America • Americanism • civic culture/friendship • Post • The Culture • the family

The End of Watch Call

Jesus said, “Blessed are those pure of heart, for they shall see God” (Matthew 5:8).

Our country is filled with unheralded heroes. Those that don’t seek self-promotion or use bombast to be recognized. Their hearts are only pointed to serving others. They work for our good and for God, not seeking fame, but to serve.

Many of our firefighters fit this model. They mostly serve as volunteers in local fire departments. They don’t get paid to serve, they just show up. They are the men and women who rush into burning buildings to bring people to safety. Their joy is in saving and not gaining.

When they pass into our Lord’s hands, they are given an “End of Watch” call—a broadcast over the airwaves to announce that their service and time is complete. The fire volunteers upon hearing this call offer them a moment of silence. It is a moving gesture of recognition.

Louis “Lou” Aroneo was on one of those men. He died this July and received his “End of Watch” call from the Stirling, New Jersey Fire Department. But Lou is more than just an individual who received a last call. He represented what makes America a special place. In his life he represented a way to live life. A way our forefathers taught us. A way that included honor, respect, duty and service. Lou didn’t curse the darkness, but instead chose to light candles.

Lou had no special privileges in life. He wasn’t a star athlete or a famed entertainer or even a noted politician. He was part of the tapestry of men and women known as first responders. Lou didn’t go to Harvard or Yale; he went to a local college and became an engineer.

While some will seek fame through rancor, Lou sought kindness. While some sought self-promotion, Lou sought to serve. Some seek to tear down, Lou sought to build up.

He had a wife and raised his children in a small town in New Jersey. He passed on to our Lord with a very ordinary resume. A simple life on paper, but a rich life in the hearts of the people he helped and served.

Even though he received a medal of honor for rushing into a burning building to rescue a wheelchair-bound individual, there will be no movie made about his exploits. Even though he raised his children to honor and respect others, no book will be written about his excellence. Lou lived his life the right way. A uniquely American way.

I take it upon myself to declare Lou a hero. Because he lived the way we all should live, with a quiet faith and desire to do good. Lou’s life compass was pointed to doing what was right and without compromise. Noting that perhaps we as Americans we should strive harder to recognize these people as the heroes. We should read about them more or see them on television. Perhaps knowing more about these heroes will soften the drums of discord.

Lou would be the first to point out he wasn’t special, he knew many others who lived the same life. And he would have been right, many others do. Our country needs these standard bearers of commitment and service. They are the ones who are there in times of disaster. Lou and his fire company stood on the shores of New Jersey during 9/11 to help. They stood in line waiting to help those devastated by Superstorm Sandy. They are the ones carrying children late at night from a house fire. They are the ones who are first on the scene of a terrible car wreck. They are the first eyes you see when you need to be rescued. They work, while we sleep. They are American first responders. They serve because they are supposed to serve.

I only wish that I knew Lou before I completed my latest book, Your Faith Has Made You Well. He would have been a terrific character to stand beside the dozens of other ordinary heroes, who are portrayed. As Christians we can never have enough heroes of faith. Lou stood tall among them.

As a country we need heroes like Lou. These are the people who don’t use social media to bring them fame through bombast. They don’t like to jockey for position to get what they want. These heroes seek only to help.

Every day we see these unnoticed heroes in our midst. They walk in supermarkets, hotel lobbies, or along crowded streets. They have blended in to live their lives without notice.

Look hard though and you will see them walking among us. They hold doors for others. They stop and pick up litter. They speak kindly to others. They have faces that show their integrity. They help parents overloaded with groceries. They are with us every day.

Lou passed on to our Lord on July 3. He had a funeral procession that included nine ladder trucks decorated with American flags and a long waiting line of people giving their last respects. Lou didn’t pass on with millions in the bank or with lasting notoriety. He passed with a more blessed legacy, a peaceful assurance that he would reside with his Lord from living an honorable life. While maybe not recognized fully by the world, it certainly was recognized where he is today, with his Lord for eternity. America needs more heroes like Lou.

Lou did get his last call. A time honored tradition for firefighters. He was the Chief of Stirling’s fire department and was sent off to be with God, having served humankind with honor. Many other first responders will go after him and they as well will receive the last call. Their special moment when the dispatcher says: “End of watch call! You have completed your mission here and been a good friend to all. Now it is time to rest. Thank you for your service.”

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America • Americanism • Cultural Marxism • Defense of the West • Democrats • Identity Politics • Post • Progressivism • The Left

A Transformation of the American Regime?

Almost all observers agree that America is profoundly divided. This intense polarization has been described by the Claremont Institute’s Angelo Codevilla as a “cold civil war.”

What is it all about?

First and foremost, this conflict is between those who unhesitatingly love America, its history, culture, principles, and people and those who believe that “the United States of America,” its past and present, is seriously flawed and, thus, in need of “fundamental transformation” as Barack Obama famously put it.

The former emphasizes the positive aspects of what was once proudly called the “American way of life,” while noting past failings. For the latter, any affirmation of America as it actually has existed for the past two and a half centuries is heavily qualified and accompanied by endless carping about the nation’s sins. At the same time, they insist they support American “ideals,” which they view as synonymous with the goals of a new “social justice” regime that places ethnic, racial, and gender groups at the center of political, economic, and cultural life.

Put otherwise, the conflict is between those who want to transmit the American regime to future generations and those who want to transform it fundamentally. Therefore, the conflict is not simply about policy disagreements over how best to achieve the shared goals of liberty, equality, and justice, but grave disagreements over the meaning of those three principles.

The argument over “first principles” has been brewing for decades. While many were busy luxuriating in “end of history” triumphalism, during the 1990s historians and civic educators essentially uprooted and revised the traditional story of America. Textbooks and curricula now referred to the American “peoples,” plural. The concept of American “peoples” portrayed a multicultural society in which new immigrants were not “assimilated” into a shared mainstream American culture but, instead, retained their own (and sometimes adversarial) cultures as separate “peoples.” This new framework is captured by the metaphor of a “mosaic” or “salad bowl” replacing the traditional concept of the “melting pot.”

We were told America was not “discovered” by European explorers, but was the result of “three worlds meeting.” Leading state curricula declared that the United States was not the product of Western Civilization and British constitutional heritage, but the “convergence” of three civilizations, the Amerindian native culture, European culture, and the civilization of Islamic West Africa. In the same vein, the recently revised AP (Advanced Placement) curriculum refers to the “three worlds meet” narrative as the “Atlantic World.”

Whereas traditional American history began with English colonists landing in Jamestown and Plymouth Rock, multiculturalist educators (who now dominate the profession) place the foundations of the history of the United States with hunters crossing the Bering Strait from Asia to North America thousands of years ago. Of course, American civilization is not the product of nomadic hunters from Siberia, but of English colonists who were part of a broader Western Civilization, and whose single most important text, after all, was the King James Bible.

At the same time that the story of America became the “convergence” of three civilizations and its related “Atlantic World,” the promotion of “diversity” and the trinity of race, ethnicity, and gender came to dominate education from K-12 to graduate school. What mattered was not equality of American citizenship but the racial, ethnic, and gender group to which one belonged.

Meanwhile, “global education” was all the rage as Americans were admonished to “think globally and act locally” and that “global problems” require “global solutions.” The practitioners of global education deliberately obfuscated the rights and responsibilities of national citizenship in a constitutional democracy such as the United States.

This new narrative, although historically inaccurate and antithetical to responsible American citizenship, served the political purposes of its proponents—the delegitimization of the concept of Western civilization and the deconstruction of the American way of life (or the “regime” in the Aristotelian sense) as it had been traditionally understood, with the ultimate goal of “fundamental transformation.”

Since, as the truism puts it, “politics is downstream from culture” the transformationist concepts that were developed decades ago have slowly and steadily spread to the mainstream media, major corporations, and finally elected officials and politicians.

The conflict between the transmission and transformation of the American regime continues to heat up. Around Independence Day, we saw the city council of Charlottesville, Virginia vote to cancel Thomas Jefferson’s birthday holiday; Nike recall the Betsy Ross flag sneakers; the San Francisco School board vote to cover up a painting of the life of George Washington; and in St Louis Park, Minnesota, the city council vote to abandon the traditional “Pledge of Allegiance” before its meetings.

As a way of clarifying the current conflict in contemporary America over transmitting or transforming the American regime, I have developed a chart of 36 dueling concepts pitting one against the other. The chart, examining the “regime conflict,” the “cold civil war” or the “culture war” (whatever term one wants to use) compressed into the table you see on this page.

Americanist forces are striking back. St Louis Park’s mayor, for example, wants the city council to restore the pledge. The Claremont Institute has launched a major project explaining that the most important issue facing our nation is the regime struggle between Americanism and multiculturalism (understood as synonymous with identity politics, political correctness, woke-ism, social justice warrior-ism, etc.). More broadly still, people are beginning to recognize that the multicultural Left has a large megaphone but little popular support.

Americanism is not a dirty word; it’s a good thing. We should be proud to say so—and say no to the fundamental transformation of our country.

Photo Credit: iStock/Getty Images

America • Americanism • Center for American Greatness • Post • The Culture

Why 1984 Was the Best Year in American Pop Music

Thirty-five years ago, America was enjoying a bit of a patriotic swoon.

The go-go ’80s were underway as the country finally emerged from a debilitating recession. Los Angeles hosted the 1984 Summer Olympics—the world fell in love with a winsome teenager from West Virginia when Mary Lou Retton became the first American female to win the all-around gold medal in gymnastics.

In what seems like an inconceivable feat in the era’s deep political divide, American voters rallied behind Ronald Reagan in 1984. The incumbent president won 525 electoral votes in the November presidential election, crushing his Democratic opponent, Walter Mondale, by 18 million votes; the Minnesota native barely eked out a victory in his home state to halt a 50-state sweep by the Gipper that year.

For those of us on the older side of Generation X, the music of 1984 was the soundtrack of our Coming of Age, animating our college and high school years. I turned 16 a few months after John Hughes’ iconic film “Sixteen Candles” premiered. (Samantha Baker and I both celebrated the big event in the Chicago suburbs.) I got my driver’s license; learned the hard way that a baseball team can break your heart when the Chicago Cubs and the 1984 National League MVP Ryne Sandberg came within one game of going to the World Series (damn you, Steve Garvey!); and discovered that Stroh’s Light and Virginia Slims made a great combination.

It remains one of the most impactful periods in music; Rolling Stone magazine called 1984 “pop’s greatest year . . . New Wave, R&B, hip-hop, mascara’d hard rock and ‘Weird Al’ Yankovic all crossed paths on the charts.” In one poll, 1984 ranked number four in the all-time best years of American music.

Contrast all that with today, when new music choices seem limited to country tunes or some warped version of Drake, 1984 had something for everyone. Legends such as Tina Turner, Stevie Wonder, and Paul McCartney introduced themselves to the children of the children they entertained in the 1960s. Our parents—and in my case, grandparents—had their own copies of Michael Jackson’s “Thriller,” the top-selling album of all-time that debuted in 1982 but still dominated the record charts in the spring of 1984.

The year was so cool that Van Halen named an entire album after it.

If American pride was on the upswing in 1984, our FM radio stations and Walkmans (which just celebrated its 40th anniversary) blared uniquely American lyrics. Bruce Springsteen’s “Born in the U.S.A.” was released in June. The title track and other singles including “My Hometown” and “Glory Days” didn’t offer up glossy tales of American success but instead described little chunks of life in what is now considered “flyover country.” In the music video for its first release, “Dancing in the Dark,” Springsteen pulled a then-unknown actress, Courteney Cox, on stage to dance.

John Cougar Mellencamp’s “Pink Houses” also made the charts in 1984, and Huey Lewis’ “Sports” album included other songs about Americana such as “Heart of Rock and Roll” and “Walking on a Thin Line.”

In addition to Springsteen’s top-seller, another iconic blockbuster was released in 1984: Prince’s “Purple Rain.” The album spawned five top-ten hits including “Let’s Go Crazy” and “When Doves Cry.” “Purple Rain” monopolized the Billboard charts from August until the end of the year. Music videos for “Purple Rain” helped boost sales and turn Prince into an international sex symbol while giving Jackson some healthy competition as the reigning King of Pop.

Prince’s soundtrack (the movie was released a month after the album) competed with another hot movie soundtrack in 1984: “Footloose.” The best part of the smarmy film about a city boy upending a religious town and winning over the pastor’s daughter was the high-energy music. Kenny Loggins composed and sang two of the tracks, and other artists including Bonnie Tyler and Shalamar contributed to the album.

The meld between movies and music was powerful in 1984: The theme songs for “Ghostbusters” and “Against All Odds” were top-10 hits, and the soundtrack to “Beverly Hills Cop” debuted in December, resulting in several hits the following year.

Plenty of girl power in 1984, too. Madonna released “Like A Virgin” in the fall and Sade’s “Diamond Life” debuted over the summer. Cyndi Lauper owned three of the year’s top 40 hits that year and the Pointer Sisters had four top-100 tunes.

Three years after the launch of MTV, artists learned that the fastest way to sell a record or become an instant heartthrob was to star in a video. Even bad songs in 1984 became tolerable thanks to the right music video: What else could explain the success of “I Wear My Sunglasses at Night,” “Somebody’s Watching Me,” or “99 Luftballoons”? Lionel Ritchie serenaded a blind girl who then creates a perfect sculpture of his head in what has to be the cheesiest video of 1984 for his single, “Hello.” Wham’s George Michael made all the young girls swoon thanks to his videos for “Make It Big.”

From Whitesnake to Bryan Adams to The Cars and Run DMC, the music of 1984 rarely missed a beat. Now, our music is as siloed as our politics—iPhones and Apple Music playlists and AirPods are one more way to separate us from each other.

So if you’re feeling nostalgic this Fourth of July weekend, crank up some music from 1984. I’ll bet even your kids will know most of the words.

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America • Americanism • Post • The Culture

Midwestern Values: May We Never Lose Them

I spent nearly a week in June in the flyover part of the country—Topeka, Kansas, to be exact—and found it to be a refreshing change. There’s noticeably less snark, whining, self-entitlement, and virtue signaling there than in the San Francisco Bay Area, where I live and work.

Several of the friends I visited come from farm families, although none has followed that occupation. One is a highly successful lawyer and the former head of Kansas’s tax agency, another is a financial adviser, while another became a bank president. A fourth became an eminent psychiatrist and then took over his father’s banking business, but all have retained the small-town Midwestern values that were described movingly by Purdue University President Mitch Daniels and former Indiana governor in a recent Washington Post op-ed:

During a decade in elected office in Indiana, I made it my practice while traveling the state to stay overnight in Hoosier homes rather than hotels. Because of geography and, candidly, personal choice, probably a third of those 125 overnights were with farm families. There I witnessed virtues that one sees too rarely these days—hard work, practical manual skill, a communitarian ethic—woven tightly into the fabric of everyday life.

I saw teenagers and even younger siblings rising at 5 a.m. to feed animals or do other chores before cleaning up and heading to school. It was fun to return home and tell those stories to four suburban daughters whose idea of a tough assignment was clearing the table and washing the dishes.

At county fairs, I would always ask that the 4-H officers be the ones to take me around. Every one of those young people had raised animals for competition, and they showed me projects—artistic, scientific or community service—with the special pride that comes from creative, arduous individual effort.

To a city slicker like me, 4-H and the kinds of chores Daniels describes epitomize the discipline and ethos of Midwestern kids. I find it unfathomable that a child could raise a calf or a pig, and then surrender it to be slaughtered. College kids at universities like Berkeley and Stanford these days are quite different from farm kids: Many are traumatized merely by hearing a “trigger word” like meat or Republican. Never fear, however: The universities provide “safe spaces” and counseling.

Daniels offers more on farm families’ values:

At the Gerber family’s farmhouse near Boston, Ind. (population 130), I learned about the year that Doug, the father, was hit and nearly killed by a train while trying to clear storm debris off a railroad crossing. He said that when he returned home after weeks in a coma, the first thing he saw was his neighbors sowing his crops and feeding his livestock so that his family would have income that year. “They wouldn’t even let me pay for the diesel fuel,” he recalled.

I call that heroism.

In San Francisco, where much illegality has been “decriminalized” because, supposedly, “too many people are incarcerated,” it wouldn’t be a surprise to return from the hospital to find that burglars had cleaned out your house.

Daniels’ op-ed elicited a nostalgic response from one of my Midwestern friends, who was raised on a Kansas ranch/farm and recalled having done

chores mornings and evenings (including milking cows—a virtually lost talent, believe me!), ridden a horse bareback to bring in the cows, fed all kinds of livestock, branded, de-horned, and castrated many of them. My father, my brother and I were 4-H members all our growing-up years, raised and showed horses, cattle and hogs at county and state fairs . . .

The “social transformation” he describes—the rural sense of community and neighbors—was real and you could depend upon them for any kind of support. As Daniels indicates, all that will never happen again in America.

Daniels closes by suggesting that in their quest for a diverse student population, “universities should not overlook the benefits that rural students can bring to their big-city and suburban classmates.” Maybe we could also export some to big cities on the coasts, to set an example of generosity, self-discipline, and comity.

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America • Americanism • Declaration of Independence • Lincoln • political philosophy • Post

Lincoln on the Independence Generation: ‘They Were Iron Men’

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Abraham Lincoln delivered this address, which has come to be called “the electric cord” speech, in Chicago on July 10, 1858.

Now, it happens that we meet together once every year, sometime about the 4th of July, for some reason or other. These 4th of July gatherings I suppose have their uses. If you will indulge me, I will state what I suppose to be some of them.

We are now a mighty nation, we are thirty—or about thirty millions of people, and we own and inhabit about one-fifteenth part of the dry land of the whole earth. We run our memory back over the pages of history for about eighty-two years and we discover that we were then a very small people in point of numbers, vastly inferior to what we are now, with a vastly less extent of country,—with vastly less of everything we deem desirable among men,—we look upon the change as exceedingly advantageous to us and to our posterity, and we fix upon something that happened away back, as in some way or other being connected with this rise of prosperity. We find a race of men living in that day whom we claim as our fathers and grandfathers; they were iron men, they fought for the principle that they were contending for; and we understood that by what they then did it has followed that the degree of prosperity that we now enjoy has come to us.

We hold this annual celebration to remind ourselves of all the good done in this process of time of how it was done and who did it, and how we are historically connected with it; and we go from these meetings in better humor with ourselves—we feel more attached the one to the other, and more firmly bound to the country we inhabit. In every way we are better men in the age, and race, and country in which we live for these celebrations.

But after we have done all this we have not yet reached the whole. There is something else connected with it. We have besides these men—descended by blood from our ancestors—among us perhaps half our people who are not descendants at all of these men, they are men who have come from Europe—German, Irish, French and Scandinavian—men that have come from Europe themselves, or whose ancestors have come hither and settled here, finding themselves our equals in all things.

If they look back through this history to trace their connection with those days by blood, they find they have none, they cannot carry themselves back into that glorious epoch and make themselves feel that they are part of us, but when they look through that old Declaration of Independence they find that those old men say that “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal,” and then they feel that moral sentiment taught in that day evidences their relation to those men, that it is the father of all moral principle in them, and that they have a right to claim it as though they were blood of the blood, and flesh of the flesh of the men who wrote that Declaration, (loud and long continued applause) and so they are.

That is the electric cord in that Declaration that links the hearts of patriotic and liberty-loving men together, that will link those patriotic hearts as long as the love of freedom exists in the minds of men throughout the world.

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America • Americanism • Declaration of Independence • History • Post • self-government

Calvin Coolidge: ‘If All Men Are Created Equal, That Is Final’

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The following is an excerpt from Calvin Coolidge’s (lengthy) speech in Philadelphia on July 5, 1926, marking the 150th anniversary of the Declaration of Independence. 

We meet to celebrate the birthday of America. The coming of a new life always excites our interest. Although we know in the case of the individual that it has been an infinite repetition reaching back beyond our vision, that only makes it the more wonderful. But how our interest and wonder increase when we behold the miracle of the birth of a new nation. It is to pay our tribute of reverence and respect to those who participated in such a mighty event that we annually observe the fourth day of July.

Whatever may have been the impression created by the news which went out from this city on that summer day in 1776, there can be no doubt as to the estimate which is now placed upon it. At the end of 150 years the four corners of the earth unite in coming to Philadelphia as to a holy shrine in grateful acknowledgment of a service so great, which a few inspired men here rendered to humanity, that it is still the preeminent support of free government throughout the world.

Although a century and a half measured in comparison with the length of human experience is but a short time, yet measured in the life of governments and nations it ranks as a very respectable period. Certainly enough time has elapsed to demonstrate with a great deal of thoroughness the value of our institutions and their dependability as rules for the regulation of human conduct and the advancement of civilization. They have been in existence long enough to become very well seasoned. They have met, and met successfully, the test of experience . . .

. . . About the Declaration there is a finality that is exceedingly restful. It is often asserted that the world has made a great deal of progress since 1776, that we have had new thoughts and new experiences which have given us a great advance over the people of that day, and that we may therefore very well discard their conclusions for something more modern. But that reasoning can not be applied to this great charter. If all men are created equal, that is final. If they are endowed with inalienable rights, that is final. If governments derive their just powers from the consent of the governed, that is final. No advance, no progress can be made beyond these propositions. If anyone wishes to deny their truth or their soundness, the only direction in which he can proceed historically is not forward, but backward toward the time when there was no equality, no rights of the individual, no rule of the people. Those who wish to proceed in that direction can not lay claim to progress. They are reactionary. Their ideas are not more modern, but more ancient, than those of the Revolutionary fathers.

In the development of its institutions America can fairly claim that it has remained true to the principles which were declared 150 years ago. In all the essentials we have achieved an equality which was never possessed by any other people. Even in the less important matter of material possessions we have secured a wider and wider distribution of wealth. The rights of the individual are held sacred and protected by constitutional guaranties, which even the Government itself is bound not to violate. If there is any one thing among us that is established beyond question, it is self-government—the right of the people to rule. If there is any failure in respect to any of these principles, it is because there is a failure on the part of individuals to observe them. We hold that the duly authorized expression of the will of the people has a divine sanction. But even in that we come back to the theory of John Wise that “Democracy is Christ’s government.” The ultimate sanction of law rests on the righteous authority of the Almighty.

On an occasion like this a great temptation exists to present evidence of the practical success of our form of democratic republic at home and the ever-broadening acceptance it is securing abroad. Although these things are well known, their frequent consideration is an encouragement and an inspiration. But it is not results and effects so much as sources and causes that I believe it is even more necessary constantly to contemplate. Ours is a government of the people. It represents their will. Its officers may sometimes go astray, but that is not a reason for criticizing the principles of our institutions. The real heart of the American Government depends upon the heart of the people. It is from that source that we must look for all genuine reform. It is to that cause that we must ascribe all our results.

It was in the contemplation of these truths that the fathers made their declaration and adopted their Constitution. It was to establish a free government, which must not be permitted to degenerate into the unrestrained authority of a mere majority or the unbridled weight of a mere influential few. They undertook the balance these interests against each other and provide the three separate independent branches, the executive, the legislative, and the judicial departments of the Government, with checks against each other in order that neither one might encroach upon the other. These are our guaranties of liberty. As a result of these methods enterprise has been duly protected from confiscation, the people have been free from oppression, and there has been an ever-broadening and deepening of the humanities of life.

Under a system of popular government there will always be those who will seek for political preferment by clamoring for reform. While there is very little of this which is not sincere, there is a large portion that is not well informed. In my opinion very little of just criticism can attach to the theories and principles of our institutions. There is far more danger of harm than there is hope of good in any radical changes. We do need a better understanding and comprehension of them and a better knowledge of the foundations of government in general. Our forefathers came to certain conclusions and decided upon certain courses of action which have been a great blessing to the world. Before we can understand their conclusions we must go back and review the course which they followed. We must think the thoughts which they thought. Their intellectual life centered around the meeting-house. They were intent upon religious worship. While there were always among them men of deep learning, and later those who had comparatively large possessions, the mind of the people was not so much engrossed in how much they knew, or how much they had, as in how they were going to live. While scantily provided with other literature, there was a wide acquaintance with the Scriptures. Over a period as great as that which measures the existence of our independence they were subject to this discipline not only in their religious life and educational training, but also in their political thought. They were a people who came under the influence of a great spiritual development and acquired a great moral power.

No other theory is adequate to explain or comprehend the Declaration of Independence. It is the product of the spiritual insight of the people. We live in an age of science and of abounding accumulation of material things. These did not create our Declaration. Our Declaration created them. The things of the spirit come first. Unless we cling to that, all our material prosperity, overwhelming though it may appear, will turn to a barren sceptre in our grasp.

If we are to maintain the great heritage which has been bequeathed to us, we must be like-minded as the fathers who created it. We must not sink into a pagan materialism. We must cultivate the reverence which they had for the things that are holy. We must follow the spiritual and moral leadership which they showed. We must keep replenished, that they may glow with a more compelling flame, the altar fires before which they worshiped.

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America • Americanism • First Principles • History • Post • The Declaration

The Lessons of the Declaration of Independence

The colonists’ quest for independence from the British in 1776 began with a goal: “to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God entitle them.” Declaring independence meant that Americans were no longer subordinate to the British monarch nor subject to the British Parliament, but were equal, free, and independent.

The reasons for this dramatic action demanded explanation, as they noted:  “a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.” Therefore, the Declaration includes two parts. There are on the one hand facts about the conduct and behavior of the British toward the colonists. On the other, there are immutable truths about the human condition. These truths have guided Americans in their quest to live and to build a just and worthy nation since they were penned.

The colonists recognized a universal standard independent of man-made governments and institutions, invoking the authority of the laws of nature and of nature’s God. The coupling of God and Nature was comprehensive. It included that which is human and of this world and that which is created by God and universal.

In his 1837 speech commemorating the Declaration of Independence, John Quincy Adams coupled the laws of nature with the dictates of justice and proclaimed: “In the annals of the human race, then, for the first time, did one People announce themselves as a member of that great community of the powers of the earth, acknowledging the obligations and claiming the rights of the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God. The earth was made to bring forth in one day! A Nation was born at once!”

The now citizens of the United States of America were not just severing ties with their colonial British past, nor were they simply forming a new government. The foundation laid by the Declaration of Independence articulated truths that had never been used as the foundation of any actual government. “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”

These rights are comprehensive in the lives of men and women, though it is important to note that the document says “among these rights,” which suggests that this list is not exhaustive. That such rights exist is a matter of self-evident truth—that is, the truth of the thing is contained within the definition of the thing. To acknowledge that there is such a thing as “man,” created by God and not himself a god, is to acknowledge his equality to every other creature that can be called “man”—and that goes for females, too. Man, as in mankind, meant that in their essential dignity and nature as beings, created by God, they are beings who are by nature also created equal.

The mere assertion that a sovereign people have inalienable rights is not sufficient, however, because government is always required to secure those rights. A right can exist without people acknowledging it. For rights to be actualized, action is required and the authors of the Declaration were very clear about what kind of action they meant.

The relationship between the citizens and the government is made clear by Adams: “by the affirmation that the principal natural rights of mankind are unalienable, it placed them beyond the reach of organized human power.” This reinforces the idea that government is meant to secure rights rather than grant them, and also the notion that the people themselves, rather than the government, are sovereign.

As Adams continues in his explanation of the text of the Declaration, “by affirming that governments are instituted to secure them, and may and ought to be abolished if they become destructive of those ends, they made all government subordinate to the moral supremacy of the People.” The rights recognized in the Declaration are inherent. The moral supremacy of the people gives a standard by which to judge: it is not force or violence, it is a moral foundation that can be discerned by reason and used as a basis for forming judgments.

How best to understand further the rights and the powers of government to secure our rights as stated in the Declaration? Thomas Jefferson, one of the principal drafters of the Declaration of Independence, expounded upon the limitations of the legislature in his Virginia Bill for Religious Freedom. Drafted in 1779, he included references to the natural rights listed in the Declaration: “And though we well know that this assembly elected by the people for the ordinary purposes of legislation only, have no power to restrain the acts of succeeding assemblies, constituted with powers equal to our own, and that therefore to declare this act to be irrevocable would be of no effect in law; yet we are free to declare, and do declare, that the rights hereby asserted are of the natural rights of mankind, and that if any act shall be hereafter passed to repeal the present, or to narrow its operation, such as would be an infringement of natural right” (emphasis added). This theme is advanced as well by Frederick Douglass and Calvin Coolidge, who invoke the word “final” to describe the sentiment.

Douglass in his 1852 speech “What to the Slave Is the Fourth of July?” described those who drafted the Declaration as preferring revolution over peaceful submission to bondage.

They were quiet men; but they did not shrink from agitating against oppression. They showed forbearance; but that they knew its limits. They believed in order; but not in the order of tyranny. With them, nothing was ‘settled’ that was not right. With them, justice, liberty and humanity were ‘final;’ not slavery and oppression. You may well cherish the memory of such men. They were great in their day and generation. Their solid manhood stands out the more as we contrast it with these degenerate times.

Coolidge, in his speech on the 150th anniversary of the Declaration of Independence, also looked upon the Declaration as having a finality: “If they are endowed with inalienable rights, that is final. If governments derive their just powers from the consent of the governed, that is final. No advance, no progress can be made beyond these propositions.”

The finality that Jefferson, Douglass, and Coolidge invoke doesn’t mean that America is static or without the possibility of development or improvement. Instead, it affirms that the principles of the Declaration of Independence are ideals and markers by which to measure all conduct thereafter. The citizens have a responsibility to themselves and to fellow citizens to act in a manner consistent with the foundational principles. One need look no further than Douglass and his reference to “degenerate times.”

The times of which Douglass spoke were among the darkest in the history of the United States. The Declaration recognized that all men are created equal and that they possessed inalienable rights of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, but slavery was still present in the southern states. Douglass condemned the recently passed Fugitive Slave Law, which required that slaves in free states be returned to their bondage. He was a freed slave who was active in the abolitionist movement and intentionally gave his “What to the Slave Is the Fourth of July?” speech on July 5. He pointedly included in his remarks about the Fourth of July, “it is the birthday of your National Independence.”

Douglass posed questions to his audience: “Fellow-citizens, pardon me, allow me to ask, why am I called upon to speak here to-day? What have I, or those I represent, to do with your national independence? Are the great principles of political freedom and of natural justice, embodied in that Declaration of Independence, extended to us? and am I, therefore, called upon to bring our humble offering to the national altar, and to confess the benefits and express devout gratitude for the blessings resulting from your independence to us?” He continues, “What, to the American slave, is your 4th of July? I answer: a day that reveals to him, more than all other days in the year, the gross injustice and cruelty to which he is the constant victim.”

Douglass was blunt. He questioned how the country could declare the self-evident truths of the Declaration, but “you hold securely, in a bondage which, according to your own Thomas Jefferson, ‘is worse than ages of that which your fathers rose in rebellion to oppose,’ a seventh part of the inhabitants of your country.” Not only were those in the south who held slaves denying them fundamental rights, they were also masters of them in direct contradiction to the principles of the Declaration.

Douglass spoke those words in 1852, but he ended his speech on a note of hope: “Allow me to say, in conclusion, notwithstanding the dark picture I have this day presented of the state of the nation, I do not despair of this country. There are forces in operation, which must inevitably work the downfall of slavery. ‘The arm of the Lord is not shortened,’ and the doom of slavery is certain. I, therefore, leave off where I began, with hope. While drawing encouragement from the Declaration of Independence, the great principles it contains, and the genius of American Institutions, my spirit is also cheered by the obvious tendencies of the age.”

Lincoln, with respect to the principle of equality in the Declaration, said in his speech responding to the Supreme Court’s 1857 decision in Dred Scott:

They meant to set up a standard maxim for free society, which should be familiar to all, and revered by all; constantly looked to, constantly labored for, and even though never perfectly attained, constantly approximated, and thereby constantly spreading and deepening its influence, and augmenting the happiness and value of life to all people of all colors everywhere. The assertion that ‘all men are created equal’ was of no practical use in effecting our separation from Great Britain; and it was placed in the Declaration, not for that, but for future use.

The eternal and universal principles used to craft an argument for severing ties with the British and laying the foundation for a new nation were successful in 1776, but their relevance did not end once America became an independent nation, as Lincoln recognized. The principles used as justification and explanation speak to all, as much today as they did 243 years ago. The Declaration is a measure that serves as a reference point, regardless of the time or of a particular set of circumstances. That we are created equal is not dependent upon our being American, or male or female, or our economic condition. It is a universal truth.

That we have inalienable rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness is not dependent upon the government that is in power. That we have the right to alter our government if it becomes destructive of these rights is as true today as it was in 1776. That government is intended to secure our rights and derives its just powers from the consent of the governed reminds us that the foundation of the sovereignty of the people requires participation and vigilance. Consent is given on an ongoing basis and the judgment of whether the government is securing the rights of American citizens or thwarting them is a constant exercise. The words and themes of the Declaration have remained at the heart of American discourse because they provide a guide that is timeless.

There are great differences between the likes of John Quincy Adams, Frederick Douglass, Abraham Lincoln, and Calvin Coolidge, yet they all read the Declaration because it spoke to them and it spoke to the America in which they lived, but it also spoke to the America that they wanted it to become.

The Declaration of Independence speaks to us today because it initiates dialogue between the ages, with the ideas and arguments of citizens past and with those living today. When we are forced to ponder all of the assertions and truths in the Declaration, we must engage in a dialogue with our fellow citizens. To quote from another great work from the period of the Declaration, Federalist 1, we are asked to determine whether we can establish good government from “reflection and choice” or are doomed to accept that we must submit to “accident and force.”

The Declaration provides the parameters of the discussion that lead to reflection and choice. As America becomes more fragmented—the current word is tribalistic—as monuments to historical figures are being toppled, questions asked about how America’s past should be honored or erased, or whether one should stand or take a knee during the National Anthem, such parameters and the principles of the Declaration are necessary. The annual remembrance of the ideals and recitation of the words, a deliberation and reflection upon the meaning and applicability of the words must be an occurrence that goes beyond the Fourth of July.

Editor’s Note: This essay is based upon a speech delivered at the St. John’s College Graduate Institute, Santa Fe, New Mexico, “Does the Declaration of Independence Still Speak to Us Today?”

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America • Americanism • Post • The Culture

‘Real America’ Inside the Beltway

It is often said our nation’s capital is filled with wealthy college-educated elites operating in a company town where everything is transactional. They are a clubby set of folks who can “fail up” in their profession and rarely interact meaningfully with anyone who isn’t part of their peerage. They have lost touch with whomever they used to be wherever they used to come from.

Certainly, on the surface, things here look that way. But that is only the veneer.

Washington also serves as a destination point for Americans from across the country who often save up all year to bring their families to experience all of the history that has gone into forming this country. They visit both large and small museums; the U.S. Capitol; and the memorials honoring Thomas Jefferson, Abraham Lincoln and the brave men and women who fought in World War II, the Korean War and Vietnam.

At the Lincoln Memorial one recent day, thousands of parents, children and grandparents climbed the 87 marble steps from the reflecting pool to the feet of the 16th president. Dozens of languages filled the air as young entrepreneurs swiftly dodged park rangers to sell ice-cold water from makeshift carts. “Dollar water! Dollar water!” chants formed crowds around the cheerful young capitalists.

With the Washington Monument in the distance, a group of sorority sisters dressed to the nines who said they graduated from Howard University together years ago laughed at their follies as they tried to orchestrate a selfie.

Just 300 yards northwest of the tourism bustle, a different sojourner was found at “the wall.” Hundreds walked silently and respectfully past the chronological list of over 58,000 men and women who gave their lives in service to this country in Vietnam.

One man, his cap noting his service, stood with his hand touching a name, weeping quietly. His skin bronze, his dark hair was streaked with white and pulled back in a ponytail. He was briefly inconsolable. His wife began singing a chant, the chords anguished. Strangers one by one gently patted his back as they passed by.

His wife said, “It is a blessings chant … for healing.”

Two blocks away, a different anguish was visible in an encampment of homeless people on E Street, within eyesight of the State Department and the leafy campus of George Washington University. People who have grown used to this anguish hurry past.

City officials insist their family homeless problem has abated. There is irony to the rows of tents filled with people unable to make some sort of go of it in a city surrounded by six of the 10 richest U.S. counties.

Washington is just as complex as the small towns in Middle America that are often cast as homogeneous stretches of uneducated, immobile, resentful bigots.

In the past few months, I have driven through the back roads of Maryland, Virginia, West Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Indiana, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Michigan and probably some other states I am forgetting. My experiences are always the same: People are nice, helpful, giving, imperfect, hardworking, deeply proud of where they come from and profoundly aspirational, no matter what trials they are struggling with.

But here’s the irony: As much as Beltway insiders are told they need to get out of D.C. and see the real America, they could see the real America in their backyard if they were to open their eyes.

We often miss what is right in front of us, no matter where we live. A several-mile walk through Washington reminded me that it truly does represent all of the aspirations, weaknesses and failures you can see and experience anywhere in this country.

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America • Americanism • Book Reviews • Books & Culture • Greatness Agenda • Immigration • Post • The Culture

Making Immigration Great Again

In 1794 president George Washington wrote to Vice President John Adams on the necessity of assimilating immigrants to the new American republic’s way of life. Presciently, Washington lamented the prospect of immigrant ghettos and, as Americans would say two centuries later, multiculturalism. Settling immigrants “in a body,” Washington wrote, meant that “they retain the Language, habits, and principles (good or bad) which they bring with them. Whereas by an intermixture with our people, they, or their descendants, get assimilated to our customs, measures and laws: in a word, soon become one people.”

A review of Melting Pot or Civil War, by Reihan Salam (Sentinel, 224 pages, $27)

Two hundred twenty-four years later, a son of Bangladeshi immigrants makes a similar argument in the modulated language of social science. Reihan Salam’s Melting Pot or Civil War? is one of the best diagnoses of immigration policy in the past decade. The best prescription, however, remains Mark Krikorian’s The New Case Against Immigration (2008), also published by Sentinel.

Drawing on high-quality and ideologically diverse research, Salam, a former executive editor of National Review who in February became the new president of the Manhattan Institute, presents an empirically grounded critique of our current immigration policy. “High levels of low-skill immigrants,” he states, “will make a middle-class melting pot impossible.” The current system fosters inequality, has increased the poverty rate, and keeps a large section of our economy in a “low-wage, low-productivity rut.” What most concerns him is whether low-skilled immigrants’ children will assimilate.

Salam says that the crucial question concerns the type of assimilation: “amalgamation” or “racialization”? Will the children of newcomers enter a new “melting pot” and adopt the “culture and folkways of the established population,” entering the fabric of America “through ties of friendship and kinship”? Or will they grow up in “immigrant enclaves,” socially distant from mainstream America and “relegated to second-class status.”

Unfortunately, “[n]ot everyone is assimilating into the same America.” Many “are being incorporated into disadvantaged groups” and “often feel alienated from the mainstream.” As a result, “We are entering such a dangerous moment.” The National Academy of Sciences (NAS), Salam reports, determined that 45.3% of immigrant-headed households with children relied on food stamps, compared to 30.6% of native-born households with children. The NAS study also declared that not only first-generation immigrants, but also their children and grandchildren, were “net fiscal burdens” for the nation.

From Salam’s well-documented critique of how our immigration policy actually works, we can draw significant conclusions, ones that Melting Pot or Civil War? implies rather than explicates. First, the argument advanced by prominent Republicans as well as Democrats that the assimilation process is intact is deeply flawed. Today’s immigrants and their children, we are told, are assimilating as quickly and thoroughly as the previous waves of immigrants in the days of Ellis Island. Hence, we needn’t worry about a Balkanized America: the children of today’s Mexican and Central American immigrants will assimilate just like those who arrived more than a century ago from southern and eastern Europe . . .

Read the rest at the Claremont Review of Books.

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America • Americanism • Center for American Greatness • civic culture/friendship • Declaration of Independence • Identity Politics • Lincoln • Post • race • The Culture

Reparations and Diversity Are Not the Path to Equality

The revival of reparations talk signals an opportunity for a serious discussion of the revival of republican self-government or strong citizenship. Instead, we get the blithe attitudes of Democrats and the grumbling about handouts from Republicans which signal the bipartisan lack of seriousness—a deficiency also characterizing disputes over immigration and “diversity.”

The best opportunity for a serious discussion took place at Georgetown University, which had been shocked to discover the 1838 sale of 272 slaves who were owned by its predecessor, Georgetown College. Genealogists were able to track down some current descendants of those who were sold to Southern plantations in Louisiana and elsewhere. Records remain of the contemporary debate over the sales and accounts of the dividing of families

So here was a clear case of some physical connection between a wrongful deed and a living person with some connection to it. But the key question remains, what should Jesuit-founded Georgetown University (or those who benefitted from the slave sale, including the debtors that Georgetown paid off from the slave sales) do today? It’s too easy for current students to vote for a modest student fee (often paid for by parents in any case) to benefit someone or another. A tougher question is whether there should be a surtax on current Georgetown Jesuits, the faculty, and staff. Cognizant of the ties of common faith as well as a common institution, Georgetown’s Catholics may feel particular obligations, which would appropriately have included prayers and fasting. Still, the question remains of what obligations the present has concerning past misdeeds.

Current immigrants may scoff at the notion that they are financially or morally obligated to make amends for the wickedness of slavery, an institution that was abolished 150 years ago and long before the arrival of their families. In this they follow the lead of other Americans, who make the same sensible objection: It’s not right to be generous with other people’s money and deprive people of goods in order to bestow them on others you would prefer to see prosper.

If we look to Abraham Lincoln for guidance, however, we will find both the most acute American critic of reparations and its most staunch advocate. What can this mean? Despite his hatred of slavery, his argument against the institution was rooted in constitutional doctrine—which is why he insisted that his wartime Emancipation Proclamation did not free any slaves in Union-held territory but only those in rebel-held ground. Moreover, rejecting slavery is in accord with those who defend property rights today: “this argument of [Stephen Douglas] is the same old serpent that says you work and I eat….”

Or, to put it somewhat differently, “As I would not be a slave, so I would not be a master. This expresses my idea of democracy. Whatever differs from this, to the extent of the difference, is not democracy.” The 13th Amendment was the fulfillment of Lincoln’s Civil War statesmanship:

Section 1. Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction.

Section 2. Congress shall have power to enforce this article by appropriate legislation. 

The dramatic change for America was not only in a shift in domestic law and not only in putting an end to the category of slaves, but it was also in abolishing the category of masters and as well upending the relationship between states and the federal government concerning the freemen. But the amendment also respected the separation of powers and required Congress to act—there was no special empowerment of the president or of the Supreme Court.

Thus, Lincoln’s constitutional argument also advanced a moral understanding of the Civil War, stated most succinctly in the Gettysburg Address and above all in the Second Inaugural with its astounding appeal to the conscience of the re-United States: “With malice toward none; with charity for all,” following a conflict that devastated the country and would transform the South. “Reparations,” in this sense, would need to be made to all who suffered in the war. The purpose of the war he had seen thus:

This is essentially a People’s contest. On the side of the Union, it is a struggle for maintaining in the world, that form, and substance of government, whose leading object is, to elevate the condition of men—to lift artificial weights from all shoulders—to clear the paths of laudable pursuit for all—to afford all, an unfettered start, and a fair chance, in the race of life. Yielding to partial, and temporary departures, from necessity, this is the leading object of the government for whose existence we contend.

Joining a nation is not like buying a club membership. The bonds are stronger. Its debts become those of the member’s. Each assumes the glory and the folly of the nation’s past.

In all this, the protection of the rights to property, as James Madison had emphasized at the founding, would be more important than ever. But property could no longer be held in slaves. A sensible Reconstruction policy would have assured the protection of the natural rights of freedmen and the abolition of the master class in the South. Neither took place.

Lincoln’s statesmanship was missing, and though President Grant strived to expand property rights protections for all, he was thwarted in his noble effort. The nation did not fulfill James Madison’s founding premiseas a man is said to have a right to his property, he may be equally said to have a property in his rights.” Without proper protection of property rights in their full and comprehensive sense, republican self-government is illusory. The party of “you work, I eat” remained in power, though morphing to cope with new political realities and to appeal to those it once argued should be enslaved, eventually becoming the administrative state that now rules the country.

That party in its early and later Progressive forms would then recruit immigrants into their cause. The immigrants came for work, but they stayed for more, often expressing gratitude for their new home. The ethnic diversity of immigrants, in country of origin, mores, and religion, reflected the Declaration’s equality of natural rights. But there was also a disturbing lack of concern for the suitability of immigrants for republican government, given immigrants’ past under old-world tyrannies. Nonetheless, the earlier, patriotic Progressivism along with the practical effects of time for assimilation led to their recruitment into its framework.

Today, the anti-American Progressivism of the administrative state has fostered the notion of privilege for an expanded array of allegedly oppressed groups—racial and ethnic, feminist, and now sexual. The Claremont Institute has recently published symposia on multiculturalism in its Claremont Review of Books and American Mind online magazine.

David Azerrad succinctly argues “Identity politics should be rejected not because it demands justice for those who have been unjustly treated, but because it poses a threat to republican self-government by corroding patriotic ties, fostering hatred, promoting cultural separatism, and demanding special treatment rather than equality under the law.” This is not healthy pride but aristocratic arrogance.

While each of these new identity groups needs to be understood in its particular demands on American republicanism, they all need to be distinguished from connection to the tyranny of slavery and the contemporary denunciations of “white privilege.” Briefly, the American descendants of slaves should be confident in their equality of rights and not remain in debt. Any gratitude they feel should be to the founders and to those who would perpetuate the constitutional order that finally recognized—even at the cost of some 600,000 American deaths—its obligations to them as fellow citizens.  

Alexis de Tocqueville has a useful insight here about Americans being Good Samaritans, though obviously limited in the amount of aid they will offer (Democracy in America, Volume II, Part3, chapter 4). Such limitations are not based on stinginess, however, but instead on the assumption that help given without limitation would be a sign of disrespect for the unfortunate’s ability to live freely and independently.. We today lack the restraint of Tocqueville’s earlier Americans who lived out an ethic of equality that recognized the equal human dignity of the poor and others suffering misfortune demanded treating them as persons capable of living independently.

Thus, the privilege talk, with its reminder of aristocracy, rankles our republican spirit. What the American Republic faces is that “old serpent,” in a new form, oligarchy, a form of personal privilege bestowed on oneself based on one’s origins.

For the study of multiculturalism, one should add to the Claremont Institute publications the “Symposium on American National Character” in the latest issue of Perspectives on Political Science. William B. Allen offers a refreshing bon mot, “a people who cannot lift their own heads cannot lift up their nation.” Or, as a recent president put it, “through our loyalty to our country, we will rediscover our loyalty to each other.”

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America • Americanism • Conservatives • Electoral College • Government Reform • political philosophy • Post • self-government • separation of powers • The Constitution • The Culture

The New Social Contract We Must Reject

America’s public life is disordered; our discourse toxic. Competing lists of scandals and abuses (calls for impeachment, “nuclear options,” attacks on free speech, and so on) are long and shop-worn—and often miss the real issue that something profound, systemic, and dangerous has happened to our nation. A hostile ideology now permeates the institutions that inculcate our children’s values, that shape or manufacture public opinion, and that supply the public with our only menu of political options from which to choose.

In effect, our ruling class has declared a new social contract, and they expect us to accept in silent acquiescence.

A social contract reveals itself in action, not ideas, and the true nature of the new, progressive contract emerges in countless examples of applied tyranny rather than its rhetoric of liberation. If we allow this new social contract to become our national norm, we will no longer be Americans in any meaningful sense. We will descend from a self-governing people into the subjects of social democratic elites who will dictate what kinds of political, economic, and social relationships we have with one another and with our new rulers.

American public life grew from a creative tension between two competing but ultimately compatible visions of who we are and what makes our common life meaningful. In effect, Americans have lived in and between two social contracts, which we have come to call “liberal” and “conservative.”

Our liberal social contract is largely individualistic; it stresses natural rights, political consent, and legal protections that extend from protecting contracts to guaranteeing equality of opportunity. Our conservative social contract, accepting much of liberalism, undergirds it by emphasizing the ties of community—of family, church, and local association—that make economic and political cooperation possible and help give life meaning. Freedom and stability, rights and duties, personal drive and the deeper ties and shared stories that bind us, these seeming contradictions have served as the poles of our common life, allowing us to forge a society of dynamic, ordered liberty.

Things have changed. Whether in the sweeping power grab of Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s “Green New Deal,” the old-style socialism of Senator Bernie Sanders, or the dogged resistance of “mainstream” Democrats to any judicial nominee who recognizes the duty of judges to follow rather than make law, formerly fringe positions have coalesced into a new consensus on the left more radical than anything we have seen previously in our two-party system.

How did this happen?

Barack Obama’s vapid speechifying about America’s coming “fundamental transformation” sounded sophomoric to many of us but inspired others—activists, academics, journalists, and politicians—to believe their vanguard had finally captured all the important cultural and political high ground. The words were conceptually empty but nonetheless important as they signaled a coming out for this vanguard. Feeling free to use naked power to implement their new social and political model, progressives largely immobilized non-progressive elites whose foolish complicity in the building of the new paradigm left them without a script.

This paradigm owes much to the most radical of American Progressives from a century ago. It is laid out most fully, however, in a work of academic philosophy, the 1971 book A Theory of Justice by Harvard philosopher John Rawls.  At one level, Rawls merely restates old leftist prejudices, and his abstruse language hardly conceals the radicalism of a “social contract” demanding that we reject our lived culture, our inherited principles, and the defining traits of our American character in favor of a radical, inhumane, and fundamentally unjust “theory of justice.”  

On another level, Rawls offers the purest form of political abstraction that supported a method of analysis perfectly attuned to the desires of a new generation of radicals for moral certitude and for those who cannot tolerate dissent or pluralism.  In this way, Rawls crafted a very useful and seductive theory for people who want action. Rawls’ contract begins with the question: what type of society would an individual choose from behind a “veil of ignorance” completely masking every aspect of a distinctive self:  gender, class, talents, physical limitations, religious and moral beliefs? Rawls’ answer is a “fair” society, in which the only permissible inequalities would be those that produce disproportionate benefits to the most disadvantaged. The cold abstraction of Rawls’ system produces moral heat against all forms of difference and inequality, and against anyone who fails to parrot the claim that its principles are self-evident. And so, dissent from the new orthodoxy is portrayed as a sign of racist rage and a selfish thirst for power, political majorities are dismissed as brainwashed rubes or mere fictions, and open opposition to the new order is deemed treason. Rawls’ theory effectively closes the mind of disciples in order to prepare them for the long march to power.

If we have learned anything over the last two and a half centuries it is that nothing is so dangerous to real, particular, breathing humans as moralism devoted to abstract visions of the good. Unfortunately, we seem perpetually destined to unlearn such lessons. “Free” college, medical care, and guaranteed incomes, courts determined to legislate against the expressed will of the people, and the poisonous demands of today’s identity politics all share a hostility to the norms of personal responsibility and traditions of due process deeply embedded in our liberal/conservative consensus. They demand rejection of tradition and opportunity in favor of using government and radical pressure groups to redistribute wealth and power according to political standards.

Political conflict is nothing new in America. Nor is all political conflict the product of disagreements over our social contract. For example, much of the tragedy of race relations historically has stemmed from primitive emotions and bad, race-based pseudo-science. But at the core of today’s toxic politics is a battle for America’s soul. We must choose: Are we, as a people, dependents of a central government and those who perpetually run that government, looking for administrators to protect us from all the tragedies of life—including sickness, poverty, feelings of inferiority, and speech we find hurtful? Or are we a free people, possessed of a common story as well as our own stories in our own communities, capable of governing ourselves provided each of us is given fair treatment and room to move in the public square?

The Rawlsian contract demands that every form of inequality—political, economic, and social—pass muster according to rigorous, unrealistic criteria. In effect, every aspect of our lives is to be judged by the most “woke” among us, who will then use the power of the state to enforce their judgement. Promising liberation, the Rawlsian social contract would reduce each and every one of us to a featureless cog in a great machine of constant social reconstruction. This most political of social contracts is the real foundation for the politics of envy and resentment promoted by Occasio-Cortez, Sanders, and their enablers.

At its heart, the Progressive social contract is a rejection of society itself in favor of a pervasive, inescapable politics, guided by a permanent ruling class insulated from the people by tenure, lifetime appointments, civil service rules, and a corrupt political system. Real political consent comes, not from behind a veil of ignorance, nor from the kind of mass, national elections called for by those who would destroy our Electoral College. It comes from people within their own states and local communities. National politics and promises must take a back seat to local concerns and loyalties if we are to regain self-government. For this to happen we first must call out those who would shame normal Americans into submission. It is time to call a radical a radical and a socialist a socialist. Most important, it is time to remind ourselves that, whether conservative or liberal, a majority of Americans still believe in self-government and ordered liberty; this is what has bound us together, and what must continue to bind us together if we are to remain a free people.

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2016 Election • America • Americanism • Deep State • Democrats • Donald Trump • Political Parties • Post

Democrats Are Just Monkeys With Bananas

African natives use a simple method to catch monkeys: take a heavy jar with an opening just large enough for the monkey to fit in his hand. Place a banana inside the jar so the monkey can see it. The rest is easy: the monkey puts his hand into the jar—but with the banana in his hand, the monkey cannot pull the hand back out, and the jar is too heavy for him to lift. Yet the monkey refuses to let go of his prize, and thus becomes trapped. The monkey loses everything by trying to hold on to that banana.

Of relevance to our political moment is the monkey’s psychology, which is analogous to that of today’s Democratic party. To escape, all the monkey needs to do is let go of the banana. But because the monkey views the banana as its possession and is emotionally invested in it, the monkey is trapped. Any rational human being sees the foolishness of holding on to something of so little value—after all, there are other bananas. But the monkey acts on instinct. The banana is already his, while the danger of capture is too remote for its brain—even though holding on to the banana will soon have disastrous consequences for its future.

And so it is with Democratic Party. It simply can’t let go of the Russian collusion/obstruction nonsense. Democrats know they are sticking their hand into a jar. They know grasping at the collusion/obstruction canard traps them. They know people are weary of the whole thing. They sense that independents want to move on, Republicans moved on long ago, and even their own party faithful are losing heart. But, like the monkey whose instinct will not permit him to let go, the congressional Democrats’ brains are incapable of responding to their rational observations of reality. The grasping instinct is too strong.

The Democrats used Mueller and his intrepid crew of rabid partisans (and their journo allies) to torment Trump for two years with the collusion hoax. Every mention of Trump’s successes immediately turned them to respond with cries of Russian collusion. At times, it seemed as if in a nation of 330 million people, no other news existed. A visitor from Alpha Centauri would think that inhabitants of the vast continent between the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans had no other interests at all. Every newspaper, every TV station, every cable news channel and every radio frequency was all about collusion. I can barely remember a world when collusion was not the only topic of discussion for “journalists” and talking heads.

Sometime around 2016, I gave up on television news, including CNN, altogether. CNN became the— all-collusion-all-the-time network with its moniker “The most trusted name in news” pushing two obvious lies—it has no news, and no one trusts it. A guy selling cheap lawn furniture on the Home Shopping Network is more trusted than CNN (and has a bigger audience, too). So I got rid of CNN in my cable package.

At airports, I would try to position myself furthest from the TV monitors. Except the bastards deliberately hang the damn monitors so that it is almost impossible to avoid them. The seats where they don’t force-feed CNN to you are at a premium. If you are anywhere in an airport, except maybe the restrooms, you keep hearing the CNN talking heads prattling on and on about collusion. You feel harassed, but you can’t escape.

Whatever one thinks of Trump’s policies or his personality, I have to give it to the man—he refuses to break or bend, despite overwhelming odds. For almost four years now, the “press” has been throwing daily buckets of slime at him. Two and a half years now since the election, it’s nothing but Trump hatred from every “news” outlet, day in, day out.

Trump’s honeymoon lasted all of 15 nanoseconds. Every member of his family became the target of vicious attacks (remember the attacks on a then 10-year-old Barron? Remember all the attacks on Melania?). Every typo in a tweet became the subject of merciless scorn. Every misspoken syllable in every off-the-cuff remark would be cause for “journalists” competing with each other to express their contempt. Mueller was not far behind. Everyone Trump ever shook hands with faced potential FBI raids, arrests, depositions, or criminal charges. The sum total of all that prosecutorial activity? A gigantic nothingburger.

A lesser man would have blown his own brains out long ago. Can anyone imagine Jeb(!) surviving this? Can anyone see Kasich still standing? Marco? Rand? Each of them would have been reduced to drooling idiocy by the ferocity of the Left’s never-ending onslaught.

Trump not only survived but managed to achieve a great deal. The Left’s refusal to admit that Trump has achieved anything (remember Obama shamelessly claiming that he was responsible for 3 percent economic growth under Trump?) in no way diminishes Trump’s accomplishments.

It is not just Trump the person who drives the Left batshit crazy. It’s that he succeeds in spite of everything they throw at him. They tell themselves that he is an idiot, a halfwit, a clueless naïf—which makes it all the more enraging to them when he continues to run circles around them.

And this brings us back to the monkey and the obstruction banana. People are tired of the investigations, the preposterous collusion farce (now proven conclusively to be a hoax), the bombshells that never pan out, and the never-ending breathless predictions of Trump’s demise. With that “gold standard” of investigatorsthe Mueller crewadmitting that they couldn’t find one scintilla of collusion anywhere, after searching under every rock and tree, one would think we could all take a deep breath and go for one month without some investigation of Trump.

You would be wrong if you thought that. If you blinked, you probably missed how quickly the narrative pivoted from collusion to obstruction. Psychologically and emotionally, Democrats just can’t let go. Like the monkey, they simply cannot help themselves. If not obstruction, then it’s attempted obstruction. If not attempted obstruction, then it’s intent to obstruct. The Democrats believe that if you repeat a lie often enough, it becomes the truth. It didn’t work out so well in 2016. It won’t work any better now, either.

My advice to Trump? (Not that he asked for it.) Do not give the Democrats an inch. Every staffer they want to talk to—refuse to let them appear. Every single one. If a staffer ultimately has to show up—cancel at the last minute and re-schedule three months into the future. Family emergency!

If they manage to get a staffer into a deposition or interview, object to every single question. Force their lawyer to explain every question, down to “state your name for the record.” Force him to establish the foundation for every single thing in every question.

As in: “Did President Trump meet with you on February 10, 2019?”

“Objection! Lack of foundation. Counsel has not established the name of the president on that date!”

When he lays the foundation: “Objection! Counsel did not define what he means by ‘meet’!”

Object, object, object! And then object some more.

Every question is vague, argumentative, calls for a conclusion, assumes facts not in evidence, is improperly phrased, calls for an expert opinion, etc., etc. Then instruct the witness not to answer on any of a dozen grounds. Waste their time until their dental fillings start melting in helpless exasperation. What are they going to do? Complain to a judge? Let them! What’s the judge going to do? Order him to answer? Take it under advisement, and appeal! They want more deposition time? Sure thing. The witness has an opening on his schedule. In 2023.

They get somebody in front of some congressional committee somehow? No problemo! Seat a lawyer right next to him, and object! Every question ever asked by any Democrat is objectionable. Question is unclear. Or ambiguous. Or outside the scope. Or lacking foundation. Or harassing. Or calls for privileged information. Or is poorly phrased. Or vague. Or both vague and poorly phrased. That’s two separate objections right there! Time is precious—and here’s one minute wasted on objections to just one question, and you haven’t even started. Democrats say a hearing is not a deposition? Who cares! Object anyway.

Then ask Nadler, Schiff, Cummins, et. al. to rephrase every question. Then argue about the rephrasing. Then ask them to repeat the question. Then ask them to clarify the scope of the question. Then the witness can ask to clarify. By lunchtime, they’ll finally get the guy to state his name. It’ll make Nadler and company angry? Good! Might it drive them nuts? Even better! Make them piss blood in fury. Let them churn out their subpoenas and contempt citations by the hundreds. D.C. swamp denizens care, but out here, in the real world, nobody gives a damn.

They want documents? Also not a problem! Claim executive privilege over every single piece of paper and every bit, byte, and pixel in the White House. Claim executive privilege over the paper napkins in the White House cafeteria. Claim executive privilege over the toilet paper. Delay. Stall. Run out the clock on the Democrats. Every document they demand—make them fight to the death for it. Ask for extensions. Then ask for more extensions. Make them file lawsuits. If they win, appeal. Then appeal again.

Then produce documents with so many redactions, even the parentheses are redacted. Instead of documents, give them summaries. Useless ones. Make them litigate the same thing again and again. Give them a date certain, and then regretfully inform them that you need time for additional review. If you are forced to produce something—ignore the deadline, then promise to produce soon. Then tell the Democrats the copy machine broke, and the repair guy is on vacation. In Antarctica.

Claim executive privilege over every conversation that ever involved anyone in the White House—even if it took place at Yankees Stadium. These people are not dealing in good faith, so they deserve nothing. Make them feel like they are getting a root canal done—without Novocaine.

Let the Democrats scream in rage like banshees. Let them whine. Let them cry crocodile tears. Let the Washington Post and the New York Times publish scathing editorials. Mr. President, your voters don’t give a crap about the Washington Post. Constitutional crisis? I don’t see no stinkin’ constitutional crisis. I see a bunch of dishonest Democratic whiners with their hands stuck in a jar, who can’t let go of the banana.

Let Adam Schiff shove his head even deeper into his own ass. Let Jerry Nadler join him. Mr. President, trust me: nobody out here gives two craps about these stupid D.C. parlor games. Not a single one of your voters in Wisconsin or Michigan cares about “investigations,” or subpoenas, or citations. They care about their own jobs, paychecks, and 401(k)’s.

The election is 18 months away. If Trump talks about rock-solid economic growth (3.2 percent in the first quarter!), higher wages, lower taxes and record-low unemployment, while the Democrats talk about their banana/investigations/obstruction theories, I see a landslide.

Goodbye, House Democratic Majority.

Goodbye, Bernie/Biden/Kamala/Pocahontas/Pete/Beto/Cory.

Hello, Trump second term.

Photo credit: Getty Images

America • Americanism • Center for American Greatness • Post

Inclusive Nationalism

In response to the latest hysteria from the Left—the suppression of anything that in their blinkered judgment even remotely smacks of “white nationalism”—it is appropriate to again define and defend the benign, colorblind, patriotic, inspiring, and inclusive nationalism that is the foundation of American greatness.

While the phrase “inclusive nationalism” might be criticized as an oxymoron, that is an overstatement of the tension between the two terms. Nationalism by definition is exclusive, insofar as you are either a citizen of a nation, or you are not. But by qualifying American nationalism as inclusive, and carefully explaining what “inclusive” means, you can rule out the malign forms of nationalism that emphasize race and ethnicity over more transcendent sources of unity.

It would be inaccurate to consider inclusive nationalism as just another code word for globalism. If by “inclusive” one means that a person can become an American regardless of their ancestry, this doesn’t mean other criteria can’t be applied. Leftists, and globalists (often one and the same) use discussions of race and accusations of racism to shut down the long overdue conversation over what it means to be an American. Prefacing “nationalism” with the word “inclusive” reopens that conversation. So what would an inclusive nationalist consider prerequisites to being an American citizen?

A useful starting point comes from none other than former President Obama, speaking at a town hall in Berlin in early April. In that meeting, which hundreds of young leaders from across Europe attended, Obama said this:

If you’re going to have a coherent, cohesive society, then everybody has to have some agreed-upon rules. And there are going to have to be some accommodations that everybody makes. And that includes the people who are newcomers. Should we want to encourage newcomers to learn the language of the country that they’re moving to? Of course. Does that mean that they can never use their own language? No, of course it doesn’t mean that, but it’s not racist to say, ‘Ah, if you’re going to be here then you should learn the language of the country that you just arrived at because we need to have some sort of common language in which all of us can work, and learn and understand each other.’

A Common Language
If only Obama, along with America’s entire uniparty establishment, had the courage of such convictions. Because while an inclusive nationalist would reject “white nationalism,” he should have no problem requiring all ballots being printed in English, and only English. The same would apply for literally all government correspondence, from welfare benefit applications to tax returns, from courtroom transcripts to classroom instruction in public schools.

An inclusive nationalist recognizes that without a common language, you cannot have a “coherent, cohesive society.” An inclusive nationalist also recognizes quite contrary to prevailing sentiment among white nationalists and the race-pandering American Left, you cannot have racial segregation, or institutionalized discrimination based on race.

A Colorblind Society
For this reason, an inclusive nationalist immediately would end all forms of affirmative action. He would aggressively ban not only enforced ethnic quotas in all hiring, promotions, contract awards, college admissions and the like, but also seek out and eliminate all indirect attempts to implement quotas. The University of California, for example, enforces ethnic quotas in their student admissions in defiance of state and federal law. This would all stop.

An inclusive nationalist also would end all forms of “cultural safe spaces,” along with segregated dormitories on college campuses. This effort would be relatively easy once America’s universities were restored to pure meritocracies, where groups of students, regardless of their ethnicity, would all have the same distribution of SAT scores. Because they would all have the same academic aptitudes, they would integrate with relative ease.

Immigration Reform
The American Left has tried to stigmatize the term “assimilation” as a racist term. This is utterly false, and reflects not fair-minded reasoning but a political agenda. Inclusive nationalists see no connection whatsoever between assimilation and racism, but they do recognize that immigrants who are successful will be more likely to assimilate.

America’s current immigration policy is the precise inversion of what might best foster successful assimilation of newcomers while at the same time offering the most benefit to the American people. What America needs are highly-skilled immigrants from diverse nations. What America is getting are unskilled immigrants, with the majority of them coming, by the millions, not from an assortment of diverse nations, but instead from Spanish speaking Latin America.

Our immigration policy has created a permanent underclass of people who have been set upon by race pandering left-wing demagogues. Current immigration policy has already created a critical mass of Spanish speaking, poorly educated, unskilled millions who are being trained by our leftist dominated institutions to embrace racial resentment and support socialist redistribution of wealth. Current immigration policy is well on its way towards accomplishing this same objective with mass immigration of Arabic-speaking Muslims, again with the primary de facto criteria for admission being poverty and illiteracy.

Unlike a white nationalist, an inclusive nationalist does not object to admitting people from Latin America, or Africa, or the Middle East, or Asia, simply because they come from those parts of the world and therefore probably don’t look European. But the inclusive nationalist will ask equally tough, and far more legitimate questions:

Why are we turning away scientists, engineers, doctors, and other highly educated and highly skilled prospective immigrants, while instead inviting millions of unskilled, uneducated people into our nation, and how does this further the interests of American citizens, especially in low-income communities? Why don’t we admit people from a wide variety of nations, and cut back for a few years on the number of Latin Americans allowed entry, in order to give those Latin Americans already living here an opportunity to assimilate?

And they would ask the toughest question of all: Why are Americans, and the American press, still willing to tolerate the number one political strategy and priority of America’s establishment uniparty—an immigration policy designed to fragment American culture, undermine America’s institutions, place an unsustainable burden on taxpayer supported American government benefits and services, drive down the wages of American workers, and all but guarantee an electorate that is permanently supportive of socialism?

Inclusive Nationalism Will Attract Everyone
It is pessimistic and unwarranted to believe it is too late to reassert America’s cultural identity. The timeless values that inspired America’s founding rely on European heritage, but that founding implemented universal principles.

Everyone should want to have individual freedom, economic liberty, the right to own property, the chance to have hard work and integrity rewarded. Everyone should know in their hearts that only equality of opportunity, where goals are achieved on a level playing field against immutable and uniform standards, can guarantee a stable and just society.

Conversely, everyone should know in their hearts that enforcing equality of outcome based on group quotas is a path to corruption, division, and ultimately a failed state. Good sense is the distinguishing factor, not race.

America’s power to assimilate is multifaceted and easy to underestimate, especially if you only pay attention to the establishment news media, with their obsession with race, gender, and white nationalist boogeymen. But pay attention to American music, American food, American sports, American innovations, and witness a culture with a vitality that is unrivaled anywhere on Earth, and is immensely attractive.

It will not take raw power for inclusive nationalism to overcome the Left. It will just take jujitsu.

People innately prefer to earn what they have rather than to have it given to them via quotas. People have an innate respect for the truth, unless it is beaten out of them. And not everyone can become an American, or America will cease to be the nation that so many people want to be a part of. Convincing Americans, newcomers and natives alike, of these simple facts, is urgently necessary. That task will be easier if nationalism is expressed in a manner that is inclusive, with conditions, but colorblind.

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Photo Credit: Getty Images

America • Americanism • Deep State • Democrats • Donald Trump • Intelligence Community • Mueller-Russia Witch Hunt • Post • Russia • Trump White House

How the Mueller Report Covers for Clinton and the Conspirators

On April 10, Attorney General William Barr got to the heart of the Russia collusion hoax in a delicate and understated manner.

“Well, I guess—I think spying did occur, yes,” he told a congressional panel. “I think spying did occur. . . . The question was whether it was adequately predicated.”

The term “spying” is actually a euphemism for what really happened. In reality, starting an investigation to create suspicion and a fountain of leaks to frame political opponents to win an election is just the kind of thing Putin did in Russia to subvert what little democracy started to take root after the fall of the old Soviet government. In a way, framing somebody for treason is worse than treason because of the damage it does to the rule of law.

There are two competing narratives for the “predicate” for spying on Donald Trump’s presidential campaign: (1) The Papadopoulos pretext and, (2) the obvious truth. If you want to know why the Left is melting down over Barr’s “spying” comments, it’s very simple: the real “predicate” for spying on Trump is a phony intelligence report commissioned by Hillary Clinton to win an election.

But that’s not the story we’ve been fed.

The lie would be completely irrelevant except that the truth is so much more relevant. The Trump-Russia collusion hoax did not begin with a May 2016 conversation between Trump campaign adviser George Papadopoulos and Australian diplomat and staunch Clinton ally Alexander Downer. In fact, it began with Hillary Clinton’s successful campaign dirty trick: she paid a subcontractor to draft and promote a smear disguised as intelligence to trigger an FBI investigation of her political opponent. It’s that simple. The get-Trump crowd backed into the Papadopoulos story as a pretext.

Similarly, the Mueller report pushes the Papadopoulos pretext: “Papadopoulos had suggested to a representative of that foreign government that the Trump Campaign had received indications from the Russian government that it could assist the Campaign through the anonymous release of information damaging to Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton. That information prompted the FBI on July 31, 2016, to open an investigation into whether individuals associated with the Trump Campaign were coordinating with the Russian government in its interference activities.” It further told readers, “In late April 2016, Papadopoulos was told by London-based professor Joseph Mifsud, immediately after Mifsud ‘s return from a trip to Moscow, that the Russian government had obtained ‘dirt’ on candidate Clinton in the form of thousands of emails. One week later, on May 6, 2016, Papadopoulos suggested to a representative of a foreign government that the Trump Campaign had received indications from the Russian government that it could assist the Campaign through the anonymous release of information that would be damaging to candidate Clinton.”

The Mueller report completely glosses over several important questions in order to prop up the Papadopoulos pretext. First, it should be remembered that the emails the Russians supposedly hacked were from the DNC and Podesta, not Clinton. Papadopoulos made this point in his testimony before the House, “My recollection is that he said the Hillary Clinton emails. Not DNC, not Podesta, nothing like that.” Second, the FBI appears to have tried to plant its own evidence to justify starting the investigation.

John Solomon revealed this stunning revelation: weeks before the FBI supposedly opened an investigation into the Trump campaign for collusion, Stephen Halper, believed to be operating as an FBI informant, approached Papadopoulos with this line, “Oh, it’s great that Russia is helping you and your campaign, right George?” Solomon goes on to report that the FBI withheld Papadopoulos’s response from the FISA court, an emphatic denial, “I have no idea what the hell you are talking about…And I have nothing to do with that, so stop bothering me about it.”  Solomon’s source confirmed that the FBI obtained the transcript of the Halper/Papadopoulos conversation but nevertheless withheld the exculpatory part from the FISA court in the request to spy on the Trump campaign. Papadopoulos also told Solomon that Halper had with him an attractive female companion who implied that she would have sex with Papadopoulos if he would confirm Halper’s theory.

Solomon went on to report, “’The truth is, the Papadopoulos predicate went into reversal, but rather than shut down the probe at that point, the bureau turned to other leads like Steele and Page without giving the court a full picture,’ one source said.”

Sequencing what happened in chronological order proves a useful tool for debunking the Papadopoulos pretext and other myths. That is how I disproved the conspiracy theory that Roger Stone had advance knowledge of a Wikileaks release. It was just a couple of big talkers guessing (incorrectly) about information that was already in the press. As another example, you’ve heard that Donald Trump joking about Russia releasing emails prompted the Russians to do just that. Trump made that joke on July 27, 2016. But Assange began releasing the DNC emails on July 22, 2017—five days earlier.

The FBI opened its counterintelligence probe against Trump on July 31, 2016—before it interviewed Downer about Papadopoulos. By then, the FBI had already begun receiving pieces of the Clinton-procured “dossier.” That dossier formed the basis for the all-important Carter Page surveillance. It’s ridiculous to argue that the dossier Clinton commissioned did not spark the FBI investigation. The Clinton team hired a trusted FBI informant (Christopher Steele) to prepare dummy intelligence reports which successfully triggered the FBI to launch an investigation into Trump.

Although there are literally thousands of moving parts and players in the Trump/Russia hoax, I have prepared a simple timeline below which clearly establishes what I just asserted.

March 1, 2016: Super Tuesday in the Republican Primary. Donald Trump establishes a delegate lead sufficient to make him the favorite for the nomination.

March 6, 2016: Papadopoulos is asked to join the Trump campaign as an adviser on foreign policy issues.

March 16, 2016: Wikileaks launches a searchable database of Clinton emails obtained legally through a FOIA request.

March 22, 2016: The Washington Post announces Papadopoulos is a foreign policy adviser to the Trump campaign.

March of 2016: Papadopoulos met “the Professor” in Italy in mid-March 2016.

April of 2016: The Observer reports, “Panama Papers Reveal Clinton’s Kremlin Connections.” The article recounts how the Panama papers tie the Podesta group to Russian money laundering operations. This very possibly is the “dirt” to which Mifsud referred 19 days later in the conversation with Papadopoulos. Perkins Coie retained Fusion GPS to begin working on the Trump/Russia project. Also in this same timeframe, Perkins Coie hired CrowdStrike, the firm that concluded Russia hacked the DNC servers. On April 26, “the Professor” (likely Mifsud) boasted to Papadopoulos that Moscow was in possession of juicy “dirt” on Hillary.” Mifsud reportedly introduced Papadopoulos via email to Ivan Timofeev, who works for a think tank close to the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Mifsud would later insist he had no contacts with the Russian Government itself, only a few academic figures, Timofeev being one such figure.

May 10, 2016: Papadopoulos had drinks with Australian diplomat Alexander Downer in Kensington Wine Rooms. Downer is a staunch Clinton ally. Downer was accompanied by a companion, Erika Thompson, who Papadopoulos later claimed was a member of the Australian Secret Intelligence Service. Papadopoulos said the Russians might use some damaging material they had on Hillary Clinton. Papadopoulos is not alleged to have mentioned emails.

June 3, 2016: Donald Trump Jr. is approached by Rob Goldstone to set up what is now known as the infamous June 9, 2016, Trump Tower meeting in which two Fusion GPS-associated Russians (Rinat Akhmetshin and Natalia Veselnitskaya) would meet with Donald Trump Jr. Fusion GPS claims it was a coincidence that it met with one of these Russians before and after the Trump Tower meeting. Fusion GPS also exchanged emails with the other Russian. Fusion GPS even supplied the materials and handouts for the meeting in question.

June 12, 2016: Julian Assange, of Wikileaks, announces plans to release a new batch of Clinton emails.

June 15, 2016: Crowdstrike publishes, “Bears in the Midst,” claiming to have evidence that the Russians hacked the DNC server. The claim remains in dispute to this day.

July 5, 2016: Steele went to his London office to meet with an FBI agent with whom he had an existing relationship to provide some of the early reports that would later form the dossier. This is also the day that Comey exonerates Clinton so the FBI can pivot to investigate Trump.

July 11 or 12, 2016: Halper unsuccessfully attempts to get Papadopoulos to say that the Trump campaign is working with Russia.

July 22, 2016: Wikileaks begins releasing emails from the Democratic National Committee.

July 27, 2016: Donald Trump jokes that Russia should release emails Clinton deliberately destroyed. He’s referring to the emails from her private server, not the DNC emails.

July 31, 2016: According to the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence minority report, the FBI opened its counterintelligence investigation into the Trump campaign.

August 2, 2016: FBI agents summarize an interview with Downer in which he recounts the May meeting with Papadopoulos.

February 2017: Mifsud meets with FBI to give his account of the Papadopoulos interactions.

November 1, 2017: Mifsud gives an interview to an Italian news agency. He claims the following: “I strongly deny any discussion of mine about secrets concerning Hillary Clinton. I swear it on my daughter. I don’t know anyone belonging to the Russian government: the only Russian I know is Ivan Timofeev, director of the think tank “Russian International affairs council.”

The Mueller team’s transparent attempt to distract from Clinton’s role in the origination of the Russia hoax reminds us that Jeannie Rhee, Clinton’s former attorney, worked on the Papadopoulos case for the Special Counsel. If the Mueller team is successful in convincing America that the hoax began as some kind of accident or miscommunication, it will have succeeded in derailing the assignment of accountability to law enforcement officials who played an indispensable role in Clinton’s political operation.

It feels like these dirty tricks are getting bigger and bolder. In 2018, the Democrats reprised the Russia hoax by using a sophisticated tech company to frame the Russians for interfering in the election for the open Alabama Senate seat. Was that the first time Democrats framed the Russians for election interference? Maybe not. The sheer scale and success of the Trump/Russia collusion hoax leads one to wonder whether we are entering a new normal in American politics in which law enforcement will make common cause with political allies to take down their opponents. Actually, the Justice Department’s interference in politics is nothing new (see here, here, and here).. It just gets bolder and bolder as our public servants inch closer to becoming our masters. The only question is whether it’s already too late to restore Constitutional control over the Justice Department. Because if we don’t, we will eventually have an American Putin.

Photo credit:  Benjamin Lowy/Getty Images

America • Americanism • Democrats • Elections • Law and Order • Political Parties • Post • Satire

A Modest Proposal for Felons’ Rights

Socialist savant Bernie Sanders has propounded, and Senator cum footwear model Kamala Harris has endorsed, the notion that felons ought to be able to vote.  

After all, to deny the vote to anyone at all is, in Sanders’ memorable phrase, “running down a slippery slope.”

Perhaps this is so.

If it is indeed true, however, the same standard needs to apply to all civil rights, not merely to the right to help direct the world’s most powerful government in its decision-making.  Prisoners ought to be secure in their persons – protected from search and seizure, for instance. They also ought to be able freely to assemble, and not restricted from one another’s company.  Prisons are full of walls which keep people apart. And we know what the Left thinks of walls.

Most importantly, if prisoners have the right to vote, surely they have the right to keep and bear arms.  

Statistically, prisons (like Democrat-run cities) are among of the most dangerous places in the United States. Denying the right to keep and bear arms to our most vulnerable citizens, merely because they are convicted felons in our penitentiaries, clearly is a travesty of justice. They ought to be allowed the arms they need to protect themselves in a dangerous environment.  Consider that an ordinary, law-abiding American in a peaceful and prosperous Midwestern town, may purchase a high-powered rifle he’ll never need—while a felon in constant fear for his life, must rely on an improvised shiv. Privilege, much?!

A few keen observers might note that a dangerous inequality might exist if only those prisoners who already had firearms, were able to keep them.  That’s true. So jJust as we must make sure that all prisoners, from marijuana possession offenders to serial murderers, should be able to vote, we must arm them all equally. A government-provided handgun with adequate ammunition should be issued each newly-admitted prisoner along with his voter registration.

This concrete affirmation of the prisoner’s rights ought, of course, to remain with him upon release.
Many ex-prisoners fall victim to violence after their period of incarceration. Don’t we owe them a head start in the struggle for survival, especially in “Trump’s America”?  Let each released felon keep his government-issued pistol.

Some old-fashioned opponents of civil rights for all, are sure to point out that a few of these firearms might be misused. After all, with a pistol, you can rob or harm someone.

Ah, but with the vote, you can rob and harm EVERYONE.  So anyone who can be trusted with either, might as well be entrusted with both.

Photo credit: Getty Images

America • Americanism • Center for American Greatness • Defense of the West • Deterrence • Foreign Policy • Greatness Agenda • Middle East • military • Post

To Conquer Chaos, Court It

For all of the rhetoric about our supposed liberal international order, the world is more chaotic and unstable than it has been since World War II. Disorder reigns.

And for the technocratic, democratic globalist elites in the West, this disorder can only be repaired with the right combination of U.S. tax dollars, the blood of American servicemen and women, and a desire to remake entire societies in our image (or, at least, in the distorted image of postmodern, Western elites).

Yet, with each new U.S. intervention, we have detached the use of military force from serious national interests and, in so doing, done real damage to our interests. As the disorder caused by American intervention proliferates and becomes systemic, rival powers, such as China or Russia, step into that chaotic void, eventually benefiting from the chaos that the United States has sown, even as we squander our temporary gains.

Flipping Gaddafi: The One Upside of the Iraq War
For instance, the disorder caused by the United States in Iraq won us the initial benefit of newfound cooperation from a long-time adversary, Muammar Gaddafi in Libya. We managed to get him to abandon his pursuit of nuclear weapons and to engage with the West.

Whatever may have been the other failings of U.S. foreign policy in Iraq, we could always point to Gaddafi and his decision to give up his nuclear weapons as a win. For a time, Gaddafi even turned Libya into an essential partner in America’s ongoing global war on terrorism. Throughout North Africa thereafter, Libyan intelligence worked hand-in-hand with the United States and its allies to thwart jihadist threats there.

Thanks to the alliance with Gaddafi, the George W. Bush Administration was also made aware of the illicit nuclear weapons proliferation cabal led by Pakistan’s preeminent nuclear scientist, A.Q. Khan. Washington was able to disrupt Khan’s highly successful nuclear proliferation scheme, which entailed moving nuclear materials and know-how from places like Russia, China, and Pakistan and into the hands of desperate, rogue regimes, like those of North Korea, Iran, Saddam Hussein’s Iraq, and at one time, Libya.

Despite having benefited from its alliance with Libya’s insane strongman, though, Washington’s planners eventually led the successful international effort to topple Gaddafi in 2011.

How Washington Spreads the Contagion
What followed were years of instability in Libya, as no central government could assert enough control over the vast country to quell the disorder. The chaos quickly proliferated to neighboring countries, such as Mali, prompting greater Western military intervention. Soon, Islamists began taking over provinces of Libya (such as Benghazi), where they promptly imposed Sharia law, slavery, and other horrors upon the citizenry.

The more the chaos in Libya compounded, the less ability the United States (and the West) had to influence events there. Yet Russia experienced a concomitant increase of its own influence over powerful actors in the region. Ever since the end of the Cold War, Russia had been cut out of the region by U.S. foreign policy. As a result, nowadays people in the region view Russia in a more positive light than they do the Americans.

Thanks to this perception, Moscow has had a much easier time inserting itself into the region. Further, Moscow and Beijing have a firmer and more fundamental grasp on realpolitik: play all sides against each other, keep the locals distracted, and rarely take sides, while waiting to see how the pieces fall before fully asserting one’s own will.

This is precisely what Russia is doing in Libya today. As the U.S.-backed Libyan government of Prime Minister Fayez Sarraj in Tripoli founders, the self-proclaimed Libyan National Army, led by the autocratic General Khalifa Haftar, steadily marches toward Tripoli. Things have gotten so bad that the State Department issued an order for all U.S. government personnel to leave Libya until the dust settles.

Many analysts are convinced that Moscow covertly is supporting Haftar’s military juggernaut. After all, Prime Minister Sarraj’s regime in Tripoli has proven itself incapable of asserting control over Libya. Plus, Haftar’s forces control most of the oil-rich parts of Libya, meaning his is the force with all of the money and resources behind it. The always-cash-strapped Moscow wants influence over Libya’s natural resources as well as access to Haftar’s wealth. By backing his claim to power, Moscow hopes to gain exclusive access to Libya.

Civil Wars as State-Building Exercises

The instability and chaos created by American intervention in Libya have, therefore, been a boon for the revanchist Russians. In fact, we’ve witnessed the resurgence of Russian might all across the Middle East and Africa (what Andrew J. Bacevich refers to as the “Greater Middle East”), where American forces have intervened. From Syria to Libya to the Central African Republic, Russia is yet again reasserting its power in ways that it has not been able to do since the heady days of the Cold War.

None of this would have been possible without the feckless policies of America’s permanent bipartisan fusion party.

As Edward N. Luttwak once exhorted, “Give War a Chance.” Civil wars are brutal (just look at our own). But, if they are expected and allowed to play out naturally, the result is often longer-lasting and more stabilizing than any peace imposed by outsiders. Wars—particularly civil wars—are a harsh remedy. But just as wildfires sometimes help cull forests in order for them to thrive again, wars can be a necessary and natural part of state building. Intervening to stop them can have grave unintended consequences for the long-term development of a country, such as Libya or Syria.

Because Washington waded into countless civil conflicts with little understanding of the dynamics involved, in many cases even more bloodshed and instability resulted. As instability expanded, strategic rivals, like Russia, managed to court the chaos and use it to their geostrategic advantage. In Libya, Russia has not only courted Haftar’s forces but, until recently, it appeared to be courting Haftar’s rival, Prime Minister Sarraj as well. This pattern has repeated throughout the world in the post-Cold War era. As states breakdown internally and intrastate conflict—driven by ethno-religious tensions—takes hold, American forces repeatedly are drawn into the conflict by well-meaning but ignorant elites.

The U.S. military is good at killing people and breaking things, but it often cannot discern one tribal faction from another—especially when everyone fighting are bad guys (such as in Syria). For instance, the group of belligerents who captured a cowering Muammar Gaddafi and then gruesomely executed him on the side of a Libyan highway, the National Liberation Army, were not secular “freedom fighters” looking to create Western-style democracy in Libya. Instead, key elements of this American-backed hodgepodge force were unapologetic jihadists looking to spread Islamist governance to war-torn Libya (which, they eventually did until Haftar showed up and started killing them).

When America intervenes in civil wars to “protect universal human rights,” very often American forces end up having to take sides in a civil war with no clear good guy, thereby incurring the wrath of those who are fighting against our preferred side, while our supposed allies use us, and eventually turn on us.

Plus, we often end up removing the players in a civil war who might be able to lead their country to some semblance of stability. Once such forces are destroyed, we have then created a permanent vacuum for others, like Russia, to exploit.

We’ve Met the Enemy and He Is Us!
Libya, Syria, Iraq, and Iran are case studies in how the United States completely destroyed its own dominance in a vital part of the world and allowed for its weaker rivals—particularly Russia—to benefit from the ensuing chaos.

Given this, the United States should stop trying to bring order to chaos and instead start courting that chaos as the Russians and Chinese have so effectively done over the last 20 years.

Why doesn’t Washington ever wait to see what Beijing, Moscow, or Tehran intend to do in a given civil war? Why do we always have to go first?

It is time for Washington to realize that, in an age of durable disorder, there is simply no way to impose stability from the outside. Instead, the goal should be to do the least amount of harm both to ourselves and allies while enhancing our national strategic interests—and our understanding of those should be far more limited than it currently is. At times, the United States should not intervene in a civil war, regardless of the human suffering involved. Other times, we might benefit by replicating Chinese and Russian strategies and exacerbate the chaos; playing all sides against the middle. Rarely, though, should American forces deploy to engage in unwinnable humanitarian warfare as they have done on multiple occasions since the end of the Cold War.

The disease of humanitarian military interventionism has infected the minds of America’s permanent bipartisan fusion party; this disease has made those purported great minds dull and has gotten countless American servicemen and women needlessly killed while wasting trillions of hard-earned U.S. taxpayer dollars. More importantly, these unnecessary wars have quantitatively hurt U.S. strategic interests around the world.

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Photo credit: Philippe Desmazes/AFP/Getty Images

America • American Conservatism • Americanism • civic culture/friendship • Hollywood • Law and Order • Post • self-government • The Culture

Civilization Wins in ‘The Highwaymen’

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Hollywood’s cultural liberalism is effective not because it lectures us. Indeed, the lecturing, hectoring awards shows have been getting clobbered in ratings precisely because they do that. The movies and TV shows that succeed in moving our culture leftward do so because they tell a story that gets us to sympathize with the hero.

In his fine little book, The Three Languages of Politics, Arnold Kling writes that the three most significant political ideologies in America see political issues in terms of distinct fundamental conflicts. For liberals, it’s the oppressors versus the oppressed; for conservatives, it’s barbarism versus civilization; for libertarians, it’s tyranny versus freedom.

The categories are not mutually exclusive, because the people who hold these ideologies are rarely completely pure. (People with completely pure political ideologies are fanatics, and all fanatics are boring, Pellinore.) The oppressed fight for freedom; tyranny is itself a form of barbarism; real freedom can only flourish in civilization. Still, as basic frameworks, they are both durable and remarkably explanatory.

John Lee Hancock’s new film, “The Highwaymen,” speaks the language of conservatism. The movie—showing in theaters and on Netflix—follows famed Texas Ranger Frank Hamer (Kevin Costner) and his partner Maney Gault (Woody Harrelson) as they track and ambush Bonnie Parker and Clyde Barrow, bringing an end to one of the most celebrated killing sprees in U.S. history.

Superficially, “The Highwaymen” is a cop-buddy picture, with the stock elements of the genre. More substantially, it’s a compelling consideration of society’s response to evil, civilization’s response to barbarism.

John Fusco’s screenplay serves as a rebuttal to 1967’s unduly honored “Bonnie and Clyde.” If ever there were a movie that spoke the language of liberalism, that was it. In the popular imagination of the Great Depression, Bonnie and Clyde were Robin Hoods, robbing from banks. Director Arthur Penn bought into that myth, weirdly sympathizing with them even as his film graphically displayed their violence. If Bonnie and Clyde were bloody, they at least sided with the oppressed Everyman against the oppressor banks.

Likewise, “Bonnie and Clyde” slandered Frank Hamer as a braggart and a buffoon, motivated not by a sincere desire to enforce the law and protect society but rather by revenge and self-glorification. The Hamer family was so upset by the portrayal that they sought and won a substantial defamation settlement against Warner Brothers.

Hancock and Fusco set out to right that wrong, along the lines of John Boessenecker’s 2016 book, The Epic Life of Frank Hamer.

Rather than a showboat, Hamer is correctly depicted as a serious, experienced lawman, methodically tracking his quarry across the south and Midwest. Bonnie and Clyde knew they were wanted; they didn’t advertise their route or their whereabouts. Hamer and Gault had to understand their targets and anticipate their moves. They also had to disabuse some of the locals of their hero-worship and figure out which local law enforcement officers they could trust.

In reframing the story to be sympathetic to Hamer and Gault, Fusco literally had no choice but to choose the language of conservatism: Hamer as Civilization, confronting the Barbaric Bonnie and Clyde.

Because Bonnie and Clyde were barbarians. They robbed banks. They killed lawmen in cold blood and engaged in any number of petty thefts from the Everyman whose sympathy they exploited. And as true barbarians, they turned civilization’s own ethics against it. Confident that men in 1930s America would be reluctant to shoot a woman, Clyde used that moment’s hesitation to get the drop on those they confronted.

Hancock’s filmmaking here is masterly. He simultaneously emphasizes the inhumanity and violence of Parker’s and Barrow’s crimes, while distancing us from the criminals. They are shown only from a distance, from behind, unclearly, fleetingly. They are the Other, come to terrorize, and we can never empathize with them.

And yet, we are dealing with human beings. If we are to avoid turning civilization’s defenders into tyrants or oppressors, if Hamer is to be something other than the assassin from “Serenity”, we must confront the choice to take life head-on. Conservatism demands that examination of hard truths and hard choices. In two pivotal scenes, Fusco’s screenplay does just that.

Repeatedly, Hamer has to tell people that Bonnie and Clyde aren’t who they think they are. They aren’t Robin Hood and they’re not the nice kids who grew up in Dallas. They are stone-cold killers.

One person Hamer doesn’t have to tell that to is Henry Barrow, Clyde’s father. Yes, they discuss whether Clyde was a bad seed or was pushed to go bad. Instead of ending there in trite fashion, though, the two men agree that it really doesn’t matter. What matters is what Clyde has done. Is it enough to put him past redemption? And if so, what must the response of society be to that evil, whatever its source?

Our distance from Bonnie Parker and Clyde Barrow works to filmmakers’ advantage in one other scene. The two detectives have located the criminals’ hideout. Harrelson’s Gault holds Parker’s hairbrush, and is reminded that he has been chasing a real person across the country, a woman, and he is preparing to take her life. Because we have also only seen Bonnie and Clyde from a distance, we’re with him.

Once again, Hamer sets the terms: “It’s never easy, and it’s never pretty. And there’s always blood at the end of the road—you know that.” Weakness right now is just going to get more good men killed.

The movie opts not for the easy postmodern moral ambiguity, but instead shows the calm, reasoned self-confidence of men bringing individuals to justice.

Photo credit: Netflix

America • Americanism • Conservatives • Cultural Marxism • Hollywood • Identity Politics • Post • The Culture • The Left

The Zone of Adulthood

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Like some of you, I suffer from insomnia. Try as I might, sometimes I just can’t close the deal when I put head to pillow. It started in my teens; I would take a walk or swim in an effort to get tired out enough for sleep. But the passage of time has granted me another remedy as close as my phone: old television.

The familiar and comforting aspect of watching old shows from my childhood generally does the trick. In binge-watching one show, however, I’ve noticed something stark—not that I haven’t noticed it in other aspects of culture when contrasted with early 1960s—it’s just more evident here. What I’ve noticed is that we used to define adulthood as coming to accept that mankind’s negative traits can be ameliorated, but not completely eradicated. Further we used to understand the dangers of conformity. Today it feels like 500 years have passed, not just 50. That’s how great the difference in common knowledge seems between that time and today.

The show? One you know. One I will submit for your approval: Rod Serling’s “The Twilight Zone.”

Three episodes from the first season stand out: “Walking Distance” (my favorite of all episodes in the series), “I Shot an Arrow into the Air,” and “The Monsters are Due on Maple Street.”

From Innocent Joy to Duty and Responsibility
“Walking Distance” tells the story of Martin Sloan, a burned out Madison Avenue ad exec in 1959. (Think of the later Don Draper—more on that in a bit.) He returns to his childhood hometown of the late 1930s to recalibrate, to try and feel serenity again as opposed to his frenetic life in Gotham. His car breaks down outside of town and he walks the distance to it after leaving the vehicle at a service station for repair. But as happened regularly with Serling, the walking distance between the station and town takes him through the twilight zone.

He enters the town not in 1959, but transported back to his carefree days of 1938, and encounters his eleven year old self. As he tries to talk to his younger version to impart wisdom, the boy runs away. Sloan visits his mother and father, who have no idea who the strange man is now claiming to be the grown up version of their son. He again encounters the boy, who he weirdly chases through a merry go round until the boy falls off, permanently injuring his leg. After the incident, and here’s the key, Sloan’s father finds him, figuring out who he is. Sloan wishes he could forever remain in the warm summer night of 1938. But his dad understands that childhood happens only once. After its innocent joys, one must embrace the duties of adulthood. Sloan reluctantly agrees, acknowledges his maturity, and walks back to the service station. The episode finishes with Sloan riding confidently back to Manhattan. Back to his adult life. Gig Young stars as Martin Sloan.

This was filmed before the counterculture of the 1960s turned the tables. Since then the alleged wisdom of youth has been in the ascendant. Adults are money-grubbing racist, sexist, robots whose experience is to be shunned while we are encouraged instead to adopt the supposed earnest authenticity of never-ending adolescent angst. It gave us a world run by Holden Caulfields, as the student rioters of the ’60s have long held the cultural levers of American society without ever growing up in any emotional or intellectual sense.

In an updated version, Sloan would barge his way into the basement of his boyhood home, insist he is entitled to the space, and make camp awaiting the advent of the internet. In 2019, the acceptance of the compromises, responsibilities, and challenges of living as a grown up are tossed aside by the phenomenon of 30 year olds living in their parent’s home and behaving like teenagers with ATM cards. It is reflected in the politics of the age as well, as veritable children like AOC are actually taken seriously by many in the nation. We have regressed to political and cultural thumb sucking. It does not bode well.

Is this only the fault of the teenage miscreants? No. Just as the seeming failure of Brexit is in great degree due to the Tory Party installing a Remainer as the Prime Minister of a government committed to the U.K. leaving the EU, the rise of the Bratty Brigade is due in large part to the abrogation of adult responsibility by their elders in the first place.

When student agitators disrupted a class, damaged school property, or occupied a dean’s office, if they had been forcibly removed and then expelled, it would have sent a message to students and administrators alike: Sorry, toddlers, the grownups are still in charge. Aside from Ronald Reagan as governor of California and S. I. Hayakawa as president of San Francisco State University, that was a message the adults of the time were rarely willing to send. Thus, the petulant little vermin ran amok to infect the vast majority of academia and the rest of society well into the future.

As a side note, the themes, characters, and even terms from the “Walking Distance” episode were lifted wholesale in the brilliant Don Draper Kodak Carousel pitch from “Mad Men.

A Thin Veneer of Civilization
In “I Shot an Arrow into the Air,” Serling engages in what would become a familiar trope to  viewers; that if any wayfarer is lost or on the way to another planet, they were really on or headed to Earth the whole time. He does this so consistently you can set your watch by it.

This story deals with three marooned astronauts who believe they have crashed landed somewhere in deep outer space. We assume by the standards of the time that they are highly trained and disciplined military officers. Nevertheless, one of them repeatedly breaks the chain of command and then kills his commander and crewmate so he can survive by using their scant resources for himself. As he then ascends over a cliff to survey the terrain, he finds they had landed in . . . Nevada. Ed Binns stars as the commanding officer.

What I think we see showcased here, as in The Lord of the Flies, is that when put in severe situations, it is easy and probable that certain people will throw off the thin veneer of civilization and behave like ravaging beasts, murdering and taking advantage of others for their own benefit. That, Serling knew, is a constant. It is the human condition. This is a far cry from the perfectibility of mankind ethos that underlies the modern welfare state and incipient American socialism. A tweak there and an adjustment here and man will reach social paradise. We can immanentize the eschaton.

But perhaps because Serling’s generation had been through the Great Depression, World War II, Korea, and was on the cusp of Vietnam, they full well understood the evil man would always be capable of committing. Today though, the facts and conclusions of history have been replaced with a never-ending litany of agitprop designed to instill a sado-narcissism, a sense of greatly elevated personal status earned by brutishly punishing your heritage, your nation, your very being. It is making common cause with those who would put you in peril. It is Stockholm Syndrome gone even more mad.

We’ve Seen the Enemy . . .
Finally, in “The Monsters are Due on Maple Street,” mindless conformity is the subject, as aliens slightly alter the power grid on a typical American suburban street to watch the total violent mayhem that takes places as the residents turn on each other looking for the culprit who is causing the power fluctuation. It is 1959, so flying saucers are quite on the mind. Once the villains are deduced with the help of a kid with a bad haircut, the hunt is on for the alien collaborators.

The episode ends with the aliens commenting to each other how easy it was to drive the earthlings to self-destruction. Seems silly. But it is presented well. Claude Akins stars.

It was no doubt meant to be an indictment of conformist McCarthyism, as Serling was a liberal in his day—which, of course, would make him a solid conservative today. But in modern translation watching the neighbors on the street crazily betray and prey on each other to discover who is working with the aliens does not conjure up visions of wild-eyed House Un-American Activities Commission committee members. Instead, the story reminds us of the insane conspiracies of collusion and the ideological lockstep and party conformity (known today in the neo-Orwellian term “message discipline”) that engulfs one of our major parties. It is enough to throw small bait to the mind of those disposed to bite and turn them into salivating wolves, ready to persecute and even kill those who do not conform or agree. These residents of Maple Street would find a fine home in most gender studies departments today, not to mention the Democratic Caucus of both houses of Congress. And the rounding up of the enemy collaborators? Well, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez has got that covered with her now notorious “I’m keeping a list” line.

The purblind longing for delayed or denied adulthood, the delicate boundary between civilization and barbarism, and the mad power of leftist conformity, are all things that came to pass and replace normal discourse as the warped ideals of the vicious childlike late ’60s counterculture captured the previously adult culture.

Though it was mistaken in many respects, Serling’s vivid imagination must have looked upon the dissolution of muscular and sane Cold War liberalism as the years passed and despaired over the weak shadow it cast. For both him and his country, a country he had served in uniform, a more nightmarish dreamscape was hard to imagine.

Even in “The Twilight Zone.”

Photo Credit: The Twilight Zone

America • Americanism • Donald Trump • Post • The Culture

What Trump Understands That Kevin Williamson Doesn’t

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There we were, the four of us: my husband and I and our new friends Stan and Barb, sitting around our kitchen table, eating and getting to know one another. In many ways, Stan’s was a quintessential American story. Blue-collar kid, a short enlisted stint in the Navy (hilarious stories), a tech in a major company until the industry shifted and a buyout left him with a little money, but too early to retire. So Stan put his efforts into building a small business upgrading school buses with modern radio systems. In their mid-70s Stan and Barb were still driving to repeat clients across multiple states. When Stan and Barb took on a job, it was done well.

One day Stan collapsed in their motel room hours from home.

At his memorial service, longtime friends paid tribute to Stan’s dry wit, his precise work, his low profile community service. Then three men in old uniforms appeared. One of them was quite elderly, his hands shaking as they carefully folded an American flag and presented it to Barb. Of all that happened that day, she told me later, that moment touched her heart deeply.

I understood why.

Which brings me to Kevin Williamson’s recent article, “The Nationalism Show.” Williamson clearly values orderly thought, so I’ll turn for a moment to some science before getting to Donald Trump and his love for big military parades.

We humans are, as biological anthropologist Terrence Deacon notes, a symbolic species. Before we had logic, we had stories, ritual, and symbols. Nor have we somehow left them behind.

Those grand concepts like freedom and justice? Their meanings to you and to me are grounded in our individual experiences, in the memories and associations they invoke—often fleetingly and without our dwelling on them. Recent discoveries in neuroscience and other evidence suggest that our wonderfully complex brains actually simulate past (or imagined) sensory experiences as they process the words we hear or read. More abstract ideas activate wider areas of the brain, from the oldest brainstem to the uniquely human frontal cortex.

Our thinking, however unaware of it we might be at any moment, is shaped by our past experiences. And experiences are reinforced in our brains and bodies through the stories that interpret them. Big stories about our history. Amusing stories about an encounter at work.

But what happens to a society when there is no common story? When no symbols touch us in a shared way?

Istvan Kecskes has spent his career studying how we communicate across cultures. You can pick up important clues as people learn a new language. Over time, people who become fluent shift the internal context of meaning through which they interpret words and sentences. They acquire associations in common with native speakers, and thereby come to understand the subtle, beneath-the-surface implications of what is said.

One Facebook friend of mine namedrops “Big Bang Theory” characters. His readers pick up the meaning.

When there are no shared stories—when the very idea of shared stories across a diverse society is vehemently denied, as is the case in the postmodernist world of academia and its graduates—there can be no common understanding.

Where there is no common understanding, there is no basis for the kind of principles-based, negotiated policy compromise upon which our Constitution is built.

My friend Stan had us laughing out loud as he recounted the friendships and quirkiness of living aboard a ship, tales of common humanity and deep cultural differences encountered in foreign ports. Stories the echoes of which I could hear in his later life.

Donald Trump tells stories, too. Stories about the worth and dignity of those who work with their hands, who raise families. About pushing back against the hollowing out of livelihoods and communities that is the result, in good part, of the priority some have placed on abstract policy rather than on the individual human lives and communities those policies have impacted.

Trump invokes the story of an America that, for all its imperfections, has brought more freedom, dignity, and opportunity to more people than any other country in the long, fractious history of humanity. My family has personal stories of what it is like to live where the prudent measures of our Constitution never took hold.

If one wants to communicate that the people of this country will defend what has been built here so painstakingly, a military parade would be one way to do it. A parade would be particularly effective if it’s followed, as this administration has done, with a policy of coordinated use of the means of national power—economic, military, diplomatic—to advance the interests of U.S. citizens in principled, fair ways.

Kevin Williamson is articulate and fierce. But he has lost the storyline.

Trump is less articulate. He’s transactional. But evidence suggests he understands story and symbol at an intuitive level.

It is the story he invokes that has earned Trump support, a story that informs his judicial nominations, calls for infrastructure investment as well as prison reform, and multifaceted negotiations here and abroad.

If Williamson and others do not like the story Trump advances, it would behoove them to craft one of their own. To be effective it must be compelling, symbolic in resonance, and offer a narrative that many across this diverse country can live through and join in the retelling.

For a good story ultimately offers hope. At the end of the long journey the protagonist achieves the victory, finds the treasure, risks all for an important cause that finds its expression in day to day lives of ordinary people.

Our common story as Americans has been eroded, intentionally on the part of the Left and through neglect, complacency, and self-interest by leaders on the Right. It is time to renew and extend it.

Photo Credit: Getty Images

America • Americanism • History • Post • The Culture • The Left

‘Apollo 11’ Recalls True American Greatness

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For those benighted souls who are offended by MAGA hats, the very last thing in the world they want to see is America’s last contact with greatness—our manned missions to the moon.

I mean, heart-bursting, lump-in-your throat greatness.

The kind of greatness so many of us grew up with as part of the background noise of our lives. Seeing the equivalent of a controlled nuclear explosion propel a 360-foot tall, six-million-pound vehicle to a speed of 18,250 miles per hour in a matter of minutes will choke you up.

Yes, we did that. On our spare time. As a gesture.

That’s greatness.

But what did the Left make of the 1960s? A loaded buffet of trashy pop culture, racial tensions, submission to the childish pieties of a semi-literate “activist” class, and an endless diet of self-loathing that is, in retrospect, nothing if not neurotic in the extreme.

It’s time we take the culture back, as adults with a higher mission. And “Apollo 11” reminds of the kind of unifying moral altitude that all Americans, indeed all humans, were thrilled by and which today’s antinomian Left abhors.

The Apollo program was the capstone of our collective military-industrial effort to fulfill President Kennedy’s 1961 challenge, “to land a man to the moon, and bring him safely back” before the end of the decade.

As such, it was, to be sure, not a scientific quest but a political stunt. Frank Borman, commander of Apollo 8, said it clearly: “I think that most people think that it was, you know, just a voyage of exploration and discovery . . . but it was indeed a battle in the Cold War.”

“Apollo 11” is a narrator-less documentary: an objective stitching together of the major events of the Apollo 11 mission, which celebrates its 50th anniversary in July, drawn from mostly never-seen-before archival footage.

From rolling the giant Saturn V rocket out to the launch pad to the ticker tape parades months later, this movie balances the chronology with telling and intelligent captions—identification of key players, description of key metrics ranging from heart rates to vehicular velocities, and simple cues about what the machinery might be doing at any given time.

Those of us who remember these heady days in the summer of 1969 will get emotional at the archeological quality of daily life a half-century ago—the clothing, the hairstyles, the cars, and the daily routines before “smartphones” . . . hell, before telephones became ubiquitous! Think: miniskirts, muscle cars, newspapers, bell-bottom pants, bandana kerchiefs, and old-school cameras.

Playing across the carousel of our private lives, the vast public spectacle of Project Apollo was offered up as a noble and heroic effort, something that initially drew our attention to a weakness in ourselves that we sought to correct—our scientific and technological backwardness in the face of the incredible string of Soviet space “firsts” that started with Sputnik in 1957 and continued with Yuri Gagarin’s first orbital mission in 1961 and Alexei Leonov’s first space walk. We were squarely behind the proverbial eight ball.

But we caught up in record time. By the time of Apollo 8’s circumnavigation of the moon in December 1968, we began to pull ahead.

And the space race changed more than our perception of ourselves, it also impacted culture: our feeling for the value of things took on a new dimension. We saw ourselves once again as a pioneering race, taking it to the universe. Manifest Destiny writ large across the Milky Way. It affected the way we designed things, thought about the relationship between objects, how we saw ourselves in the universe, and even how we had breakfast—remember Tang?

The audacity of the project. That was great. Bordering on the ludicrously optimistic. Fully 400,000 Americans were enjoined in the effort.

But walking out of the theater, I was struck by what a class act we used to be: the three men who made that journey thanked everyone else. They were the tip of a very long spear, and they knew it. The people involved were keenly aware of the fact that this was a team effort, that individual excellence was primary criterion for team membership. The impulse wasn’t to brag, to celebrate a political cause, or a social “movement.” If anything, we see that it was the invocation of deity that signaled our once reflexive, common cosmology in the face of cosmological awe.

Audacity, humility, and uncompromising commitment to perfection.

This is the kind of effort that made America great to start with. It animated the Pilgrims and the settlers. Yet we decided to walk away from our achievement out of political fear. Today, half a century later, we can’t even get a single American into low Earth orbit. To the Left, that’s progress.

Make America great again. See this movie and you’ll know what kind of people we need to become once again, to take up the baton and thrust aside the weak sentimentalism, the putrid cult of victimhood, the endless self-indulgence, and the culture of immediate gratification.

See “Apollo 11” and be reminded of what kind of people we really are.

Photo Credit: Heritage Space/Heritage Images/Getty Images