Beyond Good and Evil

Dr. Ronnie J. Hastings

Archive for the month “December, 2012”

An Expose of American Conservatism – Part 3

Once more, for a third time, the same sentence from Henry David Thoreau’s Civil Disobedience is partially quoted to help critique the modern American conservative movement — the “it” in the quote, though originally “it” meant the ultra-conservative government in power in the US in the 1840’s:

Why does it always… excommunicate Copernicus and Luther…?

I interpret Thoreau was using Copernicus (the father of modern astronomy) and Luther (the founder of the Reformation) as two examples of exemplary human intellect. Thoreau is accusing his ultra-conservative government of being anti-intellectual, as I am in this third part accusing modern American conservatives of being. I am saying that not only are American ultra-conservatives unpatriotic and non-Christian (An Expose of American Conservatism — Part 1 and An Expose of American Conservatism — Part 2), they are covertly or overtly anti-intellectual, as the conservative movement is replete with minds not so razor-sharp (e.g. Trump, Gingrich, Rove, Limbaugh, Perry, Romney). Any movement that houses people so dense as to actually believe that, say, for example, Obama is a closet Muslim, cannot be considered a drawer full of sharp knives. Just as compiling the three partial Thoreau quotes from the three parts of this critique (which I do at the end of this part) make a complete, accurate quote from his writings, the three thrusts of my critique of conservatism make a nice compatible whole, for no one with half a brain would call the founding fathers misguided (Part 1) nor would they ignore Jesus’ teachings (Part 2).

The “problem of smarts” does not lie with the detractors of modern American conservatism. It lies within the conservatives themselves.

Let’s be clear: we are not talking about formal education and academic degrees. Intelligence is not a function of how many diplomas one has and/or how high the levels of one’s diplomas are. Degrees only give one a higher probability of being intelligent; they do not guarantee intelligence. We are talking about common sense, insight, a sense of personal and collective history, an evidence-based approach to truth, and a personal epistemology based upon reason.

I will list some mental foibles of human political consideration to which I think American conservatives are more susceptible than any other American political stance. Those of high intelligence, the likes of Copernicus and Luther, are not afraid of pointing out these foibles; conservatives must either ignore these problems of their intellectual lives, almost impossible to do nowadays in our heightened state of global communication, or, they must push them outside the circles of their narrow minds; they must excommunicate them from their thinking.

American Conservatives are:
1) Susceptible to political propaganda, even the silly sort. Many American ultra-conservatives recently have believed that Obama is a Muslim, that he was not born in America, that the government is going to take away our guns, and that the government is going to tax our livestock for farting methane. More generally, they seem to be easily victimized by the classic tools of propagandists (logical fallacies) everywhere: non sequitur, red herrings, straw men, quote mining, and bait-and-switch.

2) Prone to the “great man” theory of history rather than the “great idea” theory. They are always in search for the perfect person instead of a person who may not be so perfect, but with great ideas. Of course, finding a perfect person for a leader is futile; they seem blind to that axiom, despite many disappointments over thinking they have found their messiah.

3) Much too prone to believe what people say instead of what people do. They have a hard time dealing with having to scrutinize anything said, written, or published. Distinguishing opinion from fact seems either beyond their capability or beyond their will.

4) Much too prone to accept authority. They are uncomfortable around statements such as: “Just because a priest, minister, teacher, parent, administrator, or group leader says something is so does not make it so.” They don’t seem to realize that Einstein was right not because he was Einstein, but because nature verified what Einstein said about nature. Non-authoritarian disciplines, like science and math, give them “fits.” I remember during the Reagan campaign and administration conservatives actually basing their critique of the theory of evolution upon remarks made by Reagan in a speech, as if he was an authority on evolutionary science. Again, I remember a conservative church member basing his/her view on evolution solely upon what their pastor said about it from the pulpit. Sometimes I get the impression conservatives are lazy in their thinking; it is easier and less bother to accept some authoritative statement than investigate yourself and make up your own mind.

5) Seemingly uncomfortable dealing with the “messy” issues and questions of life. They would rather have an answer, any answer, than have that answer postponed until we gather more evidence and facts. They tend to think in only one dichotomy, as if there are only two sides to every issue; everything is either black or white (no “gray”), right or wrong, this or that. Over and over again you see them making the mistake of thinking that one problem for one side means the other side does not have that problem; just because A is wrong does not make B right. More than two alternatives are seemingly so hard to deal with, they will sometimes avoid other logical alternatives so as to only have to deal with two.

6) Often disdainful of academics, displaying an awful anti-intellectualism without shame. Academics and the academic-minded (you don’t need a degree to be a scholar) are not always right; they are human like the rest of us, but they should not be dismissed because of their educational position; they should be dismissed solely on the weaknesses of their positions. I recall a church youth discussion in a conservative setting one time in which furthering one’s education beyond high school was considered questionable! College may not be for everyone, but that is for the young mind to discover for his/herself, not to be foisted upon that young mind as a dogmatic imperative of avoidance.

7) Exploitive of the gullible and uneducated in the electorate. The conservative rich have the nasty habit of weaving a web of deceit of how easy it is to become well-off from a station of poverty, how easy it is to “live the American dream.” By not being honest with aspiring workers as to what it takes to become wealthy, the rich can become richer off so many self-proclaimed poor conservatives living the impossible pipe dream instead of working toward realistic goals (e.g. getting people to sign off on loans they cannot afford). The American dream is not impossible; it is more improbable than conservatives would like the lower and lower middle classes to believe. If “get rich quick schemes” asking you for a modest investment at the beginning seem too good to be true, they probably are. The so-called Tea Party seems to me an example of the gullible and uneducated in the world of conservatism. Mostly made up of old white males (like me), the party has become a mouth-piece for the rich conservative “fat cats,” making a lot of “sound and fury, signifying nothing.”

8) Often filled with a sense of entitlement, especially when well off. Their money turns them into some sort of elitist, whether it is a member of an “old original” family of our country or a member of the local country club or a powerful politician. They seem oblivious to the fact there is no aristocracy anymore, especially here in America; millions of people have died in history to eradicate aristocracy worldwide — the struggle is closer to completion than ever before. Like everyone else, rich conservatives have to earn respect, if they want it.

9) Seemingly oblivious to the world in which we live; they are oblivious to the changes all around them, preferring to focus on some nostalgic time in the past that was not as good as they like to remember (See Part 1). In other words, conservatives can be plagued with a bad case of anachronism (out of the times). In the 2012 Presidential election, the Obama campaign utilized electronic media and the social internet to identify and contact voters. The election’s outcome showed what a smart strategy that was. Instead of acknowledging they had been out-thought in campaign strategy using the internet, the Romney campaign laced its “sour grapes” with claims of how “questionable” the business tactics of computer companies are. Wow! It was like complaining that the invention of automobiles was robbing the horse business of steel for horseshoes. How out-of-time can you be? Not very smart. No wonder the ultra-conservatives actually thought they had the 2012 Presidential election won!

I think the list could be longer, but that is enough to get this third part across. Summarizing all three parts: Modern American conservatism, especially its ultra-conservative form, is un-American, un-Christian, and not very bright. Why would anyone want to be a part of it?

Here is Thoreau’s complete sentence, which is another, fantastic, succinct way to summarize the three parts:

Why does it always crucify Christ,
and excommunicate Copernicus and Luther,
and pronounce Washington and Franklin rebels?


An Expose of American Conservatism – Part 2

This, the second of a three-part expose, uses the same quote from Henry David Thoreau’s Civil Disobedience used in the first expose, the case that American conservatism is un-American (See “An Expose of American Conservatism — Part 1). Only this time, different words from that quote are used:

Why does it always crucify Christ…?

Remember, the “it” in the quote refers to the ultra-conservative US government of the 1840’s, Thoreau’s day. I am asking the same question of 21st-century American conservatism. The position of this second expose states that modern American ultra-conservatism, and possibly some not-so-ultra-conservatism is not only un-patriotic (Part 1), it is also non-Christian; not necessarily anti-Christian, but basically not Christian, in a heretical sort of way.

Briefly, heresy can be benign, sort of a-Christian, if you please. Once Christianity was defined (for simplicity, let us say it was defined by the Council of Nicea in 325 AD or CE,) a lot of benign, a-Christian modifications (heresies) have come along over the millennia because Judeo-Christian Scripture’s apocalyptic content did not anticipate major events in human history, like the Black Plague of the 14th century, the discovery of the New World in the late 15th century, the Renaissance, the Reformation, the Enlightenment, the Industrial Revolution, the scientific revolution, and the rise of democratic rule. Christianity had to tweak itself in order to adjust to these unexpected changes, but in a way not counter to the definition of Christianity based upon Scripture.

But there have been not-so-benign heresies arise, heresies that became part of Christianity’s record that counter and are in conflict with the teaching found in the Old and New Testaments; certain groups and movements have altered the definition of Christianity over the centuries. Examples are the spread of Christianity by the sword (by Pepin, Charlemagne, et. al.), just as the Moslems did with their beliefs, and the horrible attempts at settling differences on Christian theology by war (e.g. the beginning of The Thirty Years’ War). Another, modern example is requiring believers to disavow the theory of evolution, or disavow all of science, in order to be a Christian. American conservatives are infamous today for attaching their own proviso that one must be pro-life, or anti-abortion in order to be a Christian. Still others are exemplified by the extension of Christianity to include the people of the New World in Christ’s mission, as expoused by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (Mormons). Modern conservative political philosophy has modified the definition of Christianity in the wake of the rise and triumph of modern capitalism; Christian conservatives play dangerously with a non-Christian heresy.

This conservative heresy is not directly Adam Smith’s fault. We have only human nature to blame. In An Inquiry Into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations Smith assumed capitalism and the free market system would be a boost to Christian charity and philanthropy, and, thereby, the humanist teachings of Jesus (the Beatitudes — the blessings in the Sermon on the Mount, the rest of the Sermon, the Sermon on the Plain — all in the Gospels of Matthew and Luke). In other words, capitalism would be in-step with the essence of Christianity. Of course, Smith erroneously assumed mankind tends toward a charitable nature. (This is similar to the erroneous assumption of Karl Marx that mankind can be molded into altruistic servants of the common good.) By the 19th century and into the 20th, the dark side of capitalism had sparked mankind’s propensity to be greedy, and verses of Scripture like the one concerning the eye of a needle and the rich man and similar other verses (Matt. 19:23-24; Mark 10:24-25; Luke 18:24-25) seemed damnably applicable to American capitalism. (Remember, my position has always been that capitalism is the best economic system we have, despite its problems in discussion here.)

What conservative capitalism can do to Christian charity is clearly demonstrated in the character of Ebenezer Scrooge in Charles Dickens’ novella A Christmas Carol. Scrooge’s heart and soul were shriveled to almost nothingness by the pursuit of profit; his greed, which flourished in a world created by capitalism, almost cost him his humanity, his Christian charity. Despite warnings such as A Christmas Carol, American capitalism has taken upon itself, beginning with the post-Reagan conservative movement, the force of religious-like conviction, clothed in Christian wording and symbolism. For a while now, I have half-way expected conservative “pontifications” speaking of Jesus’ portfolio, or that Jesus played the stock market in Jerusalem! Wealth is nowadays seen as God’s blessing, not as chains around the ghost of Marley.

This, then, is the heresy conjured by modern American conservatism — ignore the body of the Gospels and concentrate only on the theology of the Passion week, following the example of the Apostle Paul. (See “Sorting Out the Apostle Paul” [April, 2012]) Jesus’ teachings are no comfort for the rich and greedy, so it is convenient to “sweep them under the rug.” For conservatives, it is better to focus on his crucifixion; by omission, the rich and greedy, in their own way, crucify Him. Hence, Thoreau’s quote above.

It is possible to be rich and Christian; it is not possible, in my opinion, to be rich, greedy, and Christian. Any pretension that Jesus would approve of the behavior of so many modern American conservative capitalists is to me a form of heresy. American conservative capitalists today are often like the Pharisees and Sadducees of Jesus’ day; these two groups were like spiritual Scrooges sapping the humanity out of the religion of 1st century Palestine; remember what Jesus called them?! Like Scrooge, The Pharisees, and the Sadducees, greedy conservative capitalists of today are non-Christian; many are pretenders to the label “Christian;” they are actually wolves in sheep’s clothing — malignant heretics.

I would like to submit a modern paraphrase to the camel/eye-of-needle verse: It is easier for a Ford pickup truck to go through the eye of a needle than for a greedy conservative capitalist to enter the Kingdom of Heaven. Thoreau is once again right: wealthy, greedy, conservatives, motivated only by profit and not by serving their fellow man, are no more Christian — in fact are as guilty as those who crucified Jesus — than Scrooge before he was visited by the ghost of Marley and three other ghosts. May God have mercy on their conservative souls; they are going to need it!


An Expose of American Conservatism – Part 1

This is the first of a three-part critique of the ultra-conservatism so pervasive in the United States since the administration of Ronald Reagan, a conservatism embraced by the Republican Party, a party much different today than it was in the days of Eisenhower.

I have found that the spirit of Henry David Thoreau in Civil Disobedience is in step with my thoughts on the problems caused our country because of the ultra-conservative philosophy of today. The ultra-conservatism of Thoreau’s day (the 1840’s) — the “it” in the following quote — conjured within him a critique reminding me of my own posts on this website. (See “Sticks and Stones May Break Our Bones, But Words We Don’t Know Can Also Hurt Us, or, Jesus Was a Liberalist” (Mar 2012), “The United States of America — A Christian Nation?” (June, 2012), “Throwing a Fit Over Mitt — A Taste of Their Own Medicine” (July, 2012), “Mitt Romney — NOT the Man for President” (July 2012), and Citizens! (1), Citizens! (2) and Citizens! (3))

In my opinion, Thoreau spoke to this first part (Part 1) of  my critique:

Why does it always… pronounce Washington and Franklin rebels?

I maintain that American ultra-conservatism is un-American. The general conservative position, conservative philosophy, if you please, is usually expressed as some sort of defense and/or promotion of the status-quo. The rich and powerful are conservatives because the status-quo is clearly good to them; compared to the Republicans of Eisenhower’s day, the ultra-conservatives of today do not want to spread the wealth and power to fellow Americans, and they do not want to compromise for the good of the American people. In other words, there are fewer of the powerful and rich who are philanthropists and behave toward their fellow beings humanely, fewer than there were back in the 1950’s. Modern ultra-conservatives have given conservatism in general the black eye of greed, interested only in freedom (actually, only in their own freedom), disregarding equality and brotherhood. They seem to turn a blind eye toward or express disdain for the rights, opportunities, needs, and required justice of those in lower economic classes than they.

The conservatives in the days of the American Revolution were the British and colonists who were loyal to the British crown, often called Tories or Loyalists. Our founding fathers were rebels destined to hang for treason if they lost. The ultra-conservatives of Thoreau’s day and today loved and love to think of themselves as patriots just like the founding fathers, but the truth is, as Thoreau succinctly put it, their attitude toward the philosophy of our founding father rebels (progressive, liberal, forward-looking — I like to say “liberalist”) is the same as that of the British, the Loyalists, and the Tories. The ultra-conservatives are not patriots; they are 19th, 20th, and 21st century versions of Tories and Loyalists. The likes of Washington and Franklin, could they somehow see today’s latter-day versions, would probably not object to these non-patriots being “shipped off” to Canada or the UK like the Tories and Loyalists of their day who did not want to stay in the wake of the Revolution.

To be a patriot, a citizen, is to change the status quo, to not be a conservative, for there has been no status quo in our country wherein liberty, equality, and brotherhood are equally balanced for all citizens for any extended period of time. Look at it this way: The only time one would rationally want to “set the situation in concrete” is if the situation was perfect and complete — if we had finally reached Utopia. One glance at the gridlock in our Congress and the mal-distribution of wealth in our nation today immediately shows how much more is to be done socially in this country, despite the fact “we have come a long way, baby;” today we enjoy the closest we have ever been to universal suffrage for all those over a minimum voting age. Until we get it right for all citizens, our political philosophy should never center around defending and promoting some status quo.

Too many people today think that our Constitution established a new status quo in the place of the old status quo run by the British. Yes, they defined a new form of government, but that definition was not “set in stone;” that is, it was not defined in some kind of static state. Rather, the new government was conceived as kinetic, organic, flowing, ever-changing with the ever-changing conditions in which our nation finds itself. The new form of government not so much replaces the old, but, rather, assures that the old never returns with its old problems. Instead, the new form of government anticipates the need for new posturing to meet new situations and problems presented to it by the future, while, at the same time, not compromising the high ideals that were the guidelines for the framing of our Constitution. (Again, these ideals are summarized by life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, or, liberty, equality, and brotherhood, or, in French, liberte, egalite, and fraternite.)

The political philosophy of our country, therefore, was and is committed to change; no situation is expected to not need some work and tweaking toward closer approaching liberty, equality, and brotherhood for all citizens. Conservatives traditionally drag their feet in the face of change, citing things like, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” Is there anything in our society that isn’t “broken” in some form? Does not every aspect of our government fall short of coming up with the absolute best and perfect solution? We can always do better. To defend the status quo in the US, claiming there is no need for change is an extremely myopic ignoring of one’s setting. Little wonder ultra-conservatives are described as blind and deaf to facts, with their cranium placed beneath sandy substrates like a fabled ostrich or crammed up a particular orifice of their anatomy! (Or as those who have “drunk the Kool-Aid” — for those who remember the Jim Jones reference.)

As hard as it is for conservatives to swallow (“Kool-Aid” is much easier for them.), history has summed up the United States of America as a social experiment guided by progressive, liberal (I prefer “liberalist”) principles. From its beginnings with The Constitution, the US is an organic, ever-changing flux of humanity promoting idealistic liberalist principles toward building a better future for all citizens (not for just a few), not a group of backward-looking traditionalists attempting to conjure the return of some mythical Golden Age that never existed.

In my correspondence with conservatives of my generation (“Baby Boomers”), there is often longing for the days of our childhoods, the days of the 1950’s, the days idealized by TV shows like “Father Knows Best,” “Leave It to Beaver,” “Happy Days,” or “The Andy Griffith Show.” I agree with them: I loved all those shows, but growing up through the decades has reminded me that those days were in reality not as great as we like to remember; I think all these conservatives commit the same oversight I do about my childhood days: I tend to remember mostly the good stuff. My conservative friends tend to forget things like polio, school segregation, the tyranny of the fear fostered by the Cold War, restrictions on what a citizen could own (like precious metals, a telephone, etc.), racial prejudice by whites against African-Americans, Hispanics, and Asian Americans, poll tax, lack of air conditioning, lack of modern kitchen appliances (like microwave ovens), and lack of modern medical care. Moving on in time, they tend to forget from the 1960’s and ’70’s the tyranny of the military-industrial complex, our I-A draft cards, the KKK, the Black Panthers, campus riots, burning of downtowns of major cities, assassinations, struggling for an Equal Rights Amendment, resistance to contraception and to the right to abortion, and a President who behaved as if he was above the Law (He was thereby a criminal.).

[I will insert parenthetically that one reason I think that “Happy Days” is my favorite from the TV list above is that it, of course, was filmed way after the 1950’s and eventually in its run dealt with some of the social issues of those days that conservatives tended and today tend to forget.]

This is not to say conservatives of my generation think everything of our past was good, nor is it to say that we liberalists think everything was bad. In fact, there was so much good in my childhood growing up in Cisco, Texas, I cannot describe it overall with anything other than the word “happy.” It is to say, however, that conservatives tend to overlook how all the “wrongs of the past righted” listed above have gone a long way to make today the best time to be an American ever. The “righting of these wrongs” are by definition the progressive, liberal changes resisted by conservatives over the decades. We saw how ultra-conservative resistance to change led to a retrograde policy of “going backwards” in fiscal and social issues in this country — a return to the “bad old days” for most citizens, as embodied in the planks of the Republican party platform in the last Presidential election. To be fair, not all retrograde returns in policy are bad (e.g. the repeal of Prohibition and the potential return to the Clinton tax rates), but the overwhelming majority seem to me to be very undesirable, else they would not have been changed in the first place.

There is no “status quo” worth preserving or hankering for — only a perpetual need for change.

The changes wrought by “righting” the list of things in my lifetime as well as the changes of things not listed above, all in my lifetime, divided by my age would give an average of about a change every three years or so, if considered linearly, but we are all familiar that the rate of change of change (a second derivative with respect to time, for those of you who “speak calculus”) is non-linear, possibly exponential; in other words, I have seen more changes in my life lately than I did when I was young. This is the world in which we live; I am communicating over a social internet unfamiliar to most about five years ago. Think of what the next five years are going to bring!

Like the Republican Party in the last general election of November 2012, conservatives are “out of touch” with the changing world in which we all live. A political philosophy “circling the wagons” around some sort of perceived “status quo” keeps them clueless, especially those who are ultra-conservative. And if we assume for the most part those who voted for Mitt Romney were and are conservatives, that means it is possible almost half of Americans are uncomfortable with their changing world; at least the ultra-conservatives of that half seem to be. This, in turn, means that the vision of our founding fathers has failed to reach almost half our electorate, even here at the beginning of the 21st century!

The birth of the United States of America was a revolutionary break away from the philosophy of conservatism; its political philosophy should be more in step with the prevailing views of its founders, the “rebels” Washington, Franklin, (and I would add) Jefferson, Adams, Madison, Monroe, and Paine, views rendering us ready to cope with the changes we face in the modern world; such an “in-step” philosophy is not today’s American conservatism.


To Those Worried Their Town Has Voted Wet – It’s Going to Be OK!

This is a “letter of love” to the citizens of Cisco, Texas, the small west central Texas town in which I grew up, and grew up “dry,” as dry as Cisco. This is not to change anyone’s mind on the issue of wet/dry, whether of Cisco or not; it is merely the sharing of what happened to my present home town, Waxahachie, Texas, on the issue of wet/dry. It is also meant to conjure thought upon the issue I’ve not seen considered all that much beyond the boundaries of moral emotion. In the end, I hope the anxiety surrounding the issue will be somewhat eased.

Discussion on this matter is often not very forthcoming, which is a shame. I also hope this serves as an example of how wet/dry discussion can be had without argument fueled by moral judgement. Perhaps this can also be an example of how a community can avoid an issue such as this from being divisive, turning the town into two feuding, non-communicating camps. I would hate divisiveness such as that to happen to “my” beloved Cisco.

Like Waxahachie a couple of years ago, or thereabout, Cisco recently voted wet, wet for the first time in my lifetime and, as far as I know, for the first time going back to the generation of my grandparents. Waxahachie’s change was the first since the first decade of the 20th century. In both cases, I think, it means businesses can sell both wine and beer, as well as eating establishments granted a liquor license selling alcohol as part of their menu. At stores selling alcohol, like grocery stores and convenience stores, no consumption is allowed.

The streets of Waxahachie, since voting for the sale of alcohol, have not run red with the blood of victims of drunk drivers. Accidents involving DWI have, if anything, gone down because fewer people are driving intoxicated, as they now go home from their local store with their purchase and consume it there. For the most part, the bars at the restaurants practice vigilance and restrict drivers as to how many drinks they have. After the vote in Waxahachie, a source of mine in the Chamber of Commerce said revenues from sales tax to the city jumped over a factor of two.

You see, the sale of alcohol is a matter of community economics, not community morality.

I grew up being taught there is something bad or evil in drinking. Like my friend Ruth Schaefer of Cisco, I saw as a child within my own extended family the tragic effects of alcohol abuse. Evidence points to the fact I have Native American ancestry (Eastern Cherokee), putting me possibly at risk of alcoholism, should I choose to drink. Yet now, I write posts on my website entitled “Beyond Good and Evil” articles like Things I’ve Learned at the College Street Pub, Waxahachie, Texas (April, 2012). How come?

Suddenly I’m talking of personal experience. That’s because drinking is a matter of personal taste, not of good and evil. The problem is: drinking alcohol, like all tastes — favorite sports teams, music, and eating — can be abused; like any drug, alcohol can be abused, as, like so many drugs, it can be addictive for so many people and/or it can lead to behavior that can harm or endanger the drinker or others around the drinker. Each individual must confront his or her decision to drink alone; no one can do that for the individual. This is exactly like every person deciding on what his/her tastes should be, whether to drink or not, whether to smoke or not, whether to like sports or not, whether to like this or that music, and whether they need to watch their weight or not.

A lot of people want drinking to be a moral Christian imperative, as if Scripture teaches us the evil of alcohol; I remember that message a lot when I was young sitting the pews and sitting in Sunday School. But drinking being anti-Christian is such a crock of you-know-what. Biblical times, the setting of the origin of Christianity, were times in which alcoholic drinks were the safest thing to drink; Jesus turned the water into wine, as it was probably safer than the water. (Nothing like alcohol to take care of nasty microbes in consumed liquids.) Calvin, one of the leaders of the Reformation and the founder of Presbyterianism, suggested the best place for him to “spread the word” was in drinking establishments of Geneva to listeners over a glass or stein, but the town fathers, unlike so many city leaders of today, did not think that was a good idea. Bottom line, the Bible teaches against drunkenness, not against drinking per se, against the abuse of drinking alcohol, not against the alcohol. In other words, in the Bible, drinking alcohol, like so many other activities, is a matter of temperance. [Lev. 10:8-11, Prov. 20:1, Prov. 23:19-21, Prov. 23:29-35, Hab. 2:12-17, Luke 21:34-36, 1 Thess. 5:6-7]

I learned that “tee-totalers” in Christendom are, because of the points of the above paragraph, a very tiny minority; most adult Christians around the world drink. The Eucharist, done “properly,” normally means using real wine. I would hazard a guess that those denominations like the one in which I grew up, preach total abstinence from alcohol consumption because historically they were made up of families susceptible to higher-than-average numbers of cases of alcoholism.

Like all personal tastes, a person just reaching the drinking age, or an adult suddenly surrounded by opportunities to buy and consume in his/her newly wet home town, must, it seems to me, consider the pros and cons of drinking. Think about it, and talk to willing others about it. In the end, you make your own decision, taking the responsibility of that decision upon yourself. Like my selection of music, my decision to drink was not made upon religious, family, political, or moral considerations.

One always has the right to never drink, and, if the will power is strong enough, stop drinking at a point in time and never drink again. Charles XII, king of Sweden, it is said, went from a drunkard to a convinced “tee-totaler” overnight to please his sister, who was disappointed in him because of his alcohol abuse. If alcoholism is rampant in your extended family (native American or not), my advice is to take the choice not to drink; if your self-restraint and self-control need a lot of improvement, this choice is probably for you. If you cannot fathom risking harming your liver (sclerosis of the liver) over a life time of drinking, then either do not drink, or, do as I did — do not start drinking until later in life; I did not start until I was in the final twenty years of my full-time teaching career.

If you are a convinced “tee-totaler,” please consider doing me this favor: do not judge others if they drink. One of the disappointments I see at the all-school high school reunions at Cisco are self-righteous people with whom I attended school shunning association and communication with their classmates because those classmates have chosen to celebrate with beer and/or wine. Such self-righteousness reeks with pretension that hides inner weakness and fear. Besides, I would prefer spending time with all my drinking friends rather than with the non-drinking ones who morally judge others; the former are much more fun than the latter! And I can help make sure those fun friends who “party” too much make it to bed down safely for the night; it is the least a true friend can do.

Once you reach the drinking age, and you decide you want to drink, consider postponing starting until decades later; should you not postpone, and medical problems develop because of your drinking, just like smokers you must take responsibility for possibly shortening your life. If you have had experience and you know you are what is known as a “bad drunk,” as opposed to a “good drunk,” drinking is probably not a good decision. My son is fond of saying that a person is not going to do anything under the influence of alcohol he or she would not do sober, so, if this is true, you can tell if you would be a “bad drunk” or not without even drinking; ask your friends — they will be honest with you if they are good friends. Personally, I do not like to be around “bad drunks;” they are for me the persons I would never befriend anyway.

If you decide to try drinking and you are a person worried about what others think of what you do or say, and/or, you are far from a risk taker, drinking is probably not going to improve the quality of your life; try developing other tastes. Say you have decided to drink: be always cognizant of your risks — susceptibility to alcoholism, harm to your liver, negative reactions from the self-righteous. What are the advantages of deciding to drink? Those, by contrast, are usually individually discovered, and, certainly, if you do not discover any in your experience, then, for your own sake, stop! But most people do discover advantages that mean something to them and to friends at the “waterholes” of like experience. For me, I enjoy the taste of beer, not wine or liquor. I drink brews because they taste good to me, and I like to try different tastes of beer from all over the world. Most new drinkers discover they are either beer or wine, like either dog lovers or cat lovers; a few like both, maybe even including liquor. But, in my case, I found out the hard way soon after I started that I could not handle distilled spirits (whiskey, tequila, etc.) and I do not like the taste of wine. So, ironically, I am a convinced “tee-totaler” when it comes to liquor, wine, and wine coolers. Margaritas, mixed drinks, and other cocktails have little or no appeal to my taste; I am a beer drinker, period. But I respect the tastes of others in alcohol, and never argue about what others should or should not drink — it is a matter of personal taste, like music and the opposite sex. And, I discovered, gratefully, that despite my ancestry, I am not susceptible to alcoholism.

I love the effect drinking beer with others has in conversation; my inhibitions are naturally low, even when sober, but beer often lowers those in others. Ideas flow more easily; people who are “good drunks” are funny and hilarious; in the words of the Beatles, “a splendid time is guaranteed for all.” Many “open up” for a cathartic experience; psychologists are not needed. For me, it is all worth the health risks, especially when I started so late in life.

Moreover, it is now known that alcohol in moderation, 1 or 2 beers or a glass of wine a day is medically good for you; it helps keep your blood vessels unclogged. It is one reason why countries like France and Germany do not have near the cholesterol problems we do here in the US.

Have I always been responsible in my moderation? No, but it has not happened very many times over the years, and I have never put myself in a situation where I am a danger to myself or to others around me. I apologize for any public or private embarrassments my lack of moderation may have caused others in my presence, but, then again, my life is replete with times I’ve made a real ass of myself while stone cold sober; how different is it when I make an ass out of myself when not so sober? I understand the concept of “social drinking” and understand its pleasures and risks. So far, I have not regretted the decision to partake of the fruit of the grain and hops, and, of course, I hope and pray I never do. (As to what beers I prefer, see Things I’ve Learned at the College Street Pub, Waxahachie, Texas (April, 2012).)

As new opportunities to drink appear in Cisco and other places due to recent vote on local resolutions, a little summary of the situation is good to remember: If you decide honestly, you cannot make a bad decision. Should you decide that drinking is not for you, good choice! Just don’t “look down your nose” at those who do choose to imbibe; abstaining from drinking alcohol affords no one any higher moral ground. Should you decide that you would like to try drinking the form of alcohol that suits your taste, good choice! Just develop the habits of moderation and the use of a designated driver when drinking at public places or driving home; be responsible and safe. Both good choices should respect the views of the other side.

I’ll wrap this up with a couple of economic advantages a wet community like Cisco has over a dry Cisco.

a) All along I-20, eating establishments, unable to serve alcohol with their meals, have come and gone, save Pizza Heaven and the new Chicken Express; Cisco does not have a nice restaurant which travelers on Interstate and locals can regularly patronize. A good restaurant franchise, like Chili’s or Applebee’s, simply will not set up shop in a dry town; it is not economically feasible to do so. The Cisco Chamber of Commerce has pointed out that the town has a prime site for such a restaurant — the intersection of I-20 and 206 at the west end of town, where the White Elephant used to be. The recent vote may allow for a Chili’s or Applebee’s or some such to do a great business there and at other sites; travelers will stop at a restaurant name they recognize; they are looking for a sure thing more often than for an eating adventure. Think of the jobs available for local professionals and for high school and college students at such a great business.

b) Those of us who own property both inside and outside the city limits of Cisco (I understand property owners living on outlying farms and ranches got to vote on this issue this time.) might well expect a break from the rising property taxes giving us so much concern, given the increased revenue intake from alcohol sales.

I have seen the advantages of a) and b) in “Waxahachie” terms here.

Hope all of you in Cisco who decide to imbibe under the new situation are not “bad drunks.”  Hope I can join you in future at a public place or two inside our beloved town “bending elbows” and sharing Cisco stories. At the very least, I look forward to every time I visit Cisco not having to drive to Putnam or Ranger for my “brewskys.”


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