Animal House DC

In November, when commenting on the results of the election, I borrowed a quote from the movie Animal House, saying, “It’s not over until we say it’s over.” If anyone read those words and thought that I was advocating violence, disorder, and disobedience, I sincerely apologize. I was calling for court filings, investigations of election fraud, and challenges to the election results in certain urban areas where suspicious results were announced. I in no way intended for anyone to respond to the words in the movie that closely follow my quote—namely, “I think that this situation absolutely requires a really futile and stupid gesture be done on someone’s part.” And the next line was, “We’re just the guys to do it!”

Last Wednesday a few dozen people made a really futile and stupid gesture. What they did was wrong, both legally and morally wrong. Hurting, endangering, and threatening people is wrong. Hurting, endangering, and threatening police officers and news reporters and members of Congress is wrong. Breaking windows in government buildings is wrong. Entering private offices is wrong. Scattering papers or removing them from those offices is wrong. I hope that the dozens of people who are guilty of these crimes are found, arrested, prosecuted, convicted, and punished under the laws of the United States. Anything less would be disappointing.

Beyond the criminal nature of these actions, they were also really futile and stupid because they tainted President Trump and all of his supporters. They gave ammunition to the mainstream media that has been telling people for more than four years what a bad man Donald Trump is and what bad people all his supporters are. Often the media has had to lie to pursue this theme; in this case, the media scarcely needs to exaggerate. The symbolic nature of this trespass into the United States Capitol clouds the reality that far more damage was done in numerous demonstrations across the United States in 2020, demonstrations that the same media carefully described as “mostly peaceful” and characterized as noble efforts to end the evil of racial prejudice and discrimination.

The gathering in Washington last Wednesday was mostly peaceful. Even many of the people who followed the wave of criminals into the Capitol largely walked through the halls in an orderly manner, carrying their flags and banners and taking their own pictures to prove they were there. They wanted to express their support of the President and their outrage that the election was stolen. They wanted to remind the Democratic party and the mainstream media that millions of American citizens still believe in the positions held by President Trump—not racist positions, not white supremacist positions, not anti-freedom positions, but genuine patriotism for the United States and a genuine desire to provide a better life for all its citizens.

The election results are certified; they cannot be changed. Investigations should continue. People who witnessed fraud must report what they saw. People who confessed to fraud must be interviewed to gain the whole story of what happened—whose orders were they following? Physical evidence of election results needs to be preserved and examined. For the good of the United States and all its citizens, we need to know what happened, who is at fault, and how repetition of this fraud can be prevented. That really futile and stupid gesture could result in reduction of our freedom as Americans. Members of the government might seek to establish limitations on the right of the people to assemble peacefully, to say and to write what they believe, and to address their concerns to the government. The chorus of voices insisting that November’s election was legal and fair—the least corrupt election in history—must not be allowed to drown out genuine dissent. Defending truth and freedom should not be equated with rioting, insurrection, violence, and other crimes. If that happens, the America we know and love might indeed be finished. J.

Social media distancing

This week one of my cousins sent me a message on Facebook, commenting that I have been quiet lately and asking if everything is all right. I waited a couple of days, then replied to her message, saying that I have been spending little time on Facebook recently. I proceeded to suggest that avoiding Facebook was good for my blood pressure.

I was tempted to go on to say that avoiding Facebook is also good for handling anxiety and depression and maintaining sobriety, but I didn’t want to concern her.

Actually, I have been lurking on Facebook, just not posting or commenting or even liking posts. When I feel my patience dwindling, I quickly turn off Facebook and visit somewhere else. Another of my cousins posted a link to the news story about the five hundred children from Mexico who were taken to the US border and left unclaimed; their parents still cannot be located. This cousin proceeded to say that anyone who still supports President Trump should unfriend him immediately. I was tempted, but I neither unfriended my cousin nor commented on his post. It is better to ignore such provocations and move on than to get involved in ugly political debate.

I am looking forward to election night—partly because of my ongoing interest in national politics, and partly in hope of a sense of closure for the year’s ugliness. I realize that I will probably go to bed that night not yet knowing who won the election—in fact, it might take days to count all the votes and declare a winner in the “swing states.” The media outlets that constantly remind us how far ahead Candidate Biden is in the polls and how desperate President Trump’s campaign must be feeling will have egg on their faces again next month, as the polls once again fail to judge correctly which Americans bother to vote and which have an opinion which they will not express with their ballots. Voter turnout will be key; President Trump motivated many citizens who do not usually vote to take part in the process four years ago. With the help of the national media, he may be drawing those same voters—who did not vote in 2018—to cast their ballots once again in his favor.

Last night during the debate, President Trump predicted not only that he will win the election but that Republicans will again reclaim the House of Representatives. Obviously, for President Trump that is a best case scenario. The national media not only expects the Democrats to keep the House but thinks that they might gain a narrow majority in the Senate as well. Once again, voter turnout will be the key. The campaigns and their advertisements are no longer designed to win over undecided voters; their purpose at this point is to motivate voters and persuade them to express their feelings with their votes.

Last night’s debate presented the President Trump that the Republicans want voters to see and also the Candidate Biden that Republicans want voters to see. Citizens who watched the debate saw a President who is in control, understands the issues, and has answers for the empty rhetoric of his opponent. They also saw a candidate who hesitates and stammers under pressure, who renounces several of the passions of his base supporters, and whose motivational campaign statements are becoming increasingly tired and worn.

We are still at the point where anything can happen. When the election results are announced, many people will be unhappy. My family is preparing as if for a winter storm, making sure we have enough supplies to shelter in place for several days in November. Somehow, by God’s grace, we will get through this together, and when the smoke clears, we will still have a government of the people, by the people, and for the people. J.

On dying for your country

The movie Patton (1970) begins with a monologue by General Patton which is composed of statements he made at various times in speeches and letters. The movie makers combined these statements into a single speech to introduce the character of the general to the movie audience. One of Patton’s statements included in the monologue is, “I want you to remember that no [soldier] ever won a war by dying for his country. They won by making the other poor dumb [soldier] die for his country.”

President Trump appears to agree with General Patton regarding which soldiers are most successful. In fact, I strongly suspect that the President once quoted that line from the movie in the presence of some person or persons who misunderstood the context of the quote and exaggerated its impact when they repeated the line to a reporter. People who know the President insist that he did not make such a statement under the circumstances that have been reported. Even if, at some time, President Trump did speak those words that came from General Patton, such a statement would not have been meant as an insult to American soldiers who fought for their country and lost their lives on the battlefield.

Ideally, the armed forces of the United States should be so powerful and so respected that they do not have to fight. No other country would dare challenge our nation militarily. As President Theodore Roosevelt said, we should “speak softly and carry a big stick.” For that purpose, the United States trains and equips the members of our Army, Navy, Air Force, and Coast Guard so they can do their best, not only in wartime conditions but also in every other task that is required of them. Nevertheless, they risk their lives by doing their duty. We thank them, honor and respect them for their service to the country, and support them as well as we can both while they are in uniform and when they are veterans. We also honor those who lost their lives. We wish they had not died, but we honor and respect them and are grateful for their sacrifice.

President Trump frequently says things that jar the sensibilities of his audience. He did so long before entering politics; this tendency is part of the image he created and marketed, and his supporters expect him to continue speaking this way. When he quotes movies, his witnesses should at least have the presence of mind to know the origin and context of the quote. Failing that basic knowledge, they do not need to be telling reporters what the President said and what he meant when he said it. J.