Letter to My Uncle

[reply to litany of anti-Obama invective in a discussion about THE SUPER BOWL *sigh]

Dear Uncle ■■■■,

I’ve tried to talk about football and other things you like so you wouldn’t stop talking to me when I replied about politics. You said we shouldn’t talk about politics yet you insist on doing it. I have resisted each time because if I reply, there’s a chance it’s a massive waste of my time and in the end you’ll not want to be my uncle anymore, not want to be friends like your ugly and mean sister who will bleat on about Jesus’ love but then be a horrible person in an argument and end it by never speaking again, or on and on with several other examples easily available. I always thought you were different, more worldly, educated, etc. but the more I let you go on you sound like everyone’s stereotypical crazy racist uncle. If you start going on about Jesus too I’m giving up. (smiles). Now, since I know you aren’t that bad, I keep trying. So I will break the no-politics pledge just this once, but if you decide not to talk to me anymore, that’s on you. You can run out the rest of your days without hassling with that nephew who loved you and cared about you but then you fucked it up.

I agree the national debt is bad. I was complaining about it when Bush took a surplus and turned it into a deficit, doubled the national debt, and left us bailing out rich people who paid themselves massive bonuses. I don’t recall such concern among Republicans then, and was even called unpatriotic etc. So I agree the national debt is too high and bad, but it is hardly just Barack Obama’s fault and anything else is disingenuous.

Also the concern is always on social programs (which conservatives benefiting from them, like you or your sister or my parents, invariably want to keep and inexplicably think Democrats are coming to take), but my concern is also with the bloated defense budget, other waste, corruption – and corporate welfare is way worse than human welfare. I rarely hear conservatives complaining about these things, so I call shenanigans again.

The President called for a “grand bargain” on social programs. Like Bill Clinton being able to get away with signing welfare reform, Barack Obama could have worked on social programs and got away with it, but Do-Nothing Congress 2 well, did nothing. They opposed everything, on purpose, practically treasonous. So I have a hard time with statements that indicate it was all the bad president who wouldn’t work with the nice Congress. Compare the approval rating for Congress to the approval rating for President Obama. When we needed it the most this was one of the worst Congresses in the history of the nation. Disgraceful.

I agree that illegal immigration is a problem and what’s more is I think legal immigration is a problem too. With H1-Bs they are trying to replace citizens with cheaper labor as fast as they can import, they would import faster if they could (and keep trying), and this effort is just to replace the jobs that they can’t just ship overseas as fast as they can. And these are the decent-paying middle class jobs, not picking fruit (which should also largely be going to American citizens). I’m with you on immigration, believe me. It’s a big reason why Trump might still get my vote before it’s over.

We have lots of things we agree on: Americans take their lives for granted and many couldn’t even pass an immigration test, concern about ‘anchor babies’, immigrants integrating into American society, and on and on. However, I think statements like ‘Obama doesn’t believe in free enterprise and capitalism’ are ridiculous unsupportable hyperbole. I agree the money corporations and the wealthy have stored overseas is a problem, we just have different remedies. I agree the they print money and devalue the dollar. But stunts like closing the government and risking debt default are bad and endanger our global hegemony.

So, thanks for sharing your opinions and thanks for reading my reply. Hopefully we can continue to be civil.

Love, Jason


Divorce is wrong*

Recently I had the opportunity to spend some time with a couple I love very much and it was great to get to see them and chat and all that. These two also have chosen to be fundamentalist Christians. As with many (most?) fundamentalists, this association is very important to them and defines their identity. During our conversation, the subject of marriage and divorce came up. Excuses were made for divorce that are just nagging at me. It’s another case where folks like these use the Bible however they see fit. On one hand, homosexuality is condemned unequivocally as wrong on its face. But Jesus never said one word about homosexuality. Jesus had as much to say about The Gay as he did about The Who. The same evangelicals march in lockstep and wring their hands over the evils of abortion. They spend their lives petitioning the government to force women to carry unwanted pregnancies and forego their own right to life and pursuit of happiness, while the other side of their mouths decry government intrusion and overreach. And the list goes on.
But something Jesus did specifically express disdain for is divorce. Jesus (or words later authors ascribed to the character) specifically said not to get divorced. Jesus didn’t say “don’t be gay”, but he did say “don’t get divorced”. He didn’t say “well, unless it’s inconvenient to stay married”. Related and in case it’s not totally clear, “don’t commit adultery” is one of the Ten Commandments. They want to engrave one of the versions of these Commandments on massive granite blocks and embed them in front of public buildings so everyone will turn from their wickedness, but they don’t care as much about actually living it themselves unless it’s convenient. A clerk who has been married many times won’t give out a marriage license to a gay couple, and the modern-day Pharisees flock to her defense. 8ca43fbf9cf6d09e8ccd89f966c8e861This is yet another reason why the Founding Fathers specified religion can’t form the basis of our laws, freeing us from the worries of Sharia Law, be it from Muslims or Christians. People don’t obey even the most basic precepts of their religion, yet they often want everyone else to obey. Christians make up more of a majority in the U.S. than most other “Christian” countries, yet half of all marriages end in divorce, which is literally forbidden by God and their savior. If religious people spent less time moralizing to others (and brainwashing their children and rejecting science) and instead just lived what they ostensibly believe and held themselves to their alleged standards, atheists like me would spend less time bothering them for their hypocrisy. But as history has and always will continue to exhibit, that’s just not going to happen.

Thinking about American Nietzsche: A History of an Icon and His Ideas

American Nietzsche: A History of an Icon and His IdeasAmerican Nietzsche: A History of an Icon and His Ideas by Jennifer Ratner-Rosenhagen

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Some time ago I mentioned to my wife that I’d been experiencing strange existential crises, and I had just noticed and it was odd to me. She replied that perhaps I was having a ‘mid-life crisis’, and yep, because she’s smart and that sounds about right. She thought for a moment and asked if I had read any Nietzsche lately. I considered this wonderful advice as she is trained and degreed in philosophy and has a wonderful mind for such things and I respect her opinions greatly. It’s not like she would or could say ‘have you read your Bible lately?’, so I thought ‘read Nietzsche’ was a splendid suggestion worth exploration. So I hunted around for a work that appealed to me, and I settled on American Nietzsche: A History of an Icon and His Ideas. It appealed to me because of the American perspective and academic qualities. At first the reading was ponderous; dense and difficult. I had only vague recollection of ‘Nietzscheism’, a Will-Durant knowledge of his life and philosophy. I recalled that I thought we were in some agreement. He was an Existentialist, maybe a Nihilist, antireligious and smart. But reading American Nietzsche with that knowledge and recollection of the man and his philosophy was what was making the reading difficult and ponderous. I took a break for other books.

2015-05-03_11-55-19When I returned, first I elected to read the surprisingly great Nietzsche: A Very Short Introduction by Michael Tanner. It was an excellent read, great overview, nice balance, and not at all surprising given the good reviews. I thought this would be enough preparation but I became so interested to read Friedrich Nietzsche’s words (or at least a good approximation) I chose to read The Antichrist, as translated around 1920 by H.L. Mencken, whom I have always admired as a great American. This book The Antichrist blew me away and I will never forget it, I will revisit it again and again, and I with any luck I will search for other valuable translations of it to read later. I also was inspired to immediately acquire a version of Thus Spoke Zarathustra that I greatly anticipate consuming later.

So here the digression ends and I return to American Nietzsche, better-prepared for what it contained. I re-read the first 20% #Kindle or so that I had managed to get through and picked it up from there. I found myself consumed by its dense material, and I could barely put it down. I found it then to be a quick read (relatively) and marveled at the scholarship, the minutiae, the great attention paid to every detail and myriad angles. It’s fascinating really and as I understand it a new perspective on an essential philosopher. I loved the book, highlighted it galore and I will refer back to it from time-to-time. I feel like when I read Zarathustra it will be like I’m reading the Bible and it may spiritually fill a cold scientific atheist like myself. And all this to relate that at first, I did not understand my wife’s suggestion that I read Nietzsche of all things to address a midlife crisis. But in the end, I found a meaning and substance that surpassed any expectation I had. I learned about myself and the world we live in and it connected dots in my head that make me feel like a better and more evolved human. It’s like my wife told me to listen to Jesus, but said Nietzsche, because of course.df486242cd5256fb0b2dc07b156e9af1

I’d recommend Nietzsche to anyone. This American Nietzsche book is interesting, certainly dense, academic, dwells on small things, repetitive, but it doesn’t create an outsized view as much as illuminates areas of study, ties in interesting and important figures and relates the explosion of Nietzscheism, not because of propaganda or enforcement but because of obviousness and inevitability. It’s an interesting read if you are into that sort of thing but I’d definitely suggest at least a minimal background or it may feel more a slough.

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