Monday, August 9, 2010

Ayekha? Where Are You?

"Walking hand-in-hand upon the Mountain,
Weighted down by lumber and a knife,
Abraham remembers Sarah's laughter,
And for a moment, he fears for Isaac's life.
But then he shudders with the wind,
And fills his head with faith,
And struggles for a different point of view.
As he reaches deep inside, to find the handle to that flame--
"Abraham!" G-d screams, "Where are you?"
--Rabbi Joe Black, "Ayeka"
from Leave a Little Bit Undone, 1999

Today is the new moon, and as the sun sets, we enter Rosh Chodesh Elul, the beginning of the month preceding the Holy Days, when we stand before the Eternal and listen to the question put to us--Ayekha? Where are you?
As human beings, endowed with reason and with choice, it is our obligation to discover the principles by which our lives can be lived, and to walk in their light. And because we may make errors of knowledge and errors of choice, we are also obligated to ask ourselves: "Where are you?"
As the summer days' heat yields to the cool winds of evening at this time of year, it seems that the season provokes a dream or a thought that makes me pause, to begin to ask this question. This year there was no dream, no vision of fog and cloud, but one of those "pass this on" e-mails that go around the internet from time to time, that gave me pause. And tonight, the question is not only an individual one, but one that many of us in the Liberty Movement might ask ourselves:

After this year or more of petitioning for redress, of watching our federal government pass legislation that violates our liberty on the most basic level; a year or more of being dismissed and sneered at by the media, and ignored and disrespected by our non-representing representatives--where are we? Do we still adhere to the principles that lit the flame of liberty in our hearts, that caused us to carry signs at the tea parties, and write and make phone calls to our representatives? Or have we given way to frustration and anger because we have experienced defeat after defeat after defeat? And are we willing to turn our backs on our founding principles in order to gain the momentary satisfaction of action that rises from our anger and our pain?

In the stages of social movements, now is the place where we find ourselves at the moment of maximum danger; the place where we are tempted to give up on our principles and act out of despair or violence. But just as the night seems all the darker just before the dawn, so we are also at the time just before our Liberty movement experiences a regeneration of purpose; a renewal of hope and determination that can take us though the crisis to come and into the future beyond.

Being here now, is the time to recall our principles and act on them with determination, and to be the watchman for the morning, calling upon those with us to remember them too. And this is the spirit in which I wish to critique that chain e-mail that came to my desktop this morning.
It was sent by a leader in the local patriot movement, and I do not know the origin of it before it came to him. It was a little scenario intended to divide "us" from "them" by characterizing the "them" in the most ridiculous terms. It was also intended to create a bandwagon of very narrow dimensions in that even some of the readers would become the enemy, and one in which the jumpers-on can drink the strong brew of anger and violent ideation made acceptable with a laugh. And though it purported to be a factual story, in my estimation it is very unlikely to be true. Here is the story:

If you don't know God, don't make stupid remarks!!!!!!

A United States Marine was taking some college courses
between assignments. He had completed 20 missions in Iraq
and Afghanistan . One of the courses had a professor who
was an avowed atheist, and a member of the ACLU.
One day the professor shocked the class when he came in.
He looked to the ceiling and flatly stated, "GOD, if you are real, then
I want you to knock me off this platform... I'll give you exactly 15 min."
The lecture room fell silent. You could hear a pin drop. Ten minutes
went by and the professor proclaimed, "Here I am GOD, I'm still waiting."
It got down to the last couple of minutes when the Marine got
out of his chair, went up to the professor, and cold-cocked him;
knocking him off the platform. The professor was out cold.
The Marine went back to his seat and sat there, silently.
The other students were shocked and stunned, and sat there
looking on in silence. The professor eventually came to,
noticeably shaken, looked at the Marine and asked,
"What in the world is the matter with you? Why did you do that?"
The Marine calmly replied,
"God was too busy today protecting America 's
soldiers who are protecting your right to say stupid
stuff and act like an idiot. So He sent me."
The classroom erupted in cheers!

This story is no literary masterpiece, and I could go through it line by line, pointing out the logical fallacies, and the contemptuous assumptions within. However, there is a larger point to be made, and a bigger question to be asked: What does this piece tell us about those patriots who would agree with this action? Where are they? Where are we?
I did e-mail the patriot leader who sent this to me, and asked him if he condoned the action described above. He replied that he did. I wrote a longer e-mail back telling him why I disagree, and why the thing concerned me. I don't know what he will reply--and though I left the door open for rapproachment, I know that any reply could be defensive or even offensive, because my critique targeted some cherished falsehoods held by certain members of the Liberty movement, and further, urged a consideration of the story in the light of our bedrock principles of liberty--Individual Rights and the Non-INITIATION of Force Principle (NIP).

With respect to these principles, this story is one of failing.

The Marine--a member of a uniformed service who has taken an oath to protect and defend the Constitution of the United States--initiated force against a civilian who was exercising his freedom of speech. If this story had been true we would have seen it trumpeted in the media, because the marine would have been arrested, handed over to the CO of his duty station, and made an example of at Captain's Mast. For a military member in uniform to violate the rights of a civilian is not only a dishonor to the uniform, it is a violation of the Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ). When a person becomes a member of the military, he signs away certain of his civil rights for the duration of the time he wears the uniform. This includes his right to freedom of speech, his liberty (he must obey lawful orders), and his right to a civilian jury trial. IMHO, not only would a marine with such an extensive service record be unlikely to be stupid enough to take the action described in the story, but the person with whom this story originated is ignorant of the role and the honor of our men and women in uniform.

But of ultimate concern to me is what this story is intended to teach those who agree with it. It encourages the idea that it is a good thing to violate the rights of another person, to initiate force against him, because you disagree with his ideas. IOW, it encourages the violation of the rights of those who think differently, who have a different political point of view, and who are exercising their freedom of speech and the freedom of religion. This story encourages the sympathetic reader to deny the principle of Individual Rights, and subtly suggests that if you disagree with that, you are not a member of the club.

If one is defend to Constitution of the United States, one must accept and defend the Principle of Individual Rights upon which that document is based. This means that every person is endowed with the right to life, liberty and property, including atheists and members of the ACLU, and all others with whom one might disagree. The Constitution is a compact by which we agree to not only refuse to initiate force against other individuals, but by which we agree to cede the right to retaliate against one who initiates force against us to the courts unless self-defense is immediately required.

Unlike progressives--for whom the end justifies the means--defenders of liberty cannot use the Alinsky tactics of Rules for Radicals. Liberty cannot be gained by the violation of it; we cannot force people to be free. We cannot violate individual rights in order to restore them.
Further, anyone who has read the MIAC report, or studied the methods of the marxists and progressives currently in power know that they need us to violate our principles, to initiate force, and to give them an excuse to take what little of our liberty is left. They may fabricate such an incident (this is a false-flag), but we should not hand it to them. Surely any one of us is free to tell and distribute such a story as this, but given it's obvious appeal to anger and chauvinism, is it wise to do so? How does it encourage those in the liberty movement who have not been educated in the Principles of Liberty to think about our bedrock principles--Individual Rights and the Non-Initiation of Force Principle?
Where are we? What are we encouraging people to think about and do?
These questions are paramount, especially for those who would be leaders in the Cause of Liberty. We cannot afford to encourage disrespect of our principles within our own movement, and at the same time fight that disrespect from without. We must cling to our principles with the utmost integrity, and be just in our evaluation of those with whom we disagree, and even those who have made themselves the opponents of Liberty.

Every time I receive and e-mail that says: "This is good. Keep it going," it is important that I ask myself: Where am I on this? What principles does this e-mail support? Which of my principles does it violate? What kind of behavior does it encourage? Does it encourage justice and honor? What about respect for the rights of others, even those with whom I disagree? Or does it encourage injustice and the use of force?

I submit that we must be absolutely unyielding in upholding these principles of Liberty, and we must stand firm in encouraging those with whom we work to do so as well. This means respect for the individual rights of every person, in every circumstance, no matter how much we disagree with his ideas or the way he expresses them. And we must not suffer fools who encourage the violation of these principles gladly. We cannot associate ourselves with them, or encourage them lest we lose our stand. In this way we will be worthy of the name "Patriot", and we will uphold the heritage of those great men who pledged to each other their lives, their fortunes and their sacred honor.


Retriever said...

Very good discussion. I have often felt like the Marine (not that I am as brave as him, or have served as valiantly in harm's way as him). But daily I work around people who scoff at G_d, and sneer at believers, and mock the principles and beliefs I cherish. They are at liberty to do so, but since I love my Lord it is painful to hear Him mocked, derided, or hear people claim that He does not exist. It doesn't hurt G_d, but it hurts those who love Him. I've never socked anyone, but I've often felt like it...

The Marine, may have felt in a similar position to Peter in the Garden of Gethsemane when the Roman soldiers came to seize Jesus by force. He could not bear to see it, even tho Jesus did not resist. He cut off the ear of one of the guards with a sword. Jesus reproved him, and miraculously healed the ear. The point is, the message was that it is human nature to want to defend G_d, even tho G_d is all powerful and needs no defending.

My son was taunted literally for years at his school (a therapeutic day program) by the other boys who were all liberal, all agnostic, because he was the only devout Christian, the only conservative. They would bait him by dissing G_d, and he would weep in Sunday School and his teacher would pray with him that he be able to keep his temper, not hit them, not lash out. He managed to restrain himself, but with great difficulty.

I suspect the story about the Marine is popular, tho, because some college campuses now are so full of gutless, hedonistic, anti-patriotic, irreligious types that a battle-hardened veteran might feel mad just sitting in a class.

Elisheva Hannah Levin said...


I want to emphasize that I don't think this story is real. I know too many people in the service to believe that this would be common behavior.

Secondly, I have serious doubts that a professor would spend 15 minutes of class time this way. And if he did, unless he was teaching a religion class--highly unlikely--the students would have cause against him as the syllabus is a contract and universities are taking student concerns about time on task much more seriously these days. After all, students have lots of choices.

In this case--if it were real--student walking out en masse or making a complaint would get the notice of the dean of that college. And if the dean is unresponsive, it is a simple maneuver to get the student newspaper and local media involved while simultanously taking the matter up the chain of command. Even presidents of universities have office hours these days. If the students act on their rights without violating those of the professor they come out looking good in comparison, and if the professor cannot be fired (which is become rare--even tenure does not protect against bad press) then it is likely he will be watched, removed from teaching positions, be passed over for grants, and the inexorable pressure is likely to make him leave.

Which brings me to the point about your son: There is a huge difference between the situation as presented in the story, and the situation with your son. He had no choice about being at school, and he was being harassed. The school had an obligation to put an end to the behavior, and discipline the other students. Nevertheless, it is often difficult to get public schools to get of their duffs and DO something. I ended up taking my son completely out of school due to a similar situation that had nothing to do with our religion.

The point remains, however, that if we decide that this kind of behavior is okay, we are no different than those Moslems who issue fatwa's against those who disagree verbally or in print. This is not the western way, and if we approve this behavior, we lose.

I watch my people being mocked and derided every single day--often by the religious majority, some of whom speak in rather graphic and violent terms of derision against us. But I know that if I begin violating the rights of others--even those whose speech I despise--then I will have no protection afforded by those same rights. It's all or nothing. We must be civilized in the face of derision, or we are lost.

But fortunately, we have the principled stand and the moral constitution to do so, if we keep our heads. I think we have the upper hand in this regard--unless we give it away by approving poor behavior within our own ranks.

We need to read our Kipling:
"IF . . . you can keep your head, when all about you are losing theirs . . ."

Dr X said...


I hadn't read your post, but responded to R's request for reactions to the story itself. I did have the thought that this didn't seem like the sort of thing that you would endorse, so my comments were on the implications of the story itself and not in any way a commentary on your beliefs.

R, I think Christians are very attentive to the insults and sneers of non-believers, but nearly deaf when it comes to the insults non-Christians endure on a constant basis.

I could devote an entire blog to nothing but posts enumerating the dishonest, offensive things Christians say about those who don't share their beliefs. In fact, this story is just such an example. Some Christians will read this story and get their backs up because of a fictional character a Christian deliberately created to insult them. Then they enjoy the fictional beating that's inflicted. But who is actually being demeaned? Not the Christian, the atheist. Somehow, though, many Christians will come away from a deliberately insulting story with the message that they are the victims. That interpretation turns reality upside down because this story is a Christian attack on non-believers. And it never seems to reach the consciousness of many Christians that they regularly engage in an unprovoked buckshot insults directed toward non-believers. They'll go right back to complaining that they are being persecuted without missing a beat.

I wish I could say that such moral sleight of hand were a rare occurrence among Christians, but it isn't. I'm tempted every day to deconstruct one of these stories in my blog, but I don't want to draw any more attention to them than they already receive.

Elisheva Hannah Levin said...

Thanks, Dr. X for commenting here!

Not being a Christian, I avoided that angle--figuring that Christians should admonish Christians. But I appreciate your comments, because the story itself made me wonder how welcome I--a Jew-- am in the patriot community through which this fiction was being circulated.

I really appreciate knowing that most Christians, if they really thought about what was being taught, would not condone this behavior--and I was surprised at the man who did condone it. But he is moving toward the 3%ers, so I am glad we don't have any close ties.

Thanks again!