This will never get easier

This is a reprint from eight years ago, part of the 2996 Project to commemorate those killed in the 9/11 attacks against New York and Washington, DC. I ran it on the Hive 1.0.

ALWAYS REMEMBER
This is the page for the 2996 Project. Many of the Pantheon did tributes. I can’t be sure if all of these links work, but please take the time to try to visit them; or else, visit this page to see a list of the many memorials that still remain active, and check them out. 

Michael J Pascuma at the Sheila Variations
Tom Burnett and Michael J Simon at It Comes In Pints?
Sylvia and John Resta at Coalition of the Swilling
Thomas W Kelly, FNDY at Trunk Full O Junk
Benito Valentine at Half a Pica
Jason Michael Cefalu at This Life
James M Roux at Grizzly Mama
Andrea Della Bella and others at A Wandering Confluence
And this general memorial from the Judge Report

I haven’t re-run my tribute before, but I changed my mind this year, primarily because my father-in-law has a Fox News memorial program saved on his DVR that I happened to re-watch recently. One of the survivors (his name escapes me) who worked in the Pentagon that day said that when the victims were brought out, he was stunned to note that they didn’t look injured at all. The shock of the explosion and subsequent fire had simply sucked all the oxygen out of several rooms, suffocating those within. One of them, I recognized at once – my own honoree, Angela Houtz.

Last week, Angela would have been 40 years old.

On September 7, 2001, Angela Houtz joined her family in Ocean City, MD, to make holiday. She had turned 27 the previous day, but work had prevented her from arriving sooner. Angela worked as a senior analyst for the Office of Naval Intelligence. On her birthday she had still been aboard the USS DeWert; the next day she made her way back north from Florida and arrived in time for the celebration.

Her uncle, Sheriff Frederick Davis, was taking office as President of the Maryland Sheriff’s Association that weekend, so there was a lot to celebrate. The family spent the weekend; at her birthday, Angela, as was traditional, wore the family Birthday Hat while she opened her gifts.

Come Monday, she was back at work at the Pentagon. Intelligent and dedicated, in nine short years she had progressed from salutatorian of Maurice McDonough High School, to an English degree from the University of Maryland-Baltimore County, to her civilian work in the Navy. Like thousands of others on the morning of Tuesday, September 11th, she was at work when the word came through: first one, and then the other of the towers of the World Trade Center had been struck with airliners.

At the Pentagon, everything changed. Angela joined a meeting in the C-ring with several officials, other analysts, and military officers. They were still there when American Airlines flight 77 skimmed across the lawn and into their wing of the building. She joined many others – financiers, insurers, staff, the cooks and busboys of Windows on the World, the airline crews, firefighters and police and military – suddenly killed while simply about their business; but her business consisted of understanding the nature of the attack and helping to organize a response. Angela Houtz was among the very first to fall in defense of the United States in the current conflict.

She received full honors: a military funeral, the Distinguished Civilian Award of Merit, and a letter of condolence from President George W Bush; more importantly, an outpouring of the great respect and love from everyone who had known her. In an article for VOA News, Commander David Radi spoke about this respect:

“It’s a bond that approaches a brother or sister and although Angie was a civilian, she was a shipmate to us. I was proud to call her that. The way she shined. I put her eventually in a position where we had never had a civilian. It was because the trust I had in her; but more importantly, the more senior people in the Navy had in her. She would stand a watch in the off hours in particular. She would be the eyes and ears of the Navy in our command center. And there could be no better forerunner for that in the civilian world of Naval Intelligence than Angela Houtz.”

The service took six hours. If that had been all that there was to the affair, it would certainly be enough, but her father, Robert Houtz, speaking to the Boothbay Register, told of more: “Angie had had two full-time jobs, one for humanity and one for her country.”

Many remember her now for her life for the country, but those who love her remember her other life: an active young woman, working with her own church and the Salvation Army for homeless relief; a lover of puns, a tutor of children; a joy to her family and friends. She was equally at home taking classes in dance or organizing food drives. And her finest tribute comes directly from Mrs. Julie Shontere, her mother:

“Most important in her life, above all else, was her faith in God. … She gave so much to us all. She continues to teach me through her journals and spirit. … I feel blessed beyond words to have had the honor to be her mom.”

Cmdr. Radi made a point to mention her faith in connection with the position of trust she had earned among the Naval staff; even people who had barely known her were dearly touched by Angela. Amy Moffitt of Washington DC met Angela only twice, and said: “She lived really vividly in everything. She was very present, she was very alive. … There was not a person she met who didn’t go, ‘Wow,’ that was awakened by her presence, because she was so awake, so alive, so there.” All of the quotes about Angela in the sources below reveal the same compassion and the same vitality.

It is just and right to remember and to memorialize the loss that so many shared that day; but it is incomplete unless we can also celebrate the lives that were left behind. Angela Houtz gave joy and dedication that long outlive the events of one September afternoon. Her service to country did not end at the doors of the Pentagon. It is an honor to be recogized at your funeral by a president for your work; it is also honor to be recognized on a concert line by a passing homeless man for your generosity and mercy. Many hunger after the one sort of honor, but the other can only be given to those who pour themselves out in service, who give cheerfully of whatever they have, be it time, money, toil, or just a smile for a sad friend.

In celebrating Angela’s life, we celebrate a woman who knew that joy only grows when you give it away. The lasting image to recall is of her happy family, laughing and snapping pictures of Angela in the Birthday Hat, unwrapping gifts – it is of they that she would be thinking of, and it is altogether fitting to respect her wishes and think of them as well. Today is but the anniversary of one moment; the full life of Angela Houtz endures beyond it, and defeats it. That life is real and lasting, and it abides through the many people she loved to the full.

Her friends and family have established a scholarship fund in Angela’s name; more information is here. The comments section is open for anyone else who has a story or a memory of Angela, or a link to a tribute not mentioned above.

My deepest thanks to Mrs. Julie Shontere, who was kind enough to provide much of the above information first-hand; and also to the following sources:

The Chicago Tribune, for this remembrance
The UMBC Alumni Newsletter, Summer 2002, for
this profile
The Boothbay Register, October 4, 2001, for
this article by Duey Graham
The VOA News, October 22, 2001, for
this article by Betty van Etten
The
Maryland State Archives
The
Defend America Network
The
September 11 Victim’s Memorial

Screen Evil

Good stuff here from Friend of the Hive, Sir Robbo.

I struggle with this myself.  On the one hand, I can’t watch stuff like Criminal Minds that focuses on the antagonist to such a degree as to seem to revel in the horrible things they do – especially inasmuch as the writers of such procedurals often are guilty of some obnoxious one-upmanship, coming up with ever-crueler ways to show the depravaty within reach of the human heart.  It was my biggest beef with the original season of The Following, for example: on some level it almost seemed like the writers themselves were under the sway of the psychopathic cult leader.

It’s hard on me.  It makes me want to swoop down like an rescuing superhero, or else like an avenging… hm.  Angel is not the correct term.  It’s more of a dervish.  I find myself possessed of a growing and useless rage, and sometimes have to leave the room.

On the other hand, as a writer myself I understand the power involved in a tale where the hero has to overcome terrible odds, or terrible enemies; and under the doctrine of Show, Don’t Tell, you have to depict some awful stuff to carry that terror home.

Now, perhaps seeing such things in a visual medium carries an impact that my own writing lacks, or else I am somewhat vaccinated against the effect because these are my words, and I well know the uppance that shall come upon my baddies.  But I suspect that I am rather uncomfortably good at the depicting.  I have come up with some gut-punching moments, a suspicion generally confirmed by friends whom I’ve spooked with the stuff.  So does that make me a hypocrite?  Worse, what in the world am I tapping into when I write it?

No matter who you are, pawns don’t move backwards

Sometimes, I am tempted to jump sides and argue about social and political things according to the tenets I learned in childhood from my professing Democrat family.  I flatter myself that I would do much better than most of the folks currently lining up for their team. That whole exchange, like so many they’ve attempted, goes awry and stays awry for a fairly simple reason: they get locked on course and can’t handle any change.

It’s rather like playing chess. If you want to succeed, you need to know more than how to properly execute a sequence of forcing moves. That will trap the unwary and the beginner. Any opponent with a basic understanding of the game, however, will know how to handle that, usually by avoiding the sequence. Picture the situation: you know that putting your knight on e4, for example, leads to a counterattack that ruins your position. You move your bishop there instead. A normal opponent would think about what you were conceding to do that instead of the knight move and react accordingly. The Cuttlers, however, would go ahead with the sequence of moves, even though with a bishop there it will ruin their own position instead. And then they will insist that, because they made all the correct moves, that in reality the game is theirs, even as their queen and both rooks decorate the side of the board where you keep the captured pieces. The game WOULD have been won if the knight had been there, therefore your bishop doesn’t belong there, the move was invalid and the game is won, QED. Or do you deny that their moves were not perfectly in accordance with the rules?

Misses the point by a bit, don’t you think?

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Part of a sadly continuing series

Via sci-fi author Larry Correia:

However, it comes as a shock to reasonable people on the left when so emboldened the SJWs [Social Justice Warriors - NF] begin to do the same thing to people on their own side. Stephen Colbert says something they don’t like. Outrage. Patton Oswalt simply agrees with someone on my side. Outrage. Jonathan Ross might say something in the future. Outrage. Patrick Rothfuss says maybe fandom shouldn’t be so quick to outrage. Outrage. Wil Wheaton simply retweets Rothfuss. Outrage. So on and so forth.It doesn’t even matter that all of these people are staunch allies of the outrage crowd, the mob has been programmed to attack, so they do.

Sounds about right.

Full disclosure – I’ve never read any of Mr. Correia’s work. I hardly need to, however, to have a considerable interest in the principle involved. On general terms, I want to live in a world where differences of ideas and opinions are given full and fair hearing, and that people can get along with all sorts of people. On specific terms, if I ever really do buckle down and finish the Mother of Unfinishable Stories (or any of the others), I want my own ideas to have as wide an audience as they can find.

As some have pointed out, simply having an opinion doesn’t oblige others to listen to it. That is certainly true. It is also true that refusing to even hear the idea is a lousy method of understanding it, or anyone who might agree with it.

Science fiction has long been a bulwark of using fantastic trappings to talk about the human condition, with a long tradition of speaking against discrimination and narrow-mindedness.  That people can be lifelong fans of the genre and yet seek to enforce their own orthodoxy within sci-fi – even to the point of trying to determine who is permitted to write or read the work – is a gruesome irony. Love of the thing itself has been surreptitiously hollowed out and replaced by love of being a fan of the thing, having power to confer True Fan Status on others, vetoing what they may or may not enjoy.

1bodysnatchers

The pods, it is true, are not violating the First Amendment.  But as the xkcd cartoon’s alt-tag window states, if that’s the most that can recommend your position – that it’s not technically illegal – it’s a huge concession.  It is also not usually what free speech defenders are actually arguing.  They aren’t using free speech to defend a particular unpopular position, only their right to have a position that’s different.  Where Munroe glosses in his cartoon is precisely this distinction.  Correia isn’t appealing to free speech to win his argument, only to have the right to make it.

It’s the alleged free-thinking and open-minded Tolerators who are indulging in “The Debate is Over” Syndrome.  And they’re fooling themselves by saying, as in the fourth comment on that thread, that “While we might be wary of a panic leading to persecution of people holding a minority viewpoint, this hardly seems to be the case.”

You can scroll down from here to see why you’d want to be wary – it never stops with the first person silenced, ever. That’s what Correia observed in the quote above, what he demonstrated happens when people first learn to be shut-uppity and start to enjoy the rush of power they get when they first succeed in controlling what opinions are acceptable. They become quite jealous of that sort of power and seek to confine it as closely as they can.

Worst, that mindset finds a natural outlet in a place like a DMV or Homeowner’s Association or some other small, insular group of people who may have a legitimate need to wield authority, but who have let it get to their head. Instead of the actual function being the goal and the authority being the tool, the authority takes over and is no longer tethered to a larger purpose. When that happens, no law or guideline or principle designed to restrict that power will have any hold on them. And when that goes on long enough, well… then you get things like the BLM trying to enforce “First Amendment Zones” at the point of a gun, or the IRS systemically hindering and punishing ordinary citizens for their opinions, or agencies as diverse as the CBO, Department of Labor, and the Census Office gaming the books and massaging data to pursue a partisan goal.

Is it the right of the entertainment industry to seek a monolithic point of view? It must be their right if they so choose, in order for the country to function and its citizens to be free. That doesn’t make it healthy. Eventually you stultify if you only hear one kind of thing all the time – as they never cease to remind “right wingers” or “god botherers” or “cisgendernormatives” or whatever buzzword is yet to be crafted to justify willful ignorance. As if we on the right aren’t exposed daily to a culture and mindset that is alien to our own!

Besides this, the Tolerators aren’t being honest with themselves. Having long ago confined their own minds to that airless little box, they want everyone else’s heads crammed in as well, and are busily burning down free speech and free thought in order to save it. It’s impossible for so many people to be so blind and dumb as to miss the illogic, so something else must be happening, and I think that it’s this subtle replacement of the Love of Something with the Love of Things About Something. The temptation is to care less and less about telling a great story than it is to be an Approved Official Storyteller, to gain the imprimatur of the correct class of people and belong with them, and to be recognized by lesser sorts for one’s expertise; eventually, to be the Inner Circle of that class and determine who else is admitted or rejected. As CS Lewis wrote in The Four Loves, a group that gathered around an idea is always tempted in this fashion, and their proper rejection of ignorant people’s ideas about their field or profession soon grows to a rejection of the idea that they should pay their debts and act civilly in public. The ego that attaches from being really elite at something soon attaches to things that have nothing at all to do with it. That’s precisely when the good is lost.

In this case, of course, it’s made even sillier because this ego is now attaching not to the actual creators but merely to those who enjoy reading the work; it’s as if a mirror was proud of how brightly it shone in the sunlight and sought to keep other mirrors forever indoors in dusty rooms.

Mobs move pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around sometime, you might miss getting trampled.

So, quick recap – OKCupid publishes a full-page ad targeting Firefox users encouraging them to pressure Mozilla to sack their CEO, Brendan Eich. Now, apparently, it’s OKCupid’s turn to face the mob they drummed up.

The machine must run. It consumes first those who labored most to build it. No exceptions.

Reap the whirlwind, saps.

Mozilla, mo problems

Well, that’s it for Mozilla’s momentary CEO, Brendan Eich.

Eich submitted his resignation, days after the dating site OKCupid suggested boycotting Mozilla with full-page ads shown to visitors using the Firefox browser.  This came along with several of Mozilla’s own employees tweeting that Eich was not fit to lead the company.

Was Eich a terrible coder? Did he embezzle? Trash a nightclub? Kick puppies for fun? Not that anyone can tell. What he did do, however, was donate $1000 in support of California’s Proposition 8 campaign, seeking to define marriage as between a man and a woman.

A lot of people thought that this was not in keeping with Mozilla’s commitment to diversity and free speech. In the end they celebrated these things by denying them to their own CEO.

I’m not going to open debate on whether or not his donation is de facto proof of being hateful or divisive. It may well be. It’s also beside the point. Eich helped found this company, he created JavaScript (which is kind of everywhere in computing and on the Internet), he obviously knew his stuff… and none of it mattered.

It’s not that hard a concept, and Shamus is on point about this – this is the sort of thing that, once loosed, lays waste everywhere. It is indiscriminate about its targets. I may as well quote a convo I was having on the Twitter:

When one works with a concrete goal in mind, one’s actions can be evaluated on whether they move the goal closer or further. Once the goal is reached, one can move to the next. But there is no goal in mind with something like this. Try having a conversation about what that goal is, whether we’re closer or further from it, and you won’t get a clear answer – except that if you even ask that sort of a question you’re a bad person, and that’s proof about how much farther we still have to go to get to the goal nobody can bear to have defined.

This is all by design. So long as one can be the one doing the deciding, it’s good times. Ever-wider areas come under this area where “The debate is over.” This is also the flaw, of course, because at any time one’s prior beliefs – even something that was innocent, something one never thought to be on guard about (because who could ever object?) – can suddenly fall outside of the boundary. Share a carefree joke with friends and, five years hence, that humor is a proof that you have secretly harbored wrongthinking the whole time, and those who shared the laughter are your new persecutors.

That’s the thing the deciders never realize: in the end the machine, once built, must run. If that machine is not designed to accomplish a particular thing, and upon completion stop, then by definition it will never stop running, and will always need fuel to consume.  At this point, those who fought hardest against its construction have already been dealt with – the machine’s very existence is proof that they’ve lost the fight. The first victims are always those who labored for the finishing touches, and who are always shocked and stunned at being tossed into the hopper. Surely they proved they were on the right side!

The unholy censors

Severian links through to an interesting (if brief) review and critique by Michael Brendan Dougherty of a collection of essays by Joseph Bottum.

I have not read Bottum’s work, and am only familiar in passing with Dougherty’s – primarily because he’ll crop up on ESPN from time to time writing about sports topics.  (I may have to remedy that, if for no greater reason than that he rocks a Quebec Nordiques t-shirt in his bio picture.)  In any case, I intend to branch off a bit here, because I’m more interested in something Sev wrote in his link-through:

It’s common knowledge among those who notice things that liberals are, on all matters except sex, censorious, moralizing, pharisaical little prigs.

To begin: I know that a good number of folks I chat with on Twitter and such self-identify as liberals, so I want to note something about the use of the term here.  At blogs where Sev and I interact regularly, there’s a lot of debate about whether the term Liberal or Leftist is the more appropriate when discussing the most radical examples of what is commonly called Liberalism or the Blue State Model.  I far prefer “Leftist” as the proper term for a few reasons I won’t go into here; I don’t want to be derailed on a side-issue.  Just roll with the term for now.  But I want to say this much: I know that a lot of you guys are not, in fact, sanctimonious or pharisaical.  OK – good – we’re gonna move ahead – sorry to slow you down -

I submit that the current licentiousness drowning our society is, in fact, an elaborate censorship.

People of this anti-human bent are censorious about sex, like they are censorious about everything else.  To be more precise, they are censorious about the true nature of sex in humans.  And the first truth about sex is that it unites people.

Physically this is indisputable; as one moves through the physical to the mental and spiritual, it becomes easier to hide and mislead on this basic fact, but couples themselves know better.  In fact, sex is often enough the result of couples who catch each other’s attention for other reasons.  In situations where the physical is the primary motive, these other motives for spending time together frequently arise; those couples without these other bonds nearly always dissolve.  Sex also frequently leads to couples preferring each other to anyone else, and both expecting and promising exclusivity – a thing that could not happen if the physical bond were the only one to consider, since there are always times where one or both partner is unavailable sexually.  Also, sexual attraction naturally leads to people pairing off in as beneficial a match to themselves as they can arrange: not necessarily where the greatest sensual delights lie, either.  Nor is satisfaction in a lover’s relationship exclusively gauged by those couples as the greatest degree of physical sensation.  And it all leads to family units that people are willing to defend to the death against all comers.  A happy home is something worth protecting, and not surprisingly people will speak up about and oppose proposals destructive to that happiness – whether the family or the proposal are liberal or conservative.  People with families to protect unite across political and social strata to do it.

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