One Final Word on Trump and This Greek Tragedy of an Election

 

Steve_Buscemi_Armageddon 2

In a climactic moment in the movie Armageddon, a team of drilling experts valiantly attempting to save planet earth from complete annihilation has everything that can possibly go wrong, do so.

When it seemingly becomes clear that the entire universe is conspiring against the success of their noble efforts to save the world, the team member played by Steve Buscemi looks in awestruck wonder at the FUBAR-ity of it all, and the enormity of the tragedy they’re about to witness, and mutters:

“It’s a g#######d Greek tragedy.”

That profane line of dialogue has come to mind on numerous occasions as this election year has rolled along.

What a difference a year makes. A year ago I was optimistic that after eight long, heartbreaking years of watching a great nation intentionally weakened; her standing in the world diminished; and her blood-bought liberties eroded;  we had our best opportunity in decades to put a conservative statesman in the White House. (It’s been since 1980 since we had one of those.)

On one hand, the Democrats were set to put forth the weakest, most flawed, most beatable group of candidates since 1968. Old, tired, corrupt, extreme, unlikable and white.

On the other hand, the Republicans boasted one of the most impressive crops of candidates in living memory. Young, intelligent, articulate, proven and ethnically diverse.

Then came Trump. And everything instantly went to hell.

Early on I dashed off a few thoughts in posts titled, “On Donald Trump,” and “Deconstructing the Appeal of Donald Trump.” This will be my final post on him.

It now seems clear that one of two scenarios is inevitable:

  • Donald Trump wins the Republican nomination and loses to Hillary Clinton in the general election.
  • Or some sort of brokered convention snatches the nomination from Trump with the result of alienating a significant swath of vital Republican voters.

Either outcome puts Hillary Clinton in the White House for eight more years of calamity for America. The only wildcard that might avert this Trump-caused catastrophe is a multi-count federal indictment of Hillary between now and November. Not likely (although appropriate.)

The Enigma of Evangelical Attraction to Trump

In a non-Armageddon-like universe, Ted Cruz would have owned the Evangelical vote. But here in Bizzaro world, he hasn’t. Instead, large numbers of Christians have cast their vote for a profane casino-owning huckster who boasts about the proportions of his genitalia in televised presidential debates.

Christian leaders like Jerry Falwell, Jr., FBC Dallas pastor Robert Jeffress, Beni Johnson (wife of Bethel’s Bill Johnson), and numerous others are vocally endorsing and defending a man who thinks personal insults like “loser” and “clown” are an adequate substitute for cogent policy arguments.

He has not once given objective listeners a reason to believe has has thought deeply or read seriously about a single issue important to Christians or conservatives.

In recent weeks, Mr. Trump has doubled down on his promise to “force Mexico to pay for a border wall.” (He can’t. Of course, he knows that. He’s just betting that you and I don’t.)

He has suggested that as President he’d  make China assassinate North Korea’s Kim Jong Un. (Uh, again, no.)

He talks about the presidency the same way liberals and children do, as if the office conveys god-like power. Again, he doesn’t really believe any of this. It’s marketing.

In an email to his subscribers, liberal comedian Louis C.K. recently had a word of warning and advice for conservatives. “He is not one of you. He is one of him . . . He is playing you.”

It’s true. And it’s disappointing to find a significant number of my fellow evangelicals either blissfully unaware of that fact, or bafflingly indifferent to it.

It feels like a tragedy. A Greek tragedy.

Deep Thoughts About Deep Space

Kirk and Spock

I’ve been meaning to throw this out there for my fellow sci-fi nerds of a certain age who, like me:

  • grew up on Star Trek reruns;
  • have followed the various iterations of the franchise through the decades;
  • and who invariably notice the political philosophies and ideas that undergird TV series and movies.

Trust me, all dramas have a political viewpoint and an agenda. We storytellers are always either teaching or preaching.

The original Star Trek series was optimistic, idealistic and infused with a confidence that the guiding principles of Western Civilization, although flawed in execution, were unambiguously good.

How the political philosophy of Star Trek evolved (or actually devolved) over the last 50 years was the subject of a long but fascinating essay by Timothy Sandefur in an issue of the Claremont Review of Books last year, titled “The Politics of Star Trek.”

As the insightful piece pointed out, these changes in underlying ideology track perfectly with the U.S. dominant culture’s descent into Postmodern self-hatred and relativism. (Today, the only thing that can safely be condemned as immoral is moral certitude.)

The original network run of the original Star Trek series unfolded when I was ages six to nine. I was aware of the series but it aired past my bedtime.

I do dimly recall, however, being roughly six or seven and working with a friend to convert a discarded cardboard refrigerator box into our own personal Starship Enterprise, complete with NCC-1701 scrawled on the side with crayon. It was subsequently converted, through some clever feats of retrofitting engineering, into a Batmobile.

Even so, like most fans of my generation, I became a devoted follower only after the series entered syndication and became ubiquitous in reruns for decades.

Star_Trek_Picard_CrewIn 1987 Star Trek: The Next Generation revived and reinvigorated the franchise. That was the year I got marred and my new bride and I faithfully watched the new series each week and became invested in the characters.

Even so, the distinct shift in worldview within the franchise and its spinoffs stuck out to me from the beginning. Sandefur’s essay explores this shift in fascinating detail.

220px-StartrekposterThe latest reboot of the franchise, crafted by master scifi-fantasy storyteller J.J. Abrams, has once again remade the moral framework within which the familiar characters think and act.

Referring to Abram’s second Star Trek film, Into Darkness, a reinterpretation of the movie Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, Sanderfur notes, “By the time Khan reappears under Abrams’s direction, the fixed moral stars by which the franchise once steered have been almost entirely obscured . . . Having lost their principles, the show’s heroes cannot really explain, or understand, what differentiates them from their enemies, and so are rendered vulnerable to the very forces they once opposed.”

This clearly isn’t for everyone. But if you have consumed all the various iterations of Star Trek through the decades and enjoy smart discussions of big ideas (Hi Ted! Hi Jed!), then you will find this essay well worth your time.

Check out:

Politics of Star Trek

 

Political Parties Die

Whig Ticket

Abraham Lincoln was originally a member of the Whig Party. The Whigs saw four members elected President before collapsing and dissolving in 1854.

The Whigs were replaced on the national stage by a new party—the Republicans.

Yes, political parties can and do die. We may be witnessing the death of one in our time. Which reminds me . . .

Here in Texas, powerful thunderstorms can roll through in the late spring and early summer fronted by intense, straight-line winds. Occasionally after such a storm, you’ll see a huge, ancient tree blown over with the roots pulled right up out of the ground.

It’s easy to look at the huge girth such a tree and marvel that mere wind could take it down after centuries of life and vitality. But take a closer look and you’ll often see that the roots are diseased and shriveled. Such trees are all showy top and no anchoring base.

If the Republican Party rapidly collapses in the aftermath of this election it would not surprise me in the least. And the real cause will have been the disdain for the conservative roots by the bloated establishment elites in Washington and Wall Street; the open borders advocates at the Wall Street Journal and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.

Donald Trump will merely have been the wind that knocked it over.

Millard Fillmore was the last Whig president. Perhaps Donald Trump will be the last Republican one.

 

 

On A Bias for Action (A Quotation)

Christian life is action.

Not a speculating.

Not a debating.

But a doing.

One thing, and only one, in this world has eternity stamped upon it. Feelings pass; resolves and thoughts pass; opinions change. What you have done lasts –lasts in you. Through the Ages, through eternity, what you have done in Christ, that, and only that, you are.

—F.W. Robertson (d. 1853), Scottish evangelist

On Dying Too Young

It was a jarring moment. More than a week later, I’m still processing it.

Allow me to back up and explain.

In my previous post I mentioned that I have spent quite a bit of time on Ancestry dot com piecing together the various branches of our family tree. I’ve taken most lines back several centuries.

In biological terms, each of us has two parents, four grandparents, eight great-grandparents and so forth in an arithmetic doubling progression. That means we all have 128 5x-great-grandparents. For me, all but a couple of of these 128 forbearers were born on U.S. soil.

Put another way, when I’m pursuing a line of my ancestry and want to find the person who “came over” from Europe, I invariably have to go back at least to the early 1700s and in most cases to the 1600s.

At the risk of sounding like a Nativist, I find that kind of cool. It’s colonial era pioneers and farmers as far as the eye can see—with a few Methodist preachers thrown in for good measure.

The jarring moment I mentioned came when I was doing a little of this genealogy research the other day—however it didn’t involve any of these 17th century pioneers.

I found a picture I’d never seen of my paternal grandfather—that is, my dad’s dad—who died in 1961, when I was not yet two years old. I have no memories of the man and had only ever seen photos taken later in his life. So, I was fascinated to have come across this one:

Floyd John Holland

Floyd John Holland was born in 1905 in Sallisaw, Oklahoma. That’s two years before Oklahoma became a state. He appears to be about 15 years old in the above photo so I’m guessing it was taken around 1920–maybe a year or two earlier.

He was the second oldest of 11 children, and the date of his birth made him too young to serve in the first world war and too old to serve in the second one. He married my grandmother when he was 20 and she was 15. They went on to have six kids, their second-eldest was my father.

He died a slow, painful death from prostate cancer in a day in which treatment options were limited. He knew he was dying for months before the disease finally took him.

In attaching the above photo to the Ancestry dot com record for my grandfather, I took note of the date of his death and did something I, for some reason, hadn’t ever done. I subtracted his birth year from his death year to determine his age at death.

He was only 56.

I am 56.

It was a sobering moment. I could not help wondering what it would feel like to be finished right now, at this very point in my life. To know there would be no more accomplishments. No more milestones. No more discoveries. No more legacy building.

Yes, I know it sounds a little morbid, but in that instant I couldn’t help putting myself in his place— knowing that there would be grandchildren I’d never see born, much less have the opportunity to influence.

Fifty-six is far too young to to be done.

My grandmother survived him by 41 years and never remarried. A few months before she died, she pulled me aside and quietly shared an extraordinary piece of new information about my grandfather’s final days.

He had never been a spiritual man.  He wasn’t a church-goer. But my grandmother wanted me to know that shortly after the cancer had confined her husband to a bed he knew he’d never leave, he’d asked her to summon the preacher.

Knowing the end was near, he did business with God.

One of the countless wonderful things about the grace-driven offer of salvation God makes to every person in every place and time is that, as long as breath is in our bodies, it is never too late to say “yes” to it.

Forgiveness, peace and Heaven are not a prize to be won or a paycheck to be earned. These are only gifts to be humbly received.

He left behind something more than a wife and six children. He bequeathed to us all an example of a man working hard to do whatever was necessary to provide for his large, young family.

In my previous post I mentioned how every genealogical researcher secretly hopes to find royalty or nobility in their family tree. It strikes me that I’ve found it.

In the depths of the Great Depression, in one of the hardest hit areas of the country, my grandfather simultaneously worked as a custodian, drove a bus, sold cars on the weekend and farmed—all in order to put food on table and shoes on feet.

I can think of few things more noble than that.

Even so, 56 is far too young to be finished. And that jarring realization has added fuel to my resolve to be a good steward of however many years I have remaining.

Frankly, I wouldn’t be surprised if I have 56 more in front of me—112 is a good number. But we never know, do we?

This day—today—is the gift we’ve been given. Let’s see what we can make of it, shall we?

Crowdsourcing Bad Information

 

FindingYourRoots

Here at Hacienda Holland,  we enjoy watching the PBS show “Finding Your Roots”—where each week three celebrities, politicians and other people of note have their family trees researched by professionals and learn previously unknown and often startling facts about their ancestors. It’s a fascinating and often quite moving viewing experience.

For example, this week’s episode profiled the genealogies of Jimmy Kimmel, Norman Lear, and Bill Hader (formerly of SNL.) You can watch that episode here.

Lear learned that several branches of his direct Jewish ancestors came to America fleeing horrific, genocidal pogroms in Russia. He also discovered he carries the Cohanim gene, meaning that he is likely descended from the priestly Hebrew tribe of Levi.

Hader, who hails from Tulsa, Oklahoma, was stunned to discover he is a direct descendant of the 9th Century emperor Charlemagne.

FamilyTreeA few years ago I bought Mrs. H a subscription to Ancestry dot com for her birthday after she’d expressed some curiosity about her roots (she’s half Czech).

Research, however, is one of my super-powers, not hers (she has many others). As a result, I have been the one who has spent the most time online trying to fill in blanks on our respective family trees.

Originally, the Ancestry dot com site simply allowed subscribers to search record archives (births, deaths, baptisms, census records, etc.) and then start building a family tree based on the information they discovered. Eventually, the site—due to popular demand from users, no doubt—began to let members share their family trees and related research with others.

This is where it all went horribly, hilariously wrong.

Oh sure, this feature was great at first. It allowed you to glom onto the hours of painstaking work some diligent, meticulous researcher had put in determining the parentage of some common ancestor. With a couple of mouse clicks you could grab all that information and watch it pop right into your own tree.

The problem is that this same feature also allows bad information to go viral, spreading through Ancestry dot com family trees like Dutch Elm disease.

And the internet’s genealogy sites are awash in bad information. Really, really bad. Why?

Because, when researching one’s genealogy, there’s nothing more frustrating than hitting a dead end. Human nature being what it is, many people address that frustration by attaching their family line to a branch to which it doesn’t belong.

This is doubly tempting when that branch has some cool factor. You see, everyone wants to be Bill Hader, tracing his or her lineage back to the European royalty or a famous person in history.

It only takes one person erroneously connecting their ancestor to the wrong person to lead astray thousands of others who share that same ancestor. And clearly people are easily led astray—just uncritically assuming everything presented to them is correct.

Anytime I’m researching my family lines, I’m presented with countless suggestions—based on other users’ trees—that contain one or more of the following based on the associated dates:

  • Men who became fathers when they were three or four years old.
  • Women who gave birth when they were three or four years old.
  • Women who gave birth with they were 73 or 74 or 104 years old.
  • People who are older than their parents.
  • Couples who give two of their children the same first name.

The greatest safeguard against falling prey to these errors is the ability to do simple math (subtraction mainly) and a rudimentary understanding of the human reproductive cycle–two skills that are clearly rarer than I’d previously presumed.

growthcurveNevertheless, it’s fascinating to see how one individual’s mistake can snowball into something huge and seemingly universally accepted. Two or three people replicate that one person’s error. Then others observe that three or four people seem to all agree. Soon it seems like hundreds of people have all reached the same conclusion. It must be true!

Which reminds me . . .

Something very similar roughly seventeen centuries ago may be the reason we’ve all been taught that John, the Beloved discipled, penned the book of Revelation in the A.D. 90s when John was in his 90s.

But I’ll save that for another day.

What’s Wrong with Harris County?

harris-county

A few days ago I called it the biggest under-reported news story of 2015.

I was referring to the damning series of stunning undercover videos exposing Planned Parenthood as a house of abortion horrors and as a key supplier/source for research labs eager to obtain intact baby parts.

Since then, the story has taken an Orwellian turn. First this:

Grand jury in Texas indicts activists behind Planned Parenthood videos.

How could this be? Perhaps this can explain the inexplicable:

Planned Parenthood Board Member Works in Office of D.A. Who Indicted David Daleiden

An Open Letter to Sarah Palin

Dear Sarah,

Palin BookIt’s been almost six years since my colleague Stephen Mansfield and I researched and wrote our book about you—The Faith and Values of Sarah Palin.

We wrote it in a publishing environment in which nearly all profiles of political personalities were either hagiographies crafted to praise them to the heavens; or hit pieces hoping to make the target look like the spawn of a love connection between Josef Mengele and Caligula.

Both types of books lie in the space somewhere between PR and propaganda.

That is not the kind of book we were interested in writing. To their credit, Frontline Books allowed us to write a thoughtful, objective exploration of your faith journey and worldview from an unapologetically Christian and conservative perspective.

We weren’t out to promote you. Nor were we out to tear you down. We were neither fanboys nor haters.

In a season in which many were speculating about whether you might choose to run for the presidency in 2012, we were out to give open-minded readers the fairest, most sensitive understanding possible of what shaped you and what drives you. Or, as the title promised—your faith and values.

In researching your life, words, and actions we found much to admire, and I believe this comes through in the book. For me, three of your strengths stood out as being especially impressive and praiseworthy.

u-s-constitutionThe first was your tenacious and passionate commitment to constitutional constraints on the power of government. We described the way you consistently pointed to Alaska’s constitution as a candidate; and we cited numerous instances in which you courageously stayed true to those principles while in office.

You have always seemed to understand that fallen, fallible, corruptible, humans require iron-clad restraints of constitutional limitations when they exercise political power.

The second was your seemingly clear understanding that our nation had too many individuals and corporations gorging themselves at the government trough. In numerous speeches you’ve rightly pointed out that the welfare state fosters dependence; and that when corporations and whole industries become recipients of taxpayer money, it results in something very unhealthy for our republic.

Thirdly, we admired your unapologetic commitment to Christian values and the pro-life cause.

palin-trumpAll of which makes your recent endorsement of Donald Trump not only disappointing but baffling. And I’m not the only one struggling to reconcile your ethusiastic cheerleading for Mr. Trump with the principles you’ve articulated and lived in public over the last ten years.

In an effort to solve this mystery, numerous cynics have opined that you, after several years of declining relevance, have tossed aside your principles for an opportunity to share a very bright spotlight once again.

I’ll not try to guess your motive. I personally think presuming low motives of those with whom we disagree is a very low and nasty form of argumentation. Even so, it is one of Mr. Trump’s favorite devices—along with name calling, crass insults, and schoolyard taunts.

I will say that it is highly ironic that your joining yourself to the traveling Donald Trump circus coincides with two events that the old, principled Sarah Palin would have found worthy of cheering.

The first is Ted Cruz’s refusal to bow his knee and kiss the ring of the Corn Growers Lobby in Iowa. In the past, most conservative candidates campaigning in Iowa have felt it necessary to toss their principles aside and pander to the powerful corn grower/ethanol industry. But not Cruz. Cruz is standing on principle even though it is almost certainly damaging his prospects in strategically important Iowa. (Mr. Trump, on the other hand, is in full blown pander mode, praising ethanol subsidies left and right.)

The Sarah Palin I used to admire would have found some nice things to say about Mr. Cruz’s courage.

Secondly, only one presidential candidate was present in snow-buried Washington, D.C. at the annual March for Life event a few days ago to show solidarity with the pro-life movement.

Carly Fiorina stood before a throng of pro-life activists and sent a message out to the pro-abortion activists who show up and try to shout her down at every campaign stop:

“You can scream and throw condoms at me all day long.  You won’t silence me. You don’t scare me. I have battled breast cancer. I have buried a child. I have read the Bible. I know the value of life.”

That’s the kind of full-throated, warrior-woman battle cry that used to earn an “amen” and an “atta girl” from you. But it didn’t. It couldn’t.

It could not because you’ve hitched your wagon to the wrong horse. And I can’t help but find that sad. You’re better than this.

Respectfully,

David A. Holland

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Biggest, Under-Reported News Story of 2015

Media Self-Censorship

In the 1850s and ’60s, courageous writers exposed readers to the horrors of slavery and the Abolitionist Movement was born.

In the early 1900s, Upton Sinclair pulled back the curtain and gave America a horrifying look at the meat-packing industry, triggering a public outcry that produced significant reforms.

In the same era, other journalists, who Teddy Roosevelt admiringly dubbed “muckrakers,” went undercover to expose other festering societal cancers to the light of day.

Fast-forward to 2015. As I pointed out in this blog post, journalism is largely dead.

Today the the entire news gathering, news reporting apparatus in the United States is wholly dedicated not to keeping the powerful accountable but rather keeping liberals/Progressives in power and advancing the liberal/Progressive agenda.

Some journalists now take talking points directly from the White House. Many others participate in large email listservs that allow them to shape coverage and therefore shape narratives. (See the JournoList Scandal for example)

Media bias doesn’t just manifest in the way stories are covered. It’s most insidious manifestation is in the way certain stories are ignored (see: Benghazi/Hillary/”What difference, at this point, does it make?”)

The American deaths and heroics at Benghazi, and the subsequent government cover-up, was the most underreported story of 2013. So what about this last year—2015?

That would be the explosive exposé by The Center for Medical Progress of Planned Parenthood’s gruesome harvesting and marketing of baby parts. Over the course of six months in 2015 the courageous group released  a series of videos of clandestinely taped conversations with various Planned Parenthood officials.

The released videos included:

Planned Parenthood Uses Partial-Birth Abortions to Sell Baby Parts

Second Planned Parenthood Senior Executive Haggles Over Baby Parts Prices, Changes Abortion Methods

Planned Parenthood VP Says Fetuses May Come Out Intact, Agrees Payments Specific to the Specimen

Human Capital – Episode 2: Inside the Planned Parenthood Supply Site

Human Capital – Episode 3: Planned Parenthood’s Custom Abortions for Superior Product

Top Planned Parenthood Exec: Baby Parts Sales “A Valid Exchange,” Can Make “A Fair Amount of Income”

Planned Parenthood TX Abortion Apprentice Taught Partial-Birth Abortions to “Strive For” Intact Baby Brains

“PROFIT” – Planned Parenthood’s Illicit Moneymaking From Baby Body Parts

“HARVEST” – Planned Parenthood’s Custom Abortions for Better Baby Parts

In a fairer, more just world the content these videos would have unleashed a firestorm of media attention so ferocious that Planned Parenthood would have been fully defunded and no donor this side of Josef Mengele would have given it a penny.

Obviously, that is not the world we’re living in. The mainstream media completely ignored the first few videos. In fact, the first time most of the major news outlets even acknowledged the existence of the bombshell exposé is when Planned Parenthood issued an official response.

The truth about Benghazi could not be suppressed. Americans are finally learning the truth. Hopefully the horrifying truth about Planned Parenthood’s barbarism will not stayed buried either.

However, as I write, Planned Parenthood, with deep pockets from fat-cat donors and taxpayer dollars, is suing The Center for Medical Progress.