Free Lunches for Life…

Timely repost written a few years ago by Dr. Hammons…

Reflection and Choice

Ah Greece.  Birthplace of Western Civilization; Cradle of Democracy.  You did good for a few thousand years, but now it may be time for you to exit stage left from the very theater that you invented.  The Founders of America always looked to Greece as a model of all that was good about democracy, and all that was bad about democracy.  The bad usually outweighed the good, like the time you killed those generals because you didn’t like the calls they made on the battlefield (or sea, as the case was).  Or when you put Nicias, the only guy who didn’t want to go to war with Sparta, in charge of the war with Sparta.  That was great.  Or when you killed Socrates because he was, you know, a gadfly.

Democracy, they say, is the worst form of government, except for all the others.  After all,  it’s strange to argue that people…

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Why I’m Done with Science Fiction

farewell

I usually spend part of the summer catching up on contemporary fiction, and often my summer reading ends up falling into some sort of theme. This summer I fell into a science-fiction hole, but I think I’m going to climb back out.

When World Magazine announced that Michel Faber’s The Book of Strange New Things was its fiction book of the year, I decided to give it a try. Here’s some of what they had to say about it.

These days, in books from secular publishers, we expect to see pastors depicted as hypocrites and missionaries as agents of exploitation. That’s what we’d expect from Michel Faber’s The Book of Strange New Things (Hogarth), which has as its protagonist a pastor called to be a missionary to the strange creatures of a planet galaxies away from his wife. Does he (a) steal precious minerals, (b) molest the females, (c) create a bizarre cult with himself as God, or (d) all of the above?

The answer is (e) none of the above.

The premise intrigued me, but unfortunately the answer “(e) none of the above” proved too true. Not a whole lot happens in the book’s 500 pages.

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A Million Rose Petals: A D-Day Remembrance

This updated essay will run this weekend in the Gray Matters online section of The Houston Chronicle to commemorate the fallen in remembrance of D-Day.

Reflection and Choice

On 6 June 1944 Americans stormed French beaches in the Battle of Normandy under commander Dwight D. Eisenhower.  It was the turning point for World War II, and was decisive for defeating Nazi Germany under Adolf Hitler.

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Americans wounded after storming Omaha Beach, 6 June 1944

Yet last year, on my neighborhood street, only one flag other than the one on our house flew in memory of these brave Americans, some of whom gave their lives so that Western Europe, and the West in general, could remain free.

Last year, on television, commemorative profiles of the few veterans remaining alive were overwhelmed by the distressing reports that we had just traded five of the most dangerous terrorists in our own war, the war on terror, in exchange for a soldier who might have deserted, might have collaborated with the enemy.  The White House and journalists in general were okay with…

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Be All My Facts Forgotten

Following the dispute over Sabrina Erdely’s article “A Rape on Campus” that was recently retracted from Rolling Stone, it is apparent that the article’s blatant fabrications are less important to many people than the valuable story the article told.

Naomi Schaefer Riley’s insightful piece in The New York Post raises the alarm in this regard:

The verdict’s in on Rolling Stone. According to no less an authority than the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism, the magazine’s story last year on a University of Virginia gang rape was a “journalistic failure [that] encompassed reporting, editing, editorial supervision and fact-checking.”

But as with many other stories that don’t fit into the right narrative, the media will continue to draw the wrong lessons.

As an AP article noted, “Despite its flaws, the article heightened scrutiny of campus sexual assaults amid a campaign by President Barack Obama.”

Despite its flaws? You mean despite the fact that as far as anyone can tell, the story was made up out of whole cloth?

Rape, and all such crimes, must be condemned, but the general condemnation should not obliterate the necessity of historical truth. This was one of my points in “Validity and the Ways We Talk About History.” Fabricated lies are now as equally valuable as history in the public sphere, when it comes to spreading a good narrative. This is particularly true if the narrative highlights something society deems worthwhile. Whether or not the stated facts correspond to reality is insignificant in comparison to how valid and important the narrative is.

Schaefer Riley concludes this matter better than I can:

Actually, yes, it does diminish the importance because it calls into question whether those were real issues at all.

Maybe we’ve spent too much time around preschool teachers. Maybe we are so used to being infantilized by the media that we hardly notice these rejoinders at the end of every story, assuring us that even if the story was all wrong, the narrative was correct.

Not everything has to be a teachable moment. And if we do need a moral to every story, it would be useful to find one based on the facts.