The World Series and Americanism

Baseball, they say, is America’s favorite past-time. I confess that I don’t pay much attention to it, except at unusual times such as we have now, as the Philadelphia Phillies are playing in the “World” Series. I really wish I could just turn off the television and pretend that none of this is happening, but I can’t seem to help myself. You see, I have very mixed sentiments when it comes to professional sports. On the one hand, it would seem to be a harmless diversion, so long as it is indulged with due prudence. There is also the added benefit, that, unlike the 1993 Phillies team that went to the “World” Series, the players in 2008 are fairly well-kempt. On the other hand, I can’t help but wonder if pride in the hometown team is not a diluted form of a more pernicious civic pride, whereby we find our unity not as neighbors with each other as individuals, but as subjects of the same overlords at Broad and Market Sts.

The truth is probably somewhere in between.

Take, for instance, the absurd, piggish Americanism on display at this (and probably every other) “World” Series. First, there is the insistence on calling it the World Series and on naming its victor world champions. There was a time when this was literally true, but no more. These terms only denote the typical American arrogance in thinking that the accomplishments on this shore are the only ones that matter. And when the Japanese kick our asses in Olympic baseball–in or in the Little League World Series (a real world series), for that matter–we just pretend it didn’t happen. Oh, and by the way, Americans didn’t even invent baseball. File that one in the “Al Gore invented the internet” folder.

If these arrogant allocutions aren’t enough, there is an accompanying ritual of State worship which is dumb, stupid, imbecilic, and, needless to say, in poor taste. I am referring, of course, to the singing of “God Bless America” during the 7th inning stretch. To hell with “Take Me Out to the Ballgame!” That song does not heap due reverence upon the thugs that loot the fruits of our labors in the name of making the world “safe for democracy.” No, you must listen to this stupid song, and you must enjoy it, even if you have a music degree from a major conservatory. Earlier this year, Yankee Stadium management threw a guy out because he tried to use the restroom during this voodoo Statist incantation.

It will not suffice, of course, to have any old citizen with a “good” voice sing this piece of trash. No, it must be a member of the U.S. Death Squad Military, decked out in his or her finest uniform. I don’t know how well these people sing; I always get to the mute button before I can be assaulted with their most-likely poorly calibrated intonation. Last night, perhaps as a joke, the TV crews showed a picture of Independence Hall at the conclusion of this august, holy ritual, as if Thomas Jefferson or James Monroe would approve of all this absurdity.

What’s wrong with a stupid song? Well, first of all, it has been known from the time of the most ancient philosophers that music has a particularly virile power to seduce men into thinking or doing things they otherwise would not do–in this circumstance, worship the USA. In the case of “God Bless America,” however, there is a further consideration. The text of this music is pedestrian in the extreme, and perhaps its vapidness covers up something even more to be regretted: the self-righteous posture of what is purportedly a prayer. The tone of it all sounds something like, “Hey God, bless us and give us more SUV’s, or we’re gonna bomb whichever country you live in and take all yer’ oil.” This is a far cry from those ancient Latin prayers with wordings such as, “O Lord, we humbly beseech thee in thy mercy….”

Because of all this mountebankery surrounding American baseball, I have had plenty of reason to resist getting on the Phillies bandwagon. But last night, on a walk to the store following the game, I got to rethinking all this. Yes, baseball, and other sports, are used as occasions to nakedly worship State power, and many of the partakers of the festivities buy into it. But this would not seem to be an intrinsic part of the activity. Many, I’m sure, just ignore all this stupidity and get along just fine. Moreover, seeing that most people don’t change and never will, we would be left to allowing only Statists to enjoy sports if we were to become too uptight about all this, and that would perhaps be the gravest injustice of all–the idea that only Statists could partake of such otherwise wholesome activity.

The joy on the streets of Philadelphia in the wee hours of Monday morning was palpable. A city which has not had a professional sports championship in 25 years is one game away from breaking the dry spell. Even if many of them are acting like fools and baboons, I have never seen the people of Philadelphia happier than they are right now. This city, which for five or six decades has been a ruinous hellhole of government mismanagement, mediocrity, and disappointment, just might finally have something to be genuinely happy about.

And the fact that such joy would be coming from something other than a Utopian government plan (save for the fact that the taxpayers funded the stadium…) just might be what we need.

Lew Rockwell on non-participation

In the latest online edition of the American Conservative — a magazine I do not read regularly — the president of the Ludwig von Mises Institute lays down the rationale for not playing Empowered Citizen™ this November. His words are reprinted below in full without alteration.

The critical problem we face today is the same one all mankind has faced: the state, those monopolists who claim the right to break the laws that they make and enforce. How to restrain them is the critical problem of all sound political thinking. Making matters worse, this gang now has a monopoly on the money and the ability to print it, and they are abusing that power at our expense.

How does voting change the situation? Neither of the candidates for president wants to do anything about the problem. On the contrary, they want to make it worse. This is for a reason. The state owns the “democratic process” as surely as it owns the Departments of Labor and Defense and uses it in ways that benefit the state and no one else.

On the other hand, we do have the freedom not to vote. No one has yet drafted us into the voting booth. I suggest that we exercise this right not to participate. It is one of the few rights we have left. Nonparticipation sends a message that we no longer believe in the racket they have cooked up for us, and we want no part of it.

You might say that this is ineffective. But what effect does voting have? It gives them what they need most: a mandate. Nonparticipation helps deny that to them. It makes them, just on the margin, a bit more fearful that they are ruling us without our consent. This is all to the good. The government should fear the people. Not voting is a good beginning toward instilling that fear.

This year especially there is no lesser of two evils. There is socialism or fascism. The true American spirit should guide every voter to have no part of either.

If you thought the soup Nazi was bad, wait until you meet the trash Nazi

I’m glad Aristotle has already started posting; his work kept the activity going on this site while I was out of town (no laptop here) for a family occasion. While I was away, I had occasion to be reminded of some items which would probably be of interest to the readers here.

1. Municipal lightpost fatwahs. We freedom lovers relish the opportunity to call out the depredations of the Federal government. Wisdom, however, would seem to compel us to find tyranny also at the local level, even the municipal milieu. In a little place called Penn Township in York County, PA, they have any number of stupid, tyrannical laws.

My favorite concerns light posts. A couple of years ago, an entire residential block received letters informing them that they had all violated the law by failing to turn on their front yard light posts. Apparently one of the local Polizei was bored one night and went looking for these gauche offenders of the Positive Laws of Lumination. I don’t know what the exact terms of the law are, but, if I recall correctly, this law was passed when newer developments were built without street lights. The irony is that even in neighborhoods with street lights which completely wash out the tiny post lamps, the law obtains.

The fine for violating this very important law is an astounding $1000. On what basis such a penalty can be set so high is hard to say. I do not accept the deterrence argument; such an outlook in any case tends to rationalize gross injustices, and in this case, $500 should seem to be sufficient. All of this is besides the notion of proportionality. Even that discussion, of course, sets aside the discussion about whether or not this law is a just one. But forget the $1000. What about private property rights? Where does this little twit of a municipality get off telling people what to do with their property? I know this is only one example of many, but when are we going to step forward to defend the underlying principles of liberty that are being violated?

Alas, most people are too occupied with particulars and peripherals to “waste time” defending principles. The problem is that in letting small matters such as post lamps go, one can end up forfeiting any basis for the defense of human dignity and rights when the stakes become much higher.

2. The trash bag Nazi. This same cursed township has a recycling program. Now, I certainly hold it as an article of faith that the Al Gore-esque global warming fanaticism is nothing more than a false religion. But recycling seems reasonable enough, since it only makes sense to try to get as much out of our limited resources as possible. Recycling programs can therefore be quite good.

Unless they’re compulsory. In Penn Township, they have a trash Nazi who goes around and goes through the trash of the residents to make sure that they haven’t thrown anything in the trash that belongs in the recycling bin. Violations are punished stiffly.

What is more, it will not do to use regular trash bags. One must purchase Penn Township’s special over-priced trash bags. I suppose this is meant to discourage people from having too much crap to throw out.

Serfdom. It’s easy to look at the depredations of the Federal or state government and see how our rights are being curtailed. But perhaps some of the more salient, more compelling, more annoying examples come from the bored tyrants who run local municipalities. Most citizens seem to be helplessly resigned to the existence of taxes, but maybe someday a stupid light post law will fire people up and get them to insist once again on fair treatment.

We can hope, can’t we?

‘They Both Suck’ Campaign Sign Draws Stares

Truth in advertising… a bracingly refreshing concept*.

Campaign signs in support of presidential candidates Sen. John McCain and Sen. Barack Obama decorate lawns across the country, but a man who said he doesn’t support either candidate has created quite a stir with a sign of his own.

“They Both Suck ’08″ reads the sign in Timothy Connors’ front yard.

Connors, who lives in San Marco, told Channel 4 he supports politics but said he doesn’t support either of the frontrunners in this year’s election.

Read the whole thing.

*Leave it to the mass media to get it wrong with the picture… I think it’s pretty clear that Mr. Connors is far from an “undecided voter”.

Memo to pro-lifers: Stop being accessories to evil

Like many children of the Eighties from practicing Catholic families, I attended the National Right to Life March in Washington D.C. (I remember on one of these bus rides, I was exposed to the vulgar wonders of Eddie Murphy’s Comedian album, segments of which I can still quote to this day. But that’s neither here nor there.) I remember the spectacle of it all – marching through the streets of the nation’s capital in the bleak midwinter, visiting even bleaker congressional buildings, making such a show of our pro-lifedness. And then we’d go home, and continue on our merry way. And for what?

Recently I came to the realization that no amount of marching, lobbying or political activism on behalf of purportedly pro-life candidates will change hearts. This election makes that realization ever more stark, where on one side, the socialist candidate wants to allow the murder of infants in utero on a seemingly unprecedented level, where on the other side, the fascist candidate wants to allow these infants to grow up to become practice targets for terrorists in a “hundred-year war.” This article by G. C. Dilsaver reinforces that realization infinitely, and says much more eloquently all that I have sensed about not only this election, but past elections.

This final salvo from Dr. Dilsaver is particularly compelling (my emphasis added):

Dear Christians, refuse to offer a pinch of incense by refusing to punch the ballot for either official Republican-Democratic Axis candidates. Refuse to offer tribute to the gods of American socialism, totalitarianism, and imperialism and their incarnation in the president. Resist participation in this sham election. The USA is the most powerful and hence the most dangerous nation in the history of the world. Its potential for evil is absolutely unprecedented. If there is not a reversion to the constitution then totalitarianism is inevitable. If this reversion does not occur the only hope for our country will be in those willing to give their lives as witnesses to Christ against the antichrist of the State. Whoever occupies the Whitened Sepulcher House this January is a tool of the powers and principalities of this world and of the devil. And all who facilitate the legitimacy of this sham election are, at best, the devil’s dupes, at worst his minions.

I was thinking hard about staying home this first Tuesday of November before reading this — and not just because of the life issues. Try to convince me otherwise.

New Contributor

In order to mix things up here a bit, and in order to improve the pace of these pages, I have added a new contributor to Fragmented Obsessions.  Please welcome Aristotle Esguerra, a fellow anarcho-capitalist and and colleague in the music world.  He is an experienced blogger and currently authors CantemusDomino, a page about Roman Catholic sacred music.  I’m sure his first posts will be forthcoming shortly.

John McCain should probably just shut up

He’d probably see an increase in support if he did–though not from me, of course.  He’s got a great gift:  the ability to see a fault in his opponent but not to see it in himself.  To wit, he says that Barack Obama’s policies are socialist.  Well, so are yours, Mr. McCain.  Both of you clowns think that we belong to the State.  As a matter of fact, I’d be willing to bet that McCain is worse on this point.  Just listen to his tired old crapola about serving the country by being a grunt in an illegal, immoral war (whichever…..just pick one).

Alas, as a free man, I can watch all of this with some sense of entertainment.  People everywhere are getting excited about the differences between two candidates who stand together on the wrong side of every issue that matters, such as whether or not the State should even exist in the first place.   So, while America gets in fist fights over the peripherals, I will be confident that nothing will really change, that theft is theft and aggression is aggression, and that both of these are the essence of politics.

Finding TV’s dumbest show

Here’s an article on TV’s dumbest shows. Surely this must be a tight race. I confess I only watch a few shows, Frasier being my favorite. That one is probably too snooty for most people. It’s frankly what I like about it the most: I get to thumb my nose at all the egalitarian claptrap we constantly hear.

In any case, finding TV’s dumbest show must be a lot like finding the most crooked congressman. I wonder what all this mindless staring at the idiot box does to people. One thing I’ve noticed is that many people are not curious about anything; there is no wonder. In my experience, at least, these same people have a habit of letting the wall-mounted mumbo-jumbo-tron fill their minds with garbage, rather than picking of a book and lifting their minds to greater things.

A friend of mine once said, “Turn off the television and live.” Here, here!

A thought for the day from Albert Jay Nock

I am currently reading Albert Jay Nock’s autobiography, Memoirs of a Superfluous Man.  Reminiscing about his early childhood in Brooklyn, he recalls one of his fellow city-dwellers:

“Another neighbor, a patriarchal old Englishman with a white beard, kept a great stand of bees. I remember his incessant drumming on a tin pan to marshal them when they were swarming, and myself as idly wondering who first discovered that this was the thing to do, and why the bees should fall in with it. It struck me that if the bees were as intelligent as bees are cracked up to be, instead of mobilising themselves for old man Reynolds’s benefit, they would sting him soundly and then fly off about their business. I always think of this when I see a file of soldiers, wondering why the sound of a drum does not incite them to shoot their officers, throw away their rifles, go home, and go to work.”

On learning to stand up straight

I generally have a tendency to think about things too much, and to be too cautious in my decision making. I have, at times, passed up opportunities because of too much risk, or so I thought. In the area of music, which is my profession, this happens a lot. I shy away from projects with indefinite outcomes.

Today, however, I may have turned a corner. During my late night practice session, something clicked in me, and I caught myself being bold, taking the initiative, in a certain way. We have such a tendency to walk around with “the look of the hunted,” as Richard Weaver said, unsure of ourselves, and asking, “Is this right?” or, “What will others think?” I have been plagued by this kind of stupidity for years.

With boldness, however, comes achievement. I got more work done tonight than I’ve gotten done in days. I was operating with less sleep and later in the day, but there it is. The thought occurred to me that our ability to meet our expectations depends upon the posture we take. If we crouch down like the hunted, we will be eaten alive. If we stand up straight and make bold to do something, we have no boundaries.

The first posture is one of safety, the second is one of liberty. Most people do not want to be free, they want to be safe, said Mencken. But only the free will be able to do anything that’s worth a damn. Sure, if things go badly, one tumbles hard, but it sure beats being a cog in the wheel of the “Mediocracy,” doesn’t it?

All of this would seem to advise us to avoid ordinary people. If we spend our time with the fearful and the unremarkable, we too will be unremarkable. It is far better to fill our contact lists with the names of the extraordinary, for the extraordinary man brings out the good qualities of those around him.

F.A. Hayek once remarked that societies which suffer an onerous government are often less virtuous than freer societies. It’s probably true as well that freer societies have more excellent men in them. Indeed, liberty encourages boldness, and vice versa, and liberty also encourages harmony amongst men. And so, if we are free, we can sing along with the Psalmist, Ecce quam bonum, et quam jucundum habitare fratres in unum!

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