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From which they say youth springs.
I think, one might, to find it,
Begin again to notice little things.
How did i forget that for so long?
These are the offending bumper stickers ... Click image to enlarge
So, apparently, what that note really meant was -- It is not the U.S. Constitution and the peaceful rule of law, but rather wars (any wars?) that are what preserve our freedom of speech -- which we then apparently dare not exercise without risking aggressively angry verbal assaults, or worse, from those who may disagree with us on one point or another.
Of course i'm pleased that someone noticed -- who was even provoked to thought and comment by -- my intentionally pithy yet civil bumper stickers, many of which i authored.
But that disproportionately hateful reaction is exactly the kind of fear-fueled Assault on Reason that Al Gore writes about in his current book describing the fundamental human causes for -- and proposing some core human solutions for -- the precipitous decline in rational and civil public discourse and governance in America.
Yes, many -- but not all -- of Gore's examples are about the current very Un-Republican-like Bush administration. That is no surprise, given his own political perspective on that administration's very controversial unilateral actions leveraging unwarranted fears over ignored facts in order to take us into an unnecessary and costly war in Iraq. The Bush administration has raised many other serious constitutional questions relating to the loss of civil liberties, the separation of church and state, and others.
Surely, some Republican and Independent writers will soon, i hope, apply Gore's same critique to any uncivil and unreasoning far-out wings of Democratic Partisans, and any other irrational, hate-mongering zealots.
But is there anywhere any respectful, shared rational discussion trying to establish the actual facts of those matters and other important issues? Only rarely on TV, radio, and newspapers, and only recently beginning on the Internet and in all media only among very few elected leaders or superficial pundits, but not very much among us citizens who are supposedly governing this country through our representative democracy.
The logic of Gore's argument in The Assault on Reason is universal, because it is not about reasonable fact-based disagreements among partisans about particular issues, but about the very unreasonable ways we all, all too often, succumb to our worst human nature to collectively suppress reason and facts to try to gain emotional control of an issue for "our side" against "those others".
Moreover, there are many other non-political arenas, where the lack of shared commitment to rational discourse drastically impedes our finding solutions to important and urgent global problems that require fact-based consensus, such as the fight against AIDS, global poverty and poverty-based disease, genocide, gun violence, global warming, and yes -- the all too many constant, avoidable wars that kill and devastate so many millions of people.
Clearly war produces nothing worthwhile (much less freedom). War is just our civilization's all too frequent declaration of moral bankruptcy. Once commenced, war pursues its own agenda, enslaving everyone involved (including the so-called "masters of war") in its chain reaction of unremitting horror and senseless death. It is only peace (before or after war) that may bring about and sustain the conditions necessary for freedom. Even those who may argue that war is sometimes necessary to relieve intolerably inhumane circumstances, will acknowledge that initiating war is to be avoided at all costs less devastating than war itself -- and that war is the highest possible cost (in money, lives, morality and sanity). If we rationally did the math, we'd never go to war, because there are always less costly alternatives to war. It is our irrationality and impatience that goad us into war. This is not an argument against self-defense or mutual defense against an aggressor who has already initiated war against us -- but the objective must then be simply to end war by the least costly means that are effective, and continue hostilities only as needed to allow our survival and end the ever mounting carnage as quickly as possible, and not to perpetuate war for any other so-called "noble" purposes.
Drawing on the latest neuroscience, examples from history and recent events Gore explains why we frequently forget this rationally obvious understanding about war and other ill-advised policies. Fears, especially false fears that arise spontaneously as myths or that are manufactured and tailored to manipulate us, can suppress our ability to reason individually and together as a nation.
Meanwhile, the civil exercise of one's own individual reasonable freedom of speech in public, despite our constitutionally guaranteed rights, has always been a kind of personally risky freedom of navigation exercise, that is unfortunately constantly necessary to preserve that right (and all other rights) in the face of persistent uncivil intolerance or worse.
This rising tide of intolerance is extremely dangerous because it leads to repression of all of us by a small, extremely powerful ruling clique (masquerading as elected representatives of a "moral majority" -- which in reality is itself subtly disenfranchised), first within society, then ultimately by government, along the slippery slope from dysfunctional democracy to the inescapable depths of brutal tyranny.
"Don Herbert, 89, who as television's Mr. Wizard was for many years one of the nation's foremost popularizers of science, particularly noted for his ability to attract, inspire and hold the interest of children, died June 11 at his home in the Los Angeles area." Obituary (Washington Post June 13, 2007)
Thank you, Mr. Wizard, for many an inspiring Saturday morning.
Both clever and bold,
Who made crowns of brass not of gold.
Archimedes found out,
and gave out with a shout.
Eureka!, this crown's been Brasso'd.
- Winning entry submitted by GS to a monthly Brasso advertising jingle contest announced in the Army Times newspaper, in 1971 while stationed at Ft. Meade, Maryland, desperately awaiting ETS (expiration term of service) and return to civilian status. Truth to tell, i think every GI who sent in a jingle, got a "winning" $10 check from Brasso -- supporting the troops the old fashioned way -- with beer money.
I offer the following in defense of Wally. From his point of view, he's not irresponsibly unproductive -- he's responsibly conserving his ability to surge, however rarely necessary that may be. Why, i mean, there was one late afternoon just last year when Wally ...
Garold Out-at-Five Stone, retired federal bureaucrat & former cubicle denizen
PS: Your Out-at-Five motto helped keep me sane before i pulled the rip cord. Thanks.
If they are not an obvious fraud, I choose to err on the side of compassion by giving them a food gift certificate from a nearby restaurant -- McDonald's or whatever. I know certificates are converted easily into cash or traded for addictive substances, but that is an autonomous choice made by the recipient.
On a related subject, when I closely questioned the Prince George's Homeless Hotline (301-864-7140), they said that the rules they have been given to work under do not permit them to provide any services (and they have no other government or private social service referrals they can make) to "homeless" people who can not prove they have a PG County "home address." Let that sink in.
Then they told me that the D.C. Homeless Shelter (800-535-7252) will take anyone without any residence requirement (which I confirmed).
Of course, that is literally cold comfort this winter for those who find themselves "homeless" without a home address in Prince George's County.
Laurel Leader, Letters, January 26, 2007