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Politics. Economics. Morality. Religion. And Everything In Between.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

The Zombie Apocalypse

Ever since George Romero's classic Dawn of the Dead came out in 1978, America has been obsessed with zombies. This obsession has reached a fever pitch lately, as evidenced by the success of films such as 28 Days Later, 28 Weeks Later, the Resident Evil series, Shaun of the Dead, and Zombieland. The zombie plague has spread beyond film to infect other genres of entertainment. The Resident Evil movies were based on a video game. Max Brook's excellent novel World War Z brought zombies into the realm of literature. Heck, there's even a Pride and Prejudice with zombies in it now, or so I hear.

Why is America so hungry (pardon the pun) for zombie-related entertainment? I believe that it's because many Americans think they're living in their own personal zombie apocalypses. Think about it. What are zombie movies about? A small group of human survivors struggles against hordes of mindless devourers and possibly also against the evil government or corporate entities involved in the zombie plague. Compare this with the mindset of the young or those who consider themselves "independent thinkers." They see themselves surrounded on all sides by people they think of as mindless drones locked into a materialistic feeding frenzy. There's a reason they call it "consumerism." In addition to literally gorging themselves on bigger and bigger portions of fattening food, Americans buy more and bigger houses, cars, TVs, etc. Our nation feeds on more and more stuff.

Seeing the world in this way is profoundly frightening for those who experience it. Like it or not, there is a strong component of fear running through every modern ideology. Working-class people who vote Democrat fear that hordes of cheap offshore workers and immigrants will gobble up their jobs and livelihoods. They see the wealthy CEOs of multinational corporations as the "evil masterminds" behind the collapse of American manufacturing, just like the Umbrella Corporation was responsible for the zombie apocalypse in the Resident Evil movies and video games.

I could sit here coming up with sets of "zombies and masterminds" for every group in our society. Wealthy businessmen and professionals fear that hordes of welfare recipients will gobble up their profits after being egged on by power-hungry politicians. Social liberals fear legions of brainwashed cultists marching in lockstep behind pedophile priests who want to burn them at the stake as witches and heretics. Social conservatives believe that gangs of godless youth inspired by rappers and rock stars will corrupt their own children with pills and poontang and turn them into another kind of zombie.

Zombies aren't even the only kind of undead whose lore is sweeping the country. From Twilight to True Blood, vampires have captured our cultural consciousness as well. Like zombies, vampires feed on their prey and turn those upon whom they feed into vampires as well. Barack Obama, in this ad, calls Mitt Romney a "vampire" who sucks companies dry of capital and then leaves them to die. I find it profoundly disturbing that people of all backgrounds and political persuasions have come to agree that in some way or another, our society is dead and only continues to function by feeding on the literal and metaphorical lifeblood of its own people. They see their fellow citizens not as human beings, but as mindless zombies or worse, sinister vampires. Everyone is out to get everyone else, and we have to band together with the few like-minded individuals we can find to survive.

Are the would-be "survivors" right? Is America really the land of the walking dead? In some ways, it probably is. Self-deception has overtaken this country like the Rage virus of 28 Days Later. State and local governments, the federal government, and even private individuals rack up debt like there's no tomorrow without thinking of how they're going to pay them off. These entities are financial zombies waiting for the rotten flesh of their debt-financed excess to fall off. Don't even get me started on TARP and "too big to fail." You know what they call Japanese banks that their government had to prop up? Zombie banks. Meanwhile, people suffering from heart disease, high blood pressure, and type 2 diabetes continue to stuff their faces. College students keep drinking their parents' money away and ignoring their GPAs, thinking jobs will materialize out of thin air for them. *Warning, Catholic soap-box deployed* Would-be parents continue to abort and contracept their children into nonexistence to experience the pleasures of sex without the pains of childbirth and childrearing, thinking that these practices have no effects on their bodies or souls. Lots of people are walking around with problems that could end life for them as they know it.

Things aren't hopeless, though. The "independent spirit" is, if anything, on the rise in America. In real life, "the virus" works in the opposite direction as in a zombie movie. Once someone becomes conscious of his own humanity, he's not going to give it up. The hordes may take our money. They may even take our lives, but as William Wallace said, "they'll never take our freedom!" In the movie The Matrix, once you've taken the Red Pill, you'll never experience the matrix in the same way again. I'm going to make a bold prediction. I don't think we're survivors of the apocalypse in this story. I think we're the zombies. Catholic/Christian readers, think about the way that the early Church spread, and about the way it continues to spread today in Africa and Asia. No matter how hard people try to stamp it out, it propagates itself like a virus. Whatever your cause, if you want to succeed, don't think of yourself as the sole survivor holding on against the ravening hordes. Think of yourself as the first zombie poised to infect the entire world. Christians of the 21st century: Jesus told us that we are the salt of the earth, the leaven of the peoples. Let's start thinking of ourselves as the zombies of the REAL Apocalypse, the one described in the Revelation of John, which will bring about the Kingdom of God on earth.

Friday, May 25, 2012

Why We Need Liberals

My last post asked what I hoped was a thought-provoking question: why not divide the United States into two countries along ideological lines? At the end of the post, I asked my readers what was wrong with this idea. As inviting as this prospect may seem to some of the more partisan viewers of this blog (including me), there IS something wrong with it. You see, apart from the fact that dividing the U.S. in two would probably require a long and bloody civil war, liberals and conservatives can actually be of use to each other. As an example, I am going to describe how the presence of serious and intelligent liberals in society helps conservatives be better conservatives and better thinkers all around.

Smart liberals protect the conservative movement (and the rest of America) from Stupid Conservatives. Stupid Conservatives are the guys who promote themselves with syllogisms like this one: "Socialism is un-American. Obama is a socialist. Therefore, Obama is not an American! I am not a socialist. Thererfore, I am an American. Vote for me because I am an American!" (The kind of person who I am thinking of would probably say this while running for city council. Such a Proud American won't let a little thing like not being a presidential candidate keep him from taking on Barack Hussein Obama!) Now, I happen to think Barack Obama is definitely a Keynesian and possibly also a crypto-socialist. I can support my claim with facts and reasoning. Perhaps more importantly, I know what socialism actually is, how it differs from mere Keynesianism, and why both are bad economic policies. (I also know what the prefix "crypto-" means and what a syllogism is, for that matter.)

The core problem with Stupid Conservatives is that they don't even know what conservatism is. Conservatism is not just an ideology. It is a relationship with reality that we arrive at through respect for both past traditions and present facts. "Socialism" isn't some imaginary bogeyman we throw rhetorical eggs at in the town square. It's a name for a specific set of economic policies that we believe do more harm than good based on our observations of their effects throughout history. Smart liberals TROUNCE Stupid Conservatives both intellectually and politically because they have a much firmer relationship with reality than Stupid Conservatives do.

Consider the example of Cory Booker, mayor of Newark, "smart liberal du jour" of the conservative movement. He criticized the Obama campaign's attack on private equity because he understands that the private equity industry is an important part of the business community and that business generates the wealth that is necessary to pay for substantial positive social change. Suppose Booker runs for a state or national office against a Stupid Conservative. Realizing that he and Booker are fairly similar economically, the Stupid Conservative will try to attack Booker on social issues. Booker strongly supports gay marriage. The stupid conservative might say that legalizing gay marriage would undermine the traditional family. Booker would probably retort that legalizing gay marriage is a low-risk proposition because traditional marriage as an institution had already collapsed long before gay marriage became legal anywhere. In making this argument, Booker would be more right than his Stupid Conservative opponent. Legalizing gay marriage would probably have about the same effect on the traditional family as a gunshot wound to the foot would have on a person who had been hit by a bus. (The real family values play is to attack no-fault divorce, in my humble opinion).

Smart conservatives like Chris Christie work with smart liberals like Cory Booker to achieve common goals in areas such as expanding school choice and reducing crime. (Christie has also sidestepped Booker on gay marriage by calling a referendum to "let the voters decide.") Conservatives who want to get things done in Washington or in statehouses and city halls outside of New Jersey should take note. No liberal faction, no matter how radical or entrenched, can withstand the power of a smart conservative who has smart liberals on his side. On a more personal front, a smart liberal friend of mine that I mentioned in my last post and with whom I joked about partitioning the United States actually agreed with me that if David Petraeus ever ran for president, we would both be excited to support him. Conservatives, think about this one: who would you rather vote for in November, Slick Mitt or General David "The Man, The Myth" Petraeus? Independents, how about you? Liberals, Obama or ... wait, don't answer that. But still, you'd be OKAY with Petraeus, right?

Liberals keep us on our toes, especially the smart ones. They force us to evaluate conservative leaders on how sensible their policy proposals are for America, not how many times they can quote Ronald Reagan. Contrary to popular myth, the thing that made Reagan special was not how conservative he was, but rather how clearly he could communicate why conservative policies were right for all Americans. If we can't justify ourselves to reasonable people of all political persuasions, we don't deserve to govern America.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

"Bi-Partition"-ship?

Guess who's back... back again... Elliott's back! Tell a friend! 100 cool points to the first person who can name the song that came from. After a long hiatus brought on by the beginning of the 2011-2012 academic year, I'm back on the blogging circuit, at least until work/school drags me away from it again. For the first time in a long time, Here's The Deal:

Lately, we've been hearing a lot of politicians talking about "crossing the aisle" and working with the other party to pass "common-sense reforms" based on "bipartisan consensus." Usually, this is a load of horse crap. Politicians no longer cross the aisle because there is no bipartisan consensus. Many of the proposals Democrats and Republicans put forth in response to each other demonstrate that the two parties are pursuing diametrically opposed ends instead of coming closer and closer to something they can both agree to pass. When they do agree on an objective, they often come at it from completely different directions. The end result of this partisan gridlock is that nothing of substance gets done in Congress while the "days of reckoning" for crises such as the national debt and Iran's pursuit of nuclear weapons continue to inch closer.

As an unapologetic quasi-libertarian conservative, I'm one of the last people to advocate bipartisanship for its own sake. In fact, I jokingly told one of my liberal friends the other day that I'd like to see relations between the two parties become so contentious that the United States itself splits in two along partisan lines. That way, he could let the government of what I termed the "Democratic People's Republic of America" redistribute his income to its heart's content while I bitterly clung to my guns and religion in the "Federated States of 'Murrica."

This got me wondering, "Why not split the U.S. in two? Wouldn't that be better for everyone?" Think about it. We conservatives could live in a land with low taxes, a pro-business regulatory climate, and the booming economy associated with both. We could send our children to religious schools on vouchers instead of paying thousands of dollars out of pocket for private education while the teachers' unions extract thousands more in property taxes to fund their festering dens of liberal propaganda, marijuana use, and teen pregnancy. The government would protect our sacred religious beliefs instead of attacking them. Abortion and gay marriage would now and forever be verboten. Our military's redneck-operated stealth fighters would blot out the sun. (The terrorists wouldn't want to fight in the shade because we'd have kickass night-vision goggles that they couldn't afford.)

Does this sound like liberal hell? It should, but don't worry, my liberal friends, because you would be living in liberal heaven. Everyone in the PDRA would be guaranteed an annual income of $40,000 from the government, with extra allotments for those with dependent children. Healthcare would be free and universal, provided by the state. Education would be free through graduate school. Marijuana, birth control, and morning-after pills would be distributed from converted ice cream trucks (ice cream would be illegal because it contributes to obesity, which is "the new smoking"). $900 billion in annual military spending? How about $900 billion in foreign aid spending? If enemies ever threatened your shores, I'm sure the aforementioned Federated States would protect you, especially since you wouldn't be trying to take their money and teach their kids that God doesn't exist any more.

What's wrong with this picture? I have a couple of thoughts, but I'd like to hear what others have to say in the comments section first.