America • Americanism • civic culture/friendship • Cultural Marxism • Education • Identity Politics • Post • The Left

Boy Scouts Destroy Themselves

The venerable Boy Scouts are now going to admit girls. The organization’s quest to make young boys into men slowly has been chipped away by a combination of legal pressure and the influence of the dominant, liberal culture. It was worn down by litigation and only a few years ago agreed to allow the admission of homosexuals both as members as scout leaders. Then it was transgendered “boys” only in January of this year. Now the Boy Scouts are admitting girls. I’m reminded of Flannery O’Connor’s concept of the ultimate liberal institution: The Church of Christ Without Christ.  

The stated reasons for this change aren’t completely important, and I expect there is more than one. But whether it’s financial, to accommodate parents who want “one stop shopping” for kids’ activities, misguided attempts to expand membership, or to allow the coveted title of Eagle Scout for girls, single sex organizations, particularly for boys, have been in jeopardy for a long time.

This is unfortunate. The Boy Scouts began, in part, out of a desire to address the consequences of urbanization and the related disruption of family life that these changes entailed in the early 20th century. Boys, previously working alongside their fathers on the farm, would now be ensconced in factory-style schools, with less exercise and fewer opportunities for adventure.

The Boy Scouts’ founders feared a less masculine and heroic generation in an environment where authority figures were exclusively women and life was less strenuous than in the recent past. They understood that the combination of these trends had the potential to create a society of timid, weak, confused and risk averse men. Scouting, with its emphasis on survival in the outdoors, was supposed to teach character, responsibility, and individualism. In the current age of the millennial—exemplified by the Obamacare propaganda campaign’s “pajama boy”—it appears the Boy Scouts’ founders were onto something. Pajama boys are not the kind of men who create, protect, or renew a civilization.

At the time of its founding, over 100 years ago, the fact that the Boy Scouts was a self-described boys organization was not controversial. Men and women had more distinct roles and expectations in society. “Co-educational” institutions were rare. But even as society and the economy evolved to include more blurred roles for men and women, there remains value in single sex organizations.

Teenagers in particular live in a sexually charged atmosphere, where competition for mates persists, even if the end result is less often marriage. These organizations remove this potential distraction. Boys and girls also have different physical capabilities; if judged by the same physical standards, boys would win the vast majority of awards and girls may become demoralized. Further, the possibility of sexual relationships undermines the camaraderie of mixed sex groups and opportunities for friendship. Mixed groups, frankly, are simply never as cohesive as single sex organizations for this reason. Thus fraternities and sororities and single sex colleges and activities persist. Both sexes want them.

Feminism, while persistent, seems to miss this point. It invokes sexism as if it were the same thing as racism, but no one thinks of it as such, at least not in situations like this one. While much of racial discrimination was motivated by hostility and self-proclaimed superiority, much “sexual discrimination” is simply another word for chivalry or the creation of single sex spaces to form friendships.

Separate but equal water foundations appear cruel and ridiculous. Single-sex bathrooms, by contrast, are totally familiar and not seen as demeaning to either group, who, after all, are in numerical parity. The same is true of single sex dorms, schools, sports, clubs, and activities. Indeed, there is a very successful organization called the Girl Scouts of America, and it is understandably critical of this decision, as a mixed-sex Boy Scouts promises to poach a significant cohort of their potential members.

This decision will have predictable consequences and culminate in the diminishment of the Boy Scouts of America. There are at least two reasons for this. First, whenever an organization aims for equality explicitly, that goal begins to overshadow all other institutional goals. We have seen this in police departments, the military, educational institutions, and in many other important institutions of our society.

This diminishment flows from the concept of “institutional” discrimination, which condemns the continued use of legacy standards. Those old standards come to be deemed discriminatory because they often produce different results noticeable to those keeping score by race or sex. Standards previously used with no discriminatory purpose whatsoever, and, indeed, which form part of the group’s pride and notions of excellence, become problematic when the demographics of the organization change. The demand for equality becomes all-consuming to the point of organizational transformation.

For example, if women fail to make up more than 5 percent of all Eagle Scouts, will there not be soul searching about the Boy Scouts’ “toxic culture of masculinity,” patriarchal assumptions, and the mix of activities that are designed to match traditional boys’ interests? This will be deemed unfair and discriminatory. Will there be new merit badges for activities now absent and in which boys, over the years, have shown little interest? And will this strenuous attempt at self-reflection and institutional change not stop until at least 50 percent of Eagle Scouts are women?

Here is a news flash: boys and girls are different. Boys like getting dirty and camping and and taking apart engines and climbing through junk yards and rough-housing. Some girls do as well, no doubt, but far fewer. Mostly the two groups are different, and this was obvious to everyone 20 years ago, has been obvious from the ridiculous ways Title IX has impacted schools and colleges, and now this “common sense” regarding the most basic of sex differences is becoming a “hate fact.”

Yet there is second reason this is a bad decision, and it is more subtle. Becoming a man is, in a way, a process, and a tenuous one at that.  Masculinity is more fragile in some ways than femininity. It has long been steeped in ritual. It is not simply a matter of age but of expectations of behavior, independence, and physical courage. Young boys and men are exhorted to “Be a man,” as if it were possible to fail. Part of what makes an activity distinct for this purpose, at least for most boys, is that girls don’t or can’t or aren’t allowed to do it.

In the best of times, these rituals are supervised, recognized, and tied to real achievement. Think of a boot camp graduation or a Bar Mitzvah. In the worst, they’re mere hazing and, in certain communities, include pathological milestones, like your first night in jail. But either way they’re important, they are sought out, and young men who exemplify the Boy Scouts’ code are in need of such ritual for many of the same reasons that they were at the beginning of the 20th century.

We have a fragmented, physically weak society. characterized by disorder and irresponsible behavior, both within and without. Far from an age of political crisis, ours is characterized by a crisis of morale and a crisis of authority. No one knows how to behave any more. Moral behavior depends foundationally on distinctions of what is true and false, of what one owes and to whom. A boy is not a man, and a girl is not a boy. It’s too bad the Boy Scouts—of all groups— have forgotten this.

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America • Big Media • Center for American Greatness • civic culture/friendship • Post

‘Dances With Daffodils:’ Staying Sane in an Insane Age

It’s a commonplace that we live amid a communications revolution. With the Internet and smartphones, a few keystrokes propel a person’s views—however sublime, salacious or ridiculous—reverberating around the globe. Which, if you spend two minutes on Facebook, you know is doomed.

What to do in an epoch of disproportionality, wherein any and every event, no matter how minuscule in the grand scheme, is so politicized as to portend the end of the world (allegedly)? How does one live seated front row in an amped-up age where Nigel Tufnel reigns, for instantaneously everything “goes to 11”?

Well, you go insane right after you go deaf—if, from time to time, you don’t tone down, turn off and tune out the media’s incessant, interminable claptrap.

This week, I did. It felt good. I’ll do it again.

Yeah, I know what happened—not for lack of trying, but because it was inescapable. But I didn’t need to subject myself to the caterwauling class histrionically “interpreting” events for me ad nauseam. Usually, they’re wrong, and they spin it to make themselves look sharp and their political slants seem straight. No thanks. You know what they say on the carnie circuit: “Hey, kid, if the Tilt-a-Whirl makes you dizzy, get off before you puke.”

Sound advice, as is the dictum to never upset a heavily tattooed Tilt-a-Whirl operator wielding a chain for some abstruse reason.

Come now, in parsing the week’s news, did one really need the self-righteous screeds of self-anointed secular “saviors” to divine:

  1. Sexual harassment and sexual assault are morally and legally wrong—period.
  2. Murder is a mortal sin and capital crime, and no law enforcement agency has a clue as to the motive behind the largest mass shooting in American history.
  3. Increasing the supply of health care to meet rising demand will stabilize and reduce its cost.
  4. The problem is North Korea being hell-bent on obtaining the capacity to launch a nuclear attack on the United States; the problem is not the United States and her allies’ determination to prevent it.
  5. One cannot cut a good deal with a rogue regime that screams “Death to America!”
  6. When athletes kneel during the national anthem, whether one is for or against it, everybody’s got a right to bitch. Now what?

As that answer is elusive, I predict they’ll keep bitching about everything under the sun at the top of their lungs which, again, go to 11. As for me, I refuse to go deaf listening to them—that I’d rather do digging The Who’s “Live at Leeds” blaring through my old school headphones.

But of paramount importance in muting the maddened crowd is the distance: one must make time to step back from life’s complex mosaic to grasp at “the big picture.” Only then can we begin to glean an answer to the question, Now what?—and envision the means to achieve a more perfect union of our nation and a more pacific world.

Bluntly, no one ideologically blinded within an insular political world can view—let alone improve—the real world. For true joy, understanding and inspiration remain where Wordsworth found it—real life:

I wandered lonely as a cloud
That floats on high o’er vales and hills,
When all at once I saw a crowd,
A host, of golden daffodils;
Beside the lake, beneath the trees,
Fluttering and dancing in the breeze…
For oft, when on my couch I lie
In vacant or in pensive mood,
They flash upon that inward eye
Which is the bliss of solitude;
And then my heart with pleasure fills,
And dances with the daffodils.

With that, to any wags out there who cattily cite the irony that, by writing this piece, I’m joining my voice to the cacophonous chorus cursing the darkness of daily events, I say:

Squat.

I’m toned down, tuned out, turned off . . . and dancing with the daffodils.

Former U.S. House Republican Policy Committee Chair, the Hon. Thaddeus G. McCotter, is an American Greatness Contributor; and Author of the novel Nain Rouge Blues

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America • Americanism • civic culture/friendship • Cultural Marxism • Education • feminists • Hollywood • Post • Progressivism • The Culture • The Left

Sex, College Sex—and Harvey Weinstein

Several years ago, a member of a once-tony club walked into its bar and noticed that most members weren’t wearing neckties, a requirement that had existed for more than a century. He asked the president, who happened to be at the bar, why the rule had been changed. The president said that a majority of the members no longer wanted to wear ties. The member replied, quicker that you could down an ameliorative shot of premium whiskey, “Sounds like an admissions committee problem.”Perhaps Harvey Weinstein was a new member.

And that sounds like the problem that has troubled a number of universities too, including most especially last year the University of Minnesota, as well as Florida State, the University of Tennessee, Baylor University, and others.

Last year’s Exhibit A student sex scandal was the one at the University of Minnesota where ten students—whose pictures can be seen here—were suspended, but the plot was roughly the same everywhere, every time. A student claimed that she was raped by one or more students. They denied it. She had been drinking. They had been drinking.

What to do? How seriously do we take campus rape? How do we take campus rape seriously?

In the 1960s and 1970s most states passed rape shield laws. These laws, supported especially by feminists, were enacted to protect rape victims from having to have their prior sexual history displayed in court, which tended to make them reluctant to come forward to charge rape. The theory was that just because the accusing woman had had sex with Tom on Monday night and with Dick on Tuesday night it did not mean that the sex she had with Harry on Wednesday night was consensual. Nor would evidence be admissible to show that she had had sex with Tom and his ten friends on Monday and with Dick and his ten friends on Tuesday. With this aspect of the accuser’s character being inadmissible, it was easier to convict a defendant of rape.

But not easy enough for some people, which is why there was a movement to make the standard by which college rape defendants were “tried” by the schools (rather than by a proper jury) the “preponderance of evidence” standard used in civil cases rather than the “beyond reasonable doubt” standard used in criminal cases. President Obama’s Department of Education decreed, and so informed educational institutions, that the civil standard should be applied in college rape cases.

The real problem, of course, is that sex has become entirely casual and recreational. Boys and girls in college—not, really, men and women—live in the same dormitories and copulate as casually as they watch TV, shake hands, or pat each other on the back.  That’s called the Harvey Weinstein excuse.

What if the girl at the University of Minnesota had filed a complaint saying that whereas she had willingly allowed Tom and Dick to pat her on the back, she was outraged and felt personally violated when Harry had done the same, and she was filing an action against him for battery? That is, approximately, what the University of Minnesota’s Office of Equal Opportunity and Affirmative Action found to be the situation in the Minnesota case. The details are mind-numbing and can be found in the EOAA’s 80-page report.

In that case, the Minneapolis Police Department concluded that the woman’s sexual contact with the first two men appeared to have been consensual. Whether the sexual contact with the subsequent ten or twenty men was consensual is disputed.

How can we possibly tell? And do we care? And is asking that question the perfect way to scandalize a postmodern progressive liberal—still smarting from Hillary Clinton’s humiliating defeat?  

If a female student is going to treat sex so casually, why shouldn’t her own casual standards—if we can call them standards—be admissible in evidence?

And what about the ten or twenty “men” who lined up at the bedroom door waiting for their turn to have sex with her? Even if the sex was consensual, they should all be expelled. Creatures like that belong in game parks, or zoos—though animals tend not to text their friends, saying things like, “Me and the recruit finna double team this bitch” (“finna” generally means “going to”) or “all 3 them n****s hitting rn” (“hitting” generally means “having sex with,” and “rn” means “right now”).

The real problem is that students have received no teaching about sex or proper behavior, partly because their parents, if they have resident parents, have bought into the liberal zeitgeist that sex is only recreational. Ask Harvey.

Betsy DeVos, President Trump’s Secretary of Education, fortunately has rescinded the Obama directive to apply the civil “preponderance of evidence” standard to college rape cases. Rape shield laws tip the scales far enough in favor of the accuser. Secretary DeVos’s rescission will annoy (more schadenfreude) the postmodern progressive liberals because they are concerned only with the issue of consent, not the sex.

The real problem is that students have received no teaching about sex or proper behavior, partly because their parents, if they have resident parents, have bought into the liberal zeitgeist that sex is only recreational. Ask Harvey.

In addition to being instructed to use the proper legal standard for trying rape cases, colleges and universities should also be given incentives to be more diligent in deterring campus rape. They should be penalized, perhaps losing 5 percent of whatever federal funds they receive, for each campus rape case. “Federal funds,” after all, are taxpayer funds, and if they are going to be given to educational institutions—and whether that is a good idea is a separate issue—they should be used to encourage the institutions to encourage students to behave properly.

At the same time, because the possible loss of funds might tempt the institutions, even if only slightly, to hedge on reporting rape cases, girls at those institutions might have an incentive to behave rather more circumspectly, knowing that the institution might ignore any complaint of rape.

And the potential loss of funds might also give the institutions an incentive to act more in loco 1950s parentis, a task that could be made rather easier if the institutions’ admissions committees tried to admit only students who seemed to have been brought up to treat sex seriously, as a gift from God to be used properly (or if they are non-believers, as a “civil sacrament”), not as mere recreation.  See Harvey Weinstein.

How would a college do such screening? Who knows, but they test for everything else; why not that, too? And surely some of the institutions with the worst records, and perhaps others that didn’t want to join that club, could hire Google to come up with an algorithm that would separate the people from the animals. Screening out the animals may be the only way to reduce the incidence of campus rape. Hollywood is a separate problem.

The problem for postmodern progressive liberals, who are the people running most of the institutions, is that they really don’t have any grounds for taking rape seriously because they don’t take sex seriously—or at least not any more seriously than they take the issue of whether members of tony clubs should wear neckties.

 

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America • Americanism • civic culture/friendship • Cultural Marxism • Defense of the West • Education • History • Identity Politics • Post • The Culture

The Good, the Bad, and the Better in Our History

 

Today we—or, rather, the remaining sane among us—commemorate the anniversary of the discovery of America by Christopher Columbus. The official holiday was Monday, disconnected from the actual date of Columbus’s discovery and, as some would now have it, even from the actual event. Today we are called upon to disavow Columbus and all his works and to deny that any good came of his efforts. We are called, instead, to castigate ourselves and celebrate “Indigenous People’s Day” as if, in so doing, we can remove or negate historical sins by obsessing over them and refusing to see the good in the past.

In Nathaniel Hawthorne’s short story “The Birthmark,” a scientist marries a beautiful young woman who has a birthmark on her cheek. Despite her being a good and loving wife, he finds himself bothered by the mark and devises a procedure to get rid of it. As the young wife undergoes the procedure, the birthmark does indeed begin to fade. Unfortunately, however, as it fades she dies. The lesson is clear—human perfection is unattainable and the effort to achieve it through human will can lead to worsen the circumstances at the root of our imperfection.

It may not seem an exact analogy but this story always comes to mind as I read about efforts to tear down monuments, first of Confederate figures and war dead, now broadening to statues honoring Jefferson, Columbus, and other great but flawed men. If ever there was a slippery slope, this is it, for evidently even Lincoln is being targeted for what are supposed to be his politically incorrect views on race. But history is the product of many interwoven threads—pull one, and you are liable to unravel others, even some that you really need for the strength of the overall fabric.

Here’s another inexact but instructive analogy, from the histories of the two countries that occupy the island of Hispaniola, discovered (to European eyes) by Columbus, and colonized in different waves by both the Spanish and the French. The Spanish colony became the Dominican Republic while the French colony became Haiti.

As they moved toward independence, the two colonies took exactly the opposite routes. The Dominicans looked to their Spanish heritage and preserved what was useful in European culture. The Haitians, on the other hand, more or less following the totalitarian impulse of the French Revolution, destroyed everything that their colonizers had built—the entire infrastructure including roads, bridges, and machinery—and looked to a kind of indigenous identity for their model of liberation. This divergent history is reflected even in the names of the two countries.

The Dominican Republic is the largest economy in the Central American and Caribbean region and has a thriving tourist industry. Haiti is, well, Haiti. It is desperately poor—the perennial object of global charity that never seems to address its multiple problems, and it operates, if one can call it that, with a per capita income perhaps one eighth that of the DR.

In tearing down statues and monuments, rather than seeking to understand the history and culture behind their erection, sifting through the good, the bad, and the ugly of the past, radical activists may gain temporary satisfaction but may also be dismantling the interwoven strands of meaning that support our freedom, prosperity, and national unity. Every culture, including those of the indigenous peoples of the Americas, has blood on its hands. After all, Cain, the first murderer, was also the founder of the first city, and by extension, the first civilization.

You don’t have to be a Southern apologist to say that the Civil War was fought for a complexity of reasons. Slavery amounted to the foremost and final reason, yes, but there was also love of home, a sense of place, a belief in duty, and a fierce independence. Some of these qualities remain part of our cultural infrastructure today and we are foolish to dismiss them or to wish them away. Comparisons of the South to Nazi Germany are inept, inapt, and intellectually irresponsible.

In addition, all the monuments are part of the history of a relatively short and successful civil war. We shouldn’t slight this. Not every country has had this outcome. Some civil wars go on for decades, as in Angola, and sometimes the evil side wins, as in Vietnam, the latter with the help of our New Left. Korea is still divided. In some countries, like present day Yemen, there may not even be a better side. England suffered through nine years of civil wars, and decades more of turmoil before parliamentary rule could be definitively established. And in the process they had to behead a king, always a messy business fraught with unseen consequences. The Northern Irish have had to tolerate outright thugs and murderers sharing power as part of the Good Friday agreement that ended their “Troubles,” and in Russia, the Bolshevik victory in the civil war that followed the October Revolution eventually culminated in forced labor, mass purges, and state-enforced famine. Likewise in China.

The losses were devastating in our civil war, granted, but it was definitively over in four years and our founding principle, that all men are created equal, was left intact. As Lincoln said, it was a great test of self-government and America passed it. There continued to be severe racial problems, to be sure, in both the North and the South, but they had to be squared ultimately against that founding principle. The Civil Rights Revolution of the latter half of the 20th century was inspired by that same principle, the principle that is being overturned by contemporary radicals who are replacing it with identity politics, reverse discrimination, group entitlements, and tribal vengeance.

No country is perfect but some are better than others, and we are decidedly among the better. The activists want to use perfection and the aspirations of our own ideals as weapons to destroy us for our supposedly unfulfilled promise of perfect equality. They have some of the truth, but not enough of it and they do not mean well with the part they do have. Nothing would satisfy them.

The monuments are needed not to symbolize opposing sides but to help us fully understand our collective history. At the southeastern tip of New York City’s Central Park is Manhattan’s Grand Army Plaza, dominated by a large equestrian statue of General William Tecumseh Sherman. What does someone of several generations worth of Southern heritage think when seeing that statue, which shows Sherman astride his horse being led by what is officially a female figure representing Victory, but looks very much like an angel. Sherman’s devastatingly destructive March to the Sea left desolation and suffering in its wake and it took decades before the South recovered. (Still, as ruthless as Sherman was, he did not deliberately harm civilians, nor amputate the limbs of children as happened in the civil war in Sierra Leone.) But what the monument honors is not the destructiveness of the March to the Sea but its efficacy in ending the war, which then put an end to slavery and reunited the country.

The South didn’t really have a chance; they were indeed a lost cause from the beginning, as we can see in the so far unbanned Gone with the Wind, and yet they seemed ready to fight to the last man. In Ron Maxwell’s marvelous Gettysburg, we witness the folly that was to become Pickett’s Charge in the planning. Robert E. Lee’s subordinates, particularly General James Longstreet (Tom Berenger in the best performance of his career), see it as doomed, yet cannot overrule Lee’s authority as the commanding general. Afterward, when the slaughtered Confederate lambs are being gathered up, many of them young men who had barely begun to live, the surviving troops affectionately greet and cheer Lee (portrayed by the outspoken leftist actor Martin Sheen) as he rides among them. We need to remember Lee’s tenacity and the worship he inspired in order to accept the brutality of the March to the Sea.

The monuments are emblems of the conciliation that Lincoln hoped would mark the postwar period, the comity and compassion that enabled us to survive so terrible a conflict in which “brother fought brother,” as the old saying goes. No country is perfect but some are better than others, and we are decidedly among the better. The activists want to use perfection and the aspirations of our own ideals as weapons to destroy us for our supposedly unfulfilled promise of perfect equality. They have some of the truth, but not enough of it and they do not mean well with the part they do have. Nothing would satisfy them. For the culture to tolerate and even accommodate their frenzied attacks on monuments and memorials is a losers’ game, because all the toppling, defacing, despoiling in the world will not make these provocateurs like our country more or even hate it less.

We should keep alive all the aspects that led to the conflict, that were fought out in it, that were sorted out after it, and all the memorials that help us continue to sort them out today. And likewise with monuments that preserve other aspects of our history. Looking to purge the past is seeking perfection where it cannot be found and to lose the threads of meaning that make sense of the present.

 

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America • Big Media • civic culture/friendship • Cultural Marxism • Donald Trump • feminists • Hollywood • Identity Politics • Movies • Post • The Culture • The Left • The Media • The Resistance (Snicker)

Hey, Lefties: Where Are Your Pussyhats Now?

Today is the one-year anniversary of the infamous “Access Hollywood” tape. (I know. It feels more like 10 years ago.)

For days, Americans were subjected to an ongoing audio loop of a private conversation in 2005 between Donald Trump and the show’s co-host, Billy Bush. I don’t need to remind you what Trump said because anyone with a pulse can probably recite it verbatim. Some gals even have hats to commemorate Trump’s secretly recorded, indecent remarks.

The ensuing outrage should have been a clue of how intense, consuming, and exhausting the daily political climate would be under a Trump presidency. When the story broke in the Washington Post that Friday afternoon, the paper’s servers crashed due to the massive traffic to the site. The reaction from Democrats, women’s groups, celebrities and many Republicans was harsh, swift, and in some cases, way over the top. The man who was running for president against a woman married to a man who was a serial sexual harasser and assaulter, who seduced a young intern in the Oval Office when he was president and left a little reminder of one tryst on her blue dress, who was impeached for lying about his predatory behavior under oath, was compelled to publicly address his comments and apologize for the vulgar remarks. Melania Trump spoke about it. Some demanded that Trump withdraw from the campaign and several Republican rescinded their endorsements.

No group was more offended by Trump’s remarks, or so it seemed, than the newly minted Puritans of Hollywood. Celebrities went ballistic, firing off furious and anguished tweets about the Republican presidential candidate. Film producers, television actors, movie stars: everyone had something to say about Trump and many equated his remarks to sexual assault. (There is a good round-up of celeb tweets here.) And it wasn’t just about his fitness for office. Trump was the poster boy of powerful, rich men using their position to exploit and abuse women. He symbolized everything that is wrong with our white, patriarchal society.

Now, here we are, one year later, and the New York Times just published a bombshell expose about one of Hollywood’s most powerful men, Harvey Weinstein. The lecherous behavior of this disgusting man is one of Hollywood’s worst-kept secrets; no doubt the Times could have an ongoing series of articles about this movie-making, sexual predator. Like many Hollywood moguls, Weinstein parlayed his fortune and influence into political power, becoming a major Democratic party donor and fundraiser. Since 1990, he has contributed more than $1 million to Democratic PACs, officeholders, and candidates, many of whom must have been aware of Weinstein’s reputation as a first-rate vulture.

So, let’s take a little trip down Social Media Lane and see how our virtuous, high-minded celebs who wanted Trump charged with rape a year ago have reacted to the Weinstein story.

Do you hear the crickets? I sure do.

Come along then, and let us look at the Twitter timelines of some of Trump’s most indignant celebrity agitators such as Debra Messing, Chelsea Handler, Bette Midler and Lena Dunham to see if any are despairing over Weinstein’s vile behavior and the victims left in his wake. Messing? No. Handler? No. Midler? No, but she did tweet about “the deceit!! The hypocrisy! The nerve!!” of Republican Congressman Tim Murphy for asking his girlfriend to have an abortion. Lena Dunham? Oh yes, here’s something! Dunham applauds the Times reporter for breaking the story then says this about Weinstein’s victims:

Wow, these people are good. Way to virtue-signal without alienating a potential boss. Very clever.

How about new Democratic activist and washed-up actress Alyssa Milano? Ah, I see a tweet. Nope, not about Weinstein. Milano retweeted this:

Good to know.

But surely our nation’s conscience, celebrity interviewer Jimmy Kimmel, has something to say about this. Hmmm, I don’t see anything on his Twitter page. Perhaps he mentioned it in his monologue last night? Nope, but he did rant on and on about Trump’s tweets on fake news. No tears, though.

And what to make of Ashley Judd? The actress was completely unhinged during her speech at the Women’s March in D.C. the day after the inauguration. She referred to herself as a nasty woman, despicably claiming Ivanka Trump was her father’s “favorite sex symbol, like your wet dreams infused with your own genes.” While she found time to vent about female celebrities getting paid less than their male counterparts, and questioned why tampons and maxi pads are still taxed, she failed to muster up the courage to tell the frenzied crowd about her encounters with Weinstein.

Judd is cited in the Times article and talks about some of the moves Weinstein put on her: “Women have been talking about Harvey amongst ourselves for a long time, and it’s simply beyond time to have the conversation publicly.” If that’s true, why didn’t she say anything last January when she had a major public platform to do so. Nasty, yes. Brave, no.

Ashley Judd at the Women’s March on Washington, January 2017.

There could be an ulterior motive explaining why Judd is only now revealing her two-decade-old accusations against Weinstein. She is starring in a new Epix series after taking a long break from acting. The Times article gives her some much-needed publicity just before the season premiere on October 15. Also, she must be aware of the damage she did to her reputation after the Women’s March, so perhaps she is hoping to get some credibility with Republicans by going after Weinstein. (Yes, I am this cynical.)

Now, let’s check in on the political crowd. How about the what-do-we-tell-our daughters twosome of Hillary Clinton and Michelle Obama? Nada. I’m sure it has nothing to do with the fact Weinstein raised money for Hillary as well as Michelle’s husband. One would think Obama would really be fuming at this news since her 18-year-old daughter just completed an internship for Weinstein. According to an article in Variety on Thursday, “the Obamas have not made any statement on Weinstein, and a spokesman for the Clintons did not return a request for comment.”

When they go low, we go . . . silent?

What about all the pols who have accepted money from Weinstein in the past? As of Friday afternoon, only four U.S. senators—Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.) and Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.)—said they would donate the same amount Weinstein contributed to their campaigns. The always persistent, never silenced Warren oddly had nothing to say on her Twitter timeline or campaign website. Maybe Mitch McConnell told her to be quiet.

Once again, this episode exposes the gross hypocrisy of the American Left. Some will argue that the two are not comparable because Trump was running for president and Weinstein is just a movie producer. That’s obviously true, but don’t kid yourself. Weinstein has wielded immense power over American culture for decades. He has been a rainmaker for Democratic political candidates across the country. And despite this kerfuffle, he will be right back in business after a brief leave of absence from his company. All will be forgiven.

Moreover, there can be no doubt that if Weinstein ran for president against Trump, these folks would vote for him and sing his praises in a heartbeat. The ire about the p*ssy tape never was about sexual harassment or women’s empowerment. It’s just liberal politics as usual.

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America • Book Reviews • civic culture/friendship • Cultural Marxism • Education • feminists • Free Speech • Identity Politics • Post • Progressivism • The Culture • The Left

The World is Your Oatmeal

When Lisa De Pasquale first informed me she was writing a new book about the Left, I was concerned for her mental health. Fortunately for all us but those on the Left, she’s kept her head; and, buoyed by her common sense, conservative principles and—something sorely lacking in her quarry—a sense of humor, Ms. De Pasquale has produced an enlightening satire of the Left’s benighted worldview: The Social Justice Warrior Handbook: A Practical Survival Guide for Snowflakes, Millennials, and Generation Z.

As is customary in satirical musings, there are two levels to plumb. First, there is the obvious mirth, wherein the hypocritical and the haughty are skewered and brought down to size. In focusing on SJWs, De Pasquale has found a plethora of overly self-esteeming poltroons ripe to be hoisted by their own petards. For example, in “Choosing Your Food Philosophy,” savor this tasty bite she takes out of culinary cultural warriors:

Nose to Tail

If you live in California or other progressive location, consider a food philosophy that incorporates locally-raised, organically-fed animals. Embrace the offal! Offal is the organs and entrails of meat products. You may receive some judgment from vegetarian friends, but remind them that using and respecting the entire animal is part of the Native American tradition, as well a necessity in other cultures. For example, many Native Americans boiled the full stomachs of buffalo for a tasty grass-fed stew. In modern society, this might include foie gras or pâté prepared by a bearded chef with a tattoo of a butchered pig diagram.

Scrumptious, no?

Our first course of amusement consumed, let us move to a few of the deeper truths beneath. De Pasquale’s satire of the SJWs. (No, I’m not going to reveal them all, but rather serve you and the cause of American Greatness by allowing you discern these deeper truths for yourself—after you buy her book.)

One: the Left believes politics isn’t just a part of life; the Left believes politics is life. This is why SJWs inject politics into every facet of human existence—because they believe it is already there. Unconvinced? Try sitting down and eating a hot dog (or offal) beneath the glare of a vegan wanting to link arms with you in solidarity with something or other at an NFL game. Or just try celebrating a blessed event:

Planning a Coworker’s Baby Shower

Coworker: She said she’s having a boy, so I thought we could decorate the conference room with blue balloons.

You: We actually don’t know the fetus’s gender, so we should use a color that doesn’t follow traditional gender roles.

Coworker: What color should we use?

You: Oatmeal.

Two: though normal folks disliking cranks bitching at them, SJWs egotistically persist because of their presumed status of enlightenment above and beyond that of the rest of us. Consequently, attempts to engage SJWs in a rational discourse prove impossible, because any disagreement with their ideas is viewed as an attack on their illusory sense of superiority. And, oh, do they not dig this.

Three: Elitist SJWs and their comrades in academia, the media, and corporate America have institutionalized their insanity. Never mind that pesky First Amendment with its recognition of our God-given human rights to free speech and the free exercise of religion. SJWs and their enablers seek to stifle any and all criticism as well as contrary ideas as “hateful,” “racist,” or “[fill in the blank] phobic.” Of course, this amounts to the very fascism and oppression the SJWs claim to be resisting, even as they happily foist these things upon the rest of us. Chillingly, as Ms. De Pasquale’s book reminds us despite its humor, the SJWs’ liberty eroding “political correctness” is predominantly enforced by the private sector.

In reading De Pasquale’s book, I was reminded of a saying my late father used to like, “Some people are only happy when they’re miserable.” SJWs are miserable people bent upon imposing an equality of misery upon the freest, most prosperous, and powerful nation in human history, SJWs and their Leftist cohorts reject “American Greatness” and prefer an American grayness. They won’t be content until the world is no longer your oyster but is, instead,  your oatmeal.

Friends, this is a cursory and by no means comprehensive review of the amusements and truths in De Pasquale’s The Social Justice Warrior Handbook. So snag it and read it.

While you can….

 

 

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America • Big Media • California • civic culture/friendship • Cultural Marxism • Hollywood • Post • self-government • The Culture • The Media

Casting Stones from Casting Couches

The New York Times on Thursday published a withering expose of Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein’s long history of sexual harassment against women. No one in Hollywood is shocked. He’s tried to get out in front of the story by stating, “I appreciate the way I’ve behaved with colleagues in the past has caused a lot of pain, and I sincerely apologize for it.”

Well there you have it. Done.

Of course he only came forward after hiring a phalanx of attorneys in what I can only imagine was an attempt to stop the story from appearing in the first place. In Weinstein’s bizarre non-apology apology, he blamed the 1960s and ’70s—as if every man who came of age during that time turned out to be a lecher or a rapist.

But don’t worry. Weinstein, a huge supporter of Hillary Clinton’s campaign, was “With Her” and, despite making movie after movie glorifying gun violence, plans to spend the rest of his days going after the real enemy in all this, the NRA. So it’s all good.

Nice one Harvey. And here I thought you might spend the rest of your days learning the difficult and subtle art of how to not use your power to extort young women into having sex with you.

In other entertainment news, brilliant director and fugitive rapist Roman Polanski is “over it.” Polanski, a man to whom none other than the conscience of Hollywood, Meryl Streep, gave a standing ovation and who many Hollywood luminaries—including Weinstein himself and the ethically challenged Woody Allen—want “freed,” is “over” the nuisance of being reminded of his rape in 1977 of a 13-year-old girl.

He’s over having plied her with Quaaludes; he’s over having invited her into a bedroom “to take pictures.” And he’s definitely over repeatedly sodomizing her, despite her continued vocal objections.

Ironically, news of Polanski’s ability to move on breaks at the same time as yet another woman—the fourth—steps forward to accuse him of underage rape.   

I wonder if Whoopi Goldberg will consider this one rape-rape.

If these weren’t enough, let’s take a moment to reflect on the pharmacological stylings of Bill Cosby or the complicated family life of Woody Allen. Then there’s Jeffrey Jones, the actor who played principal from “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off” who, like Weinstein, apparently came of age in the ’60s and ‘70s, which must have been what led him to pay a 14-year-old boy to pose for nude photos. Former child actors complain that the industry is full of pedophilia and child grooming, yet the industry takes no notice.  As if to ensure that the trend remains current, Glee Star Mark Salling, who most definitely did not come of age in the 60 and 70’s, recently pleaded guilty to possession of 50,000 images and videos of child pornography—with victims as young as 3 to 5 years old.

But not to worry, as Harvey Weinstein himself proclaimed, “Hollywood has the best Moral Compass.”  

And if we need to know anything about the way in which the powerful in the industry view those at the bottom, we need only to look at what George Clooney said of Steven Bannon’s attempt at screenwriting. You don’t have to like Bannon to see very clearly how Clooney views the artists below him who struggle to get their work made: “Steve Bannon is a failed fucking screenwriter,” spat Clooney. “Now, if he’d somehow managed miraculously to get that thing produced, he’d still be in Hollywood, still making movies and licking my ass to get me to do one of his stupid-ass screenplays.”   

That’s right. They expect people to “lick their asses.” I’m assuming, of course, that Clooney meant that figuratively, but considering the culture of the industry outlined above, who can really say? Regardless, the powerful in Hollywood relish obsequiousness at every level. They are all too happy to let everyone in their orbit know about the power dynamic between struggling artists who are moved to create and those who have landed at the top.  And what’s more is the unspoken understanding, even the expectation, that they might use that power for lecherous ends.

Harvey Weinstein isn’t an aberration, he’s just the most prominent and current example.

I’ve worked in this industry for more than 20 years. This isn’t easy for me to write and I’m pretty sure it won’t help my career. But it must be said. I bristle at the nerve of an industry that tolerates and even praises the likes of Polanski and Weinstein having the temerity to lecture the rest of the country about morality and the meaning of a good life. It’s beyond chutzpah or hypocrisy. It beggars belief.

So when prominent entertainers and Hollywood executives stand there and lecture the rest of the country about any moral issue, it’s good to take a step back and realize who it is doing the talking.   

Every time a talk-show host, actor, producer, director, or executive opens his mouth and pontificates on this or that national moral failure, we ought to respond loudly and with one voice:

Enough!

You stand there and you lecture us about morality? You tell us how to vote? Or who deserves generational and cultural praise? You give standing ovations to admitted rapists, to men that would do harm to children and women—and you would indict the rest of the country as immoral?

You peer from the commanding heights of an industry awash in sexism, racism, age discrimination, and a tacit acceptance of pedophilia; where the “casting couch” is so common an occurrence that it’s a running joke and no one within bats an eye to question it? Where the depravity of the powerful takes aim at the innocent? Where the accusations of rape by former child actors are shrugged off as “business as usual”?

You profit from irresponsible and inaccurate portrayals of guns and the glorification of falsely romanticised gun violence all the while seeking to assuage your obvious guilt by pointing fingers at the guns themselves and by indicting the millions who use them responsibly despite your product?

You work with, worship, and try to appease reprobates knowing full well their reputations for indecency and then have the gall, the audacity, to criticize anyone for anything?

Celluloid Houses, apparently, are extremely resistant to self-reflection and can only project the monsters within them onto the world at large.   

Hollywood, don’t you dare tell us what to do.

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America • civic culture/friendship • Law and Order • Post • Religion and Society • Second Amendment • self-government • The Culture

It’s Not a Gun Issue, It’s a Community Issue

In America, gun rights are enshrined in the Constitution. The Supreme Court has been clear and insistent on it since District of Columbia v. Heller (2008), and recent political changes guarantee that liberals are not going to take control of the court any time soon. Further, Americans own vast numbers of guns, and show no inclination to stop buying or using them.

That is the situation. Before we can understand our predicament with opponents of private gun ownership, we have to clarify what their opposition to guns really means.

Liberals who honestly want the government to confiscate hundreds of millions of weapons are not the real problem. They are fools who do not understand politics.

The real trouble is with dishonest liberals who use gun control as a polemical weapon against other Americans. These people are one part of a partisan conflict that works now to conceal the real problems Americans face by getting the two American political coalitions worked up into a lather of hate for one another instead of working toward discovery of what they have in common.

After every shooting, celebrities—of both the political and the Hollywood variety—attempt to affix the blame for the horror on their political opponents. Many of the the smarter liberals involved in this ritual understand that they stand no chance of making practical changes, but they don’t care. They just want some political victories, at whatever cost to the country.

If partaking in real hysteria is no way to conduct oneself in public, participating in fake hysteria meant to serve partisan ends is even more contemptible. Americans would be better served by sober reminders of the role of guns have played in securing the freedom of the republic.

The political reason for permitting gun ownership in America is to promote the defense of our civilization. America would not exist and cannot survive without its guns. The greatest military on earth depends, ultimately, on the habits of citizens who teach their kids about weaponry. Americans are not the only wealthy or comfortable people in the world; but they are the only people of any political importance that has not been disarmed. That is a fundamental fact of geopolitical reality, and it is the open secret of American freedom.

But let us not allow liberal hysteria to hide the fact that, for now, they are dominating the public narrative. Conservatives may lay claim to the political victories which, over time, have produced an enduring, tested consent of the majority on the gun issue, but in speech liberals are having great success in moving public sentiment.

Now, for conservatives to begin reclaiming public sentiment, they need to go beyond the victories they have already secured. They need to stop thinking in purely polemical terms and start taking seriously the most serious insights of their liberal opponents on gun rights. Conservatives are great on the individual rights aspect of this fight, but they remain bad at advancing argument on behalf of self-government as it pertains to gun rights.

Consider the approach to two of the most common problems involving guns in America today: mass shootings and the suicidal impulses of the mentally unstable.

The federal government may be able to help address the problem of mass shootings at the margins. But ultimately any kind of prevention will depend on the resources and intelligence of local communities. Maybe the answer is for cities and state to change the way  police investigate reports of suspicious or dangerous behavior. Maybe the FBI could help effecting those changes; or perhaps the rights of citizens who suffer from certain mental illnesses could be restricted in some useful way that does not run afoul of the Constitution. But the federal government would have to make it clear that onus is on state and local governments to develop solutions. Not only would this kind of local policing be more likely to be effective, it would also protect us from investing too much police power in the federal government. For the federal government to do this kind of work effectively, we would run the risk of turning America into a full surveillance state—one even hysterical liberals would learn to fear.

What about the problem of suicide-by-gun? Firearms are involved in roughly two-thirds of suicides in America each year. But that’s not a gun problem. It’s something much deeper: an American individualism taken to such an extreme that people feel adrift and alone. One can anticipate the liberal solution: access to more resources that would provide support for at-risk individuals. Lots of awareness and consciousness raising, too.

Quite apart from the cloying and heartless jargon of the liberal approach, there is also the problem that such “solutions” would create institutions that liberate communities from any responsibility for individuals.

What if no constitutional way exists to take away guns from worrisome and mentally unstable people or to force them to attend counseling, aside from the indignity of the liberal options? On the other hand, what do conservatives propose when it comes to dealing with the large numbers of suicides?

In some ways, America seems trapped between two ways of destroying communities. One is to always rely on the federal government and suffer the indignity of an infantilized population; the other is to leave everything to individuals, even when individualism run amok can be the source of of many of our problems.

When we have so many people seeking to commit, either by their own hand or by suicidally committing stupid acts in the expectation that police will remove the burden of that choice from them by taking them out, it says something more serious about America’s problems than any gun debate can address.  In truth, mass murder is not about guns, either.

A gun is a tool. But guns serve as a distraction from the essential human problems at the heart of these symptoms of our national ill health. The cure for what ails Americans is to seek approaches that strengthen our communities. A serious commitment to that end would require liberals to renounce their tendency to publicize hysteria and it will require conservatives to renounce their reflexive impulse to turn every political question into a rehearsal of our individual rights.

What America needs to go forward, with liberal and conservative inclinations working toward real solutions for our broken country, is ways to restore the habits and authority of smaller communities to govern themselves. It may be that we need to require more serious policing, but we also have a duty to look after our most vulnerable people. We need to talk about ways to accomplish that and to do any of that we need to stop talking past one another.

 

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America • Americanism • civic culture/friendship • Cultural Marxism • Declaration of Independence • Defense of the West • Education • Government Reform • History • political philosophy • Post • self-government • The Constitution • The Culture

We Need a Radio Free America on Campus

Deep within the United States Code a dynamite charge lies buried. Once ignited, it could blow the current landscape of higher education to smithereens, replacing its monotonous ideological expanse with an alpine variety of competing views and perspectives.

Triggering the charge would require a willingness to overcome political reflexives that often serve conservatives well. But the hour is late, the need for action desperately real, and pragmatism sits proudly at the nation’s helm.

So let us strike the fuse.

The dynamite is a provision in federal law planted nine years ago. That’s when Congress created the American History for Freedom (AHF) program. It promised federal funding for university centers promoting the study of traditional American history, free institutions, and Western civilization.

But when Barack Obama was elected, the congressmen and senators who had pushed for the bill wisely decided not to seek a federal appropriation. Obama would have opposed it and the whole program would have come under withering attack. Those of us who had worked hard to get AHF passed in the first place decided to bide our time. It has been a long wait.

 

The First Ka-Boom

How good is this dynamite? It should be compared to the explosives that the radical Left brought to campus at the end of the 1960s: black studies, women’s studies, and environmental studies. These three were the leading edge of the Left’s attempt to politicize the university.

Each had its own agenda but those agendas overlapped in their disdain for America and in their rejection of the university as a place reserved for open-minded inquiry. The proponents of these programs pleaded for them as exceptions to the old academic standards, which they thought would continue to be upheld in English, history, the sciences, and so on.

That proved to be an illusion. The radical environmentalists adopted Barry Commoner’s “First Law of Ecology,” namely, “Everything is connected to everything else.” You can’t expect radical environmentalists to keep their eco-apocalyptic creed isolated in the Environmental Studies Department. It has to be integrated into all the other departments because, “Everything is connected to everything else.” The same principle applied to black studies and women’s studies. Identity politics moves like a blob of mercury. It doesn’t stand still.

The political doctrines first spread to other academic departments via missionaries who held “dual appointments”—for example, women’s studies and political science, or black studies and English. But soon the bridges grew more plentiful. We saw the rise of cross-listed courses, “History 305, the Antebellum South, also listed as Black Studies 309, Slavery in Pre-Civil War America.” And soon there were distribution requirements and major requirements that entrenched the “studies departments” as central to whole of undergraduate education. The faculty in these departments also found their way onto search committees and other university bodies and carried their political programs with them.

Instead of occupying a space set apart in the curriculum for political indoctrination, the politicized departments became the agent for politicizing whole institutions.

That was the dynamite planted by the academic left circa 1968.

 

The New Dynamite—and the Atolls

Our dynamite isn’t exactly the same stuff, but it is pretty potent, too. American History for Freedom would create funding for academic programs that push back against the new orthodoxies.

At most colleges and universities today, the humanities and social science curriculum do little more than marinate students in the story that they are hapless victims of hateful oppressors. Free institutions are dismissed as icing on the poisonous cake of privilege. And Western civilization had been marked down as Guns, Germs, and Steel, to borrow the title of Jared Diamond’s bestselling 1997 book, aimed at deflating the Western ego.

The politicization of the university is now settled fact—except that, here and there throughout the Great Barrier Reef of Leftist Indoctrination, there are these atolls of intellectual integrity and freedom. They are places where the old standards are upheld, where Great Books continue to be taught, and where respect for good argument and valid evidence holds sway over political correctness. They include UCLA’s Center for the Liberal Arts and Free Institutions, Boise State’s American Founding Initiative, and Colgate’s Center for Freedom and Western Civilization.

Like most atolls, they are resource poor. A hardy handful of professors keep them going despite a dearth of institutional support and the scorn of the up-to-date crowd. The AHF program, if funded, would change that.

I have mixed metaphors. Dynamite or atoll?

Dynamite, in that well-funded programs in traditional American history, free institutions, and Western civilization would demolish the academic Left’s monopoly over the curriculum. Who knows? Maybe even some of the professors would get dual appointments and some of the courses would get cross-listed. Money changes everything.

Atoll, in that AHF would provision a small and isolated part of the college campus. The folks who are clinging bitterly (as someone once said) to their copies of The Aeneid and The Federalist Papers.

 

Building the Atolls

Steve Balch, my predecessor as president of the National Association of Scholars, was the prime mover behind the 2008 act. For more than a decade he had crisscrossed the country seeking faculty members willing to breast the tide of political correctness by proposing pro-Western and freedom-oriented programs at their colleges and universities. Some of these were slapped down fast by deans and provosts afraid of the intellectual contagion that they might spread. All the hard work of the multiculturalists, the diversiphiles, and the “critical thinkers” could be compromised by countervailing perspectives.

Yet Balch succeeded in launching the idea, and eventually dozens of programs were founded. But the initial idea that these centers would follow, although with genuine academic integrity, the footsteps of women’s studies, African-American studies, and environmental studies never materialized.

That was because the Left and the Right are not mirror images. While a good many institutions grudgingly allowed our programs to be established, few were willing to invest any significant resources in them. One of particular promise, the Alexander Hamilton Institute at Hamilton College was eventually expelled from campus. Another, the Program in Western Civilization and American Institutions at the University of Texas, Austin, having been identified as a conservative program in the pages of The New York Times, saw its director dismissed and the provocative phrase “Western Civilization” stripped from its title.

Traditional American history, free institutions, and Western civilization thus became orphaned subjects. Even if a handful of scholars could be found to teach them, lack of institutional enthusiasm, or downright hostility, would likely keep them marginalized. Seeing this, the NAS decided to do something not usually found in conservative playbooks. We turned to the federal government in the hope of persuading legislators to create a special package of grants designed to provide the financial support institutions were unlikely themselves to confer.

It took us a decade, but we finally found influential congressional sponsors, and the bill was written into the 2008 reauthorization of the Higher Education Act. Congress needed to consummate the enactment of the program by appropriating funds for it, but at just this critical moment the election of Barack Obama supervened. The opportunity to have the implementation of the program designed in anything like the spirit in which it had been drafted vanished. We thus elected to leave it, temporarily at least, unfunded.

 

Exceptionalism

It is, admittedly, hard to push the case for any increased funding for American higher education. Nearly half of the $600 billion spent on higher education each year derives in one form or another from the public purse, and what do we have to show for it? Mostly intellectually mediocre instruction compounded with politically toxic indoctrination. The huge expenditures in the federal budget should be trimmed. But at least in this one instance, the federal government should spend more. Why?

The results of our colleges and universities turning away from traditional American history, free institutions, and Western civilization are plain to see. Mobs of American college students today shout down speakers whose views they deem unworthy of protection. Large numbers see themselves as “postnationalists,” or “global citizens,” unconcerned with the need to live up to the responsibilities of their actual citizenship. Colleges and universities offer “sanctuary,” and even scholarships, to illegal aliens in defiance of the law. The Obama Administration channeled hundreds of millions of dollars into teaching its version of “new civics,” which discarded learning about institutions of self-government in favor of preaching the virtues of activism, protest, and occupation.

We are not short of dubious federal grant programs for higher education. But if ever there was a worthy exception to these boondoggles the American History for Freedom Program is it. Now that Washington is under different auspices, let’s get it working, taking some of the money, if need be, from the programs that should be cut or eliminated.

For many students, these new campus centers are the only opportunity they will have to learn what made America great, free, and prosperous; and the only chance that college will ever give them to hear everything that the progressive Left has filtered out of the curriculum and campus culture. Think of them, collectively, as a kind of reborn Radio Free Europe, taking a liberating message directly to those behind the Iron Curtain of campus progressivism. American History for Freedom can make their message loud and clear.

 

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America • Americanism • Black Lives Matter • civic culture/friendship • Donald Trump • Hollywood • Post • Sports • The Culture • the Flag • The Media

Trump, the Classic Movies, and the NFL

Donald Trump’s mind has been furnished over the years mainly by the media, but perhaps not enough, for two iconic movies could have alerted him to the downside—and the solution—to the problem he triggered over protests in the NFL. If he hadn’t seen the connections earlier, they should have been brought home to him when Jerry Jones, the owner of the Dallas Cowboys, locked arms with his players before the game.

That this was one of those “happenings” on the way to happen should have been evident much earlier, and it should have recalled a classic scene in Billy Wilder’s movie, Stalag 17.  The story was about Americans huddled together in a German prisoner of war camp in the Second World War. All of the prisoners are brought out into the courtyard, to be lectured by the Commandant, played by the never cuddly Otto Preminger. One American, evidently stressed by his experience in battle, was given to playing an ocarina, with no discernible tune. He played it now, and one of his friends, standing near, had the presence of mind to take it away from him. But as the Commandant bore on, sneering, the soldier took the ocarina and hurled it toward him.

It landed in a puddle and splashed the gleaming boots of the Commandant. He demanded instantly to see the one who was responsible for this outrage. After a brief moment, the soldier who threw the ocarina stepped forward to take the responsibility on himself. But then a friend, standing near, stepped forward. Then another. And yet another, until all of the rows and columns of prisoners stepped forward.

It was a moment of “solidarity,” to pick up the term used in the NFL, though with this difference: The prisoners were quite clear on the innocence of the original act, and the wrongness of the punishment that was coming, and there was no doubt of the point they were making in holding together. In contrast, the management of the Denver Broncos announced this week that “we’re a team and we stand together”—but toward what purpose? Were they insisting on the rightness of refusing to stand for the national anthem and its soaring endorsement of the political regime that it celebrates? The Broncos professed their concern that “inequalities still exist, and we have work to do in ALL forms of social justice. We can all do better. It starts with us.” But if it really starts with them, they can do something practical right now.

The players, along with the upper echelons of their management, have annual salaries that exceed what most of their fans will earn in a lifetime. Has it occurred to them that they might tithe, or perhaps even give 50 percent back to charities such as the Salvation Army, which minister widely to the poor with little overhead. Or what about even returning themselves to the policies of the 1950s when people earning what they do would have been taxed at 90 percent? We needn’t wait, after all, for the team to act:  Each player has it within his own means to do something right now that would diminish some serious disparities in income.

The gambit over the NFL has evidently worked for Mr. Trump, and yet how could it really be good for him and the country if more and more respectable people—including some of his own supporters—are willing to lend themselves to a building pattern of acting out contempt for him?

It is not Mr. Trump’s style to be disarming, but the gesture to dissolve the problem could be found in a classic movie that he surely knows, and knows well. In Casablanca, in a scene not long after the occupation of France, a band of German officers, fed with confidence, are whooping it up in “Rick’s” café. They are singing their favorite, homey tunes, in a café filled with expatriates, who would rather be somewhere else in the world. The sounds of the singing and bravado make their way to the rooms above, where Victor Lazlo, played by Paul Henreid, is trying to cajole Rick (Humphrey Bogart) into yielding up two letters of transit to Lisbon. Enraged by the puffery of the Germans, Paul Henreid walks forcefully downstairs and instructs house musicians to play the Marseillaise. With an approving look from their employer, the trumpets take the lead. Soon, all of the patrons are on their feet, joining him in this rousing anthem.

Well, if some players now will put a knee down at the Star-Spangled Banner, it would be quite easy to have the same singer, after delivering the anthem, follow it instantly with “God Bless America.” That song has been played widely at baseball games in the seventh inning since 911, but if America has a civil religion, “God Bless America” comes closer than any other song in stirring a religious and nearly-religious sentiment, bound up with the love and appreciation of the country. I doubt that any player would wish to look churlish by taking a knee or showing even the slightest tremor of disrespect while the fans in the stadium join in singing those words, far more often than they join in singing the national anthem. And if a protest is signaled in advance of the anthem, it could be easily foiled or preempted by making a quiet shift for the moment and ordering up “God Bless America” instead.

Mr. Trump finds his passion in unsettling things, but the deeper art is to surprise with a disarming move that quickly settles things down, while teaching a better lesson.

 

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America • Americanism • civic culture/friendship • Law and Order • Post • self-government • The Constitution

Second Amendment Duties

I don’t own a gun. I have never fired a gun. That means that my safety, the safety of my family, and the security of my country are dependent upon those who, unlike me, are able, trained, ready, and armed. Some of those people are the police and soldiers I pay for through my taxes —soldiers who include among their number my two adult children currently serving in the Israeli military. But some of them are my neighbors, who have armed and prepared themselves at their own time and expense.

Events like the mass killing in Las Vegas stimulate debates about gun rights. But properly speaking, these events should also stimulate debates about gun duties. It is the duty of every person to lend his or her force to the enforcement of the law as they are able and as is necessary. It is a bit late to start getting your head straight about right and wrong when you are sitting in the jury box. Similarly, when you are on the scene, and something horrendous or unjust is happening, you may be part of the problem unless you are willing and ready to respond as needed.

Mass shootings end when shooters are confronted. The faster the shooter is confronted, the fewer the casualties. The more people on the scene, armed and ready to respond, the faster the shooter will be confronted, the sooner he will be stopped. Adjusting for the tactical situation, this is as true in Las Vegas as it was in the Bataclan massacre in Paris or at the Burnet Chapel Church shooting in Tennessee. “When seconds count the police are just minutes away.” In Tennessee the shooting was stopped with one killed, when a church usher, Robert Engle, went back to his car to get the gun that, in retrospect, he probably wishes he had had on his person. If, as in Paris, where ninety died in the Bataclan Theater alone, the only people armed and ready are the police, the killing will continue until the police neutralize the shooter.

James Madison wrote the words: “A well regulated Militia being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.” It is up to today’s Americans to live up to them. Who is the militia? In almost every state (though not Nevada) and under federal law, the militia is every able-bodied adult resident of military age. What does it mean for the militia to be “well-regulated”? It means that enough able-bodied adults have the weapons and the training to respond when their security or that of the community is threatened. Does this require fewer guns?

The evidence, in the United States, is that it requires more guns, because more guns means more guns in the right hands. Does this require stricter control of guns? Perhaps, but perhaps also in the sense that those of us who do not carry weapons need to pay a little more in taxes to subsidize the training and arming of our fellow citizens who do.

Yes, Las Vegas should make Americans think again about their gun laws. As with the attempted massacre of the Republican lawmakers in Virginia, it should make us think about laws that keep law-abiding citizens from bringing their guns with them when they travel out of state. It should make us think about laws and policies that create “gun-free zones” where nobody but the police are armed to confront a shooter. Americans should think about laws that make learning to shoot as a child, and arming yourself as an adult, more difficult, and replace them with laws that make it cheaper and easier to make citizens armed and ready to defend themselves and their communities. And we should all think about what we can do to ensure we remain the kind of spirited people who don’t cower in fear in the face of a threat like this. We should recall the Black Americans who, during the civil rights era armed themselves and risked their lives for equality and remember that bearing arms is not just a right or a privilege but sometimes also a duty of citizenship. It is a duty more of us need to take seriously and do our best to fulfill, both as individuals and as voters.

 

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America • Americanism • civic culture/friendship • Democrats • Donald Trump • Government Reform • Infrastructure • Post • Progressivism • self-government

Puerto Rico as Progressive Playground

President Trump’s press conference in Puerto Rico made clear that whatever the island’s political designation may be, Puerto Ricans are Americans and he will act accordingly. The Commonwealth’s recovery—and not just from this hurricane—is part of the goal of making America great again. But the difficulties involved extend far beyond differences in political status or institutions. Clearly, Puerto Rico’s lack of a strong civic culture hinders reconstruction and the storm that caused this mess is of a kind much worse than hurricanes.

For the most part, the battered island has been portrayed in the media as utterly helpless, dependent on a trickle of U.S. aid and battling a hostile president, who because he tweeted that some Puerto Rican politicianswant everything to be done for them when it should be a community effort” is now taken to mean that there is something inherently and irredeemably wrong about the Puerto Rican people. The slander is as unjust as it was predictable. But focus on that distraction will only hinder efforts to help solve Puerto Rico’s current and ongoing real problems.

The President’s bluntness about the absence of local civic associations and vigorous local government once again exposes a sad—if incomplete—truth about Puerto Rico. It is absolutely fair to say that it lacks the emphasis on individual freedom Tocqueville appreciated in Americans, as working to benefit neighbors and cooperate in local ventures for the common good. This culture of civic engagement spurred by confident and free citizens helps explain the Texas and Florida reactions to less severe, but still deadly and destructive, storms.

But even beyond the much-commented on financial and other acute crises that permeate the culture of civic friendship in Puerto Rico, there is still more under the surface that helps to explain the deep roots of the problems that will make Puerto Rican disaster recovery much more difficult than it otherwise might have been.

The Commonwealth labors under a severe debility—not merely a “culture of poverty” abetted by Spanish imperialism—but rather its subjugation to the cutting edge of Progressive theory and practice. Puerto Rico could have been a model for how freedom might be a blessing for nations that dared for a higher dignity than colony status. Instead, as Puerto Rico was liberated from Spain, American Progressives made it a model for government planning and dependence. If President Trump is serious about deconstructing the administrative state, then those same principles that apply to the United States proper should apply even more to Puerto Rico. All Americans deserve freedom.

As crucial as Franklin Roosevelt is for understanding the way the United States is governed today, it is even more the case that understanding Rexford Tugwell (1891-1979) is crucial for understanding Puerto Rico. Tugwell was FDR’s appointee from 1941-1946 as Puerto Rico’s Governor and New Deal Brain Truster. To encapsulate the economist Tugwell’s ambitions, it is revealing that novelist Philip K. Dick (of Blade Runner fame) made Tugwell his “hero” in an earlier novel, The Man in the High Castle, about the U.S. under Nazi and Japanese rule.

The non-fictional Tugwell, however, poured his ambitions into turning Puerto Rico into a laboratory for the New Deal. He gushed that the island “was a planning agency of the kind that I had said to myself I would someday try to see set up somewhere. This was my opportunity.” According to historian Michael Lapp, “it used to be said there that when one asked Puerto Ricans to describe the typical family on the island, they would answer: ‘the father, the mother, the children, the grandparents and the resident social scientist.’” Tugwell’s conceit was that social scientists would make Puerto Rico a “showcase for democracy” and a model for post-colonial development.

Tugwell enlisted the Popular Democratic Party (PDP) to establish a planning board that would issue top-down reforms of the government, the university, and the economy, including state-owned industries and infrastructure. His successor governors continued this Progressive experimentation. The current governor, a graduate of MIT, with a Ph.D. in biomedical engineering from the University of Michigan, is from the PDP.

As Lapp summarizes, Catholic “Puerto Rico in the 1950s became the chief testing ground for the birth control pill. That decade also witnessed the rapid increase in the number of sterilizations performed, to the point where, according to one study, more women had what became known as ‘la operacion’ than in any other country in the world.” Everything, including the existence of human beings, would result from planning.

Such a territory, Tugwell and later his planners averred, could provide an alternative to Communist ambitions for the Third World. The blend of races would, they hoped, present a multicultural face to the world.

But the Puerto Rico we see today is not this hoped for utopia. Instead, it is the administrative state gone amok. Tugwell’s progressive influence remains on the island, and the results should stand as a testament to the flaws of progressivism. When we see Puerto Ricans waiting for the government to act, we are seeing the atrophy of civic culture brought about by many decades of big-government Progressive ideology.

This attitude is very much the product of unhinged ideological schemes. We should keep in mind Tocqueville’s observation that Americans help out people who find themselves in unfortunate circumstances—as their fellow Americans in Puerto Rico are today—but that they cease their generosity after a while, to show that they respect the independence of the unfortunates; their inherent ability to use and enjoy their freedom.

That is what America owes all Americans. As the World Series approaches, we recall baseball heroes from Puerto Rico such as the late Roberto Clemente and Carlos Beltran, who are also our fellow Americans. Puerto Rico is part of the American team. In rebuilding the island, the Trump administration needs to roll back its Progressive legacy and allow the island to be the truly American model Governor Tugwell, because of his Progressive blinders, failed so miserably to create.

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