Nothing special. Just wishing one and all a happy, blessed, safe, and contented 2013.
With more cowbell.
With more cowbell.
Not only was he the first Japanese soldier I had ever shot at, he was the only one I had seen at close quarters. He was a robin-fat, moon-faced, roly-poly little man with his thick, stubby, trunklike legs sheathed in faded khaki puttees and the rest of him squeezed into a uniform that was much too tight. Unlike me, he was wearing a tin hat, dressed to kill. But I was quite safe from him.. His Arisaka rifle was strapped on in a sniper's harness, and though he had heard me, and was trying to turn toward me, the harness sling had him trapped. He couldn't disentangle himself from it. His eyes were rolling in panic. Realizing that he couldn't extricate his arms and defend himself, he was backing toward a corner with a curious, crablike motion.
My first shot had missed him, embedding itself in the straw wall, but the second caught him dead-on in the femoral artery. His left thigh blossomed, swiftly turning to mush. A wave of blood gushed from the wound; then another boiled out, sheeting across his legs, pooling on the earthen floor. Mutely he looked down at it. He dipped a hand in it and listlessly smeared his cheek red. His shoulders gave a little spasmodic jerk, as though someone had whacked him on the back; then he emitted a tremendous, raspy fart, slumped down, and died. I kept firing, wasting government property. . . .
Jerking my head to shake off the stupor, I slipped a new, fully loaded magazine into the butt of my .45. Then I began to tremble, and next to shake, all over. I sobbed, in a voice still grainy with fear: "I'm sorry." Then I threw up all over myself. . . . At the same time I noticed another odor; I had urinated in my skivvies. . . . Then Barney burst in on me, his carbine at the ready, his face gray, as though he, not I, had just become a partner in the firm of death. He ran over to the Nip's body, grabbed its stacking swivel - its neck - and let go, satisfied that it was a cadaver. I marveled at his courage; I couldn't have taken a step toward that corner. He approached me and then backed away, in revulsion, from my foul stench. He said: "Slim, you stink." I said nothing. I knew I had become a thing of tears and twitchings and dirtied pants. I remember wondering dumbly: Is this what they mean by "conspicuous gallantry"? - William Manchester, Goodbye Darkness, pp. 6-7It was autumn, 1988. I was working at the country club in my hometown for a season, trying to figure out my life. While taking care of a set of clubs, I overheard a conversation among a foursome, local men my father's age. They had been talking of their experiences in the service in what I grew up calling "the War", as if it had ever been the only such thing that occurred. One of the men, a local real estate developer of some note, was talking about his time in the Navy, serving in the Pacific in the 1944 and 1945. After a battle in which the Japanese sent wave after wave of planes to die in the face of the steel from our ships and planes, he spoke of a young man who had been in an anti-aircraft turret on board the same ship. "It took an hour to pry his fingers off the gun. He didn't say anything, ever, as far as I know."
That's just part of Durning's incredible story. Not just of his service during the Second World War; reading his obituary, I realized what a remarkable man we have lost, a man out of time, whose whole life seems to echo "America" as I read it.Mr. Durning was also remembered for his combat service, which he avoided discussing publicly until later in life. He spoke at memorial ceremonies in Washington, and in 2008 France awarded him the National Order of the Legion of Honor.In the Parade interview, he recalled the hand-to-hand combat. “I was crossing a field somewhere in Belgium,” he said. “A German soldier ran toward me carrying a bayonet. He couldn’t have been more than 14 or 15. I didn’t see a soldier. I saw a boy. Even though he was coming at me, I couldn’t shoot.”They grappled, he recounted later — he was stabbed seven or eight times — until finally he grasped a rock and made it a weapon. After killing the youth, he said, he held him in his arms and wept.
It's humbug still! - Ebeneezer Scrooge
Great video on how the existence of morality is evidence for the existence of God. - Neil SimpsonAt this festive time of year, along with resurrecting the careers of Andy Williams and Johnny Mathis; putting trees in our homes; braving crowds in stores to purchase things we don't need, sometimes for people we would rather not have in our lives; eating too much; gathering with family only to be reminded why we don't gather with family too often; along with all these things, for some reason two sets of idiots square off in various cage matches, attempting to prove to the world who can be more dim.
Anyone who celebrates the birth of Christ is never in need of a boost from a truly mythological person called Santa, merchandising barrages, office parties or tinsel draped conifers. The words, good tidings, great joy, peace on earth and good will toward men are the phrases that we feel in our hearts because of his birth and we can never accept the fleshly substitute of making 'merry' and the practice of overspending, overindulgence, drunkenness and general partying on an unspecified holiday as a reasonable substitute. Our joy is 24/7, 365 days a year and follows us into eternity. The atheists have missed the point by a million miles.With a short aside to note that the parenthetical in the first paragraph might portend good news, as Rev Grasciani might well join in protests against the over-commercialization of Christmas by a capitalist class who has no need of religious celebration, but does have a need for profit, let us move on and realize what the final sentence of the second paragraph portends. Yet, it's time for . . . Let's prove how little we know about historical research, Christian doctrine, and the idiocy of "proof"! If it weren't for Neil Simpson's continued presence on the internet, this guy would probably win the prize for wasting more space writing about stuff that he only wishes had something to do with being Christian.
If Christmas or Christianity was meant to produce only good feelings then we may as well dump both. Feelings may be part of the Christian experience along with celebrations that warm the heart, but it would be the saddest of all religions if it were based only on emotional responses. At the start and at the heart, real Christianity is based on a historical figure and on an actual historical event.
New Testament Christianity and the Christmas story are not based on a preponderance of pure unmitigated belief; it is based on the historical record. Our faith in that record and the interaction of God's Holy Spirit with us (Which he promised) is an objective matter and does not rest on feelings, anecdotal experiences, or fellowship with others of like mind.It's a two-fer. You get nonsensical dribblings about "belief", with a hefty dose of anti-Muslim rhetoric (with a bonus swipe at the Jews; since Adolf von Harnack a century ago, "New Testament Christianity" has been a code word for anti-Semitism). God, save us from people who claim to believe in you!
The atheists might want to save the unimaginable cost of buying billboard advertising on Times Square and use the money to send a contingent of their followers to Mecca or some other Muslim center of worship with the same message about myths. It is likely they would not come back alive, if at all, but we would have a little less bah-humbug for one Christmas season. Who coined the phrase, less is more? More so, just how seriously do they take their message, if it's good for the goose is it good for the 1.5 billion Muslims who haven't heard it as yet?
Really? It's only now occurring to Anthony Pinn, after a century that has seen evil on such a massive scale that to contemplate it could drive one mad, that many of the ways we try to speak about God in the face of such human misery are miserable failures? Not to mention all the centuries before this, in which suffering, pain, oppression and death were such a feature of the human social landscape as to be invisible; surely Pinn is not suggesting that only now, in the aftermath of this particular event, can we finally put paid to the Christian God, over a century after Nietzsche insisted the "we" had killed God. Except, alas, that's precisely what he's saying.I am not describing the loss of faith, but rather the limits of faith in the face of tragedy. What is so important, what is so impressive, during this tragedy is not the faithful appeals to God but rather the collective human effort to comfort the suffering and to remember the value of human life.Trying both to resolve such tragedies and keep God on the throne actually impedes our ability to process this misery. The appeal to God’s logic offers a type of cosmic cover that is difficult to remove. Looking to God and trying to grasp the workings of the divine mind actually arrests our ability to understand the deeply human nature of these acts of violence. There is no justification; there is no larger logic—no theologically exposed silver lining. This misery is all too human—the imposition of an individual’s twisted will on others with deadly consequences. Appeal to God doesn’t fix this; it doesn’t explain it.At best we might suggest that God “dropped the ball”—failed to do what a loving God is suppose to do. Instead, it seems to me, as we read the stories of the victims we are also reading God’s obituary. By this I mean that such extreme human tragedy makes it impossible to talk about God in any useful way.
You want to know what I find really horrible about this particular piece? It isn't the atheism, about which I couldn't care less. It's exploiting the pain and suffering not just of the those living in Newtown but all Americans to push an idiotic agenda that has nothing at all to do with comforting those in pain or seeking to prevent others from suffering such pain in the future. There's nothing constructive here, even less comfort. All there is, really, is the confident announcement that human suffering disproves the existence of the Christian God so we should all just shut up and live like Anthony Pinn. Who reminds me of many a college sophomore who suddenly discovers the world is a cruel place and that many of the responses of people of faith and earnest intent fall far short of adequate.These profound moments of tragedy slowly kill God, making it so difficult, if not useless, to speak of God in response to misery. Instead we are invited to silence. Deep silence, in which we struggle for human resolve to confront human problems. Please do not misunderstand me: I am not saying we should say nothing, that we should do nothing. I am not suggesting that complacency is the proper response, nor am I arguing that these events should be ignored. Rather, I am proposing silence concerning God, silence concerning efforts to make things better through theological twist and turns, and through the revamping of experience to fit religious categories and religious tradition.A humanistic or non-theistic response to the misery like that encountered in Newtown centers the loss of life’s integrity, is deeply sensitive to the damage done to the collective fabric of life. And, it holds humans accountable without the cosmic aid that never seems to come. This is not to say that humanists have all the answers. Rather, in light of human tragedy, humanists might offer better questions during these challenging times, as well as a space for wrestling with these questions free of cosmic justifications—and a God clearly missing in action.I write this not to deny comfort for those who have been directly and indirectly touched by this unspeakable act of violence. Mine is an effort to acknowledge and respect grief without so quickly pushing to find some reason behind such tragedy. This loss of life is really beyond our limited human language. The loss experienced by those families, by those associated with the school, and by the collective American and human family is so intense, so absurd, so real that it calls for our full humanity beyond any talk of God.
And this is the judgement, that the light has come into the world, and people loved darkness rather than light because their deeds were evil. But those who do what is true come to the light, so that it may be clearly seen that their deeds have been done in God.-John 3:19-21A great theme of our national life this past year has been the question of reality. I realize that's hard to believe that a nation not well known for dwelling on metaphysical issues has spent quite a bit of time arguing about what is real and what is not real. Yet, it's true.
As we begin a long-overdue examination of where gun culture in America has gone, we can't avoid the way guns have become so entwined with masculine anxiety, as so many men seek to find their identity in instruments of destruction.-Paul WaldmanCultural critics, feminists, and just run-of-the-mill folks who point out, repeatedly, that gender identity tends to be conflicted social space get a lot of flack from folks who refuse to see what's out there in front of everyone's face. With the national heartbreak from Newtown, CT still fresh, it's been interesting to discover how Bushmaster, the manufacturer of the weapon used to kill 27 people last week, marketed gun ownership. From the Paul Waldman piece linked above:
Folks, like me, who consider quite a bit of our national desire for guns to be a sign of social and cultural illness really don't need to go very far to discover all sorts of ways this illness displays itself. While egregious, this marketing campaign is hardly atypical. Whether it's cologne or trucks or tools; whether it's "chick flicks" versus "action flicks" at the cineplex; it might even be what kind of beer you drink; all these products become stand-ins for how gender roles are clarified. Last night, I was watching an episode of NCIS from season 3, in which two characters discover a third uses hand and body lotion, then proceed to question both his masculinity and sexual orientation. I have to admit, while I'm a fan of the show, I was horrified by what I was watching. Honest to God. Are there really people in the world who are so unsure of their own sexual and gender identity that it's important to belittle others because of the products they use?
American conservatism has been rendered a parody of a burlesque of a puppet show. And Charlotte Allen should be shunned by decent people. Hell, people who think like this should be shunned by bacteria.Is our problem one of gender? Are men these days just not man enough? Has feminism rendered males weak, unable to perform their function as protectors and providers?
OK, it's been an entire weekend of listening to people parcel out blame among their pre-existing moral hobby-horses in regard to which of them is most to blame for the massacre in Connecticut. Guns. Video games. Bad Bruce Willis movies. I have my own opinion on all of them, except for the Bruce Willis movies because they don't pay me enough money to see enough of those to develop an opinion. Here's my feeling on all of them. You know what the real culprit is?
I love few things more than the constant barrage of noise about traditional values. Really. What, after all, does the word "value" mean? Something is of value if and only if we can reasonably set it aside other things of greater or lesser value. Otherwise, it is either worthless (of no value) or priceless (outside the set of those things upon which we bestow value). All that talk about "traditional values" only shows the folks doing the talking have been nabbed and landed, and are currently drying on the stringer held up by capitalism.Profit. - Charlie Pierce
We’re going to talk about it because our thoughts and prayers are not enough. They were not enough after Columbine (15 dead), or the Amish schoolhouse (6 dead), or Virginia Tech (33 dead), or Tucson (6 dead), or Aurora (12 dead), or the Wisconsin Sikh temple (6 dead), and they are not enough now that another 28 once living, breathing people have been added to the tally. To offer only thoughts and prayers is to say “Well, that’s a damn shame. Sure hope it doesn’t happen again.” We have done this every time. And every time, it’s happened again. So we’re going to talk about it.From Cynthia Nielsen:
How many more lives must be lost before we enact change? How many children must perish? How many parents must pick up the pieces of their shattered lives after having lost their children? What will it take to change our hearts and minds about the needless, rampant gun violence in our country? Will it taking losing your children or mine? Are not these children and these children and these children our children, our brothers, our sisters?From Gary Wills:
Read again those lines, with recent images seared into our brains—“besmeared with blood” and “parents’ tears.” They give the real meaning of what happened at Sandy Hook Elementary School Friday morning. That horror cannot be blamed just on one unhinged person. It was the sacrifice we as a culture made, and continually make, to our demonic god. We guarantee that crazed man after crazed man will have a flood of killing power readily supplied him. We have to make that offering, out of devotion to our Moloch, our god. The gun is our Moloch. We sacrifice children to him daily—sometimes, as at Sandy Hook, by directly throwing them into the fire-hose of bullets from our protected private killing machines, sometimes by blighting our children’s lives by the death of a parent, a schoolmate, a teacher, a protector. Sometimes this is done by mass killings, sometimes by private offerings to the god.Look at the names above. Especially the ones with the "6" and "7" after them. Then tell me we are powerless, that there's just nothing we can do, isn't it so sad and too bad. Read those quoted above and tell the families and friends of the named dead how wrong they all are, how it isn't the gun-worshipers and phony he-men who are selfish but all those expressing sympathy and support and most of all demanding that these persons should not have died in vain, that we in fact are the selfish ones. Go read those names and pretend that, somehow, the problem is too few guns.
I feel like sometimes it’s the bigness of the problem that scares us the most, and so a solution that feels practical becomes the only response we can imagine. But when people have guns to protect them from black people and the government, a black president is not going to have much luck trying to repeal the 2nd Amendment. Especially when our response to a white guy shooting up a school is to tell people to be on the watch for “suspicious characters.” If there’s a solution, the law might be part of it, and the people who were demonstrating in front of the White House yesterday, good for them. I’d have joined them; I’m all for taxing the living shit out of anyone who wants to own a gun in a big city, for example. I’ll sign that petition, why the hell not. But as long as there’s a loophole, as long as some people are more animal, more killable than white kids in Connecticut, there will still be people killing people, and people who are crazy enough to want to do it are crazy enough to find a way. And we should be aghast about every single one of the dead kids, and adults, not just the white ones who were killed by automatic weapons in a school.The frustrating thing about this is it is both right and wrong. It is right because it makes clear the enormity of the problem. It is wrong because if you say, "Wow, that's just too big," then no one does anything and we all cross our fingers and hope and pray the daily body count doesn't include people we love.