Perhaps because I have no political affiliations and adhere to no political philosophy beyond “Please leave me alone,” people feel the need to convert me to their views.
This is especially true of socialist-leaning individuals, the sort who believe in their heart of hearts that government policy should be used to whip the proles into being better people.
My exposure to these evangelical interferers — which is thankfully almost non-existent in the Argentine outback where we live most of the year—typically takes place at dinner parties. Which I guess is logical, as dinner parties are meant to bring individuals together to share views as well as a meal.
Just the sort of opening an ardent aficionado of meddling loves to use in touting the perfect world waiting just over the government-mandated horizon. With the appetizers still warm, the meddlers clamp the proverbial bit between their molars and gallop forth spewing unsupported dogma, bad science, and a double helping of economic ignorance.
Which is why I generally avoid dinner parties. Yet, every so often one is corralled into attending. In my case, sometimes with disastrous consequences.
In today’s edition, I’ll share a few of my spectacular dinner party fails. I suspect many dear readers will have had similar experiences.
We were invited to dinner by mutual friends so we could meet Tom, the owner of a down-scale motel in the Vermont town where we spend our summers.
In order to convince us to join, our friends insisted Tom was a real “character” and assured us that we would enjoy meeting him. To sweeten the offer, they told us he was providing venison as the main course. As I generally enjoy deer, rather than tucking in for a quiet Friday eve, we accepted the invite.
What I remember most about the evening was that even before the much-touted main course appeared, Tom began to pontificate that the high-earners needed to pay their fair share in the form of even higher taxes.
After trying to change the subject, I was ultimately drawn in and tried to explain the failures of political systems based on wealth redistribution and economic disincentives.
Tom, however, was a staunch and vocal advocate of his position on the topic and, doubling down, expressed in no uncertain terms that everyone should be taxed at 90% on every dollar earned in excess of $70,000, with the tax harvest spent for the common good.
Under his regime, I argued, people would have little incentive to make much over $70,000. Combined with the money-for-nothing handouts, the economy would be set up for certain failure, I said, backing up my argument with a long list of historical examples.
“Nonsense!” Tom roared, supporting his views with nothing more than the sheer passion of his conviction. And so it was that the seriously wounded conversation limped into the highly advertised main course. The vibe was roughly what you might expect after finding you had stepped into dog droppings and tracked them across the new living room carpet.
It was about this time that our mutual friend Max attempted to steer the conversation in a more positive direction by innocently chirping up that Tom had found a loophole that allowed him to pay no taxes at all and suggested that maybe Tom would care to share the details.
Despite his ignorance about economics, Tom could see that a trapdoor had sprung open under him, and he blushed and started to stammer. But it was too late.
“Wait,” I said. “Are you telling me that you pay no taxes?”
Shuffle, shuffle, mumble, mumble.
“You just lectured us for the last hour about the inequality of the tax system, and yet you pay nothing? You hypocrite!”
While I forget or, more accurately, have blocked out the words I pounded Tom into the ground with, in the end he got the last laugh.
Max, desperate to once again shift the conversation and save the ruined evening, piped up, “Did you like the deer?”
“It was okay,” I answered, though I thought it was mediocre at best. But maybe that was because the sour taste of Tom’s poor company was sticking to the roof of my mouth.
“I thought it was pretty good. Especially considering Tom found it by the side of the road a couple of days ago.”
“What?! We just ate roadkill?”
“Ah, yes. That’s why we decided to have a dinner party! You know, before it went off.”
Render Unto Caesar
We were invited by relatively new friends for a barbecue. As I found these conservative-leaning folks to be a refreshing change in the otherwise liberal sea that floods Vermont, we accepted.
Shortly after settling in, a glass of wine in hand, we were joined by their neighbor, a military type with a crew cut and gung-ho demeanor. He was retired even though he was only in his late forties, but he filled his days coaching school sports teams, driving a school bus, and otherwise helping out with kids’ programs.
I forget what shifted the conversation from the standard suburbia topics of baseball/soccer/lacrosse/weather—but all of a sudden Sarge, as we’ll call him, became serious and rather agitated. The reason was that the tax assessor had asked to enter his house in order to calculate the amount of property tax he should pay.
“It’s outrageous! I refused to let him in, but he insisted, so I told him in no uncertain terms to get off my property.”
“Good for you,” I answered in admiration for the rare person who takes a stand. “I agree that the government shouldn’t have the right to levy property taxes.”
He looked at me as if I had just passed gas.
“I have no problem paying my property taxes. After all, as it says in Matthew 22:22 ‘Render therefore unto Caesar the things which are Caesar's… ‘But that doesn’t give them the right to come into my house!”
“Well, actually, if they have the right to tax your property based on its value,” I responded, “it logically follows that they have the right to enter your property in order to tally up how much you owe them. Right?”
“Not at all. It is our civic duty to give Caesar his dues, but I’ll be damned if I’ll let some tax assessor into my house!”
“So, let me get this straight. You save up, you buy a house, you make improvements on it, but then Caesar comes along and says you have to pay him thousands of dollars a year in property taxes or he will literally sell your house out from under you, and you are okay with that?”
“Listen, I’m a proud American and per Matthew 22:22, we must render Caesar his dues. What’s wrong with you that you can’t understand that?”
“But can’t you see that in agreeing to allow Caesar to tax your property and confiscate it if you fail to pay up, it’s really no longer your property?”
“I am happy to pay taxes to support this great country! But I’ll be damned if I’ll let the tax assessor come into my house!”
At this point, it was clear to me that (a) further discussion would be useless and that (b) Sarge thought I was a trouble-maker and was probably pondering reporting me to the authorities. So I pushed off in search for a refill to dull my regrets at having been suckered into accepting the invitation.
The Big Silence
This next story was a long time in the making. I won’t bore you with all the details, but for many years I worked with a wonderful woman and had helped her grow in her chosen career. I felt brotherly toward her, so when she married, her husband became like family as well.
However, it soon became clear that just under the surface lurked a raging socialist. Understandable, given that his career in academia involved destroying the ability of young people to think critically.
Yet, for the sake of our mutual affection for his wife—and eventually their child who became best friends with our son—both he and I took pains to skirt around the rocky conversational reefs of politics, economics, and so forth.
But then came the fateful dinner party, quite a large affair with probably 50 or so mutual friends and acquaintances. It was 2008, after the government had announced all manner of meddlesome interventions aimed at propping up the economy during the Great Recession.
Lamentably, the topic of the energetic government bailouts of banks and businesses such as AIG came up. My friend staunchly defended the government’s interventions and thought they should do more. Due to the size of the party and the level of the background noise, our conversation, which took place in the kitchen somewhat removed from the other guests, required us to raise our voices.
My starkly contrasting view was that it would be far better for the long-term health of the economy if the government let the failing businesses fail. Thus, instead of creating a mountain of unpayable debt and passing the problems on to the next 10 generations, the country could quickly rebuild and would be stronger for it in the end.
He continued to argue that the government should interfere in whatever way was necessary to support the economy, at one point saying something along the lines of “The debt doesn’t matter”—at which point, in a voice loud enough to be heard over the background noise, I replied, “You can’t be that stupid.”
In some sort of metaphysical joke, just as those words began to leave my mouth, the entire room fell as silent as a church.
The effect was that my retort to him came out as “YOU CAN’T BE THAT STUPID!” The words echoed through the weirdly silent room, causing every head to turn in shock.
That was the beginning of the end of our relationship, a fact I look back on with a combination of regret and relief.
The town our Vermont home is located in has a large and vibrant Catholic community. While I am not an adherent of any form of mysticism, I have zero issue with anyone who goes for that sort of thing. Provided, of course, it doesn’t involve subjugating women or blowing anyone up.
Given my lack of interest in matters involving theism, when the conversation at a dinner party thrown by a money manager friend of ours shifted toward various anecdotes related to Catholic upbringings, I found myself a tad out of sync.
“Oh, I remember the time when old Father McGillicutty called me into the rectory and gave me a good dressing down for…” That sort of thing.
I exaggerate not at all when I say that the conversation continued in this vein for a full 40 minutes, with each of the other guests sharing anecdotes of their own. Not being a Catholic, I had nothing to add, so I smiled politely as I was treated to apparently funny remembrances of communions gone wrong, shenanigans in the choir box, and so forth, ad infinitum.
Finally, out of nothing more than curiosity, I asked, “Are you all Catholics?”
My question was met with happy nods all around, with the exception of one fellow who piped up, “I’m not. I’m Jewish, but I remember fondly how in my youth I used to play basketball down at the local Catholic Church and how old Father Murphy used to…”
It was then that one of the dinner guests spoke up, I guess to provide some rationale for their shared enthusiasm for the religion, to say that the Catholic church was important in helping to impart morals to the community.
“But is that really necessary?” I asked. “After all, isn’t it the role of parents to teach their children not to steal or lie? Does it really require a church with all the trappings to fulfill that role?”
This set off a long and far more interesting conversation on the nature of morals and ethics of the sort one would hope for when at a dinner party.
But it only lasted until the point where one of the parishioners said something like, “Well, we may have to agree to disagree on how important a role the church has in spreading morality, but I think you have to agree that having a priest as a role model is good for children.”
“Well, there is that little matter about all the pedophile priests buggerin…” I began to point out.
I may still have a scar on my shin from where my wife kicked me under the table.
“THAT’S QUITE ENOUGH!!!” our hostess shouted.
As you may imagine, the conversation then awkwardly turned to baseball/soccer/lacrosse/weather and stayed there until the dinner party ended.
The next day, I bumped into one of the other guests. He said, “While my wife would probably disagree, that was the most fun I’ve had at a dinner party in years!”
I suspect the hosts disagreed, as we were never invited back.
The Nature of Discourse
While I look back on those memories with some regrets and maybe a small chuckle, it seems to me that civil discourse in the United States is degrading quickly. People aren’t satisfied to simply disagree, they are actively antagonistic against anyone with opposing views. Not to pick on the meddlers, but they seem to be particularly prickly.
You can see the state of the union in the movement to erase the past by tearing down statues and changing street signs that some microscopic pods of permanently offended citizenry find objectionable.
The latest narrative, coming on the heels of manufactured public outrage over same sex bathrooms, transgenders in the military, the need to eliminate “white privilege,” and so on, ad nauseam, syncs up well with the tactics devised by supporters of the Frankfurt School.
While ZeroHedge was a bit heavy-handed in editing the article Stephen McBride and I did on the Frankfurt School, the article still effectively communicates how cultural Marxists devised a strategy to bring down a society by attacking everyday institutions and practices that, together, provide the underpinnings of a culture. With the traditional culture in tatters, a new societal order can be introduced.
20 years ago, who would have thought that marriage would come under assault, let alone the cultural norm (and biological imperative) of heterosexuality? Or that being born white would taint a person as a racist?
The latest meme says that if you are a political conservative who supports their president, or who believes in free speech, you deserve to be labeled a Nazi.
The attacks on the societal norms in the US and Europe, in particular, are gaining momentum, with all the attacks aimed at beliefs considered traditional and none aimed at those advocated by the cultural Marxists.
Thanks in no small part to the pulpit-pounding support of the media, the ever-cowardly political class has no choice but to go along to get along. Which means, dear reader, if you think things are going off the rails today, just wait a couple of years—because this slippery slope is headed for full tilt.
We may be witnessing the final manifestation of the Fourth Turning, a period where society goes through profound and often very unpleasant changes.
While it is relatively easy to avoid personal confrontations with the cultural Marxists and the useful idiots who unwittingly support them… starting by being very selective as to which dinner party invitations to accept… in time it will be impossible to avoid the consequences of their steady push toward their version of a perfect world.
In the words of George Orwell…
Every record has been destroyed or falsified, every book rewritten, every picture has been repainted, every statue and street building has been renamed, every date has been altered. And the process is continuing day by day and minute by minute. History has stopped. Nothing exists except an endless present in which the Party is always right.
We didn’t move to a small town in the Argentine outback because we were running for cover, but rather because we love the simpler life, amazing weather, wonderful people, and the low-stress environment that exists outside of the echo chamber of the 24-hour news cycle.
Even so, as the cultural madness deepens, I am increasingly thankful that fate brought us to Cafayate, because as great as America still is, it is quickly devolving into something of a freak show, and a dangerous one at that.
Case in point: Try walking down the streets of any major city sporting a red MAGA hat. Actually, don’t. You would literally be putting your life on the line.
Americans used to take pride in their freedom of speech, but today America is a place where not all political views are welcomed, especially those that argue for what used to be considered traditional American values. The descendants of the Frankfurt School’s founders are winning, and I don’t see how this could turn around.
If you are ever in Cafayate or are thinking about visiting, let me know and I’ll make sure you get the grand tour. You can contact me through my bistro, Bad Brothers Wine Experience, which is where I plan on watching the coming episodes of “The End of America” on the small television behind the bar.
First glass of wine is on the house.
During a recent visit by my mother, we started to talk about the family tree, triggering a search for a useful tool to help us in our research. There are many, for example, genealogy.com, but almost all required subscriptions costing hundreds of dollars a year.
Then I discovered FamilySearch.org, which allows you to tap into the genealogical database the Mormon Church has been building for decades. It is completely free and quite well organized. Plus, it includes access to original source material and even photographic documentation.
You need to be a bit attentive in entering your queries, or you risk creating incorrect branches in the family tree that take a bit of work to undo.
But anyone with an interest in history or their ancestry will find it a fun and interesting way to spend a few hours.
Keeping Catastrophe in Perspective
I stumbled across this graphic on the BBC website. I thought it provides an interesting perspective into just what the end of the world actually looks like.
The reality is that extinction-level events do occur, but fortunately not very often—and when one happens, it won’t come from almost undetectable climate change or overpopulation.
Rather, it will be triggered by a meteor, or a super-volcano, or something else we humans can do nothing about. And extinction-level events don’t happen overnight, but typically over tens of thousands of years.
In other words, don’t worry so much, you’ll live longer…
And on that cheery note, I will bid you farewell until the next issue.
Vermont, August 2017