Know Nothings got to go

Last year I went to an artsy performance about immigration.  It included actors performing monologues about immigrating to the US interspersed with inspiring music pieces.  It brought little tears to my eyes as I thought about how my grandfather must have felt coming to the US from Sicily and seeing the Statue of Liberty in New York before he made his way to Chicago.

My grandfather did not know how to read, and spoke only broken English.  His prior life had been as a goat-herd in the hills of Sicily and so when he came here, he had few opportunities.  Eventually he worked as a gardener and in a factory and worked himself to a heart attack in his 50’s.  He raised 10 children in a tiny house in the Chicago Suburbs.  Three of his sons became lawyers.  Almost every one of his 30+ grandchildren went to college.

He was an anchor baby.  Born in the US to immigrant parents, he was a citizen by birth, not by heritage.  In fact, his parents returned with him to Sicily soon after he was born.  When he came back as a teenager, it was the geography of his birth that gave him entry.

In the 1930’s, with a young wife and family to support and job prospects bleak, he moonshined for Al Capone; a job as reviled in that day as weed dealers today (which is to say that almost everyone had had a drink, but nobody thought they themselves deserved to be in prison for it, and was mostly treated in society with a wink and a nod, unless you got caught selling, in which case you were a monster).  (*My grandfather’s history as a moonshiner for Al Capone was the first story my grandmother told to my wife when the met.  Good work, Nona!)

In my life when I was a teacher, I had lots of Hispanic students who didn’t give a crap; but I had lots of white students who were the same.  I also had lots of super-motivated kids whose legal status you quickly learned not to mention.  It would be heartbreaking for America to lose some of those them because of Nativism.

And look, everyone knows that white America makes a distinction between the “right” immigrants and the “wrong” ones.  If you want proof, look and see if the Donald wants to build a border across Canada, or wants to put ankle bracelets on people travelling here on visas (visa overstay accounts for up to 50% of illegal immigrants, by some estimates).  I come from Chicago, which has its fair share of (especially) Irish and Polish immigrants who are here illegally.  I do not see Republicans yelling about them.

One of the differences between conservatives and progressives has to be that conservatives see people as resources of the state and progressives see people as burdens on the state (this belief that the poor are burdens is the fountainhead of the eugenics/planned parenthood movement).  Conservatives need to see that immigrants are good for America and that we want as many of them as we can get.

Argument 1: “I just want people to respect the law.  The law needs to be respected.”  Bullshit.  I know this is bullshit because the people who say this also speed, and run stoplights, and jaywalk, and whatever is convenient for them at the time.  This argument essentially means “I just want respect for the law unless it’s something that I don’t think should be illegal, in which case I should be allowed to break it.  But still no more Mexicans!”

Argument 2: “There are so many people who did it the right way! Everyone should wait their turn.”  I have a lot of sympathy for people that have a difficult legal immigration path to the US.  The right answer, though, is to admit that we have a bad system and let in more people, and let the people who are here get documentation and stay.

Argument 3: “They need to go back home and then we can admit them legally.”  Sure, and when you get stopped for speeding while on the way to work, it’s entirely reasonable that the cop should make you go back home, re-take a driver’s test, and then you can drive to work.

Argument 4: “All they do is take up welfare benefits!”  Hell, there are entire parts of the US right now that are like this.  What are we going to do, take everyone from Beattyville, KY and deport them?  Maybe the problem is that we make it hard for people to get off welfare, and easy for people to go on it.  I hear this from family members that work in the health care field that the immigrants they see are lazies who know one word in English: “gimme!”.  They then tell me about all the Hispanics who work in the health care field with them.  Maybe the “lazy” people would be a little more industrious if we allowed them to get real jobs and not look over their shoulders every second for ICE.

The Republican party during my lifetime has been the party that stood for economic freedom, traditional family values, and Constitutionalism.  To hear that party (which rightly reads the very clear “the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed”) now second guessing “All persons born or naturalized in the United States and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside” as not indicating birthright citizens makes me very, very sad.

There is no real alternative to the Democratic Party (which, you know, is all about slicing through the heads of babies to get at their brains because Science).  I would hate for there to be no safe place for people like me to vote.

Five Reasons Conservatives and Progressives Should Have Gardens

For Conservatives:

1)  Most of the time, the plants just grow by themselves without a lot of help, but sometimes you need to interfere to make sure that one or two of them thrive.  The plants don’t get to choose their soil, how much light they get, or if they get enough water.  Sometimes you need to get in there and give them a hand

2)  It’s easy to look at some plants and say “Grow faster!” and “Do better!” and “Why can’t you produce as much as the other guy next to you!”, but that isn’t going to help.

3)  In gardening, when you’ve grown enough for yourself, you give the rest away to friends and neighbors or else it just rots and stinks everything up.

4)  Every garden requires at least some planning beforehand.  Every garden requires at least some guidance.  The flowers are no less free to thrive because someone made sure they all had food and water.

5)  If all the plants in one part of the garden die, chances are pretty good that there’s a deeper reason than just “those are lazy plants.”

For Progressives:

1)  You have to get rid of the weeds.  Yes, technically they are still plants, but if you don’t get rid of them, nothing else can thrive.  If you want roses, you have to get rid of the weeds.  You can’t just try to convince the weeds to transform into roses.

2)  Gardening is the purest example of why Capitalism works.  You yourself pick which things to grow and invest the effort in growing them.  Useless raw material (dirt, sun, filthy water, and some little baby seeds) turn into finished goods and services.  Nobody wants someone telling them what they can and cannot do with their time and effort.

3)  Sometimes things need to be pruned.  Just because you have an established plant doesn’t mean that you just let it grow forever without further consideration.  Sometimes being in charge means you have to get rid of the useless parts of a plant to make sure the parts you really want stay healthy.

4) Some plants give you very predictable results.  Others have unintended consequences.  Don’t forget the thorns when you’re planting the roses.  If you put too much fertilizer on a plant, it dies.  Giving something too much help is just as bad as not giving it enough sometimes.

5)  If you get rid of the seeds, you are, in essence, getting rid of the plants.  The seeds are the plants.

The Scarlet Letter

I used to argue a lot with friends about abortion.  I generally don’t any more.  I think as I’ve gotten older, I’ve realized the following things.

1) We humans are capable of just about any kind of imaginable evil.  I’ve studied and taught classes on gladiators in Ancient Rome and chattel slavery in the Americas.  I’m aware of human sacrifice by the Aztecs, the Terror Famine in the Ukraine under Soviet rule, and the series of genosuicides in China under Mao.  There is no limit to the human capacity to kill, in small and large scale, other humans.

2) There seems to be a notion that humans, especially mothers, would not knowingly kill their own children “if only they knew” what they were doing.  This is goal of shaming laws requiring ultrasounds, etc.  Perhaps this is true for many, many people.  Perhaps some of these laws have forced women to reconsider their choices and choose not to have someone assassinate their children.

But there is no shortage of humans in our population that do not feel that way, who are not swayed by the “don’t kill people, and especially don’t kill your own children” taboo that the rest of us seem to take as a base moral compass.

Sometimes dads rape their daughters.  Sometimes slave-owners enslave their own children.  Sometimes teachers and priests and Boy Scout leaders molest children.  Sometimes mothers kill their babies.

I think back on the story arc of the TV show Maude, where Bea Arthur’s titular character chooses to have an abortion.  What always gets me is the line where she says, “Pour me a double, I’m drinking for two, now.”  This is not a woman who was unaware that there was another living person inside her.  This is a woman who doesn’t care.

Among the first four people in the Bible, 25% of them turn out to be murderers, which is, I guess, as good a ballpark as any in estimating the number of people who live in our society willing, without much crisis, to do awful, awful things to their fellow man/own baby.

3) An even greater percentage than those openly willing to do evil are those willing to turn a blind eye to it.  Roman slavery was not without its critics (Seneca the younger comes to mind), but there were no serious attempts to abolish slavery.  Northerners pre-civil war saw abolitionists as pests at best and revolutionaries at worst.  “I personally would never own a slave, but who am I to tell someone else they can’t have one,” I think best sums up the general attitude in the North.  I can’t help but see the parallel between Calhoun’s defense of slavery and the modern pro-“choice” movement.  Sort of a mid-1800’s version of “Our property, Ourselves.”

I’m sure many of my friends will be saddened to know that I believe they would have supported the legality of slavery, gladiatorial combat, and the Deutsche Ovens, had they been there, but there it is.  I’m equally sure that they will not be swayed by my arguments, and probably won’t even understand them.

4) The greatest explanation of the human capacity for evil is the end of the trial in To Kill a Mockingbird, when the jury finds the black man guilty of a crime they all know full well he could not have, and did not, commit.  But they do–unanimously, and probably slept soundly that night despite it (as much as fictional characters ever sleep).

There is no great difficulty in understanding that blacks were people, that Jews are people, or that fetuses* are people.  We know these prima facie, but some of us don’t care.  (*it’s a fourth declension noun and so fetus is the singular and plural form. Fetus is the plural in Latin, fetuses in English, never, ever “feti.”)

But in a world with child prostitution, ethnic cleansing, the chomosomicide of the mentally retarded, and suicide bombings, I don’t think it’s a stretch to say that perhaps abortion is one more support for the theory that lots of people just don’t give a shit if other people die.

The Heart of Capitalism

I was Killing Orcs the other day (*”Killing Orcs” is the euphemism my wife uses for when I am playing MMORPGs).  One of the other players posted a question in the general chat channel asking a favor.  I did the requested favor.  I felt good because I had used my talents, time, and resources to produce something of value for someone else.  This led to a larger discussion in the chat channel on Communism and Capitalism, and I wanted to get a few thoughts out.

Economic systems seek to turn raw materials into finished products to make life easier.  All economic systems do this (except Environmentalism, which, in a sense, is an anti-economic system).  If Bob has lemons, Susan has sugar, Paul has water, and Brittany has free time, then individually they don’t have much you’d want (lemons are too tart by themselves, sugar is too sweet, water is filthy and disgusting, and free time isn’t so impressive).

Together though, they have the ingredients for delicious lemonade, fit for the finest of my skull mugs as I sit atop my throne of bones surveying my vast holdings.

Finished goods don’t have to be lemonade.  Finished goods can be concrete (“lemonade”, “a gun”) or abstract (“security”, “knowledge”).  A glass tube, some chemicals, and a Bunsen burner are the raw materials that create understanding of explody things, just like two wheats and three ores will build a city in Settlers of Catan.

Both Capitalism and Communism can get finished products from raw goods.  In fact, I would venture that if you gave these four things to four pre-indoctrinated children in either political system, they would come up with lemonade, because cooperation is a natural part of the human spirit.

In fact, I think most capitalists underestimate what can be accomplished in a communist state.  Neighbors help each other, children play games, and some raw goods become finished products spontaneously, without any government intervention or force.

Sometimes.

The rest of the time shows the difference between the two systems, when there are differences of opinions about how to use the raw materials we have access to.  Consider the lemonade example.  Arianna had the free time to mix the lemonade, but lets say she has another group of friends, interested in producing ice cream, who need some extra hands.  Arianna wants to spend her resource (time) making ice cream instead of making lemonade.

In Capitalism, each person owns his own capital.  In Arianna’s case, her capital is her time, and in a capitalist system, she is free to choose to go make ice cream instead of lemonade.  Which is to say, she is free to expend her capital as she wishes.  Tough nuts for the Lemonaders, who now face a labor shortage, but a boon for the Ice Creamers.  Unless she has broken a contract, the state need not interfere through force (i.e. the government).

But in Communism, Arianna does not own her capital (her free time)–the state does (the “res publica” in Ciceronian terms).  And if the state (which, in reality, is just Arianna’s fellow citizens) wants her to be making lemonade instead of ice cream, it can use force (i.e. the government) to get her to do what it wants her to do.  She has no right to refuse if her interests do not align with that of her state.

And so on.  If Arianna had chosen to expend her capital in charity (working for free at a pet shelter), she would be free to do that in a Capitalism system, but not a Communist one (unless the state was prioritizing shih-tzu awareness month).

Thus, at heart, the essence of Capitalism is freedom, and the essence of Communism is servitude.

The common misconception is that Capitalism can be reduced to profit-seeking in a monetary sense, when it would be better to see Capitalism explained as happiness seeking.  However, not happy in the sense of joy (Latin: “laetus”), but rather happy in the sense of luck or destiny (Latin: “felix”).

This is a crucial point, lost because of changes in the English language which have eroded this second meaning of happiness (which is the one Jefferson used in “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness” line from the Declaration of Independence).  Capitalism allows each man to be the author of his own fortune (be this as a blacksmith, artist, philosopher, or ploughman) as he sees fit, rather than allow the state to decide his fortune for him.

This does not mean, however, that the idea of freedom isn’t terrifying to some.  Many people are petrified by the idea of walking the economic tightrope without a net.  The idea of investing time or resources wisely but individually is far worse than an alternative wherein they sacrifice their unwelcome freedom for greater security.  History is littered with examples of people who willingly enslaved themselves to stave off poverty, hunger, or death.  Freedom is often a less cherished idea than some would have you believe.  Some, free, will always yearn for the soft embrace of the slave’s collar instead of the harsh winds of choice.

In principio

I’ve spent my adult life in jobs (teaching, Federal government) where it would be not so good for me to posit opinions that might eventually lead to my getting fired, because then my wife and Chihuahua would starve to death. So, instead of endangering my beloved dog and wife, I’m putting up my ideas here, anonymously.

Regarding the title for the site, “Granola Republican.”

I’ve been a conservative since I was a wee tot listening to Rush Limbaugh on the radio.  I once wrote into the kids section of my local newspaper a list of “Ten Ideas” that were mostly talking points for the right. (It generated a firestorm of opposition, apparently hundreds of other kids wrote in furious at my ideas; I had one supporter.)

But I was also a Boy Scout and Heinlein/Rand aficionado, which means I turned out somewhere in the Libertarian-sphere.  At the same time, I grew up in a very racially diverse city and subdivision, and then went to liberal arts college, which means I’m comfortable around minorities and peasant skirts.

I’m the antithesis of David Spade’s Young Republican in PCU, long-haired, bearded, conservationisty (ask me about my Solar Panels!).  I like hikes, nature, and am comfortable with quinoa.

I’m not generally comfortable with Confederate Flags, Donald-Trumpism, or Labor Unions.  On Facebook, I have way more liberal friends than I do conservatives (even though I know that I’m the token conservative in a lot of my friends’ friends’ lists).

I think I’d be more comfortable calling myself a Libertarian if the Libertarian Party didn’t seem so morally apathetic to social connections and traditions, and I’d be more comfortable calling myself a mainstream Republican if I thought that illegal immigrants were the Great Satan.

As cliché as it always sounds, I think it’s tough for people to accurately label themselves politically (I’m a liberal arts grad, so when I say things are “social constructs” I mean it), and I have a hard time labelling myself politically.  I don’t always vote, but when I do, it’s generally been Republican.

Anyway, I like eating granola.  My Eagle Scout project involved collecting and recycling cans.  I like foreign foods and foreign languages and foreign movies.  I like camping and swimming and am happy that we have state and National forests for me to tromp around in.  I think tend to think that people are good, with flashes of evil, and not evil, with flashes of good.

Thanks for stopping by.

-GR