"Whenever I go into a restaurant, I order both a chicken and an egg to see which comes first"

Monday, May 30, 2016

Is Forgiveness Ever Really Possible?


Ten years ago when the memory of the Rwandan genocide was still vivid, the government began a South African-style ‘Truth and Reconciliation’ process.  If those who murdered their neighbors would come forward, admit their crimes,  identify the graves where their victims were buried, and beg forgiveness from their families, healing would begin and the country would once again be made whole.


                www.amediaagency.com

The tensions between Hutus and Tutsis persist in Rwanda, Burundi, and eastern Congo; and the gacaca (truth and reconciliation) process not only may not have promoted true forgiveness and reintegration of genocide perpetrators but increased resentments, suspicions, and hostilities.
Many survivors argue that convicted perpetrators have in the main benefited from the government's need to rapidly empty the prisons and thus gacaca  tendency toward moderate sentencing. Meanwhile, there is widespread anger among Hutu that gacaca has addressed only genocide crimes and not revenge killings against Hutu civilians committed by the Rwandan Patriotic Front, the rebel force that ended the genocide in July 1994 and today represents the ruling party in Rwanda.
Second, gacaca has also generated significant truth-related problems. Gacaca's attempt to clear the massive backlog of genocide cases has involved weekly hearings over nine years in many communities. For many Rwandans, this has meant hearing repeatedly highly emotive testimony concerning brutal crimes. Gacaca has consequently increased levels of trauma among many of its participants.
The re-traumatization of individuals who are still dealing with the emotional and psychological legacies of the genocide is one of the major costs of gacaca's truth process. Furthermore, the truth component of gacaca itself has suffered from many participants' instrumental calculations based on the plea-bargaining scheme. In particular, many genocide suspects have had an incentive to confess falsely to crimes much less severe than those they actually committed in order to benefit from gacaca's pre-determined system of sentencing (International Justice Tribune, 10.24.10).
President Kagame in the spirit of ‘Never Again’ has pursued unrepentant and increasingly hostile Hutus wherever they have found sanctuary.  These actions, while completely understandable in geopolitical terms, have made sure that the Hutus would forever be branded as genocidaires and that forgiveness for them was only conditional.


                         www.pixgood.com

Nevertheless, if Rwanda’s gacaca achieved but a fraction of what it intended – forgiveness of those who committed horrific crimes, the reintegration of genocidaires into Rwandan society, a forgive-and-forget policy towards those who most people would never even consider forgiving – then there is some hope for a more charitable, Christian society

There have been no recent polls or inquiries about the relationship between the two communities, Hutu and Tutsi.  In fact few people will speak openly about the genocide, fearful of government reprisals (President Kagame is proud of his defeat of Hutu genocidaires, his rise to power as a unifier and militant nationalist; and his repressive policies have been designed to keep any scintilla of resurgent ethnic hostilities from the surface), and afraid to open still sore and festering wounds within the community.

Rwanda has in a way become like France whose leaders have always been proud of saying, “We are all French”, dismissing American-style affirmative action and ethnic and racial quotas.  Yet this attitude has simply driven resentment underground.  It is one thing to talk cultural unity; but it remains only talk unless inequities and inequalities across ethnicities persist.  Thus the riots of the northern Parisian suburbs a few years ago.  Insisting on racial, cultural, and ethnic harmony when the society is far from this ideal is counter-productive.  France is facing civil unrest because its Muslim population, for decades second-class citizens in the supposedly uniform Republic, refuses to have its religious practices neutered.



Kagame, as long as he is in power; and as long as the donor West tolerates his increasing abridgment of civil liberties in the name of ‘Never Again’, will keep the lid on the unspoken resentments of his people.

Gacaca was always political and practical. Rwandan prisons could simply not hold – with or without trial – the thousands of Hutus arrested for genocide.  The State had to find another acceptable process of justice; and it followed the example  of South Africa, whose Truth and Reconciliation met with the same popular opposition but in many ways succeeded in defusing the persistent racial tensions in the country.


                    www.timothynunan.com

By any measure forgiveness for the brutal murder and mutilation of a family member or neighbor is almost impossible to believe; and only the most idealistic take from gacaca lessons of basic human goodness. 

Most of us cannot forgive a brother, sister, or cousin for slights made decades ago, let alone welcome a former adulterer, cheat,  or child abuser back into the family fold.

There are always two sides to every dispute; yet families take sides quickly and unequivocally, siding with one spouse or the other for painful divorces even though the truth most certainly lies in between.  Families will always dispute inheritance, wills, and legacies; although the sub-texts of these (mis)interpretations will always unearth middle ground.   Women who are left alone after successive failures in their relationships will resent the men in their lives until the day they die.  Men who have been left on the curb once too often will not only resent the women who left them, but all women.  Othello was not alone in his unrepentant blame of Desdemona for the wickedness and duplicity of her sex.



Because all conclusions are subjective, there is little room for open-armed tolerance and generosity.  Any0ne who concludes that they have been wronged in financial, social, and emotional ways, cannot possibly ask for a truce, truth, and reconciliation.   The nature of resentment is complex.  Admission of guilt in the Hatfield and McCoy blood feud never happened.  Nor was complaisance and willingness to negotiate ever a possibility in the Mafia wars among the five New York families in the Seventies.  There was always right and wrong, onore, vendetta, and family status.  The families went to the mattresses regardless of the nature of the slight or dispute.

Relatives who are distant from a spousal dispute still weigh in on circumstantial evidence or make a priori judgments based on their own limited but painful experience.  Their non-cooperative, judgmental advice will always be based on how they were treated.  Better hate the presumptive offender rather than let in even a ray of hope for a deceived brother, sister, or aunt.

Most people will take their anger, hostility, and resentments to the grave.  Even at death’s door few people will apologize to those they have bitterly opposed for their whole lives.  Even faced with nothingness will they hold fast.  Not even eternity and the meaningless of judgment, opinions, or right and wrong can persuade them to apologize, admit their egotism and twisted self-worth, and give in.

Except in fiction.  Count Andrei in Tolstoy’s War and Peace has two important epiphanies.  One on the battlefield of Austerlitz when he realizes that all men – including Napoleon, his hero – are mortal; and another when the is finally dying and admits his selfishness, pride, and egotism to his wife.


                               www.dailymail.co.uk

Everyone else is filled with regret – love missed, opportunities sacrificed, attention not paid – and resentment.  Unfulfilled dreams are not the result of one’s one apathy or lack of ambition, but because of the obstruction of others.  Even gasping our last breath, we cannot forgive.

Perhaps the most disregarded precept of Christianity is forgiveness.  Christ, it is said, died a painful, tortured death on the cross for our sins.  Our transgressions are so great, so numerous, do varied, and so horrendous that only by the death of God’s only begotten Son can these sins be forgiven and future forgiveness made possible.

Christians should be very thankful that Christ died for their sins, and that redemption even for reprobates is possible through the grace of their Savior; because forgiveness is in very short supply within humanity itself. 

            www.ehow.co.uk
Christ/God knew what he was doing and understood that man’s inhumanity to man would not only persist and repeat itself, but would never be acknowledged or atoned for.

It is popular now for world leaders to apologize for the past.  Queen Elizabeth, despite her protests, was forced to apologize to the Kenyans for British colonial atrocities during the war for independence.  She was asked to overlook the barbarism of the Mau Mau.

President Obama was pressured to apologize to the Japanese for Hiroshima, and yet that fateful decision was a good, sound, logical and strategic one in 1945.  Wars are for winning especially against the likes of Hitler and Tojo.  He did not apologize per se, but his metaphor of ‘the rain of evil from above’ left no one in doubt of his tearful regrets.  His hopes for a more peaceful, non-nuclear, more accommodating and loving world were well received in some quarters, but most seasoned observers knew that his apology was capitulation and a sign of American weakness.


                                 www.explorejapan.jp

Jane has not apologized to her sister-in-law for her untoward and self-serving criticisms of husband Bob.  Martha still has not agreed to sit down with her brothers and discuss the misunderstandings over the family will. Alice has vowed to hate her former husband to his death, despite his jail time, obvious rehabilitation, and demonstrations of good will.

Only meaningless apologies prevail – the Senator who apologizes to his wife for his sinful adultery, but is only buying time until she and the public forget.  The mega-preacher who is deeply sorry for his sexual deviance, and who promises – until he is transferred or forgotten – that he will never stray again.  The CFO of an investment banking firm who took repeated advantage of every loophole in SEC regulations and of the ignorance of his clients to make a fortune; and when caught says he’s sorry, but knows that after his short pris0n term he will be back in action.


Jesus Christ would be sorely disappointed about how the human race turned out despite his repeated adm0nitions and those of his disciples; but then again, being God, he knew exactly what he was doing.  He created man to procreate and be plentiful, and he knew full well that that meant selfishness, aggression, perimeters, expansionism, and violence.  No one in our dog-eat-dog world every really and truly apologizes and/or asks for forgiveness.  That would not be human.

Saturday, May 28, 2016

The Supreme Court, The States, And The Electoral Process–Popular Revolt vs Federal Authority


Roe v Wade is the law of the land, a decision by the Supreme Court in 1973 to protect and preserve a woman’s absolute right to abortion.  The Court’s decision was applauded by many who saw the ruling as the strongest statement in favor of feminism and the final restoration of a woman’s equal place in society.  By concluding that a woman’s body was her own, inviolate, and sacrosanct; and that no man, state authority, or political power could abrogate that right, the Justices and those who supported them were making a defiant political statement.


                                www.haikudeck.com

The decision, it was claimed, would not only save the lives of those many women who had to resort to backroom abortions and self-mutilation, but would put an end to patriarchy, male domination, and the continuing subservience of women.

The Court decision, however, was attacked by Constitutional scholars who challenged the ruling and especially its justification based on the Privacy Clause. This, they said, was a tortuous interpretation, one which was based on flimsy, errant, and blatant political agendas.
The Supreme Court’s reliance on privacy theory to support a right to abortion is problematical at several levels. First, as the Court itself recognized… the Constitution itself “does not expressly mention any right of privacy.” But the Constitution does not create a general right of privacy… The Fourth Amendment, which “protects individual privacy against certain kinds of governmental intrusions,” “cannot be translated into a general constitutional ‘right to privacy’”). Recognition of a “general constitutional ‘right to privacy’” cannot be reconciled with the care with which the Framers of the Bill of Rights described the specific rights that were being secured.
 Second, the concept of “privacy” is amorphous and chameleon (or, in Justice Black’s words, “broad, abstract and ambiguous,”.  Roe’s attempt to collect cases under the rubric of “privacy” – a term that does not even appear in most of the cases cited – simply creates an artificial common denominator among a very disparate and largely unrelated group of cases that have nothing to do with the subject of abortion 
As the Court in Roe freely admitted: “The situation [involving a pregnant woman and her unborn child] . . . is inherently different from marital intimacy, or bedroom possession of obscene material, or marriage, or procreation, or education….” If a pregnant woman’s decision whether or not to carry her pregnancy to term is “inherently different” from all of the “privacy” cases on which the Court relied, then it is difficult to understand how those cases could possibly support recognition of a right to obtain an abortion (EndRoe.org)
The dissension over Roe v Wade had added dimensions.  For Americans who had little understanding of Constitutional law, the Fourth Amendment, and the legal arguments using it to justify the Court’s decision, Roe was both an arrogation of power to nine politically appointed men, and a violation of laws that took precedence over America’s civil ones – the laws of God.   By legalizing abortion, the Supreme Court and defied the millions of Americans who believe that life begins at birth; that killing any living being is murder; and that only God as the right to bestow and take away life.

For them no Constitutional Right to Privacy could ever justify killing or the defiance of God’s law.
The political stage for the current popular uprising against ‘Washington’ was set.  Roe was a victory for progressivism and the government intervention that its adherents favor.  Opponents of Roe not only felt that it was wrongly and politically decided, but that it took what is basically a religious, philosophical, and moral issue out of the hands of the electorate and kept it within the privileged confines of the elite.   American democracy is not purely and universally secular, these opponents said, and by legalizing an act which has profoundly non-secular aspects, the Court did a grave injustice to America.

For a number of decades this resentment grew but political opposition was disorganized and largely unnoticed.  More recently, however, States have realized that the application of Roe go only so far.  Texas, for example, has made it extremely difficult for a woman to obtain an abortion.  Waiting periods, insistence that only hospital-accredited and –affiliated physicians can perform abortions; the inclusion of patient counseling before any procedure can be performed have all been strong disincentives to the open and free provision of abortions.



Recently the State Legislature of  South Carolina ruled that  abortions after 20 weeks will be illegal.  If Gov. Haley signs the bill into law, it will become the 17th state to do so.  Although some legal challenges have been mounted, the Supreme Court has not yet weighed in on the legality of late-term abortions.  Depending on the composition of the new post-Obama Court, it well may rule against them and set back the continuance of Roe even farther.


                      www.liveactionnews.org

As importantly, twelve States have sued the federal government for what they consider unwanted, unwarranted, and illegal imposition of ‘The Bathroom Rule’ – an executive order according to which all bathrooms, locker rooms, and other previously gender-designated facilities to be open to all.   The argument behind these law suits is not dissimilar from the action by various states to neuter Roe. 

There is no way, the State’s briefs contend, that the Federal Government can either legislate or rule by executive fiat on an issue which has such moral, religious, and ethical considerations.  Moreover, the likelihood of abuse, fraud, and sexual misconduct is overwhelming.
The Supreme Court has ruled in favor of gay marriage.
“No longer may this liberty be denied,” Justice Anthony M. Kennedy wrote for the majority in the historic decision. “No union is more profound than marriage, for it embodies the highest ideals of love, fidelity, devotion, sacrifice and family. In forming a marital union, two people become something greater than once they were.”
The Court’s dissent was no less forceful:
“If you are among the many Americans — of whatever sexual orientation — who favor expanding same-sex marriage, by all means celebrate today’s decision,” Chief Justice Roberts wrote. “Celebrate the achievement of a desired goal. Celebrate the opportunity for a new expression of commitment to a partner. Celebrate the availability of new benefits. But do not celebrate the Constitution. It had nothing to do with it.”
In other words, Justice Roberts was endorsing the validity of a popular trend if not an inevitability; but he refused to give gay marriage the official, final imprimatur that his colleagues demanded.  Such contentious issues belong in the popular domain, in the electorate, not in the courts.


                         www.forbes.com

Once again,  those who opposed the ruling were quick to find ways around it – just as those who deny Roe have done.  A number of cases involving religious liberty have been brought before the courts.  The Supreme Court recently ruled in favor of The Little Sisters of the Poor, saying that they had a legitimate right to refuse to pay for contraception, a practice the Catholic Church specifically forbids.

Other cases involving the religious rights of individuals who claim the legal right to refuse specific services to gays – i.e. not to deny all service but only those, such as baking a gay-themed cake or photographing a gay wedding which offend their religious principles – are coming before the courts.
Like Roe the Court’s recent decisions on gay issues have legitimized in the name of civil rights and secular justice practices which for many have religious and moral overtones; and like the opponents of Roe, those who have reservations about universal gay rights have found indirect routes to challenge court decisions.

The point is not on whether life begins at conception and should be protected; or whether homosexuality is or is not a normal, human sexual expression; but whether or not the federal government – all branches – has the right and the authority to abridge and interrupt the electoral process.  Why shouldn’t complex non-civil matters of faith and morals be debated at the most democratic levels of popular government?

The answer is and always has been a mistrust of popular democracy.  Although Jefferson might have prevailed in his debates with Hamilton over the constitution of government, Hamilton still rules the halls of official Washington and, surprisingly, the liberal elite.  Some matters are too important to be left to the people said both Hamilton and today’s progressives.   Hamilton, however, would object violently to the patronizing, arrogant, and dismissive attitudes of those in power elected to serve the people.

Progressives argue that if civil rights had been left to the states, segregation would still be the law throughout the South; and that therefore no serious issue facing America should ever be left to ‘States Rights’. 

However, the Constitutional mandate in the case of civil rights is perfectly clear and unequivocal - all citizens are equal under the law; and the South was depriving black citizens of their rights.  No one has ever seriously challenged the constitutionality of the Civil Rights Voting Act of 1965 because, once the niggling Constitutional  references to slaves were explained away as historical anomalies, there was no doubt of its intent.


                           www.blackpast.org

Yet the issues of religious rights, abortion and gay rights are not so cut-and-dry; not so easily embraced by all.   Sexual preference was never even considered by the Framers, and therefore finding such rights in the Constitution is even harder than finding one legitimizing abortion.  Although the Framers were absolutely adamant about the protection of religious liberty, they could not have anticipated the bewildering complexity of today’s society and the difficulties of matching religious conviction with civil liberties. 

Gun rights are never far from public scrutiny; and whether or not the Second Amendment endorses the universal right to bear arms or only a restricted right has not yet been resolved.  Although gun control advocates have persistently asked the Supreme Court to reaffirm the provisions of the Second Amendment as written, the Court has refused, letting the Amendment go unchallenged and permitting the debate to continue in the electorate.  The Framers of the Constitution could never have envisaged the rates of violent crime that exist today nor how corrosive and destabilizing they are.  If they had, they might well have been far more explicit about who exactly has the right to firearms. 

Just like for abortion, citizens are pushing back against Constitutional authority.  A federal appeals court judge recently ruled in favor of a citizens lobby group which contended that the District of Columbia’s highly restrictive policy concerning gun ownership was unconstitutional.  The give and take of this highly contentious issue is where it belongs – in the electorate and in the lower courts.
All of which is to say, as Justice Roberts implied, stop looking in the Constitution for answers to complicated issues.  Do what you want, he said; just don’t look to us to say it’s OK.

Thursday, May 26, 2016

Individualism–The Heart Of The American Spirit Which The Left Will Never Understand


Despite almost three hundred years of American individualism – that special character of God-conferred rights, ambition, and personal strength – the American progressive Left, rather than seeing it as the source of America’s greatness it condemns it as the root of all social evil. .

The first Americans were chased from England to Plymouth; and despite a punishing climate, an unforgiving environment and hostile native tribes, they persisted, built the first English colonies in the New World, and felt that through hard work, enterprise, and the grace of God they would survive.


                                  www.pic2fly.com

The first settlers on Albemarle Sound were more privileged – a better class of Englishman seeking fortune and even fame; an Englishman of manners and royal connections - but the semi-tropical lands of North Carolina had their own unsuspected hazards – mosquitoes, disease, and a defiant indigenous population. Yet they, too, having survived a long and difficult crossing, and having left a settled and comfortable life back home, were as determined as their Pilgrim brothers to profit from the new trans-Atlantic lands.


                    www.historyofnativeamericans.com

Given these origins – one can never discount the new, ambitious, and enterprising gene pool that migrated to the New World – it is not surprising to see the quick stake to new territorial claims, the militant defiance of the native peoples who threatened them, and the progressive movement West.
It was not long before the first Americans had cultivated the Northern Neck, planted indigo and tobacco, moved north, south, and west to increase the wealth of the British Empire, consolidate political power, and of course plant the seeds of rebellion.  In the years after 1776, both New England and the South grew exponentially.  By the time of the Constitutional Convention, the new Republic had formed and consolidated its own rules and principles of governance.

The Founding Fathers knew very well where the new Americans had come from; and the Bill of Rights were meant to assure that never more would this new nation ever live under autocracy, divine right of kings, aristocracy, and feudalism.



America was a land of liberty, but more than anything a land of individualism and individual enterprise.  Not only were Americans free to prosper by their own hand and thanks to their own initiative, but they were finally free to find God in their own terms.  Calvinism, political independence, freedom from Old World prescriptions of class, status, and social position combined to create The New Individual.

This individualism was no more evident than in the Age of Jefferson – Westward expansion and Manifest Destiny – followed by what has been called The Second War of Independence, the War of 1812 when the British were, once and for all, sent home.



The taming of the West, the Mexican-American War, and the push to the coast finalized American expansionism and the consolidation of a country built on individual enterprise, God-endowed destiny, and survivalism at its best.

By the beginning of the 20th century, Euro-centric and socialist sentiments began to be felt.  The Russian Revolution of 1917 was a victory for the working class, and American sympathizers, resenting the influence of the Robber Barons of New York , pushed through anti-capitalist and anti-individualistic reforms.  The era of American progressivism was born.



Only a few years later the Great Depression consolidated the then disparate factions of progressive socialism.  FDR, adopting a European statism enabled Big Government, and for decades liberalism ruled.

Only in 1980 with the election of Ronald Reagan did individualism have its resurgence.  Reagan and his supporters claimed that government was not the solution but the problem; and in his eight presidential years, Reagan oversaw a drastic reduction in federal bureaucracy, a resurgence of the private sector; and most importantly of all, a restoration of the legitimacy of  individual judgment, worth, and value.



President Obama has governed a period of radical progressivism in which the power of the state, civil collectivism, and radical anti-individualism have prospered.  The Obama Administration has, in the name of civil liberties, rights, and inclusivity, done more damage to the Founding Fathers’ understanding of the Republic (individualism in the name of fulfillment and respect) than any previous president

It is no surprise, then, that Donald Trump has attracted so much support.  His adherents are not just followers of his conservative philosophy, but radical anarchists hoping through is presidency to take down the venal, self-serving, elitist institutions of Washington and to replace them by a  radical populism.



It is ironic to note that most progressives in their most honest moments will admit to wanting a firearm to protect their families from an increasingly dysfunctional and violent minority; will admit to their squeamishness if not revulsion when viewing videos of an abortion or homosexual sex; or who will reluctantly confess to heretofore submerged religious convictions.

In other words by publicly persisting in their support of a progressive agenda of gun control, gender reform, racial entitlement, reparations, and a secular and expedient view of human life, they admit to their own hypocrisy.

Like it or not, the individual’s personal, subjective views on the origin of life, the morality of abortion and/or the death penalty, convictions about sexual reproduction and behavior do indeed count in any electoral calculus.

Conservatives have never been bashful in expressing their convictions.  They resent the overweening influence of the White House and a venal, corrupt Congress.  Perhaps more than any other institution they resent the Supreme Court whose nine members have been selected and appointed on the basis of political philosophy and who vote party lines on almost all decisions.

It is time, conservatives say, to return political decisions to the people – to state legislatures, to popular referenda, and to the people themselves.  There is no reason why any contentious issue such as abortion, transgender rights, or homosexual activity should be decided in such a restricted venue.  It is time, they say to right the political ship, to neuter federal authority and to return important decisions to the electorate.

At the heart of this rebellion is individualism.  When Obama by presidential fiat declares bathrooms open to all; when he defies the will of the people on religious liberty and dismisses the legitimate claims of  The Little Sisters of the Poor; and when he champions the ‘disaffected’ in their specious and politically motivated claims to ‘justice’, he denies not only the will of the people, but the individual.



The claims to civil rights in what has become an anarchic if not chaotic society are not untouchable and inviolate.  Who ever said that the supposed rights of a supposedly aggrieved segment of American society will always and indisputably take precedence over Constitutional precedent and principle?

The current campaign pitting an outspoken advocate for individual rights versus an old-fashioned, unreconstructed product of the defamed and discredited American Left, is no contest.  Donald Trump has understood the zeitgeist of America.  Hillary Clinton is scrambling to survive.

Individualism is now and has always been at the center of the American ethos.  Especially in an age of increasing ethnic, religious, and linguistic separatism, individualism – the expression of deeply felt, personal, subjective convictions – has never been more important.

This election is far more than one between a conservative and a liberal, but between two fundamentally opposed political philosophies.  Let’s hope that Donald Trump prevails.

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Guns, Abortion, Gay Rights, And Religious Liberty–Passion vs Secular Logic And Trump’s Ultimate Victory


A colleague of mine at the World Bank a few years back was considering a move to Abidjan.  A chance to work with one of Africa’s more enlightened governments, live in an exclusive expatriate neighborhood, dine in excellent French restaurants and order lobster and foie gras from the Auvergnat detailer who guaranteed shipments from France a la minute and not selon l’arrivage was irresistible.

There was only one problem – crime.  Beneath its composed, cosmopolitan, and respectable veneer, Abidjan was fast becoming one of Africa’s most violent cities.   Despite good international schools, superb housing, and excellent European amenities, how could he – in all good conscience – move there with his wife and two young children.

For the first time in his life, he considered buying a gun; and given the level of threat in the country, more than one.  Ivorian customs were notoriously lax, and no one would ever look for let alone discover his personal firearms at the bottom of the lift van.

The problem was that he had been a lifelong gun control advocate, and one who had always counseled tolerance, moderation, and patience.   Violent self-defense was unconscionable, given the understandably dysfunctional nature of the African American family.  Slavery was never an afterthought, and the persistent racism of white America drove black men to extreme measures.  He contributed to every gun control lobby in Washington, spoke out loudly and insistently whenever he had a chance against the corrosive and degrading nature of gun culture in America.

Yet here he was, facing life in an an African nation teetering on the edge of civil and political chaos, and voluntarily taking  his innocent wife and children to such a benighted, unhappy place.  A good World Bank economist, he weighed costs and benefits, and decided that moving to the Ivory Coast, despite the risks, would be good for all.  The children would get a first class French education.  His wife would be able to socialize with la crème de la crème of post-colonial African intellectuals and artists, and he would be sure to get a Bank directorship.

How to reconcile the obvious benefits of the assignment with its equally obvious risks?  A Glock 9mm, a Colt .22 sidearm, and an Uzi semi-automatic. 



At first my colleague did the usual and predictable moral gymnastics.  It might be wrong to own guns and promote gun ownership in America where the civil, democratic process provided so many remedies for social dysfunction and violence; but in an increasingly lawless environment in countries like the Ivory Coast where such democratic protections and progressive programs did not exist, who could blame him for arming himself to protect his family?

The point is that no one wants to be Lear’s ‘bare, forked animal”, naked on the heath, at the mercy of the elements and the most treacherous, immoral, and violent human beings.  In everyone’s heart of hearts, there is a weapon.


                   www.orwell1627.wordpress.com

In Sam Pekinpah’s Straw Dogs, the main character – an Eastern Establishment academic and liberal – is transformed in the face of a violent, brutal, and savage attack on his family from a mild-mannered, on-the-one-hand-on-the-other liberal, to a Wild West, gun-toting, defender of family, hearth, and home.  Peckinpah said that this self-protective violent streak is in all of us.  All liberal cant and posturing goes out the window when one’s family is threatened.


                          www.pinterest.com

Such sub-rasa conservatism extends far beyond the right to bear arms.  Despite the persistent, universal calls by progressives shilled by a complaisant and supportive media establishment for tolerance – a woman’s right to choose; a gay man’s right to marry; a mixed-gender man or woman’s right to use the bathroom of his or her choice; open borders and a generous welcome to all migrants and refugees – many if not most Americans are saying, “Enough already”.

There is a video circulating on the Internet (May, 2016) which documents an abortion - by any criteria an invasive, bloody event designed to cut loose a fetus from its supporting placenta, to deprive it of nourishment, growth, and life; to scrape it out from its mother and discard it as hospital waste. 

It is not surprising that young women who watch this video – no matter how pro-choice they may have been – change their minds.  No woman wants an abortion.  It is an unconscionable invasion of privacy, sanctity, body and soul.

Pope Paul II was the first to use the term ‘expediency’ when referring to abortion and Pope Francis reprised his argument this year.  Abortion is not only the killing of an unborn child, but a moral insult to all life. Once abortion is taken for granted, then respect for the sanctity of all life is degraded.


                      www.turnbacktogod.com

In other words, even the most committed Eastern Establishment progressive woman has to think twice about what she is doing when she fits her feet into the stirrups and agrees to a D+C.  She may have been committed in principle to civil rights and especially the rights of women, but when she is about to subject herself to an abortion, she cannot possibly be neutral.

There is no liberal heterosexual who does not turn away from a chance viewing of homosexual sex on late-night cable.  Although he might have concluded that Deuteronomy is time-based, socially and morally relative, and contrary to Christ’s inclusive and more general teachings, he is still disgusted by male anal sex.  No matter how he may struggle to square his politico-philosophical tolerance with actual, vivid, and explicit homosexual bedtime activity, he cannot.

Religious tolerance and liberty are important principles, enshrined in the Bill of Rights and defended by progressive and conservatives alike.  Yet the idea that the Little Sisters of the Poor must buckle under to the secular authority of the State and cannot refuse any legislation, executive fiat, or court order which denies them their own religious rights strikes even the most devoted progressive as untoward.  A baker who cannot turn down a request to bake a homo-erotic themed cake; a photographer who cannot refuse to record a gay wedding; a school principle in a rural, conservative district who must allow open bathrooms – all offend not intellectually but viscerally.  It simply does not seem right.


                      www.seraphicpress.com

The United States has always been a country which has welcomed immigrants.  If it had not been for Polish, Irish, Italian, and Chinese immigrants in the 19th century, the railroads would never have been built, the industrial revolution would have sputtered, and the vitality of New York, Chicago, and San Francisco would have been denied.  Yet in an age of high fertility, overpopulation measured against resources and demand, and porous borders which threaten social and cultural integrity as well as economic well-being, it is no surprise that many Americans agree with Donald Trump that we should keep all new-comers out.

It simply doesn’t seem right that waves of non-English-speaking, Third World, politically disaffected immigrants should be given a free pass in the name of inclusivity, compassion, and tolerance.  There is, like it or not, a common American culture – one borne of liberty, independence, and enterprise – and it in the minds of many is being threatened.  Already the notion of cultural solidarity is being corroded from within.  Campaigns of ‘diversity’ only lead to separatism, conflict, venal demands, and the eventual fraying of the formerly tightly-woven fabric of American society.  God only knows what will happen if we let in all comers.

These issues – abortion, gay rights, religious liberty, immigration, etc., – have been on the back burner of American politics for years.  But in this election year they have been moved to the front of the stove.  They are hot, burning, visceral, and imperative.  The millions of Americans who have become disaffected by faux intellectualism and progressive arrogance are making their will, opinions, and emotions known.  No matter how much traditional intellectual elites may dismiss America’s middle as uninformed, emotional, and misguided, it is their time.

The Fallacy Of Logic - Why The Washington Establishment Is So Befuddled By Donald Trump


There is a lot of angst inside the Beltway these days.  Pundits, politicians, academics, and lobbyists are all upset about the spectacular rise of Donald Trump.  Not only does he defy all logic, but he understands that people don’t want logic.  No position papers; no detailed programs on  debt, deficit, and the dollar; and above all no on-the-one-hand-on-the-other consideration of the issues.  Post-modern intellectuals, so good at deconstructing texts, have taken Trump’s speeches at face value.  They have focused on what the candidate says, not what he means.

Trumps followers on the other hand know quite well what he means.  He doesn’t have to make sense, connect the dots, or come to logical conclusions from a well-constructed argument.  They don’t want a Kant in the White House.  They are angry, frustrated, and very, very unhappy – so angry and frustrated in fact; so anxious to free themselves from progressivism, intellectual corruption, venal, money-driven politics, and insider trading that leaves them out in the cold, powerless, and disenfranchised.


                               www.openculture.com

Of course these disaffected voters are enthusiastic about Donald Trump. They feel threatened by illegal aliens who will take their jobs, erode traditional American culture, drive down wages, and increase taxes.  They feel invaded by those coming to America for a free ride.  They resent the dismissiveness of the Washington elite who live in protected, white enclaves, who sample ethnic food, but who have no idea how precarious the lives of the working poor are.  They need no balance sheet to sum up the costs and benefits of immigration, the historical impact of immigration on culture, language, and the economy. 

These voters know that abortion is wrong and there is no point debating moment of conception or women’s rights.  It is killing, pure and simple.  It is altering God’s plan, and it further erodes community values of respect for life and others.

The list of grievances goes on; and for every issue carefully parsed by privileged intellectuals of both parties and resolutely and confidently decided, millions of Americans feel wrong in their gut.  The assault on religion, civil liberties, and freedom of expression in the name of diversity hurts. 
Why, then, do we assume or expect that these marginalized, disaffected, and politically disenfranchised voters should vote logically? 

Why should logic trump visceral reactions when these emotions come from a deep well of perceived injury and insult?  Why assume that political issues are as subject to rational analysis and conclusion when political philosophy is a matter of personal conviction, morality, and religion?  Individualism is not just an abstract construct but native to America,  imported by equally disaffected religious zealots to Massachusetts, cultured and cultivated for  over 250 years.  ‘Don’t tread on me’ may be Texan in popular culture, but it is as American as apple pie. 


                            www.greatkat.com

Frontier justice was not meted out fairly and uniformly.  Cattle rustlers – real or presumed – were hanged on the spot.  Insults – actual or imagined – were dealt with in duels and shoot-outs.  Our history is one of presumptive judgment moderated by Anglo-Saxon law.   Our insistence on the right of the individual is ingrained, institutionalized, and hard-wired. 

There is no political issue which can be determined by logical exegesis and conclusion alone.  Every issue – whether religious rights, abortion, gender equality, home mortgages, or campaign financing – has a subjective component which must be taken into consideration.  How one feels about social equality will determine voting for or against policies of income distribution, tax reform, minority rights, and eminent domain.   How one feels about the increasing pressures of urban living, the intense competition for jobs and space will determine votes. 

No one has ever said that the Supreme Court, supposedly the most fair and objective branch of government if not in the land is not biased.  It is no coincidence that Justices vote down party lines most of the time.  No one would have expected Justice Ginsberg to ever vote with Justice Scalia. They were simply too philosophically (emotionally, subjectively) apart for any possible consensus.


                                 www.motherjones.com

There must have been at least some iota of personal revenge in George W. Bush’s decision to invade Iraq and to finish his father’s business.  There is no doubt that the NeoCons contributed to Middle Eastern chaos because they believed – not just concluded – that liberal democracy was indeed God-given.  It is an absolute good not a relative one.

We all marry for the wrong reasons, choose the wrong mate, fall in love stupidly, take risks we know we shouldn’t, defy logic and considered opinion in our business, personal, and family affairs, embrace demagogues, rush up the aisle to be healed by Jesus, dress with little regard to style or personal appearance, commit faux pas, and act inappropriately despite our best judgment.

The works of the most celebrated authors and dramatists – Shakespeare, Faulkner, Ibsen, Tolstoy, and Dostoevsky among others – are stories of passion, emotion, jealousy, revenge, and desire.  Antony never should have fallen for Cleopatra let alone be manipulated and dominated by her and thus throwing his political primacy to the winds.  He was besotted by the beautiful Queen of Egypt and seduced by the luxurious East. 


                                    www.imglop.com

Othello, a supremely logical and intelligent military leader, a man of competence, decisiveness, and good judgment on the battlefield, was completely befuddled by women, Venetian society, and emotional demands.  There is no logic or real motive in Iago’s complete disassembly of Othello.  There is something indescribably perverse or evil about the man who is as irrational and c0mpelled by instinct and character as the general.

Hedda Gabler’s actions to destroy her husband and former lover are not logical, but predictable given her childhood, her make-up, and the ineffable and impossible to understand indomitable will with which she was born.


                               www.fanpop.com

A heroic man like Faulkner’s Thomas Sutpen who was as close as he could come to the life of status, respect, wealth, and acclaim that he had always dreamed of in the hills of Appalachia and almost found in Mississippi; but he got confused, waylaid, and derailed by his lack of judgment in his personal life.

If there is anything certain to be concluded about human nature as seen in works from Aeschylus to Tennessee Williams; or from Defoe to Joyce is that it is illogical.   Shakespeare understood that human nature would always play out in the similarly predictable ways; but in never in exactly the same ways.  Richard III and King John  may have been driven by the same ambitions, but they were very different.  Their stories, a combination of human nature and inevitable human folly, were irresistible to Shakespeare and his audiences.


Many critics have lamented the ‘dumbing down’ of American culture.  However, there is no such thing.  Americans have always been dumb.  We have always been an anti-intellectual people who put more faith in good, native judgment than in necessarily corrupt politics.

Hamilton and Jefferson debated the question of ‘The Will of the People’.  Jefferson believed that the collective judgment of the people would always be right while Hamilton argued just the opposite.  This election (2016) is the modern version of that debate.  Not only does a well-defined collective will exist, it is manifest and powerful.

Once again, the pundits and inside-the-beltway establishment don’t get it.  Not only do they believe that logic indeed will always trump illogic, but that their ‘logical’ conclusions will always prevail.  They are not only befuddled by Donald Trump and his radical populism, but they cannot possibly understand how people could vote for him.


Their ignorance, their problem.

Sunday, May 22, 2016

Facts At A Circus? Donald Trump And The Joyful Ride Through American Politics


It is always surprising to see how both Republican and Democratic elites are befuddled by Donald Trump.  Both have spent decades developing, curating, polishing, and promoting their brands. 

Republicans have been the party of small government, low taxes, enterprise, and a strong military; and in recent years have embraced family values, religion, and patriotism to complement the image of strength, rectitude, and exceptionalism.


              www.sourcefed.com

Democrats have been the party of big government, progressive rates of taxation, transfers of wealth from the rich to the poor, negotiation and compromise, and a culture of mutually-respectful diversity.

This year (2016), however, both parties have been flummoxed by Donald Trump, a man who confounds liberal and conservative policies, talks like a libertarian, and plays fast and loose with ideas and convictions.  Nobody inside the Beltway knows exactly who he is or what he stands for.  But the 10 million people who have voted for him in the primaries, who pack arenas and stadiums to get a glimpse of him, and who see him as the political savior of the nation certainly do.  The insider crowd doesn’t get him, but everyone else does.

The irony is that these liberal and conservative observers have correctly characterized Trump as a vaudevillian, clown, carny barker, and magician; but in their disparagement have missed the point that when people go to a circus, they don’t want the facts or the truth or reality.

The Great Gandolfo was the greatest magician of the early 19th century.  Because of a somewhat shady and questionable past, the big circuses like Barnum & Bailey never engaged him.  On the small tent, county fair, 4H and watermelon circuit he was a big draw.  He performed all the classic magic tricks – sawing a woman in half, wriggling out of a buccaneer’s chains, and making pigeons and rabbits appear and disappear – but his real talent was legerdemain.  What his audience saw – a hand of cards, a live toad, a glass of water, or a furled flag – was nothing of the sort.  He made everything change in appearance, change places, colors, dimensions, and posture.  By the end of his show no one was sure exactly what they had seen or what had become of what they did.



Gandolfo was brilliant, exotic, and absolutely compelling.  He wore a traditional magician’s outfit – top hat, white tie, and tails – before every audience no matter how humble.  It was a showman’s outfit, what everyone expected; and his hat woven of fine silk, his studs of 14 karat diamonds, and his tuxedo tailored in Bond Street, showed his respect and gratitude for his followers.  He never thought of them as gullible or naïve, and prided himself on giving them what they wanted in glamorous style.

Everyone knew that rabbits didn’t really disappear, that no one could possibly read minds or dismember and reassemble women’s bodies; but they willingly suspended disbelief.  It was the circus after all, and one didn’t pay good money to see railroad tracks being laid or cows being milked.

In fact the good people of rural America suspended their disbelief all the time; and the circus was just the most theatrical display of it.  They were sure that Armageddon was coming within their lifetimes, that the End of Days was coming, and that Jesus would receive them on their entrance to heaven.  It was unconscionable to think that man – the most intelligent of animals, gifted with a soul by an all-powerful and –knowing God – could have been descended from the apes.   No matter how much paleontological evidence was presented; no matter how many prehistoric fossils were discovered; and no matter how disciplined and rigorous the logical line of inference might have been, they knew absolutely, unequivocally, and with all their hearts that God created Man in his image.


                                  www.abc.net.au

Thomas Jefferson was as wrong as could be when he prevailed over the skeptical Alexander Hamilton in their debates about the sanctity of the will of the people.  Jefferson believed in the innate wisdom of the masses while Hamilton dismissed the idea out of hand.  The farmers, yeoman, watermen, and tradesmen that he observed  might be good people able to tote a column of figures, make a profit, and call forward inventory; but they surely had no enlightenment.  They could fall just as easily for a shaman as a parlor trick.  The electorate couldn’t be trusted because they lived in a world of distorted ignorance.  Not only did they not know a thing; but they invented stories of its origin, nature, and influence.



An apocryphal story made the rounds in Hamilton’s time which was said to influence his decisions about the constitution of the new Republic.  It concerned a circus, but this time a big tent – one of those extravaganzas  that were common even at the end of the 18th century.  John Bill Ricketts was the first to bring his big tent from England to America, and although it was tame by comparison to later circuses, it combined animal acts, the exotic, and the magical.   George Washington was reported to have taken in one of Ricketts' shows in Philadelphia.


                     www.circopedia.org
Hamilton apparently saw an offshoot of Ricketts’ events.  A group of Boston entrepreneurs saw money in circuses and opened their own show in Bucks County.  They were the first to open the circus to the scandalous and deformed, and their side show was nonpareil.  Not only were their bearded ladies but dwarf, bearded, bare-breasted ladies on display.  Not only did horses do unique equestrian feats, but they copulated with smaller animals and, if reports are to be believed, with young women from Delaware.


                www.pinterest.com

The lines for the side show were hours long, and the Boston brothers, the geniuses who anticipated this demand, were delighted.  Ticket prices doubled overnight and larger and larger venues were sought for what they called the ‘freak show’ but labeled it ‘Exotica’ for Pennsylvania audiences.

Hamilton reportedly was very impressed by both the Ricketts’s circus and the Boston Brothers’ side show.  In fact his attendance on a Saturday evening show was apocryphal.  He knew then and there when he saw his fellow citizens fall hook, line, and sinker for transparent legerdemain and a collection of human deformities, that there was no way in hell that he would ever support his colleague, Jefferson’s misguided populist views.

Hucksterism, snake-oil salesmanship, and ‘a-sucker-is-born-every-minute’ marketing has not only persisted in America but grown.  The more complex society becomes the harder it is to sort out the wheat from the chaff, the imagined from the real, and truth from fiction.  In other words a field day for the canny politician.


             www.sodahead.com

Americans, with their long tradition of falling for clever tricks, absolute belief in a religion that is in reality as relative and speculative as any, a weakness for circuses and magic tricks, and an education which has not progressed much past that of the one-room schoolhouse, will believe anything as long as it is wrapped up in ribbons, decorated with tinsel, and accompanied by music.

Along comes Donald Trump, a genius for understanding this, the most fundamental and elemental characteristic of American culture.  Thanks to his intelligence, arrogant confidence, absolute ambition, and vaudevillian sense of timing and audience appeal, he has run the perfect electoral campaign.  The circus is the message, not the issues.

The members of the Washington Establishment are like hundreds of Chicken Little’s who cluck, peck, and scurry because the sky is falling;  and like Chicken Little have no intelligence, insight, or reason to figure out what is going on.  They attack Trump, vilify him, threaten to move to Canada if he wins, shake their heads in dismay, and commiserate with like-minded, serious observers of the political scene, but completely miss the boat.

No matter what he says and in fact because of it, he gains in popularity.  He calls Elizabeth Warren ‘Pocahontas’ because of her venal and ridiculous claim to Native American ancestry.  He calls interviewer Megyn Kelly a bimbo and Hillary Clinton “Crooked Hillary’ and his ratings go up.  Protests of racism, sexism, homophobia, and xenophobia are not only dismissed but used by Trump and his supporters as examples of outrageous and unacceptably politically correct attempts to cloture free speech.


                                       www.fanpop.com

By trying to fit Donald Trump into an acceptable ‘presidential’ box, both liberal and conservative critics miss the boat entirely.  Trump is not a presidential candidate.  He is a circus performer playing the role of presidential candidate.  Moreover this is exactly what people want.

This 2016 presidential campaign is like no other.  It is not because a very right wing candidate is running for president.  Such ultra-conservative movements are now common throughout Europe, Asia, and the Middle East in reaction to the threat of ethnic separatism, misplaced ‘inclusivity’ and ‘diversity’.  It is not because of eight years of a weak, accommodating, and impotent American presidency.

 It is because  for decades, a very American spirit has been muzzled, wrapped, and stifled.   We are not jaded Europeans who have seen it all for a thousand years; nor Middle Eastern Muslims who finally have had enough accommodation to secularism; nor North Asians and Eastern Europeans who want, finally, to succumb to the siren song of Empire and past glory.  We are frontier Americans who built the Republic on faith, ambition, enterprise, and practical good sense and logic be damned.  We know what we know and resent government telling us otherwise.

Donald Trump is a man of Hollywood, Las Vegas, vaudeville, and Barnum & Bailey.  He is the first candidate to understand – and embody – our deliberately illogical preferences, our passionate anti-intellectual populism, and our anti-establishment moral rectitude. 

Issues don’t matter for either him or for us.  Not even Ronald Reagan stirred so many legitimately nativist aspirations.  Fuck logic, issues, and moderations.  The way forward is visceral, and absolute.  There is no on-the-one-hand-on-the-other dispassionate consideration here.  Hillary and poor Bernie don’t have a clue.


Go, Trumpster!

Saturday, May 21, 2016

Scary Stories Are Good For Children–Don’t Touch The Brothers Grimm!


Many years ago, I was a counselor at a camp on Cape Cod.  I always liked scary stories, was a good storyteller, and liked children.  Every night after lights out, the campers in my cabin begged me to tell them about Three Fingered Willy, a ghoulish character who preyed on children.  Every night I told the same story – Three Fingered Willy coming through the woods in the dark.  I told of the cracking branches, the pouring rain, and the flashes of lightning that lit up his deformed, ghastly face.  In my telling Willy was a zombie who needed fresh human blood for survival – particularly warm, new children’s blood.
The woods were quiet.  Occasionally a chipmunk stirring in his sleep chirped and snuffled in the old leaves.  An owl hooted.  A deer looking for shoots stepping lightly over the moss snapped a twig, looked up, then quietly walked towards the brook.
Suddenly, all sounds in the forest stopped.  Chipmunks stirred, poked their heads up out of their nests and remain frozen.  The owls didn’t hoot. The snakes didn’t slither. The worms stopped wriggling through the mud and dead leaves.
Then, slowly but deliberately, a heavy footfall was heard from the deepest part of the woods.  This was no deer or elk, not even a bear which walked quietly.  The steps became louder and louder and came closer to the cabin in which the boys were sleeping.
One boy woke up and whispered, “It’s Willy”, but before he could finish, they all heard a scratching on the cabin walls….
There was not a sound in the cabin as I told the story.  Not a cough or rustle, not a creak from the old cots, no movement of the bedclothes. 

At first I wondered whether or not the boys could get to sleep after that; but if after the routine of teeth, pajamas, and lanterns out, I started to leave without a story, they stopped me.  They couldn’t get to sleep without Three Fingered Willy.

Although I set the action of each installment in a different place - Willy in the high Sierras;  Willy in the Louisiana swamps;  Willy in the Canadian forests – the story and the character of Willy remained the same.  As the summer went on, Willy became even more hideous and ghoulish.   At first his face was simply misshapen, grotesquely arranged, scarred and pocked; but later on his face disappeared, and headless he appeared at the door of the cabin, silhouetted by the one light that shone from the main house.  He became a ghost, a werewolf that howled in the forest and came dripping and bloody into the cabin.  He was ten feet tall with arms that could reach the tops of trees.  His nails were like sabers.  His eyes glowed yellow.

This of course could never happen today in an age when even the most tame fairy tales are edited, made safe and non-threatening.   There are many versions of Little Red Riding Hood and Hansel and Gretel, two of the Brothers Grimm’s most popular fairy tales.  In one Hansel and Gretel do not push the wicked witch into the oven and cook her, but simply escape and make their way back home.  In other the wicked wolf does not eat Little Red Riding Hood’s grandmother nor is he slaughtered by the woodsman.  Little Red Riding Hood, her grandmother, and the wolf all escape with their lives.

The world according to these new versions is not a perilous, sinister, and dangerous place, but one of accommodation, respect, and harmony.

Children like adults like scary stories.  Grimm’s tales are no different than Stephen King’s and horror movies are still a staple of Hollywood.  For adults scary stories are entertainments,  easy and simple ways to get an adrenaline rush in otherwise sedate and predictable lives.  For children, on the other hand, such stories are far more important than those which portray the world as innocent and harm free.  Soon enough they will realize just the opposite. 


            www.maiachance.com

The tendency to protect children from the inevitable is seen everywhere.  Schools make sure to identify, cull, and dismiss bullies.  The world is full of bullies – bad bosses, adolescent girls, catty women, and macho-men – and the sooner children learn how to deal with them, the better.   Some may confront and challenge them, forcing them to back down.  Others may stay clear, while others may make deals and compromises.  Bullies are important for children.

Children do not believe in witches, ghosts, or ghouls.  Wolves do not talk or dress up in disguises.  Old women do not eat children. Vampires, werewolves, and zombies do not exist.  Yet they could; and the fantasy world of children – a unique, special place soon lost – is populated by things that could be, fears that could be realized, horrors that could occur.  It is also a place where children can fly, change into flowers, and jump across oceans.

The best stories combine both fear, magic, and happy resolution.  The Five Chinese Brothers is a good example.
Long ago in China lived a family with five brothers who resembled each other very closely. They each possessed a special talent. One can swallow the sea; one has an iron neck; one can stretch his legs; one can survive fire; and the last can hold his breath forever. When one of the brothers, a somehow very successful fisherman, agrees to let a young boy accompany him on his fishing trip, trouble results. This brother holds the entire sea in his mouth so that the boy can retrieve fish and treasures. When the man can no longer hold in the sea, he frantically signals to the boy, but the boy ignores him and drowns when the man releases the water.
The man is accused of murder and sentenced to death. However, one by one, his four brothers assume his place when subjected to execution, and each uses his own superhuman ability to survive (one cannot be beheaded, one cannot be drowned, one cannot be burned, and one cannot be smothered). At the end of the story, a judge decides that the brother accused of murder must have been innocent, since he could not be executed, and the five brothers return home (Wikipedia).
Today’s parents and educators are afraid that exposing children to horror – even though it is fictitious, imaginary, and impossible – will cause irreparable damage.  Yet they underestimate children’s powers of discernment and have lost the ability to enter their world of fantasy.  A story of a wicked witch will not increase a child’s vulnerability nor make him timid and fearful; but it may serve as a counterpoint to his own personalized fears.  It is far easier for a father to explain away monsters under the bed if he has read Hansel and Gretel or Little Red Riding Hood to his children.


                              www.pinterest.com

Perhaps most importantly children learn very early on that if a book is too scary, they can put it down.  They can suspend the horror, put it in its place, and retrieve it when they once again want to be frightened.  It is this manipulation of the real and the unreal which characterizes adult perceptions. 
Scary stories deal with torture, murder, death and unspeakable acts; but are clearly circumscribed within fantasy.  They are true tales but only allegories.  We soon learn that the book cannot be closed on real mayhem, but at least we have learned about it beforehand.

Nick Falk, children’s book author and child psychologist observes:
''When you're reading a book and it's scary, you could choose to turn that book over and put it down,'' Falk says. ''It's the same with a thought. You don't have to, when that thought comes into your head, stop everything and pay attention to it and try and get rid of it. You can actually carry on with whatever you were doing and just let that image or thought stay there. It's about giving them the coping skills to be able to do that, so they no longer have to get rid of the thought or image. They don't have to like it, but they also know it's not going to do them any harm” (Sydney Morning Herald 3.13.13)
Scary stories are also important in configuring a realistic worldview – a philosophical universe in which the most outrageous events occur.  It is hard to place  holocausts, serial killings, mass slaughter, and barbarity within a completely rational framework.  There is – or should be – an element of fantasy horror within it.

Titus Andronicus is  a play about greed, ambition, power, jealousy, and vengeance; but it is also a grotesque horror story.  Tamora, Queen of the Goths, encourages her sons to rape the daughter of Titus, then has them cut out her tongue and chop off her hands so that she will never be able to identify her assailants.  When Titus finds out, he exacts the most satisfying revenge possible.  he kills Tamora’s sons, chops them up and bakes them in a pie which he serves her for dinner.


      www.jameskarasreviews.blogspot.com

Titus Andronicus is an adult fairy tale.  Tamora is as wicked as the witch in Hansel and Gretel; and Titus her cannibalistic alter ego.   Fantasy becomes allegory in this Shakespeare play; and it is no different from the stories of the Brothers Grimm.

Some fairy tales with no witches, demons, or ghouls are far more scary for  children than those with.  Pinocchio, for example, has one of the most emotionally disturbing scenes of all children’s stories.  When Pinocchio is taken away from his father and driven away on a rainy, dark night in a cart, he is disconsolate.  The receding image of Geppetto, the creaking wheels of the cart, and the flashing lightning of the storm is frightening and permanent.

Children are more upset by this story than any fantasy that the Grimms could concoct.  It is too close to reality.  A child could easily be separated from his father and be totally lost.  The story of Pinocchio could be his.


                            www.futuregamez.net

Fear is a part of everyone’s lives, and most learn to deal with it.  Phobias are so common and so serious that volumes of psychiatric diagnosis and treatment have been written about them.  Although many phobias – claustrophobia, agoraphobia, and acrophobia – are well known, many others are not.  People have a morbid fear of cats, dogs, dentists, and even marks on a fence. 

The world is an increasingly dangerous place, and travellers are rightly afraid of hijackings, kidnappings, terrorism, and brutal assault.

Does this mean that scary stories really prepare children for the gruesome future that awaits them?  Perhaps not, but since fear is primordial, inescapable, and universal, tales of horror set within a clear context of fantasy may indeed be as important as any other early childhood education.

It is discouraging to see how childhood has become a protected species.  The goal of parents and educators seems to be to deny children of any brush with the real world; to eliminate risk; to shelter them not only from harm but from the image of it.  They encourage a world without sharp edges, pitfalls, unpleasantness, or disappointment.  All children are equal, progressive educators insist, only different in their type of intelligence, character, or abilities.  Playgrounds are not for challenge, but for risk-free, undemanding, innocuous play.  Books are vetted for insensitivity.  Nothing disparaging of race, gender, ethnicity, physical ability, or intellectual performance can be on the shelves.

More than anything else, children love scary stories.  It was not a coincidence that my young charges at Camp First Arrow wanted to hear about Three Fingered Willy again and again – to be frightened silly each and every night, hanging on every gory word, every horrendous description.  

Willy was real for twenty minutes, then he disappeared into thin air; but by magic he was recalled again and again.  Campers who were too young to be frightened by anything real, too privileged to have real worries and concerns, were scared witless by fantasy.  Fear was innate and needed only to be called up.  Better in a cabin on Cape Cod than anywhere else.