Happy Columbus Day

Today is Columbus Day. Not only that, this year Columbus Day falls on the actual day that Columbus discovered America, October 12, rather than just a three-day-weekend Monday in October. The Europeans have now know about what they called the New World for 517 years. This day is now celebrated by saying that Columbus really didn’t discover America, since the Native Americans were already here, and by saying that his discovering America was a bad thing. The mood seems to be not to celebrate it, except that there is no way federal workers would give up a three-day weekend. Is there any way of rehabilitating this holiday?

One thing we can all do, though, is fight the myth that in Columbus’s day people thought the earth was flat. In the Middle Ages and going back through the time of the Greeks, it was common knowledge that the earth was a sphere. It was the Enlightenment, which sought to discredit the past, that came up with the myth (along with others, such as confusing “the Dark Ages” with the “Middle Ages”). See this classic post for evidence.

Another 9/11

We should always honor the victims and the heroes who gave their lives on this date. And it should remind us to be always vigilant against the threat of terrorism. But, at some point, do we need to put what happened on September 11, 2001, behind us? Can fear of another 9/11 or desire for retribution for 9/11 distort our foreign and domestic policies?

Back then, we were filled with an exhilarating national unity and a righteous desire for revenge. We attacked Afghanistan and we took the country. But that did not slake our thirst for vengeance. We attacked Iraq. 9/11 was the reason for the Iraq war–not weapons of mass destruction or certainly not oil. Nor did it matter that Iraq was not particularly involved with the 9/11 attacks. We needed someone to fight. We had scores to settle with Saddam Hussein, and he was a convenient target. We defeated his army, overthrew his government, and delivered him to the hangman.

Such acts of vengeance when a great nation is enraged may not be just, but the phenomenon is a commonplace of history, and America arguably was more restrained than others. What then complicated our actions was our ideals and our good intentions. We could have gone in, overthrew the existing powers, and left, making it clear that any other aid to jihadists would bring us back. In retrospect, that may have sent the strongest message. But we not only wanted to defeat Muslim extremists, we wanted to make them free, like us. We wanted them to have a democratic republic with inalienable rights like we have. So we stayed in both countries to build up their own nations in our image. We assumed that the desire for political freedom is natural to human beings, thinking that if these people were just released from their shackles they would rejoice in the better life we would give them. We forgot that our own liberties had as their necessary foundation a religious and cultural and historical foundation that these countries lacked. But that didn’t stop us, even though our entanglement inspired resistance in those countries, bloody guerrilla war, and more and more and more terrorism–precisely what we had gotten into these wars to stop.

The left blames the wars on all kinds of American villainy–on big oil, Halliburton, imperialism, and the alleged psychosis of our president. I blame the wars not on American evil. I blame them on American goodness.

Ironically, even a left-leaning president, with high ideals of his own, is unable to extract us from these conflicts and even looks to be escalating the one in Afghanistan. I’m not sure what we should do now. Pulling out would deliver a victory to the jihadists that would only ensure a revival of their movement and ever more terrorism. But all of this is the legacy of 9/11.

All you can fly plan

JetBlue Airways is offering an all you can fly pass that is good for a month and costs $599:

JetBlue Airways will offer an “all-you-can-jet” pass for $599 in which passengers can book an unlimited amount of flights within a one-month span, the airline said Wednesday.

Pass holders can fly to any of JetBlue’s (JBLU) 56 destinations between Sept. 8 and Oct. 8, with no seat limitations or blackout dates, the company said in a release.

Airline equities analyst Bob McAdoo, of Avondale Partners, said he “has never seen a promotion like this before.”

In fact, Air Canada had a similar promotion in 2007, where it offered an unlimited flight pass starting at $1,657 per month.

Still, with JetBlue flights already slashed as low as $100, customers might have to fly 6 or 7 times in a month before they break even.

“This is a way to get people to pay attention, with publicity that doesn’t cost the company much,” McAdoo said. “They’re doing this at a time when there are probably a lot of seats available anyway.”

Customers must buy the $599 pass by Aug. 21, and they can book flights within three days of the departure date. All travel using the pass must be booked between Aug. 12 and Oct. 5.

Wouldn’t that be a great vacation, unlimited flying to anywhere in America for a month? Fly out to New Orleans for dinner, then fly home? Hit a series of national parks? Follow your baseball team on a roadtrip? Fly laps between NYC and LA, just because you can?

Too bad there is such short notice, and that this is for such a temporary period, and that the summer is almost over! Still, I salute the free enterprise creativity.

Where would you want to go?

Pope Obama and the will of the people

Newsweek has another big article that is unintentionally humorous because it is so theologically clueless. But it is telling nonetheless. A sample excerpt from Is Obama More Catholic Than the Pope?:

Obama’s pragmatic approach to divisive policy (his notion that we should acknowledge the good faith underlying opposing viewpoints) and his social-justice agenda reflect the views of American Catholic laity much more closely than those vocal bishops and pro-life activists. When Obama meets the pope tomorrow, they’ll politely disagree about reproductive freedoms and homosexuality, but Catholics back home won’t care, because they know Obama’s on their side. In fact, Obama’s agenda is closer to their views than even the pope’s.

In Catholicism’s own self-understanding, the members are supposed to conform their views to the pope’s. Here the assumption is that the pope should conform his views to the members. President Obama agrees more with Catholic laypeople; therefore, he is more of a Catholic leader than the pope.

It’s ludicrous, but a similar assumption–which must come from the American political principle of popular sovereignty–is everywhere in American Christianity. Americans don’t want anyone telling them what to believe, not a pastor, a church body, or the Bible itself. We have trouble with recognizing any kind of authority. So pastors and church bodies increasingly plan worship and teachings so that they will correspond to the will of the people.

Happy Birthday, America!

Tomorrow is America’s birthday. It’s a good time to think about where we are as a nation. Are we still the land of the free and the home of the brave, even though a terrorist attack nearly a decade ago still has us taking off our shoes at the airport, and even though an economic downturn has us running away from our heritage of economic freedom? Or, despite our problems and backsliding are we still pretty much the country our founders envisioned? Have we so abandoned our founding ideals, whether because they have failed or because we no longer value them, to the point that we might as well go groveling to England, begging the Queen to accept us back? Or is there still hope for our constitutional system of self-government and personal liberty? If so, what is the basis for that hope?

Reverse Okies

A lot of us Oklahomans have tied the mattresses to the top of our cars and headed out of state looking for work. No matter where we live, we’ll still be Okies to our dying day, but we end up spread out all over the place. California has always had some strange attraction for folks like us ever since the Dust Bowl days. But now, Californians are tying their designer portmanteaus to the top of their SUVs, leaving their economic basket-case of a state, and heading east on the path of the old route 66 to seek their fortune in Oklahoma:

From 2004 through 2007, about 275,000 Californians left the Golden State for the old Dust Bowl states of Oklahoma and Texas, twice the number that left those two states for California, recent Internal Revenue Service figures show. In fact, the mid-South gained more residents from California during those four years than either Oregon, Nevada or Arizona. The trend continued into 2008.

As a result, it’s easy to find Californians – even former Sacramentans – living and working in Oklahoma City, a capital of the American heartland.

Ask these Okies-in-reverse why they traded the Golden State for the Sooner State – named for settlers who came there sooner than the Homestead Act allowed – and you’ll hear a lot of similar themes: easier to find a job; cheaper to buy or rent a home; better place to make a fresh start. Ask them why they stay in Oklahoma and they’ll add to that list a deep optimism that it’s a place where things are about to take off.

HT: Michelle Malkin