LOOKING AROUND – THE RESPONSE TO THESE ESSAYS
2008 October 24

     I sent these essays to friends, family, and other e-mail contacts. In one sense I got what I expected, "Hear hear!" support from known conservative buddies and moral outrage from a few known incurable liberals. Most of my left-wing friends tolerated my mean-streak, conservative attitude accepting that we have different points of view. I don't think any of them were actually persuaded by any of this material.

     One friend joked about the inability of liberals to respond to the obvious failures of the past forty years of their policies. There can't be much doubt that they got their way on just about every political issue (including several I agree with) and the results were terrible (at least on the ones I disagree with). My friend joked that it's probably genetic, liberals are programmed at the DNA level to be left-wing democrats, they're born that way. Then I read somewhere about a study of fraternal and identical twins where the identical twins were far more likely to vote alike than the genetically-different, environmentally-same fraternal twins.

     I was shocked that my Jewish family members, and some Jewish friends, were Obama supporters in spite of his comfort with Israel's enemies. I'm a zionist for one reason: I don't want them all moving here. Our country has good, strategic reasons for keeping Israel as an ally in the middle east.

     I was disappointed that people seem to associate John McCain with George W. Bush when Bush's attitudes and policies are so much closer to Barack Obama. If somebody said he didn't like FDR because he was so much more like Barry Goldwater than Lyndon Johnson, I would be no more surprised. Obama is better for our economy via government programs for the same reason that cancer is good for your health by helping you lose weight.

     Many of my responses were like sports fans. My father was a democrat and my grandparents were democrats. so I'm a democrat. They were also all Mets fans, so you cheer for the Mets, but is that a way to choose a national leader?

     There seems to be some kind of political machine pushing Obama in the media that penultimately decide who will be president. There was almost an instant in the primary campaign when Hillary was no longer the Chosen One and it was Barack Obama instead. Now Obama can do no wrong while our media have little nice to say about John McCain. There's a giant sucking sound alright and it's going to blast Obama into the White House unless there's a real change of American heart.

     There are many reasons to vote for Barack Obama. He's taller, he's better looking, he's younger, he speaks better, and the non-U.S. world likes him better. The ongoing state of our country is not on that list of reasons.

     One of the reasons I was given for voting democratic was a fear of losing our personal freedoms. Let's examine this further:

     The people at U.S. Customs and Border Patrol have extremely invasive privileges and they've had those privileges for a long time. Stephen Wright had a joke, "When I was coming back from Canada the Customs guy asked if I had any firearms. I asked him, `What do you need?'" We laugh nervously at this one because we know better than to joke around with border-entry people because they wield great power at entry, a time and place when and where we do not. They can detain and inspect us and our luggage without warrant. (I didn't go anywhere when I handed my card in at immigration when I returned from Libya because I knew they would have a few words with me.) Furthermore, while we may whine and worry about it while we're waiting in line after a long flight from a far-away country, most Americans are sympathetic to them having this power. We want our country safe.

     Acts of terrorism have been used to expand this secret, warrantless invasion to other areas of our lives. We've had agencies spying on us and our possible enemies for a long time. I suspect we've had unconstitutional violations of people's rights in the name of anti-terrorism for a long time, too. Hollywood has portrayed secretive detention of individuals in movies and television shows, I figure it happens and it catches bad guys. Broadening the net may catch more innocent people than guilty ones. Since these activities have to be secret to be effective, this isn't an area where the American voters can exercise their fundamental right of choice. Government agencies without voter feedback tend to run amok.

     I believe acts of terrorism such as bombings in Oklahoma City and the World Trade Center are used to expand the role of government anti-terrorism bureaucracy. I don't believe the government did those things to expand its role any more than I believe our military bombed Pearl Harbor. The Japanese were going to do it anyway, so our leaders just waited for them to do it and then used it to incite Americans into war. Similarly, bad things are going to happen to our country and the organizations that spy on us will use our outrage to grow and they're going to invade our lives more and more. The Internet and the increase in international travel may make them more necessary. I think it's important that whoever is in power understands the terrible consequences of having frequent, secret violations of people's rights. I tend to think somebody who spent years as a prisoner of war might have more sympathy towards those unjustly detained.

     There's a touchy issue of privacy here. Last I looked, privacy is a right mentioned in neither the Declaration of Independence nor the Constitution of the United States of America. Mentioned or not, Americans regard privacy as a fundamental liberty, not a luxury. When we lose our privacy, we lose other basic rights some of which are mentioned in the Declaration and enforced through our Constitution. Managing public information and private lives in a creepy world of surveillance cameras and Internet webcams is a tough legal challenge. We have a surplus of lawyers in the United States and maybe some of those could be working on defining privacy in the brave new world of the information age.

     The best indicator of the amount of government spying is the amount of government. Those who spy on us are part of a system, a network, an organization and the bigger that system, network, organization is, the more resources it can have to spy on us. There are no guarantees of this, but there's an old saying: "The race may not go to the swift nor the battle to the strong, but that's the way to bet." Well, bigger government may not promote more nasty spying, but that's the way to bet.

     So howcum people afraid of Patriot Acts and anti-terrorism zealots are more afraid of the former-POW, smaller-government candidate? Maybe the media told them to be afraid, maybe they associate McCain with his big-government predecessor, and maybe they don't know any better. Fear-Uncertainty-Doubt (FUD) goes a long way in influencing people's decisions in purchasing products "just to be safe" and in voting for candidates.

     There is something that scares me more than the growing role of anti-terrorist hijacking of our rights. That is the growing comfort with what Josef Stalin called "Political Correctness" (PC). It's the idea that an increasing number of subjects are simply taboo in public circles and that the government gets to select those subjects. Limiting freedom of speech when it turns to violence is okay, "Your freedom to swing your fist ends at my face." Limiting freedom of speech because the topic is taboo is simply wrong. We have told special groups, so called "minorities," that they get to decide what offends them and to end people's careers.

     It was ridiculous twenty-five years ago when I was starting out and it's sillier today. Try engaging a discussion in mixed company about the failure of black people in America. The left-leaners might be okay with that until you bring up the question, "How much do you think is nature and how much is nurture? In other words, how much of the difference between blacks and whites is genetic?" It's a reasonable question and the answer "None, it's all environmental" may be a reasonable answer. But the very topic is off limits.

     Colleges and universities are the very institutions where freedom of speech and free interchange of ideas is most important and these have become the most restrictive. The National Socialist (Nazi) party in Germany figured that out in their 1935-to-1939 rise to power. "V", the otherwise-silly science-fiction mini-series on TV about alien lizards masquerading as humans to use us for food, had the lizards establishing friendships at universities early in their conquest. We should be genuinely frightened, even terrified, when a college professor is vilified for expressing a non-popular political view. You wouldn't believe the angry responses to a motion on AT&T's stockholder's meeting agenda to end racial discrimination in AT&T's hiring process. Or maybe you would believe it.

     I don't mind giving feminist-first women and affirmative-action-racist blacks their say in our intellectual fora, but I do mind giving them the only say.

     There are many reasons to believe that an Obama presidency would be a more-PC presidency than a McCain presidency. Bigger government means more control in all areas. Specifically, Barack and Michelle Obama went to Ivy League schools around the same time I did. She and I both went to college at Princeton University where I majored in Mathematics and she majored in Sociology.

     Her senior thesis was on racial issues and she says, "My experiences at Princeton have made me far more aware of my 'blackness' than ever before." She clearly felt the divisive forces of affirmative-action admissions: "I have found that at Princeton, no matter how liberal and open-minded some of my white professors and classmates try to be toward me, I sometimes feel like a visitor on campus; as if I really don't belong. Regardless of the circumstances underwhich [sic] I interact with whites at Princeton, it often seems as if, to them, I will always be black first and a student second." What did she expect when the difference in admissions and treatment on campus were so great?

     I think her husband's education and inculturation of values would be similar. These racially-divisive values are not those I want in the White House. I don't want colleges terrified of losing massive federal funding to be increasingly influenced by these values. An Obama presidency will not only be about growth in government, it will be about increasing pressure to conform at the highest levels of our intellectual hierarchy.

     The fear I'm expressing is not about uncertainty and doubt. The fear I'm expressing is about core values in our society. It's about a part of our community that has worked hard to make this an awful place for open-minded discussion of difficult social, ethical, and economic issues. Please, do not get sucked in by media reassurance that Barack Obama's presidency is a good thing. It will be anything but that for honest, hard-working people in the United States of America. John McCain is a better bet for all of us.

    

    

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