Look, it’s increasingly easy to find three things a week in this tired old world that annoy me to no end. Turn on the news, pick the first three stories they cover, and I’m probably annoyed about each and every one of them.
This week, though, is an oddity. Being in the midst of burning off a tranche of vacation time, most of the noise has faded into the deep background. I’m getting up, drinking my coffee, spending quality time with the critters, reading a bit, cooking, and fiddling around with a few minor projects around the house.
At least for the last few days, I’ve created a happy little bubble here and thoroughly enjoyed staying in it while whatever is going on “out there” stays out there. For these few moments, I’m not annoyed by a single damned thing in the world… except the certain knowledge that this particular idyll will soon enough come to a tragic finish.
And that’s far worse than the combination than any other three things I can imagine.
Muhammad Ali was a world class boxer. That’s indisputable. He was also a draft dodger and embraced an organization known for their extremist ideology. Heroic figures deserve heroic flaws, I suppose. What’s struck me most, though, is that in the coverage of his death I’ve heard at least 647 times that he was a “citizen of the world.”
I’ve always been a bit bothered by that phrase. Some of my favorite places on the planet are far from our golden shores. Although I have an affinity for the close at Salisbury Cathedral or the spectacular blue waters of the Caribbean or Rome’s ancient Forum, I don’t think I could ever consider myself a citizen of England, or Barbados, or Italy – and certainly not all of them.
While it’s impolitic to say such things now, I’m an American first and always – a Citizen of the United States born of the blood and of the soil. As whackadoodle crazy as we can be nationally I can’t imagine a circumstance where I would want or seek any other… and if anyone has the audacity to challenge that once I’m dead and gone I will find a way back and haunt them to the end of their own days.
Being engaged is important. Knowing about the wide world is important. Having an educated interest in events beyond our own farms and cities is important. But I’ll never be ashamed to hold myself apart from those other places. I will never confuse my interest in the world with my true loyalties. If that makes me an anachronism in the modern age, well, I’m sure I can live with that.
From the Pentagon today, POTUS commented that “Ideologies are not defeated with guns but better ideas and more attracting and more compelling vision.” It’s a nice sound bite. It also has, at it’s core, at least a kernel of truth. The United States and her allies rolled back fascism and communism in the 20th century in part because democracy tends to be a far more appealing rule set for most people.
That being said, though, we should probably note that it took one hell of a lot of guns to make that vision a reality and shove the Wehrmacht off the Norman beaches and chase them back across the Rhine to destroy their ability to carry on the war in the German heartland. It took a massive stockpile of nuclear weapons to just barely keep the peace in the second half of the past century. It took a vast (and extraordinarily well-armed) navy to maintain the sea lanes for global trade.
Democracy may not take root from the tip of a bayonet, but bloody history has proven that it virtually never gets carried forward in any other way. We’ve certainly got a more compelling and attractive vision than some wannabe throwback to the 8th century, but if we’re afraid to crush that ideology into tiny bits and then salt the earth from which it sprung, we’d might as well send off a note to the enemy and ask if they’re ready to just hug it out.
The wellspring of modern civilization is under daily assault and if we continue to do nothing other than talk a good game, well, I’m not sure we even has such a compelling national vision these days. Without a real vision for what the world should look like and the firepower and willingness to back that vision up, we’re just whistling past the graveyard of fallen world powers. As for me, that’s company I’d prefer not to be in since we can avoid it.
Not long after I finished putting the finishing touches on What Annoys Jeff this Week, I realized that today is Wednesday. It feels vaguely like that may end up as the rare “4th thing” this week. With one written and reasonably well edited blog post in the barn for today, you can imagine my level of interest in ginning up another one on what is essentially no notice. Although it does happen from time to time subject to the demands of late breaking news, turning one around because I was too dense to count the days of the week doesn’t happen very often. In fact I wish it wasn’t happening right now, because then I’d be off tending to other things.
I could have gone ahead and made a one time only adjustment and run with what I had on Wednesday instead of Thursday, but after 2+ years it’s a rhythm I feel hard pressed to break now. Therefore, instead of something well reasoned, or dare I say even entertaining, you’re getting a fly-by-night fill in post in hopes that it will pass as good enough for Wednesday. It probably will. For all its vaunted status as the middle of the week, Wednesday still strikes me as the point where people are too worn down to pay all that much attention to anything that isn’t their deep, longing desire for Friday to be here already.
You know it’s interesting… There are a metric crapload of things going on in the world that are worth commenting on, even if it’s just in passing. The older I get, though, the more difficult I find it to make myself be interested in those things. Maybe it’s just advanced cynicism setting in or a decreasing level of tolerance for bullshit, but more and more often it feels like the world just being the world – messy, chaotic, and headed directly to hell in a hand basket.
Or I could just be busy enough tending my own garden to give a good damn about what new asshattery is lose in the world on any given day.