Saturday, December 15, 2012

Make Gentle The Life Of This World

This is a time of shame and sorrow. The lost souls in Newtown, Connecticut, cause me to reflect on a quote from Shakespeare's Romeo & Juliet:
When he shall die,
Take him and cut him out in little stars,
And he will make the face of heaven so fine
That all the world will be in love with night
And pay no worship to the garish sun.
And those words will be forever associated in my mind with one man, who used them to describe his own deeply personal loss many decades ago. That is why, aside from paying respect to the victims of Newtown, this post is also a riddle. Nearly every word of this post comes from the speeches of one our nation's greatest lost leaders. I hope it can serve as a reminder that there used to be a time when our politicians spoke of humanity and hope instead of buffers. There was a time when our politicians were gladiators for liberty rather than community facilitators. There was a time when our environmental organizations weren't building their fortunes on the shattered dreams of others. There was a time when at least some of our leaders gave a damn about people.

Below is excerpted text from (what is in my opinion) one of the greatest speeches of the 20th century. I wonder how many can guess the identity of the speaker (or the speech title and location) without googling the answer. The answer will probably surprise some ... perhaps it will surprise many:
At the heart of that Western freedom and democracy is the belief that the individual man, the child of God, is the touchstone of value, and all society, groups, the state, exist for his benefit. Therefore the enlargement of liberty for individual human beings must be the supreme goal and the abiding practice of any Western society. 
The first element of this individual liberty is the freedom of speech: the right to express and communicate ideas, to set oneself apart from the dumb beasts of field and forest; to recall governments to their duties and obligations; above all, the right to affirm one's membership and allegiance to the body politic - to society - to the men with whom we share our land, our heritage, and our children's future. 
Hand in hand with freedom of speech goes the power to be heard, to share in the decisions of government which shape men's lives. Everything that makes man's life worthwhile - family, work, education, a place to rear one's children and a place to rest one's head - all this depends on decisions of government; all can be swept away by a government which does not heed the demands of its people. Therefore, the essential humanity of men can be protected and preserved only where government must answer - not just to the wealthy, not just to those of a particular religion, or a particular race, but to all its people. 
And even government by the consent of the governed, as in our own Constitution, must be limited in its power to act against its people; so that there may be no interference with the right to worship, or with the security of the home; no arbitrary imposition of pains or penalties by officials high or low; no restrictions on the freedom of men to seek education or work or opportunity of any kind, so that each man may become all he is capable of becoming. 
These are the sacred rights of Western society.
The posture of our current Council, and that of several candidates in our current election, is a betrayal of the principles espoused by those words.


  1. Congratulations! You win a lifetime membership to the Trojan Heron, personal satisfaction at knowing some of the great history of these United States, and the gratitude and respect of fellow TH'ers.

    I know ... I know ... that and a dime ... But seriously, well done! If you can name the speech or location, that would be extra credit :-)

    I look at RFK's words and think that if they were uttered today in this County (and words remarkably similar HAVE been spoken to this Council), they would be attacked as wing-nut rhetoric by some who profess to follow his legacy.

    "the individual man, the child of God, is the touchstone of value, and all society, groups, the state, exist for his benefit ... no interference with the ... security of the home; no arbitrary imposition of pains or penalties by officials high or low"

  2. Nick Power left the following comment, but as happens from time to time, the comments get messed up. Nick correctly identified the author and speaker of the words in the post.

    And I shouted out, Who killed the Kennedys" When after all, it was you and me. It is RFK. What do I win? I am Nicholas "Sympathetic to the Devil" Power

  3. "Town officials in Connecticut say the principal who died in the rampage at an elementary school was killed while lunging at the gunman as she tried to overtake him."

  4. First, sincere heartfelt prayers and sympathy for the vicitms and families in CT.

    Next. I am a strong supporter of the 2nd amendment. That being said, I feel it is entirely out of line for a TH poster to say things along the lines of "we remember our 2nd amendment". It is an implied threat and shouldn't be tolerated by this forum.

    Otherwise, TH & NP. Your work is appreciated.

  5. I totally agree.

    I think the gun culture has gone completely out of control. And references to the Second Amendment as a perceived "check" on governmental overreaching is pure paranoid fantasy.

    I think the recent 2nd amendment rulings by the right side of the S.Ct. are wrongly decided and will be judged harshly by the court of history.

    I Especially think that one (I think by Scalia but maybe it was Thomas or Rehnquist) declaring the D.C. law regulating handguns unconstitutional was a travesty.

    The people referring to violence or religion are not helping ameliorate the problems exposed here on TH. They are cranks.

    I am, Nick "not a member of a militia" Power.

  6. Debate and dissent are the very heart of the American process. We Americans have followed the wisdom of Greece: "All things are to be examined and brought into question. There is no limit set to thought."

    I appreciate all the commenters and the discussion here, even when it is challenging to listen to. I am most pleased to see the commitment that commenters have to being honest ... emotional at times ... harsh at times ... flirting with the edge at times ... but so far, we have always brought ourselves back to place that I think is worthwhile, even if not everyone agrees.

    Thank you everyone for "bringing everything into question ... no limits set on thought" without going into Godwin's Law territory.

    America really is founded on ancient principles from the Athenian city state of long ago, and I think it is hard for some of us to appreciate how rare democracy has been in the history of the world. Until America, no democracy had ever lasted more than a short time. The common wisdom after our revolution was that democracy would inevitably descend into chaos and anarchy.

    We beat the odds, and to continue as America, we have to continue to beat the odds.

  7. I lost a sibling back in the day to foul play. I am no stranger to this and I ache. And I do not own guns and never will.

    I regard the CAO as an act of tyranny. The 2nd Amendment symbolizes our right to protect ourselves, our kin and our property against tyranny. And so the idea of the 2nd Amendment has been evoked out of passion against the depredation of these laws. This is understandable.

    But well regulated militias do not fire upon innocent children with automatic weapons designed for combat between armies. Advanced combat weaponry does not belong in the hands of civilians. Period.

    And I support the 2nd Amendment.

    Ben Franklin famously said "They who can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety."

    Within the last 24 hours a Chinese man attacked a school wielding a knife, injuring and maiming until stopped by police. No deaths. Not much private gun ownership in China. So knives have become a weapon of choice for the troubled.

    Is this what we want?

    But this goes too far, too far. I see no sympathy for the devil here.

  8. and you speak for me, the tyrany of the CAO, and my gun. Well said, Thank You

  9. So I just applied a few weeks ago for admission to the Washington Bar.

    I had to supply three character references, two of whom were licensed to practice law. I had to provide any and all details of any mental illness which might impair my ability to practice. I had to supply the Bar Association with my residency location for the past 5 years and supply witnesses who could support this. In addition, I was required to pay a 300 dollar fee for a background check.

    When I applied to practice law in Illinois, I had to supply similar information, and even had to go to the police station and be fingerprinted.

    Moreover, most jurisdictions (though not Washington) require attorneys to be insured for malpractice.

    When I went to buy a semi-automatic I gave the guy a credit card and a driver's license. No insurance, no background check, no nada.

    That is some fucked up shit.

    I am Nick Power, I own a gun, and am not afraid to have it regulated.

  10. Regulated by whom?

  11. And I beg to differ on a few things regarding gun purchases. Apparently you haven’t been rejected by a gun dealer as of yet. You might have been rejected because you had at some point in your life been "accused" of some violation or crime such as "taking part in a protest" even if you were never found guilty. Since 911 and homeland security you may be subjected to intensive searches at airports for the same thing.
    I hate to imagine what would happen to our right to bear arms, if the same folks that passed the goddamned CAO interfered with out right to own and bear arms. I’m not sorry I will prefer to retain every liberty granted from the start.
    If our goddamned government would stop taking liberty on everything, people would be free to love each other, care for each other, tend to each other’s needs and there would not be so much anger and distress in societies. We are so f ing corrupt what do you expect?
    I love my Constitution, and it’s about time we start defending it.

  12. This discussion has grown a bit tiresome, but I wanted to add my two cents.

    Someone on here often leaves comments as Ishmael, which is the protagonist in Moby Dick (as well as a Biblical wanderer). That has made me think of another Moby Dick character, Queqeeg. Quegeeg is from some un-named Pacific Island: "It is not down on any map; true places never are."

    I moved to the country so I could "not be on any map" only to find out that everything I do is mapped. Everything.

    Good and reasonable arguments can be made to curtail anything we do. Anything. I do not care how well-reasoned those arguments may be. I don't care if it "makes sense" to regulate guns or light bulbs. I don't care if it makes sense to regulate the vegetation on my property. I know I am probably a horrible person for those beliefs, even though I do not have any bright lights outside my home. Even though I do not (and probably never will) own a gun. I have hardly ever fired a weapon outside of my experiences in the military.

    Nevertheless, what I want most of all is to be free. I am sure that I am selfish, but I want to be free above all else. I believe RFK's words when he says "At the heart of that Western freedom and democracy is the belief that the individual man, the child of God, is the touchstone of value, and all society, groups, the state, exist for his benefit. Therefore the enlargement of liberty for individual human beings must be the supreme goal and the abiding practice of any Western society."

    I am sure that we can plan the perfect world where we provide three references, submit to a background check, and pay $300 to buy an outdoor lightbulb ... as well as a gun. I still don't want it. I want to be free.

    I am sure that nearly everything I do today will have some negative impact on someone else, somehow. Because I eat, someone in Africa probably doesn't. I am sure that I am harming something that crawls, slithers, swims, or flies just by existing. I do not care. I want to be free.

    It does seem to me, that in this post-Soviet world, we have forgotten the virtues of Western Society. We have become apologists for it, especially to all the tribes and all the people we have horribly oppressed.

    I don't care to be an apologist. I don't care what terrible things we have done or will do. We are not perfect, but I still love Western values and freedom. I want to be free.

    Freedom is imperfect, and most efforts to improve on it simply make it more imperfect. I want to be free.

  13. Actually, Nick, if you purchased a semi-automatic rifle, you likely were required to fill out a BATF form #4473, and your information was called into the National Instant Criminal Background Check System, as required by law when you purchase from a licensed dealer.

    And if you purchased a handgun in this state, there was another form you likely had to fill out to comply with Washington State law, plus there's the waiting period for the handgun, which you could skip if you had a CCW permit. Which itself involves background checks.

    Your firearms already *are* substantially regulated. If it comes up on the Bar Exam, most of the state regulations are in RCW 9.41.

  14. The last time I fired a gun was in 1968 on a camping trip with two other high school buddies. In the wilderness of Southern California's Anaza Borego desert. When I got home, I cleaned the Sears .22 caliber semi-auto rifle, put it in the garage, and my gun days were over. Until 1993, when Diane Feinstein and the California Democrats went all righteous and tried to ban "evil" looking guns. I had until then no intention of buying a gun. But listening to Diane just pissed me off. I went on a buying spree and bought a small arsenal of 9mm, .223, and .308 models. Only one is used for practice, the rest sit in safe places. That experience lit a fire in me. Namely, to resist and fight Government over-reach in restricting and removing our libertties. Like the CAO.

  15. Most of us have heard or read Auden's poem. It is not the specific substance that explains the national outpouring of words, but the mood.

    Stop all clocks; W. H. Auden

    Stop all the clocks, cut off the telephone.
    Prevent the dog from barking with a juicy bone,
    Silence the pianos and with muffled drum
    Bring out the coffin, let the mourners come.

    Let aeroplanes circle moaning overhead
    Scribbling in the sky the message He is Dead,
    Put crêpe bows round the white necks of the public doves,
    Let the traffic policemen wear black cotton gloves.

    He was my North, my South, my East and West,
    My working week and my Sunday rest
    My noon, my midnight, my talk, my song;
    I thought that love would last forever, I was wrong.

    The stars are not wanted now; put out every one,
    Pack up the moon and dismantle the sun.
    Pour away the ocean and sweep up the wood;
    For nothing now can ever come to any good.