The Aurelian Column "Everything we hear is an opinion, not a fact. Everything we see is a perspective, not the truth."

Brother Against Brother. . . Again

“Posterity! you will never know how much it cost the present generation to preserve your freedom! I hope you will make a good use of it. If you do not, I shall repent in Heaven that I ever took half the pains to preserve it.”

John Adams

For someone my age, it seems an impossible task to try and explain to those 20, 30 or even 40 years my junior what the United States used to be like. Perhaps the closest comparisons would be trying to describe sunlight to someone who’s lived in a cavern their entire life, or describing the subtleties of classical music to someone who was born deaf.

The United States was once a much move civil place, even when it wasn’t. By that I mean the turmoil and the conflicts of the past we now read about in history books were more decent and humane than what we’re seeing now. Sure. There was violence, mayhem and, sometimes, bloodshed back in those days. But it was different. Even when we were at our most barbaric, we were civilized about it.

Tumultuous as the 1960s and 70s were, there was a sincere veneer of humanity that ran through most of it. Like it was leading us to a better place on the other side of the fire that threatened to consume us all. People of radically opposing views would usually challenge each other to debates, not street brawls. Protestors would engage in civil disobedience and willingly be arrested, while police in regular uniform or plain clothes would respectively take them into custody — often following a procedure agreed upon by both sides prior to the event.

True. The social turmoil of decades past had some seriously bad moments and some seriously bad players. Just like now. But the measuring stick used to show the level of outrage felt by the typical American when they felt threatened was quite different. More specifically, the adult Americans in their 30s, 40s, and 50s at that time. The generation in power in the 1960s and 70s had survived the Great Depression, World War II, and the most nail-biting years of the Cold War. They had earned their peace and prosperity and were not going to let anyone take it from them without a fight. Least of all their own children.

This is why the bloody riots in Chicago and the riots following the King assassination in ‘68 caused such a political backlash. It’s also why the later revelation that an American president had engaged in the cover-up of a burglary and kept an official “enemies list” was so abhorrent to the average American of that era. Compared to what has happened since, and what is going on now, it boggles the mind how complacent the general population has become.

How things have changed. How things have changed.

This is not the future we were promised when my generation was in elementary school. And the events we are now seeing must have been the furthest thing from the minds of the parents who brought us into this world.

The current state of turmoil — in both social and political settings — was only the stuff of Hollywood dystopia and cheap paperback novels a few decades ago. It was all safe fantasy about a horrible existence that “could never happen here.” But now it has happened here, and it’s getting worse.

We’re now in a historic phase that can best be described as Rule by Fanaticism. No middle ground. No traditional American compromise. No willingness to individually maintain civility and order and live within a spirit and atmosphere of Fair Play and Common Decency. No. None of that.

Anyone who thinks different isn't to be debated, they're to be destroyed.

Anyone who has a difference of opinion is to be removed from society as if they were diseased vermin, and have everything they have worked for and built taken from them — including their families.

And if your side has its hands on the levers of power, any and all public and private institutions are to become weaponized and used against your “enemies.” Both real and imaginary.

But worst of all, for the first time in living memory, millions of Americans are now living in fear of an unexpected knock at the door in the middle of the night, and the sinister intention behind it.

Countries do not last long that surrender to such cruelty and resort to such barbarity against their own citizens. They’re either destroyed from within or succumb to action by other nations of the Earth that eventually grow discussed with the cancerous growth living in their midst. And when countries as big, powerful, and, yes, hated as the United States come tumbling down, it is not a pretty sight. What follows is chaos and mayhem of the kind only seen in the worst of Third World hell holes. It’s a lifestyle no sane human being would allow to happen to them, let alone willingly take on.

This reporter has found it increasingly difficult over the past few years to write about the times we're currently living through. They're, quite literally, insane. Not that most of our history has been a bastion of rationality, mind you. There’s an amount of craziness at play in every era. It’s just that rational thought and action were usually the rule, not the exception.

There’s always been escapism in America. But that was always enjoyed in measured dosages and in appropriate settings. Never was fantasy meant to intrude on the real world, let alone dictate policy for governing it.

There’s always been radical thinking in America. But that always ended up migrating to the social sidelines where an eye could be kept on it until it became refined or died off and disappeared. New ideas had to earn their way into the mainstream before being integrated into our culture and civilization. This method allowed for both "conservative" and "liberal" thought processes to live side by side. Not necessarily in harmony, but more or less in peace. It's what allowed the nation to move forward while still keeping its equilibrium. It's what, quite literally, made us great.

Although there’s always been conflict in America, there were set rules of engagement as to how such battles were to proceed and, eventually, be settled. There was, and is, a big difference between beating a man in political or business combat and driving him and his family into the gutter with no way to sustain themselves.

These were all a part of the American Way of doing things and, for the most part, the process worked pretty well. It wasn't perfect, nor was it followed all the time. It was an ideal and ideals are seldom fully achieved. But that reality didn’t make them any less important, nor any less sacred. The phrase “Never kick a man when he’s down” had true meaning to it. For the only people who would do such a thing were weak cowards with no sense of honor. And honor mattered.

Tragically, none of these old ways now apply. And the results are everywhere to be seen and experienced. But the real tragedy is the suffering it’s causing. The suffering our people — our nation — are enduring is very real. Lives are being destroyed en masse and with it the dreams and aspirations of millions of Americans. Both the living and the unborn generations are being robbed of their birthright. What Mr. Adams, his contemporaries, and those who followed fought so hard and sacrificed so much to obtain and preserve.

Something needs to be done. But what? Time is quickly running out for our country. Yet few seem to be doing much about it. The clock ticks on, and the window continues to close.

Well, perhaps the answers lie elsewhere. Out there. Somewhere in the aether. An other-worldly explanation?

Hmm. Well, probably not. But while we’re on the topic, I have a very entertaining thought.

Surprisingly, and (perhaps) coincidently, there’s been a recent resurgent interest in, of all things, UFOs. Aliens. Extraterrestrial intelligence, and the like. It’s almost humorous given the real-world tragedy the United States is currently experiencing. But let’s take a moment to enjoy that narrative a bit. In fact, why don’t we think about what ET would be like if he exists and his kind showed up to pay us a visit?

The first thing our alien visitors would have to do is come up with a name for us. Something that could be entered into their zoological reference guides. Much in the way we do when we happen across a new creature in the animal kingdom. We look at the new life form carefully. Consider its appearance, its location or environment, and, of course, its behavior. Then we come up with a name like Polar Bear, Sand Shark, Tasmanian Devil, or something else in a similar vein.

So what name would the ETs come up with for us? Not just for humans, but for the American sub-species variety?

There’s no way, of course, of knowing the name we would be called in ET’s native tongue (assuming he has a tongue). But I theorize it would be a few words or a phrase. Much like Crazy Horse, Sitting Bull, or Dances With Wolves. Only much more telling and accurate.

If ET ever does show up, after careful observation and research, he’ll most likely come up with a name for Americans that’s both appropriate and deserving:

“They who have everything, yet create all of their own problems.”

Our visitors will then proceed to snap a few pictures of their new discovery, take a few notes, then move on to someplace, and some people, far more civilized and far less self-destructive. We might never know they showed up. After all, who wants to have a conversation with a species that has a hard time having a conversation with itself? Life is short, time is fleeting, and starships can only move so fast. It’s a big universe, after all. So why waste a single light minute on a people who seem hell-bent on self-destruction?

If we, the American people, don’t save ourselves, nobody else will. It’s time to wake up and take a cold, hard look at what’s happening, put an end to it, and return to our national destiny as a land of (real) freedom, (real) tolerance, and (real) truth. We’re alone, and we always have been. Our survival is totally up to us, and it always has been.

“From whence shall we expect the approach of danger? Shall some trans-Atlantic military giant step the earth and crush us at a blow? Never. All the armies of Europe and Asia...could not by force take a drink from the Ohio River or make a track on the Blue Ridge in the trial of a thousand years. No, if destruction be our lot we must ourselves be its author and finisher. As a nation of free men we will live forever or die by suicide.” Abraham Lincoln

A nation is a terrible thing to waste.

© 2021 Thomas Michael Caldwell. All Rights Reserved. This written work is not to be copied or reproduced without the permission of the author. Links to this page from other websites or social media accounts is permitted and encouraged.

Red Pills, Lies, and Regrets

“Sometimes people don't want to hear the truth because they don't want their illusions destroyed.”

― Friedrich Nietzsche

“I have no regrets.”

How many times have any of us heard that brief, almost cliché phrase?

Well, if you're like most people, it's probably been a lot. An awful lot. And the older one gets the more one hears it from friends and colleagues. It's as predictable and on-time an occurrence as the sunrise at Solstice.

Well, guess what? It’s not true. It's never been true. The more years one has behind them the more errors one has made. Mistakes, misdeeds, and downright blunders are a human reality. And each and every one of them leads to regrets; the deep-seated desire to do things over or to not have done certain things at all.

Most of us know the feeling. It’s a down-into-the-gut wanting to erase an error that one knows should never have been allowed to occur. A blot on one’s personal history where there’s a never-ending longing to have a painful reality eased and expunged.

But we all know such a thing is not possible. There are no do-overs in life. No take-backs. When something is done; a decision is made; a path is taken, reversing that choice is almost always impossible. And the longer one lives the more one has collected a keychain full of such feelings. A set of nasty memories one wears around the neck of their soul that gets heavier and heavier as the years pass. An inescapable burden of the kind Marley showed Scrooge on a mythical Christmas Eve.

Yet it’s part of what makes us all human. To quote from Theodore Roosevelt: “There is no effort without error and shortcoming.” We learn from our mistakes. All of us. And our regrets are a reminder of the price we've paid for so many lessons.

But some regrets are worse than others. This is especially true if they affect other people. One's family, friends, community, or nation. It's one thing if one wishes they had taken a vacation to an exotic place when they had the chance or that they had asked a certain woman out on a date many decades earlier. But it's quite another if a regret is tied to an action or inaction that may have affected people into the far future, and generations yet unborn.

The term “red pilled” has recently entered the American lexicon. For those few who are unfamiliar with the term, it means to come to realize something that can never, ever be forgotten or erased from the mind. Usually, this pertains to political and social realities one has believed for many years to be true but turned out to be total lies. And when such truths hit, they’re often devastating.

A truth that one cannot escape or run and hide from is the worst kind. It’s an in-your-face-staring horror combined with the feeling of helplessness at being unable to change any of it.

Red pills come in many sizes and with varying levels of intensity. Some will merely surprise you, while others will drive you mad. And a few may even make you wish you were never born.

In the movie The Matrix, where the term “red pill” first entered contemporary culture, it was mentioned that getting people to see the horrifying truth of reality gets more difficult with age. “The mind has a hard time letting go,” Morpheus told Neo after he had chosen the red pill over the blue and awakened to a dystopian nightmare. The hero had to disregard a lifetime of mental investment into a given way of thinking and understanding, and it was not an easy process. When much of what someone has believed all their life is demonstrated to be irrefutably untrue, much is lost. A gaping hole can be left in the center of one's being. And in many, the very reason to exist vanishes as quickly as sunlight upon a morning mist.

Most people would rather never go there if they had a choice, and for good reason. Getting red pilled about some things late in life has the potential of becoming a living hell. A nightmare that can never be woken up from. Regrets that enter the soul like a cold, sharp blade that can ever be withdrawn from the flesh.

This phenomenon is becoming more and more commonplace. And much of the reason is the spread and usage of social media. The amount of information the average human can now access from the palm of their hand was unimaginable not that many years ago. This has led to an unnaturally high rate of data input into the human brain — far higher than Mother Nature ever intended. There is no longer much time to contemplate and digest information. It’s much like trying to get a sip of water from a fire hose; you get a drink but will end up with more than you really wanted, and a soaking wet set of clothes for your trouble. Realities that used to take months, years, or even decades to exchange for new ones now happen much quicker. A lurching of consciousness and a mental shifting of gears that can send some people psychologically careening into a wall or falling over a cliff.

This is why, traditionally, knowledge was always a conscious choice. The mystics of old would only initiate into their ranks those who, quite literally, showed up at their doorstep and requested entry. Respect was always given to those who wanted to remain ignorant of certain truths and realities, and nobody was initiated into a level of knowledge unless they were thought to be ready for it. The idiom “ignorance is bliss” has much truth to it. People have a right to know, but people have an equally important right
not to know.

The most difficult time to go through the red pilling process is when one is entering or in the midst of middle age. These days, many red pills contain dosages of political and social realities combined with the cold, hard truths about how our nation, and Western Civilization, has changed in recent decades. What makes this knowledge all the more difficult to swallow for those in that age bracket is the fact that most life decisions are made based on environment and information provided from external sources at a given point in time. Regrets hit hard when one realizes that lies and deceit were the foundation on which lives were lived or, tragically, never lived. The middle age years are when there is still a fair amount of life ahead, but there are many more years in the past. Not the best time for second-guessing. And, like Neo and his comrades learned, once you’ve been unplugged from the Matrix; you can’t go back.

And so it goes. One unpleasant realization stacks upon another. A hill and sometimes a mountain of harsh reality is heaped upon the mere mortal. So instead of facing the horrible truth, many continue to believe the comfortable lie. No matter how preposterous or obviously wrong, previous beliefs will almost never be abandoned. And if the truth is too painful, the lie is defended to the death.

This is probably a major reason why so much insanity seems to be infecting so many people these days. Those who seem to be educated, reasonable, and logical are refusing to come around to some very disturbing but obvious truths. The more they’re presented with facts the more they dig their heels into the lies. This is not because they’re stupid or “beyond help,” it’s because there are limits to human mental strength. Many can’t handle the truth and, at the subconscious level, they know it. They’re engaged in a form of psychic self-defense and are fighting for their minds, if not their very lives.

When this happens, things can get dangerous. As Morpheus told Neo, “The body cannot live without the mind.” And such threats to one’s sense of reality can be just as deadly as anything physical. This is why you'll find people who are hanging on to old ideas all the more defensive — up to and including being violent — when confronted with new information that poses a devastating challenge to their long-held belief system. And such violence can easily be turned in the direction of self-destruction.

This violent denial also crosses over into politics and, by extension, economics. The armies of burned-out old leftists, socialists, Marxists, pseudo-communists and the like still show up at rallies and protests decades after their ideology has been demonstrated to be nothing more than a bankrupt reformulation for human mystery. Most of these people can’t be reasoned with, nor is it even possible in most cases. For someone to throw away a life-long belief and conviction that something is “the truth,” is not easily accomplished. It requires a level of bravery and strength rare in the human condition. An act akin to Frodo tossing the Ring of Power into the fires of Mount Doom. It seldom happens in real life. And the result of such a mindset incapable of accepting a new reality only leads to one place: Fanaticism.

It’s often been said that when someone is faced with certain death, their true nature comes to the surface. What really makes them tick is then open and naked for all the world to see. The same goes for human groupings. From a small family or tribe up to a nation or empire. We see their true nature emerge as they die. A shadow is cast upon the wall of existence as their candle burns at great intensity just before it’s extinguished forever. The same principle of death also applies to ideas, thoughts, and philosophies.

So is it any wonder why we’re seeing what we’re seeing on American streets and in the hallways of power? Should it be a surprise that so many Americans have gone from being the peaceful grasshoppers to the destructive locusts? Those who share their beliefs will soon be no more, and nothing likes to die. A wild animal will always bite at its own wounds as it instinctively realizes it will soon cease to exist.

Seeking to change peoples’ minds, getting them to “come around,” or “see the light,” is not going to happen most of the time. At least not on a large scale. And especially not in the times we’re currently living in. No matter how much one would like to bring a friend or relative out of the darkness and into the light, it seldom happens that way. As is the case with chronic alcoholics; you can do nothing for them unless they want to do something for themselves.

There’s another reason not to force the red pill down the throats of those who don’t want it. And that is, quite simply, the individual’s inalienable right to remain in ignorance and to be shielded from the suffering the truth would bring them. If one believes in freedom of thought — truly believes in it — one believes in it for everybody.

Remember that for every Frodo with strength thousands of Gollums are lurking in the shadows wallowing in fear and cowardice. Just leave them alone. Let them be. For they may yet have a role to play. And those who are able to face the harsh realities of our times have better things to do, and more important battles to prepare to fight.

© 2020 Thomas Michael Caldwell. All Rights Reserved. This written work is not to be copied or reproduced without the permission of the author. Links to this page from other websites or social media accounts is permitted and encouraged.

The Martial Art of Challenging Times

It’s time to be grateful for our current adversity.

Yes. You heard right. It’s time to give thanks for the challenges most of us are now experiencing. The joy of the trials and tribulations millions of us are struggling with, and the abyss so many are being forced to look into.

And why, pray-tell, should that be the case? Well, that requires a backstory about what this reporter experienced earlier in his career, and how it compares to the present day.

Some of you may remember the rise of the commercial Internet back in the 1990s. It was a heady time. A new plane of existence known as cyberspace was developing quickly. The foundations for many of today’s tech empires were being laid. And many of the personal fortunes one reads about in today’s headlines were starting to accumulate.

This reporter found himself in the center of it all. Not as an entrepreneur or engineer, but as a correspondent and commentator on the growing power and influence of the tech world. A bringer of the latest news and developments for those working in the industry as well as the general public. It was an exciting time in history, and it was an exciting beat to be covering.

In the course of this reporter’s work, there were many interviews conducted with some of the movers and shakers of the time. A few of them are still with us and are household words. Many are not. Some will be talked about in the history books centuries from now, but the names of most will be lost in the dust of ages — their contributions unheralded and largely forgotten. Yet all of them played a role in the world we find ourselves today, for good or for ill.

A quarter of a century ago, humanity was entering a new era. Yet the way it was brought about was as ancient as the Pyramids. A constant of human civilization was at work. And all the relevant participants shared the same mindset. What all of them had in common back then, from the lowliest programmer to the most powerful executive, was their love of adversity.

Yes. Love of adversity. And “love” in every sense of the meaning of the word. Why? Because it brought out the best in them, and they knew it. And those who embraced that universal truth went on to change the world.

The rationale for such an attitude is as logical as a line of well-written computer code. When one is in a challenging position -- when it seems the whole world is against you and the odds are overwhelming that you won’t make it out of a given situation in one piece -- you have but two choices: Give up or fight on. If you pick the former, you’re done. Defeated by your own hand. But if you chose to fight on, you not only have a chance of winning, you’re at your best. You’re at the top of your game and you feel it down in the depths of your soul.

And such an attitude was necessary in those days. The late 1990s and early 2000s was a cutthroat time in the tech world. A new industry was being born. And like all births, it was a bloody, messy affair. For every success there were countless failures, and some were spectacular. Among the more dramatic examples of crash-and-burn capitalism were those involving what we now refer to as e-commerce.

When one ordered goods online in those days, there was good service and bad service but very little profitable service. When receiving or opening packages, it was often a real interesting experience when one gazed at either the outside or inside of the box. It was not uncommon for a single bag of breakfast cereal to be delivered by overnight courier across the Pacific, nor was it unknown to find items like gloves, a sign announcing an upcoming lunch break, or even someone’s eyeglasses included with one’s order. Customers had to wonder what sort of chaos was at play in the offices and warehouses of these early e-commerce startups, and how long they would last in a business world that always runs on hard numbers.

It was a very interesting time, to put it mildly. In covering the tech beat of those days, this reporter was constantly reminded of an all-too-common joke. And that is that there are three kinds of tech executives: those who understand mathematics and those who don’t.

Yet among all the chaos and all the craziness, many overcame the challenges of make-it-up-as-you-go-along business planning, incompetent management, and just plain hardball competition in an industry where the rulebook had yet to be written. And like all things in nature, the weak perished and the strong survived. The latter going on to grow, propagate, and rule the world.

The winners that emerged from the pools of early Internet protoplasm did this by embracing a great truth: In times of the greatest danger, the darkest of darkness, the most desperate of desperate circumstances, all of your experience, skills, abilities, and willpower are brought to bear. Everything you’ve ever learned and how to apply it is at your fingertips. All your weapons are loaded, all your quivers full of arrows. Maps are memorized, and tactics learned from years of practice have become as natural as breathing. You’re ready for what you’re facing like you never could have imagined, and thus have become a force of nature. It’s as if an ancient martial art that had been programmed into your DNA was flipped on with the suddenness and intensity of a high voltage lever switch.

Anyone who has studied a martial art knows that among the first lessons learned is the power and danger of resistance and force. You can either meet a threat head-on or, preferably, use it to your advantage. Bend it to your will and transmute it into something to your benefit. The European alchemists of old hinted at this process in their teachings. To put it simply, it’s the difference between forcing water into a sponge or just letting go and have the sponge do the work for you.

Most of the people at the top of the heap today; the present-day captains of industry; the current movers and shakers of our world, all embraced an empowering and eternal truth: Adversity is the primary force behind anything coming into being, and that struggle is responsible for all of mankind’s greatest accomplishments. Always has been, always will be.

So as you deal with the many problems and difficulties of the present day, keep in mind that right now you’re at your best. You’re at your most effective. Your most powerful. Your most skillful. You’re at your best and you’ll never be any better. So enjoy it while you can.

In 1962, John F. Kennedy used this universal constant to channel the resources of the United States into an endeavor that, to this day, has yet to be surpassed. He outlined the reasons for this in a speech he gave at Rice University. But like so many things in history that have been reduced to crib notes and sound bites, few people these days bother to refer to the entirety of what the man actually said and meant. The relevant paragraph went like this:

“We choose to go to the Moon...We choose to go to the Moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard;
because that goal will serve to organize and measure the best of our energies and skills, because that challenge is one that we are willing to accept, one we are unwilling to postpone, and one we intend to win, and the others, too.”

"That goal will serve to organize and measure the best of our energies and skills."

Our 35th president knew that ancient secret as well. He applied it to an entire nation, and helped the human race begin its long sojourn to the stars.

It’s not the accomplishments that make us who we are; it’s the challenges that resulted in the accomplishments that make us who we are.

So find joy and fulfillment in these difficult days and troublesome adversities. For years of great turmoil are few, and the opportunities they present are momentary on the timeline of history.

© 2020 Thomas Michael Caldwell. All Rights Reserved. This written work is not to be copied or reproduced without the permission of the author. Links to this page from other websites or social media accounts is permitted and encouraged.

The Forge of Friendships, Alliances, and Empires

Thomas Paine once penned the words “These are the times that try men’s souls.”

And they were.

Valley Forge, Pennsylvania. The Winter of 1777. One of the darkest times for the American Revolution and those who fought in it. Almost nobody would’ve been betting on the Americans if they took the entirety of the situation into account. Everything was against them. Even the weather.

But we know how the story turned out. We all know what happened and what has happened since. That ragtag bunch of rebels who believed in something no one else in history had believed in, and that it could be achieved. Ideas that would eventually lead to the rise of the most powerful nation in the history of the world, and the reshaping of human destiny. The creation of the United States of America is an example of how embracing long odds can sometimes result in amazing wins.

Most of the stories of most of the men who fought with Washington and survived Valley Forge, and their subsequent trials and tribulations, are lost to us. They are unknown heroes who, in many cases, gave their very lives so their descendants could live the dream that drove them on.

But there is another set of heroes who don’t get talked about as much as the honored dead. And they are those who survived and went on to build the country when the smoke of battle had cleared, and the glory of victory had faded into history.

Their individual stories were as varied as any that can be found in the human condition. Some perished early on. Some never made it very far and failed miserably. But many went on to achieve success in different ways and in different measures. They worked hard for the rest of their days in various professions and industries and contributed to their growing republic and the welfare of their fellow citizens.

History is filled with many such examples, and not just when new nations are created. During times of notable difficulty, there is a class of people who keep their heads, their noses to the grindstone, and soldier on to keep the wheel of civilization turning. The folks who keep going when those of a lesser mantle are ready to give up and surrender.

The American Civil War. The Great Depression. The Second World War. The assassinations and social turmoil of the 1960s and early 1970s. All of these eras had points when the darkness was truly dark. Times when many people thought everything was over and everything was done. Even events that we associate with victory, like World War II, were often filled with darkness and terrifying uncertainty. Days when the odds were against everyone. Not just at the national level, but at the individual level.

There are also many rags-to-riches stories from The Great Depression, and this should not be surprising. It’s the way of things. Times of difficulty — times of strife — times of great danger — are the fires of hell in which the steel of the future is foraged.

Enter the year 2020. The Annus Horribus for many of us. A combination of events — both natural and manmade — has created a whirlwind of difficulty, discomfort, and suffering for millions. This is also a time of political and social turmoil. A condition almost always brought on when weak cowards are in positions of power, and many of the strongest among us are subject to their whims.

Yet this sort of situation never endures for long. The strong — the truly strong — who always occupy the moral high ground, eventually regroup, reform their lines, and fight back. And after many a battle, they drive the evil in the world back into its many holes and crevices.

It will be the veterans of these trials — the survivors — who will eventually be rebuilding things. Both material and metaphorical. They are the people you now see enduring the unendurable, yet keep moving forward. The ones who refuse to give up. The ones who know that when one finds oneself going through hell, the best thing to do is to keep going. The individuals who many write off as being in hopeless situations with almost no chance of survival. It will be them, and only them, who will be restoring and rebuilding the world we now see suffering hit after hit and blow after blow.

But they will not be making it alone. No one ever does. Friendships, alliances, partnerships, and even marriages that come into being in these times will often be cast in iron. They will last like few other things created by the endeavors of man. Political movements and economic empires will not emerge out of the minds of the people contributing to the problems, but from those who are working on the solutions.

Many of those you see struggling and trying to survive today are being made into steel blades with razor-sharp edges. If they make it, they will make it big. Really big. And those who help them will make it big as well. These days saving someone’s livelihood is effectively the same thing as saving their life. And such acts of kindness, compassion, and generosity are not easily forgotten. Loyalties are then created that can not only last an entire lifetime but well into subsequent generations of families. All around us, the foundations of dynasties are being laid.

It’s often said that “business is not personal." But this is a total falsehood. There are very few things more personal than business and the ability to make a living. If one can’t feed or cloth one’s self or one’s children, it’s personal. If one can’t keep the roof over their head, it’s personal. If one ends up losing everything they have worked for all of their life and are pushed to living in the street and eating out of dumpsters, it’s personal. All very, very personal. Interfering with someone’s ability to earn a living is a very real, physical attack. A literal threat to their life. Not much different than having a loaded gun in their face. So someone who comes to the rescue is a hero in every sense of the word.

These are times of real and growing hardship. And most of the people feeling the worst of it did nothing to deserve it. Millions of hard-working, capable, competent people have been locked out of work because of the global pandemic. And even though the ability to earn an income has been greatly disrupted, the need to earn income to survive had not. The need to eat and pay bills is still there, only without the means to do so for vast numbers of the population. And this situation cannot long continue without devastating consequences. Governments have failed us at so many levels that action needs to be taken at the personal, individual level to stave off disaster.

For those of us with resources and means, this is the time to consider making investments. Not in traditional things like stocks, bonds, or other intangibles. But in people. People with a future. People who build things that can be seen and touched. Builders, not just architects. Achievers, not just dreamers. These are the times to seek out these men and women who will be creating the future and help them do it. Be their friends and be their allies. Help them, invest in them, finance them and, most important, encourage them. It’s the only way we’ll make it out of the current darkness and back into the light.

Another historic figure from America’s revolutionary period also knew the importance of believing in the potential of others and helping them when they needed it: Benjamin Franklin. Among his many accomplishments, Franklin was one of American’s first genius business leaders. He was also the creator of what we now refer to as “the franchise.” With this innovative business model, Franklin was able to become a wealthy man while still relatively young. He then had time to pursue other interests such as science, philanthropy, and, of course, politics. Franklin’s financial freedom also allowed him to take on the most challenging, and dangerous, of political careers: revolutionary. And as such, he contributed greatly to the founding and establishment of the United States in a capacity few others ever could have.

But it almost didn’t happen. The older, experienced, wise, Franklin the Revolutionary — The Great Man — came very close to never existing.

Back in the mid-1720s, a young Franklin found himself stranded in London as a result of a business venture gone sour. He spent a year and a half working at various odd jobs and print shops, desperately trying to save enough money to return to Philadelphia. But no matter how hard he worked, or how much he tried, he wasn’t able to save enough for his ticket home. All seemed hopeless and lost. There was a very real chance he would be stuck in London for years, if not the rest of his life. That is, until a Quaker businessman by the name of Thomas Denham saw Franklin’s potential, and helped finance his passage back to America.

The future Great Man then returned to Philadelphia to take up his destiny with the Ages. Franklin went on to help create the Declaration of Independence, secure an alliance with France during the Revolution, and even helped write the Constitution of the United States. Had Mr. Denham not chosen to help that young, struggling expatriate colonist, history — world history — would have taken a very different course. And the United States may not have come into existence.

Franklin never forgot the kindness of his benefactor, nor the impact he made on his life. Denham was mentioned prominently in Franklin’s autobiography with affection and reverence. Perhaps he's a man history should consider an in-direct Founding Father.

There are many such stories being written right now. Men and women of ambition and talent who have the potential to change the world as much if not more than Franklin did. Such people have never had it easy. But these days the challenges they face are even harder. Find them. Seek them out. And do what you can to help them with their dreams and ambitions. They need you now more than ever, and so does the world.

All danger, anxiety, and discomfort aside, and all the discouraging news of the daily headlines notwithstanding; it’s an amazing age we now find ourselves in. One where generosity can walk hand-in-hand with opportunity.

No one is an island. No one is a sovereign state. Franklin knew that nations are not just a gathering of individuals but a collective soul with unique components. We as a whole are the sum of us all.

It was Franklin’s secret of success. He never forgot it. And neither should we.

“We must, indeed, all hang together or, most assuredly, we shall all hang separately.”

— Benjamin Franklin, 1776

Words to remember the next time a bolt of lightning strikes, and everyone remains safe and sound as the storm passes harmlessly away.

© 2020 Thomas Michael Caldwell. All Rights Reserved. This written work is not to be copied or reproduced without the permission of the author. Links to this page from other websites or social media accounts is permitted and encouraged.

A Battle for the Ages

We all knew this was coming. At least those of us who had opened our eyes, however painfully, to the writing on the wall.

Any civilization that has ever made it to the top of the pyramid has always been a target of destruction by lesser beings. It is the way of things. The weak always wish to destroy the strong, and the strong must always fight against the weak. For failure to do so will result in all that has been created, all that has been sacrificed for, all that has been achieved in selfless glory, falling to ashes and be swept away into eternity.

In a few years, and even fewer months, the United States has gone from a stable, solid republic to an unstable country teetering on the edge of Third Worldism. A nation where civilized social debate and discourse was once considered as necessary a skill as proper table manners, vulgarity, violence, and destruction have become the norm rather than a revolting exception.

Americans once thought of themselves as keepers of a proud, hard-fought heritage. History, traditions, myths, and legends combined to create an ongoing national work-in-progress for nearly half a millennium. But all that is now being attacked by enemies, both foreign and domestic. Enemies that are well-financed, well-organized, and have received the blessing of a significant portion of the American business and political establishment. It can be accurately stated that the United States has not experienced a threat to its existence of the kind we are now seeing in all of its history.

The pulling down of statues, the destruction of monuments, and the desecration of graves has always been a part of revolts and revolutions of the bloodiest kind. When a nation or entire civilization is being targeted for annihilation, along with the people who have created it, seldom, if ever, does the mayhem end with the destruction of property. People — the people who erected the statues and monuments — are always next. And flesh, blood, and bones are much less resilient to physical attack than bronze and marble.

The pattern we have seen since this American-style Cultural Revolution began is pointing in only one direction. It is not the history of the Confederacy, as statues dedicated to Union heroes have also been toppled. Nor is it limited to monuments to those who accepted or practiced slavery, as monuments to abolitionists and even Lincoln himself have suffered similar fates. No. The truth is much more self-evident and chilling. The target of the mob that has been whipped up by leftist politicians, had its hatred fed by the news media, and its activities financed by Corporate America, is out to destroy all vestiges of the European Civilization that exist on this continent. The heritage of white men and women who settled North America and established the United States and the age of human freedom it ushered in is being eradicated before our very eyes.

This has been a very large elephant in the room for some time now, and one few of us wished to face up to or accept as real. “No. that couldn’t be possible. Not here,” we have been saying to ourselves for years. “Our country, our people, have spent trillions of dollars over many decades with the intent of ridding the world of inequality, ignorance, bigotry, and discrimination in all its forms. Our ancestors even fought a civil war, and many of them died to end slavery. No. That can’t be possible.”

But it is. And it is quite real.

Anyone who has studied the social sciences is familiar with something called “mob mentality.” Humans in groups that get whipped into an emotional frenzy are capable of the most horrible acts imaginable. Things that are very difficult for a man or woman to do on their own can suddenly become easy to do in a crowd. Horrible things.

It is a phenomenon repeated often in nature. A single grasshopper is nothing to be concerned about. But if a large number of them get together and start feeding at the same time they become a swarm of locusts. They devour everything in their path and leave nothing but death and destruction in their wake.

The locusts we have seen wreak havoc on American streets have been gathering for many years. Teachers in our schools have been feeding them lies and half-truths about their own history and traditions and that of their fellow countrymen. They have been conditioned to think that they are entitled to anything and everything without the need for hard work to attain it. And they have been fed the poisonous sustenance of Marxism and all related evils that reduce man to nothing more than a biological component in a massive, mindless, enslaved machine of production. They have accepted as truth a philosophy that took the lives of more than 100 million human beings in the last century, and could end up claiming even more in this one.

Those who would tear down our monuments, institutions, and civilization are without morals or even possess a moral compass. Many in those ranks who are of European heritage have been taught to hate themselves. And self-hate always leads to self-destruction. It is a perfect storm that has been brewing for decades, and is now being unleashed.

But the mob never stops when it has tasted weakness, for it then wishes to taste blood. It is a cycle of nature. A never-ending story of the worst kind.

Americans of European descent are being told they are born evil. That they are natural bigots who have done more damage to the world than any other people in history. And an increasing number of establishment leaders are openly calling for them to be driven from all positions of power and influence. To be erased from history. To be “ended.” In the year 2020, if you are white you are open game. Like it or not, accept it or not, there is a target on your back. People — many people — want to see you dead.

The motivation behind what we are seeing is open to debate and speculation. But one sure thing is that power and the desire for power is playing a significant role. It is the oldest, most addictive drug in the world. And power has always been about pleasing the mob so as to control it. As we saw in the last century, the best way to do that is to give the mob something to direct their anger, frustrations, and hatred. And there is no better scapegoat than a group that is stereotypically wealthy, privileged, and thought to be in control of everything. When the mob is convinced that such a group needs to be done away with to make their lives better, things get very ugly very quickly.

Sound familiar?

Many historians mark the beginning of the Dark Ages with the death of Hypatia in 415 A.D. For those of you not familiar with this remarkable woman. She was a scholar, scientist, and philosopher at the legendary Library of Alexandria in Egypt. She was a product of the Classical Age and all of its glory, and a liberated woman millennia before it became something commonplace. But she was also a symbol of the Greco-Roman civilization that had been at the center of the world for so many centuries. Thus, she and many like her stood in the way of the leadership of the up-and-coming Christian church.

For many years, the turmoil and conflict between the Greco-Roman pagans and the growing Christian community became more and more violent because it suited those who sought power over everyone. Religious tolerance was a hallmark of the Roman Empire. But as once-mighty Rome became weak and directionless, those who sought to overthrow it exploited any and all weaknesses they could find. Inter-religious hatred was a big chink in the armor. All that was needed was the right opportunity to exploit that weakness and bring the whole thing crashing down.

Eventually the opportunity arrived. One day, historical accounts recorded that Hypatia was on her way to the library when a mob, urged on by the local bishop, dragged her from her chariot and into a local church what was once a pagan temple. There she was brutally murdered by, among other things, having her flesh flayed from her body. Her corpse was dismembered and burned. Shortly after that, what remained of the Library of Alexandria — once the center of learning and education of the Classical World — was destroyed. Its statues smashed, its books burned, its teachers murdered. The Roman Empire continued in name, but the soul that gave birth to the Classical Age died with Hypatia. An age of darkness then descended on the western world that would last more than a thousand years.

As one now looks around America, Europe, and much of the rest of the world, one cannot help but see the parallels to the fate of Hypatia and her beloved library. One hopes and prays that our civilization and our people will not succumb to the same fate. Ours is the nation and culture that gave the world so much that is fine and good, and was the one that ventured to another world and took the first steps into what promises to be a long and fruitful journey to the stars. But unless we can fight back the forces of darkness that threaten us all, and take back control of our nation and our destiny, those footprints made on the moon half a century ago may be the only ones humanity ever take. For if another dark age comes, it may be one from which mankind will never emerge. Our species will then languish on this world until the sun goes out or we otherwise become extinct. An unknowing universe will never know of us nor mourn our passing.

So wake up, my countrymen. Wake up. All that we are, all that we have been, and all that we can be is at stake. This is a fight we must win. This is not just a battle to return sanity to our nation. This is a Battle for the Ages. But more important:

This is a Battle For All The Ages Yet To Come.

© 2020 Thomas Michael Caldwell. All Rights Reserved. This written work is not to be copied or reproduced without the permission of the author. Links to this page from other websites or social media accounts is permitted and encouraged.

The Ancient Way of Honor and Loyalty

"In all our searching, the only thing we've found that makes the emptiness bearable is each other."

Carl Sagan

The Boy Scouts of America was once considered to be the training ground for our nation's leaders. It was intended to grow boys into men of character. To teach them to be virtuous. To impart upon them the importance of many noble traits that included two of the most critical men of integrity have embraced since before the dawn of time: Honor and Loyalty.

Sadly, the Boy Scouts, or rather the BSA as they have been calling themselves since deciding to admit females, have recently filed for bankruptcy. The reason for the move is a combination of factors -- among them withdrawal of the Mormon Church's participation since they went co-ed. The other is a mass of lawsuits over alleged sexual abuse and misconduct dating back decades. Whether or not the organization will recover, or even survive, is unknown. But it's a forgone conclusion that it will never be what it once was. The Scouts are the latest once-revered institution that has fallen in the war against American Civilization. An onslaught waged by enemies, both foreign and domestic, that began decades ago.

Peace, prosperity, civil order, and human decency are the telltales of a healthy society. They have been since the first civilizations appeared in the historical record. And even though present-day academics, political leaders, and "activists" love to focus on injustices and tragedies of the past, the fact is humans have come a long way since we dwelt in trees and caves. Over the long road of evolution, we've learned through trial and error what worked and what didn't when it came to making things better for ourselves and our fellow man. Such traditions eventually evolved into cultures, which then served as the social cohesion necessary for a given civilization to come into existence.

None of this came quickly or all at once. It was layered, little by little over the decades, centuries, and millennia. Built-up over time like the patina on an ancient work of art. Something beautiful. Something eternal. And not something that should be casually tossed aside on a whim for the sake of temporary convenience.

Over the past several decades, we have seen too many of our traditions vilified, attacked, and destroyed in an orgy of mindlessness. But this did not occur on the ramparts of a fortress or in battles fought in streets. It was the picking at the threads of the ancient concept of Honor and Loyalty that held humanity together for most of our existence.

During times of war, it held together nations. During times of famine, it held together communities. And during times of economic hardship, sickness, or emotional tragedy, it held together families. When the enemies were at the gate and threatened the life and limb of all in a city, soldiers would give their lives to protect their fellow citizens and the nation so many had worked so hard to create. If there was a bad harvest, a plague of locusts, or some other misfortune that reduced the food supply, the adults saw to it that the children ate before they did so the next generation would live on. And if employment was lost, poverty experienced, a spouse became sick, or a child died, a family stuck together, survived, and moved on as best it could. Those with a sense of Honor and Loyalty didn't quit. They didn't walk away. They didn't run. Such ideas never entered their minds. If they had, most of us, or none of us, would not be here today.

But in our modern world, these ancient, time-tested ideals are being made obsolete. The attitudes of "me only" and instant gratification have taken hold of our world as the most virulent of cancers would ravage a once-healthy body.

Among the casualties of this disease is the attitude toward the traditional bond of friendship. Alliances formed over many years that became as close or closer than those of blood relatives were once as necessary for survival as food and shelter in an often brutal world. Our ancestors learned that misfortune visits all of us during our lives and the way out of such dire circumstances is only possible with the help of others. But in recent history, friendships for most people have devolved into nothing more than convenient, temporary relationships. An interaction with another person that has to have a specific purpose and, usually, an expiration date or exit strategy. Something to be discarded at the least indication of trouble or difficulty. A far cry from the times when men and women would take up arms and charge into danger to defend their adopted brothers and sisters, and death before dishonor was a literal way of life.

In the present-day United States, being loyal and honorable can not only prove to be bad policy, but it can also lead to disaster. Unless both parties are of the same mindset, one will, by definition, be taking advantage of the other with predictable consequences. These days being loyal to one's employer is considered to be foolishly naive, just as much of Corporate America cares nothing for the people and families for whom they are providing a livelihood. Wives and husbands will end their marriages for reasons our ancestors would have thought insane, resulting in horrifying consequences to the children of the now-broken family. Pain and suffering that reaches generations into the future begun on an emotional whim.

All of this only ends up in once place, and it isn't a good one. Humans are social creatures. And when the bonds that hold society together break, the whole structure comes tumbling down. Nothing works, and life becomes a struggle in misery for all but the few at the top who preside over the smoldering ruin of a once-prosperous, thriving civilization. A dark age descends and remains until the lessons learned long ago by the ancestors are taken up, and the crawl out of the muck can begin anew.

In recent years, the absence of Honor and Loyalty in American society has also wreaked havoc on our political system and the personal relationships of those who often have nothing more than a passing interest in the topic. Not that long ago, people who were close friends could have polar differences on just about any topic of public affairs, and it would not affect their valued friendships. The same also applied to married couples. Kitchen table debates between a husband and wife over the issues of the day were once a common occurrence. Such disagreements were once thought of as a matter of taste or "team loyalty" to a particular party or candidate. Viewpoints that would no more affect the peace and integrity of the home than the way one spouse likes to have their eggs cooked or another wants to have their coffee served. No one sane ended a friendship, let alone a marriage, over how a vote was cast in an election.

Loyalty to another person never comes easily. It takes years. It's an investment, of a sort. Like civilization itself, it's built up in layers over time. This is why it's essential to take a long-term view of the entire history of any relationship and take such a history into account when dealing with any situation that may come along. Yet the present-day approach to such things is only to consider the present and not anything that came before. To "not look to the past" or "move ahead." What you then have is not really a friend or life partner. What you have are long-running acquaintances — relationships built on sand. Loyalty cannot develop under such conditions. It doesn't die for it was never conceived.

Fortunately, many members of the younger generations are sensing something is wrong with their world and are looking to the past for guidance. There has been a resurgent interest among those in their 20s and 30s in history, traditions, culture, literature, and family structures. The idea of marrying for life, having a religious tradition as part of one's being, a moral code to live by, an embrace of patriotism and, of course, Honor and Loyalty as a guiding force in everyday life. Unfortunately, a resurgence in these interests is often condemned by many leftist/liberal politicians and their army of “social justice warriors” as being an evil that must be stomped out. A challenge to a narrative that an increasing number of citizens don't agree with and are fleeing on a daily basis. This conflict has been termed The Cultural Civil War by many. But what it is, in reality, is a civilization trying to right itself so it can live on. A diseased body trying to throw off an infection before it's too late.

Humanity has had its ups and downs, its ebbs and flows, its good days and its bad days since our ancestors crawled out of some ancient ocean and began the long, arduous journey to the stars. The same goes for individuals, families, people, and nations. We have our good times and our bad times as we voyage along with the sun. But in the end, we can always bounce back with a little help from our friends, neighbors, and family. Bound together by Loyalty, motivated by a sense of Honor. It's an ancient and eternal concept that’s probably as old as the stars themselves, and perhaps not unique to our little, blue speck of a world.

Evolution, like survival itself, isn't just a happenstance of nature; it's a team sport. A game no individual can win on their own or in a state of isolation. Honor and Loyalty are the rules — the structure — that has made everything worth having possible throughout our history. It's been the guiding force that prevents us from falling off the edge and into the darkness when hope itself seems to be all but totally lost.

If we lose our sense of Honor and Loyalty, we lose everything that makes civilization possible. We will then be left to wallow upon the Earth until our sun goes out, and we lose the stars forever.

© 2020 Thomas Michael Caldwell. All Rights Reserved. This written work is not to be copied or reproduced without the permission of the author. Links to this page from other websites or social media accounts is permitted and encouraged.

Virginia’s Parting of the Seas

Euphoria is a powerful drug. It takes over the entire body, mind, and the very soul of those who get a healthy dose of it.

But the high it gives you doesn’t last. It quickly fades. And the cold, hard reality of everyday existence comes back into focus with a crashing realization.

The Lobby Day gathering in Richmond felt great and came off without any serious problems. No much-anticipated incidents occurred. Everyone who partook in the event came away feeling great. They had made a statement to the Virginian and American political establishment with a demonstration of strength in numbers of a kind not seen in this country since the Civil War.

Yes. Lobby Day felt good. Really good. It was like seeing the Death Star getting blown up for the first time. But just like any good Hollywood flick, the movie eventually ends. The lights come back on, and everyone leaves the theatre and goes back to reality.

The next day, the Democratic-controlled Virginia legislature proceeded with its plans to implement all sorts of gun control measures. They just went on with their business as if nothing had happened the day before. There was no consideration of the people who had shown up at their doorstep en mass to express their outrage at their plans, nor even a positive affirmation that the tens of thousands of people who traveled to the capital protested peacefully and without incident. All one heard was thinly veiled contempt and scorn for the crowds that were referred to as “white supremacists” who came to Richmond to “spread terror.”

If there was ever a crystal-clear example of a government showing total contempt for those they govern, it’s now being demonstrated in Virginia. Yet this should not be a surprise to anyone — especially to those who have been following political developments in the United States over the past few years. There is no longer any room for traditional American discourse or discussion. No consideration of the opinions of those who disagree on matters of public policy. The game that is now being played is for one side to win power and for that majority to force policies and laws on the out-of-power minority. Mandate or no mandate. The "tyranny of the majority" our forefathers warned us about.

And there is more where that came from. Everything from late-term abortion to the protection of masses of illegal immigrants to changes in voter ID laws, to name a few. A noticeable pattern has emerged: the Democrats, or Democratic Socialists, wish to hold power in Virginia permanently and without dissent. They mean to grab on to the State House and Governor’s Mansion and never let go.

This sobering realization is now beginning to settle in throughout the Commonwealth. The change in demographics over the past several decades, and the increasing number of immigrants (illegal and otherwise) pouring into Virginia, has permanently changed the political landscape in a way that will be nearly impossible to correct. The government is now ignoring the wishes and concerns of almost half the residents of the state. And this will not be a temporary setback for those who consider themselves “conservative” or “right-wing.” What we are seeing now will be the order of the day for the foreseeable future.

So what is to be done? Well, to a great extent, something already has been. More than 100 counties and municipalities in Virginia have declared themselves Second Amendment Sanctuaries. This means that a significant portion of Virginia territory has formally stated that they will not comply with laws passed in Richmond they do not agree with. This is more than just a polite “no thank you,” it’s outright rebellion. And the next logical step for any territory refusing to cooperate with its purported owner is to go its separate way. The Commonwealth of Virginia is not just heading for a split; it has already happened.

Now, combine this with moves in the West Virginia legislature and the announcement by that state’s governor of his desire to “take in” counties in Virginia that no longer want to be ruled from Richmond. These are not just whimsical remarks or comments made by some politicians looking to get a few minutes of airtime on the local news. They are quite serious. West Virginia would love nothing better than to add on more territory containing all sorts of production centers, agricultural land, and the tax base that comes with both. This whole thing is getting serious. Very serious. Biblically serious.

So how realistic is such a scenario? Well, more than most people know or are willing to admit publicly. While the creation of a new state requires action by the U.S. Congress, existing states have a great deal of autonomy when it comes to determining their borders. The Feds don’t have much to say if such changes are desired and agreed upon at the state level. If several Virginia counties or cities wanted to join West Virginia, it’s a matter between Richmond and Charleston to settle on their own.

Sound crazy? Think it’s never going to happen? Well, I think it will, eventually. It’s happened before. Lots of other states have altered their borders from time to time for a multitude of reasons. But the driving force in this situation is that there are many angry people in Virginia. The people who live in the rural areas — especially those near West Virginia — are culturally so different from those living in the mostly liberal urban regions they might as well be considered residents of a foreign country. Indeed, it’s a microcosm of what is going on throughout the entire country: the cities versus “Fly Over America.”

The current cultural differences between left and right, liberal and conservative, are like nothing we’ve ever seen before. During Civil War times, families from South Carolina, Virginia, Pennsylvania, Maine, or Massachusetts had more in common with each other culturally, ethnically, economically, and religiously than ultra-liberals from California and conservatives in Virginia or Texas do today. And back then, they fought a very long and bloody war against each other over
their differences.

The current American political divide is just too great, so something has to give. And just as divorce is a far better solution to a bad marriage than domestic violence, recognizing unreconcilable differences and redrawing state lines to accommodate the desires of the population makes a whole lot of sense. It’s a solution that needs to be seriously considered and, hopefully, acted upon sooner than later.

No matter what anyone thinks of the tens of thousands of armed individuals who converged on Richmond, everyone can agree that it was a clear sign that there is much anger in our nation over the way things are going. And a significant portion of the population is willing to go to extraordinary lengths to put a stop to it. Providing a peaceful solution in the form of redrawing some maps is not just preferable; it’s the only rational course of action we really have.

“Good fences make good neighbors” is an old American idiom. One that has a lot of truth to it. The same thing can be said for borders between states and nations. If people are different, those differences have to be respected and protected. So if there can be global movements and organizations created to protect the rights and sovereignty of Palestinians, Tibetans, East Timorese, and other culturally distinct peoples from foreign domination, why should Virginia and it’s distinct rural regions be treated differently? If the people of the renegade counties in Virginia wish to leave and join West Virginia, they should be allowed to do so.

If one looks at the avalanche of legislation being passed in Richmond, it’s getting harder to deny that total control over society and the individuals that constitute it is what those in power are seeking to impose. This is slavery of a very real sort. And it would be a most tragic of ironies if Virginia again resorted to such a repulsive institution in any form — especially if the sole reason to keep the renegade counties in the fold is purely economic.

Many thousands of years ago, another ruler who owned a whole nation of slaves was commanded to “Let my people go!” At first, Pharaoh didn’t listen. But eventually, with a little bit of not-so-subtile persuasion, he saw the light. The results were, as they say, “Biblical.” And what makes this more than a bit amusing is that while all this is going on in Virginia, there’s a deadly plague flowing out of China, and locusts are devastating massive portions of Africa.

Kind of makes you think, doesn't it?

Perhaps The Almighty is trying to tell us something?

Charlton Heston would probably agree.

© 2020 Thomas Michael Caldwell. All Rights Reserved. This written work is not to be copied or reproduced without the permission of the author. Links to this page from other websites or social media accounts is permitted and encouraged.

Of Godless Men, and Useful Fools

Virginia is home to America itself.

This nearly half-a-millennium old commonwealth is the birthplace of George Washington and Robert E. Lee, Thomas Jefferson and James Madison. It’s the land of battles that created the nation, divided it, then united it once more. You cannot walk in its fields, hike in its mountains, paddle a canoe down its many rivers and streams, without falling in love with this ancient, magical place.

To be in love with Virginia is to be in love with America and everything it represents. For Old Dominion is the mother of our nation, our heritage, our culture, and our soul. The freedom that has made the American people the envy of the world, and of the Ages, was conceived and born in Virginia. Here it was nurtured and lovingly raised to adulthood with all the awkwardness, struggle, and turmoil that comes with the painful process of growing into maturity.

Virginia is the mother of our republic. The mother of us all. Everything the people of the United States ever were, or ever will be, originated in this oldest of the American settlements. When men landed on the moon, a farmer-turned-soldier of centuries past who gave his life in anonymity on a long-forgotten battlefield was there in spirit — as were millions of others like him. It was their hard work, sacrifice, and dedication to generations of Americans yet unborn that resulted in the nation, and the world, we live in today.

But all is not well in the American Shire. Pangs of deep darkness have filled the hearts of many in this once-joyous land. And the peace-loving people of America’s cultural birthplace are under siege from foreign enemies who have their eyes set on conquest. They, and their elected henchmen, have given Virginians something they have seldom experienced in their centuries-old history: a true fear of their government and a deep foreboding of what is to come.

The election of November 5th was not just another case of one political party gaining control for a few years in an endless back-and-forth struggle. It was a turning point in Virginia’s history and, perhaps, the history of the United States. Foreign billionaires, who believe their money makes them the moral superiors of us all, bought and paid for control of Virginia’s government. Millions and millions of dollars were poured into campaigns that were once the sole domain of local business leaders and housewives. It was, quite literally, foreign interference in the Commonwealth’s domestic affairs.

The office once held by Patrick Henry, Thomas Jefferson, and James Monroe is now occupied by a man considered by millions of his fellow Virginians to be of questionable taste and moral character. His actions have divided Virginia in a way few ever thought possible. His open desire and legal plans to disarm the people of the Commonwealth, his views on abortion, and his plans to provide aid and comfort to masses of illegal immigrants currently invading the United States, has pushed many Virginians to the breaking point. It’s hard to imagine the hatred and enmity people have towards this man unless you have seen it and heard it for yourself.

Being an ancient place, at least by American standards, there are deeply held beliefs and traditions in Virginia that reach down into people’s bones. And when something goes against such deep-rooted gnosis, people are usually stirred to action. And one of the things that has flipped that switch is the sincere belief shared by millions of Virginians that tyrants have taken over their government. Given the state motto of
Sic Semper Tyrannis (Thus ever to tyrants), and the state seal consisting of an image of a Roman goddess standing over the body of a slain king, it’s a safe bet that heavy-handed political tactics will run up against strong resistance — an aversion that has collected over time like the rings inside a mighty oak.

Most of the people in rural areas of the Commonwealth also tend to be very religious, Bible-quoting, traditionalists who don’t usually get along with people of liberal or progressive persuasion. In some cities and towns, like Lynchburg, Christianity and evangelical beliefs could accurately be described as a major industry. On the other hand, most of the residents of Northern Virginia, Metropolitan Richmond, and the Norfolk area tend to be very left-wing. These city folks who are now in charge have virtually nothing in common at any level with the citizens who occupy the vast majority of Virginia’s territory. Indeed, they have about as much in common with the inhabitants of rural Virginia as they would with someone from another planet.

What makes matters worse, is that the centuries-old American tradition of compromise combined with live-and-let-live no longer applies. All too many of the newly elected rulers consider their “less evolved” fellow citizens as people to be lorded over and, if possible, “educated” in the new way things should be for everyone. It’s the sort of attitude more at home in a Third World country run by a corrupt elite spouting Marxist dribble than the birthplace of the American idea of freedom and independence.

It’s no surprise that the first move on the part of the newly elected junta has been to implement firearms control at breakneck speed. This was necessary, of course. Not just because it’s the standard operating procedure for every tyranny that has ever soiled the pages of human history. It’s because that’s what the foreign masters who bankrolled the Democratic Party in the last election have demanded of their useful fools. It's now come to pass that Virginia is under the direct control of foreign masters.

Yet something has been awakened in Virginia. Something deep. Something primal. Like a mother set to defend her child at all cost when a rabid creature threatens her prodigy, citizens of this oldest of American lands are rising up. They are organizing, they are speaking out. And come next Monday they and many of their fellow Americans from across the United States will march on the city of Richmond to let those in power know that they have had enough.

Many will be armed, and many will be angry. The number of those converging on the city can only be estimated at this point. But it’s a safe bet that it will be in the many thousands. Indeed, it will more than likely be the largest assembly of armed men converging on an American city since the Civil War of a century and a half ago.

Think about that for a moment. And let it sink in.

Yet the newly installed Virginia government charges ahead with its agenda while reeking of disdain for those they wish to govern. Seemingly oblivious of the dangerous situation they have created all by themselves. They have made the mistake so many of their kind have made throughout the ages. Laws may be passed, armies may be raised, wars may be fought, and years, decades, or centuries may pass in darkness. But in the end, the human spirit and the will-to-good always wins.

It’s a force of nature. As unstoppable and as untamable as any of the ancient rivers that flow from Virginia’s mist-covered mountains, through her fertile valleys, and down to the waiting might of the Atlantic Ocean.

Mysterious, humbling, and eternal.

All tyrants fall. All tyrannies crumble to dust. But the rivers, and the people, remain.

Vox populi, vox Dei

The voice of the people, is the voice of God.

© 2020 Thomas Michael Caldwell. All Rights Reserved. This written work is not to be copied or reproduced without the permission of the author. Links to this page from other websites or social media accounts is permitted and encouraged.

Interesting Times

“Knowing others is wisdom, knowing yourself is enlightenment.”

— Lao Tzu

In my youth, it was once taught to me by an older, wiser man, that planning out one’s life is as effective as planning out one’s day. You start out bright and early and eager to accomplish a whole list of things. But by the time the sun has set, and the day has ended, everything has turned out very differently. Rarely does anything go the way you planned or expected.

Two years ago, when I began my foray into commentary and podcasting, I approached the endeavor with the same mindset I had applied in my journalism career. After all, I was taught by some pretty talented people back in the closing years of the 20th Century. I listened, learned, and revered all the experience and wisdom my older colleagues had so generously passed on to my eager, younger self. After all, it was traditional throughout most of human history for the older generation to teach the younger generation. Knowledge would be retained for the sake of he family and tribe. Home, hearth, and civilization would then continue on into the always uncertain future.

But that was another time. Another age. Words were valued. Options were examined and debated. And integrity was not just a policy, it was a way of life. The purpose of the Fourth Estate was to serve as a quality information source whereby all people throughout our society would receive facts and details so they could collectively come up with an appropriate course of action to address the issues of the day. Whether it was fixing a bridge, building a school, or going to war, the process was the same. Tell the people — all the people — the facts of the matter. It would then be to up them to do the rest.

Sadly, this time-proven process only works if the people of a nation are looking to come to some sort of a compromise on a shared goal — a common objective. If people want the same thing, they always have a reasonable chance of being able to work out a solution. But if they don’t, and compromise is not possible, conflict is inevitable.

The more I was writing and podcasting about current events, the more I began to see that a fissure had developed in our country that was only growing larger and larger, wider and wider. With no sign of anyone wanting to talk constructively. It was a disheartening, sobering bit of enlightenment. So, I decided to take some time off and reassess how I was going to participate in an increasing treacherous public space. After all, before one can report on something one has to know as much about the situation as possible. Perhaps, I thought at the time, things would return to normal or what passes in the United State for normal.

But it didn’t happen.

While following events over the past couple of years, it became obvious that the times are a-changing, and not for the best. For those of us who are well into middle age, much of what we are seeing, hearing, and reading is nearly indescribable compared to the world we grew up in and thought we would inherit. The landscape we find ourselves in can best be described as an increasing level of insanity stewed in with blind hatred, run-away superstition, and ignorance of history and social science at a level that would have once been thought impossible among a civilized people.

At the end of the day, you have to call it as you see it. Being objective is important when one writes and comments on current events. But you have to tell the truth no matter how unappetizing. One has to trust their instincts, but common sense is usually enough. If it looks like a train wreck, smells like a train wreck, and is a twisted pile of metal full of screaming and dying injured like a train wreck, seeking a second opinion on the situation is usually not necessary.

So here we are in 2020. Intelligent debate and civilized social discourse are almost non-existent in public discussion. The United States is polarized to a level that the country has not seen since our first Civil War. Most of the freedoms and rights guaranteed by our Constitution are under attack or being outright ignored by the powers that be. Traditional American journalism is all but extinct. Dark forces seem to be gathering in all corners like something out of Tolkien novel. We haven’t been back to the moon in nearly 50 years. And it seems the next World War will mostly be fought with the Internet, memes, and catchy slogans on t-shirts.

Oh, and it's a presidential election year.

Interesting times, for sure.

So it looks like I’m going to be going back to committing journalism again. What they warned me about all those years ago is so, so true: Once you're in, you’re in for life. Once you've been bitten, you’ll never get the ink out of your blood.

Stay tuned. . .

© 2020 Thomas Michael Caldwell. All Rights Reserved. This written work is not to be copied or reproduced without the permission of the author. Links to this page from other websites is permitted and encouraged.

Off Into The Sunrise — A Tribute To Jim Johnson

As the years of one’s life pass by, you consider yourself lucky if you get a good boss at work. The same goes for when you come across an older guy who can mentor you and show you the ropes in some new skill or discipline. And, of course, when someone comes into your life who becomes a friend — a good friend — it’s a true blessing.

But if you get all three rolled into one person you’ve got a real treasure. A trifecta. A place in the Winners' Circle of Life.

That’s who Jim Johnson was to me. Back in 2017, when things were going not too well for me and I needed good employment, Jim recruited me to come to work for him at a legal services company. Meeting the man was literally a life-saving event. One that led to a very interesting career and a re-connection with American culture I never knew was possible.

A real ornery Texan transplanted in rural Virginia, Jim was a character right out of a low-budget-but-well-written movie from decades ago. He was a retired law enforcement officer who had seen more than his share of real-life action that would have sucked the humanity out of most people. In spite of all that, Jim always had something good to say about you and was a never-ending river of encouragement and good cheer. Both a father and a grandfather whose family was the center of his life, Jim was also a kid at heart who loved to tinker with cars and loved all things old, antique, and full of history. He was a true, flag waving American male of the kind that is seldom seen anymore -- except on the endangered species list.

Jim was also a fighter. Through and through. A never-give-up type many men think they are but few possess the strength to pull off. But as everyone knows, just like in the movies, all fighters eventually meet their match.

Sadly, that’s what happened to Jim last Thursday, October 3rd. After a long, hard-fought battle, our hero was taken down by a real, nasty bad guy named Cancer. And the world is now a little less safe, a little less interesting, and a little less fun.

But the screenplay doesn't end there.

As is the case with many true Texans, Jim decided to leave the scene with a bit of drama and flair. No conventional funeral and burial surrounded by sad friends in dark suits for him. No Sir-ee. So Jim decided on something with a bit more . . . panache.

A few days ago, Jim’s widow climbed aboard an antique biplane near their home. The plane took off, rose up into the clear blue sky, and she proceeded to scatter Jim’s ashes over the rural Virginia countryside and the winding, wild, timeless Shenandoah River.

A fitting goodbye befitting a true Texan, who came to love Virginia and call it home. And he's now an eternal part of the countryside he loved so much.

Rest in Peace, Jim. You’ve earned it.

Thank you.

Roll credits.

© 2019 Thomas Michael Caldwell. All Rights Reserved. This written work is not to be copied or reproduced without the permission of the author. Links to this page from other websites is permitted and encouraged.

The Seductive Attraction of Tyranny

Few people seem to read much history these days. And when they do, fewer still seem to understand much of it.

Take the topic of “tyranny” for example. When one thinks of tyranny in a historical context, one thinks of massive killings; death camps; soldiers in gaudy uniforms firing guns into crowds of innocents. People being woken-up in the middle of the night by sinister-looking agents of the state wearing fedoras, and then being dragged off into the darkness screaming and pleading for their lives, never to be heard from again.

Yes. Tyranny has a reputation for being very dramatic. And sometimes it is. But in reality, oppression is seldom very obvious.

If you ask anyone who's lived in a nation where a handful of people at the top believe they know best how everyone else should live, the story you hear may surprise you. Such people will often tell you how pleasant and peaceful things can be. The average person tends to be polite to others, and very respectful to those in authority. Everybody gets along just fine.

You see, the objective of tyranny is to create an entirely benign environment where no threat exists to those in power. And this is done by completely cowering the population into a state of total non-resistance over an extended period. Eventually, everyone learns to live with a little bit of ever-present fear of doing something wrong. So everyone tends to be peaceful. Nobody wants to be offensive. Nobody wants to do anything not expected of them. Because nobody wants to get into trouble. All the rules are obeyed, and nobody wants to stand out by stepping out of line.

The truth — the horrible truth — about living under tyranny is that it feels good to most people. Fewer life decisions have to be made by the individual. Personal responsibility is minimized. You are told what is expected of you. And so long as you go along with everyone else you’re probably going to be okay.

If one watches an old newsreel filmed in countries we now think of historically as tyrannies, one will usually not find images of people who feel terrified or miserable. Quite the contrary. One sees crowds of citizens who are happy and cheering for their leaders. In most cases, this was not staged. It was sincere. Millions of people had given away their sovereignty and learned to love it. Life had become uncomplicated and relatively simple. Who cares about freedom and Free Will if there is enough food, physical comfort, relative safety, and sufficient entertainment? If you have all that, you have everything you need to be happy. And being happy is the one desire all humans have in common.

Thus, throughout the ages, all tyrants and want-to-be-tyrants have had the same message for those whom they seek to control: Happiness is Freedom

Only, it isn’t.

It has been said that freedom is the natural state of man. But tyranny has usually been man’s natural condition. Free societies of the kinds that have emerged from Western Civilization in recent centuries (the United States being the most notable) are rare exceptions to the rule. Except for a few short spans of years here and there, the rights of the average man or woman to live their life as they see fit, speak their mind, and pursue happiness by their definition of the word, has been virtually nonexistent in the human experience. Most people who have lived on this earth over the past 5000 or so years never knew freedom and personal sovereignty the way the average American citizen has for the past couple of centuries. We have been living through a tiny blip on the radar of the ages.

Tyranny doesn’t always have to mean poverty, either. There are many present-day countries considered peaceful and developed where folks have a very high standard of living. But being able to speak one’s mind, criticize the government, or be able to defend oneself with modern weapons is not permitted. And if you break the rules you could end up paying for the transgression with many years in prison, or even the loss of your life.

Just take a good look at the so-called developed nations of Europe and the Far East. Do a little bit of research, and this inconvenient truth becomes self-evident. Just because a country has a high standard of living and shopping malls full of goods doesn't mean the people have much control over their lives. Quite the contrary. The more one is dependent on a system; the less likely one is to go against that system. Dependency is, and always has been, one of the most effective tools of tyrants. Oppression is painless if applied gently over time.

Another repeated pattern of history is whenever tyrants are overthrown or die it is revealed afterward what horrible, sick people they were. Far from being near-deities of perfect words and deeds, all of them tend to be messed-up to such an extent that none of them could survive in a regular, civilized society.

Just take a good look at the would-be tyrants in positions of power in the United States today. They are there and easily spotted. And it is evident to all who are willing to see that they do not have the welfare of the average American as their primary concern. They demonstrate in their words and deeds that they wish nothing better than to arrange our lives like dolls at a child’s tea party or order us about like masses of little plastic soldiers on a lonely boy’s living room carpet.

Tyrants are all the same and always have been: Loners. Misfits. Privileged, grown-up children who have access to more money than wisdom. Whether they have gained political office by playing to the cameras or accumulated vast wealth while playing the numbers on Wall Street, these members of the plutocracy believe they know how to take care of us better than we can take care of ourselves.

But they don’t.

The same story is being repeated. The same disastrous outcome on the horizon unless the average citizen resists. There needs to be a collective “no” to the Siren Song of the tyrants before our civilization, like so many in the past, is smashed upon the rocks of history.

So beware the would-be tyrants who promise to keep you safe, to reduce your everyday burdens, and to make you happy if you give up some and eventually all of your freedoms. For they are not just an enemy of the people of today, they are an enemy of all of the people who have ever lived.

© 2017 Thomas Michael Caldwell. All Rights Reserved. This written work is not to be copied or reproduced without the permission of the author. Links to this page from other websites is permitted and encouraged.

American Gun Owners Are Not Going Anywhere

Some years ago, I asked an old colleague and friend — a significant player in the political world — that question everyone interested in foreign affairs raises from time-to-time: What will it take for there to be a lasting peace in the Middle East?

Surprisingly, he didn’t hesitate in his response.

“Very simple,” he said. “As soon as all the Arab and Muslim nations in that part of the world realize that Israel is not going anywhere, a peace deal will be easy. But until that bit of reality sinks in, it will just be more of the same.”

His answer was obvious in hindsight. The first step to making peace with someone is to come to grips with their existence. Avoiding that fact, and just dreaming and wishing that you didn’t have to deal with them, is a desirable option. But it’s not a realistic one.

The same reality can be applied to American gun owners. Depending on how you add up the numbers and statistics they make up about half the population. Some are more active and militant than others, of course. Many are even classified as “liberal.” But as a group — as a demographic — they are substantial. And the underlying reality is that, just like Israel, they are not going away.

Like the Israelis, American gun owners have been around for quite some time. Quite literally since before the nation was created. They are organized and believe firmly in their right to exist. Most are not afraid of getting into a fight, political or otherwise. And like the Israelis, they are heavily armed, and a good portion of them are highly trained in various aspects of dealing with physical threats. Both Israelis and American gun owners have many in their ranks who believe strongly in God, and that their particular supreme being is on their side.

But what is most important is that both Israelis and American gun owners have enemies that are always planning and scheming to wipe them from the face of the Earth. They know this of course and are prepared to do everything in their power to never let it happen. Survival has a way of bringing out the determination in people.

Sadly, both the enemies of the Israelis and American gun owners haven’t come to grips with reality. They are living in a fantasy world and believe that all will be wonderful and peaceful if the target of their hatred would just be made to vanish. To be pushed into the sea, so to speak. So they continue to take pot shots, inflict damage when and where they can, all in the hopes that one day the target of their hatred will just give up and agree to cease to exist. However, the realistic chances of this happening are, to put it mildly, quite remote.

If politicians are anything, they are highly trained opportunists. Remember hearing that cynical story about a bus with only a few passengers on board getting into an accident? And within a matter of minutes it becomes filled with passers-by who all begin to complain about whiplash and threaten to sue for damages?

Well, a successful American politician (who is usually a lawyer) would not only have that bus filled with believably damaged victims within minutes of the accident, but they would also have the lawsuit papers written-up and a percentage of the settlement agreement negotiated long before the cops arrived on the scene. Most politicians are very good at never letting a tragedy go to waste.

The recent events that occurred in Las Vegas are the latest example of using a tragedy not just to lob a few more rockets at American gun owners, but to, yet again, attempt to push them into the sea. Even though all the details of the crime have not yet come to light, and the reason for the tragedy has yet to be adequately explained, the anti-gun lobby quickly went on the offensive with all sorts of proposed legislation aimed at ridding the United States of as much weaponry in private hands as possible. This action has just driven home a fact millions of Americans already know: the leftists in positions of power and authority don’t want the average citizen to be able to defend themselves.

For many years, the people and politicians who favored gun control were usually looked upon by many of their countrymen as well-meaning but naive do-gooders. However, fewer and fewer Americans see them in that light. Over the past year, the rise of the violent side of the political left has pretty much trashed that warm and cuddly camouflage so-called liberals have built up over the decades. The seemingly endless street violence since the presidential election of a year ago has driven home to a growing number of traditional-minded Americans that radical Marxist and Communist thinking plays a far more significant role in the philosophy of liberal politics than they had realized.

When one sees crowds of masked young people calling for violence and death to others — especially police officers — disarming oneself doesn’t seem a very wise thing to do. The anti-gun lobby has made it clear they don’t want to talk. They don’t want a peaceful solution to any and all rational concerns. What they are calling for is the non-existence of those they openly hate and despise.

One can easily find mountains of credible data and statistics on gun violence, ownership, usage, sales, and crimes in the United States, so there is no need to go into details here. But it should be pointed out that anyone with an open mind who does some serious research on the topic will conclude that most of the arguments for gun control presented by the anti-gun lobby don’t hold much water. Like so many political viewpoints espoused by contemporary leftist politicians, they are based more on emotion than on logical reasoning and rational argument.

Everything from demographics to social structures to the lack of enforcement of current firearms laws; education; economic opportunities; the destruction of the traditional family structure; all play a role in the tragedies we read about daily. But until the anti-gun lobby abandons that long-held American bad habit of trying to apply a very simplistic solution to an incredibly complex problem, and accept the fact that American gun owners are not going anywhere, we will see more of the same. And needless suffering will continue.

A European statesman of a century and a half ago once pointed out that politics is the art of the possible. Accepting reality is the first step in finding a peaceful solution to a conflict.

And if you don’t think that’s so, just ask an Israeli.

© 2017 Thomas Michael Caldwell. All Rights Reserved. This written work is not to be copied or reproduced without the permission of the author. Links to this page from other websites is permitted and encouraged.

The Absolute, Non-Negotiable Right of Free Speech

When I began this blog and podcast, it was with the intention to inject a bit of rational thought into what has become an increasingly vitriolic environment in this country. Given my background and experience, in which I’ve spent lots of time seeing the goings-on in the world outside the United States and communicating what I learned to my fellow countrymen, I thought an informed perspective would contribute in some small way to furthering the greater good.

But what I’ve seen as of late has been more than a little heartbreaking. Never in my life could I have imagined a time in this country when civil discourse is not just being left by the wayside, it's being ruthlessly tossed out of the window of a moving car. In light of this, I thought it best to take a bit of a step back and look and listen to what is being said, and not said.

The incident last month in Charlottesville, Virginia drove to the surface of American society many a demon and monster. It’s not been a pretty sight. And amidst the fallout has been a large-scale direct attack on the cornerstone of something that makes the United States special: Freedom of Speech.

Those of us who understand the implications of the assault on freedom of expression by a cross-section of society are not sleeping very well these days. From the students at our universities to the most influential executives of our largest corporations, a seemingly increasing number of us think it’s a good idea to somehow “limit” what we can say and how we can say it.

It's one thing to observe an ongoing situation, but it’s quite another to sit idly by when a crime is being committed. And the attack on free speech is classified in the latter category.

Freedom of expression is an absolute. It’s not negotiable. It’s not dependent on any conditions. The ability to speak one’s mind and offer one’s opinion without fear of legal prosecution or physical harm is an integral part of American Civilization. It’s not something debatable. If this right is ever taken away from us we will cease to be who we are as a people, and forfeit the potential of what we can become as a nation.

This absolute does not mean there are no personal consequences to free speech, nor does it apply to obviously inappropriate situations like shouting “fire” in a crowded theatre. It just means that if you express an opinion or perspective you are protected from the power of the State being used against you or physical attack being made on your person. Freedom of speech is often offensive to some and usually uncomfortable to many. But that’s the nature of the beast.

The sharing of ideas and opinions with others is feared by all the monsters in human history more than anything else. It’s the greatest threat to their power; even more so than guns and bombs. If people have the chance to openly discuss and debate an idea and come to realize it’s a bad one, they usually don’t go along with it. And the individual who has been pushing that idea usually fades away into obscurity.

That is why those who will enslave you and rule over you in the most brutal manner will do anything and everything to shut you up. When you can frighten people into silence you can frighten them into doing just about anything — often with horrifying consequences on a massive scale.

The most troubling development is the way the word “hate” is being used to justify the censoring of people’s opinions. “Hate Speech” is something that can apply to just about anything controversial. It’s another time-proven way to silence the masses. Once you’ve made it illegal to voice one viewpoint publicly it becomes easy to do the same with other points of view.

None of the major social movements or developments in recent decades would have occurred or even been possible if there were laws against speech a significant portion of the population found offensive. When this reporter came into the world, homosexuality was a criminal offense in much of the United States, as was marrying and starting a family with someone not of your racial category. Relevantly few people today believe such laws should exist or ever be re-instated. These changes in our society from what was unthinkable to what is now just part of everyday life would not have been possible had free speech not been a right to everyone of every option, without exception.

Sadly, we are living in times where civil debate and discussion are not in vogue. Nobody seems to be willing to listen to each other’s viewpoints, or even listen to reason. If a discussion is no longer viable, physical force and violence is the only option left. I can’t imagine those who consider themselves sane and educated would want our country to devolve into something resembling a state of civil war. But many do. Too many. And if any of these people are as rational and educated as they claim, they would be taking a good look at what has happened elsewhere in the world when people stopped talking and started fighting.

The real motivations of the people who would stifle free speech while using violence to achieve their goals need to examined, confronted, and defeated. Our entire nation and our national soul are at stake.

© 2017 Thomas Michael Caldwell. All Rights Reserved. This written work is not to be copied or reproduced without the permission of the author. Links to this page from other websites is permitted and encouraged.

America's Cultural Revolution

The most frightening book I ever read was not something written by HP Lovecraft, or Edgar Allen Poe, or Stephen King. It wasn’t even a work from the classic horror genre. It was a historical biography about someone who lived through and survived China’s Cultural Revolution.

Life and Death in Shanghai was written by the late Nien Cheng. She was a Western-educated employee of a foreign company operating in China. After the revolution that brought Mao Zedong to power, she decided to stay. But eventually, her crime of being tainted by the West caught up with her. And the horror she experienced, and the pain she endured at the hands of communist fanatics, can best be described as a wake-less nightmare that lasted for many years.

Nien Cheng survived and eventually was able to make it to the United States. Millions of other Chinese were not so fortunate. They died immersed in a horrifying existence of physical privation and mental torture.

Life and Death in Shanghai was not a pleasant read. It took me more than a year to get through. The hardest parts were the descriptions of the mental torment everyone in 1960s China was forced to endure. The fear of saying the wrong thing to the wrong person at the wrong time was never-ending. There was no escape from the insanity, anywhere. Down was up, up was down. Even looking at someone in authority the wrong way could get you imprisoned, or killed.

When I first read the book back in the late 1980s, I could not have imaged a future where any civilized Western country would allow such behavior. The toppling of statues, the burning of books, the destruction of art, the smashing of cultural treasures, the terrorizing of citizens by roving mobs of armed thugs. These are not traits of a rational, civilized nation. Not then. Not now. Not ever.

Yet, here we are. The turmoil that had been building for years was unleashed following the events in the quite Virginian town of Charlottesville. Once home to Thomas Jefferson — a man who has been compared to Leonardo da Vinci — it is now synonymous with riots, street brawls, and death.

The fire that began in Charlottesville has started to spread and spread quickly. But when things start to burn, the flames tend to get out of control and destroy more than what the arsonists had intended. It is not just some controversial statuary under threat. People are publicly attacked and privately threatened for not going along with a particular viewpoint or opinion. Assaults have been committed, and blood has been drawn. And unless the madness is stopped, it will only be a matter of time before a body count is compiled.

The current situation in our country did not come into being overnight. It’s been building for years as people have felt less and less comfortable speaking their minds. Political correctness was originally thought of as a joke, of sorts. And individuals who made a big deal about the importance of what to say and when to say it so as not to offend someone were considered a little eccentric. But no one is laughing now. Attaching social and physical punishment to someone who has the wrong comment or viewpoint is a tactic right out of China’s Cultural Revolution.

Another tactic being implemented in this
American Cultural Revolution is the attack on friends and relatives of those who publicly align themselves with a particular ideology or group. Guilty by association or, in a sickening replay of history, by blood. There are a growing number of reports of family members being harassed and threatened who have nothing to do with the viewpoints of their kin. This is a tactic that is very common in places like North Korea and should be unheard of in North America.

It’s unpleasant to mention but needs to be: A growing number of Americans are becoming fearful of expressing themselves. You can detect it at a super market, at a restaurant, or any other place you find a cross-section of American society congregating. People are avoiding eye contact and becoming exceedingly careful of their words. Nobody wants to discuss anything that in any way may seem controversial. The fear is real. Anyone who speaks their mind in traditional American fashion may be putting themselves at risk.

Sadly, the people who are probably the most frightened over current events are recent immigrants. Whatever one’s view of current immigration policies, it's a fact that most of the people who have recently come to our country have left places that were, to put it mildly, rather unpleasant. For centuries now the United States has been the place to get to if where you were was going down the pipes. If you were being persecuted for your opinions, your religion, your class status, or just didn’t have enough food to eat, with some tenacity and luck you could probably get into the United States and start life anew. But nobody likes to make it out of one bad situation and see another one develop where they have decided to put down roots. Many of them have seen similar things elsewhere in the world, and know what can happen.

Nien Cheng’s book is highly recommended for
every American to read right now; especially those who are on the younger side of this growing conflict. Her descriptions of the young Red Guards, driven to total insanity by the ideology that had been drummed into their heads, seem remarkably similar to what we are now seeing at our universities, and on our streets.

The horror that China’s Red Guards created will forever be a blot on human experience, and a stain on the souls of those who participated. If previous generations have taught us anything, it’s to always choose wisely which side of history you will find yourself. For its judgment is eternal.

© 2017 Thomas Michael Caldwell. All Rights Reserved. This written work is not to be copied or reproduced without the permission of the author. Links to this page from other websites is permitted and encouraged.

Kicking the Can of the Kims

There is an old American idiom: “Kicking the can down the road.” It means to postpone dealing with a severe problem again, and again, and again. But eventually there is no more road to kick the can down, and one has to finally, often reluctantly, deal with the unpleasant situation.

Postponing a problem is a traditional, albeit nasty habit of American politicians — especially when it comes to matters of blood and treasure. And a glaring example of just such a long-neglected problem is North Korea. That old, banged-up, highly-dangerous can has finally reached the fence at the end of the road.

General of the Army Douglas MacArthur was a pretty smart guy. He knew the world. He was skilled at politics and that form of politics practiced with weapons: war. MacArthur knew how to fight a war, how to win it, and how to deal with its aftermath. He didn’t just defeat the Japanese on the battlefields of the Pacific, MacArthur knew how to win their hearts and minds in the aftermath. Upon occupying the once-proud nation that lay in ruins, he set to rebuilding it. Both physically and culturally. MacArthur’s occupation government set Japan on a course that saw the ancient nation achieve economic and social development it had never experienced or even imagined possible. Because of MacArthur, who some historians like to call “American Caesar,” the United States and Japan became two of the closest political and military allies in the world. And more than 70 years after the end of World War II, they still are.

So if it stands to reason that MacArthur understood the political and cultural ins and outs of the Far East, he probably had a pretty good idea of how to deal with North Korea. His opinion on the matter was rather simple: Get rid of it. The longer you wait to take them down, the more of a problem they will become.

However, for good or for ill, MacArthur was relieved of his battlefield command in Korea by President Truman in 1951. The official reason was insubordination. But the truth is MacArthur wanted to win, and Truman wanted to contain. MacArthur wanted to attack China and, possibly, use nuclear weapons in the process. This action would have significantly expanded the conflict, and more than likely have drawn the Soviet Union into the fray. The Korean War would have become World War III.

This prospect terrified Truman, and understandably so. But MacArthur was no dummy. He knew the risks and the high price of such a conflagration. MacArthur also knew that the long-term consequences of allowing North Korea to survive — allied with communist China — could prove to be far worse. At that time the United States had the most powerful military on the planet; a virtual monopoly on deliverable nuclear weapons; the largest industrial infrastructure in history; and millions of battle-tested veterans who could be called into service. MacArthur knew it would have a been a horrible and costly war had it expanded, but winnable.

Unfortunately for the general, Truman was the boss, and the buck stopped with him. So the American Caesar was fired and sent into retirement. A cease-fire was eventually negotiated with North Korea and China in 1953, and communism was “contained.”

That's when the can began to be kicked down the road.

Because only a cease-fire was agreed upon, the Korean War has technically never ended. A peace treaty has been talked about for decades but is probably more unlikely now than it was in 1953. Armies on both sides of the border are always on alert and ready for the war to resume. Over the years shots have been fired, and lives lost in brief skirmishes — including those of a few Americans. But no full-scale conflict has occurred. Yet.

In the 64 years since the smoke began to clear on the Korean Peninsula, the nation known formally as the People’s Democratic Republic of Korea has arguably become the most insane political entity in the history of the world. For several generations, its population has been fed a diet of lies, hatred, cultish indoctrination, and political brainwashing topped off with grinding poverty and near-starvation for all but the select few. As anyone who has been to North Korea, or escaped from it will tell you, it’s a land that makes George Orwell’s
1984 look like a family vacation at Disneyworld.

North Korea has (or is) one of the world’s largest militaries and is on an ever-present war footing — ready at a moment’s notice to fight its civilized neighbor to the south and the U.S. forces based there. Projectiles fired from the thousands of pre-targeted artillery pieces trained in on the South Korean capital of Seoul would take the lives of millions of people within a few hours, if not minutes.

And don’t forget the poison gas stockpiles. They have that too. Lots of it. Artillery shells full of the stuff. And North Korean missiles can deliver chemical death to population centers thousands of miles away.

The Hermit Kingdom, as North Korea is often referred, has been run by a crime family in every sense of the word since its inception. The current boss — grandson of the founder — seems to be far more unstable and ruthless than his predecessors. There are reports that he has a taste for executing those who fall out of his favor in less-than-conventional ways; methods that include the use of mortar rounds and flame throwers.

All this horror aside, and the untold human suffering that has been allowed to occur for so long, another terrifying prospect has been added to the North Korean mix: The country has been permitted to develop nuclear weapons and will soon be able to deliver them using missiles that can hit the North American continent.

Read that last paragraph again. Carefully. And let it sink in.

The sobering reality is that the now nuclear-armed can can no longer be kicked any further. And, sooner or later, the unfinished business of the early 1950s will have to be dealt with.

The inconvenient truth is that the conflict with the world’s most insane state is probably not going to end well. Nobody wants to talk about this. Nobody wants to put a fine point on this. And nobody wants to think about what will likely transpire.

In spite of all the talk about “diplomatic solutions” and “coming to a peaceful understanding” with “the North,” the realistic chances of this occurring are becoming more and more remote by the day. Like a nasty cut on the body of humanity, North Korea has been allowed to fester for too long. Whatever is done about it at this point will probably be quite drastic, and will really hurt.

There are, of course, best-case scenarios for North Korea vanishing like a nightmare. But none are pleasant. Besides a military coup against the mad prince (highly unlikely according to many experts), there is the mass-starvation scenario. This was talked about by U.S. military and political observers back in the 1990s. It was thought likely that one morning millions of starving North Koreans would show up at the border and begin crossing over en mass into the South. A human tidal wave that would continue to flow long after all the barbed wire was trampled underfoot and all the land mines had gone off. Humans, it was reasoned, can only endure so much. Once the North Koreans reached their breaking point the whole sick house of cards would come tumbling down.

But it didn’t happen. And that was more than 20 years ago.

No sane U.S. government administration will tolerate the existence of a North Korea capable of landing a nuclear weapon on American soil with only a few minutes warning. Given a choice of protecting the homeland and its citizenry, or protecting the lives of millions of South Koreans and Japanese, the choice will be painfully obvious — especially to those living in North East Asia.

Could a conflict between the U.S. and North Korea escalate and spread? Well, it could. The military term “fluid situation” means just that. Once the shooting starts, it’s a free for all. A slippery, unpredictable mess. Chaos theory in action. War
always solves something. But usually not what those who started the war wanted to solve.

Douglas MacArthur would no doubt be both horrified and aghast at the current state of affairs and amazed that so much about the Korean conflict has changed while, more or less, remaining the same. The big difference being the stakes are now much higher, and the downside of winning the Korean War are far more down than they were in his time.

But what would have boiled the general’s blood in his veins is the terrible reality that the grandchildren, and great grandchildren, of the tens of thousands of American soldiers who fought and died under his command, are now in danger because containing North Korea was considered preferable to defeating it.

Was MacArthur right? Was Truman right? We’ll see. The final chapter of this sad, sick, shameful story has yet to be written. The truth is it’s more than likely that the North Korean conflict will not end well, for anyone. But it will end. The only question will be how much it will cost, and to whom.

© 2017 Thomas Michael Caldwell. All Rights Reserved. This written work is not to be copied or reproduced without the permission of the author. Links to this page from other websites is permitted and encouraged.

A Fourth of July Tale: Encounter with the Alt-Right

“History may not repeat itself. But it rhymes.”
(attributed to) Mark Twain

For some years now, I’ve kept up a family tradition on the Fourth of July. And that is to watch the movie “1776.” It’s a film based on a hit Broadway musical that first appeared in 1969. The movie came out a few years later.

Watching that film as a youngster had a tremendous impact on me. It drove home the historical reality that the men who cobbled together the United States during that hot, Philadelphia summer were just that: men. Imperfect and flawed like all of us.

Up until that time, American schoolchildren like myself were taught to revere the Founding Fathers as superhuman beings. Demigods who created our country using some omnipotent magical power. But the movie took away that mystique and replaced it with something far more valuable. A real, down-to-earth, all-American lesson: It doesn’t matter if the odds are against you, or how impossible something might seem. There’s always a chance a small group of diverse, adversarial-yet-united, determined people can make the extraordinary happen.

In 1776, everything was against the Colonials. Most reliable estimates indicate less than half of the three million or so citizens of the Colonies supported the War of Independence, with varying degrees of enthusiasm. The most reliable statistics on active participation in the conflict are about 6.5% of the population. A respectable number, but far from the myth that everyone on every street corner was gunning for the British. There was no money, few resources, and an ever-dwindling supply of hope.

No. It was not an easy fight. But the war with Britain was fought, and it was won. The United States came into existence. Proof positive that a few people can bring great change. For good, or for ill.

Recently, I’ve been following the exploits of a political movement that considers itself the latest band of American Revolutionaries: The Alt-Right. So when some of their leaders decided to hold a rally in downtown DC, I thought I'd check them out. See what it is that is making them so angry, and active.

When I arrived at the Lincoln Memorial for what was billed as a “Free Speech Rally,” the first thing I noticed about the speakers and the assembled crowd was how young they all were. This was in stark contrast to the many gray-haired, counter-demonstrators further up the steps and safely separated from their competitors by a barricade.

Most of the Alt-Righers seemed to be their 20s or early 30s. They were neatly dressed, for the most part. Some even wore suits. They also appeared to be very comfortable in their skins. None of that over-nervousness one tends to see when a lot of angry young people show up someplace with poorly painted signs and over simplistic chants. No. These mostly young men were definitely in charge of the situation and their immediate surroundings.

The assembled crowd of supporters was not that large. Perhaps two to two hundred fifty at most. But there were more than a few video cameras present that were either recording the speeches for later distribution or feeding images live to interested parties around the world — which I would later discover numbered in the thousands.

After a few speeches, it seemed to be a nothing special event. Like most public rallies, it was as much a chance for the participants to hob-knob and network as it was to make a statement. No rocks and teargas were in the offing. Law enforcement was present, as was a large crowd of tourists from around and the world — busily snapping group photos and selfies. A few visitors even seemed delighted to have had the chance to witness a “real American protest.” Something to tell the folks back home.

But then I noticed one of the banners flapping amidst the United States, Confederate, and “Don’t Tread on Me” flags. A green and black gaudy-looking thing that mimicked a German World War II battle standard.


When I asked one of the participants what the mysterious flag represented, I was told it was the national flag of a place called “Kekistan.” The explanation given to me was then followed with the utterance of the slogan “Praise Kek!”

It was at this point I began to realize a rabbit hole was about to be tumbled down. This was not your typical gathering of pissed off youngsters. It was something very different.
They were something very different.

Now, without going into the meaning and significance of Kek, Kekistan, Pepe the Frog, and all the other accouterments of the Alt-Right movement, let me give you a simple explanation of what I think we are seeing:

The Alt-Right is a politically active component of the generation that grew from infancy into adulthood by way of the Internet. From birth, these kids have been swimming in massive amounts of information delivered by increasingly advanced technology at a rate and in quantities no earlier generation of humans has ever experienced. And although people like myself have been using computers since the late 1970s, we didn’t grow up with them. Our formative years were entirely analog. People of my generation and earlier probably can’t even think like these youngsters, let alone relate to them. It isn’t that one generation is “right” and the other is “wrong” in their way of thinking. Just different.
Very different.

This could explain a lot. And it does a pretty good job of explaining how so may people in the establishment misread the political mood of the country during last year’s presidential election and continue to do so. The people who tried to get Hillary Clinton elected were still thinking in terms of television ads and editorials in newspapers to make their case. Her handlers thought that fund raisers drumming up millions of dollars for conventional media purchases would somehow ensure her election. Unfortunately for them, they discovered far too late that fewer and fewer people are sitting in front of TVs these days, and even fewer bother to read newspapers.

It’s not that the establishment politicians and media outlets don’t realize the world has changed. They do (sort of). But I doubt they can yet conceive how much it has changed. It was, and probably still is, beyond their cognitive abilities to grasp this reality. The world of Internet-centric media is as different from the traditional form as a round of golf is to a vicious game of street hockey. Only, in this case, one side knows what game is being played. The other doesn’t have a clue.

The Alt-Right movement is being misunderstood and grossly underestimated. Its leaders and growing numbers of followers are being labeled and dismissed out of hand as “racists,” “Nazis,” “white supremacists,” “klansmen,” etc. And although many of the beliefs shared by some of the Alt-Right would have been more than acceptable at a KKK gathering or Nuremberg rally, these knee-jerk labels simply don’t apply to all of them. Some of the Alt-Right are black; some are Hispanic; some are Jews; many are women. This is a totally different animal playing by totally different rules.

Why the Alt-Right came into existence is open to debate, if not a full-on research study. But what seems to have fueled the movement more than anything else is the pressure cooker-like intensity that has built-up over the past couple of decades caused by “political correctness.” What the late Charlton Heston so eloquently called “tyranny with manners.”

When people are made to suppress their opinions and be fearful of their words, the inevitable backlash should come as no surprise. One very obvious clue was the naming of the event held at the Lincoln Memorial as “The Free Speech Rally.” And in reading any of the writings or speeches of the Alt-Right celebrities, the term “free speech” shows up regularly and with emphasis. These are members of a generation that grew up immersed in information about every topic known to man, yet taught to be scared to death of saying the wrong thing to the wrong person at the wrong time. Mentally and intellectually being caught between a rock and a hard place. It’s no wonder that a growing number of them have decided they have had enough, and have taken to the streets. You cannot have free thought without free speech.

Now, in case you don’t already know, Kekistan isn’t a physical place. The flag I saw that Sunday represented something that is concurrently real and not real. A conception that is both a joke and a deadly serious statement of fact.

This explanation may sound like a contraction. But it’s a very old lesson taught by many of the esoteric mystery schools of antiquity. If enough people believe something is real, it is real. And its “reality” has a tangible effect on the real world and all of us who live in it. It’s a concept I’m sure is not lost on many of those who are behind what we are seeing emerge on the political landscape. The Alt-Right is using a new, modern playbook with very ancient roots.

Kekistan notwithstanding, it remains to be seen if the Alt-Right has the legs to be a long-term political movement. When the American Revolution began, all was excitement and romance. It probably seemed to the average British soldier that every able-bodied colonist was taking up arms against them. But that wasn’t the case.

As the cold, hard reality of war became apparent, the ranks of the Continental Army grew thinner and thinner. Most of the original Minutemen quit the fight early and went home to become what George Washington scornfully called “Chimney Corner Patriots.”

Something of this sort could occur with this “revolution,” as it has with others (Remember “Occupy Wall Street?”). Perhaps resulting in many of the participating Internet-centric youth retreating to their mother’s basement when the going gets tough. But as we have seen throughout history — especially our history — a few determined, dedicated men, willing to risk all, can make a difference.

But 1776 was a long time ago. That was then. This is now. And this is different.
Very different. Are these youngsters just playing, or are they playing for keeps?

This will be an interesting and eventful summer.

For good, or for ill.

Happy Birthday, America. The fireworks are just getting started.

© 2017 Thomas Michael Caldwell. All Rights Reserved. This written work is not to be copied or reproduced without the permission of the author. Links to this page from other websites is permitted and encouraged.

A Hong Kong Memory

Twenty years ago I was one, busy guy covering the end of British Hong Kong for United Press International. I didn't sleep at all for almost two days. What a time. What an experience.

Have not been back since and, in many ways, I never want to return. Would much rather remember the place the way it was back in the 80s and 90s when I walked its streets and haggled in its markets. Fond memories need to be kept intact and unspoiled.

There was a magic about Chinese business combined with British governance that worked well. Really well. It was not Far Eastern, not European, but some bizarre hybrid where everyone was always living on the edge and about to make or lose a fortune. Free enterprise was practiced like nowhere else, and combined with a bit of danger and intrigue around every corner and in every business meeting. The ghosts of the pirates and contraband smugglers who settled that little island in the 1800s never went away. You could sense their presence everywhere. A constant reminder that British Hong Kong was not a place for the faint of heart or a timid soul.

All these years later, I still miss it. The sights, the sounds, the smells, and the palpable anxiety over what will happen next. But all great adventures come to an end, and all adventurers retire to a desk and a chair to write it all down. Hoping that some much younger person will become inspired, and hit the road with wild abandon to experience life in a way most others never will.

Happy Anniversary to some of the best times of my life. Tonight I dine on Cantonese cuisine.

© 2017 Thomas Michael Caldwell. All Rights Reserved. This written work is not to be copied or reproduced without the permission of the author. Links to this page from other websites is permitted and encouraged.

The Day of the Father

Civilization is not just one, big thing. It’s a complex device made of many components. Cogs and wheels. Struts, beams, and support columns. Things that move, things that remain stationary, and things that live, grow and die.

Today is a day set aside for one of the organic components of our world called “Father.” Traditionally, he was the male head of a family who oversaw the security of the home, the proper upbringing of the children, their protection, sustenance, education, and made sure they were ready for life as an adult.

The father’s duties were always augmented by that of the mother, who usually saw to the more immediate nurturing of the offspring. And to a great extent, her duties overlapped that of the father’s — even to the point of protecting the family with deadly force. But fathers were always the ones who at the end of the day ensured the family survived and, to the extent possible, prospered. It’s a system the human race employed throughout most of our history and, for the most part, it worked pretty well.

Our modern American celebration of the Day of the Father can be traced back to a 1907 West Virginia mining disaster that killed hundreds of men and, as a result, left more than a thousand children fatherless. A few months after the tragedy, a local pastor held an event to commemorate the loss and predicament of the sons, daughters, and mothers at the urging of a lady named Grace Golden Clayton. Apparently to raise funds for the families. It was a very compassionate idea for that time, as well as practical. After all, losing a father was no small tragedy in an age when social welfare or public assistance programs were all but non-existent.

Throughout most of the human experience, if you didn’t have a father to take care of you and your mother, the suffering you’d endure during your young, usually short life would be unimaginably cruel. Loss of your father was usually a one way trip to hell which, if you survived, the post-trauma would never leave you. That psychological damage would then be passed on to the next generation, and the next, and the next, ad infinitum. If one looks at the blood-soaked 20th Century, and all the evil men who made it such a horror, a bit of research into their childhood upbringings and environments will show where the seeds of their future deeds were sown. The role of their fathers, or lack thereof, was almost always an essential ingredient in the mix.

Sadly, the time-tested traditional family unit of a father, mother, and children, is vanishing. And although much of this change is being attributed to our society “progressing,” it has led to the breakdown of the traditional bonds between a father and his children. Bonds that have served our species for hundreds of thousands of years.

This breaking of tradition is a serious problem. A look at any credible statistics on children growing up without fathers demonstrates why Dad is vital to society’s overall wellbeing. Among the most alarming numbers in recent years is the high percentage of men currently incarcerated in U.S. prisons who grew up in fatherless homes: upwards of 85%.

Fathers are important. But they are crucial when it comes to raising boys. Although there is no substitution for a mother’s love, she cannot replace a father, no matter how much she might try or have the job thrust upon her. Boys can only really learn to be men from other men. Good men. And real men — real fathers — accept this reality and the responsibility it entails, and see it for the high honor it truly is.

But we seem to have lost sight of all this and the reasons for other important traditions as we have slowly turned all of our national days of celebration into nothing more than a hunt for bargains at a local department store. For many years Father’s Day has been just another sleepy Sunday when you presented Dad with a necktie and a pre-messaged greeting card before racing out the door to go shopping. And given how important fathers are, sad is not the word for it.

But in recent years, as there has been a growing resurgence of male introspection and self-questioning of our role in society, I’ve noticed some fathers behaving a bit differently on “our day.” Instead of expecting to receive gifts from our wives and kids, we’ve been going out shopping for ourselves. Not to buy more of the frivolous junk we already possess in abundance, but to gather tools for a higher purpose.

On Father’s Day, instead of buying something we want for ourselves, some of us have started the tradition of picking up an item or doing something consciously that will help us become better dads. Usually, it's something for our kids along the lines of a book, or some instructional item we can share with our sons or daughters. Some of us might take up a new, constructive habit, or get rid of an old one, so as to help us to perform our jobs as fathers more efficiently. We work on our bodies, give up alcohol or smoking, or make the serious effort to spend more time on playground duty or homework assistance. Sort of a Father’s New Year's Eve resolution list for those of us still in the child rearing stage, which never actually ends.

It’s becoming a newer, more productive part of the Father’s Day tradition, and holds much promise. This year during my daddy-centric shopping spree, I added a few good books to my bedtime reading collection. Among them,
The Children’s Book of Virtues by William J. Bennett. It’s a beautiful mix of traditional morality stories re-tooled for the modern world. I’ve also made a few “daddy resolutions” that I plan on keeping. And all of it will have a more lasting, positive effect on all concerned than another gadget or time-wasting video.

So whether you are a father, know a father, or have a father, put aside a little time to reflect on what this day is all about, what it has been all about, and what it can be all about. The male side of the parental equation is an irreplaceable part of the cycle of human life and is deserving of care and respect from both participants and observers. It’s also a key to the future. The most certain way we have of building a better world is by making better people, and that means contributing to the nurturing of our children in a way only a father is capable of doing.

Frederick Douglass said it best: “It is easier to build strong children than to repair broken men.”

Fathers of the world, unite. Be proud of your title and the role in the human experience you play. But most of all, remember that you can never stop learning and bettering yourself enough to earn the admiration and respect that comes with the title “Dad.”

Happy Father's Day everyone!

For further reading:

Psychological Effects on Men Growing Up Without a Father

Statistics of Fatherless Children

More Statistics from the National Center for Fathering

© 2017 Thomas Michael Caldwell. All Rights Reserved. This written work is not to be copied or reproduced without the permission of the author. Links to this page from other websites is permitted and encouraged.

The American Way of Compromise

The late historian Shelby Foote had a great understanding of the American Civil War and the role it played in formulating our national identity. He once pointed out that before the conflict, “the United States are” was a proper way of referring to our country in the spoken and written form. But after the war, the proper way to refer to the U.S. was “the United States is.” Thus, the War Between the States made “us” an “is.”
Shelby Foote is one of my favorite historical authors. His three-volume
The Civil War: A Narrative is a masterpiece that will probably never be matched or exceeded. Foote knew his material. Every battle, every general, every player on the stage. But he was also an expert on why the Civil War happened in the first place.

In the classic Ken Burns documentary about that conflict, Foote explained that the main reason the entire tragic affair happened was because of the unwillingness of Americans to compromise. He pointed out that our system of government was built on the principle of compromise. Of give and take. Of being willing to live and work with people you don’t necessarily agree with, or even like. The ability to put aside differences to come up with a workable, peaceful solution all parties can live with.

The key term here is “live with.” Not a solution that is loved, or even liked. But one that can be lived with. Tolerated. Put up with. Why? Because the alternative to compromise is conflict. And the Civil War was a conflict that took the lives of hundreds of thousands of people and left a bitterness that still lingers to this day.

The city of Alexandria, Virginia, which I currently call home, is a semi-sleepy sort of place. Even though these days it’s mostly a bedroom community for people who work for the Federal Government, it has a long and rich history. When George Washington walked its streets, it was one of the busiest port cities in this part of the world. And in keeping with the tradition of its namesake in Egypt, Alexandria has always had a relatively cosmopolitan community. The city has also been home to many famous people. Among them Richard Nixon, Gerald Ford, and rocket scientist Wernher von Braun — who is buried in a local cemetery.

When you live in a company town, you tend to see lots of company people. Many members of Congress, their staffers, cabinet secretaries, generals, and both famous and anonymous people who work for Uncle Sam can be seen at a local supermarket, clothing store, car wash, theater, or sidewalk cafe in Alexandria’s quaint Old Town area. It is fun to see someone who was arguing passionately on CSPAN one day doing a crossword puzzle in Starbucks the next.

Just like all other Americans, those at the head of our affairs have to deal with the "normal" part of life. And, when they can, find a bit of enjoyment while keeping fit so as to better deal with the abundant stress most of Alexandria’s residents have to deal with at their day job. Be it exercising in a club, hitting golf balls, riding a bike, or playing on an amateur baseball team.

That little bit of badly needed, healthy, everyday distraction in an environment of relative safety is now gone. And I doubt it’s going to be coming back anytime soon. A little bit of pleasurable innocence that helped keep those who are at the head of affairs in touch with Main Street America was ripped away by a fanatic who decided that a group of duly elected officials, taking time out of their already crazy schedules to play in a charity baseball game, deserved to die on account of their political affiliation.

That sick, little man didn’t show up in the early morning hours at a baseball field to heckle or curse. He didn’t show up to debate or argue. No. He came to murder, en mass, members of the legislative branch of our government because he disagreed with them.

Now think about that for a moment. Really think about it. If you have any reasonable command of current world events or world history, you’ll know that once the path of political violence is started down it never goes to a beautiful place. In fact, it almost never returns to a civilized place without first passing through a large-scale, horrifying conflict that takes more than a few lives. Killing those whom you disagree with politically always leads into an abyss that will take years or decades for a country to recover from, if ever. It’s the reason most of our world today is a hellish mess.

The hateful political rhetoric that has built up over the past few years in this country is coming to a head, and it’s not pretty. The American tradition — the American way — of compromise is quickly disappearing. And when it’s gone, well, the first American Civil War might give you an idea of what could be in store. Only single shot muskets, cannons, and men on horseback with swords will probably not play a significant role. The weaponry of today that can be picked up at a store nearly everywhere with a credit card and driver’s license exceeds anything our ancestors could have imagined, either in their dreams or, more likely, nightmares.

So before you send out another Tweet; write a comment on Facebook; or post an opinion to an online forum about the need for someone’s ruin, destruction, dismemberment, or death, from the comfort of your air conditioned home or Cappuccino-serving coffee shop, I have a suggestion: Take some time out and visit your local military cemetery — preferably one where Civil War soldiers were laid to rest.

Count the graves. Look at the ages of the occupants when they died. Then think about all the years all those hundreds of thousands of kids didn’t get a chance to live, love, and experience the all-too-fleeting gift of existence that we call “life.” Think of all the families that never gathered for a holiday; the children who were never born; the dreams that were never realized.

Those endless rows of tombstones are not just abstract statistics from history books. They were real people. And they suffered, and they died, because Americans were collectively unable to live peacefully with each other and come up with a compromise to the problems of their time. A pretty steep price to pay for a difference of opinion, wouldn’t you say?

So before you go back to your online hate-rants, or head off to a street protest with the intention of bashing someone’s head in, use that self-perceived superior intellect of yours to think about what you are doing, and where you are going. If we Americans abandon the very traditions that helped bring us into existence, then we are lost. And, this time around, we may not find our way back home again.

We have had our Civil War. We are already an “is.” And the revolution will not be serving Cappuccino.

© 2017 Thomas Michael Caldwell. All Rights Reserved. This written work is not to be copied or reproduced without the permission of the author. Links to this page from other websites is permitted and encouraged.

Sherman's Second March

William Tecumseh Sherman, the Union general who earned both fame and infamy during the American Civil War, decided early on that the coming catastrophe that would befall his nation was something he wanted to sit out.

Sherman was a schoolmaster in 1861. The superintendent of a southern military institute that would later become Louisiana State University. It was a job Sherman liked. And it probably broke his heart that many of the young men whose education he had been overseeing were gearing up for a horror the likes of which many of them could not imagine. But he could.

After the Southern states had begun to secede, the veteran soldier resigned his post, packed up his things, and moved to St. Louis to become the head of a street car company.

Sherman could have lived out the rest of life as an unassuming transit functionary, but it wasn’t to be. When the musket and cannon fire began, the grizzled veteran of wars in Florida and Mexico could not just sit at home and watch it all from the sidelines. If there was to be a fight, he was going to be in it. It was something in his bones — his DNA — that called to him. And he could remain a spectator no longer.

More than a century and a half later, many of us are finding ourselves in similar circumstances. We’re at a point in life where the unwelcome guest of wisdom has begun to settle in, but the conditions of our nation and our world won’t permit us to remain on the sidelines and relax in our respective gardens. History, it seems, is not giving my generation a break. Armies of both the physical and the all-more-destructive metaphorical, are on the march. Some of the soldiers of these legions are professionals, but most are just amateurs who have no idea what they are getting themselves into.

I now know how Sherman must have felt. There were dark clouds on the horizon, but few people were looking to the skies no matter how much he and his kind pointed out the coming storm. It must have seemed like nobody wanted to listen to reason, and that group insanity was becoming the latest fashion trend. Sherman probably wanted to collectively grab everybody he met by the shoulders and try desperately to shake some sense into them.

Unfortunately, for Sherman, and for us, there are times in history where reason is thrown out the window by those at the head of our affairs and enough of their followers to make their plans a reality. Sadly, we now seem to be entering such times again. And those of us who have been schooled in the ways of the world, and its history, are finding ourselves in the same predicament Sherman was in all those years ago. So we are starting to dust off our armor, sharpen our swords, and get ready for what we see in the storm clouds ahead.

I come from that rather strange generation that was in-between the Baby Boomers and Generation X. We were born during the Kennedy years, and our worldview was molded by childhood images of the heights of heaven and the depths of hell that was our world during the 1960s. It was an era where even the youngest were not spared the realities of current events. The turmoil of the times was the constant topic of conversation in our schools and at our dinner tables. There was no place for us to hide. No video games, or hundreds of channels of TV shows to choose from.

But we had books. And it was in those countless volumes many of my generation found the badly needed escape from the realities of our world. It was in the pages of the many tomes we read ourselves to sleep at night that we prepared for the unsure years that we instinctively knew were before us.

It was in this environment that the foundations were laid for me to leave my homeland at a young age; travel the world; become a news correspondent; an adventurer; an entrepreneur; a political strategist; and a student of the many spiritual and mystical traditions that humanity has carried with it during its ages-long sojourn.

I’ve experienced much, and have learned much more. There are many stories to tell. I had hoped to be able to take a breather during the later half of my years and take it all in. But, like Sherman, one is drawn back into the fray if circumstances demand. And today’s circumstances are certainly demanding.

Most of the contributors to the morass of information that now bombards us daily seem to be doing nothing more than rehashing problems and issues we all know exist. It’s just being offered up in different flavors of cynicism directed towards those who think differently or have different viewpoints. An Us-verses-Them of the mind and emotions that offer no way out of our circumstances, and no ideas as to what we should be doing next to head off catastrophe. What I hope to be able to contribute in both the written and spoken word, is a badly needed perspective that is both unique and, I like to think, constructively insightful.

Nobody has all the answers to any pressing issue or problem. Nobody. And if anyone claims that they do, they should either be ignored or locked up as a danger to the Human Race. To find the resolution to something that needs to be resolved, one needs to combine conversation, the exchange of ideas and, most of all, the sharing of observations and perspectives. These are the processes by which sane societies operate, and how great civilizations are both built and preserved.

So, here I am. Back into the fray to contribute that I can to a cause that is still being flushed out and defined. The only certainty is that there is a storm coming. One that has the potential to cause great harm and destruction. But, like all storms, there is a chance many of us will survive what is to come, or even avoid it all together. So long as we keep our heads, our wits and, just in case, our powder dry.

Let the conversation start, and the journey into (hopefully) better times begin.

© 2017 Thomas Michael Caldwell. All Rights Reserved. This written work is not to be copied or reproduced without the permission of the author. Links to this page from other websites is permitted and encouraged.