Friday, November 26, 2010

Could Jesus Forsake the Church in the US?

Could Jesus ever decide that the church in the US is so corrupt that he no longer claims it? You tell me.

I will forsake my house,
abandon my inheritance;
I will give the one I love
into the hands of her enemies.
My inheritance has become to me
like a lion in the forest.
She roars at me;
therefore I hate her. (Je 12:7-8)

Ah, but that was in the Old Testament. This is now, right?

I don't think so.

Consider how far you have fallen! Repent and do the things you did at first. If you do not repent, I will come to you and remove your lampstand from its place. (Re 2:5)

If it happened in Ephesus, and even to Philadelphia (Re 3:7-13), why can't it happen here? Please put your answers in the comment boxes below.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

How Does Anarchy Deal with Heinous Crimes?

Personally, I think you are too lenient on child molesters - I would put them to death! I do not believe you can have reasonable [conversation] (if such a thing is even warranted) with the parent of a child who was molested.

My skeptical friend takes exception to my statement that under an anarchic system we would expect people accused of heinous crimes to be treated according to the Golden Rule wherever possible and that the primary concern of any system dealing with crime would be looking after the welfare of the victim and the welfare of likely future victims, rather than inflicting suffering on the perpetrator.

My first task in dealing with his desire to see child molesters executed is to define the terms. What is a child? What is molestation?

As I mentioned last time, If his definition of molestation includes the unwelcome touching of the genitals of a prepubescent, we have exactly that taking place in our airports—not by anarchists, but by agents of the state, which grants them impunity. (If there's a good contrast between anarchy, the lack of a class of people with special privileges, and chaos, the absence of moral order, this is it.)

Who is a child? Is a fifteen-year-old who pays her own rent and buys her own food and clothes a child? Is a twenty-two-year-old with Down's syndrome an adult?

These are questions any faceless ("justice" is blind, remember) government justice system needs to answer if it is to carry out its duties consistently. And, as with everything else government does, the actual standards will be those determined to be expedient by the politically powerful; any resemblance to biblical justice will be coincidental. And I see nothing in the Bible that legitimates statutory rape laws: forcible rape, definitely, but statutory rape, no. My guess is that God figures that parents who don't teach their daughters chastity deserve what they get if their daughters allow themselves to be seduced.

Related to this is the question of equality under the law for perpetrators. Before the Industrial Revolution, sixteen-year-old females were commonly married, not infrequently to much older men.* And if such couples married, one can assume that extramarital affairs were not unheard of and were dealt with as was any other sexual misconduct.

My point is not to legitimate extramarital sex, only to point out that if a sixteen-year-old female has consensual extramarital sex with a nineteen-year-old male, while that is a tragedy, it is not considered a crime; the male is not even arraigned in juvenile court. Yet a twenty-two-year-old male would be sent to jail on child molestation charges for doing exactly the same thing to exactly the same person. (Maybe my friend would solve this problem by working to see the younger male arraigned.) This is morally no different from meting out differing punishments to people of different races or economic levels, or whose surnames come at different places in the alphabet.

All this changes under an anarchic system. The primary concern of the victim's dispute resolution organization (DRO, to use Stefan Molyneux's term) would be the victim, not the perpetrator. No matter what else happened, the DRO (depending on what kind of account the victim's family had) would likely provide counseling, therapy, and whatever else was needed to restore the victim to physical and emotional health. (Try getting that from any state system!)

If the abuse came from a customer of the same DRO, but one outside the immediate family, the DRO would likely greatly modify or terminate the terms under which it would protect the perpetrator. If the DRO terminated his protection and no other DRO would take him on, the family of the victim could then do as they pleased (subject, of course, to their contract with the DRO) with him with no fear of reprisal. It would thus behoove the perpetrator to mollify the family if possible, but if the only way the family could get closure was to kill the perpetrator, then, if no DRO were willing to shield the perpetrator, it would be him (and whatever other outlaws he could get on his side) against them.

This has several advantages over the present system. Most important is the concern for the victim. Under our present system, as Charles Colson has pointed out, the state considers itself the primary victim of any misconduct, and any concern shown for the victim is coincidental. That is why rape victims especially are known to feel as though they have to relive the horror under interrogation by state agents both before and during trial. Also, whether the suspect is convicted or not, it is the victim who pays for medical and psychological treatment, as well as any work missed due to trauma. And finally, all government officials involved have the incentive to grandstand, or to please voters or lobbyists, rather than to administer justice.

Under an anarchic system, the interpersonal relationships of all concerned enable people to talk about issues freely and force them to take responsibility for the final result: it's one thing to have your granddaughter's molester killed by a faceless bureaucracy; it's another thing entirely when you're the one who does the job yourself.

Other questions to consider:

Does the victim always want to kill the perpetrator? More importantly, is it alway (or ever) to the victim's advantage to have someone whose paycheck is the same no matter what he decides deciding the matter?

Most abused children still love their parents; they only want the abuse to stop. How are such children better off if a "hanging judge" makes them orphans?

Still, I hear my friend complain that such a system would be too lenient and a state system is needed. I would like to point out that never in the history of "the greatest nation on God's green earth" has child molestation been a capital crime. For that matter, I can't think of any state anywhere where molestation is a capital crime. So if he is going to get what he wants from a state, it will have to be a state unlike any that has ever existed.

If you really think God wants child molesters dead, anarchy is the way to bring it about: start small and work up. Find or start a DRO that demands death for child molesters—define the terms any way you like—and there you are. Of course, you'll have to deal with a larger system that might get in your way, but at least it will be in everyone's best interests to listen to each other, unlike our political system that only listens to money and power. Maybe your way will prevail. Or maybe not. But it hasn't prevailed under any state system anywhere in the world at any time. One would think it reasonable to try something other than what has failed every time so far.

*One reason commonly given for the disappearance of Joseph, the husband of the Virgin Mary, from the gospel narratives after Jesus was twelve years old is that he was much older than Mary and died before Jesus began his ministry. Be that as it may, such musings show that the idea of Joseph as a considerably older man is not completely despicable to those who propose it.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

How Does Anarchy Avoid Corruption?

When a friend with whom I share a considerable amount of discontent with our present social systems asked me how I envision police and military working under anarchy, I referred him to an article I wrote years ago adapting the ideas of Stefan Molyneux to a Christian audience. My friend responded at some length:

I don't think your system would work[,] and [it] would eventually become corrupt, as is the present system, which was designed initially to protect the innocent. Incentives do not always prevent crimes, especially [those committed by] criminals who prefer to return to prision. Personally, I think you are too lenient on child molesters - I would put them to death! I do not believe you can have reasonable [conversation] (if such a thing is even warranted) with the parent of a child who was molested.

He has essentially raised two important questions: What would keep anarchy from becoming corrupt? and What should be done with perpetrators of heinous crimes? To keep the size of this post manageable, I will deal with only the first question here and the second in another.

"Incentives do not always prevent crimes." My friend is implying that unless anarchy were to be perfect, it would not be preferable to the status quo, and because I can't promise perfection, he can shake the dust off his feet. But hang on. We have a state system, and it's far from perfect, as he acknowledges. We agree that it was better (the slavery system excepted) two hundred years ago. But it wasn't perfect. There were still crimes committed. So no state can guarantee that crimes will not be permitted.

Today we live in the first nation in history that has targeted civilians with atomic weapons and chemical weapons. Even more surprising, ours is the only nation in history to pass laws making its entire population subject to groping of genitals and female breasts by government agents. My friend would like to see child molesters executed; to that I say, if touching the genitals of a prepubescent is molestation, it is the agents of the state, not anarchists, who should be the objects of his wrath. To disparage anarchism because of potential abuses in the face of such real abuses by "the greatest nation on God's green earth" is breathtaking, to say the least.

So we're back to the question of what system will do a better job of dealing with the human tendency to violate others' bodies and property to further selfish interests. And to deal with that, we need to discuss incentives.

I would agree that incentives do not always prevent crimes. In fact, they can even motivate crime, as my friend claims when he says, "...especially criminals who prefer to return to prision." My friend has proven my point. Humans make almost all important decisions in response to incentives, doing what they think, rightly or wrongly, will be in their own interests. If a prisoner prefers to return to prison rather than to be free, he has—you got it—an incentive to commit crimes.

But let's be biblical. Did Jesus believe in incentives? Ja, you betcha!

"What good is it for a man to gain the whole world, and yet lose or forfeit his very self?" (Lk 9:5). Jesus is appealing to naked self-interest here. Far from telling us not to live for the bottom line, he's implicitly acknowledging that we can't help but live for the bottom line. He's telling us here that the bottom line is further down than we think it is.

"His master replied, 'Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master's happiness!'" (Mt 25:21). "I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full" (Jn 10:10). If the promise of a happy, full life as a reward for faithful obedience isn't an incentive, what is it? Was Jesus disinterestedly stating a fact, or was he using incentives to motivate rational, self-interested people to channel their desires into a conscious effort to love God wholeheartedly and their neighbors sacrificially as themselves?

"But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness." Why? What's in it for me? "All these things will be given to you as well" (Mt 6:33). Ah, now that's incentive!

I'm afraid this argument puts me at odds with these sentiments expressed decades ago by Keith Green (whose spiritual kneecaps I can reach if I stretch):

And when I'm doing well
Help me to never seek a crown
For my reward is giving glory to you.

Brother Keith's words are like those of one proud of his humility. If Jesus believed in incentives, we should too.

So if we can't avoid incentives any more than we can avoid eating or breathing or sleeping, then somewhere in the discussion we need to compare the incentives inherent in an elitist state with those that would exist under anarchy. And let's begin with the Bible.

The first king of Israel was not Saul son of Kish and father of David's friend Jonathan. It was someone we would today call a neoconservative, a fellow named Abimelech (Jg 9:6). Not content with the separation of powers and the checks and balances of his day, he promoted what Dubya's legal advisor John Yoo called the "unitary executive"—and, of course, who better for the job than him?

On the day of his accession, his half-brother Jotham told a parable, the point of which was that people who want to live productive lives have better things to do than to go into government, and those who do go into government will make life miserable for the productive members of society (Jg 9:7-20). Why is that? Because the power that is government provides incentives for its agents to indulgence their natural desires to fulfill the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life (Dt 17:16-20; 1 Sa 8:11-17). And the more powerful the government, the more opportunity for self-indulgence it provides and the less able the populus is to resist it. It follows that the less powerful the government is, the less incentive there is to become part of it and the more incentive there is to continue to produce the oil, wine, and fruit that cheer both God and man. If the most powerful government official in the nation were the town librarian, how fierce would the competition be for the job? The reason politics is such a dirty business is that the stakes are so high: the winners live off the labors of the losers. So everyone wants to be net beneficiaries of government largess and avoid being net taxpayers.

If no one has power over anyone else, how do we get what we need and want from other people? The only avenue open is service. Yes, people would still be sinners under an anarchic system, but the vast majority of them would find that their self-interest is served best through serving their neighbors. Think of your favorite friends and trading partners (merchants, customers, employers, employees) today: are they all Christians? Would you want to insult them by saying that if it weren't for the presence of the police they would rather get what they're after by plunder than by being good neighbors? For that matter, is the threat of jail what keeps you in line?

What does this have to do with Jesus? Well, it seems to me that a greater proportion of the population of the US is going to hell than ever before. How does the view of government espoused by Christians affect that?

Let's take school textbooks as an example. The morality of government schools rests on the idea that people have the right to vote money out of others' pockets to pay for their own children's education: might makes right. Might also makes right regarding the choice of textbooks: whether the biology books teach "creationism" or "evolution" is decided by political power, not by right or wrong: obviously, both sides think they're right and resent the idea of their tax money going to fund books that teach against their version of the truth. So when Christians stand up for their "right" to have their tax money go to books they agree with, they are ipso facto taking others' money for purposes those others disapprove of.
This situation is repeated whenever Christians seek to keep from having their tax money go to purposes they find objectionable, whether erotic art or abortion (or in my case mass murder overseas). Is it any surprise that those who have to fight Christians so that their tax money goes to what they want don't want to listen to the gospel?

The more anarchistic the society, by definition the smaller the government, and the more we Christians are able to say, "What's yours is yours; I won't take it away from you (though maybe I can interest you in a trade). But I do have a message I think you ought to listen to, and I'll leave you free to decide whether or not to accept it." What is not good neighborly about that?

If the Great Commission is about building the kingdom of God rather than preserving or extending the might of our rulers, the more we act like servants and less like wannabe masters, the more likely we are to be the salt and light we are called to be, and the more likely (in human terms) we are to get a hearing.

Is corruption inevitable? Yes. If it can happen to Israel, it can happen to anyone. What was the root cause of the breakdown? The people had rejected God as king over them (1 Sa 8:7); as Cotton Mather said about Massachusetts, "Religion brought forth prosperity, and the daughter destroyed the mother." What was the result? The people wanted a state, and God punished them by giving them one. And far from rescuing Israel from the corruption of anarchism, their state delivered them into the hands of their enemies. Only godliness can keep people from tyranny, and one important component of godliness is that we not trust government (Ps 146:3).

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Anarchy on the Highway on Guy Fawkes Day

My wife and I celebrated Guy Fawkes Day by droving down to Chattanooga after spending the night in Winchester, Virginia. We got on the road just before sunup and were on our way. She had a very important appointment outside Chattanooga, and there was no way we were going to get there in time driving the posted speed limit.

I was surprised at how many cars there were on the road, but even more surprising was that we were all doing about eighty, the usual almost ten miles an hour over the speed limit. I wasn't the fastest car on the road, so those who passed us must have been doing over eighty. When I lived in Virginia during high school, the drivers' manual said that exceeding eighty was considered reckless driving, but I wouldn't have considered anybody there reckless. We were simply making very good time.

It was an anarchist's dream: no police, just hundreds of people who all wanted to get where they were going as fast as they could. I've been in similar situations where there were jerks, people weaving in and out of traffic, going way too fast, but this was a good day. Had there been no posted speed limit, I'm not sure how much faster we would have driven. Gasoline consumption increases exponentially with speed after a certain point, as does wear on the car, so I think I was about at my personal limit, but others might have gone faster. To them I say, "More power to ya, Buddy. Just don't hit anything."

On the return trip, almost as soon as we got into Virginia, even though there was much less traffic on the road, we saw state troopers pulling drivers over right and left. I didn't see how fast the cars were traveling before they were pulled over, but even if they were doing eighty (the speed limit in southern Virginia is sixty-five), I can't imagine that they would have been a hazard to anyone.

But, I hear the angels say, the law is the law, and we must obey it, even if it seems silly. And they might be right. But what if obeying the law is more dangerous than breaking it?

You've seen it happen, I'm sure: On a divided highway with two lanes going your way, two cars are driving side-by-side, neither passing the other. You've been driving faster than they, so you've come up behind the guy in the left lane, hoping he'll either speed up and pass or slow down and let you by. But he does neither.

So you back off, because you are a careful driver and know that you need at least two seconds between you and the car in front of you. Long about this time someone comes up behind you, dips into the right lane, then comes between you and the car in front of you. Then another car comes and does the same thing to him, and before you know it, you're ten cars behind the car you were originally tailing. And unless you're more spiritual than I am—not that that's particularly difficult—you're pretty hot under the collar. Right away, that's danger, and the passing on the right is a hazard per se. (I've even seen people pass such blockades on the shoulder.)

Now, if John Law is sitting by the side of the road with his radar gun, he's not going to catch blockading. He'll either be content because everyone is obeying the speed limit or unhappy that he has to wait longer to fulfill his ticket quota. Patrolmen in private life may be the nicest people you'll ever meet, but in that capacity they're worse than useless.

Then there are the times when the vehicle in front of you is driving erratically, and you need to go well over the speed limit for a few seconds to get by him quickly. (My driver ed class said this was OK when passing on a two-lane road so you could spend less time in the oncoming lane, but that was forty years ago and may not be relevant.) If that's when you hit the radar zone, what can the cop think but that you've been speeding all along?

Am I the only one who thinks that this ticketing of speeders is arbitrary (and thus unjust) at best and malicious at worst? Yes, God has ordained the powers that be, but can't he do any better than this?

If safety, not tickets, were the true object of highway patrol work, wouldn't it make more sense for the patrolmen to be on the road, driving exactly the speed limit (instead of five or, more often, ten miles per hour faster, as I see most doing, without lights or sirens), sporting a believable threat to ticket anyone who passes them? I saw that happen once driving west from Chicago; one cop car with at least a hundred vehicles stacked up behind him. I wasn't in a hurry, so I didn't mind, but if I had been, my resentment would have been against the folks who set the speed limit, not against the guy in the car. How different that would be from the way I felt about the guys pulling over drivers on an almost empty road in Virginia that day.

Need I also mention that this system wouldn't require a guy with a six-figure salary (if you factor in pension and other bennies) to drive a six-figure muscle car to implement? A high schooler in a Smart Car with a camera could do the job (provided he had the requisite character) for twice what he'd make at McDonalds for a quarter the cost of deploying a highway patrolman. And that's only if we decide speed control is needed, which I think remains to be proven.

Even better, of course, would be if the roads were privately owned. There would need to be some kind of police activity, to be sure, but the patrolmen then would be like bouncers in a bar; their message would be, "We want to keep you as a customer, but we also want to keep our other customers happy." The idea of treating a rude driver like a criminal would be far from the ethos of the private highway, though not nealy as far away as using traffic tickets to top off municipal coffers.

I know, "We live in a fallen world, and your system wouldn't be perfect." Would there be jerks in an anarchic system? Yes. Would innocent people die in accidents? Yes.

Does that all happen now? Yes. Does ticketing a small fraction of violators, most of whom pose no real hazard, make up for the failure of the system to protect lives and promote justice? No.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Christian Nudists? (Part 2)

(Part 1 is here.)

––Hey, you're back. Did you enjoy your trip?

––Sure did.

––How was the flight?

––Fine. Why?

––Did you have to go through one of those new naked-body scanners?

––No, I just went through the metal detector. But the plate in my thigh set it off, so I had to go through the wand routine, as usual.

––What would you have done if they'd told you to go through the strip searcher?

––I'd have gone through. What's the big deal? They're protecting us from terrorists. Better to have to go through the imaging than have a bomb blow up the plane.

––Even if it's a woman manning the screen?


––Would you want your daughter to be that woman?

––I want my daughter to aim for better jobs than staring at a screen all day.

––Good boy. But how about if she did it part-time, you know, nights and weekends, while she's on her way to the corner office?

––I can't imagine she'd get much of a thrill looking at naked men. Women aren't affected that way, you know. That's why they can work in places men can't, like nurseries and children's hospitals and senior centers.

––And there are no exceptions to that?

––There might be.

––And you don't mind taking the chance that you're giving some chick a thrill?

––Nope. She'd have to be pretty desperate to get a thrill from looking at me!

––Wouldn't that make you an accessory to her . . . should I say . . . perversion? Or how about taking it off for a gay man? Is that OK?

––That's a chance I'm willing to take.

––Isn't contributing to the delinquency of a minor an offense?


––But helping an adult satisfy his perversions isn't.

––Pfft. Besides, the pictures aren't that clear.

––The pictures are clear enough to show whether your trouser cobra still has his hood. Do you think there's no one being paid big bucks to make sure that the pictures will get clearer as time goes by?

––They probably will, but so what? The faces get pixelated out.

––Do you think nobody knows how to turn off the pixelation?

––So what? The images can't be stored.

––Yes, they can.

––Anyway, so what?

––How about your wife? Do you want her virtually naked for some guy?

––Well, you have to do what you have to do to fly these days.

––What if it were determined that the scanners pose a bigger health hazard than we know now? How dangerous would they have to be before you said we shouldn't have them?

––I don't know. I'd leave that to the government to determine.

––Right. Romans 13 says they always do what's right. So it's right to put the scanners in because they're not harmful, but if they're found to be harmful, it will be right to take them out, but it still won't have been wrong to have put them in in the first place. Government can never sin.

––Some governments can.

––But not Uncle Sam.

––You're just ungrateful.

––OK, let's say they decide to take them out for some reason. You've said the strip searches are necessary. How do they do the strip searches without the scanners? Do we have to literally go naked to fly then?

––Like I said, it's the government's responsibility to do what it has to do to make flying safe. If they had to do real body searches, we can be reasonably sure they would divide the passengers up by sex to inspect them.

––You wouldn't mind having a gay man inspect you?

––How would I know he's gay?

––Silly me, I forgot; the HR guys can't ask about that. OK, but if you were in charge, what would you do with a woman flying with an eight-year-old boy? Does she go in with the men, or does he go in with the women?

––That would be for the government to determine.

––And government never gets it wrong. OK, so it's OK for some guy to give your wife the choice of being naked for him or not flying?

––They wouldn't put male inspectors in the female line.

––Male inspectors see female passengers on the scanners and pat down their boobs and crotches today.

––Well, doctors see and touch naked women all the time. It's no big deal to them.

––Does your wife like having male doctors see her naked?

––Not particularly.

––The last time we got near this subject, you said that you think nudist colonies are immoral.

––Oh, good grief, not this again.

––Yes, this again. You're saying it's OK for men to see women naked when the women would prefer not to be naked, but it's not OK for them to see women who don't mind being seen naked. You don't mind having a strange man force your wife and daughter to be naked for him, but to keep them from being forced to wear a burqa you're willing to kill innocent people overseas. Am I the only one who thinks this is crazy?

––When it's necessary, nakedness is OK. When it's not necessary, it's not OK. What's so hard about that?

––Is it really necessary? If there were no searches at all, how many terrorists would be on the planes?

––Well, one's too many.

––Granted, but what proportion of the flying public is terrorist? More than half?

––No, of course not.

––Ninety percent?

––Maybe one in a million. But that's still too many.

––Granted again, but if it's one in a million, that means that the search is not necessary for 99.999999% of those being stripped, right? So they're being forced to go naked when it's not necessary, which you just said is immoral.

––Oh, come on. we don't know who that one in a million is, so we have to search everyone.

––If you had a check for a million dollars in your hand yesterday but couldn't find it today, would you search in a million places you were reasonably sure you'd never been to?

––You're being illogical. If I had been in a million places since I was given the check, I could conceivably search in any or all of them; the only limit would be time. Or if I'd been with a bunch of strangers, I'd want to search all of them.

––But if you'd been with your friends, would you search them, too?

––Of course not.

––Do you know who your friends are?

––Of course.

––But wouldn't one of your friends be more likely to steal the check, knowing you wouldn't search them?

––Maybe I would have to search my friends.

––If you did that, would you end up with fewer friends?


––But that's a chance you'd be willing to take for a million dollars.

––No, not really. But when human life is concerned, you can't be too careful.

––I see. The "collateral damage" overseas isn't human.

––You know what I mean.

––I'm afraid I do. Anyway, so why doesn't the government know who its friends are? Why does it search everyone?

––How would they know who is and isn't their friend otherwise?

––I don't know, but if they're as wonderful as you think they are, can't they be trusted to come up with a way?

––I don't know. Maybe.

––Would asking them to come up with an alternative be better than having your wife strip-searched?

––I don't know. Do you?


––I wouldn't want to take the chance.

––If they're going to assume everyone's their enemy, that means no one can ever be considered innocent, because innocence is the absence of guilt, and proving a negative is impossible.

––So see, you can't get away from the scanners.

––I was thinking it would be good for our government to learn how to make friends.

––What have you been smoking?

––Well, I have to wonder why, if they're convinced everyone, including us, is a potential enemy, they make such a big deal about protecting us. If we're their enemies, wouldn't they treat us like enemies? Come to think of it, isn't that the way they are treating us? Maybe we really are their enemies. Or we would be if we knew the truth. Maybe they really are our enemies.

––You should be grateful to live in a free country.

––Having my wife and daughter strip-searched is freedom? And you have trouble with nudist colonies! Do you have trouble with locker rooms, or Boy Scouts skinny dipping?

––I'm not excited about them. What are you getting at?

––When you were a kid did you ever check out the plumbing on the other guys in the locker room?

––Of course.

––On the sly, of course.

––Of course.

––Was that wrong?

––I think it was just curiosity.

––Have you ever snuck a peak at a guy's pecker in a locker room as an adult?

––None of your business.

––Right. I'm a nosy puppy. Please forgive me. But let's say you've got a bunch of Boy Scouts on a hike, they go skinny dipping, and one of them pulls out his cell phone and takes a picture, and for some reason no one objects. How are we doing? Would that be OK?

––I'm not sure.

––Fair enough. After he takes the picture, he shows the picture to the guys who are standing there. If taking the picture were OK, has he crossed a line into immorality by showing it to the guys whose picture he just took?

––I don't think so.

––And if they all check out each other's third legs in the picture, has the guy that showed the picture done something immoral?

––Why would they do that?

––Because they're a bunch of twelve-year-old guys! Weren't you ever twelve years old?

––Keep going.

––Or say it was a camera. OK?


––He doesn't delete the picture. After the hike, he shows it to a bunch of guys who weren't there when the picture was taken. Is that OK?

––Well, now you're getting into questionable territory.

––The guys in the picture volunteered to be in the picture. They trust the guy who owns the camera and don't force him to delete the picture. The whole point of the picture was to publicize their privy members. They were looking each other over in person, and they looked each other over when they looked at the picture. The guy shows the picture to a guy, knowing full well this guy is going to look at the picture for exactly the same reasons the picture was taken in the first place. So where's the line?

––Next you'll be telling me it would be OK to show the picture to a girl.

––Well, didn't you say girls don't get affected by seeing naked men? So that should be OK, right, especially if the guys in the picture don't want girls to see them naked?

––Now come on, I didn't mean that.

––Sorry, I couldn't resist. But let's say a bunch of girls go skinny dipping and take pictures of each other. Is that the same rules as it was for the boys?

––I see where you're headed. If it's OK for them to show the pictures to each other, it's OK to show it to other girls, then it's OK to show it to the boys, then it's OK for them all to take their clothes off, and you're back to your question about nudist colonies.

––Nothing gets past you!

––I can't go along with your reasoning. I think the whole thing is an affront to God.

––But what goes on at the airports is not an affront to God.

––Listen, God is working his purposes out through all his ordained leaders in our government. This isn't something we need to be concerned about.

––You're absolutely right. He is working his purposes out—just like he was working them out in Germany in the '30s and '40s.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Boots on the Ground

When I was a kid, my dad was in the Air Force reserves. One weekend a month he would get out the nifty shoe shining contraption we stored in a cabinet with the pet food in the laundry room, hang it on the bracket screwed into the cabinet, get out his military dress shoes, slip one over a sort of rounded triangle at the front, move the heel holder back along the track behind the triangle, secure it by tightening a wing nut, and spend a few minutes brushing on polish and buffing the shoe with a soft cloth. I don't know if he had the shiniest shoes in the office—Did I tell you he flew a desk? All the leaves on my branch of the family fly desks. Maybe the new Whitney coat of arms should have a desk on it.—but no one seeing him would say he was on his way to fly an airplane, or even fix one, let alone headed for a combat zone.

A few times a year Mom and I would go to visit him on Sunday afternoons. We'd get there just about quitting time, and occasionally I was invited into the office. I even got to shake hands with Steve Bramwell, who, during the University of Washington Huskies' glory days, once ran an opening kickoff ninety-something yards for a touchdown.

Everyone there dressed like Dad: they had on pressed uniforms, maybe even neckties (I'm not sure—it's been a while). I seem to remember that the guys I saw actually walking around the planes had on uniforms, but they were work clothes. I didn't look to see if their shoes were shined, but I would expect they weren't permitted to wear shabby shoes.

So I was somewhat surprised when I visited my son awhile back to see that even though he too now flies a desk, he goes to work in camouflage fatigues. Maybe what he wears is ersatz camouflage, stuff he wouldn't wear if he were actually in a war zone, but it looks like it's made out of rip-resistant fabric. It certainly doesn't look like what one would wear to any other office job.

What really makes me think he's only a helmet and a weapon short of battle dress is his footwear. He wears beige boots, what Dad used to call boondockers, except made out of God knows what instead of black leather. He needs boots to fly a desk?

Maybe that's the Army, I thought. Wrong.

I've recently run into a member of our church who's in the Air Force a couple of times at evening church activities, a guy so gifted in logistics that making a pilot of him would be a waste, and he's dressed exactly the same way: camouflage and boots. A pencil jockey for the Air Force needs camouflage and boots to do his job?

When I saw my father in his work uniform, I would think, "This is not a war zone. They don't dress like this in war zones. There is no war going on. [The Vietnamese would have disagreed with me somewhat on that one.] We are at peace." It was like getting a smile from an intelligent guy with two hundred pounds of solid muscle he's not afraid to use.

I don't think we're supposed to view "our" military that way anymore. When our rulers talk about moving people—make that personnel; I'm not sure they're thought of as people—to a war zone, they talk about "putting boots on the ground." Well, the boots are on the ground here in the good old USA.

And lest we think those in charge don't mean business, we should remember the words of President Dubya, who said that the military was in Iraq to give Iraqis the "same freedoms Americans enjoy." New Orleaneans found out what that meant after Hurricane Katrina, when the same military—and some of the same soldiers, I would guess—that had kicked down doors and confiscated weapons in Baghdad kicked down doors and confiscated weapons in New Orleans. The main difference I can see is that the Iraqis were permitted to stay in their homes and face the dangers if they so chose, but the New Orleaneans weren't.

Seeing "our courageous men and women" walking around in battle dress lite makes me feel secure, all right—as secure as a Dutchman after the Blitzkrieg.