Joe and the Volcano
Almost everybody's read the Anarchist Soccer Mom's post describing her difficulty in raising a mentally troubled son. It opens with these lines.
Three days before 20 year-old Adam Lanza killed his mother, then opened fire on a classroom full of Connecticut kindergartners, my 13-year old son Michael (name changed) missed his bus because he was wearing the wrong color pants.
“I can wear these pants,” he said, his tone increasingly belligerent, the black-hole pupils of his eyes swallowing the blue irises.
“They are navy blue,” I told him. “Your school’s dress code says black or khaki pants only.”
“They told me I could wear these,” he insisted. “You’re a stupid bitch. I can wear whatever pants I want to. This is America. I have rights!” ...
A few weeks ago, Michael pulled a knife and threatened to kill me and then himself after I asked him to return his overdue library books. His 7 and 9 year old siblings knew the safety plan—they ran to the car and locked the doors before I even asked them to. I managed to get the knife from Michael, then methodically collected all the sharp objects in the house into a single Tupperware container that now travels with me. Through it all, he continued to scream insults at me and threaten to kill or hurt me.
That conflict ended with three burly police officers and a paramedic wrestling my son onto a gurney for an expensive ambulance ride to the local emergency room. The mental hospital didn’t have any beds that day, and Michael calmed down nicely in the ER, so they sent us home with a prescription for Zyprexa and a follow-up visit with a local pediatric psychiatrist.
It highlighted the problems of an individual parent trying to cope with mentally ill relatives in a world where nobody is supposed to be institutionalized any more. It also highlights the vital connection between pants and basic human rights. I will explain. Those who read her other posts will notice that the Anarchist Soccer Mom lives in a household that is microcosm of a divided America -- the same America which is even now debating how to solve mass shootings. Here's how she describes one of her other four sons.
My son’s room also features a bizarre altar decorated with icons and product boxes for every single Apple item ever produced. The only thing missing is a candle. A picture of Saint Steve Jobs smirks benevolently down on this collection, which I must confess I didn’t realize was a collection—to me, it looked like a lot of old product packaging that needed to be tossed.
“No, Mom!” my son screamed as I started toward the shrine with a garbage bag in hand. “That’s Apple stuff! Steve Jobs personally designed those boxes. By himself!”
In addition to worshiping Steve Jobs, my son is an Obama-loving Democrat. All day long I have to listen to him go on and on about how President Obama and Steve Jobs have made the earth a paradise right here and now, set to a Coldplay soundtrack (okay, at least the kid has decent taste in tuneage).
This is, of course, revenge for my own Ronald Reagan-loving years in a Carter-Dukakis-Clinton household. I still love Ronald Reagan. But I have a whole lot more respect for the restraint my parents exercised when the teenage me told them all about how the world really works, and how silly liberals like them just didn’t understand, and how they just needed to read "Atlas Shrugged."
Liberals, by the way, are not silly. At least not the ones I know. In an election season that is already shaping up to be one of the ugliest on record, I think we all need to focus on bringing respect back to the public debate. It’s okay for reasonable people to disagree about politics, and I am grateful for the perspective my liberal friends share with me (but you’re WRONG! Big wasteful disincentivizing government is not the answer! Sorry, couldn’t resist. And yes, for the record, I stuck my tongue out).
Teenagers, however, are not reasonable people.
That succinctly describes the divide. Ronald Reagan loving idiots think that our present difficulties are people problems. Obama-loving Democrats on the other hand see current problems are thing problems. For one the solution lies in having responsible, reasonable people. To other the solution consists in having more things -- student loans, more Obamacare, more Ipads and pants of different colors.
Just who a reasonable person is is sometimes the subject for debate. In France the actor Gerard Depardieu and the leadership of the French Socialist Party are calling each other names over the actor's decision to give up his French citizenship and live in Belgium in protest over the new tax rates. "I am handing over to you my passport and social security, which I have never used," Depardieu said. "We no longer have the same homeland, I am a true European, a citizen of the world, as my father always taught me to believe."
Nonetheless Depardieu remains widely popular in France, despite making headlines for occasional drunken and lewd behaviour. The actor asserts he has always been an upstanding citizen, deserving "respect," and who has employed 80 people, always paid his taxes, and "never killed anybody." He said he paid 85 per cent of his income in taxes in 2012, and over 45 years, has paid 145 million Euros – or £118 million – in taxes.
A Socialist MP wanted Depardieu stripped of his nationality but the actor beat him to it. Having given up his passport the MP can no longer have the satisfication of taking it from the actor.
"Unfortunately there's nothing left for me to do here," Gerard said "but I will continue to love the French, the public with whom I've shared so many emotions! I leave because you consider that success, creation, talent, difference, in fact, should be sanctioned." He had a further message for Jean-Marc Ayrault, the French prime minister, who called Depardieu "pathetic" for wanting to leave France.
"You said 'pathetic'? How pathetic. I refuse the word 'pathetic.' Who are you to judge me this way, I ask you, Mr Ayrault, prime minister of Francois Hollande, I ask you, who are you?"
Tut, tut, Gerard. You're sounding like teenager raving on about his pants. To that the Minister of Culture huffed, "French citizenship is an honor, and includes rights and also duties, which include the ability to pay taxes." If Depardieu had any sense, he would be begging -- begging on his hands and knees -- for the Socialist government to raise the tax rates to 80, 90 or even 95% so that he could pay them.
One conclusion that might be drawn from disparate vignettes is that the fault line running through families and societies in the Western World today consists of those who think the world should save them and those who think everyone should pay their freight. Broadly speaking these two groups of people are fighting over the meaning of words and social relations.
One side sees "rights" as the ability to do anything they want and be free of the consequences. The Universal Right is the right to a free lunch which gives rise to derived rights like the right to wear any kind of pants they like and to stab any parents who may object. And if it actually comes to stabbing it will be the knife's fault. That it should be a person's responsibility is unthinkable. The opposite side sees a transactional universe in which everything has a cost and nobody has a reasonable expectation to a free lunch.
They are killjoys. Individual responsibility -- as opposed to the duty to the deity -- is an old and incredibly secular point of view. We live in a new age of Faith. Only the old gods are dead but religion itself is doing a land office business. The psychological appeal of Barack Obama and Steve Jobs lies precisely in having taken over the places formerly occupied by Jesus, Moses and the Buddha. Some teenagers seriously believe "they have made a paradise on earth right now" so that celestial place bands like Coldplay can blast out their angelic melodies on the Ipad, of course.
Religion hasn't declined in the modern world as much as changed its business address from the traditional churches to the event stadiums. Christmas -- which itself had roots in pre-Christian holidays -- first became Xmas or now The Holidays. Perhaps the only reason that Mohammed still holds a place of esteem in heart of multitudes is that the Prophet had the foresight to enjoin his followers to shorten any infidel who suggested toppling him from a place of honor by a whole head. In the Muslim world, unlike the place formerly known as Christendom, knives and firearms are much sought after objects. They too have a thing problem, but in a wholly different way.
In any case the newly religious look to God to fix things whenever something breaks. In the Islamic world they turn to Allah of course and in Blue Christendom to Obama. And so with bated breath the Twitter feeds are speculating on what new gun control measure the President will propose to fix the latest school shooting. He'll save us from ourselves, that's for sure. And then there'll be another button or app in the teenager shrine to Obama and Jobs.
In Europe the problem is less guns than money. France is short of moolah which must be the fault of greedy people who are tired of paying 75% tax rates. Gerard Depardieu quite unreasonably believes that after paying £118 million into French coffers he's done enough. Silly him. The Socialist politicians know that on the contrary it is a privilege to pay France. It is such a privilege that perhaps in the near future they'll enact a tax on paying taxes and charge people for enjoyment of paying so delightful a set of exactions.
The problem of course in this new age of faith is that even after taxes are raised and government granted more power that such things as poverty and mass murder will still be with us. Then it will be like the days of the Black Death when despite the processions, entreaties and flagellations the plague continued unabated. What if you prayed to Obama and your prayers were not answered?
Then your faith might flag.
Then you might get the idea that you had to do things for yourself -- maybe skip over to Belgium and ask Gerard if he needed a driver or cook or something. Wages negotiable. And ironically that new self reliance will mark the end of the present Age of Faith and the beginning of a new one as when some new Moses descends from a high mountain bearing a tablet on whose display is the command: Thou shalt make the minimum payment -- or your subscription will be canceled.