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Fort Hood Rampage

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The news coming out of Fort Hood is shocking. Soldiers killed and wounded by one of their own. My heart goes out to the families and friends of those killed and wounded. No words can console them; they are bereft.

Tomorrow the pundits and analysts will start in. We will hear again about the need for gun control legislation and about our Constitutional rights. Major Hasan’s motives will be examined, and some will wonder why no one saw him as a threat. There will be proposals to beef up security at our military bases. Some of the proposals might even do some good. Some will seize on Maj. Hasan’s evident Muslim faith as a probable factor. Others will point to the majority of Muslims throughout the world who just want to live and let live.

No matter what comes out, however, about Maj Hasan’s motives, we should keep two facts in mind: We cannot guarantee anyone’s safety, and we don’t want a society that values safety above freedom.

We certainly ought to take all reasonable precautions to protect our service members. If we can prevent a recurrence of what happened at Fort Hood, let’s do it. We need to realize, however, that an open society will always also be dangerous. We could (theoretically) have a benevolent totalitarian society where the government provides protection for everyone. No one has guns except the government. No one can move from place to place without official permission. We give up every privacy and all our self-determination in exchange for safety and control. As individuals, we face these same choices all the time. We can accept responsibility for our actions and remain a danger to ourselves and others, or we can cede control to others who declare that they have our best interests at heart and let them tell us what to do.

One of the reasons why we still like hero stories—movies about tough good guys and rule-breaking bad-asses with hearts of gold—is that we value freedom above safety. I think all humans are like this, though there are differences in degree from culture to culture. What we seldom realize is that in opting for freedom over safety, we are also choosing hardship and suffering over comfort and ease. Even those of us who lead lives of relative ease, do so by offering our sons and daughters, our friends and companions, those among us who are willing to fight and risk death in order to preserve our freedoms. They buy our right to safety and comfort. Usually the price is low: a few years of service with good pay and benefits and moderate risk. Sometimes it is high: traumatic injury, mental disorder, physical and emotional scars. Occasionally it is exorbitant: death.

Freedom isn’t free. It’s not free in the political world, and it’s not free in the spiritual world. Some of us must suffer and even die to maintain our freedoms. We don’t get to choose who among us will be the ones to pay. So everyone must be ready.

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Open Letter to Spammers

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Read and comment on my blog.

Dear Spammers,

In view of the thousands of opportunities I’ve passed up to enlarge my penis and my breasts, buy medications without a prescription, buy cheap software, get designer watches, make money working from home, start a new career, get another diploma, get another degree, provide my banking details to Nigerian widows and faux banking sites, view naked celebrities, and hook up with local singles for anonymous sex, I think you should know by now that I’m not going to fall for your puerile ploys. You can take me off your list. You can cancel my subscription. I don’t want your “services.” I won’t buy what you’re selling. I won’t surrender my identity.

Go, prey upon the noobs. Infect yourselves. Steal from one another. Emasculate yourselves.

I hope you are all caught and incarcerated and compelled to pay draconian fines.

Sincerely,

Chip Burkitt

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Deconstructed News

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Read this post on my blog.

Deconstruction was a hot, new technique in literary criticism 25 years ago when I was a grad student in English studies. It was hot because it was favored by the sexy French theorists like Jacques Derrida and Jacques Lacan and also because it authorized a detached, cynical approach to works of art. Deconstruction differs from analysis. The goal of analysis is to identify and examine parts that contribute to a whole. Analysis presumes integration: there is one work with perhaps multiple meanings but still an overarching significance. The goal of deconstruction is also to identify and examine parts, but not so one can see how they contribute to a whole. Indeed, the whole is illusory. The task of deconstruction is to reveal the constructedness of a work and examine how it produces the illusion of wholeness despite tell-tale signs of its constructedness. Deconstruction became the darling of postmodernists because of its suspicion of absolute categories like truth, reality, and meaning. Like all the darlings of the elite, the concepts of deconstruction soon found their way into mainstream culture stripped of all nuance and philosophical underpinnings. So it’s no surprise that “deconstruct” now appears in place of “analyze” in news stories:

New York Region
By SIMON AKAM
Published: October 11, 2009
Deconstructing a care package headed to a friend serving with the British Army in Afghanistan.
The article just details what’s in the care package. It’s even short on analysis and certainly does not represent deconstruction. They don’t always get it wrong, though:
Film
By MANOHLA DARGIS
Published: October 11, 2009
By slowing down a short film, Ken Jacobs shows not a work of art but what is behind its illusions.
You might expect a New York Times’ film critic to get it right, and she does.
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