Friday, January 29, 2010

Home Town Heroes

It was too late by the time anyone had called the fire department. That can't be changed and one man is dead in a house fire, the tragedy for his family and loved ones irreparable.

I get an e-mail from my home-town paper and the headline caught my eye. Small, small home town, everyone knows everyone... certainly I used to. It was a long time ago. I quick clicked through and skimmed until I found the name. Not familiar. Thank goodness.

And then I read more carefully.

The call came at 12:30 am. Someone driving by saw the farm house in flames. My childhood is full of memories of the daily noon siren that could be heard for miles around. It would raise into a wail and then die off again. Other times it would wail on and on, eight times or nine. And the men would stop what they were doing and get into their cars and trucks and rush to the fire station to go to fight the fire. They even came to our farm once, when a trash burn got away from us. My mom, who was responsible for the blaze, made cookies and lemonade for them.

It would have been different men that night, but in a sense the same men, too, who went out to fight that fire. January in Minnesota... it wasn't quite 20 below zero. There was a stiff wind but no one counts wind-chill. The news article didn't even mention it. It was a battle to keep the pumps and hoses working in the cold and the men had to work in shifts to keep from freezing. The fire department from the neighboring town, the one big enough to have a news paper and paid fire fighters, more trucks and more pumps, came to help.

It was only ever a battle to keep the blaze from spreading, to contain the fire and put it out. It was dawn before the last ember was cold.

And somehow it seems to me to be even more noble, more heroic, to do something so difficult, to battle both the killing cold and the fire through-out the night, to persevere knowing from the beginning that there was no victory. There was no hope, only duty. Only duty and what is expected of men.

We lose too much when we forget what people are capable of, what ordinary people consider themselves capable of and what standards they hold themselves to.

Sometimes the minimum standard is being a hero.

And this is why true heroes never think they did anything special.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Free Speech - Is the Constitution about Fairness?

If this isn't dug out at the roots we're not going to get very far defending even something as basic as freedom of speech.

The roots, the foundation of the rot, is in the notion that the purpose of the Constitution is fairness rather than freedom.

You know, actually... it's pretty close to exchanging some feel good "What would Jesus do?" for study of scripture and doctrine. (I know that some people think that's useful, but it's *lazy*.)

What the Constitution actually says, matters. Liberty and freedom actually matter. The defense of our liberty matters. But people have become lazy. Instead of adhering to the words and principles that are there they've exchanged it for what seems fair or sounds right. If something isn't *fair* then the Constitution can't actually mean that's the way it's supposed to be, right?

Wrong. Lazy and wrong. But that's what we've seen over the last how many years beginning with laws criminalizing speech as hate crimes, or criminalizing and punishing the expression of wrong thoughts on campuses... anyone paying attention has heard the earnest claim more than once that... "Free speech is not offensive speech."

Of course it is.

No speech is free if only approved speech is allowed.

And now with this... it's the *fairness* principle, and now it is that "free speech" requires shutting everyone else up so you can be heard. See... if other, perhaps louder, speech is going on that isn't fair. So those voices have to be silenced or our speech isn't free.

Maybe someone can be more pithy and direct than I can about this... the errors are three... "The Constitution is about Fairness and not Liberty." "Free speech is not offensive speech." and "Free speech requires silencing louder voices."

It's tempting to just blast people for being idiots, but political dialog and thought has been so shallow and our lives have been so comfortable that no one really knows in their gut the value of Liberty. So they need to be told. Not just that the three errors I mentioned are wrong, but that free speech and liberty have a purpose worth the discomfort.

Push back, but educate as well.

Speech can never be free if only approved speech is allowed.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Human Target

I'm watching this on So far it's fun and I think it's got some really great potential. I don't know where it normally airs.

I will say that the musical score and particularly the opening theme song sucks. Maybe something rocking would have been a bad choice, but they've gone orchestral.

The rest though... enough fights and action to make me very happy. And I like the three principles very much, at least so far. The main character is really attractive, but I think I like the computer/corporate specialist better. So far he is really my favorite. I really like what has been shown of each of their characters and struggles and their interaction. And also, for what it's worth... I like that they are all guys.

Now, that may be because this is supposed to be a guy show, but I like that they didn't feel like they had to have a female partner. At least not yet. For female guest characters they've had a high-powered engineer hard-core application of hard-science builder of really big machines, a world class computer hacker, and an assassin... and I thought they were played well, and portrayed well.

(I also rather like the guy/buddy aspect of "White Collar". As much as the common wisdom is that women get no starring roles in Hollywood, the fact that a show starring two men seems shocking suggests that it probably isn't as true as believed.)