Category Archives: Culture

Nass Sticks up for Farmers

Governor Evers wants to impose onerous and expensive new restrictions on farmers. Thankfully, Nass is sticking up for the farmers.

A key Republican lawmaker vowed Wednesday to block new state restrictions designed to protect farmers’ neighbors from the stench of manure following a flurry of complaints from Wisconsin’s agricultural community.

The Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection has spent the last three years drafting revisions to farm siting regulations. The latest version calls for dramatically expanding manure storage facility setbacks from neighbors’ property lines for new farms and farms looking to expand.

Sen. Steve Nass, R-Whitewater, co-chairman of the Legislature’s rules committee, issued a terse statement Wednesday accusing department “bureaucrats” of ignoring the industry’s concerns and making life harder for farmers. He promised to do everything he can to block the rules if they reach his committee in their present form.

I don’t remember who first said it to me, but whenever I am in the country and that manure smell wafts through my nostrils, I say, “mmm… smells like money.” That smell represents the hard work that farmers do to feed their families and ours. Instead of trying to make farms smell better for the sensibilities of suburbanites and city dwellers, let’s educate people on the importance of farming, because nobody cares about the smell of shit when they are starving.

Climate Confessions

NBC News has a page where they invite readers to “Tell us: Where do you fall short in preventing climate change?” It appears to be their opportunity to absolve readers of their climate sins and encourage them to do better. I don’t think it’s working out how they planned. I took a screen shot because I’m sure they will be “filtered” soon.

High School Kids Put on Probation After Displaying Trump Flag

There’s something going on

Cheerleaders from a North Carolina high school have been put on probation after they held up a flag in support of President Donald Trump before a football game.

The North Stanly High School cheerleading squad was placed on probation on Monday for waving the Trump 2020 banner last month during a home game.

Members of the squad posed for photos with the banner on August 30 before the game in Stanly County, which is about 50 miles north-east of Charlotte.

The banner read: ‘Trump 2020: Make America Great Again.’

I don’t have a problem with the school’s action. They have a rule and they are enforcing it. As long as they do so consistently, so be it.

But there’s something going on with kids and Trump. I’ve been to three high school football games this year. At two of them – in different cities with kids from different schools – the kids in the stands had Trump signs. One school had a Trump flag they hung over the railing and another school had several kids wearing MAGA hats with one kid wearing a Trump cape. What’s up?

It seems that it’s becoming the rebellious cool thing to do for kids to support Trump. Is it because so many of their teachers are anti-Trump and they are pushing back? Is it because they are rallying around the pro-America message? Is it just the cool thing to do because some kids did it first and others followed along? Or is just anecdotal and not a trend at all?

I’ll report back on how the rest of the season goes.

 

“Certain Guns”

Herein lies the root thought process behind benign tyranny.

(CNN)Let me start by saying this: I don’t want to take away all guns. In fact, I can’t think of a politician or gun violence prevention advocate who has suggested repealing the Second Amendment. However, I do believe it should be really, really, hard — if not impossible — for certain people to get their hands on certain guns.

Who are “certain people?” And what are “certain guns?” Today we already ban certain people from having guns – mainly felons and the insane – but we do so after rigorous due process is afforded. We do so because the right to keep and bear arms is a natural right that our founders knew deserved the utmost protection. That is why they protected it in the Bill of Rights.

When we loosen those definitions and suspend due process, we are on the path to tyranny. In Milano’s case, it is a benign tyranny rooted in the illogical assumption that access to firearms is a problem that needs to be solved. She’s a true believer who thinks that if only we could remove guns from our population, then we would be a safer society and that there wouldn’t be other negative consequences to such a situation. It’s a naive belief that is easy for someone to have who is protected by walls and armed security.

The problem is that once the wedge is created in our rights by those with benign interests, it can easily be wrested wider by those with more malignant intent. This is the same well worn path toward tyranny used in nations around the world for centuries. Disarm the population for their “own safety;” force them to rely upon the “authorities;” and then use those authorities to impose the will of tyrants. History is our guide and despite the fantasies of some, human nature has not changed enough that we would get a different outcome should we tread that path.

“overall shortages of economically attractive partners”

So if I’m reading this correctly, women who want a financially secure man are not feminist enough?

I hope you feminists are happy! You’ve finally gone and done it. You’ve throttled the supply of high-earning husbands, and now there are severe mismatches in the marriage market. Yes, I regret to report that a study in the Journal of Marriage and Family (there truly is a journal for everything) has found that unmarried American women “face overall shortages of economically attractive partners”. Women are looking for husbands with an income 58% higher than those of the available men.

[…]

I hate to say this, but Limbaugh does have a very tiny point. I’m struck by how many empowered women regress to the 1950s when it comes to marriage. They fight for equality at work, but still have traditional expectations when it comes to men proposing with expensive diamond rings. And the idea that marrying a rich dude is something one should aspire to is still very much entrenched in society. The rise of “economically unattractive” men isn’t just bad news for guys – it reflects poorly on us all.

Never Forget

The “Burn it Down” Mentality

Interesting stats in Paul Fanlund’s column.

The authors measured this “need for chaos” among those they describe as frustrated status seekers: “We show that chaotic motivations are surprisingly widespread within advanced democracies, having some hold in up to 40 percent of the American national population.”

Americans polled answered questions like these: “I think society should be burned to the ground.” Twenty-four percent said yes.

Or, “When I think about our political and social institutions, I cannot help thinking, ‘Just let them all burn.’ ” Forty percent concurred.

Or, “We cannot fix the problems in our social institutions, we need to tear them down and start over.” Also 40 percent.

The authors termed those results “staggering.”

He doesn’t share any longitudinal data, so I don’t know if this sentiment is different than years past. But I would offer that there are two things going on.

First, many people in this country feel that the elite political institutions no longer serve the people’s interests. Call it the “swamp” or whatever, but many people just don’t think that government gives a dang about them anymore – if it ever did. This is a major fuel for the populist movement that put Trump in the White House.

Second, there is a long tradition in America, a nation born of revolution, that we must sometimes tear things down and rebuild them. It is the instinct of creative destruction that underpins capitalism as well as the one of the precepts of our national psyche.

I don’t take this poll as alarming or staggering. I take it as a sign that many of the people in our culture are not yet so cowed by institutional rigidity that we feel a need to preserve them when they are no longer beneficial or useful.

Harry’s Flying High

Heh.

Piers Morgan renewed his attack on Prince Harry today after the royal called for tourism to become more environmentally-friendly.

The Duke of Sussex spoke in Amsterdam this morning at the launch of a project to encourage holiday firms to become more sustainable.

But the Prince’s comments led to renewed criticism over his and his wife Meghan’s decision to take four private jet journeys in 11 days during the summer.

Broadcaster Piers Morgan was among those who said Harry should change his own flying habits before trying to convince others to change theirs.

While the criticism is valid, it could also be made about 96% of these wealthy lefties who lecture the rest of us about how we should live our lives.

Woman Charged With Terroristic Threatening

Too much?

Linda Morford, 43, of Saratoga Springs, Utah, has been charged with one count of terroristic threatening, a second degree felony.

[…]

The receptionist said Morford became angry after being told she would need to rearrange her two kids’ appointments.

It’s alleged that she said: ‘Gun people come in and they shoot everybody.

‘I’ll be there next Tuesday at 2, and if we are five minutes late and you guys make us reschedule, then I will come in and KILL EVERYBODY.

‘That’s what I’ll do… Well, I might this afternoon, because I’m super angry, so watch out.’

[…]

Police told the site: ‘I advised these threats are extremely substantial and based on the high occupancy of the building during the day, this falls under a Domestic Terrorism level.’

This is a good example of the grey lines that make Red Flag laws so unworkable. There is no doubt that she made a threat. Was it serious? Have any of you ever said to yourself, “I’m going to kill someone if…”? Have you said it out loud? Have you said it in front of someone? In an age of increasing surveillance, have you said something like that in front of a smart speaker? What about something a little less drastic… have you ever quoted a movie line or something like, “say hello to my little friend?” Or “I’m going to make him an offer he can’t refuse?”

Then again, we need to take threats seriously. If this woman had actually gone to the dentist’s office to kill the people, the lack of reaction would have been viewed as inexcusable.

Obviously, there are details of this story that aren’t in the brief news story. Here’s what I think should have happened… the receptionist was right to notify the police. The police should have gone to the woman’s house and questioned her. If she doesn’t have a record of violence and was appropriately apologetic, the police should have sternly warned her against making threats and moved on. If she was belligerent and has a record, then perhaps arrest her for disorderly conduct or something.

Without more than a baseless threat made in anger over the phone, putting someone in jail for a felony seems like an overreaction. But we don’t know all of the facts and there may be more to it that made law enforcement decide that a felony charge was appropriate.

But back to my Red Flag comment… under red flag laws, this would certainly have been enough justification to disarm the woman (assuming she has firearms). Then, whether she was serious about the threat or not, she would be put in the position of proving that she was not intending to actually do anyone harm to anyone. Do you see how a red flag laws shift the burden of proof AND force the accused to prove a negative?

As it is proceeding, the burden is upon law enforcement to prove that she made a serious threat and convict her of a felony, which would deprive her of her 2nd Amendment rights. She will be afforded due process and is presumed innocent. This is as it should be and adheres to the Rule of Law that is the bedrock of a free society.

If a Red Flag law were in place and the government decided to take her firearms because the phone threat is certainly a “red flag,” then her 2nd and 4th Amendment rights would have been violated without any due process or presumption of innocence. In fact, the opposite would have been true. She would have been presumed guilty and put in a position of having to prove her innocence in order to have her rights restored. It front of a judge with an authoritarian streak, such a burden would be insurmountable.

I don’t envy law enforcement in this case. It is a judgment call to decide whether or not her threat rose to the level of a crime or not. Their inclination will be to err on the side of caution and let the court system sort it out. Perhaps that is what is happening here, but it would be an entirely different story if Utah had Red Flag laws in place.

Identity Protection

Here’s an interesting and long article about how protesters around the world are finding ways to obscure their identities from the proliferation of face-recognition cameras being used by law enforcement and others. It’s a growing concern even if one is not protesting or breaking the law. We have entered an age of constant surveillance and it’s getting worse.

The use of reflective materials to evade surveillance isn’t just being explored in Hong Kong. In 2016, American artist Scott Urban set up a Kickstarter page to crowdfund his anti-surveillance sunglasses, Reflectacles.
The eyewear is made from a material that reflects infrared light, meaning the frames appear as flashes of white light in surveillance footage. Because of the glare, a person could appear anonymous in images and photos, his website claims.
Urban said his website has experienced a spike in hits from Hong Kong, as a result of the recent protests.
“I’m not trying to hawk a product,” Urban said in a phone interview. “I’m just trying to tell people that when your face becomes your identity, there’s no going back. You’re going to be tracked constantly in any public space.”
[…]
Many are worried about the future, when the “one country, two systems” arrangement that allows the city certain freedoms and autonomy expires in 2047.
As a 20-year-old student protester — who only gave his surname, Lau — took a break in the shade during a protest on a blazingly hot day, he kept his face mask on, even though no police were around.
“We are not prepared to be picked up by the government yet,” he said.

Pot-Laced Vaping Linked to Health Issues

I figure that we’re about five years from massive lawsuits against the vaping and pot companies.

The Milwaukee Health Department reports some of the patients hospitalized were dabbing, inhaling marijuana oils or extracts.

On Thursday, DHS said in a state investigation of people with lung disease who reported vaping, 89 percent of the 27 cases interviewed so far reported using e-cigarettes or other vaping devices to inhale THC products, such as waxes and oils.

“Some through products that were not built — purchased through the normal marketplace. Perhaps being bought on the streets that were sold with THC as an additive,” said Alderman Murphy.

FOX6 News reached out to a half-dozen vape shops in and around Milwaukee for comment. Owners either declined, or never returned our calls.

Madison School Board Member Compares Police to Nazis

Yes. It’s just like the Nazis and concentration camps. Sure it is. /sarcasm

On Saturday, [Madison School Board Member Ali] Muldrow said on Facebook that “I think that (it’s) important to talk about what it is like for the students who are arrested at school and end up in the Dane County Jail. We would not talk about the role of the Nazis and act as if the experiences people had in concentration camps is a separate issue.”

Oh, and she doubled down before finally apologizing.

Muldrow initially didn’t back down from her Saturday Facebook comments, saying Monday that “the rounding up (of) specific demographics of people, including LGBTQ folks and folks with disabilities, then institutionalizing them in locked facilities, is being done now in a variety of ways and was also done in Nazi Germany.”

Madison gonna Madison. This person is in charge of educating kids.

Gun Control as Race Control

It’s an important perspective.

Kenyatta, co-founder of Detroit’s Black Bottom Gun Club, points to the growing emergence of violent white supremacist sects and the persistence of structural racism as reasons to reject calls for gun restrictions.

Kenyatta believes that gun control measures are often a  response to black Americans’ attempts to exercise their Second Amendment rights. He points to Michigan’s adoption of gun ownership restrictions after Ossian Sweet, a black physician who bought a house in a heretofore white Detroit neighborhood in 1925, used a shotgun to protect his family against an angry white mob. Sweet was eventually acquitted of murder charges, but in 1927 the state lawmakers adopted legislation giving counties control over the issuance of gun permits, a move designed to limit black gun ownership.

[…]

Kenyatta, who resigned his NRA membership over its demonization of the Black Lives Matter movement, disagrees with 59% of Americans who said they support a ban on assault weapons in a recent HuffPost poll. He points out that out that many mass shootings have been committed by white men with connections to white nationalism, and he believes that if he gives up his weapons, he may be making himself vulnerable to racists who will be unlikely to surrender their firearms.

“I know that there are people who don’t like me just for the color of my skin who are heavily armed, and I can’t in good conscience relinquish my ability to defend myself, my family and my community knowing that law enforcement and even the government doesn’t have the capability and often times isn’t willing to protect my community,” Kenyatta says.

He adds, “It’s incumbent upon especially black men to be armed for means of self-defense. Being in tune with the national rhetoric and being conscious of our history and our present here, I see nothing wrong with being able to match fire with fire with those who have historically attacked our community with physical violence and social-economic violence as well.”

Back on Campus

Good.

UW-Madison announced Monday it has reinstated former Wisconsin Badgers wide receiver Quintez Cephus to the university — a year to the day after he told his team he had to step down and face criminal charges.

The university expelled Cephus last semester for violating the non-academic misconduct code following accusations of sexual assault from two women. A Dane County jury acquitted him of those charges earlier this month after deliberating for less than an hour.

[…]

Cephus, 21, was suspended from the team in August 2018 because of the women’s accusations. He maintains the sex was consensual.

He said at a Monday news conference that he learned of his reinstatement while flying back to Madison from his hometown of Macon, Georgia. He said he is ready to start winning football games and anticipates playing this season.

UW Athletics said in a statement Cephus has officially rejoined the team, but must work through some “eligibility issues” before he can participate in a game. UW Athletics spokesman Brian Lucas declined to clarify those issues. He also said Cephus’ athletic scholarship had been restored.

By law, he did not do anything wrong. A government institution should not ban people based on unproven accusations. The university did the right thing here.

I do think, however, that the university needs to rethink its policies for accusations. Cephus was expelled and kicked off campus based on an accusation that was later shown to be without merit. While the university has a duty to protect other students and faculty from people who they think might be dangerous, they should not be in the business of handing down such severe punishments, like expulsion, based on an unproven accusation.

Clinton in Drag

Best story of the day. I think I found my new background.

Ending the carnage

My column for the Washington County Daily News is online and in print!

Another spate of senseless mass killings have left Americans reeling. Our natural and justifiable instinct is to do something — anything – to stop the madness. While the usual opportunists are pouncing on the latest tragedies to advance their political careers or raise money for their interest groups, there seems to be an evolution in the national discussion this time.

First, we must identify the problem. Mass killings are still rare. Far more people are killed by drug overdoses, crime, distracted driving, medical errors, suicide, and other unnatural causes. But mass killings are sensational, and that is part of the problem.

There have been mass killings for centuries. In our modern interconnected and instant media age, mass killings take on a life of their own. Often before a mass killing is even reported, there are live pictures and video streaming onto social media platforms. The carnage and chaos that can be replayed over and over again eats into the mind of the next killer as he (usually he) plans his virtual immortality. The internet and social media enable a kind of gamification of death where one mass killer tries to outdo the previous one.

But the internet and media do not cause mass killings. They are one facet of a complex issue. The same can be said for guns and gun laws. In most cases, a gun is the instrument used by a mass killer for the simple reason that a gun is a cheap and efficient means of inflicting harm. The United States already bans several of the most deadly kinds of guns and prevents the legal sale of guns to people who have previously committed a heinous crime. Do we need to do more? Can we do more and remain within the confines of the Constitution? Should we?

So far, the proponents of more gun control have centered on two ideas. The first is to implement so-called “red flag” laws. These are laws that allow the government to confiscate a person’s guns if they exhibit “red flags” that indicate that they might be about to commit a crime. Would such laws help? Maybe a little. Is it possible to craft a law that works while still upholding an American’s individual rights protected by the First, Second, Fourth, Fifth, and Seventh Amendments? Doubtful.

The second new law proponents advocate is for more rigorous and “universal” background checks. What they mean by that is background checks for when an individual sells or gives a gun to another individual. The vast majority of mass killers obtained their guns legally, so there is little to indicate that expanding background checks would have any impact on abating mass killings. This is simply a reflexive measure designed to give politicians the veneer of “doing something.”

Another serious aspect in the discussion of mass killings is how we treat and help the mentally ill. Here again, do we need to do more? Can we do more and remain within the confines of the Constitution? Should we? Much like the vast majority of gun owners never kill anyone, the vast majority of mentally ill people never kill anyone. And while it is easy for people to assume that anyone who commits mass murder is mentally ill, the truth is that many, or even most, are not. They are evil, but not insane. The mainstreaming of the mentally ill into our society has not done them or our society any favors, but a process started sixty years ago is not responsible for 20-somethings committing mass murder today.

There isn’t a single law or policy that we can implement that will prevent mass killings. Nor, short of a complete police state, will we end them completely. There is a price to be paid for living in a free society that is not always paid on a distant battlefield. The root of the problem lies in our culture; in our homes; on our streets; and on our computers.

According to the National Council for Behavioral Health, “The characteristics [of mass killers] that most frequently occur are males, often hopeless and harboring grievances that are frequently related to work, school, finances or interpersonal relationships; feeling victimized and sympathizing with others who they perceive to be similarly mistreated; indifference to life.” We do not have a deficiency in our laws. We have a deficiency in our culture that leaves people in such isolation and hopelessness.

Passing another law will not deter people in this state of mind, but kindness might. A hand extended in friendship and fellowship might. An invitation to a bowling league, summer community event, or to attend church might. Faith in God and salvation will. It is difficult to feel hopeless and indifferent to life when you are enveloped in the full panoply of human relationships.

Mass killings will never be stopped by a government that respects individual liberty, but they can be stopped by a trillion simple acts of kindness. Love one another.

Cauliflower and Navy Bean Ice Cream

No. Just. No.

Becca Hoffman, who is 14 years old, eats ice cream with her dad almost every day. This summer, she tried new varieties he bought. All made with vegetables.

She enjoyed the cotton candy flavor (made with beets) but was less keen on the strawberry (with “hidden carrots”). “You could tell there was something else ground up in the ice cream,” she says.

For ice cream lovers, it is the summer of our discontent. Eager to woo health-conscious consumers, food brands are marketing a growing range of ice cream alternatives made with ingredients such as avocado, cauliflower, beets, zucchini, oats and navy beans.

“I do not think ice cream is supposed to be healthy,” says 10-year-old Marek Hommé, a rising fourth-grader in Jefferson, Mass., whose mother has attempted to serve him alternatives made from cashew milk and bananas.

 

“empty, numb, detached people slaughtering their fellow humans”

Another insightful piece from Matt Walsh.

At bottom, the answer is that we have become a country filled with numb, detached, and desensitized people. Mass shootings are the ultimate manifestation of that detachment. Our reaction to them — rhetorically slinging dead bodies at each other to score points in a political argument — is a slightly less severe but very much related manifestation. A survivor of the El Paso shooting reports that the shooter casually smirked before unloading on a crowd of innocent people. This echoes many other reports from many similar shootings. The killer is always smirking like he’s slightly amused, or else he’s blank-faced and emotionless. Rarely do you get a picture of someone running around enraged and screaming. We call these acts of “hate,” but they are much more acts of brutal, murderous indifference. These are empty, numb, detached people slaughtering their fellow humans because they are bored and frustrated with their meaningless lives.

But this only kicks the can another mile down the road. If it is detachment and desensitization causing these attacks, the next question is, what causes the detachment and desensitization? The culprits here are manifold, but the internet has to be one of the first places we look. Though it has of course existed for several decades, the internet has only been ubiquitous for the past two. The rise of social media is even more recent than that. As with any massive societal shift, we will not fully understand its effects until we are a good distance from it. But it’s already fairly clear that our cyber space obsession causes us to be increasingly detached from the physical world and each other. It’s a cliche to point out that our connectedness has made us disconnected, yet there’s truth to most cliches, and this one is no different.

A fascinating and disturbing article from Robert Evans details how the users on the message board where the El Paso shooter liked to spend his time not only cheer on these killing sprees but discuss them like the innocent people being butchered are just characters in a video game. Evans calls it the “gamification” of terror. You could just as well call it the “internetification” of terror. Mass shooters are simply translating their internet personas into the real world. People on internet forums, social media, YouTube, and other sites routinely wish death and worse on each other. “Kill yourself” and “I hope you get cancer” are almost standard greetings at this point. But what’s often lost in all of this mundane vitriol is that actual human beings are saying this stuff to other actual human beings. After a while you get so used to being treated this way, and maybe so used to treating others this way, that you no longer appreciate the dignity and beauty of human life. It is not hard to see how someone who spends hour upon hour and year upon year wallowing in the darkest and vilest corners of cyberspace, treating other humans like filth, wishing violence and death on anyone who crosses them, may eventually become the monsters they already appear to be online.

A man who thinks he can be a despicable, stupid sociopath in cyberspace yet remain a basically decent guy in the “real world” loses sight of the fact that the internet isthe real world. It is technology used by people in the real world to communicate with other people in the real world. Who you are while using the internet is simply who you are. However you act on the internet is simply how you act. If you’re a dirtbag on Twitter, you’re simply a dirtbag. The idea that internet is a morality-free zone where grotesque behavior somehow “doesn’t count” not only encourages people to be despicable but numbs them to the impact their behavior has on others. And this is all to say nothing of the fact that the internet gives disturbed and violent people the chance to congregate anonymously and egg each other on.

What to do?

The Wall Street Journal opinion piece regarding the most recent spate of mass shootings is the best one I’ve seen so far. Here’re a few parts, but read the whole thing:

The mass shootings in El Paso and Dayton over the weekend are horrifying assaults on peaceful communities by disturbed young men. American politics will try to simplify these events into a debate about guns or political rhetoric, but the common theme of these killings is the social alienation of young men that will be harder to address.

This is political cynicism. Mass shootings also occurred under Presidents Obama, Bush and Clinton. They occur around the world, if much less frequently, such as in Christchurch, New Zealand (2019), Australia (2019), and Norway (2011). The twisted motivations are varied and often too convoluted to sort into any clear ideology.

[…]

This is the rant of someone angry about a society he doesn’t feel a part of and doesn’t comprehend. It is all-too-typical of most of these young male killers who tend to be loners and marinate in notions they absorb in the hours they spend online. They are usually disconnected to family, neighborhood, church, colleagues at work, or anything apart from their online universe.

These men may draw inspiration from one another online, and any communication or common connection needs to be investigated. The FBI says it has made 100 arrests related to domestic terrorism in the last nine months. But blaming all this on one politician or ideology, left or right, without evidence of such a connection is disingenuous and counterproductive.

[…]

The problem is identifying those with mental illness who are a threat, and then allowing society to intervene to prevent violence. Overwhelming evidence suggests that the de-institutionalization of the seriously mentally ill has had tragic results. Libertarians and mental-health advocates who resist such intervention need to do some soul-searching.

The same goes for those in the gun lobby who claim that denying access to guns from those with a history of mental illness violates individual rights. So-called red-flag laws that let police or family members petition a court to remove firearms from someone who may be a threat might not have stopped the El Paso killer. But the evidence in the states is that the laws have prevented suicides and may prevent other mass shootings. Gun rights need to be protected, but the Second Amendment is not a suicide pact.

***

Which brings us back to the angry young men. This is the one common element in nearly all mass shootings: 19-year-old Nikolas Cruz in Parkland, Fla.; Chris Harper-Mercer in Oregon’s Umpqua Community College; Adam Lanza at Newtown, Conn.; Devin Patrick Kelley in Sutherland Springs, Texas, and the rest. All were deeply troubled and alienated from society in our increasingly atomistic culture.

This is one price we are paying for the decline in what the late sociologist Peter Berger called the “mediating institutions” that help individuals form cultural and social attachments. These are churches, business and social clubs like the Rotary, charitable groups, even bowling leagues, and especially the family. Government programs can never replace these as protectors of troubled young people.

The problems we face are complex and multi-faceted. They cannot be solved by just passing another bill or hectoring the American people to be nicer to one another. The problems are rooted in an American, but also a global, cultural upheaval that is facilitated by the global proliferation of technology. The problems are also rooted in some profound cultural things that we don’t want to face like the breakdown of the family, marginalization of faith, stigmatization of mental illness, and discounting the role of fathers and manhood.

Let’s take the two items that the editorial references – institutionalizing the mentally ill and red flag laws. I support both of those ideas, but the devil is in the details. And it’s hard. How do you determine when someone is no longer mentally fit to own a weapon? Who decides? When do they need to be separated from society and institutionalized? Who decides? How do we balance the rights of the individual with the safety of society? This balance is at the core of the American Experiment, and we have some strong difference of opinion as to where that balance should be.

The answers are not found in the glib or heated rhetoric emanating from the latest politician looking for votes. They are to be found in an honest discussion with each other in our homes, churches, clubs, and, yes, online. Until we are willing to have hard discussions about hard issues, we will not find any solutions. Instead, we will just go through another cycle of action, reaction, and retreat into our respective corners.

The Great Divide

Here’s an insight into the growing divide in this country. This story is about a self-describes middle-of-the-road Democrat who is now radicalized. Here’s an exchange with her daughter while watching the most recent debate:

Her 13-year-old daughter Reese briefly showed interest in the debate and asked her mother to explain the difference between Democrats and Republicans.

“I believe more in socialist values and protecting the environment,” Mahoney said. “They want to …”

“Destroy everything?” interrupted Reese, prompting laughs.

Get it? It is no longer that Democrats and Republicans have some shared American values and just have some differences in philosophies. No. Now Republicans want to “destroy everything.” She is teaching her daughter that Republicans aren’t people with whom they should debate and come to common ground. She is teaching her daughter that Republicans are pure evil. She is teaching her daughter that Republicans are the “other” and want to destroy all that is good. When painted in such a light, is it any wonder that this lady and her daughter would consider it their moral duty to oppose Republicans at any cost? Is it any wonder that they could make the easy step to violating laws, social norms, and the political precepts of our nation in order to make sure that Republicans don’t “destroy everything?” Is it any wonder that they don’t have any compunction about using the violent police force of government to enforce their views?

If you think today’s Democrats are radicalized, just wait until young Reese grows up.