Random Thoughts

RandomThoughtsThumbby Brad Nelson
I saw a minivan on the highway this morning with two “Coexist” bumper stickers on it — one on the back and one on the Left side. I followed it for a while until I noticed the van veering slightly from side to side in the lane.

Now only was it doing a little weaving, it had also slowed down a bit, a telltale sign of a driver on his cell phone or engaged in texting. Sure enough, as I passed the van, I saw some lady jabbering away on her phone. And I thought to myself, Maybe she ought to first try coexisting with traffic before she deigns to tell all religious people how to act.

While making a delivery downtown today, I noticed a set of five quite colorful mural panels that had been erected at the end of one of the bridges. Although there are “for rent” signs all over town, somehow the city government finds money enough for all this artsy-fartsy multi-culti stuff. They’ve been plastering this kind of stuff all over town for the last couple of years.

And then it occurred to me that, even if one doesn’t agree with it, there is an appealing vision to the Left. And you see it very often expressed in art. It’s colorful, Utopian, with promises of everyone just getting along. Rainbows. Kittens. Everyone has everything they want just by wishing for it.

And it occurred to me that one of the problems with the right is that we lack an artistic imagination. We lack a vision of our country that is beyond mere words and arguments. We might have the best minds on our side (Thomas Sowell) but we too often substitute hifalutin intellectualism for vision.

That vision needn’t be Utopian or naive. That vision could be of the grandness and nobility of the independent and self-made man who doesn’t need the teat of government in his mouth. It could be reminiscent of those old Wild West paintings that showed the independent man (or woman) on the plains seeking his fortune and his own life lived to the full (quite in contrast to, say, the moronic and hedonistic symbol of Miley Cyrus).

On the right, as I’ve observed here at StubbornThings, we seem to be best at pure opinionating. And as we see at NRO’s comment section, it often has devolved to little more than one-liners, cliches, and gainsaying. This has been one of my main complaints regarding NRO itself. There seems to be no leadership or general sense of direction. There’s little soul or spirit — no artistic imagination, if you will.

On the right — for surely various reasons — we have lost the ability to articulate our vision of America in terms that inspires the imagination and kindles the soul. Instead, we often simply rely on our own version of the cell phone. We just jabber away, even if the ideas themselves are good and true.

But even aside from the fact that we now live in a very visual society, there has always been the need for a movement to be able to not only express what is about in more than mere words, but to gather support for itself by the same means. In its ruder forms, it can be carefully-crafted propaganda a la the Nazis (or Obama’s Pepsi-like “O”). But even so, that just goes to the point that a movement (good or bad) benefits itself by being able to articulate a fairly specific, grand, and positive vision, whatever the medium.

This is one reason Sarah Palin has the following that she does. The beltway class wishes to dismiss her if only because their stock in trade is certainly not innate charm and charisma, let alone a robust and positive vision of America. So they must try to devalue who she is. As they say, if all you have is a hammer, every problem will look like a nail. And all that the beltway class has is a beltway hammer of supposed intellectual superiority.

On the right, we have a lots of words, often good words, but otherwise we seem bereft of anything that would make people attracted to our cause. That’s one reason I love old movies and love doing movie reviews. In these things (especially in the occasional John Wayne or Jimmy Stewart movie), we see a vision of America that is grand, good, and going places. But what can we point to today which does the same thing? John Boehner? NRO? Paul Ryan?

This was, probably naively, one of my reasons for starting StubbornThings. I wanted people to tap down into their own America Spirit and share something unique, creative, and decidedly American. But that is not easy.

I have been pestering this one lady that I know well on Facebook to write something for the site. She is amongst the brightest and most eloquent people that I know. But she declined. And I sort of understood. I’ve gotten tired of the bickering and arguing over politics as well. But I told her that I didn’t want the same-old same-old. I wanted to articulate a positive vision of America not just hit the idiot “Progressives” over the head. I knew she loved horses and I told her there wasn’t anything more traditionally American than our love for horses, so write about them. Tell us something. Maybe she will.

I will say the same thing to a friend who I know is a very big proponent of the Second Amendment. I’ve heard many intellectual arguments for gun ownership, but none better than when he told me that he recently took a couple British fellows to his gun club. In Britain, you can’t shoot a gun unless you’re practically a member of the royal family. My friend told me that these Brits had smiles on their faces that weren’t likely to ever come off. They loved shooting.

Such a story is the stuff that America is made of and is by far the best way to sell the Second Amendment. I hope he will write about this. I hope others will think outside the box and write something unique and creative regarding themselves and their experiences. We too easily fall into the style of the beltway and we needn’t do so. • (1615 views)

Brad Nelson

About Brad Nelson

I like books, nature, politics, old movies, Ronald Reagan (you get sort of a three-fer with that one), and the founding ideals of this country. We are the Shining City on the Hill — or ought to be. However, our land has been poisoned by Utopian aspirations and feel-good bromides. Both have replaced wisdom and facts.
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23 Responses to Random Thoughts

  1. LibertyMark says:

    OK, Brad, random thoughts.

    Rum! The original Daiquiri was Hemingway’s favorite drink. Nothing more western than, Aye, the rhummm, Laddie! Was legal tender in the British Navy until 1973.

    The perfect Daiquiri. None of this frozen nonsense:

    1oz nice white rum. My favorite is Koloa rum, fresh and tasty, from Hawaii, our 49th state.
    1oz simple syrup
    1oz lime juice, preferably Key Lime juice from Florida
    1 dash Angostino bitters

    Shake in shaker with ice, pour into Chilled Martini glass, enjoy! Yum! Great summer drink.

    Nothing more “American” (I.e. western hemisphere) than that. Sugar cane, molasses, Eastern Seaboard shipping, British conscription, Caribbean pirates, merchantmen, stills, bottled spirits, immigrants (to Hawaii for example, the means by which Hawaii became a state), slave history, emancipation, you name it.

    Did you know that a burgeoning entreprenuerial market in the US is micro-distilleries, featuring, rum, vodka, whiskey? There is a Rum micro-distillery in Kingman, AZ of all places.

    Distilled sprits are highly regulated by the Feds, perhaps because to run a still you need to do things similar to meth cooking. Or maybe it is simply the tax man cometh. Anyone seen Moonshine? You cannot distill your own spirits in th US, although you can make beer and wine without a license. So much for Liberty.

    Historically, the US is filled with distillery history, such as the Whiskey Rebellion, Geo. Washington’s significant income was whiskey distillation, and The 18th Amendment, Al Capone, and on and on. Very interesting, yes?

    Alcohol meets Americanism! Think about it! (Over that Daiquiri, that is…)


    • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

      Very nice rum-inations, Mark. And I learned something. And I had no idea that there was any kind of cottage industry in rum making. Interesting.

    • Kung Fu Zu says:

      Definitely the Taxman. Washington put down the so-called “Whiskey Rebellion” which arose because the only economical way for farmers to move their grain from the West to the East was in distilled spirits. One of the few taxes the new nation imposed was a tax on spirits. The farmers didn’t like it one bit and rebelled.

      After it was put down, I think there was a rethink on the amount of taxes charged, but I could be wrong.

  2. CCWriter CCWriter says:

    You were observing that government-sponsored and Progressive-inspired works of art tend to be focused on community. I would just suggest that there’s nothing inherently wrong with celebrating community. The Left purports to own it and uses art to stake its claim. But instead of giving it up, why not take it back from them? Traditional libertarians such as myself are forever trying to remind everyone that the complement of limited government is a robust sphere of voluntary civil society. It’s when the government takes it over and tries to run it that we run into trouble. So let’s not appear to be saying that it’s either that or every man for himself!

    • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

      One could just as well substitute “mythic imagination” for “artistic imagination.” The idea that “god is dead” wasn’t so much about metaphysics as it was scrubbing away all concerns other than materialistic concerns.

      And that is what we Americans have done. This can be readily seen in the widespread confusion over the Syrian situation. The only impulse (assuming it’s a genuine one, and I do not) to intervene are those pictures of dead citizens, particularly children. It’s not wrong for the American mind to be sympathetic. But it just has shown itself completely inept at parsing any subject other than through the “immediately material harm that I can relate to” lens.

      There’s no strategic vision. There’s not conception that both factions are human rights disasters. But having lost our moral center, we can only flail about in the “do something, do anything” mode.

      Whatever vision there is for America is lost. The idea of having any concerns other than material concerns seems like a silly idea to the modern mind, and often on libertarians minds, quite frankly. But those immaterial concerns are not just religious concerns. There must be a point to a people and a nation other than just hedonistic comforts. If we can gain no other notion from Mark Steyn’s “America Alone,” we should understand that the materialist course we are on now is — to use a libtard word — “unsustainable.”

    • Kurt NY says:

      The left’s brand of community is actually a fairly incohesive one. All people are primarily members of certain demographic groups (ie blacks, Asians, gays, women, Hispanics, etc), which identify who and what they are and may become. And no one not of that group can ever expect any member to change or adapt in any way, but all must endlessly tolerate the eternal differences that we all must celebrate as special (unless you’re a white male, in which case your culture is decidedly uncool, if it exists at all, and you yourself are very probably a misogynist, racist, Eurocentric, homophobe who’s the beneficiary of centuries of white male privilege, you swine).

      The only thing missing is commonality, something we have in common and share. Which is what conservatism is about. The left has always been about the idea that society is incredibly flawed and must be made over into some logical plan derived by rationality and imposed by state power, with the aim of remaking mankind into a new man. And any institutions not signing on to that project are an impediment to progress that must be suppressed.

      But we on the right believe that humans are now, always have been, and always will be flawed. That institutions exist because they serve some undefined and possibly unknowable human need, which should not be tampered with without dire need. No one can possibly understand reality sufficiently to organize everything perfectly, so mankind is best served where every person can act as he sees fit, with all the competing visions cancelling out the harmful elements in man’s nature.

      Conservatism is community as it is. Liberalism is community as it wishes it to be. The right accepts humankind as it is, while the left rejects humanity except as it fits into its ideological vision.

  3. Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

    I was reading a little more of H.W. Brands’ biography of Andrew Jackson. It is interesting to see history in the long haul.

    Seven of the first nine (or something like that) presidents had been from Virginia, and most of them from the Democratic-Republican party. At one point the Federalist Party collapsed and presidents were chosen by a small caucus of the remaining party.

    Jackson was presented as a man of the people. And it can easily be argued that the people did indeed support him. There was growing distaste for the small clique that controlled the national government.

    Jackson eventually defeated John Quincy Adams (who had some time back switched to the Democratic-Republican Party) and the rest, as they say, is history. The Democrat Party was born. The people had been freed from the clutches of our home-grown aristocracy.

    Now fast-forward over 150 years later and we have an opposite situation. Now instead of being ruled by a relatively small aristocracy we are ruled by the masses. Oh, yes, there is still very much an aristocracy of the political class in government. But that aristocracy, such as it is, is beholden to satisfying the ever-increasing desires of “the people,” including now free health care.

    True, there is a perspective in which one can view the people as lambs to the slaughter. But this situation might equally be seen as the tyrant rabble of democratic people whose appetites for “free stuff” can never be sated. The aristocracy of the political class, such as it is, is given a free hand to the extent that they promise “the people” more and more free stuff.

    And all of this “free stuff” is anointed and money-laundered, if you will, by the veneer of a whole lot of superficial pleasing notions, such as gay marriage, multiculturalism, “diversity,” etc. It combines with, but does not overtake, the idea that “liberty” is seen as liberty from the normal hardships of life. But when it comes down to it, these peripheral issues are not the primary issues that drive voters. In fact, you can have cases where one of the most liberal states in the union (California) will actually vote against gay marriage.

    When you scratch below the conceits of the people who say they care so very much for gay marriage or whatever victim-of-the-week is propped up, at the end of the day, the people want their entitlements. One can see these peripheral issues as a way to anoint their own selfishness. To the extent that issues such as gay marriage are useful it is as a convenient distraction from the fact that Americans are no longer united under the principles of liberty but under the principles of free stuff.

    Both parties, to a great extent, are beholden to this new circumstance. One must not miss the fact that the opposition argument against Obamacare during the last presidential election was that it would harm an existing entitlement, Medicare. Those who saw through Paul Ryan, as I did, were amused by this.

    Still, not all Americans have become as disreputable and as entitlement-minded as the majority. There are still some who long for the America of liberty, the Constitution, financial sanity, and of the Shining City on the Hill. This is how to understand the affection for Sarah Palin. Whatever her actual policies (which are mostly pretty good), she represents a return of the idea of American as good and not just a place of the aristocracy of either the moneyed or the entitled.

    There is no other Republican or conservative that I know of who speaks of this situation in plain facts. Not NRO, certainly. And you won’t hear anything out of John Boehner and probably not even out of Rand Paul. It is indeed time to take back our government, but we must recognize who it needs taking back from.

  4. david eisenstadt says:

    its like reading the thoughts of a young vital larry king.

  5. LibertyMark says:

    Take the C out of coexist and I’m good…

  6. Terri King says:

    You’ve pretty much just described the basics of advertising. You capture the eye, and then you come up with something visual that captures the attention, and then you “sell” the idea. Bait, hook, set. All that’s left is reeling them in.

    Though I’m not really politically minded, I find myself seeing this done as you have. It makes me shake my head because I find myself being snobbish about the idea of falling for how something “looks” versus how something really is! But…those looks sell, so it’s almost a necessary evil for promoting ANYthing.

    Loved the thoughts!

    • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

      about the idea of falling for how something “looks” versus how something really is!.

      I wish I could had out hundred dollar bills, Terri. Because I would tell you to go write an article about that very thing and submit it here.

      Perhaps no idea could better describe modern man than the almost insane emphasis these days on the “look” of the thing and not the substance. In fact, the “look” is generally considered the substance.

      • Kung Fu Zu says:

        This is the old “form vs. content” question. The clearest juxtaposition of the two which I ever saw was when I first lived in Japan over thirty years ago.

        Present giving is endemic in Japan. It doesn’t matter so much what one gives as how it looks. This being the case, the Japanese are the world’s best gift wrappers. The outside is so beautiful, that you don’t want to ruin it by opening the present.

        I think this gets to a deeper question about life in Asia. Much conflict is avoided by social rituals which may have nothing to do with the true state of affairs. This is the one of the reasons for the constant smiles one encounters.

        Truth can be a very dangerous thing in Asia. The search for truth is not considered the noble goal. Harmony is the objective. I am amazed and not a little concerned that this way of thinking has really seeped into America.

        • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

          Very interesting. Okay, your crisp new Benjamin Franklin is in the mail. What an interesting article that would make. Or maybe I can do a quip blurb tomorrow and then we can just discuss it.

          • Kung Fu Zu says:

            OK, following the thought on form and content, know that from a sociological point of view, Asia is a shame society and the West is a guilt society. That is shame and the thought of losing face are prime motivators in Asia. Fitting in and succeeding in the community are very important. Mothers of school aged children are known to use this to motivate study, ala “do you want the other students to laugh at you?”

            In the West, due to the Judeo-Christian heritage it is guilt which has been a prime motivator in life. We have asked ourselves is it right or wrong, meaning moral or immoral.

            With the rapid development of technology and the shrinking world, such societal constraints have weakened. But in Asia, shame is still pretty strong.

            Unfortunately, in the West too many have lost any thought of guilt and they never had shame to begin with.

            Written over a plate of Asian style spaghetti in Singapore which is a strange mixture of East and West.

            • Terri King says:

              Well poop…I put my reply in the wrong spot..sorry bout that. It’s further down there…lol.

            • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

              Even despite jettisoning Christianity (or replacing it with Leftism), The West still seems like a guilt society. You must feel guilty for being white, for being male, for being straight, for being wealthy, for being free, etc., etc., etc.

              Where it used to be a good and healthy thing to instill a sense of guilt for doing bad things (thou shall not murder, thou shall not steal, thou shall not covet), now “bad things” has been totally redefined by Cultural Marxism to mean issues of race, class, and gender underpinned by a Communistic political/economic system.

              Now it’s okay to kill if you call it “a woman’s right to choose.” It’s okay to steal if you call it “social justice.” It’s okay to covet if you call it “everyone paying one’s fair share.”

              And this transformation of ethics has deeply corrupted Christianity. It has deeply corrupted all of society.

      • Terri King says:

        Perhaps no idea could better describe modern man than the almost insane emphasis these days on the “look” of the thing and not the substance. In fact, the “look” is generally considered the substance.

        What’s even more disturbing to me is how this has infiltrated the Christian faith. It is most distasteful and has no place at all in the faith…at least not in the context of flash and dash. We ARE told to avoid the appearance of evil, but that’s not what we’re talking about here. We’re talking about “selling” our faith, and it’s done with a lot of intensity these days.

        We’ve repackaged scripture to make eye-candy covers or titles to slap on the Bibles. There are marketing strategies to target certain potential buyers.

        We have catchy little phrases all wrapped up in attractive wall hangings or coffee mugs or t-shirts or ____ .

        I used to love to go to “Christian” book stores to look for reading material, but then it all changed to “Christian” gift shops with all their little trinkets and a few reference books and Bibles along with loads and loads of books featuring romance, mystery, and intrigue.

        Heck, we even have “Christian” cruises on luxury liners so we “of one mind” can all hang together and pat ourselves on the back for how “ecclesiastical” we are.

        Yeah….got some real substance going on here. In my humble opinion, when “pleasing to the eye” has become that prevalent in what is supposed to be our spiritual life, we’re really in trouble in all the rest of the areas of our lives.

        • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

          Heck, we even have “Christian” cruises on luxury liners so we “of one mind” can all hang together and pat ourselves on the back for how “ecclesiastical” we are.

          Ha! That’s the same thing conservatives (supposed conservatives) do at National Review. Let’s go on a cruise!

          And that is the national pastime. Indeed, planning a vacation is the pastime of the West. And it is indeed a wide and marvelous world in many ways with many sites to see and foreign cultures to enjoy. But that is merely the outward form or excuse.

          The real reason is that we are now on a constant search for distractions. We are on endless cruises of one form or another. We travel externally because we do not know how to travel internally.

          We all need some formative influence to our lives or we just end up as jelly. And the secular-socialist-Leftist influence (which conservatives are in no way immune to) tends to leave people vacant, shallow, and dumb. All the great questions were asked thousands of years ago. And yet we live in a culture where it seems to only matter what some nitwit celebrity Tweeted five minutes ago.

          Thank you, Terri, for your wonderful observations. Your check is in the mail. 😀

  7. Terri King says:

    In the West, due to the Judeo-Christian heritage it is guilt which has been a prime motivator in life. We have asked ourselves is it right or wrong, meaning moral or immoral.

    With the rapid development of technology and the shrinking world, such societal constraints have weakened.

    Interestingly enough, I read an article a couple of weeks ago about this very thing as it applies to highschool kids and their lack of empathy due to the fact that less and less eye-to-eye contact conversation takes place. Now with all the digital technology literally at their fingertips, they say what they want, when they want, without any thought of the consequences because it is basically just words on a screen. They aren’t seeing the impact of what they are saying to whomever they’re saying it to.

    I first noticed this years ago in chat rooms. The things people “say” on screen are just horrendous sometimes. Among a few of us our little mantra was to remember there is a face on the other side of that computer monitor, and it belongs to a real person. More and more I think that fact is being ignored or was never taught to begin with. It’s pretty sad, in my opinion. And it’s a little bit frightening to think about how emotionally and psychologically detached we could become as a society in general.

    • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

      Interestingly enough, I read an article a couple of weeks ago about this very thing as it applies to highschool kids and their lack of empathy due to the fact that less and less eye-to-eye contact conversation takes place.

      Terri, I know you’re an old hand at the internet, forums, and such. And usually forums have just scads of rules. They tend to be the length of the bill for Obamacare.

      But when you mentioned what you did, it reminded me of what I had written as far as a guiding star for online discourse (it’s in the “About” menu”) which is rather short. Part of it was: Play nice. This isn’t Kindergarten, but consider if you would say what you are saying if the person was seated across from you in a restaurant.

      Um, err…most of the stuff I say here *is* what I tell to people face-to-face, as many of my friends can attest to. But I think it’s a good guide nonetheless. We’ve had a flame-out already here. But I don’t think it had so much to do with people saying things they wouldn’t otherwise in a bad way. Instead, it was simple truth coming out, and perhaps a little too bluntly for some.

      There’s a downside to the internet and anonymity. But there can be an upside as well. People are less inclined to put up with other people’s bullshit. And we all need “bullshit” called on us once in a while. But in real life, we tend to be “polited” to death. We’re all “nice” but not particularly truthful. And certainly just going around spouting truth is not the be-all, end-all of how humans should interact. In fact, it’s usually best to just shut up or dispense harmless white lies.

      But I think we become so used to that that an ounce of truth espoused on the internet can feel like a pound of bricks hitting you. And I think that sometimes happens.

      But there is no fear of being hit with truth from high school kids and such (and adults as well). That isn’t Shakespeare that they are texting to each other. It’s the equivalent of the refuge you find along the highway. It’s just discarded nothings. It’s as if people are doing all they can to make sure that a noble or complex thought never arises. So they keep Tweeting, texting, or talking on their cell phones about inane nothings. It’s bleeds off any “pressure” from anything more noble ever developing in their brains. And it’s working!

  8. Simple Commenter says:

    I have to agree with your article here. I often visit ST & American Thinker. I don’t consider myself to be a Republican, I am, for sure, not a Democrat though I am conservative and not by choice but by necessity.

    While I think you are on to something for the real lovers of the U.S. and freedom, I think that we are the way we are at this point in time because we know that until we can get some common sense back into government we really won’t have a positive future to look forward to. We lack good leadership badly in our country and government. I am one of the fools that actually believe that God created the world and all that we see. That he sent us his Son, Jesus, to show Himself to us, to show us that there is a Spiritual world too and to give us a way to enter that world on leaving this one. Please forgive me for digressing into an area that is so offensive to some.

    Lee Iacocoa (sp?) wrote a book about where are all of our leaders. I don’t know, but I wish they would show up soon, I’m not sure if we have a lot of time left to prevent the pile up we are headed for. The thing that concerns me is that in our two party system, if I don’t like the direction that the Democrats are going, my only recourse is to vote Republican. Now, I ask you, is that a choice? That is an alternative, not a choice. To me, the two parties are the same horse just viewed from different ends. You ought to know which end is the Democrats, at least in my mind.

    Last, I thank you for this site where I can visit and read other peoples articles and comments.

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