Archive for November 2016
Could someone please get President-Elect Trump a copy of the Constitution and make him familiar with the First Amendment that acknowledges our right to freedom of expression? It doesn’t guarantee that right. It doesn’t give us that right. It acknowledges the trans-Constitutional right to self-expression so long as we are not harming others.
I know, seeing a flag deliberately set on fire elicits a visceral reaction in the flag-lover similar to the one I felt when I saw a picture of Jesus in a jar of urine. That deeply bothered me and I wanted to slap the artist around for a bit.
All feelings are allowed. Actions are limited.
Ultimately, the artist had a right to express himself in that way and I don’t have a right to assault anyone. He was still rude and inconsiderate, but that’s his right. But I also have a right to say he’s a piss-poor artist who nobody should ever pay a moment’s attention to. But I digress.
There was a West Wing episode where Penn & Jillett appeared to burn the American flag. Perhaps President-Elect Trump should sit down and watch the episode because it does a good job of explaining the situation. Then read the approximately eight pages of the US Constitution and just consider that people did not elect you to impinge upon our liberty.
Seeing the American flag deliberately set afire can cause some strong emotions in people who feel loyalty to that flag, but the reality is that it does not hurt anyone.
I have yet to buy into the “buy local” movement. My reasons are sane and solid. It’s November in Alaska and you can’t grow anything here. Fairbanks has a great potato crop in the summer, Delta manages some really nice barley, and there is hope we might someday be able to grow industrial hemp here, but the fact is that we have about a 4 1/2 month growing season at best. cold soils that limit what grows here even in the summer, and the rest of the time the ground is frozen and you can’t grow anything in frozen ground.
Conversely, I am an advocate for local farms and especially for greenhouses that can grow food year-round because I am well-aware that a storm in the Pacific or a longshoremen strike in Seattle or the Port of Long Beach could see Alaskans fighting over that last potato.
But let’s be honest about the arguments for “buy local” and admit that they’re mostly fallacies.
When I sat down to draft the third book of Transformation Project, I was struck by how little Emmaus really could generate on its own. I gather things like crop yields and available foodstuffs from a real town in Kansas and I asked my mathy 17-year-old to check my figures. A farm town in Kansas would seem to be in a really good position for whether a food crisis brought on by a loss of transportation hubs … and it does have an advantage over other parts of the country that that import most of their food. My town has a lot of corn, a small amount of soy, a little bit of sorghum … and no means to process any of it from its harvested state into something useful. Even if I fictionalized and created a wheat harvest, they’d be hand-grinding wheat for flour.
That works to my benefit for showing how ill-prepared Americans would be for the sort of man-caused disaster that I propose in the books, but it also made me well aware that the “buy local” movement doesn’t know much about reality.
Very few of the products that the Buy Local movement asks us to purchase “locally” are actually local. Here in Alaska, local produce is expensive produce. We only grow about 2% of our needs currently and then only in the summer months and the local farmers are very impressed with the quality of their goods, so $7 a pound tomatoes are the norm. Buying local artificially limits variety and increases cost.
And then there’s all of the rest of what goes into farming. The farming equipment isn’t produced locally. For the most part, neither is the fertilizer or the feed for farm animals, which themselves are often imported. The vehicle used to transport the goods to the farmers market wasn’t manufactured here and since the North Pole Refinery closed down, neither is the fuel. The bags that are used to store the produce aren’t made from a local source and the plastic produce boxes come from China.
The local “Local Market” employs a few people, selling mostly overpriced food that was shipped in from the Matanuska Valley (is 250 miles away “local”) or, in winter, from Seattle (is 2000 miles away “local”?), but nothing like the Fred Meyers does (it ships in from Seattle too), so I have to wonder if buying “local” might not put a lot of people out of jobs. Certainly truckers would need to find other employment.
Now, think about this —
If your town thinks it best to only purchase within its borders, then surrounding towns should logically follow suit. Inter-town trade would grind to a halt. In so doing, those towns would limit the number of people and the amount of money in the local economy – systematically making themselves poorer … or in the case of Emmaus, more likely to starve to death.
So, Emmaus has corn. Assuming they have the fuel to harvest it, how are they going to get the lye to nixolate it so that it becomes digestible. They have milk cows that require feed which they may or may not have once winter sets in. They might want some sort of oil for cooking and you can render oil from corn if you have the means to press it, but alas, there is no such machine in my subject town, so …. Then there’s the need for Vitamin C to ward off scurvy, but as far as I can tell, nobody grows anything much there that would provide that needed nutrient. There’s a nearby town that is growing sugar beets so if the Emausians want something sweet … but, no, if they’re going to adhere to the “local only” ideology … yeah …. Their options rapidly become very limited. My son believes about 10% of the town might survive the winter if they eat the organic corn, but then that means they have no seed for the following year. See the dilemma?
This system of restricting trade and advocating a level of self-sufficiency is referred to as autarky. History is riddled with different examples of this economic asceticism. Like the recent case of North Korea, most were despotic in nature and left a great many people in poverty.
In Transformation Project, the solution was found in trade with other towns. There’s still going to be some starvation (it’s an apocalyptic after all), but with an active trade network, the survivors won’t be so apt to malnutrition.
The Buy Local movement promotes subsistence disguised as “social capital” and regression disguised as “conservatism.” Throughout the course of human events, the most prosperous economies have always fled from these fallacious ideas, not because of any moral superiority, but because the alternative was much better. People in early Europe wanted spices from Asia and the Middle East. The Japanese Meiji Restoration modernized the country by opening its borders to trade.
In America, as Desrochers and Shimizu point out in The Locavore’s Dilemma,
If modern-day activists were to cling to any consistent notion of “local” food, a truly “made in the USA” agricultural diet would be limited to turkeys, some farmed native fish and shellfish, sunflowers, blueberries, cranberries, Jerusalem artichokes, and some varieties of squash.
Don’t get me wrong. I like my local’s farmer’s market and wander through there weekly (in the summer) to see what my local farming friends have on offer, but I recognize that it’s really not local and that there are more efficient ways to get our food — provided an earthquake doesn’t take out the Port of Long Beach.
Way back when I was in college (35 years ago), I read a news article about a young man who was being sentenced to 25 years to life for killing his sister in a boating accident. The details faded over the years to where I only really remember the sentence, that it was off the coast of Long Island and that his father was rich. I didn’t know this guy. I don’t remember his name. He simply became one of the stories we writers collect for future examination.
At around the same time, a friend who was a Vietnam vet told me his story about PTSD … seeing stuff that isn’t there, but was once part of his daily existence, feeling blood on his hands … being caught on a horror that is long past, but just will not let you go.
Come forward 15 years and a friend of ours killed someone in a drunk driving accident and went to jail for four years. Brad and I became involved in prison ministry because of that and we helped our friend and several others reenter society after their incarceration. We walked these folks through their reentry.
My husband is a recovering alcoholic, so 12-Step is a part of our lives.
These are just building blocks to a story that finally coalesced about 15 years ago into a story about a Long Island trust-fund kid who went to prison for killing his sister in a drunken boating accident and is now being released after five years to find his way in the world carrying that horrible baggage with him.
I am a huge fan of Prairie Home Companion and Garrison Keillor’s work there … not really sure how I feel about the new one as yet … so when I saw this article I had to check it out. And I was totally surprised. Back in 2012, when many conservatives and liberty-mind folks alike brought up the subject of secession, we were told we were children who shouldn’t be allowed anywhere near the Constitution, let alone a voting booth. But now, one of the progressive Democratic darlings is asking for the same thing.
I happen to think it is a great idea, although I’m sure Keillor and I would disagree on the reasons. I’m not seeking secession in a pout because my side didn’t win an election. I’m seeking succession for the good of the American people and the liberty of the rural/exurban dwellers. I’m just completely amazed that now that they aren’t in charge anymore the Left now thinks it’s a viable option. I haven’t changed my mind on the subject at all. It’s a good idea no matter who the president is.
So we have split up. Democrats and Republicans. Mutual loathing. So Thanksgiving was ruined, maybe Christmas. We Hillarians look at strangers in the airport and think, “You did, didn’t you. Yes, you did.” And they know who we are. If I were drowning and calling for help, they would throw me a large rock. If they were drowning, I’d toss them an anvil. Scripture says to love your enemy but it doesn’t say exactly when or how.
Broadway shows will now feel obliged to give lectures on diversity to any prominent Trumpist in the audience. Trumpists will explain, as one woman did, “Voting for him was the only way I could say that I exist.” (People who shoot up theaters may feel the same way.) The Trump faction will boycott chamber music concerts, wine tastings, lectures on Byzantine art and poetry readings, and Hillarians will boycott NFL games, casinos, gun shows and demolition derbies.
I have relatives who claim to be Christians who voted for Trump, though God told them clearly not to, but my relatives aren’t good at Aramaic. How do I feel about them? I don’t know. I’m thinking, I’m thinking. How would you feel if your favorite cousin told you he believes that white people should be able to live in all-white communities with all-white schools? (They can. Just go to North Dakota.)
President Obama, in his role as national sixth-grade civics teacher, believes the office will change the man. Ha. The man is 70. He has no ideas, no beliefs. His philosophy is simple: when he itches, he scratches.
So let’s talk about dividing the country. Why spend four years glaring at each other? A house divided against itself cannot stand, so let’s make a duplex. The experiment lasted for 150 years after Appomattox and in the end it failed. So let’s bind up our wounds and have an amicable divorce.
Democrats get the Northeast and the West Coast, plus a few miscellaneous states, and the Democratic cities — D.C., Dallas, Houston, New Orleans, Miami, Raleigh-Durham, Cleveland and so forth. Call it the Union. Our capital will, of course, be New York City.
Trump takes the Confederacy and the Corn Belt and his capital is the bunker deep under The Greenbrier Resort in White Sulphur Springs, West Virginia, where the federal government planned to go in the event of a catastrophe, which is basically what we have now. Call that country Trump Country.
Divvy up the military. Equal access to holy sites. They can come to Arlington Cemetery, the Reagan Library, and Trump Tower. We get to go to wildlife refuges, Gettysburg, and the birthplaces of authors. We’ll sell the White House for a hotel and make the Capitol a museum, and rent out the office buildings. You take your Supreme Court justices, we’ll take ours.
You can have the flag since you invested so much in flag pins and decals. We’ll make a new flag, blue, with the planet Earth on it.
This is not that hard, people. Others have done it. Pakistan split from India, Norway from Denmark, Lennon left McCartney.
Our country believes in competition and free enterprise and now it’s time to create a competition between the Union and Trump Country to see which one offers the better life to its people. My money is on the young people flocking to the cities, the centers of economic hustle and bustle like Seattle, Boston, Raleigh, Washington, Austin, where people seem to thrive on ferment, divergence, multiplicity, and a culture of mutual respect and toleration.
But I could be wrong about that. Hitler led Germany out of the confusion of democracy, created good jobs, built up the military, and united the country as never before. Germany had lost a war and Hitler made it great again.
When he staged Kristallnacht in November 1938, and went after the Jews, it was a huge success, on time and under budget. When he wanted to take over Czechoslovakia, he just went and did it. No problem. Looking back, one can see that his invasion of Poland in 1939 was a bad move, but it might have succeeded. Had Britain sued for peace, America was in no mood to intervene.
Europe and Russia might be united under one swastika today, and China and Korea united under the rising sun of the Emperor of Japan. And us. Three world powers. The U.N. could meet in a breakfast alcove. No journalists present, just three men making deals. Very simple. Tremendous efficiency. Just tremendous. Totally. You better believe it.
Garrison Keillor is an author and radio personality and regular contributor to The Washington Post.