Monday, July 13, 2009

Waking up with a nice cup of hemlock

So I come downstairs this morning, go to the computer and find a piece of paper propped up on the keyboard.  Laboriously printed in James's big handwriting is:


Thank you, James.  Just what I want to read first thing in the morning.  I can only suppose he found on YouTube a spoof of one of the Thomas the Tank Engine stories, and copied out the title, as he often does.  Though the knives have been disappearing from the kitchen lately.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

The Sarah Palin conundrum

These people don’t hate Palin because of the lies; the lies exist to justify the hate.

As everyone knows, Sarah Palin announced last week that she was resigning her position as Governor of Alaska. Some pundits speculated that this meant that she was "clearing the decks" for a run at the Presidency in 2012, but I tend to agree with Mark Steyn that she's not going to be running for public office herself anymore. As Steyn says, "Occam's Razor leaves us with: Who needs this?"

The news that she'd consulted with Rudy Guiliani just before making her announcement makes me think that she has in mind more of a future like his - he doesn't have to put up with the insane garbage that now comes with "serving the public", and yet he's a respected, influential voice. Why shouldn't she do that? She'd be free to make money, free from the myriad ankle-biters who have all the leisure in the world to set mantraps every two inches and maliciously attack her family at no risk to themselves.

One of the most interesting attempts to analyze the insanity that overtook the Left when they saw Sarah Palin is at Reclusive Leftist, because the writer approaches it from the perspective of a leftist and feminist. She freely confesses that the subject of Palin Hatred is opaque to her, despite her very intelligent attempts to extract the truth from those who have given in to it.
Of course, the first answer you’ll get if you ask feminists why they hate Sarah Palin is that “it’s because she ____” — and then fill in the blank with the lie of choice: made rape victims pay for their own kits, is against contraception or sex ed, believes in abstinence-only, thinks the dinosaurs were here 4000 years ago, doesn’t believe in global warming, doesn’t believe in evolution, is stupid and can’t read, etc., etc., etc., etc.

But none of those things is true. None of them.
The first problem is that the haters have a fantasy figure in their minds. But if this were all, it could be remedied with the facts. After all, we're not talking about illiterates or people in isolated communities with no access to information. They're educated, even highly educated, in metropolitan centers with 24/7 news available everwhere.
But even weirder is what happens when you try to replace the myths with the truth. If you explain, “no, she didn’t charge rape victims,” your feminist interlocutor will come back with something else: “she’s abstinence-only!” No, you say, she’s not; and then the person comes back with, “she’s a creationist!” and so on. “She’s an uneducated moron!” Actually, Sarah Palin is not dumb at all, and based on her interviews and comments, I’d say she has a greater knowledge of evolution, global warming, and the Wisconsin glaciation in Alaska than the average citizen.

But after you’ve had a few of these myth-dispelling conversations, you start to realize that it doesn’t matter. These people don’t hate Palin because of the lies; the lies exist to justify the hate. That’s why they keep reaching and reaching for something else, until they finally get to “she winked on TV!” (And by the way: I’ve been winked at my whole life by my grandmother, aunts, and great-aunts. Who knew it was such a despicable act?)

That, I think, is the crux of the matter: The lies exist to justify the hate.

Much of the rest of the post (and the very interesting comments that follow) try to find an explanation for this phenomenon. Her discussion is very well thought-out and honest, and I think is full of insight, but as she's not a Christian, naturally I would have to say that she misses an essential component in the puzzle. That is the matter of Evil.

Even without a Christian belief, she comes very close to taking a Christian position when she writes
When I first started investigating Palin, I was very relieved to discover that she’s not nearly as nutty as she might be, given that she’s a Christian. I was pleased to learn that she’s not one of those fundies who thinks wives have to submit or that Adam and Eve rode on dinosaurs. She’s not into that whacked-out purity or abstinence-only stuff. That’s good. It’s good that she’s not a nutjob. So…why aren’t other feminists also happy that she’s not a nutjob? Why do they, in fact, spread lies to make her seem worse than she is?
This reminded me immediately of this passage from C.S. Lewis's "Mere Christianity":
Suppose one reads a story of filthy atrocities in the paper. Then suppose that something turns up suggesting that the story might not be quite true, or not quite so bad as it was made out. Is one's first feeling, "Thank God, even they aren't quite so bad as that," or is it a feeling of disappointment, and even a determination to cling to the first story for the sheer pleasure of thinking your enemies as bad as possible? If it is the second then it is, I am afraid, the first step in a process which, if followed to the end will make us into devils. You see, one is beginning to wish that black was a little blacker. If we give that wish its head, later on we shall wish to see grey as black, and then to see white itself as black. Finally, we shall insist on seeing everything--God and our friends and ourselves included--as bad, and not be able to stop doing it: we shall be fixed for ever in a universe of pure hatred.
This is what the fanatical Palin-haters gave themselves over to, and seemingly without reluctance. A few (a very few) of the comments that follow the blog post are from people who fell for the lies and now realize it. They are properly chagrined to admit that in the rush of the moment, pumped full of hysteria and panic that ALL was at stake, they joined the lynch mob. Now they realize that they were used and have returned to sanity. But many others defiantly continue to live the lie, vigorously repelling any contradictory evidence.

As I said, the Reclusive Leftist does a good job revisiting the anti-Palin smears, except for one area - the fury, the rage, that was poured upon Sarah Palin's children and upon herself for being their mother. Maybe it's just as well. Maybe the subject is just too dark and treacherous for anyone without strong spiritual armour to approach without danger. (Howbeit this kind goeth not out but by prayer and fasting.) I know that this is one area that one cannot discuss unless one gives credence to the existence of Evil. If there is any Evil in the world, we saw it there. The rage teetering into insanity - behind the blog posts and articles, I could see the hands of the women who typed the words; their fingers were curved and pointed like talons, venting their fury on keyboards because they could not sink their nails into the flesh of children.

Where did this murderous hatred come from? Because it is so inexplicable, I think it came from a spiritual source - a hatred of God. The scene was almost too perfectly constructed - I might even think that God himself had arranged it, the way an expert cinematographer can arrange light and shadow, colour and perspective to direct the viewer's eyes and provoke a desired reaction.

It was no accident that Palin and her family ARE Christians. As one of the commenters wrote, a similar family standing behind a Democratic candidate would not have provoked the same reaction. The political bona fides of the Democratic family would have reassured the viewers that this was a "safe" Christianity - a tame Christianity, that would know its place and not interfere. But a Republican Christian family was a different thing; this was Christianity red in tooth and claw, and the Left knew it for an enemy. And if there were any doubt, there was the evidence of the youngest child - a Down's Syndrome baby. Everyone knew what the existence of that child meant - the fact that he was alive at all was a testimony to the fact that these people really believed and were willing to suffer for their faith.

Wearing a cross around the neck, referring to God and Jesus in speeches, quoting the Bible - these are all insolent provocations to the easily-provoked anti-Christians. But a vulnerable baby is too much. This stirs up too many memories and associations, and the anti-Christian left reacted with fury, as if by merely bringing him into existence, God had arrogantly intruded into their private lives and challenged them.

G.K. Chesterton, in "The Everlasting Man", wrote about how even our subconscious will turn traitor and let in the intruder God:
...every Catholic child has learned from pictures, and even every Protestant child from stories, this incredible combination of contrasted ideas as one of the very first impressions on his mind. It is not merely a theological difference. It is a psychological difference which can outlast any theologies. It really is, as that sort of scientist loves to say about anything, incurable. Any agnostic or atheist whose childhood has known a real Christmas has ever afterwards, whether he likes it or not, an association in his mind between two ideas that most of mankind must regard as remote from each other; the idea of a baby and the idea of unknown strength that sustains the stars. His instincts and imagination can still connect them, when his reason can no longer see the need of the connection; for him there will always be some savour of religion about the mere picture of a mother and a baby; some hint of mercy and softening about the mere mention of the dreadful name of God. But the two ideas are not naturally or necessarily combined. They would not be necessarily combined for an ancient Greek or a Chinaman, even for Aristotle or Confucius. It is no more inevitable to connect God with an infant than to connect gravitation with a kitten. It has been created in our minds by Christmas because we are Christians; because we are psychological Christians even when we are not theological ones. In other words, this combination of ideas has emphatically, in the much disputed phrase, altered human nature. There is really difference between the man who knows it and the man who does not.
I really think that this is why the rage was so furious and unforgiving; because they felt God ambushing them when they thought they were safe. All the carefully constructed walls to keep Him out failed; it must have felt like a dirty trick, when He got in with a tactic so old.


Dean came to me in a panic this morning, showing me this article on a spreading potato blight in the northeast US! This cannot be happening. The diseased plants (tomatoes, mostly - tomatoes and potatoes are from the same family, solanaceae; you can tell by the similarity in their leaves) are being sold in garden centers! We got our seed potatoes from a grower in Alberta, so I'm sure they were healthy, but a diseased plant in someone else's garden could spread widely and infect our plants. We can only hope that it doesn't get this far north, and the plants sold in Canada were clean before they arrived at the garden centers (that's where I got my tomatoes).

It's all due to the UNUSUALLY COLD AND WET summer we're having, as global warming continues to wreak its deadly havoc on the planet.

This confirms a plan I'd been discussing with Dean last week - to switch away from growing potatoes next year. Maybe we'll grow a small patch of them in the Old Garden, with some bins, but I want to give the New Garden a break from growing potatoes, just to ensure that we don't have any potato pathogens incubating in the soil. They say this is best, and we have grown potatoes in the same place 3 years in a row now, so we're tempting Fate a bit already. I think next year we'll try growing corn - the climate is good for it, since there are cornfields all around Ottawa, and the garden is big enough to allow the large plants. It'll be interesting to try something new.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Potato update

I know everyone has been anxiously waiting for news of how the potatoes have been progressing.  Well, relief is here at last!  Here is a picture of the potatoes growing in their bins, taken last week:

I've been poking my fingers into the dirt, but haven't encountered any actual potatoes yet, but the bins are deep, and I'm hoping the potatoes are further down near the bottom. At any rate, the plants themselves are doing splendidly, with lots of flowers. They should be producing potatoes, but we won't know until we turn the bins over and pour everything out.

Meanwhile, here is a picture of the regular potato patch in the backyard:

This was actually taken a week ago - the plants are bigger now. I finally got the payoff for all the bags of dry, shredded leaves I gathered in the fall and stored in the shed; I've dumped them all along the rows of potato plants to use as mulch. It should vastly reduce the amount of weeding I'll have to do, and it will double as "hilling-up" materials to protect the top potatoes from the sun. I saved over 30 bags, and used just 20 (for both gardens) so I can add more as the summer progresses. In the late fall, I'll plough everything under with the rototiller, and it can rot and enrich the garden.

You may not have noticed, but the New Garden is bigger this year. We decided to rip up more of our useless lawn and dig it up for vegetable gardening. Last year, the garden measured about 30'x10'; this year, it's 30'x19' - quite an expansion! I also had the tree guys come along and trim away all the low-hanging branches of the tree on the north side, to increase the amount of sun getting to the ground. Everything looks much more open now.

Here are a few more garden pictures, from elsewhere around the house:

This year, we invested in proper bark mulch for the flower garden.  Six cubic yards, plus another 2 cu. yds. of blended topsoil - it filled a whole dump truck!  Thank goodness for wheelbarrows; I managed to move all the soil in one day, and the bark mulch over 3.  Now everything looks neat and tidy.  Next year I won't have to buy so much, maybe 4 cu. yds. of mulch, and 3 the year after.  Once you've got a decent base down, it's just a matter of topping up the level, but we had NOTHING, and had to cover the bare dirt, so it took a lot.