November 2011

At the core of conservatism, after all, is a certain humility rooted in a view of human nature. Conservatism begins from the proposition that even the brightest among us has an imperfect understanding of things, that we can only know in part, that for now we see through a glass darkly.

Peter Wehner in Commentary Magazine

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You know it’s kind of funny…heat used to be just one of those things that you used in the winter time to keep your house warm. If it was too cold, you turned up the heat. Too hot? Turn it down.

Now, it’s like a staring contest between my body temperature and my wallet. The first one to blink loses. The contest lasts all winter and there will be a tally at the end to determine the winner.

To the chagrin of my family, my wallet has become a better “starer”.

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One man at the edge of the crowd, asked by a reporter why he was shouting, replied with anger, “Because I can!”

So, I’ve got a moment on my hands and I am mulling over the whole “occupy” thing going on, especially in light of the shooting death (apparent suicide) of a man at the Occupy movement in Burlington.

What follows are some quotes from this Burlington Free Press article and my thoughts/reactions to it.

The mayor also said the encampment wouldn’t be torn down by the police. That placated the crowd, and what had become a near riot quickly calmed.

Aren’t these protests supposed to be peaceful? Why then, are they near riot? What does it say about the movement, and the officials dealing with it, if the crowd has to be placated?

Placate (from Mirriam-Webster): to soothe or mollify especially by concessions.

Why is the mayor negotiating with these protesters? What is there to negotiate?

This next thing would make me leery of the movement even if I sympathized with their purported aims.

“We have got to mellow out,” one protester said, his words repeated by the crowd, in the style of the Occupy movement that began two months ago in a park near Manhattan’s Wall Street.

Well, part of it makes me nervous and another part makes me laugh. I’ll focus on the laugh, first. “We have got to mellow out.” I don’t know what to write. This is one of those literal “Laugh Out Loud” kind of moments for me. I’m actually tempted to use the acronym. This is the height of intellectual opposition to corporate greed? No wonder, they feel like they have no choice but to protest. They don’t have the brain power to know how to actually fight them. If they did, then they would probably be one of the so-called 1%.

The part that makes me nervous is the chanting. What you appear to have is folks out there mindlessly repeating after an impromptu, de facto leader (is that an oxymoron?). Is this really considered an intellectual, or sophisticated, protest? I don’t see it. In fact, this strikes me as terrifyingly close to zombies. Not in the undead sense of the word, but the mindless automatons that can cause very real property and personal damage if led by the wrong voice.

The fact that they are technically leaderless doesn’t make it any better. It makes it more frightening because it doesn’t take much of an imagination to see them going from collective peaceable crowd to a frothing mob seeking to lash out at whatever gets in its way.

Moving on. Enter the church:

When it became apparent the demonstrators would not be allowed to stay at City Hall Park, [Unitarian Universalist church member Elz] Curtiss said she offered the church. “Ultimately, this is a community that experienced a terrible tragedy,” she said of the demonstrators. “It’s important that they not lose the shelter of each other.”


Curtiss said she was impressed that the occupiers repeatedly said during the tense moments in City Hall Park earlier in the evening that they wanted to be their best selves. “I felt very good about it,” Curtiss said. “This is why you do religion.”

So, the Occupy group needs therapy. (Forgive me if that was a little too snarky. I don’t really like the use of the word community to imply a Utopian type of togetherness.) If I was in an area near where someone was shot, I would be shaken no doubt. I would probably go home and thank God that I wasn’t injured. Would I seek the “shelter” of total strangers? Would I seek that “shelter” in a church building that is home to a hodge-podge of feel-good self-help spiritually mystical mush? No.

She was impressed that the occupiers “wanted to be their best selves.” What? If they really wanted to be their best selves they would be scrambling for a way to be productive. They would be busy providing for themselves and their families and they wouldn’t be dallying in the city park mindlessly repeating foolish statements.

I’m glad that Ms. Curtiss felt “very good” about it, but that is not why you “do” religion. I will only take a moment to bemoan the unfortunate use and misuse of the word religion and say that it isn’t about being your “best selves”. You “do” religion to worship God. The object of your worship says a lot about what your “best self” will end up being.

An open culture?

The group politely asked a Burlington Free Press reporter to leave, saying they wanted privacy to grieve for their friend and felt more comfortable discussing their next moves away from the media.

Participants said they would issue statements to the media concerning the outcome of the meeting.

I chuckle at the probably unintended hypocrisy here. We are the 99%, but we don’t want to include you in our discussions. Ho hum, just another moment in La La Land. I presume that the reporters cheerfully obliged the protesters. Would they have done the same for a group with whom they were less sympathetic? Say the Tea Party? (Vermont Tiger laments that the Free Press didn’t even cover its Health Care Forum, a real issue facing every Vermonter.)

The shooting happened less than 24 hours after a point of great excitement at the encampment. Wednesday night about 500 people flocked to City Hall Park for an impromptu concert by internationally known gypsy punk musicians from the band Gogol Bordello.

Tee hee. By “internationally known” gypsy punk band, do they mean the United States and…Canada? Who knew that gypsy punk was a genre of music. It’s no wonder when I do a popular music unit with my students that I avoid getting too detailed about classifications of genres. Now I’ll have to tell them about the great wave of gypsy punk band artists from…(after a quick search of their website I couldn’t ascertain from whence they came – or at least formed).

Lastly, this is a nice platform from which Mayor Kiss can declare:

Firearms are not allowed in City Hall Park. Mayor Kiss said the shooting raises questions about the easy availability of firearms.

“We need to reflect on guns in Vermont,” he said.

Oh…so this is about gun control, too. I’m really having a hard time wrapping my head around this occupy business.

As to why I blog about this kind of stuff, and why I wrote a whole lot more than I probably should have, I will quote the brilliant Occupier from the story (albeit with a degree, or two, less angrier):

Because I can!


One man at the edge of the crowd, asked by a reporter why he was shouting, replied with anger, “Because I can!”

via Future of Occupy Burlington encampment uncertain after police clear City Hall Park to investigate man’s death | Burlington Free Press |

This kind of sums up the Occupy movement, doesn’t it?

I vaguely remember visiting Valley Forge as a kid. I’m willing to admit that the visit was less than inspiring for me at the time. It certainly would have made a more lasting impression if the visit had been in the dead of winter, with no shoes, meager rations, and nothing but a canvas separating me from the harsh winter weather. What men have endured in the pursuit and defense of freedom is nothing short of amazing and astounding.
I, for one, am grateful for their service, blessed to enjoy that freedom, and proud to be an American.

Praise God for veterans!

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