Sunday, July 26, 2009

There is no "them"

Those of you who have ever been involved in a project involving a small group, or perhaps in a small church, may be familiar with the phenomenon: You start out doing things, and you do some work and help, and then the time comes when you say to yourself, "Okay, that's enough. I've done enough for them. I'm sure they have other people who can do the rest. They can't expect too much from me."

The moment when you grow up in your interaction with that group is the moment when you admit the obvious. There is no them. Or, to put it alternatively, you are them. There is just that group of people. It may be ten, it may be two dozen. But what gets done is what that group of people, including you, does. There isn't some gigantic organization that exists apart from you, to which your contribution is just a drop in the bucket, which will continue getting just as much done without you. This is a small church, a small organization, a volunteer group. If you don't do it, it doesn't get done.

The fiction of "them" is very comforting. And unfortunately, it is fostered by our present societal arrangements in which so many things seem to be done by big groups--be they corporations, charities, churches, or government. Everything is big. And so being a mere fellow traveler and doing only, and only temporarily, the amount that seems reasonable (read "easy") is all too easy. Because after all, they can't expect too much, and they were doing just fine before you came along, and they will do just fine if you leave, or drop your involvement, or whatever. It doesn't really matter.

Now, the truth is, even in big organizations or agencies, everything that gets done for good gets done by human beings. But certainly in for-profit arrangements, or even arrangements where some people are paid, the "them" idea is easy to maintain. What do you mean by "them"? Why, the employees of the corporation, of the charity, or of the government agency. They are official. They get paid to do this stuff. Anything you add is lagniappe, gravy, extra.

But in the pure volunteer organization, this is just false. There is no distinction. In a very small church, there is at most a very small paid staff--perhaps only the priest or pastor. That's it. And it's hard to keep up the lie to oneself that one pastor can do everything that needs to be done. In some groups, there isn't even that. There are just a few people who have stepped forward and been willing to be on the board (for free) or even, in a totally informal fashion, to do most of the work. And that's it. They're happy for your help, but no one should be under any illusions that his work is extraneous. There are so few of us that all of our work is important. If we don't do it, it doesn't get done.

This has all been borne in on me as I have been involved in a signature-gathering campaign in my local area. And it's rather a nuisance to have to come to that grown-up conclusion and to abandon the fiction of "them." But salutary, nonetheless.

On a similar theme, there are some passages in Annie Dillard's rather diffuse but at points very good Holy the Firm:

God...leaves his creation's dealings with him in the hands of purblind and clumsy amateurs. This is all we are and all we ever were; God kann nicht anders. This process in time is history; in space, at such shocking random, it is mystery....Who shall ascend into the hill of the Lord? or who shall stand in his holy place? There is no one but us. There is no one to send, nor a clean hand, nor a pure heart on the face of the earth, nor in the earth, but only us, a generation comforting ourselves with the notion that we have come at an awkward time, that our innocent fathers are all dead...But there is no one but us. There never has been. There have been generation which remembered, and generations which forgot; there has never been a generation of whole men and women who lived well for even one day....Who shall ascent into the hill of the Lord? or who shall stand in his holy place? "Whom shall I send," heard the first Isaiah, "and who will go for us?" And poor Isaiah, who happened to be standing there--and there was no one else--burst out, "Here am I; send me."

Cross posted at What's Wrong with the World

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Bibi Tells 'Em

I remember during the Olmert administration in Israel there were all these questions as to whether Olmert had agreed (shamefully, with the Bush administration) to halt Jewish building in East Jerusalem. For Israel to agree that Jews should not be building in its own capital is disgraceful. Well, Bibi is not leaving us in any doubt about where he stands on this, when Obama tries to force him to agree to a move in the direction of the ultimate goal of dividing Jerusalem and making the east portion once more Judenrein:

Jerusalem is the "unified capital of Israel and the capital of the Jewish people, and sovereignty over it is indisputable," Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu said Sunday, responding to an American demand to put an end to a housing project to be built in east Jerusalem.

"Hundreds of apartments in the west of the city were purchased by Arabs and we didn't get involved. There is no prohibition against Arab residents buying apartments in the west of the city and there is no prohibition barring the city's Jewish residents from buying or building in the east of the city," Netanyahu added at the weekly cabinet meeting. "That is the policy of an open city that is not divided.

"We cannot accept the notion that Jews will not have the right to buy apartments specifically in Jerusalem. I can only imagine what would happen if they were forbidden from purchasing apartments in New York or London; there would be an international outcry. This has always been Israel's policy and this is the policy of the current government," the prime minister added. [Emphasis added]

That's telling 'em. I couldn't have put it better.

Comments on this post are closed, with some regret. I find that whenever I put up a post about Israel even here on my obscure little personal blog I get someone or other trying to tell me about "Israeli atrocities" and the like, however undeniable the content of my post itself, and sometimes giving me links to lefty Palestinian advocacy groups as credible sources. Frankly, I'm not interested in putting up with that today. My dear friends and readers all have my personal e-mail and are always welcome to write me there.

HT Israel Matzav

Sunday, July 12, 2009


I just had a lovely evening walk. Listened to the doves. Doves are funny birds--slow-moving and seemingly slow-witted. But perhaps for that very reason, they make the most peaceful sound. The whole evening was golden and, mercy of mercies at this time of year, not hot. Some people manage apparently by magic to have lawns so green, even at this dry time of year, that it almost makes your eyes hurt, especially in the sunset.

This was an especially peaceful walk, because I left my petition at home. I'm involved in a petition drive now opposing a local transgender and homosexual rights ordinance. Collecting petition signatures is a painful process for me. I don't mind it too much when I know ahead of time that the people are supportive. Then it's a good chance to talk to the likeminded, tell them what's up with the ordinance in some detail (since I've been following it for six months), and feel encouraged. But asking people whose views I don't know--that's hard. It's especially hard, because I have a lot of good will in my neighborhood. I love my neighborhood, and I daresay that I'm a fairly familiar figure here. I walk the same route nearly every day, though not always at the same time. The people on that route are often out in their yards or gardens; they smile; we wave. A few years ago when I did a brief stint as Republican precinct delegate, I remember that several people who, as far as I knew, didn't even know my name, saw me on my walks and said, "I voted for you! I saw your name on the ballot." (You understand: There was no actual competition for the pair of Republican precinct delegates from this precinct. My husband and I were elected by acclaim by the few voting Republicans.)

What I'm trying to say is that I have exactly the easy, undemanding, apolitical relationship with my neighbors that seems to me ideal. We occasionally exchange mild gossip, gardening tips, local news, and small talk. If, as is the case right now, there is a panhandler known to be doing the rounds of the neighborhood, we warn each other about him. It's friendly, and yet I don't even know most of these people's names. Except for those who live immediately next door and across the street, I know most of them by definite description: The guy who lives catty-corner and is into photography. The lady in the small white house with the finch feeder. The older man with the two little terriers.

In this context, asking these neighbors to sign a petition on an unpleasant and controversial issue on which I don't know their opinions almost seems rude. It certainly risks making them shy away from me for the next few months rather than stopping to chat or smiling and waving. I've been turned down already by a couple of the few neighbors whose names I do know and have tried, I think successfully, to make sure that the exchange ends with no hard feelings. It's all most awkward.

So tonight I took a break and went out with no petition and pen stuffed into my pocket. Just an ordinary walk. As it happened, I did stop to talk to a man ("the guy in the gray house with the kids in Christian school and the pool set up in the back yard") whom I suspected would be supportive and have been hoping to see, and he did indeed say that I can come back later this week and get his and his wife's signatures. But it somehow made it easier that I couldn't collect them right then. We were still just talking.

It is one of the great sadnesses of our age that so many things are politicized. Yet it comes upon us. We do not choose it. It is forced upon us by those who would force our world to give way to theirs, who would force unreality upon us as reality. We did not choose this culture war. As the Lady Eowyn says, it takes but one foe to breed a war. And now that it is upon us, we must fight it as best we can. But please God, neighbors can still be neighbors, and there will still be evenings off with the doves, the sunset, and the cool green grass.

Tuesday, July 07, 2009

Evidences and Christianity

I encourage my readers to read my latest post at W4. I give a few suggestions of historical evidence ammunition for Christians. This is an apologetic approach to Christianity with which some people are very familiar but which is quite alien to others. But everyone should know that our faith is founded on facts and need not hide behind arationality or irrationality.

Saturday, July 04, 2009

In God We Trust

O! thus be it ever, when freemen shall stand
Between their loved home and the war's desolation!
Blest with victory and peace, may the heav'n rescued land
Praise the Power that hath made and preserved us a nation.
Then conquer we must, when our cause it is just,
And this be our motto: 'In God is our trust.'
And the star-spangled banner in triumph shall wave
O'er the land of the free and the home of the brave!

And here is my July 4 post at W4. If I have any European readers, I want to make it clear that we American conservatives are proud not only of our country but of our country's Christian heritage. I understand this sort of God and country connection is considered bad manners in Europe. Too, too bad.

May God bless America and keep America free, and may America always acknowledge Him, the source of all her blessings.