interest in not doing so. Additionally, despite his statements attempting to reach out to all Americans, I think President-elect Trump will face an even more hostile media and left-wing than President G.W. Bush did.

The next four years will prove me right or wrong. If we cannot come together in that time, no matter where you are in the political spectrum, I truly think we will be torn apart.

Sunday, November 13, 2016

A Quick Write-Up

Was inspired for this one off of a model I am wrapping up, which may post pictures of soon. May do something with it as a story or game setting someday, but thought I'd share:

Theme - 
Post-apocalyptic fantasy with Viking raiders, lost fae, strange magics and dangerous technologies. 


They say that once we covered the Earth, with cities grander than any imagining, ordinary people flying through the air like sorcerers, and machines which catered to our daily needs. 
They say a lot of things about those times. Who knows what was true?
We do know that hubris led to our downfall. 
First the Gods threw their lances of fire, striking those cities from the Earth with balls of flame and suffering which still plague those nearby. 
Then the Earth itself revolted, swallowing a vast swath before spitting it out again to cover the lands in ash and death and starving the world. 
In what seemed the final insult, reality itself rebelled. Magic. Sorcery. Monsters. Demons. All of the things of legend turned out to be true. Whether they had been there all along, or it was simply the final act of madness, who can say? What our grandfather's grandfather called impossible, our grandfathers called real, and we call normal. Creatures that supposedly only existed in fables live in my very hamlet. Powers that are unexplainable now heal our sick and aid our harvest. 
They say a lot. What I know is probably the same as anyone throughout history. Times are lean, and I have a family to care for. Whether the past is truth or myth doesn't put food on our table, nor coin in my pocket. 

We raid, the Dirtmen farm. We live free, land dwellers are tied to their crofts. We embrace the old ways, they hide from science and knowledge. This is the way of the world. 
Yes, they call us barbarians. Heathens. Northmen. They blame us for their weakness, and condemn us for our ways. But, has it not always been that the strong take what they need? 
Of course, we did not always have our ships, our freedom, or the rights to the open seas. Before the fall of man we were cogs in the machine, like any other - but, some men dared dream. Dared to remember the old ways, to lead their kith and kin as the Gods intended, to prepare for the future. So when it came, they were not surprised, but ready. With stockpiles. Plans. Weapons. And a people who remembered that a man's bravery and skill outshone any lie of civilization. 
The Dead Zones. Certainly a problem, but we have learned how to not only pass through them, but to use them to our advantage. The masks and the washes only add to the fear we instill in our foes, while protecting us from the contamination that still remains. Without the Dead Zones it would be harder to find ammunition for our weapons, or parts for our Home Ships. 
It is no easy life, but I would have no other. A companion at home, Valhalla ahead, and the cries of the Dirtmen as my longship emerges from the fog of morning remind me of what is right. 


Once, we were beasts. Pets. Livestock. Or free in the wilds. No speech beyond grunts and whines, no drive for more than the life we had. 
No more. 
Some of us came from the sciences of humanity. Others were changed by the fires and doom man laid upon the world. Whatever the cause, we were uplifted. Changed. No longer dumb brutes, we have come into our own. The best of both worlds - still running with nature, but wise enough to build more. 
Some humans accept us, some still want to hunt us. Some don't know what to think. 
Either way, we are beasts no more.


The sad part is our ancestors knew it was coming. 
They knew men were poisoning the Earth and skies.
They knew that our weapons could destroy the world. 
They saw the end was neigh. 
They railed against it, seeking a return to simpler ways, when brother loved brother, and we lived in harmony not destruction. They fought to educate not only their communities, but their rulers far away. 
All for naught. 
When the Destruction came, some survived. Safe on their farms, in their communes, or simply survivors by chance. Their worst nightmares come true, the reaping of an evil harvest which could have easily led them astray.
Instead, they remembered. Their duties to Mother Gaia. The peace preached by the ones who came before. The drive that all would live equal, no matter their race or creed. The knowledge that Jah would provide, as long as we remained true. 
It is not easy. Most towns are lucky to feed their own, and have little room to listen to wandering pilgrims spreading the truth of how we really *can* be better, if we just move towards harmony. The old churches mistrust our sacraments, claim our faith is the illusion of intoxication rather than a gateway to truth. The Northmen care not that we abhor violence - they kill and take as they wish. The Fey mock us and smirk behind their tricks. 
But, as the pilgrims before us said, if we don't *imagine* it will never be.
So - we wander. We preach. We heal. 
And, someday, all may live in harmony. 

Ages past the Christian God of men rose, the iron cities grew, and we grew weak in this realm. Consigned to myths and legends, tales used to frighten or amuse, the Fae waited. 
While the humans spread across the world like a disease, we waited. 
While they destroyed the forests, dug deep under the mountains, and soared in the skies, we waited. 
Because the circle always turns - summer becomes winter, new becomes old, what grows and feeds must someday feed another. 
And, now our time has returned. Their steel cages no longer fill black roads. Their technologies no longer overwhelm the very fabrics of reality. Now the Fae once more walk in the day and the night, and it is time for man to learn he is not the pinnacle of creation. 
Magick is back, and we come with it. 

The elders warned when the white men came, of the destruction they would bring to these lands. We foolishly thought that the tribes had suffered that doom already - confined to reservations, no longer free to hunt or live as the Great Spirit intended. Burdened by diseases, poverty, alcohol, and the other curses of "civilization." Little did we know the worst was yet to come... the nuclear fires, vast quakes, and fall of man. Where once they filled the Earth like locusts, less than a hundredth must now remain. The cities fallen to poison and ruin, the vaunted gifts of their technology forgotten as they scramble to survive. 
The elders had done more than warn, though. They had prophesied that we would rise again - and we have. No longer confined by their laws, the boundaries they sought to impose on the land and free people, we grow stronger every season. Some hunt the whale on the sea, as their ancestors did. Others roam the forests. Or seek the bison on the plains. Warriors ride to raid and challenge once more, not to conquer but to prove their worth. Our children learn to live with the rhythms of the Earth, to walk with creatures returned from legends, all as it should be. 
Where there was destruction comes new growth. Where a people were lost we are reborn. 

The elders were wise, and we return to their ways.