Wednesday, August 17, 2005

Pickin' A Fight

Psalm 144:1 (King James Version)

1 “Blessed be the LORD my strength which teacheth my hands to war, and my fingers to fight”

One of my favorite all time movie scenes comes in Mel Gibson’s “Braveheart.” In the scene, William Wallace, played by Gibson, has gathered the Scottish clans on the field of battle against the army of Edward I. His aim is to end the English occupation of Scotland. Wallace is prepared for battle, but the other clan leaders appear to be willing to compromise. The English bring a small contingent to the center of the field, carrying terms of surrender. As the clan leaders begin to ride out to hear the terms, one asks Wallace what his intentions are. His answer is brief, and to the point, “I’m goin’ to pick a fight!” he declares.

Wallace paid a heavy price for his courage. He won the battle, but lost the war. He was betrayed, turned over to the English, tried, convicted, and executed in grisly fashion:

“On 23rd August 1305, he was executed. At that time (and for the next 550 years), the punishment for the crime of treason was that the convicted traitor was dragged to the place of execution, hanged by the neck (but not until he was dead), and disemboweled (or drawn) while still alive. His entrails were burned before his eyes, he was decapitated and his body was divided into four parts (or quartered). Accordingly, this was Wallace's fate. His head was impaled on a spike and displayed at London Bridge, his right arm on the bridge at Newcastle-upon-Tyne, his left arm at Berwick, his right leg at Perth, and the left leg at Aberdeen.”

While those events took place over seven hundred years ago, I find that they resonate with me and my view of the new millennium world.

I suppose we’re more civilized in much of the world now. We don’t draw and quarter people. We don’t decapitate them and impale their heads on spikes in public places. We have organizations and laws to protect civilization from tyrants of all stripes, and we have a generally accepted sense of decency.

Or do we?

It seems to me that, while the battles today are often waged on different battlefields than centuries ago, and the punishment meted out to those who rebel against the occupiers of the social landscape seems benign, the end result I observe is every bit as gruesome as the events of William Wallace’s day. There are only two differences I can see over time. First, the skewering today is much more sophisticated, much more polite, than it was seven hundred years ago. And, second, the battles aren’t taking place on open fields; they’re taking place in shopping malls, our court system, and in our public media.

Let me explain.

This past Monday Nancy and I took my oldest granddaughter to a large indoor mall in Topeka to get some back to school clothes, etc. for her. While we did find some of the things she needed, we also found out how crass the marketing aimed at America’s young people has become. Our first stop was a Spencer’s store. Ashley was looking for some pin on buttons for the book bag we’d gotten her earlier in Kansas City. I could see why she’d chosen this store as I looked at the display window when we entered. There were signs touting back-to-school sales, bright colors outlining the displays, and so forth. The store’s target audience was clear – this was a place made for America’s youth.

As Ashley began her search I walked around, curious about what, beyond the sales and colorful displays, was attracting young people. This is what I found. There were tee-shirts by the hundreds, almost all of which had the same theme and the same words emblazoned on them. Almost all of them were black, with red, pink, lime green, or silver lettering. And, almost all of them used the “F” word generously. One read “F” off. Another read “F” you. Another read don’t tell me what the “F” to do. The more I looked, the more familiar it seemed. I began to wonder, based on my experience as a blogger, if some young bloggers group had been moonlighting for Spencer’s to support their internet habit.

But that was just the beginning. At the front of the store there was a display of phallic symbols. There were phallic cookies, made expressly to dip in milk or soda. There were penile enlargement devices, boxed in bright colors. But there was even more. On the opposite side of that display was another filled with miniature ceramic teddy bears, made to be sold as key chains. Whoever had made these things had done their homework well. They’d seen Boyd’s bears and this was a clear attempt to capitalize on the their popularity. But these bears were bearing another message altogether, a counter-culture message. For example, there was one with a young male teddy bear dressed only in his underpants, with his right hand strategically placed in his pants, masturbating. There was another of a young male bear engaged in sex with a sheep. There was another who was in the throes of anal intercourse with a pig.

I’m sure that by now that many younger readers of this blog have tuned me out. In their minds I’m just a puritanical old man who is totally out of step with the times. If that’s the case I intend to stay out of step with the times. I find messages like bestiality and anal intercourse offensive enough for an adult, but I’m especially offended that this is being peddled out in the open to kids, with cute little teddy bears on the ends of key chains used as bait.

I’m sure the marketers see this as part of a three step process. First, captivate them, then capture them, and finally enslave them.

I think I can even hear the peddlers’ responses as I write. “If you don’t like it, don’t shop here.” “We’ve got the right to do what we’re doing.” Let’s see if I have it right. They have the right to peddle bestiality and anal intercourse and I have the right to ignore it, to walk by and just pretend it’s not happening. It's as simple as that.

It all has a familiar ring to it. Just ignore it like the world ignored tyrants like Saddam Hussein who ran hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of human beings through shredding machines, firing squads, and torture chambers for years.

Well, I can’t. My eyes are opened and I see all of this for what it’s worth. On the international scene we ignored a grisly economy of scale for close to a generation while civilized men profited from the bribes that induced ignorance and indifference to the plight of the tortured, killed, and maimed. I observe the things going on at the mall and what I see is a smaller, subtler, economy of scale at work. Our kids’ morals and dignity are being run through the shredders of profit and indecency, propped up by free market economics, and, parents and adults, the ones who should be responsible for the welfare of those being abused, are being bribed into silence with “enlightenment.”
I have no doubt what their response to me would be if we were having a conversation about all of this right now. “Enlightened people,” they would say, “allow their children the freedom to explore life in all its dimensions.” I also know what my response to them would be – “Get your head out of the sixties. Get them out of your hind most parts. Stop chanting “enlightenment” and wake up to the reality around you. Your sons and daughters are being run through the profit shredders and mall torture chambers. And, all the while it’s happening, you’re sitting around sipping zinfandel and quoting Noam Chomsky or some other darling of enlightenment. Wake up, for God’s sake. Wake up!”

But the mall is only one of the battlefields where this war is being waged. Our courts, especially those at the highest levels, are also an integral part of this conspiracy of enlightenment. For years now they’ve ruled against religion in any form. That’s bad enough, but recent events have only compounded the damage they’re doing. One June 23rd, the Supreme Court ruled in Kelo vs. New London that private property interests could now be trumped by corporate interests, widening the reach of eminent domain to places it’s never before been. The message sent by the court is clear. Communities really don’t matter. The compelling interest, the glue that holds American society together, is economic. What does that mean for churches, synagogues, and mosques, the institutions that should really be the glue holding us together? Today made the following observation about the June ruling:

“While many legal analysts say that a Supreme Court ruling broadening the definition of eminent domain will primarily hurt the poor, Christian churches may face an increased risk of having their property seized by local government.”

“Lawyers for religious organizations sharply criticized the high court's June 23 decision in Kelo v. New London. The Court ruled that a Connecticut town could condemn private homes to promote primarily commercial interests, not for what has traditionally been known as public use, such as the construction of a freeway.”

“City governments will be emboldened to some extent by the Court's decision, and may begin to target church properties,” Richard Hammar, editor of Church Law and Tax Report, told CT.”

“Derek Gaubatz, director of litigation for the Becket Fund, concurred. “It is not an idle concern,” Gaubatz said. Because of their tax-exempt status, churches “will be in the crosshairs" of local governments seeking more tax revenue, he said.”

I’m sure that justices Ginsburg, Souter, Kennedy, et al, would argue that there was some higher, enlightened purpose, in what they did. But, in reality, with the stroke of five pens they found a back door into the institutions that, in their minds, have been stubbornly refusing to be enlightened.

Once they made their ruling they probably celebrated by playing enlightenment games like bridge or canasta. So much for enlightenment. Centuries ago Nero fiddled while Rome burned. The esteemed justices just updated the image, that’s all. They now bid in spades and clubs after pouring gasoline on the fire. But Nero is still Nero, no matter how pretty a robe you put on him.

Where is it all going? Who knows for sure? The one thing I can say is that it’s not heading in the right direction. As Bob Dylan once observed, we’ve “got gangsters in power and law breakers making the rules.

And, while all this is happening, the media is now descending on Crawford, Texas, to lionize Cindy Sheehan. Ms. Sheehan, a “grieving” mother of a son killed in Iraq, has something other grieving mothers don’t. She’s got media savvy, an agenda, and media support. With that in tow, she’s been transformed into a cause-celebre, a star. Not long ago she was an unknown, but today, thanks to an adoring media, she’s an expert on the war in Iraq and the long standing Israeli-Palestinian dispute. Her answer to it all has an all familiar ring to it. “Get out of Iraq, end our support of the “Jews,” and everything will be fine.” What does she know about these things? Not much. She’s a grieving mother and I suppose that counts for something. But there are over a thousand grieving mothers in this country right now and there are at least hundreds of thousands who’ve lost loved ones at Saddam’s hands who might have newsworthy opinions on American involvement in the Middle-East. But, no matter. The media shares her agenda and she is now an “expert” on international relations. She’s been all but anointed as a saint by CNN, Anderson Cooper, and their media cohorts and she’s loving every minute in the limelight they’re giving her.

I find it all rather ironic. I’ve never seen the media anoint any of Saddam’s victims for sainthood. Why? They were too busy cozying up to Saddam in the run-up to the war and too busy redefining terrorists as insurgents after the war to be concerned with people who’d had their sons and daughters murdered, raped, beaten, and run through shredders. And, they were too busy fawning all over the “insurgency” or protecting Judith Miller to care about them after Saddam was captured.

Every time I mention this to folks at our local newspaper I get the same response. “Freedom of the press,” they remind me. Hidden in that little message is the notion (which they would strenuously deny) that their freedom trumps all other freedoms. They try to sell me on the notion that what they print is all about truth and ideas. I’ve long since passed the place where I believe that. It’s all about agendas and power. They care no more about Cindy Sheehan than she cares about her lost son. In fact, I’ll be so bold as to say that, if they could, they would prop Saddam back up and hand him the reins of power once more. After all, tyrants make better copy than victims.

So, this tirade ends for me where it began, at the mall. The sights I saw on Monday were a catalyst. Now I want to pick a fight. My fingers, as Holy Writ says, want to fight. Our children, our institutions, our concepts, and our values are under assault. The assault is taking place in the Sunni Triangle. It’s taking place in the Kurdish north of Iraq. And, it’s taking place in our shopping malls, our courts, and our media. It’s a coup d’etat of sorts, a coup by consumption, a coup by fiat, and a coup by “enlightenment.” I see it happening and I want to fight.

Yesterday I received a wonderful series of questions from a commenter known as “Your Son.” This is what he had to say:

“Being a Gen Xer I would like to pose a question. Where does “vision” come from, and can one simply be given “vision” or must one be challenged to create their own “vision?” There have been no significant challenges for my generation. We've gone untested. Both World Wars, the Great Depression, the civil rights movement were all major challenges for their respective generations. Those challenges influenced people and shaped their vision. The most historically significant events of my lifetime are occurring in the present. These events are the ones that will test us. Over the last few years it already has. It has tested our resolve and our since of morality. The events of the last few years have also tested our political ideologies. Perhaps when these events become events of the past and not the present, we will have our vision.”

They’re really good questions and deserve answers.

First, the vision comes from both within and without. Go to your local mall and see for yourself, then go home and search your heart. You’ll see something then, too. Second, you must both create vision and open your heart to it. It will come to you as you come to it. If you do those things you will see the challenges of your generation.

I’ll close now with questions for “Your Son” and the generation he represents. Are you tired of being shredded by consumption? Are you tired of being brutalized by “enlightenment?” Are you tired of having values assaulted? If you are, there is only one thing you can do. You too must be ready to pick a fight.


Glyn (Zaphod) Evans said...

I must bookmark this for later. So far, excellent post!

Gone Away said...

Oh, I think you'll get your fight, Phil. I can see the Enlightened Ones massing already...

Phil Dillon, Prairie Apologist said...


I hope so. The lines between me and heaven are already burning. I've asked the Almighty to make their inventory rot and the profits dry up.

I'm also organizing a church wide boycott. I told the guys in our men's group tonight that if I got word that their kids were frequenting Spencer's I'd put my foot in their (the parents) rear ends.

Let 'em come. God and I make a majority on this one!

puremood said...

You've some really good writing here... tho it's lengthy and I can't even sit sitll long enough to read all you write. ;)

Blue Goldfish said...

I just discovered your blog and I agree with your assessment and appreciate your passion. We are not that far apart in age and I believe one sees the world so much differently when one becomes a parent or a grandparent.

The world chews up the vulnerable and the innocent - also children and unborn children - without regard. And you are right, it is all about agenda and power. But, they will not win - ultimately. The victory is God's and our future is in his hands.

And, in the meantime - as you write - we must be prepared to pick a fight and to fight hard with focus. We must also choose our battles carefully. And, like Wallace, we must pick our friends and place our trust carefully.

You may be interested in my post related to our recent viewing of the film The Great Raid and its reminder for us about God's love - even in the midst of evil and its minions.

Thanks again for the post.

James Fletcher Baxter said...

Many problems in human experience are the result of
false and inaccurate definitions of humankind premised
in man-made religions and humanistic philosophies.

Human knowledge is a fraction of the whole universe.
The balance is a vast void of human ignorance. Human
reason cannot fully function in such a void; thus, the
intellect can rise no higher than the criteria by which it
perceives and measures values.

Humanism makes man his own standard of measure.
However, as with all measuring systems, a standard
must be greater than the value measured. Based on
preponderant ignorance and an egocentric carnal
nature, humanism demotes reason to the simpleton
task of excuse-making in behalf of the rule of appe-
tites, desires, feelings, emotions, and glands.

Because man, hobbled in an ego-centric predicament,
cannot invent criteria greater than himself, (even if he is a grandfather) the humanist
lacks a predictive capability. Without instinct or trans-
cendent criteria, humanism cannot evaluate options with
foresight and vision for progression and survival. Lack-
ing foresight, man is blind to potential consequence and
is unwittingly committed to mediocrity, collectivism,
averages, and regression - and worse. Humanism is an
unworthy worship.

The void of human ignorance can easily be filled with
a functional faith while not-so-patiently awaiting the
foot-dragging growth of human knowledge and behav-
ior. Faith, initiated by the Creator and revealed and
validated in His Word, the Bible, brings a transcend-
ent standard to man the choice-maker. Other philo-
sophies and religions are man-made, humanism, and
thereby lack what only the Bible has:

1.Transcendent Criteria and
2.Fulfilled Prophetic Validation.

The vision of faith in God and His Word is survival
equipment for today and the future.

Human is earth's Choicemaker. Psalm 25:12 He is by
nature and nature's God a creature of Choice - and of
Criteria. Psalm 119:30,173 His unique and definitive
characteristic is, and of Right ought to be, the natural
foundation of his environments, institutions, and re-
spectful relations to his fellow-man. Thus, he is orien-
ted to a Freedom whose roots are in the Order of the
universe. Life is all about 'sowing and reaping.' selah

"Got Criteria?" See Psalm 119:1-176

your son said...

I am tired, and I am fighting. Many of us in Gen X are fighting and taking a stand. In fact, most of the soldiers dying in Afghanistan and Iraq are Gen Xers. I was "enlightened" in the past, although it was more like being brainwashed. Brainwashed into believing in the motto "it's not my responsibility". I used that motto to my advantage whenever I could. I see things much more clearly now. I no longer believe that "it's not my responsibility". Like my fellow Gen Xers dying on the front lines, I will no longer turn a blind eye to the transgressions of my fellow man, nor will I turn a blind eye to my own transgressions. I will stand up for my beliefs, for my fellow man and for my country. I am my brothers keeper and will not go quietly into the night.

Anonymous said...

Hi Phil,
Since I don't have children I'm not often exposed to stuff like this going on. I'm not blind, just not seeing it all the time. How can we not step up and fight?

I'm glad you shared this and I'm definitely on your side in this. Just shows how far the world is degenerating but we must do our part to continue to live out our lives as a witness. While stores and corporations may be thinking only about profits at no matter the expense, one day we all stand before our Maker.

We do still need to be a voice, no matter the naysayers. God bless you for your holy boldness.

In Christ Jesus
Kim Bloomer
Sharing Spirit