Battles with Heart

Something has been bothering me of late, and it has only just come together in my head, so let us talk about it a little.

Possible (minor) Rogue One spoilers (but not really) ahead.

Rogue One is truly the Star Wars movie I’ve wanted for a long while. Despite some weaknesses in the pacing and screenplay, it pressed all the nostalgia buttons and legitimately made me feel like a kid again. The final act is particularly noteworthy in this regard, as the final battle is exciting, emotional, and gripping. Even though the ultimate outcome is already known, the journey to the end is well worth it.

That is when it occurred to me: the Battle of Scarif is the first Star Wars battle since Endor that truly felt like an actual Star Wars battle.  What I could not quite figure out was why.  After all, the prequel trilogy is filled to the brim with fighting and duels. Very often, these battles were the highlights of otherwise incredibly mediocre movies. So what was it about this particular battle that made it better than three movies worth of battles combined?

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The problem is that the prequels’ battles are merely a backdrop. They are the frame rather than the painting. The Battle of Naboo exists so that WesleyAnakin can do something cool and save the day. The Battle of Coruscant exists so that Anakin and Obi-Wan are not simply flying through empty space to save the chancellor. The battles themselves really are not important, based on how little we see of everything happening around the heroes. The battles are merely a means to get the heroes from point A to point B (in a fashion).

By comparison, the Battle of Yavin, while indeed a coming-of-age test for Luke Skywalker, is also just as much about the Rebellion’s desperate struggle against the overwhelming might of the Empire. Every Rebel pilot shot down in battle impacts the viewer in some way. The battle is not a background element; it is the story, of which Luke is a part. The story of the battle and the story of Luke compliment each other and strengthen each other.

Likewise with the Battle of Endor; we do not only see Lando Calrissian at the helm of the Millennium Falcon. We see rebel pilots like Wedge Antilles fighting overwhelming odds. The movie continually returns to Admiral Ackbar trying to save his fleet from the trap it has fallen into. Not only that, but the preceding two films laid the groundwork for the plight of the Rebel Alliance and the necessity of their cause. The viewer is emotionally attached to the fight, making it that much more intense and exciting.

Now, the Battle of Naboo contains some of these elements, but the problem is that the viewer has no real attachment to the plight of the Naboo. Any sympathy we feel for them is forced upon us by the movie’s framing rather than because there is an inherent goodness to the Naboo. At the very least, there’s nothing redeeming or enjoyable about the villains (after all, Darth Vader and Grand Moff Tarkin were cool), thus leaving the woefully underdeveloped Naboo as the only option.

George Lucas made a critical error when making the prequel trilogy. He thought the plot should be a (political) metaphor, the battles should (only) look cool, and the characters…well, they would work themselves out. It seems that he never once considered that none of these elements could make a movie to which the viewer could attach themselves emotionally. Or perhaps he forgot how to create a movie containing that emotional pull.

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Emotion is why Star Wars is not merely another summer blockbuster. Emotion is why Star Wars is such a phenomenon that transcends its time. If it were another brain-dead sci-fi flick, it might have a cult following, but nothing like what we see today.

We are pained when Luke’s foster parents are murdered by the Empire, sharing in Luke’s grief. We are elated when the Death Star explodes and a costly battle for the Rebel Alliance turns out to have been worth it. We feel Luke’s shock when his lineage is revealed to him on Bespin. We feel joy when the Empire is finally defeated at Endor, emperor and all. All of these moments mean something because they have captured our hearts.

Rogue One’s greatest strength is the power of emotion and connection. It manages to do what the prequels failed to do, creating a cinematic Star Wars experience that even The Force Awakens fell a bit short on.

Sex, Love, and Porn

Porn is Everywhere

Last Wednesday on Nerd Rage, we discussed sexuality and pornography. Or, more to the point, Shannon and Ruth did while I sat there trying not to have a coughing fit. This was something of an odd conversation for me to sit out, however, due to my own personal issues.

Though I talk about this rarely, I have problems with pornography.

Honestly, this does not feel like much of an admission any more. In a world where people openly declare their love of porn and their fetishes and their kinks, talking about porn like it was something to be ashamed of seems odd. Strange though it may sound to those of you who have never touched, nor even considered touching, porn, it feels unusual to be ashamed of such a thing.

Sex is so ubiquitous in our culture, we hardly think twice when we see it. The idea that anyone should feel wrong for looking at or enjoying sexualized imagery is peculiar because sexuality is so common. The very first episode of Marvel’s Luke Cage shows Luke and Misty getting it on. For three awkward minutes, the viewer is treated to kissing, stripping, and groping (lots of gratuitous groping). And while that is all that is shown, the scene is so dominant as to be out of place in the rest of the episode and first act of the season.

Or take another show, one of my favorites, Suits.  In the second season, the hero, Mike, finally gets together with the cute and whip-smart paralegal, Rachel. As is usually the course in modern media, the first thing they do is have sex. At the law firm they work at. Inside of the file room. And, not only do they have sex, but they go all the way. The whole  act is depicted from start to finish (albeit not explicitly). However, all it would have taken was a few more lost pieces of clothing and a few less discrete camera shots and it would have looked no different to regular porn.

Yes, regular, because make no mistake, that scene, and thousands of others like it, are porn. They may not draw FCC lawsuits nor will they draw a lot of views on PornHub (though they are probably uploaded there too), but they are porn. They exist to titillate, to excite, to bring the brain to think of sex outside of a healthy context. They are everywhere. And when you are a kid, the images get imprinted on you and, at some point, you are going to want to see more.

Porn’s Power

Usually it starts out small. Maybe a sexy advertisement that caught your eye. Maybe a lad’s magazine left lying out or sitting in a rack in the shop. Maybe even a website, where one mis-click sent you to a page filled with images you did not expect. It rightly does not matter what it was. What matters is that you were exposed and went looking for more, to turn that first flicker of a feeling into something big.

When porn first blossoms into that flame, it is a rush. Your eyes and mind are filled with images that you not only have not experienced before, but probably should not be experiencing. It is a bombardment that saturates your mind and fills you with its perverse sense of pleasure. The glow of that flame consumes you…for a time.

At some point, the fire will lose its intensity, its strength. The fuel that made it will burn away, but you remember the feeling. You remember the excitement, the euphoria it brought you. You want more.

You seek more.

You find more.

The first few times, it might be more of the same. What you viewed before or something similar. Eventually, however, you get used to it. You become desensitized to it. It is no longer more that you need: it is different.

Thus begins the spiral of addiction and dependence. What starts as a foray into lingerie catalogs or the “artistic” nude slowly extends itself into deeper corners. Eventually, bodies are not enough. Soon, still images are not enough. At some point, normal sex is not enough. For some, this goes far, far beyond the bounds of the “decent” and the “acceptable.” Mercifully, it has not for me. For millions of others, however….

Porn and People

Porn consumption is commonly treated as perfectly healthy and normal behavior. Humans are sexual creatures, after all, and have we not spent far too long constrained under the thumb of restrictive, outmoded moral codes? We need outlets, places where we can enjoy sex as much as we want, when we want, in whatever way we want. If it means we spend an hour or two a day watching sex on a computer screen, what does it matter?

Sex may be the subject of porn, but sex does not occur in a vacuum. In order for sex to happen, it requires one very vital thing: people. It is not just sex that you watch in porn; it is people. It does not matter if it is a single woman, man, a couple, any combination or multiplication thereof, porn requires people.

The problem is that those people are not really people, not as far as porn is concerned. In porn, those people are just big breasts, a hot body, or a nice…er, endowment. The value of a performer is not in the parts that really matter: the mind, the personality, the heart. Their value lies solely on the body. They are a piece of meat hanging in a butcher’s shop. After all, no one who watched porn has ever looked at an actress and wondered how well she can perform calculus in her head.

Day after day, we parade these images before our eyes. Maybe at first we see people, in the same way you notice someone out of the corner of your eye. But over time, we stop seeing the person. We only see the bodies. We only see the sex. We consume porn like a frat boy consumes beer. He does not stop to savor the drink, or even realize that it is cheap swill, he only wants more because he knows it better and it is “fun.” We are deadened to the person on the screen; they are only there for our pleasure. Cheap whores to be used, abused, and cast aside twenty minutes later.

Performing in porn is considered to be empowering, a way to take charge in one’s life. This is bollocks. Sex unbound does not give strength; it takes it away. Without emotion, without heart, sex turns you into someone else’s plaything. They do not care about your feelings, nor do they care about your future. The fans do not care about a person; they care about a body.

Yet, more and more people, particularly young women, get into the porn business. Not through seedy studios in back alleys, where they will be abused and forced into acts that will break them mentally. Now, they are getting into the business through the use of webcams and a bit of spare time. Young people are now willingly and gleefully throwing themselves into the business of debauchery. They get attention and fame and a following and all they have to do is expose themselves to perfect strangers from the safety of their own homes.

Porn Kills Love

It is the tagline of fightthenewdrug.org, a website committed to battling pornography’s influence. But how exactly does porn kill love? What is it exactly that prevents porn from co-existing with love?

The question is, what is the relationship between sex and love? Of course, it seems that there is no relationship between the two these days. Sex comes first, second, third, early, late, whenever, with love only being a secondary thing you might find if you bang enough people.

This is wrong though, is it not? Sex is more than just physical contact, more than just animal pleasure; it is a bond. It connects people in ways beyond what more platonic contact would. Love is an integral part of sex, in part because the latter reinforces the former.  Without the former, sex flails about, trying to find a true connection where there is none.

When sex is treated merely as a thing, the mind is still looking for a connection. Even if we deny it to ourselves, no matter how much we want to tell ourselves sex is merely animal instinct, it is something deeper in humans.

This is where porn comes in, because porn is the pinnacle of loveless sex. Not only are the people in porn committing loveless sex, the viewer is joining in vicariously. But that desire for a connection remains. Porn cannot provide that connection, but provides a shadow of it. This shadow is part of what keeps the viewer looking for more, this vain, subconscious hope that this can fulfill us.

The deeper you go, however, the more your mind becomes skewed. Love and sex become blurred, as does the purpose of each. Porn rewrites our priorities. We start seeing the sexual act as the goal and our aim is to reach that point. The people we love become objects of pleasure and satisfaction: our pleasure and satisfaction. We become so immersed in porn that we forget the person and only see the body. We begin to objectify those who we love, treating them as possessions to be abused rather than adored.

Sex becomes an all-consuming vice. Where love would give it focus and contain it, porn turns it into a monster. Sating our lust becomes our goal and lust, on its own, is never sated. There is always a new experience, a new conquest., another high. Porn kills love because all the focus is on the sex and not on the human being beside us.


This was hard to write. One of the things that porn does to you, should it get its hooks into you, is drag you into a sense of normalcy. Porn becomes habit and, thus, becomes natural. This post was difficult because I had to keep stepping back and looking into the truths of the habits I have formed. I had to look at my own ugliness…and then realize that I am not the only one.

There are millions upon millions of people worldwide who are broken by porn and do not even know it. They live in a world that tells them it is healthy and appropriate and so never realize how far gone they are. Day after day, relationships are torn apart by porn, women and men ruined by its pernicious effects. For millions of others, lives are consumed by loneliness, as people controlled by porn feel no real need to form bonds outside of themselves and their computers.

Porn kills love.

Porn kills decency.

Porn kills honor.

Porn is killing humanity, one click at a time.

Some Observations, Part II

It is that time again where I decide to comment on the things I have seen lately. Given the state of the world, I am not really looking forward to this:

  • Audio has come out of Donald Trump being an uncouth pig. To which I say, “So?” Not because Trump is somehow excused from common decency, but because it is entirely unsurprising. The people who support Trump know he’s like this, so this is in no way surprising or even disappointing. You cannot disappoint people when there was no expectations to fail to meet in the first place. It is disgusting, sure, but I did not vote to hang this albatross around my own neck; I knew that is what he was from the start.
  • If anything, I am more irked by the blatant double standard being applied. Yes, Trump is outrageous and ill-disposed to carry himself with any dignity, but what of his opponent? Hillary Clinton is no paragon of virtue. Last I knew, being a corrupt public servant for one’s entire life is worse than being an asshole. After all, I’m fairly certain that four men dying half a world away ranks as something worse than being a sexist pig. A man can always repent of moral vacuity; the dead cannot be brought back to life.
  • It is funny how every election I have been alive for has been portrayed as the most important election in the history of America. It seems that every four years, the ante is upped and the stakes are more dire than ever before. So it figures that, in the year when these statements may indeed be actually true, I am wholly indifferent to the political process. Let the chips fall where they may; my hope does not lie in Washington any longer.
  • I never really understood the “All Lives Matter” response to “Black Lives Matter.”  There is really nothing in BLM’s name that somehow implies that other lives don’t matter. If anything, my real problem is that there is an assumption contained in Black Lives Matter that black lives do not matter to anyone else. The problem here is that if society at large ignores the problems of the black community, what precisely is the black community doing to solve its own ills? Protesting cops and denigrating white people does nothing to lower the crime rate or lift the ghetto out of poverty. Black Lives Matter feels more like a massive deflection away from issues that can only be fixed by looking inward.
  • Do your best to appreciate the people in your life and to strengthen the bonds with them. The myth of human progress is in full effect, and very soon the ideal will be shattered…again. Who knows how the world will look in half a decade? I’m not banking on “better.” In that day, allies and friends will be more valuable than ever.
  • I still don’t understand Harambe memes.

The Siege Mentality

In J.R.R. Tolkien’s  “The Return of the King,” Steward Denethor II is the leader of Gondor. He is described as a mighty and valorous man, like the kings of old. However, at the end of things, as the forces of Mordor threaten to destroy Minas Tirith, he gives into despair and attempts to kill himself and his remaining son Faramir upon a funeral pyre. It is only due to Pippin and Gandalf’s intervention that Faramir is saved, but the Steward himself is lost.denethors-pyre

To understand this, we have to go back before this, when we find out that Denethor has in fact been contending with Sauron in a battle of wills…and losing. The reason Denethor despaired at all was the fact that, through the Palantir, Sauron showed only that which the Dark Lord wished the Steward to see.

Denethor’s mind was filled with foul and frightening images.  Thousands upon thousands of orcs amassed on the plains of Gorgoroth. Mighty trolls marching out of the Mountains of Shadow. The vengeful men of the east and south, atop chariots and Mumakil, ready to lay the men of the west low. He was strong enough to resist these images, however. While he was prematurely aged by his battles with Sauron, he remained strong in the face of the deadliest of foes.

That said, it is safe to say that Denethor’s will was slowly eroded by that which Sauron showed him. His mind was slowly given over to the idea that Sauron’s forces were too great for him to overcome. He felt besieged long before the armies of Mordor ever left the Morannon or Minas Morgul. He was brave and valorous, to be certain, but still just a man, and men were ever inclined to fear. And fear for his own flesh and blood, for his only surviving son and heir, is what tipped him over the edge.

He only saw the images that were worthy of his fear and in the end they were his undoing.

It seems like the modern era is not much different.

Only today, Sauron is not the foe in question, but rather it is the media. The media which jumps on every single story where a black man is shot by police officers. It matters not what the circumstances are, only that the black community sees another “attack” on them. Time and time again, another story is brought up, portraying the black man as the innocent victim and the officer(s) as the relentless executioner.

And so, thanks to the media, the black community is much like Denethor was: afraid and besieged. The police are no more inclined to shoot black men as men of any other race, but the media shows us only those images which reinforce their narrative. Whereas the orcs of Mordor were a real and malicious threat, the police are being twisted to look like orcs, instead of our fellow citizens. The black community is being trained to see a villain where there is none.

If only we could come out of our chambers for but a minute, tear our eyes away from the Palantir that shows us nothing but grief and horror, and see the grander picture. Yes, there is true danger and corruption in the world, danger which ought to be rooted out. But this is not the whole story. It is not the whole of the reality.

Denethor saw the relentless armies of orcs arrayed before him, but what the Palantir blinded him to was the gleaming ranks of the men of Gondor. It is true that his home was threatened, but if he could raise his head up for but a minute, he would have seen that all was not lost, that valorous men would still fight to stem the tide of darkness. He would have seen that all hope was not lost; that if a single hobbit could have enough courage to swear fealty to him, then surely men twice that size could find it within them to fight back as well.

And so the black community must do the same. They must look away from their own Palantir and look to their own communities. They must reject the images that are impressed into them and see the world for what it really is, that the siege is really no siege at all. They must not burn themselves on their own pyre, but realize that, if they look beyond the here and now, there really is a world worth fighting for, and their enemies are not nearly as numerous as they think.

Apathy is Death

korribanThe funny thing about places strong in the Force is that you start to see things.  Hear things…things that you ought to hear, but may not want to.  So it was on the Sith tomb world of Korriban as I traveled through the decrepit ruins of a temple.  Along the way I was confronted by my companions, each in turn, presenting me with a choice.  And each time, I answered in a way that attempted to cut down the middle, appease everyone without taking a stand.

And at the very end, they each judged me alike, admonishing me.  “Apathy is death.” echoed in the room, through my mind.  “Apathy is death” would be the words to follow me in my journey and my search, subtly affecting all my actions.

Now, if you are in any way paying attention, I am obviously not talking about my own personal journey.  Rather, this happens to the Jedi Exile in Knights of the Old Republic II.  In a more complete game, “Apathy is death” might have been addressed more clearly, however, this does not mean it is not an important life lesson.

Lately, this article has been floating around. To summarize, it is a baffled look at the tendency of millennials to think that not knowing how to be a functional adult, at the most basic level, is somehow a positive thing. They think that being incompetent or lazy is cute or desirable. This is, of course, inane and foolish.

However, it occurred to me that there is something far worse happening with today’s youth, which goes beyond mere narcissism: Apathy.

Millennials are not just being lazy when they let the laundry pile up in the corner. They do not just think it is cute when they order take out every day of the week because they hardly know how to cook. It is not just them thinking it quirky when they cannot manage their money.

It is apathy.

They simply have no desire to actually be functional adults.  The will to be respectable, capable, and dependable does not exist within them. Millennials simply do not care.

Now we see the results daily. The young adults who meander through life without any real or serious goals: apathy toward the future. They do not get their lives in order because they have no real desire to actually get their lives in order. The future is far away and nothing to worry about.

The college students who demand safe spaces on college campuses: apathy towards different opinions. Sure, they have intense, angry reactions to opinions with which they disagree. However, in the end, their true reason for seeking safety from disagreement is that they simply don’t care about opinions different from theirs. It is much easier to not care at all.

The people who attach themselves to every half-baked social justice cause cooked up on the internet: apathy towards making a real difference.  It is easy to make a lot of noise on the internet. It is easy to yell obscenities at cops during a protest. It is easy to call people you have never met bigots and xenophobes. What is hard is to actually change these things, to do something meaningful which might actually have an impact on the world. One can watch from the sidelines, saying “This is awful/great” while excusing oneself by saying “This is far from me” or “It cannot touch me here, in my little bubble.”

Life on this Earth invariably trends downward: we all get older, that which was once new atrophies. To spend your life doing nothing with yourself because you are indifferent won’t stop death from arriving.  Apathy is death because inaction inevitably means that you build nothing up. You can do nothing good, nor can you prevent bad from happening.

Apathy is the worst kind of death; the death of a life lived to its smallest, of potential thoroughly wasted. And an entire generation has grown up apathetic to life itself.

15 Years

Fifteen years is a long, long time.

Fifteen years ago, I was still in school. I was still just a kid, for whom college and adulthood were but a distant worry, nothing to be concerned about.  Politics was just one of those things I saw on Sunday morning talk shows. The world was still full of dreams and the future was bright.

That morning, I was in social studies, doing an activity of some sort; I hardly remember what it is and it wasn’t important in the long run.  That’s when the announcement came over the PA, instructing teachers not to turn on their televisions.  Naturally, this was the dumbest thing administration could have done, because within seconds, ours was on to ABC, and the images of the burning towers.  We weren’t sure what was happening, as pretty much everyone else in the world was at that moment, so we tried to get on with it, casting hesitant glances at the news.  Twenty minutes later, the signal was cut.

I’ve always been conflicted on that decision.  On the one hand, I could understand.  In a school of ~1500 students, many of whom had parents working in and around New York City, there is good reason to try and restrain fear.  On the other hand, we were blind for the rest of the day.  We knew planes had hit and the towers burned, but we learned nothing more until after school.

That was when I learned the horrible truth.  The towers had fallen.  All of the World Trade Center was gone, buried under a pile of twisted metal and dust and ash. The Pentagon had been hit as well as a crashed plane in my own state.  I heard the possible death tolls rise over five thousand.  I watched Peter Jennings, a man I had considerable respect for, fail to hold together.

In a world where war was a distant echo from places like Israel and Kosovo, harsh reality exploded into my mind.  It struck in a place that I had visited not even five years before, a place that marked a skyline burned into my memory from childhood.

In an instant, the world had changed.

The myth of human progress: until recently, it was a concept I understood to which could give no name.  The myth asserts the idea that humanity is “progressing.”  It is the idea that the progression of technology and morality will lead to a better, brighter future without war and conflict. The myth first appeared in the early 20th century.  The invention of motorized land and air travel, the proliferation of electricity, the dawn of modern medicine had all led to an atmosphere of the unstoppable force of mankind.

World War I shattered this perception. Humanity’s progress didn’t only make life better; it made it many times easier to end those lives. And so in a crucible of blood and suffering, the myth suffered its first death.

It would not be resurrected again until the end of the century.  With the collapse of the Soviet Union and the dawn of the Information Age, humanity seemed set on the path of uninterrupted progress once again.  And once again, the myth was shattered. Once again, we learned the hard way that not everyone in the world believes in a freer, safer world.

But this time, rather than being changed, people grabbed up the shards and tried to pretend that progress was unabated.  They tried to pretend that the world wasn’t as dangerous as it always had been, the goals of all humanity were aligned together. Those that had taken the attack as a wake-up call were opposed to those who had not.

And so I have watched the world crumble ever since.  Where once there had been unity, the world was slowly consumed by division and hatred. The love borne out of shared grief, love that once brought us together, wasted away. Maybe the terrorists won after all.  Rather than focusing on tearing them apart, we tear each other apart. Now we are divided in every sense of the word, even to the point where we cannot agree there is an enemy to fight at all.

So, on this day, the fifteenth anniversary of the attack that changed everything, my heart is grieved. Not only for the lives lost on the day, but for the world that this day birthed.

Guest Post: How Did We Get Here?

A Twitter argument I had with Ace of Spades on Saturday night has led me to ponder this question: How did we get here? How did we as conservatives get to the point where what was supposed to be a conservative party has been taken over by a Hillary Clinton donor who hates free trade, supports Planned Parenthood, traffics in lunatic conspiracy theories, and is the antithesis of everything classically liberal get the votes of so many people who claim to be conservative?

Polling has always shown more people identify as conservative than moderate or even left-wing (I do not use the term “liberal” to describe such people because I believe in the accurate use of labels). And yet, looking at the political landscape, not only are conservatives outnumbered in the country as a whole, we’re not even a majority within what is supposed to be the conservative party. This explains the presidential candidacies of Dole, McCain, and Romney. But it only explains the rise of Donald Trump, a man who has no conservative impulses of any kind and even lives to caricature us on the Left’s behalf.

A lot of his supporters claim that a feckless GOP that surrendered to Obama out of the gate on every battle has helped Trump’s rise. They point to the reckless overspending of the Bush 43 years. They point to conservatives losing every cultural battle over the last two decades. From homosexuality to transgender issues to issues of race and ethnicity, it’s hard to see where the Left hasn’t succeeded in smashing the basic fabric of our society. Everything we believe in is being overturned in violation of the democratic process, mostly by judges who write their own laws. Even judges appointed by Reagan, Ford, and both Presidents Bush have participated in taking a sledgehammer to our constitution and our liberty. Our representatives have surrendered on all most all of these issues. So what’s the answer?

According to a plurality of GOP primary voters, the answer is an authoritarian strongman who has spent most of his life cozying up to the hated establishment by buying them off and in exchange being able to engage in the kind of graft we’ve been denouncing the Clintons for since 1992. The answer in their minds to a GOP who wants unlimited immigration to appease the Chamber of Commerce is to elect a man who himself has hired illegal aliens at his resorts. Not to mention the fact he has paid to have ads run in favor of the hated Gang of Eight bill that would have upped immigration of low-skilled people while providing no border enforcement.

In my exchanges with Trump supporters, it appears that they just don’t care about his leftist tendencies. Which makes their claims about the need to defeat Hillary Clinton being priority number one suspect. What good is defeating Hillary Clinton if the victor is a man which her same policy prescriptions? During this campaign cycle, Trump has advocated for taxpayer funding for planned Parenthood, single payer healthcare (i.e. socialized medicine), transgendered bathrooms, tax increases, a 45% tariff on Chinese goods, and retreating from the world stage via Ron and Rand Paul isolationism. Aside from the tariffs, which of these things would we not get from Hillary Clinton?

The result of a Trump candidacy is not only a landslide victory for Hillary Clinton, but it further discredits the GOP not only as a vehicle of conservatism, but it even discredits us as any kind of opposition force to the statist Left. If you thought there was barely a dime’s worth of difference between the two parties, just wait until the GOP becomes the Trump Party. The GOP will become pro-abortion, pro-sexual deviancy, anti-constitution, isolationist, anti-free trade, anti-religious liberty, and everything else we despise about the Left. The GOP will also become a nativist, nationalist, populist party that has nothing to offer to anyone. Just as the Democrats are the party of aggrieved racial minorities who want revenge on society as a whole, the Republicans will become the party of aggrieved white people who want revenge on society as a whole.

It is true that Republicans need to do a better job of expanding the coalition; conservatives have a similar task. I’m not counting on a Trump victory just by the number of constituencies he has worked hard to alienate, including parts of the base of the party. Between people defecting to Gary Johnson, Evan McMullin, and even Hillary Clinton herself, and the fact Trump isn’t bringing new people into the party, Trump is headed for an epic loss and will likely take down the Senate with him. But since he says a Republican majority isn’t all that important to him, what difference at this point does it make?

Regardless of the outcome of this election, there is going to need to be a lot of soul searching from the Right. My greatest fear is that too many people will do the same thing that happened following the failures in 2008 and 2012; which means, learning the wrong lessons and doubling down on stupid. For some strange reason, after running milquetoast moderates and losing two presidential elections decisively, GOP voters decided to make up for those mistakes by nominating someone to the left of those two failures. In less than a decade we went from the author of amnesty and open immigration to the author of socialized medicine in Massachusetts to a Hillary Clinton donor. If the GOP isn’t careful, the next nominee could be Bernie Sanders himself.

 Jack, a longtime viewer of Nerd Rage, is a rare bird: a black American who is also a classical liberal (or conservative if you prefer) in the Northeastern United States. His writings (whenever he has the time or has something to say) can be found wherever someone is willing to post them. 

Who Are You To Judge?

“Why are you so judgey?”

“Who are you to say what I can or cannot do?”

“Only God can judge me!”

These are all common refrains of the modern age, where it seems one can not issue an opinion of any sort without being considered “judgmental.”  It is not an unreasonable perception either.  Judgmental people can come across as over-bearing and arrogant.  It’s even worse when they appear to be wrong-headed.  Judgmental people are very often hypocrites, as too many of them demand perfection when they themselves are, by their very nature, imperfect.

This aversion towards being judgmental has gone too far, however.  Instead of calling out people for unpleasantness, the accusation has now become a deflection.  Rather than letting others shine a light on how we live our lives, we would rather turn it back on them, accusing them of some sort of untoward behavior.  Further, we suggest that the very idea of judgment is an unpleasantness that we, as a society, would rather not deal with.

Of course, there is the inherent hypocrisy of calling out someone for making a judgment: that action in and of itself is a judgment.  Everything we say or do involves some sort of judgment.  It is how humans operate and how we discern good from bad, healthy from unhealthy, life from death.  The idea that society should somehow do away with the concept of “judgment” is ludicrous because it is central to the decision-making process.

The fact of the matter is that the title question in no way makes a call on the value judgment.  Instead, it is an evasive way to say “I disagree with you” without ever having to explain why.  The problem is not that a certain someone has judged a person or situation; it is that they have made a judgment call that disagrees with one’s own.  Rather than debate the value of the opinion or observation, we instead try to cast the observer in a negative light.

Instead of having honest and forthright debate, this mentality has slowly pushed us into a realm where people are afraid to express their opinions for fear of being “branded.”

You think that it is too risky to sleep around? How dare you judge people’s private recreation!

Think abortion is wrong?  How dare you judge the women that have had one!

You think gay marriage is wrong? How dare you judge the ways in which people try to find love/happiness!

The list goes on.  In each and every case, however, the problem is not judgment; it is the face that the accuser has made the opposite call.  The only possible purpose of accusing another of “judging” is to stifle debate.

Perhaps we would be aided in our discourse if, rather than be offended that someone would dare come to a conclusion different from ours, we instead discussed opinions openly.

Guest Post: Random Thoughts

Some random thoughts from someone not nearly as wise as Thomas Sowell…

– Life rarely, if ever, turns out the way we want it. You game out various situations in your head, try to prepare for speed bumps or detours, and yet everything still ends in disaster. Maybe you’re reeling over broken relationships. Maybe you’re stuck in a rut you didn’t see coming. Maybe you’ve watched in despair as the country bull rushes towards a false choice in a presidential election. Maybe you’re scratching your head, wondering why what everyone said was going to be a great year is looking to be a terrible year with very little cause for optimism. Maybe this year feels like a cruel joke and that, somewhere, people are laughing at you for being stupid enough to believe you could affect positive change. Whatever it is, things are not right and you feel powerless to make them right. What do you do?

Pray, and pray often. God can fix what’s broken, but first we must be willing to turn it over to Him.

– Watching ABC’s attempts to resurrect some classic gameshows of yesteryear leads me to wonder if there is any corner of American life where outright debauchery and crude mentions of sexual organs hasn’t just overcome everything. But what should we expect from a culture that sees modesty as oppressive and hateful? It’s no wonder you watch Family Feud and Match Game remakes and think, “They just want to make this as X-rated as possible.” Now don’t get me wrong, Match Game was always known for pushing the envelope, but in those days, it was a lot subtler. There were always certain things you couldn’t say. The humor was in double entendre and figuring out ways to clean up what everyone assumed has to be dirty. That’s now out the window. Of the four classic game shows ABC has redone this summer, the only one I would be comfortable showing to young kids (and I have nieces and nephews but no kids of my own) would be the $100,000 Pyramid. It’s a sad commentary on where we are as a culture. But then again, most everything we see today is a sad commentary on where we are as a culture.

– I took a trip to Boston this past week and in between random acts of treason (reenacting the Boston Tea Party), I was reminded of the personal risk the founders of America, the opposition to the Sons and Daughters of Liberty faced, and wondering if we in the modern era could ever pull off such a feat. They pledged their lives, their fortunes, their sacred honor in quest of securing the liberty that God has gifted us. It saddens me that so many of my fellow Americans appear eager to jettison that precious gift and the Giver of that gift in the name of false security (things like equality, safe space, and special privileges to the most easily offended constituencies). We live in perilous times with no end in sight unless we can rally around the idea of returning to a God-fearing society that loves liberty and life. We can’t be a free society without morality. As John Adams said, “Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other.”

These observations all sound grim and negative, don’t they? You want me to end this post on an up note, do you? Well, since you asked:

– On Sunday, after visiting a different church than the one I usually attend, I decided to watch a sermon online. The subject was Esther and rising to the challenge of doing what God wanted her to do, which was to save her people from extermination. She was reluctant at first, but once she embraced God’s plan for her, she rose to the occasion and promised to intercede on behalf of the Jews. There’s a lesson in all of this: if you embrace the role that God has for you, you can go far. If you’re willing to abandon your comfort zone and obliterate your safe space, there’s nothing God can’t do for you. You might have to fundamentally transform yourself (or rather, you will have to allow God to fundamentally transform you), but God can do it all. Rely on Him, and all things are possible.

Jack, a longtime viewer of Nerd Rage, is a rare bird: a black American who is also a classical liberal (or conservative if you prefer) in the Northeastern United States. His writings (whenever he has the time or has something to say) can be found wherever someone is willing to post them. 

Religious Opinions

One of the hallmarks of the 21st Century west is the decline in religious faith.  Though many people still identify with a faith out of tradition and habit, the number of dedicated, sincere believers has declined substantially.

Between this and the concurrent rise in rationalism and secularism, faith (as a broad concept) has seen its societal respectability decline as well.  This, in turn, has led to a common belief that “faith has no place in politics.”  More specifically, it has led to the belief that one’s faith should not be reflected in political beliefs or at the ballot box.

This is, of course, ludicrous.  If one’s religious faith is to have any meaning whatsoever, then it must necessarily impact all areas of one’s life.  There are plenty of people who are “Sunday Christians,” the sorts of people who pay their faith little mind outside of a handful of rituals.  However, there are many people for whom their faith is a very serious part of who they are and how they think.

The most obvious example of this occurs in the abortion debate.  It is entirely possible to make a scientific argument against it on the basis of when life begins.  But one has to remember, science is merely the explanation of what something is; it provides no reason for why it exists or any moral imperative for how we should treat it.  As far as scientific inquiry is concerned, humans are just another animal.  Based on rational analysis alone, it actually does become rather difficult to claim that humans, at any stage, have an intrinsic value above the rest of the animal kingdom.

What drives the debate home is the belief that humanity transcends its mortal coil.  It is the belief that humans aren’t special simply because they are rational or conscious or at the top of the food chain; humans at every stage of life contain a divine spark, an immortal soul. It is these elements that make abortion monstrous. Because if humans are more than just the body, then we must have some value beyond it.

This is the animating reason for the pro-life position for many people. This argument doesn’t exist when following the purely scientific/rationalist route.

Leftists are very fond of admonishing people for “voting against their own self-interest.”  Yet clearly (and unsurprisingly), this does not apply to people of faith.  Voting for one’s self-interest only extends as far as voting for leftist policies. Once you stray off that path, indeed, once you vote your conscience according to your devout faith, your participation in society at large is no longer needed.

Again, this is daft. The idea that one’s faith does not somehow constitute a compelling self-interest is arrogant buffoonery. Not only that, but this way of thinking presumes that people can somehow segregate their religious nature from their non-religious one.  In any individual who is sincere about faith, this is literally impossible. Faith becomes a part of you and how you think.  This expectation is no different than thinking a pilot can jump from his plane and both will then continue follow the same course.

Just because the left lacks respect for sincerely held religious beliefs makes them no less important to the individuals that hold them.  We must be increasingly vigilant as the left moves harder and harder to turn Christians and conservatives into personae non gratae.