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I did something this morning that I haven’t done in a very, very long time.

I shut the radio off during a news report.

It wasn’t before shouting.

I’m not proud of that, but the tantrumatic expressions of an entire generation marinated in the divisive and toxic stew of political correctness have reached a zenith for me.

It was yet another story about how people who are ostensibly adults have nothing better to do than gather outside a building with the President’s name on it, and angrily protest the fact that a man who has zero connection with a tiny (and I mean statistically insignificant) group didn’t “do” enough to specifically denounce them in the strongest possible terms.

Like so many other “outrages” surrounding the President’s communications, this is yet another misstep by the President.  Not because he didn’t do as our self-appointed betters in the media, and their shrinking audiences seemed to think necessary, but because he didn’t take the opportunity to set them straight.

Sadly, we have reached a point in this country where without any real consensus, as evidenced by a successful ratification process, whereby we have amended the First Amendment.  By allowing the creation of a de facto right to not be offended, we have enshrined the heckler’s veto, and subjected the freedom of expression to the censor of 50%+1.

If you are one of the people reading this, and saying to yourself “But Blackiswhite, some ideas are so repulsive that they should be shut down, by any means necessary.”, I’m going to tell you, unequivocally, you are wrong, and as un-American as you can possibly  be.  And I don’t care if you don’t like that.  I don’t give a good God Damn if you are “triggered” by that.  Despite all recent efforts to the contrary, life doesn’t come with “safe spaces” and places to color, suck your thumb, or cling to your blankie, while rocking back and forth.

America has been successful because of its freedoms.  The lynchpin of the entire experiment is embodied in the First Amendment, and we are all made to be better citizens by it when we participate in the marketplace of ideas, rather than demanding that the marketplace be shut down.  To silence someone for saying something you don’t like is lazy.  It is easy.  And it is tyrannical, because it ultimately punishes “bad” thoughts.  And given what is being “taught” in the ivory halls of academia today, it is sadly predictable.

It comes down to this:  Compulsion is easy; persuasion is difficult.  But persuasion doesn’t rely on fear or force for conversion, and it requires you to understand, to think about, and to evaluate your reasons for thinking the way that you do.  It also requires the deepest kind of honesty…honesty to yourself, because if you have to confront the reality that the facts don’t support what you believe, but you choose to believe it anyway, then your beliefs are not rational.  And that’s ok, too, but you no longer get to claim “consensus”, or that the “science is settled” or that someone is “on the wrong side of history”, or any other fatally weak rationale for not engaging in a debate, and instead, attempting to silence those who believe differently than you do.

All of this is bad enough, but this latest manifestation, in regard to the denunciations of the President, and the obligatory breathless reporting on it is not only a blatant double standard, but an engagement in a game that the subject can never win.  For better or worse, there is a segment of the population for whom nothing this President, or the party he claims affiliation with will ever be worthy.  The idea that he must be made to specifically denounce a group he has nothing to do with, in the strongest terms, is laughable, as is the implication by doing so, he will magically be granted their approbation.  To believe this is to believe that these same critics would abandon the “victimhood” status which they have employed to such great advantage, rather than simply moving the goal posts, as this twitter exchange illustrates .  The weakness that too many who suffer this kind of assault fail to see is that capitulating to these kinds of demands means allowing others to shape and form your own speech, until you fit into the same mold their as their own preferences, making you indistinguishable from those preferences, but less appealing, because those preferences won’t have your demonstrated proclivities toward the badpolitithougtspeech disfavored by the mob, and our self-appointed betters…thus ensuring the only real diversity that is “approved”… impervious to the irony that if it meets with such approval, it isn’t really an expression of diversity at all.

Being a citizen, rather than a subject, means that you will be exposed to things you do not like.  It means hearing things you don’t like hearing.  And it means that you can evaluate for yourself the merit of the ideas and speech that you are exposed to.  This is worthwhile, if only because you don’t surrender the sovereignty over your own conscience to others and their own subjective ideas about what is worthy of expression…which any citizen knows is dangerous, because sooner or later, YOU will be on the wrong side of what that 50%+1 deems worthy.  This is why the rule of law matters, and why we are all diminished when we engage in de facto exceptions.

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“The beginnings and endings of all human undertakings are untidy.”
-John Galsworthy

Logan the Old Man

I’m not often challenged by a superhero movie, but as the end credits started rolling up my tv screen last night, and my son started asking me “So…what did you think?”, my initial reaction was to shrug my shoulders.

But as I made my breakfast this morning, it occurred to me that once again, a screenwriter had used to the inhuman, or maybe more than human to explore the nature of humanity, and it was this undertext that made the movie more than it was on the surface.

When the movie opens, we’re confronted with a Logan who has grown old…a startling transformation for someone who is actually much, much older than many of his peers.  His short temper and quick action have been replaced with an obvious fatigue.  But when pushed, his lethal brutality manifests itself.  When the rage evaporates with the threat, his momentary surveillance of the carnage add to the weight of the tired resignation that surrounds him like a cloud.  This, and the fact that he no longer heals like he once did, give him the appearance of a sad old man.

This is a world a few decades into the future.  It is slightly recognizable, yet harder.  Logan, going by his given name of James, is a limo driver for hire, ferrying the callous and the oblivious from deal to deal, drink to drink, and door to door, and is plotting an escape from a world that seems to have passed him by.

Before long, we are shown that he is living at an abandoned smelter, along with Caliban, and Charles Xavier, who is clearly unwell.  Charles is suffering from some kind of deteriorating brain condition, and Logan’s and Caliban’s lives are centered on keeping Charles medicated enough that he doesn’t have seizures, which paralyze anyone who is too close, and cause seismic disturbances.  Charles is at times incoherent, and abusive, causing Caliban to defer to Logan, whenever he is present, in order to see to Charles, and his doses of medication.  The two mutants, who don’t really like each other very much, bicker like adult children, dealing with the stresses of an aging parent who is failing by inches every day.  But like such children, they bear the abuses and indignities of such roles with a love and determination that wouldn’t be reserved for anyone else.  This world doesn’t seem to have any other mutants in it, and we are never given an explanation, although it is strongly implied later in the film that they were all hunted down, cataloged, and exterminated.   So when Charles claims to be “in communication” with someone who needs their help, Logan is naturally skeptical.

Father and Son

Logan continues this existence of miles, driving other people through their own lives, while drinking heavily, and clearly deteriorating when he is approached at a funeral by a woman who knows his real identity, and begs him for his help.  Logan angrily refuses, fixed on the idea of making enough money to buy a boat and leave the country with Charles for a life on the sea.  He is then approached by a cocky and menacing young man with a mechanical hand who knows he has been contacted by the woman who talked to him at the funeral.  This man makes it clear that he knows who Logan is, and that he is likely harboring Charles, who has (rightly, given his condition) been identified by the government as a threat to humanity.

As the story unfolds, we learn that the woman is shepherding a girl who looks harmless, but who is, in fact, quite dangerous, and has adamantium claws of her own, including in her feet, along with a healing factor much like Logan’s when he was younger.  When circumstances bring the three of them together, running from the mysterious mechanical handed stranger, and the government operators who accompany him, Logan finds himself becoming the girl’s protector and teacher, and getting angry at Charles every time he refers to her as Logan’s daughter.  In a quiet moment, Logan reviews files that the girl has with her, and realizes that although he never met the girl’s mother, his genetic material was used by the shadowy corporation that created her “sisters and brothers”, and that for all intents and purposes, she was his daughter.

Father and Daughter

When stopping to help a family of farmers involved in a traffic altercation, Logan introduces Charles as his father, and the girl, Lora, as his daughter.  It is a deception, and at the same time, the truth, as Logan has, for years, shown the same dedication to Charles as a son would to an aging father, and for all of their conflicts, and arguments over the years, Charles has truly come to regard Logan as his son, something revealed in a deathbed confession by Charles.  Conversely, in their short time together, Logan has come to regard Lora as his daughter, even going so far as to selflessly sacrifice himself (repeatedly) to protect her from a younger clone of himself, also created by the same corporation which made her.

As the movie came to the obvious and predictable climax, in which Lora reveals herself to be Logan’s daughter in spirit as much as in body, the real “hand off”  from one generation to the next didn’t come in Logan’s sacrifice and death to give Lora and her sisters and brothers the chance to escape.  It came in a conversation started when Lora watched Logan sleeping, tormented by a nightmare. When the juxtaposition of their nightmare experiences was discussed (she having nightmares about people hurting her, him about hurting other people), she remarked on him having killed people, and acknowledged that she too had killed people.  He replied that she would have to find her own way of dealing with that, and she made a very simple response that they were bad people.  This caused Logan to simply stare and nod.

When the final confrontation came, and with it, Logan’s death, Lora is consumed with grief as she calls him “Daddy.”  She lingers over his grave, after her brothers and sisters have continued walking toward sanctuary in Canada, and pulls the cross out from the head of it, turning it onto its side, making an “X”.  Then turns and follows the other, leaving the audience to wonder if she will be better for remembering this experience, and the loss, or if she would be better living with no memory, as Logan had for so many years of his own life.

In the end, I enjoyed the film, but I found that I didn’t mourn Logan’s passing.  Instead, I was encouraged, even uplifted by the thought that he would be reunited with so many people he loved who had died long before him, and as I write this, I realize that this is only possible because unlike family and friends, he was someone I knew of, but didn’t have as a fixture in my life.  And maybe that’s for the best, because I can only see the good, and not the sorrow in the ending.

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Sequels are a tricky thing.  Generally, if a movie is a sequel, but still ends up with its own name, then I expect that sequel or not, I’m going to see a film that is a story in its own right, and not merely a half-hearted attempt to capture whatever made the first movie a success. (The various Disney sequels of the 90’s come to mind.)  So with this in mind, you might understand my hesitation in watching this movie, given the typical dreck that usually is put out with a “2” in its name.  As it turns out, I think I liked this installment of John’s story more than the first one.

The movie business has known for some time that gratuitous violence puts people in seats, but there is a subgenre that can only be categorized as “ode to violence”.  Sometimes, it takes the form of a stylized, almost cartoonish violence, such as Quentin Tarantino employs, and sometimes it is just raw, and brutal, like in Sam Peckinpah’s “The Wild Bunch” and “Straw Dogs”, or the original version of “Get Carter”.  John Wick, Chapter 2 seamlessly melds the stylized with the brutal by hitting the trifecta of film making.  It has a good story, good dialogue, and each and every frame is beautifully composed. I mean truly beautifully and heartbreakingly composed.

The movie opens with Wick continuing to pick off outlying members of the Tarasov family, largely because the remaining Tarasov was stupid enough to steal Wick’s car.  When Wick comes to get it, and the predictable body count ensues, the gangster has time to dread the knock on his door which he knew was going to come.  A conversation Tarasov has with his lieutenant about Wick’s lethality harkens back to the first film, and what Wick can accomplish with just a pencil…a moment of foreshadowing made bloodily manifest later in the movie.  While the encounter, when it came, did not end as we have come to expect, it still felt right.

We are then given the impression that he will now get to live the rest of his life in peace, while knowing that John will never ever get that peace, and so when the knock on his door finally comes, it is odd that John himself is almost more annoyed than afraid.  We learn that John’s famous “impossible task” came at a price.  John had to give a marker to a soft-spoken Italian gangster who is a scion of crime royalty.  This man, Sabatino, wants John to kill his sister, who inherited their father’s “seat at the high table”, a governing body of crime.  John, begged him not to ask for the favor, and Sabatino accepted, regretfully, before leaving, and like others before him, he chose to take something from John that was dear to him.

There was so much more to this movie than the first installment.  We learn more about the world that John blazes a bloody trail through, including the fact that it has rules, which are enforced by people even more brutal than he.  But we also learn the scope and reach of Wick’s own reputation in this world, and the calm acceptance with which so many of its characters acquiesce to the choices they have made in life.  When one of his intended targets reacts not with fear, but calm when he comes for her, the exchange is intriguing.  In perhaps one of the most honest moments in either of the films, she refers to him as “Death’s own emissary.”

The truth is that even without the good story and dialogue, this film is still a feast for the eyes, as the composition and lighting create a treat, including a sequence in a hall of mirrors that is reminiscent of the climax in “The Man With the Golden Gun”, but much, much more thoughtfully filmed.

In the end, when John breaks one of the cardinal rules of the world he lives in, he is confronted one last time by Winston, the shadowy owner of the New York Continental.  Winston informs him that his life is forfeit, and after a demonstration that starkly shows that there will be no safe place for him anywhere, Winston gives him an hour.  Wick, true to form, tells Winston to tell whoever choses to come after him that he will kill them.  All of them.  Winston smiles, and says with conviction, “Of course you will.”

I was left with the belief that Winston actually believes it, and although he could never be obvious about it, that is rooting for John.

The film’s deleted scenes also lead me to this conclusion, as in two of them, Sabatino acts in ways that clearly break with the traditions and norms of this violent world, and in an exchange between Winston and Sabatino about the latter’s excesses and naked ambition, Sabatino reveals his contempt for these rules and norms, because they “stand in the way of progress”, while Winston calmly retorts that he believes just the opposite.  It is a theme repeated throughout the movie, once when Sabatino angrily makes a demand of Winston, who calmly reminded the upstart prince that he was in Winston’s house, and according to the rules of their society, he, and he alone was master there, and again when it was stated that “without rules, we run with the animals”.

The story is a tragic tale.  Wick is feared by his peers, beloved by the servant class, and the leaders of this world alike.  As the truth is revealed, we learn that the boogeyman (Wick) made a deal with the Devil (Sabatino) to leave the life.  When the Devil came to collect, he asked the unthinkable in order to satisfy the debt…putting the boogeyman in an untenable position.  When Wick came for payback, as a marked man, his only leverage with people in a position to help is that in killing the Devil, he will stop his unquenchable desire for power, and in so doing, stop an all-out war in the underworld.  When he actually kills the Devil, he breaks an unbreakable rule, causing the only people he could call friends to turn on him in order to maintain the order of their society.   In one fell swoop, Wick made himself both the savior and pariah of his world, and when the severity of the consequences become real to him, he appears to resign himself to face it the way he always has…with a murderous resolve.

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I knew when I read the synopsis of this film that it would be an emotional experience for me. What I did not anticipate was enjoying it as much as I did.

As the film played out, I could see Afleck’s character, Christian Wolff, exhibit some of the same characteristics I would expect of an individual who is on the Autism Spectrum, but I was encouraged by the fact that he seemed to be outwardly successful and independent, even as the unfolding story shows a man kept in check by unusual rituals that go back to childhood, and a father whose training compelled him to acclimate his son to the world, rather than insisting that the world create a bubble around his son.

The flashbacks are not evenly paced, and the shifts back to the present are sometimes jarring, but the picture that forms is that of a person who is instantly capable of grasping complicated information and using it to his advantage.  His condition allows him a great deal of focus on the tasks at hand which make him invaluable to his clients and deadly to those who violate his moral code.

Against this backdrop, we are introduced to a high-ranking bureaucrat at the Department of the Treasury who ruthlessly recruits a smart and talented analyst to figure out who this mysterious accountant who has been tied to some of the most evil people on the planet actually is, with the idea that he could be an informational gold mine.

The flashbacks reveal how Wolff cultivated his effortless brutality, but they also reveal that the bureaucrat, played by JK Simmons, owes his career and station to Wolff, and that their history is an odd symbiotic relationship, in which Simmons’ character had to decide what he was willing to compromise with in order to bring down infamous criminals. When this is revealed to his reluctant protegé, she has to face the expectation that she will replace him when he retires.

Meanwhile, Wolff has taken what he and his “agent” believed to be an “honest” job, only to find calculation and intrigue of a degree that only someone with his skill set could have uncovered, and in a manner that is contrary to his normal instincts, he feels a duty to protect the innocent who inadvertently discovered the financial chicanery at a robotics company. This puts him on a collision course with a mysterious enforcer, hired by the owner of the company to clean up the loose ends, including the lowly account clerk who discovered the missing money in the first place.

As the flashbacks progress, you see how Wolff changed from a boy who was very obviously autistic into a man who is very controlled, very precise, and very deadly. We see the conflict between his parents, a mother who is out of her depth and at her wit’s end…at one point making a very revealing remark that made me deeply, deeply dislike her, and a father who is an Army officer working in psy ops. The mother is eager to leave her oldest son with strangers, and let them raise him and teach him how to live in a controlled environment. The father refuses, because of a love for both of his sons that his career and training can never allow him to express in a “normal” way, but exists just the same, and because he wants his oldest son to be able to meet and interact in the world the way that it is, and not in a bubble created for him. These conflicts eventually take their toll, and the mother leaves, causing the oldest son to slip into an epic meltdown, and the younger son to express his resentment of his mother and her inability or unwillingness to give both boys what they need in a simple expression when she departs. As the father continues to travel the world, he takes the boys with him and subjects them to brutal training, while eventually revealing to them at a crucial moment that his purpose is to keep them from ever becoming victims.  He also instilled in the boys the same sense of loyalty, borne in love, that has caused him to soldier on as a solo parent. One of the final flashbacks completes the transition from past to present, while revealing to the audience just how much the father loved his oldest son.

This is a movie about decisions.  Decisions always matter, but I don’t think movies always focus on just how much decisions are fulcrums in people’s lives.  And while decisions drive every story, my biggest surprise in this one was the decision made by the Treasury Agent’s reluctant protegé, who made a decision about compromise, and whether or not the calculus she had to use had expanded beyond just herself.

Conversely, the final showdown between Wolff and the mysterious enforcer lead to a decision that couldn’t really be considered a difficult choice at all.  It was violent, bloody, loud, and shocking to the man who hired the enforcer, but ultimately, I found it to be one of the film’s most rewarding moments.

Ultimately, I can see why this movie is controversial for people. To some, it appears to paint a portrait of a high-functioning autistic as a soulless monster, but this is really far too facile a conclusion. Wolff doesn’t consider the right or wrong of what many of his clients do to make their money. For him, the payoff is the challenge of diving into their books and finding the cause of the issue that brought him there. His apparent lack of emotion puts the monsters he works for at ease…sometimes fatally, when they underestimate his ability to take care of himself.  It would be easy to believe that he doesn’t have emotions, but the reality is that he just cannot comprehend what to do with them, and he himself is quite surprised when he makes a decision based on emotion, against his training and instinct, for reasons he himself does not fully understand.

I can see where people would feel justified in condemning the father, and his very hard way of raising his sons, but that would ignore the fact that he wasn’t the one who left them, despite a demanding career that required travel all over the world. Like his oldest son, he saw the world in a way very different from most, based on a reality that many are never exposed to, and because of that, he knew the best way to protect both of his sons was to teach them how to never be hurt by the world or caught flat-footed by it. I expect that I will catch heat for saying so, but I think the biggest villain in the film is the mother, and it wasn’t lost on me just how much pain she caused for her sons, even in death.

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Sometimes, you are faced with a disconnect that is so profound that it is alarming in its implications.  One such example is the conduct that I and other friends have been on the receiving end of since Tuesday night.  The vitriol itself would normally be bad enough, as it has come at the hands of people who are usually vocal to the point of preachiness about “tolerance” and “diversity”, but when its coming from people we thought were our friends, it is as disappointing as their venom is disturbing.

Earlier today, I read a long post on Facebook from someone whom I have known a long, long time, explaining his justification for such behavior.  In several ways, this was a continuation of a series of disparagements and slanders he started Tuesday night, but to read just how much he’s allowed this poison to cloud this thinking really took me aback.  I had resolved to sleep on it before writing this piece, but when I got home, I saw this from another friend who I have only known for about ten years, a friend who I first befriended online, but who I later met in person (he lives in the north part of the Puget Sound region, and whom I have since met up with several other times):

so I’ve been called a racist three times in the last two days….twice by people who know me well and who should know better, and once by some idiot who doesn’t know me at all. So, I make this request of all of you…….If you consider me a racist for how I voted (which I’ve explained numerous times). Instead of dirtying yourself with that kind of ugliness, unfriend me both here and in real life…..It is wrong and ignorant and prejudiced and you know it. I have a pretty high opinion of all of you and would like to hold onto that opinion…..so just unfriend me and not ruin my perception of the better person that I believe you to be.
I wish you well.

Reading this angered me.

It angered me, because I know this man.  I’ve done business with this man.  I’ve had coffee with this man.  I’ve met his wife, and I’ve done work for the both of them.  This slander angered me.  And my disappointment tempered it.  I was disappointed because two other people who knew him could still hurl this accusation in a way that clearly displayed serious enough intent that he took it seriously.  I was disappointed because he was not the only person I knew experiencing this.

Which brings me back not only to the friend justifying this kind of behavior, but all my friends.  Facebook is really an interesting development.  While it can be a timesuck, it has also been a means  for me to keep in contact with family all over the country, to renew friendships with people I went to college with, people I went to law school with, people I worked pre-law jobs with, or to strengthen friendships formed in other places on the internet, as well as make new friends with friends of my friends, and join some online communities based on shared interests, some of which don’t really have too much at all to do with politics.

Now when you think about it, having friends from so many different experiences and times in my life, it should not be too terribly  shocking that some of them hold political leanings to the opposite of my own.  While this can “get loud” sometimes, I have never considered “unfriending” anyone because we disagree about something.  I have often said, my tongue only partially in my cheek, that if I were to act in such a manner every time someone else was wrong, I would have long ago given the world the finger, and moved to a remote cabin up in the mountains where I would no longer have to deal with such effrontery.  The truth is that I’m actually used to having relationships of various degrees with people who believe differently than I do.  Much of my family actually falls into this category, but it doesn’t dim my affection for them.  Some of my friends on Facebook are people whom I chose to be friends with, knowing full well their opposition to my viewpoint on various matters. I was able to do so because I still shared some sort of interest with them, or because I enjoyed the exchanges I had with them, because they were able to debate without the hyperbole, the slander, and the pigeon strutting which is all too common in my experience when dealing with those who have political views which oppose my own.  As for those who subscribe to a different view who are my friends from previous shared experiences, the point remains the same; I chose to be friends with them, if only because my previous experiences with them taught me that they weren’t bad people, regardless of their political views.  Put another way, their opposing viewpoints do not dim my affection for these people whom I made a conscious decision to associate with and  “friend” on the social media platform.  So when I see these same people unflinchingly and reflexively assert that the possession of an opposite opinion can ONLY be the result of evil intention and/or some debilitating form of ignorance or intellectual disability, which then somehow justifies the ongoing slander and disparagement, like some perverse cadence of curiously permissible hate and intolerance of the now “unfriended” or soon to be “unfriended” individual, my sadness becomes profound.  When the justification includes naked assertions of “facts” which are no such thing, and when the justifier is someone you know to be smarter than the things they are saying, I am disappointed.  When the justification is then wound up with this rather remarkable pronunciation:

People are not “unfriending” their “friends” because of an election. They are separating themselves from people who have exposed themselves to lack the benevolence, intelligence, sophistication and good-will-of-heart to participate in the advanced citizenship known as “America”.

I realize that some of the people who cry loudest about “tolerance” and “diversity” are least capable of living in a society that values it, or can benefit from it.  Henry Ford once famously quipped at an early point in his company’s life “You can have one of my cars in any color you like, as long as it’s black.”  That kind of restriction doesn’t live up to the ideal presented in either word, nor does it make for a healthy society.

My unfriending friend also made a point often made by various members and followers of the Left over the last decade or so…his own variation on the slightly humorous assertion that he and others who share his view are the “adults” in the room:

We can relate to children because we were all children once upon a time. However, as we grow older and wiser and more sophisticated, we do not socialize with children. They are not part of our peer group. We do not pass notes that say “yes, no or maybe” when we are 30 or 40.

That is, of course, his view.  For myself, once I moved away from the community we both grew up in, and went to law school, where I started to ask questions which made some of my professors uncomfortable, and started reading the treatises that used to be used to train lawyers, but have been long since abandoned in favor of the case method, I grew to form more conservative views than those I have been exposed to (less diplomatic people might be inclined to say “indoctrinated in”) when I was younger.  The irony is that the more I read, and the more I observed, and the more my body of knowledge grew as I continued my education, the more I developed these views.  The key to this is the “I”.  I didn’t come to these conclusions because they were what I was being taught.  I didn’t come to these conclusions because it was what my professors were telling me.  I did that, as my knowledge and experience grew and developed.  These weren’t conditions that lend themselves to “regression” to some troglodyte lens through which the world is viewed, and while I’m not hurt by the endless broad brush assertions to the contrary, I have grown impatient with apparent apprehension that is excuses people who state this from having to take me seriously, and instead somehow get a free pass to insult me and my friends, and casually ascribe all manner of ill or evil intent to our views.  If you’re a friend of mine, and you’re doing this, the question I challenge you to answer is this:

“Are you really that unwilling to focus your wit and intellect on persuading me to see the reason in your position, or are you simply incapable of successfully doing so, and your actions are instead some kind of coping mechanism?”

I submit that the question is one that you should answer honestly as much for yourself and your own well-being as it is for mine.

Will any of this cause my unfriending friend to engage in any serious introspection, or will he simply continue his social media crusade and unfriend me too?  I hope that it is the former and not the latter, not just between us, but between all of the people in this country right now, because it is one thing to call me an enemy, but still engage in a dialogue for the sake of our shared experiences and amity (Hell, if Jefferson and Adams could do it, there is no reason for us to want or believe otherwise).  It is quite another to call me an enemy, then set out to treat me as one…and if this happens often enough, to enough people, then that is exactly what we will have, and nothing about that is “American”.

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I gave up trying to predict the outcome of the 2016 Presidential Election.  If I spoke out about the very real reasons why Hillary Clinton, a/k/a Felonia von Pantsuit, could not be allowed to win the election, I was usually greeted with responses asking how Trump could possibly be more acceptable.  While I loathed the idea of President Trump, the idea of a person who clearly flouted public records laws in order to conceal a pay-to-play scandal that monetized a government sinecure and put US policy up for bids by interested parties.

Having said that, I wasn’t sure that Trump could actually take down the great Clinton criminal enterprise.  I decided that I wasn’t even going to watch the election results, but at about 8:30 pm, my curiosity got the best of me, and I turned to the CBS coverage, and discovered that it was actually a fight.  I ended up staying with it, rotating around to the various networks and ended up really enjoying watching the various talking heads struggling to contain their disappointment.  But what has been simultaneously disappointing and amusing has been the post-mortem the legacy media has engaged in after their humiliation Tuesday, and how so many of them fail to grasp the real cause of the Trump victory.

No, this wasn’t a “whitelash”.  No, this wasn’t misogyny.

This was about the average American deciding that they are fed up with constantly being lectured to, with serious looks, smug condescension, and wagging fingers about how they are everything wrong with this country, and how the way they have lived, and want to continue to live, is a crime against humanity, and that even considering that they are being fed nonsense is somehow a thought crime for which they should feel utterly and completely ashamed for not abjectly debasing themselves and groveling for the pardon of their fellow citizens who fancy themselves to be the intellectual, cultural, and yes, even moral betters of the people they deign to look down upon.  I’m not the first person to make this observation, or to be disappointed that instead, the introspection of these “experts” too often leads to the conclusion that it is someone else’s fault.  The pollsters.  The voters who could have only voted for Trump because of evil motives and dark hearts.  But this is only part of the story.

The other factor is the incestuous relationship between the Left and the Media, and what they have done to Republican Party for decades.

While Trump was not my first choice, nor my twelfth choice, I did previously note, with not a small degree of amusement, Trump’s ability to take everything the Democrats and the media could throw at him, shrug it of, and essentially say “AND???”  Even the Republican Party failed to understand how he was able to do this, but the answer lies in the votes of the people who made him the President-Elect:  Double-standards and political correctness are not embraced by average people.   For decades, Democrats have catered to excess.  They have constantly advocated the use of liberty as cloak for vice.  Republicans, as a general rule, have aimed for a different demographic, hence the generalization about “family values”.  This has provided a powerful tool for Democrats and the Press, because while everyone is human, human failings have only been suitable for pointing out as it applies to Republican candidates.  At the same time, we have had a creeping transformation of expectations focused around the dubious notion that we each have a “right” to not be offended.  As this cancerous idea grew, and metastasized, victimhood has become both a sword and shield as everything has become offensive to someone.   The result is that Democrats could condemn their opponents for weaknesses that they themselves would never had to defend in their own lives, and over decades, Republicans became conditioned to being cowed, to pulling punches, to not uttering obvious truths aloud, and to slinking away in the face of opponents who could be caught red-handed in all manner of morally questionable deeds, criminal acts, blatant lies, or influence peddling, and never ever display a shred of shame, and under no circumstances ever, ever,ever back down.

And into this scenario, where the average person is fed up with being told they’re the problem with America, that there is the law for the average person, and the law for the rich and powerful, and that subsets of government can pick and choose which laws they want to follow, walks a man who could never be elected.  A man who has said crude things.  A man who has been married multiple times.  A man who has been bankrupt more than once.  A man with an outsized ego (a trait he shares with many politicians, but in his case, this was “unacceptable” to our betters because he wasn’t a member of the political class.)

And when the accusations were flying like mud, he didn’t cower.  He didn’t slink away.  He pushed back.  He’d say stupid, feisty things, rather than getting quiet.  And he would say the things that average people were thinking, whether or not they were politically correct.  As I look back, I am reminded of the Vulcan proverb: “Only Nixon could go to China.”

He has an opportunity that hasn’t come in a very long time.  We have one party in the White House, the House of Representatives, and Senate.  If he chooses smart people to advise him and to be in his cabinet…if he chooses to approach Congressional leaders with an intent to actually work with them, and he pursues an agenda of shrinking government, of cutting regulations and reversing the administrative state, and enacts tax cuts and tax reforms, then we could see a real economic improvement the likes of which we haven’t seen in this country since I was I child.

I’m feeling cautiously optimistic that we could have some real change, and I find myself praying, yes truly praying, that he is visited with divine wisdom, and that he appoints and listens to people who can destroy “business as usual” which has spawned a complacency which has converted public service into a sinecure that creates previously undreamt of wealth for the arduous task of creating nothing but laws and regulations formed by experts with no practical experience or skill.

And I hope he doesn’t blow it.

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For hours, Denny drove the ancient Land Rover over numerous back roads of the kind that Cooper and Jake had frequented before Lise brought them in.  He didn’t doubt that the people he could see in the shadows intended to be there, avoiding discovery by anyone who might be looking for them.  What he questioned was whether or not the silent, hard man who drove the antiquated SUV  actually knew where to find Lise and Teresa.

Cooper looked to Rick, who was looking out the other side of the vehicle, his eyes studying the topography and the faces as they rolled past.  Deciding that he could no longer wait, Cooper broke the silence and asked “Where are we going?”

Denny’s eyes never left the road as he stated ” A warehouse.  It’s in the middle of no where.  Our southern neighbors use it as a staging area for their ops here.  It has a clearing where helicopters can go in and out.  That’s how they plan on getting your fiancee and your wife to Toronto, where they will be put on a boat, and ferried across to the US.”

Cooper marveled at the matter-of-fact way Denny announced this, and how his own brain seemed to fill in the omitted “Everyone knows this.” at the end of Denny’s declaration.  He barely started to ask “How…” when Denny, trying not to look perturbed, turned to him and said “Did you think Agent Roy was kidding when he said he wanted to help?  They’ve known about this place for years.  It’s under constant surveillance.  You can say what you want about the RCMP, but they observe the Coventry rule better than any outfit I’m aware of, and the fact that we’re going to act on this information means that someone is going to lose their intelligence gathering capabilities.  Roy’s got pull with his peers, and even some of his superiors…maybe even enough to avoid getting in trouble for using those   connections to get us this information.”

Denny’s gaze returned to the road before him, and before another five minutes had passed, he pulled off to the side of the road, and put the Land Rover in park.  He turned to Rick and Cooper and said “Right.  The warehouse is less than a kilometer in that direction.” as he pointed  to the right, where the trees were thick enough to obscure their view of anything.  “I’ll go first and take out the sentries.  Then you two can follow.  Try to be quiet.  I’m certain that they have a man advantage on us, but I’m equally certain that as long as we maintain the advantage of surprise, I can cut their advantage down to size.”

The three got out and checked their equipment, and then Denny quietly walked off toward the warehouse.  Cooper watched him leave, then turned to Rick, who was checking ammunition and his knives.  “You haven’t had much to say, Old Man.”

Rick  holstered his knives, and  looked at Cooper, his expression neutral, but his eyes smiling.  “You remember that bit of Yankee poetry you used ta be fond of quotin’?” he asked Cooper.  Cooper looked at him and asked “The hand that knows his work won’t be told to do it better or faster; those two things?”  Rick nodded and said “Yup.  That’s it.”  He paused for effect, then said “That guy?  He knows his work, and he’s a damn sight better at it than I’ll ever be, despite the best training available at Ma Benning’s Home for Wayward Boys.”  Cooper paused.  Coming from Rick, this was high praise, and he decided to let it go.  Rick looked at his watch, and said “I reckon it’s been long enough.  We should follow on, now.”

————————————————————————–

Lise could hear the sound of her own heart beating in her ears.  She didn’t relish dying, but the idea that she would be used to lure the only man she ever loved to her death was more than she wanted to live with.  She finished untying the ropes on Teresa’s wrists, and waited as Teresa untied those around her own wrists.

After they had each untied the ropes around their ankles, they stood up.  Lise realized for the first time that they were about the same height.  Teresa looked at Lise with a look of disdain, then allowed it to soften.  “I see what he sees in you.”  Teresa said quietly.  Then, almost as an afterthought, she asked “Is he happy?”

Lise was caught off guard by the question, and by how earnestly it was asked.  She replied softly “Yes.  At least as much as can be expected.”  Teresa nodded, then said “Ok.  Let’s go save his life.” and she opened the door, only to find the guard on the floor, his lifeless eyes staring at the growing pool of blood running out of his body.

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