America • civic culture/friendship • Great America • Post • The Culture

Rural America, ‘Romanticism,’ and Open Minds

ACCIDENT, Maryland—Hours before the festivities began, generations of families were lining up along U.S. Route 219, which is Main Street in this Garrett County town. Armed with coolers of ice, folding chairs and old blankets, and dressed in colorful patriotic clothing, they came to watch the 100-year-old homecoming parade that celebrates their community and the bold beginning of our independence.

Anticipation, that sweet pang of excitement and eagerness that’s becoming less common in an age of instant gratification, was tangible as nostalgia swept the old and novelty thrilled the young.

A meaningful silence filled the crowd as the American Legion color guard of veterans spanning World War II to today’s conflicts crested Route 219 and made their way along Main Street. A wave of applause and salutes greeted the men who made the sacrifice to serve their country in their youth and then their community in their maturity.

Following them were scores of floats, fire equipment, local bands, scout troops, church groups, the Rotary Club, beauty pageant winners, plenty of livestock and the all-important volunteers, who tossed out penny candy to the gleeful young children.

Accident, Maryland, is not much different from many small towns that dot our countryside. It’s got an odd name (yes, based on an accident), great trout fishing along the creek named after a bear, and just enough small businesses to provide a family’s essentials (plus any sweet tooth, pizza craving or appetite for fresh, locally made cheese).

This isn’t the story of rural life you’ll read in much of the media. “I spent a lot of my vacation driving around rural areas, through NC, KY, and TN,” tweeted blogger Dave Roberts. “My impression: horrible land use, bland, ticky-tacky strip-mall architecture, & economic decay. I feel compassion for those people but I have zero time for romanticism about US rural life.”

But Mike Koch and Pablo Solanet don’t romanticize about their lives in Accident. The married couple are Washington, D.C., expats. Koch worked in housing finance for 22 years, and Solanet was a sought-after Argentine trained chef. They gradually eased out of Beltway life beginning in 2002, permanently departing a few years ago.

FireFly Farms, their bustling cheese business, is lined with paradegoers on the day of the homecoming. Despite their exquisite, locally made goat cheeses appearing on the coveted shelves of Whole Foods, Wegmans, and Zabar’s and served in dishes in some of the finest restaurants in New York and Washington, the men remain grounded and committed to their rural enterprise.

Koch said: “When we first started the business, Pablo was the original cheesemaker, the original herd manager. He really put his heart and soul, while I continued to work because, as you probably know, starting a farm-based business, the money just doesn’t roll in. So, it was necessary to make sure we could sustain ourselves.”

They are also deeply committed to their rural community.

Koch said: “On election night 2016, we stopped watching the national news, and Pablo and I made the decision to focus on our community: Do we know the county commissioners? Do we go to the chamber of commerce annual membership dinner? Do we know about what’s hot in Garrett County politics and what people would like to see in terms of improvements in recycling? Do we know Mayor Carlson of Accident, Maryland? Do we know Ruth Ann who runs town hall?”

That additional investment in community (outside of working with six local farms for their fresh goat milk and employing over 20 locals) has been, in a word, remarkable.

Koch dismisses the typical stereotypes hurled at rural people, saying: “It’s no secret that Pablo and I are married and we’re gay. It’s never brought up. What they care about is: Are you contributing to the community? Are you creating jobs? Are you behaving like a responsible citizen? And the red/blue stuff? Well, people don’t obsess about that in the way society assumes they do.”

With the exception of a few years in Florida, Glen Maust has called Accident home. The hardworking entrepreneur who has both a construction company and a 25-unit apartment building fulfilled a dream last year when he opened the Rolling Pin Bakery with his wife.

On doughnut day, which is three days a week, the aroma tempts the pedestrians to dive into the baker’s family legacy; she is Mennonite and is using the same recipe her grandmother taught her as a child. There are also sandwiches, cookies, muffins and anything else you need to satisfy a sugary craving.

The father of six, Maust employs 15 locals including his son. He knows the challenges of rural life and embraces them: “Our town has had its up and downs, but we are definitely a prosperous, growing little town, but not so much that we’re not in danger of getting a Walmart anytime soon.”

It is a pretty open-minded town, said Maust: “I would say that we still would be a fairly conservative town, and most conservatives are open-minded. Certainly some aren’t, but then there’s some liberals that are so open-minded that their brains fall out.”

“I think maybe the town of Accident is kind of a happy medium,” he said.


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Center for American Greatness • Democrats • Great America • Identity Politics • Post • The Culture • The Left

Sorting Out the New Color Wheel

A young man from the marshes, name of Pip, has unexpectedly and from some unnamed source come into “great expectations,” so he makes his way to London to acquire some modest education fit for the gentleman that he is to be. There he meets his tutor, Mr. Pocket, and his wife, Mrs. Pocket. They have quite a few children, who are not brought up, but rather “tumbled up,” because Mrs. Pocket cannot be bothered to attend to them. She is always absorbed in a book about the English peerage.

“I found out within a few hours,” says Pip, “that Mrs. Pocket was the only daughter of a certain quite accidental deceased Knight, who had invented for himself a conviction that his deceased father would have been made a Baronet but for somebody’s determined opposition arising out of entirely personal motives—the Sovereign’s, the Prime Minister’s, the Lord Chancellor’s, the Archbishop of Canterbury’s, anybody’s—and had tacked himself on to the nobles of the earth in right of this quite supposititious fact.” And so she grew up “as one who in the nature of things must marry a title, and who has to be guarded from the acquisition of plebeian domestic knowledge.”

Such is the magic of the right kind of blood. Mrs. Pocket would have been at home among the genealogical precisians of the old American South, sorting people into correct divisions according to the percentage of negro or native blood in their veins, quadroons or octoroons as the case might be. In Sewanee, that bit of Creole might disqualify you for entry into the University of the South. I don’t know. In America today, a family legend that a thrice-great-uncle was or may have been part cigar store Indian wins you some points for enrollment at Harvard.

Ms. Pocket, and her allies Ms. Paqit, Ms. Phakat, and Ms. Octavia-Pequeta, might also be at home in the United States Congress. Donald Trump has suggested, in his boorish way, that the four self-designated members of “the squad,” newly elected congresswomen whose attitude toward the United States seems to range from contempt to hatred, should go back to the countries whence they came, fix them, and return to show us how it is done. I will not comment on the specifics of their quarrel. I note only that the president has been criticized for attacking “women of color.”

For the life of me, I do not know what that designation means. It cannot denote race—whatever that means. One of the women is African American. Two are Semitic Caucasians, and one is an Iberian Caucasian. Does it denote color in the old sense, the melanin content in the skin? Is that how low we have sunk?

I want to know specifically what the hues are on the new color wheel. A married couple emigrate from Spain to Mexico, and their children emigrate to the United States. Do they count as people of color? What about people who come to New York from Madrid without a stop at Guadalajara? Do they count?

A Spanish man marries a woman in Cuba whose grandfather was part Seminole. Do their children count? What about my friend in Cape Breton, a French Canadian who has a Mikmak ancestor? Does he count? What about his children?

The French and the native Indians often intermarried, ever since the early conversion of the great sachem Membertou to Christianity. Do French Canadians in general count, then? Or is Spain more colorful than France? Or perhaps darker-skinned Indians count more than do the lighter-skinned Indians of the north?

Do Portuguese Catholics from Lisbon count, if they have dark complexions and some Moorish blood? Do Portuguese Catholics from São Paulo count, if they have light complexions and no Guarani blood? What of the Moors and people from the Maghreb? Does a Berber with red hair count? Berbers speak a language that is neither Indo-European nor Semitic, though they are mostly Muslim in religion and Caucasian in physical features.

What about Iranians? Do they count? They speak a language that is Indo-European, and though they are also mostly Muslim, they come from a people as ancient as the Greeks—from a people who intermarried with those Greeks, and with Assyrians, Medes, Lydians, Hebrews, and many others. Would the last shah of Iran count?

Do Jews in Israel count? They are Semitic, like the Arabs, and speak a Semitic language, like the Copts and the Somalis. Do they not count if their skin is too light?

Do Turks count? They are Caucasian in appearance, but they come from eastern and central Asia, and their language, like that of the Berbers, is neither Indo-European nor Semitic. I am darker skinned than most Turks. Do Armenians count? They too are darker than the Turks, but they are largely Christian, and they do speak a language in the Indo-European family. Do Armenians win an extra point because they were the victims of a genocidal massacre perpetrated by the Turks?

Do Cossacks count—or rather Kazakhs? If they come from Kazakhstan, does that count for more than if they come from Moscow or Warsaw? If the Kazakh blood has been long mingled with Slavic blood, will it be too diluted to count? Do any Russians count? Do Russians count if they come from the far east and have Mongol blood? Does the mayor of Irkutsk count? Where do Laplanders fall, with some Mongol blood and mixed Mongol and European features?

Does a dark Caucasian from the Punjab count? If he speaks Bengali and reads Sanskrit, languages both related to English, and he is a Roman Catholic, does that count for less than if he were a Jain or a Sikh? The Maltese are Roman Catholic, situated between Europe and Africa, speaking an African language written in the Roman alphabet. Do they count? Would their shade be darker if they wrote in Arabic cursive? If they were Muslim?

I would lay $1,000 even money that you cannot tell a Maltese man from a Sicilian. In fact, you would be hard put to tell a Tunisian from a Sicilian. Do Sicilians count? Someone of Southern Italian heritage, as I am, no doubt has blood in his veins that comes from every group that invaded the island over the centuries: French, Spanish, Viking, Albanian, Greek, and Moorish. Are we “white”? What about the Ainu from the northernmost island of Japan?

At which a sane person would throw up his hands in despair and cry out, “What is all this nonsense for?”


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Education • Post • The Culture

Apollo’s Triumph—and Public Schooling’s Tragedy

This past weekend the country celebrated the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 moon landing. It was, for those too young to recall, the first time any nation put humans on an alien world. It was an amazing feat of engineering, ingenuity, and courage.

And it happened just eight years and 56 days after President John F. Kennedy had issued a challenge to the nation to do it. From a presidential speech to footprints on the moon in eight years and a couple months!

That same president also had a plan to “reform” K-12 public education, as has every single president since. We walked on the moon in under a decade, yet in the 57 years since Kennedy’s challenge we are still only talking about reforming the failing K-12 public education system.

One has to ask how serious any of these plans were if they have achieved basically nothing in six decades—unless you want to count further decline as “something.”

According to the College Board, which administers the Scholastic Achievement Test for college admissions, 12th grade reading scores reached a 40-year low in 2012. Richard Nixon was president when similar reading scores were produced. Would you like to go to the hospital today to receive across-the-board 1973 treatments?

Most 4th and 8th graders are not proficient in math or reading. Ask yourself, how can an organization whose only purpose is education not be able to teach children of average intelligence to read at grade level in an eight year time span? Kennedy and NASA got us standing on the moon in a similar span.

While the country is filled with hardworking, dedicated, and loving teachers, administrators, and volunteers—most of whom labor mightily to succeed—none of these has the power to unravel the mess our public education system has become. Sure, the teacher’s unions are resistant to change but they are not the chief reason for these failures. Just because an organization might not be part of the solution does not necessarily mean it is the cause of the problem.

This country spends more money per pupil than any other country on the planet, save one. Over the years researchers have found little to no correlation between increased educational spending and student achievement.

So if this astounding lack of progress in almost 60 years is not due to poor teachers or a lack of money, what is the cause?

It is the very nature of the system that is causing the problem. There can be no other answer.

One would try in vain to unravel this mess and incrementally fix one thing after another. That would be a poor choice because each problem solved would only uncover another and, likely, create another.

A better choice is to start anew. Given that we all accept the incredible value and importance of a decent education that would seem to be the primary goal. The next question is how should we attempt to achieve this goal in the shortest amount of time and with the least amount of money?

A child is only 7 years old once, so there is no time to waste. We’ve already wasted nearly 60 years. Also since a dollar spent here is a dollar not spent there, it makes sense to try to achieve this goal at the least expense.

So how to best achieve these goals? If we look around for a general design that has been extraordinarily successful throughout the history of mankind, we will find that free people freely interacting with other free people are more likely to achieve good than people tied to a system in which they have no agency. For our purposes here in public education, obviously this would occur within some sort of state-regulated environment where the regulators derive their powers from the consent of the people affected by their decisions.

This design has never failed. It drives the improvement of every product and service that has ever existed. So how to get there and how much will it cost?

The way to get there is simply to change the way we fund public education. Rather than funding the education establishment, fund the children who use it instead. Just because we have government-funded public K-12—a good thing—doesn’t mean governments should also be in charge of running the schools.

We are spending this money right now on these children. Why not, within some sort of local and state-regulated environment, give all of the money to the parents so they can determine how and where it is best spent in the interest of their own child?

This one simple change, which could be implemented right now, would unleash the wisdom of millions as the power of free people freely interacting with other free people transforms public education. In the end, it would redound to the benefit of teachers, parents, and students.

It’s a solution that would work, could be done quickly, and needn’t cost an extra dime.

What moral and honorable reason is there for not making this change right now? What moral and honorable reason is there for fighting to keep fighting for the same old failing system? What moral and honorable reason is there for retaining a system which destroys millions of young lives before they have even had a chance? What moral and honorable reason is there for keeping a system which is putting the very future of this great country at risk? I can think of none.

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America • Center for American Greatness • Cities • Environment • Libertarians • Post • Technology • The Culture • The Left

The Coming Socialist-Libertarian Feudalism

Wishful thinking among many libertarian and socialist idealists is that an alliance might form between them. After all, members of both ideological camps believe that anything goes when it comes to sex and drugs, neither of them believe in national borders, and both are repelled by conservative ideologues.

The problem with such an alliance of idealists, of course, is that at the core, the socialist believes in big government and the libertarian believes in no government. No matter how you further define those core beliefs, they are incompatible. But the powerful special interests behind the libertarian and progressive movements, respectively, are not idealists, they are pragmatists. And in the dirty realm of real-world politics, socialist and libertarian elites have formed a powerful alliance.

Underscoring issues of personal liberty while ignoring the ultimate collision their worldviews portend, socialist and libertarian mega-donors back candidates and causes that share common immediate policy goals: the densification of American cities, mass immigration, alleged “free” trade, and a hands-off policy with respect to Big Tech monopolies.

Urban “densification” is one of the most transformative—and cruel—epic policy trends in American history. And hardly anyone is talking about it.

In a recent article by Joel Kotkin, a moderate Democrat, he refers to “conservative free-market fundamentalists” as the group that’s “advancing plans that would divorce capitalism from the small property owners whose pieces of property secure the system’s popular support.” Kotkin is referring to libertarians who favor “densification” of cities because they support the property rights of those who own the land and choose to build high-density housing.

What these libertarians are supporting, while ideologically pure, is absurd. Just because you own a half-acre property, you’re not necessarily allowed to demolish the single-family home on that property in order to build a 20 story building. For the same reason, you can’t demolish that home and build a rent-subsidized fourplex. In the real world, there are zoning laws that restrict property rights to protect the neighbors and the community at large. These zoning laws are what people rely on when they purchase a home in a neighborhood filled with similar homes.

Kotkin writes: 

That [densification] includes California State Senator Scott Wiener’s effort to force high-density on residential areas by allowing fourplexes on virtually any parcel, which produced one of the strangest alliances in recent political history. Free market advocates—many of them funded by the Koch brothers—linked arms with left-wing and green activists reprising the arguments made in the Soviet Bloc against middle-class single-family neighborhoods.

Densification is going to destroy tranquil residential neighborhoods, everywhere, and it is backed by socialists in the name of providing affordable housing, by environmentalists in order to prevent “sprawl,” and by powerful financial special interests that benefit from an ongoing real estate bubble. 

Libertarians support densification on principle, without even recognizing that they are ignoring—much less opposing—the flip side of densification, which are new policies to suppress land development outside of the “urban containment boundary.” Densification, also known as in-fill, or “smart growth,” will never provide sufficient new housing to make homes affordable unless it is balanced by similarly relaxed approval processes for homebuilding on open land.

The topic of “smart growth” exposes another special interest favoring densification, the Silicon Valley high tech industry. California’s Silicon Valley is an epicenter not only of concentrated political and economic power, but it is also one of the world’s largest ideological fermentation tanks containing potent strains of socialism, progressivism, and libertarianism. 

And in this “do no evil” caldron of visions, plans, and stupefying power, innovators are building the “internet of things,” so that not only shall we live in stack-and-pack housing, we will survive on algorithmically managed micro sips of water and energy. And depending on what time we run our clothes dryer, we will pay a bit more or a bit less depending on the spot market price for electricity and water—such a libertarian concept!

More immediately visible is Silicon Valley’s control over the online universe—search results, video suggestions, remarks on Twitter, posts on Facebook—where two salient facts elude libertarians. First, the companies that now control the online universe are monopolies, and the big five—Microsoft, Amazon, Apple, Google, and Facebook—are the five biggest companies in the world based on their stock market capitalization. 

Equally important, these companies have been having their cake and eating it, too, insofar as they receive an exemption from liability due to their status as a “platform,” yet exercise biased censorship on platform contributors as if they were a publisher. 

Each of these facts has consequences. Monopolies do not make for healthy market economies. Platforms cannot be publishers. But where are the libertarians?

The vision shared by socialist and libertarian oligarchs alike is what Kotkin calls a “Wall Street-dominated rentership society . . .” where “people remain renters for life, enjoying their video games or houseplants when not coding or doing gig jobs.”

This vision is not only furthered in densification policies that are fruitless in terms of making housing affordable but dazzlingly effective in turning nearly everyone into apartment renters, but also in the internet of things. In the future, you will not own your clothes dryer or any other major appliance, nor will you own your car, much less video games and software services. Instead, you will “subscribe” to these gadgets, so you can receive the latest updates and services. “Subscriptions” will replace lease payments, loan payments, and warranties. Owning anything will become increasingly impossible. Green conservation mandates will ensure compliance. But, hey—you’ll be able to watch algorithmically curated videos on your refrigerator!

It is a fatal misconception to consider pragmatic socialists as indistinguishable from communists. Socialist nations, particularly those in Northern Europe that are frequently cited by defenders of socialism as exemplars distinct from hellholes like Venezuela, are not ruled by politburos. These socialist nations are ruled by an influential cadre of extremely wealthy, propertied elites, who manage public opinion through their ownership of the primary media sources and through their donations to effective politicians, regardless of party. Does this sound familiar?

It is also a fatal misconception to overstate the differences between America’s elite socialist oligarchy and America’s elite libertarian oligarchy. In both cases, they subscribe to the policy of mass immigration, at the same time as they support environmentalist conventional wisdom that condemns Americans to pay taxes to fund the settlement of these tens of millions in rent-subsidized apartments crammed on to every lot that flips, in every neighborhood where people aren’t wealthy enough to hire attorneys to stop it.

Is it even possible for a populist libertarian movement to offer meaningful support to a conservative American political agenda? Or will their “thought leaders” continue to please the donor class, writing predictably bland justifications for free trade, open borders, urban densification, and out-of-control communications monopolies? Will libertarians support privatization to the point where a meter runs every time anyone steps onto a public road, and perpetual subscriptions replace ownership? Why not?

Where do libertarians draw the line? Will they accept Libra, the new cyber-currency that Facebook is about to launch? Will they squawk when cyber-currencies issued by mega-corporations dominate commerce? Will they care when monopolistic “private” companies erase not only the speech platforms of dissidents but their ability to use their proprietary cyber currency? Why not?

Libertarians don’t have a fully realized political ideology, they have a perspective. As a perspective—smaller government—they are a useful part of the mix. But libertarians aren’t recognizing the real-world limitations on libertarianism; if they did, they would choose sides. They would rebel against the donor fueled socialist-libertarian axis. They would ask: Will you fight to preserve your nation and your culture, or won’t you? 

The libertarian and socialist elites have made their choice, and they are working together under the assumption that nations and culture don’t matter, only profit and power do.

The only viable, real-world version of a libertarian ideology ought to be unrecognizable and troubling to the idealist. It is corporate-controlled feudalism that incorporates just enough socialist populist demands to avoid an unpleasant conflagration. The beneficiaries of this political economy are the super-rich and the myriad poor. In this world, nationality means nothing, heritage is irrelevant, and the middle class and mid-sized companies alike are exterminated. Tradition and culture become a commercialized and sanitized afterthought, micro-marketed to the various vestigial niches along with soap and virtual reality.

Idealists do not govern America today. Rather it is a pragmatic axis of socialist and libertarian oligarchs, each with their own gullible constituency, moving together towards a futuristic version of feudalism.

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Administrative State • America • Center for American Greatness • History • Post • The Culture • The Left

If We Could Put a Man on the Moon . . .

It’s been 50 years since we first landed on the moon. It’s been 46 years, seven months, and four days since we last departed from there.

When President Kennedy first announced the goal of landing on the moon, it was a literal “moon shot.” The announcement came mere days after Alan Shepard became the first American to reach space during a 15-minute suborbital flight—we had yet to even put a man in orbit.

President Kennedy’s goal would require NASA to learn to put a manned spacecraft into Earth orbit and return it safely, conduct rendezvous and spacewalks, perform trans-lunar injections, achieve lunar soft-landings, and bring vehicles back from the moon.

It would require the development of rockets bigger than any built before, sophisticated suits to protect astronauts from the harshness of space and sustain their lives, and innovative technology and software to control precisely the complex and exacting navigational requirements.

The attempt was literally unprecedented.

But we did it.

Despite the massive technical and scientific challenges, it took America just eight years, one month, and 26 days to fulfill Kennedy’s promise. NASA’s budget for the duration was just $3 billion shy of the $40 billion that Kennedy had called on the country to pledge for the moon shot.

Imagine that—a government agency completing a project under budget and ahead of schedule.

The program was not without opposition. Two years after Kennedy’s announcement, former President Eisenhower stated, “anybody who would spend $40 billion in a race to the moon for national prestige is nuts.” In early 1969, mere months before the historic landing, a poll found that only 39 percent of Americans were in favor of the Apollo project. Among the reasons that 49 percent opposed the program: “God never intended us to go to space.”

The Apollo program and its supporters plowed straight through the opposition. They had a goal and they’d be damned if a little bit of negative opinion would stand in their way. It was something that America had to do and something that America would be proud of doing.

And they ended up being right. By now most, if not all, opposition has faded with the years. Even the most hardened cosmopolitan globalists, anarchistic libertarians, and identitarian separatists must get a small kick of nationalistic pride when they remember that we are the only country to ever land people on the moon.

But that pride has become inextricably mixed with nostalgia. It is no longer pride for what America is. It is pride for what it was.

We don’t do real moon shots anymore.

What Happened to Us?
President Obama’s Cancer Moonshot received $1.8 billion to be spent over seven years—just under 0.01 percent of the yearly federal budget, compared to the nearly 5 percent we spent yearly on NASA during the height of the Apollo program.

We aren’t even willing to make substantial outlays of time, effort, or money to deal with the substantial, concrete issues we have.

When $8.6 billion—just under 0.2 percent of the federal budget—is too high a price to pay to secure our borders and some start arguing that we should just give up because illegal immigrants will enter the country anyway, we know that we’ve lost our resolve.

But this downward trend has been with us for a while, in spite of temporary reversals.

President Carter was not entirely wrong when, in 1979, he said that America was facing a “crisis of confidence.” And he was not wrong to point to the moon landing, then just 10 years past, as a symbol of America’s strength. Nor was he was not wrong when he called America’s people, values, and confidence the greatest resource of the country saying that we would have to renew all three lest we fall to “fragmentation and self-interest” and turn to “worship” of “self-indulgence and consumption.”

Unfortunately, Carter had the charisma of a damp mop cloth and inspired about as much confidence as Lehman Brothers in late 2008.

But the malaise that the nation felt in the late 1970s was tame compared to what was to come. The United States, much like the Apollo program, may have been a victim of its own success.

After the emotional fervor surrounding Apollo 11, the subsequent missions drew far less interest—for many, the moon (if not space) was conquered and all that was left were the technical details that were best left to the scientists. The nation lost interest.

Similarly, many believed after the end of the Cold War that the major ideological struggles of human history had been resolved and anything left was best left to the technocrats. History effectively was over. And with no more ideological battles to wage, Americans felt increasingly entitled to kick their legs up and indulge in the material signs of our prosperity. Having won the fight, why would we risk the spoils on anything as intangible as an abstract goal?

As Francis Fukuyama argued, the “struggle for recognition, the willingness to risk one’s life for a purely abstract goal, the worldwide ideological struggle that called forth daring, courage, imagination, and idealism” was being replaced by “economic calculation, the endless solving of technical problems, environmental concerns, and the satisfaction of sophisticated consumer demands.”

He even mused that the “very prospect of centuries of boredom at the end of history will serve to get history started once again.”

But it was never clear that history actually ended.

The Crisis of Our Elites
It is far more plausible that America’s so-called elite—enraptured by the cornucopia of cheap money to be gained from globalization—wanted to rationalize their complete abandonment of their neighbors and fellow citizens. They bought indulgences for their residual guilt by throwing money at supposedly oppressed groups and prostrating themselves on the altar of wokeness.

But now, the body politic is waking up, shaking off the false consciousness of political correctness and leftist cultural hegemony, and starting to see the reality of our current predicament. And America’s so-called elite, which once believed that they lead the country, are learning that they were the tail wagging the dog and that populism can be a bitch.

The sweet lullaby of the end of history and the fairytale of the “developed nation” have given way to the harsh reality that the United States has been falling behind economically, culturally, technologically, and spiritually and that our current national security and our future freedom hang in the balance.

Everyone knows that we are in tremendous debt. Last year alone, we paid more than $500 billion just to service the interest on the debt. But this—no matter what the libertarians and deficit-hawks tell you—is not fatal by itself. There are far more important threats we face that few in the media want to stress. Perhaps sustained attention to these issues would raise the obvious question of why we have done so little to ameliorate them and why the experts have been loath even to acknowledge their existence.

We face a formidable threat in China—a country we have systematically underestimated and treated the way a parent might treat a petulant teenager. A slap on the wrist will not stop their systematic theft of intellectual property, manipulation of currency dynamics, and exploitation of our trade policies.

But until President Trump’s election, economists and technocrats, enthralled by the prospect of “the endless solving of technical problems” of bureaucratic trade negotiation and the perpetual paychecks such tasks could produce, did not dare rock the boat lest the price of some crappy and lead-ridden toy from China jump 20 cents. The risk and the paperwork weren’t worth it.

Where Do Their Loyalties Lie?
We face uniquely powerful and fundamentally un-American tech companies that are intent on silencing opinions with which they do not agree. Companies that have worked with foreign governments to create censored search engines, only stopping after intense public scrutiny in the United States. And companies that have faced increasing scrutiny for sharing sensitive technology for potential military applications with foreign entities.

These companies have smartly paid off most of the main institutions in Washington, D.C. and have hidden behind a wall of insufferable libertarians and free-marketers who would rather see conservatives trashed and censored by the big tech companies than cross the sacrosanct principle of the invisible hand—these are the same people who seem to forget that “Ma Bell” was broken up by the Reagan Administration.

We face a broken education system with rising tuition and diminishing value. Americans have taken out over $1.5 trillion in student loan debt with the federal government owning nearly 92 percent of the debt. The government apparently seems intent on repeating the same mistakes that it made with Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac ahead of the Great Recession. At least those loans had some underlying collateral that could be recovered. Good luck monetizing that 20-something’s bisexual Native-American pottery degree.

Even our most elite colleges are breaking. At Yale, I saw some of the greatest minds of my generation destroyed by madness, spending weeks arguing whether Latin@ or Latinix was the less-gendered term to replace the masculonormative Latino. The classics are casually tossed aside with scorn—what could we possibly learn from Aristotle? He didn’t even have Snapchat!

The elite educational institutions are cynically cashing in on their brands and churning out many mediocre students who cannot reason themselves out of a paper bag and are far more interested in following the beaten moneyed path than having an independent thought.

How Do We Dig Out of This Hole?
We have recently seen progress on all three of these challenges. Trump has held a firm negotiating stance with China, in spite of all of the hand-wringing and lamentations in the press. Republicans in Congress have started appreciating the threat of the large tech companies and have begun to grapple with their Heritage and Cato foundation talking points to find some way they can address the actual problems in front of them while still getting money from the Kochs. And we’ve seen increased skepticism of higher education and some substantive attempts at reform.

Good. Let’s keep fighting.

But even these problems pale in comparison with the fundamental upheaval our entire world has seen over the past century. An upheaval that few are willing to acknowledge.

Technology, increasing social volatility, and an enlightenment-inspired skepticism of tradition and the past is changing how humans live at a pace that we haven’t seen before. And though we have been debating the increasing pace of modern life for a long time, there’s no doubt that information technology and our immersive devices have produced a quickening. It remains to be determined whether the benefits outweigh the costs—and this determination largely falls to us.

Our Societal Challenge
The rise of birth control, the sexual revolution, the various waves of feminism have all fundamentally shaken society. Women have played an increasingly prominent role in the professional sphere and a diminished role in the domestic sphere. The dominant culture pressures young women to have high performing careers and shames stay-at-home mothers. In spite of a slight reversal in recent years, the share of stay-at-home mothers has fallen dramatically over the past 50 years.

Mobile phones and other interactive devices with screens and access to the internet, all fairly recent inventions, are now ubiquitous. Social media, less than 20 years old, has become an important fixture in our day-to-day social interactions. The average American adult now spends more than 11 hours per day engaging with media on their screens. Many parents now give screens to young children to keep them entertained and to help with education. This is a profound change in the way that people interact with each other.

All sorts of behaviors and orientations, once stigmatized, have been normalized and gained widespread prominence in popular culture. Homosexuality and transgenderism are now widely supported by most in the mainstream. Dissenting voices that criticize the normalization of such orientations are typically punished harshly and socially ostracized. Recreational drug use and frequent premarital sex have become commonplace and are regularly depicted in media with many technological tools facilitating both.

These are not necessarily entirely bad things. They are also not unquestionably good things either. But our inability to speak openly about the changes or to have a free exchange of opinions about the various changes is, undoubtedly, an evil. Such profound changes are certain to have positive and negative side effects—if we are only allowed to speak of the positives, the negative effects will fester and metastasize.

Our decades-long inability to have open conversations and debates about these trends is in part a byproduct of the belief of many that we have reached the end of history and liberalism has won the ideological fight.

Of course, many in the mainstream orthodoxy have claimed liberalism for themselves and have constructed highly convenient definitions for the ideology. Nevertheless, if the ideology won and any further fighting is merely between those states and individuals “still in history” and those already at the end of history, what self-respecting pseudointellectual wouldn’t want to stand squarely at the end of history?

A Shallow End to History?
And so, eager not to be left behind, the “woke” among us accept whatever manifestation of liberalism is fed to them by the academics in their ivory towers and view any dissent with scorn. “Educate yourself,” they sneer as they clutch their copies of The Atlantic, The Nation, and The New York Times—the scriptures of their expert oracles in the Church of Wokeness.

Not content with deconstructing the present and distracting us with petty stupidity that pushes us ever closer to another civil war, they have started deconstructing the past. Most recently, telling us why the Apollo program was sexist and misguided.

All of this is rich, coming from people who have never landed themselves on the moon and would likely have to call AAA to change a flat.

We choose to go to the moon in this decade, and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard. Because that goal will serve to organize and measure the best of our energies and skills, because that challenge is one that we are willing to accept, one we are unwilling to postpone, and one which we intend to win, and the others too.

This language would be considered racist, ableist, chauvinistic, and imperialistic by many in the same party that nominated its author, John F. Kennedy, nearly 60 years ago.

During the 2016 election, many people asked when America had been great. They pointed to the countless sins of the past and smeared our entire history from top to bottom. But history is not that simple. It is not a simple fable of good versus evil with wooden two-dimensional characters.

America was great when it helped win World War II. It was great when it landed a man on the moon. It was great when it built the Interstate Highway System. America was great when it had confidence in itself and didn’t spend its time mired in remorseful, brooding, nostalgia, cataloging all of its wrongs and agonizing over missed opportunities.

America needs hustle. It needs spunk. It needs another goal to tackle. And it needs the heart to want to win.

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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.”

Photo Credit: iStock/Getty Images

2016 Election • America • Donald Trump • Post • Progressivism • The Culture • The Left

It’s Guerrilla Warfare

When my liberal friends and colleagues begin to explain to me why they imagine President Trump is appallingly vulgar and incompetent and venal, there is always a point in which their faces go blank. It happens when I say to them, “What about the Little Sisters of the Poor?” That stops them short. They don’t know the reference.

I could also mention Brendan Eich, Barronelle Stutzman, Amy Wax, or Bruce Gilley and get the same response. Liberals who are otherwise informed and well-educated are unfamiliar with those names. They followed the Robert Mueller investigation closely, they tally Trump’s misdeeds weekly, and they are anxious about 2020. But the episodes involving the individuals I cite don’t register with them.

They did with social and religious conservatives, though—deeply so. The Little Sisters of the Poor are a religious order that, among other things, runs facilities for the elderly. They objected to the contraception mandate in Obamacare—it’s contrary to Catholic doctrine—and ended up having to fight the Obama Administration all the way to the Supreme Court.

Brendan Eich was the renowned head of Mozilla who was hounded out of his post after it was discovered he donated $1,000 to Proposition 8, the California ballot initiative that defined marriage as between a man and a woman. The measure passed handily, putting Eich in the majority of California voters, and there was no evidence that Eich had ever discriminated against anyone in the workplace, but that didn’t save him.

Barronelle Stutzman is the florist who on religious grounds declined to do a same-sex wedding. That brought a complaint that led the State of Washington and the ACLU to file suit against her. The original complainant, it should be added, was a longtime client and acquaintance of Stutzman. She had sold him flowers for years, but she couldn’t agree to participate in the ceremony.

Amy Wax is a law professor at the University of Pennsylvania who co-wrote an op-ed in the Philadelphia Inquirer arguing that young people, especially the impoverished, would do well to follow old-fashioned bourgeois culture instead of the coarse, consumerist youth culture of today, including “rap culture.” Her dean proceeded to remove her from part of her teaching, while 33 colleagues signed a public letter denouncing her.

Bruce Gilley is the professor who drew the ire of thousands when he wrote an essay in a scholarly journal questioning “academic orthodoxy” that Western colonialism was a terrible thing. It was a provocative piece, but his aim of shaking the consensus backfired. More than 10,000 people signed a petition demanding the journal retract the article. The journal editor received “credible” threats of personal violence.

As these and many other incidents of anti-conservative targeting (Mark Regnerus, Jack Phillips . . .) were recounted on conservative radio and media, social and religious conservatives couldn’t help but see themselves as potential targets as well.

It’s been going on for years. The culture war waged against them starting in the mid-20th century has developed into a guerrilla war that uses lawsuits, Title IX complaints, boycotts, petitions, intimidation of companies that advertise on conservative shows, banning of conservatives from social media, and organized outrage at those who uphold American patriotism, Western Civilization, Catholic teaching, and any other belief that crosses progressive lines.

The impact has been heavy on the right, but these episodes haven’t reached the ears of white-collar liberals. Or, if they did, they didn’t stick. When I describe such cases to people on the Left, it’s as if I am talking about a scrap that took place in a bar across town. In their eyes, they amount, at most, to the occasional excess by a few zealots. Not a big deal.

Which leaves white-collar liberals exasperated and incredulous, helpless to understand why anyone with any intelligence and goodness could have voted for Donald Trump. The never-ending culture war has done exactly what it was supposed to do: discredit and demean social and religious conservative norms and beliefs. The new guerrilla war is doing exactly what it is supposed to do: expel a few conservatives from the workplace, the media, and the public square, and intimidate the rest—and to do it beneath the radar of white-collar liberals.

It is pointless for conservatives to try to explain to those across the aisle how dispirited and defeated they feel. Liberals aren’t interested. They don’t credit any notions of endangerment, either. They save those sympathies for historically-disadvantaged groups. Besides, liberals regard the sexual revolution and Roe v. Wade, same-sex marriage and open borders, intersectional awareness, and #MeToo as a triumph. If a few decent people lose their jobs or their business, if a hapless fellow becomes the object of a Twitter mob, if a baker has to hire lawyers to fend off a fanatical state civil rights commission, well, the omelet begins with a few cracked eggs. They don’t feel your pain!

Donald Trump did, and still does. In 2016, he promised he would make it stop. He brought the Little Sisters of the Poor up on stage and promised them that their “long ordeal will soon be over.” He pulled “gender identity” out of Title IX, which meant it could no longer be the basis of Title IX complaints. He threatened colleges with loss of federal funding if they violate First Amendment principles.

These actions were designed to halt leftist guerrilla warfare. This is a big reason why Donald Trump won. Would Jeb Bush have taken similar actions? Did John Kasich ever indicate in 2016 that he even recognized ongoing guerrilla tactics against individuals on the right?

Awhile ago, I spoke at a distinguished university in the northeast, where I aligned Donald Trump with an American tradition of Emersonian nonconformity, the solitary individual against a longstanding Establishment.

The audience didn’t buy it; questions were sharp-edged. But to one point there was no rejoinder: “Why did I support Mr. Trump?” I asked. “Because if Hillary had won, my church would have had to hire many, many lawyers, march into court every week, and close some institutions.” What followed was, precisely, that blank look.

“Huh?” the crowd seemed to say.

Yes, that’s exactly what would have happened. And if liberals don’t stop being so doggone obtuse about the experience of conservatives, it’s going to be four more years.

Photo Credit: Brendan Smialowski/AFP/Getty Images

America • Identity Politics • Post • Progressivism • Sports • The Culture • The Left

We All Wanted to Love the Women’s Soccer Team

For the first time in my life, I did not root for an American team. Whatever the sport, I have always rooted American. But if those who called into my radio show were representative of my audience, many millions of Americans made the same sad choice.

It takes a lot for people like me not to root for an American team. But Megan Rapinoe, the foul-mouthed star of the team, and her fellow players made it possible.

The U.S. women’s soccer team disgraced itself. Either its members were cowed into submission by Rapinoe or they agreed (or, at least, never disagreed) with her attacks on the president, her reference to the White House as the “f—ing White House,” her refusal since 2016 to participate in the National Anthem, and her repeatedly shouting during the team’s parade in New York City, “New York, you’re the motherf—ing best!”

For example, Rapinoe said, “Every member of the team that I have talked to would not go” to the White House.

Rapinoe is a great soccer player. Other than that, she is unimpressive. She comes across as arrogant, a fool, and a lowlife.

Why a fool? Because she thinks she has something important to say to the American people and that we need to hear it because she is a great soccer player. She is not alone in this conceit. Tom Steyer and other billionaires think the same thing about themselves: that because they are better at making money than almost everybody, they must be wiser than almost everybody.

People who excel in one thing are tempted to think they are smart about everything, but that is almost never the case. There is no reason at all to assume that people who excel in anything (other than wisdom) are wiser than anybody else. And here’s the kicker (no pun intended): People who think they are wise because they excel at something unrelated to wisdom are fools.

And why is Rapinoe a lowlife? What would you label any adult who constantly used the F-word in public (especially during events when children are expected to be present or watching)? Or does being a star—like the foul-mouthed Robert De Niro—make you less of a lowlife?

The American women’s soccer team is unified in protesting on behalf of “equal pay for equal work.” They regard their team as a perfect example because its members receive less money than members of the U.S. men’s soccer team—despite the fact that the women have a much better record.

But there is a reason the male players earn more. Among other things—such as the women’s team’s vote for financial security in the form of guaranteed salaries rather than revenue share—men’s soccer generates far more money than women’s soccer.

According to the Los Angeles Times: FIFA’s “2018 financial report said it earned revenue of $5.357 billion from the men’s tournament in Russia. . . . Forbes estimated the Women’s World Cup will generate about $131 million for the four-year cycle ending in 2022.”

So, unless people should be paid according to gender (which they now are in Norway) rather than according to revenue and profits, male soccer players will earn more money than female soccer players.

There are only two ways to equitably ensure male and female players earn the same amount of money. One is to pool all the money earned by both teams and then distribute an equal amount to all the players, men and women. The other is to end sex-based teams: Men and women compete to play on one team (composed of both men and women), and any woman who makes the team is guaranteed the same income as any man on the team.

Until then, the women’s soccer team and the left want to have their cake and eat it, too. (Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand of New York, for example, tweeted this non sequitur: “Here’s an idea: If you win 13-0—the most goals for a single game in World Cup history—you should be paid at least equally to the men’s team.”) They want women to have their own soccer teams—because biology has made it impossible for almost any woman to successfully compete with men in sports—yet earn the same amount as men do.

But the reality is more people will watch men play soccer, just as more people watch major league baseball than minor league baseball—which is why major league baseball players earn more money than minor league players. But if we applied the equal-pay-for-equal-work principle to baseball, minor league and major league players would be paid the same amount.

With their politicization of their victory, their expletive-filled speech and their publicly expressed contempt for half their fellow citizens, the women of the U.S. women’s soccer team succeeded in endearing themselves to America’s Left. But they earned the rest of the country’s disdain, which is sad. We really wanted to love the team.

What we have here is yet another example of perhaps the most important fact in the contemporary world: Everything the Left touches it ruins.


Photo credit: Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

America • History • Post • The Culture

Music in the 80s Sucked

In an excellent essay making the case that pop music was at its zenith in 1984, Julie Kelly writes that the era represented a patriotic swoon. She might also have mentioned that the same year, Lee Greenwood released “God Bless the U.S.A.,” the most patriotic song of the year though it was not, strictly speaking, a pop song.

The year 1984 may have been the high point of pop and rock, but that is not saying much. The entire decade is more notable for the musical malaise it created. As a music director for radio stations during that decade, I should know. It was during the ’80s that radio stations began to tighten their playlists all to the happy applause of corporate music execs. The rapid creativity of the 1970s radio stations died, to be replaced by preplanned and survey-tested radio formats. The most significant of these were the songs stations received from the radio syndication company Drake-Chenault

No longer were program and music directors left to their own knowledge and gut as to what made a hit. They deferred to the “experts.” It was a disaster. The same songs were played and replayed to the point of monotony. Music and then radio began to lose its audience, and the music that was created for just this purpose suffered. In a significant way, it all began to sound the same.

The 1980s represented the creeping destruction of musical creativity. The few shining moments in this decade were achieved by those acts allowed by their corporate producers to test the boundaries of acceptable on-air material—Michael Jackson’s “Thriller” falls into this category. 

Most of the music in the 1980s, however, to put it colloquially, sucked.

It is remarkable that the music execs and radio gods decided to clamp down on creativity at the moment they did. It was only 10 years earlier, in 1974, that a small band signed with about as independent a record label (London) as one could get at the time, and packed Austin stadium with 80,000 of their closest friends. Try doing that without major label backing. ZZ Top did it, though, and they were immensely popular even before their hit song “Tush” and their signing with Warner Brothers. But in the 1970s, as now, the market craved something original, even if it was not audience tested and approved. It worked. 

When the record labels merged and clamped down on musical talent, they froze out the bands that would have carried their creative market into the next decade. Those who wanted to remain a signed act were forced into the company playlist with company producers and company song writers. Many bands before the explosion of the internet and independent labels were sadly never to find broad fame and marketability they deserved because music executives really did not have the expertise they thought they had. 

Case in point was a West Coast band called the Crazy 8s. They packed whatever venue they played in the 1980s. When I was a music director at a radio station, I pleaded with many label reps to sign the band. Every time they told me, “We’d love to, but we do not know how to categorize them.” The Crazy 8s never were signed to a major label, but they inspired their standing-room-only crowds to go wild simply because they were not a cookie cutter band and they offered a unique sound that resonated. They also had the added benefit of being a talented act. In one concert, I remember the college age crowd of the ’80s nearly destroyed the venue upon hearing the immensely popular Johnny Q—a rip on mainstream media before it was cool.

The pressure the industry put on artists in the ’80s led to the present musical explosion we are now witnessing. Suffocated by the music industry’s grip on what was acceptable, bands started to go on their own. The best songs of the ’80s were not created in that decade, but long after. As one astute student told me one day, “Interpol is the ’80s done right.” To that you can add Bloc Party

It was not just pop that stunk in the nostrils of the musicians and smart disc jockeys of the day. Country also suffered from the same stagnation. The slow rolling creation of an entirely new genre (alt-country) that came out of the Byrds (via Gram Parsons and Scott Hillman) would not reach its breakout moment until the 1990s. This is a legacy even the Beatles do not have. The Byrds were the most influential band in American music for what they unleashed and created, but it took time because of the resistance from the major labels that wanted to kill music not created in their hot-house market tested image. The tight grip of elite music producers and writers caused Robbie Fulks to pen this irreverent tune to corporate execs. But he was not the only one who did so

The indie and alt-country movements were born out of the putrification of a decade. When people like Jack White of the White Stripes lent his support behind not only recreating the minimalist sound, but also independent record companies to put the power of music back in the hands of the creators and the fans, new radio stations under the new influence began to fill the void and thousands of fans left the preplanned and predictable sounds of the major labels. 

The 1980s stunted music’s growth. That is why Greta Van Fleet is so popular, and sounds like a band we’ve heard before. They are experimenting with an age that the record companies killed off. Indie saved rock-n-roll and saved us from the 1980s and ’90s. We are all better off for it. 

Photo Credit: Paul Natkin/Getty Images

Center for American Greatness • feminists • Post • Progressivism • The Culture • The Left

Stop Putting Your Daughters on Birth Control

Earlier in the summer, I was vacationing at the beach with a dear family friend. As we lounged in the sunroom listening to waves break in the distance one early afternoon, she brought up her 16-year-old daughter, Sally. A few weeks’ prior, Sally and her boyfriend of three years (we’ll call him Mike) had broken up. Mike had just spent his first year away at college. Sally generally tells her mother (who is a bit of a gossip) very little, but her mother had gathered through Sally’s sisters that Mike had been unfaithful.

Sally’s mom expressed the situation to me as a “shame,” because a few weeks before the breakup, Sally had requested the birth-control pills that her mother had long touted as a possibility for each of her daughters. Now, between sips of pinot grigio, she hoped aloud that her daughter wouldn’t “go crazy” and sleep with too many people to make Mike jealous.

Since the breakup, Sally has begun making darker and more suggestive choices in fashion, makeup, and social media posting. She’s always been sassy, but her attitude has become detached and bitter with an air of rebellion. Even a casual observer would be able to detect a thinly veiled resentment toward her parents.

“It’ll probably just pass,” her mother says. “Same thing happened to me in high school.”

Growing up in the Deep South, most of my good friends (whose parents were Christians, Republicans, and leaders in the community) began taking “the pill” at 14 years old, no questions asked. Chelsea got a pimple? The pill will fix it. Tori has bad cramps? Take the pill. Julia can’t regulate her mood or appetite? Sounds like a job for the pill. Never mind that the pill can make you break out, worsen bodily pain and mood swings, and make you gain weight—and often did all of those things at once.

At some point, the pill became a rite of passage, an irrational tradition to which all upstanding WASPs adhered and one they perpetuated whether because of inertia or fear. The explanation was rarely that the pubescent girl was actually having sex—in fact, most didn’t start with that until years after beginning the pill. But the understanding was that eventually she would. And this little magic trick not only would insulate her from the adult consequences of her adult decisions, but, perhaps primarily, insulate her Baby Boomer parents from the social shaming a teen pregnancy would generate in their circles.

You know you’re a woman in American society when you are handed a tastefully designed compact dispenser of little white and blue pills that, as a panacea for all of your ailments, nullifies your natural function as a woman. You know you’re a woman in American society when people stop treating you like a girl and start treating you like a man. I don’t recall any such rite of passage for the boys in my life.

The issue of birth control cuts to the core of the diabolical disorientation of the family in the Western world. When your daughter, sister, wife, or girlfriend swallows that pill, not only does she ingest all the artificial hormones that increasingly are linked to breast cancer and strokes later in life, she ingests our society’s judgment of her worth. Whether she takes it with explicitly naughty plans like those of Sally, or for the diversionary purposes of my teenage peers a decade ago, she always absorbs all of the presuppositions that the pill represents. As the soul is more sensitive than the body, these presuppositions are what cause the most damage.

They deserve a good dismantling.

That Fertility Is an Illness
With the exception of the new transsexual mutilation procedures, fertility and pregnancy might be the only natural, healthy functions of the human body that are treated as illnesses by the medical community at large. If we were to compare the state of fertility to any other healthy capacity of the human body, and then consider how a doctor might cancel that healthy capacity according to patient preference, we begin to see what is certainly a violation of the Hippocratic Oath.

Imagine treating someone’s ability to run by cutting off their legs or giving them an immobility pill for the years during which they are at their physical peak. Imagine then still calling oneself a “healer” in light of this.

The original Hippocratic Oath reads:

. . . I will use treatment to help the sick according to my ability and judgment, but never with a view to injury and wrong-doing. Neither will I administer a poison to anybody when asked to do so, nor will I suggest such a course. Similarly I will not give to a woman a pessary to cause abortion. But I will keep pure and holy both my life and my art. I will not use the knife, not even, verily, on sufferers from stone, but I will give place to such as are craftsmen therein . . .

Even if we, like the American Medical Association, dispense with the crystal clear pro-life promise at its core, the Hippocratic Oath’s primary “do no harm” principle stands firmly in opposition to the mass dispensation of birth control to women and girls.

Birth control is inherently harmful in that it disrupts something that is good and performing according to its nature: fertility in women. There are, of course, the long-term harmful and well-documented secondary health effects that come after years of taking the pill. But fundamentally, the pill cancels the primary, unique, and healthy function of the female body. By taking what is objectively good and terminating it, even temporarily, the pill is injurious and ultimately unjust by its very nature. For women, for whom fertility is the harbinger of their greatest power (child formation), a cancellation of fertility attacks their very essence and being. In essence, it changes a woman.

The pill is an affront to creation and an attack on the divine feminine. The materialists among us, having a retarded, antispiritual view of the human person, might accept that without any qualms. But the rest of us must not abide.

That Sex Is Merely a Matter of Science (and Science Rules)
The idea that fertility should be medicated comes from a more fundamental assumption that sex itself is a matter exclusively of science, and that a scientific view of the world, demystified of any objective, transcendent meaning, is the only valid worldview. By this way of thinking, the meaningful consequences of sex are limited to that which is measurable: the reproductive result.

When we regard it merely as a scientific matter, we anesthetize sex, scraping it clean of any emotional or spiritual bearing. The meaningful contributions of each participant in the act are limited to their sperm and egg cells. It becomes no different from any other animal act.

Science by its nature and by the scientific method atomizes the focus of its study. In order to understand things through science, we must break them apart and see them as sums of their parts—no more, no less. But when we start to view human beings this way, we lose sight of their essence. We lose sight of the whole,which is greater than the sum of its parts.

As such, a human being becomes as infinitely atomizable, malleable, and fungible as any one of his components. Of course, this is also the stance that the surgeons mutilating the genitals of people with gender dysphoria assume. A medical practice which views the human being as a whole person, one which would take the Hippocratic oath seriously, would not engage in such exploitation.

But this scientific worldview is mostly just a political cudgel—the same variety that the environmentalists take up for the sake of their cause. People do not actually live according to this trope that they spout. Most people act as if they believe that the human being is more than random bits and pieces thrown together. Most implicitly reject the scientific materialist worldview in their personal lives and would not deny that sexual contact is meaningful in a metaphysical way. But because we prefer to be free from judgment about that meaning, we prefer to pretend that there really is none. So at the regime level, this assumption becomes an organizing principle, and then it doesn’t matter how people approach the act individually. The new nihilism asserts itself and moves to infect who and whatever it can.

That Young People Are Incapable of Virtue
Boomers assume that because they were unable or unwilling to control their own urges and achieve for the sake of virtue, it is therefore beyond their children and grandchildren. This is projection from the generation that, in their teens, squandered the stable social systems into which they were born. These greedy self-adulators who robbed future generations of social capital and real capital by their risky behaviors and insatiable desire to be cool, cannot conceptualize that young people could be anything greater than the degenerate pleasure-seekers they once were and still aspire to be.

So rather than instructing Sally that her virginity was something to be cherished and reserved for the bonds of marriage, my friend, whom I love, operated on the assumption that virginity was something to be lost, helplessly, like a feather in the wind. When she handed her daughter the little brown bag of Lo Loestrin Fe, she handed her the keys to a door she never should have opened. But the priority for Sally’s mom wasn’t that Sally not go through that door; it was that Sally avoid the potentially embarrassing consequences of going through that door.

Ultimately, Sally can’t avoid the fact that she lost something important to her. But because her parents passively avoided a deep and difficult conversation about chastity, instead opting for a shallow and dishonest conversation about how to cheat fate, she does not have the language to understand where she went wrong. She lacks the wisdom to understand her pain. And this kind of pain, the pain of loss, makes women act out in ways that suggest they are searching for something to fill a void. Temporary comforts. Sally’s mother is right to worry.

The reason kids aren’t virtuous isn’t because they aren’t capable of virtue. It’s because they aren’t taught to be virtuous and aren’t expected to be—because the boomers assume they aren’t capable and resent it when they are.

Giving your daughter birth control because you believe she has no command over her behavior robs her of the opportunity to be strong. To annihilate the visible consequences of vice is to excuse vice, which is to arrest the spiritual development of young people. To arrest their development is to prevent them from knowing themselves, and to spark a vicious cycle of decadence and ignorance that may damage them for life.

That Babies, If Unwanted, Can and Should Be Avoided
This final presupposition, that unwanted babies should be avoided, is the most obvious conduit to abortion of them all. This belief system is encapsulated well by Abby Johnson’s term: “contraceptive mindset,” the precursor and a necessary companion to an infanticidal regime.

If one’s operating principle is that babies should be avoided when they are unwanted, then it’s not a far leap between preventing pregnancy and terminating pregnancy. The pill annihilates potential life. Abortion annihilates manifest life. So long as life is regarded as fundamentally optional in this way, abortion is never a bridge too far. There are no brakes.

And you’ll notice, abortion advocates talk about fetuses as if they were potential lives, not existing ones. They cover themselves with the language of contraception because it appeals to more people. It is a slippery slope. Deviants love to keep that slope lubricated.

“As long as you’re not killing anyone, be as sterile as you desire,” is not a sufficient political comeback to the abortion proposition. Abortion activists know this; they rely on the otherwise anti-abortion majority to remain bogged down by this contraceptive mentality, because that mentality forces them to compromise.

But this issue is one in which compromise is neither desirable nor possible. Moreover, to accept the terms of the contraceptive mentality is to concede that children are a net negative commodity. Birth control is an implicit attack on the beauty of life itself. By accepting the contraceptive mindset, one accepts the notion that reproduction is something less than a gift and a blessing. The acceptance of abortion logically follows.

Just Stop
Beyond the pill’s health effects (which are numerous) and its demographic results (which doom us), parents must begin to consider the demoralizing effects of internalizing the rejection of natural law. For many women, the pill is the gateway drug to Prozac. Many will cite a chemical imbalance as the sole reason for any mental health issue, but I suspect that the behaviors borne of trying to function in a consequence-free world have more to do with it.

Moms and Dads: You may avoid the economic and social inconvenience of an unexpected grandchild for those four short years of high school by succumbing to the siren song of the pill, but the doors you open for your daughter by doing so are far from morally neutral. They lead to paths well worn by the damned. Someone always pays the piper in the end.

The best you’ll get for your complacency is spiritual malaise. The worst you’ll get is a dead kid. If you love your daughter, stop giving her birth control.

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Books & Culture • Center for American Greatness • Post • The Culture • the family

Fathers Matter—A Lot

The truth of the title is obvious to all but the most fanatically anti-natural-family ideologues, and yet, our culture is drowning in fatherlessness and seems unable to get this most elemental requirement of healthy families right. So, our society suffers.

But the series “Cobra Kai” seems poised to change that—or, at least, to open up a serious conversation about the harmful effects of absentee dads.

The show, a YouTube original, began in 2018 and is a sequel of sorts to the 1984 classic, “Karate Kid.” It focuses mainly on the struggles and exploits of the now-washed-up Johnny Lawrence, Daniel LaRusso’s nemesis in the film. (As expected, Johnny doesn’t remember events in quite the same way Daniel does.)

The basic driver of the show’s two very good seasons (so far) is the feud between Johnny and Daniel, still very much alive—even more than 30 years after Daniel poached Ali Mills from Johnny and sent him to the floor with that iconic “crane kick” in the final round of the All-Valley Tournament. That angle alone would be interesting enough fodder to move the plot along—after all, it’s clearly unhealthy to carry around a 34-year-old grudge, especially about something so minor, in the grand scheme of things.

There is something deeper running under the hood, however: the absence of paternal figures in the lives of its key characters. This is the reason the show is so compelling. Each of the central characters is searching for what it means to be a man in a world where he lacks the firm guidance of a father.

Recall that Daniel’s father died when he was just eight years old. And in “Cobra Kai,” we get more of Johnny’s backstory: He was raised by a cruel, wealthy stepfather, Sid Weinberg, and found refuge from his torments under the tutelage of his merciless sensei, John Kreese.

In addition to Daniel’s and Johnny’s suboptimal fatherhood situations, two of the other central characters—Miguel Diaz and Robby Keene—are in many ways defined by their derelict fathers.

Miguel lives with his mother and grandmother; they fled from Ecuador after Miguel’s mother learned that her abusive husband, Miguel’s father, was some sort of gang member. The two women raised Miguel.

Robby Keene lives with his mother, a woman who drifts aimlessly from one romantic tryst to another to keep the lights on in their small apartment; his father is none other than Johnny Lawrence, who is told by Robby’s mother at one point at a bar that he, Johnny, “gave up on day one” when it came to being there for Robby, and for her.

Daniel finds in Mr. Miyagi a father to stand in place of his natural father, lost to him in death, and Johnny finds in Kreese both a shelter and a tutor in the ways of strength, in reaction to his callous stepfather, who, when the then-friendless, 12-year-old Johnny excitedly said he wanted to learn karate, was told: “I’ll write the goddamn check. I’ll make it out to garbage, because that’s where it’s gonna end up.”

Each of them is troubled in his own way, and their adopted fathers shape them through karate according to their respective visions of manhood. Daniel is taught that karate is for self-defense, defense of others, and to find balance in one’s life. Johnny, conversely, is taught to “strike first,” “strike hard,” and show “no mercy.”

Johnny takes Miguel under his wing after seeing him get beat up outside of a convenience store near the apartment complex where they both live. Miguel finds the father in Johnny he so conspicuously lacks and needs, even as Johnny, in pain, tells Miguel that on the day of his real son’s birth

instead of being up there, welcoming him into the world, I was down here, soaking up the booze from a three-day bender, trying to get the courage to walk across the street. I never got there. I failed my kid on his very first day in this world, and I’ve been failing him every day since.

Johnny’s self-awareness of his own inadequacies—and that failure in particular—is driven, in part, by the fact that Robby trains with Daniel, Johnny’s childhood enemy—as though Robby were Daniel’s own son. Robby was hired by Daniel (who, as an adult, is a bit self-righteous) to work at his luxury car shop, LaRusso Auto Group, a job Robby sought for the sole purpose of angering his dad. But, at the time, Robby was involved with a bad crew, and they try to pressure him to be an accomplice in their scheme to steal a car from Daniel’s shop. But his loyalty to the kind-hearted Daniel and his family gives him the inner courage to resist the siren song of ill-gotten money.

It is clear that the pain of fatherlessness manifests across each of the characters’ lives, well beyond the initial moments of absence. Daniel visibly struggles to know what Mr. Miyagi, a man old enough to have been his grandfather, would do in any given situation, and to balance being sensei of “Miyagi-Do” with being a husband and father. Johnny has before him a vision of masculinity ordered toward faux machismo and domination for personal gain, courtesy of Kreese. That is why he couldn’t find it within himself to stick to his marriage and to the son it produced. The tragic result is that Robby seeks a father in Daniel, just as Johnny did with Kreese—initially out of spite for Johnny, but, thankfully, it’s a relationship that eventually blossoms into something mutually beneficial and healthy for them both, unlike the one between Johnny and Kreese.

Nonetheless and understandably, this pains Johnny greatly, and that leaves him vulnerable to the return of Kreese, who is a very bad influence both on him and his dojo.

Even so, Johnny remains open to growth. There is a moment when Miguel’s mother, after learning of the vendetta between Johnny and Daniel, candidly tells him: “The only way to end a rivalry is for someone to rise above it. You have to be the bigger man.” It’s advice to which he is receptive and, indeed, acts upon and stands by, even when Kreese mocks him for going “soft.” If only Johnny’s real father had been around to teach him that lesson before he became a 50-something, bitter drunkard, stewing over lost love and stolen glory!

The show revolves around the actions and reactions of various fatherless males, and it showcases the cyclical, generational harm generated by missing dads. It’s an eminently human portrayal of the costs of family breakdown, and the lengths to which young men will go to find their place in the world—a world that will stop at nothing to convince them that their own egoism, status, and pleasure are the only reliable barometers for right action. It’s men like Mr. Miyagi who break the cycle, even if not perfectly. Perhaps Johnny can finally do the same.

Fathers matter. We ignore this basic fact to our collective detriment. Good on “Cobra Kai” for telling its audience the truth.

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Conservatives • Democrats • First Amendment • Free Speech • Post • Republicans • The Culture • The Left • The Media • The Resistance (Snicker)

A ‘Green Book’ for Conservatives?

Last year, an Oscar-winning movie made known to many of us what the “Green Book” was—a guidebook listing accommodations for the African American traveler during the days of Jim Crow segregation. 

Today, I fear, we may need a “Green Book” for conservatives and Republicans. 

Stephanie Wilkinson, co-owner of the Red Hen restaurant in Lexington, Virginia, who last year had kicked out a White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders and family simply for their political affiliation, recently defended and promoted that practice in a Washington Post op-ed. She compared it to Cracker Barrel barring Grayson Fitts, who advocates “the arrest and execution of LGBTQ people.” Citing the cases last year where other prominent Republicans, Kirstjen Nielsen, Stephen Miller, and Mitch McConnell, were mobbed and driven out of restaurants, she wrote, “restaurants are now part of the soundstage for our ongoing national spectacle.” Amazingly, she complained that “the business involved inevitably comes under attack.” Those inclined to “scold owners and managers” and express dismay at the loss of a perceived “politics-free zone” should just get used to it. 

Wilkinson can deny that she approves of the next step—physical assault—by cheering the fact that there has been more support for Cracker Barrel’s actions than for those of the server who spit in the face of Eric Trump recently. Democrats like Senator Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.), who criticized Representative Maxine Waters (D-Calif.) and her call for mob action—namely, forming “a crowd” and “push[ing] back” on all Trump Administration members at restaurants, gas stations, and department stores—can claim to be above the fray. In truth, however, mild statements of disapproval, are lost in the tsunami of actions against conservatives by businesses ranging from advertisers on the Tucker Carlson show, movie producers in Georgia, and censors on social media.

I take Stephanie Wilkinson’s exclusion policy personally, though. Lexington is the place of my overnight stays during my frequent drives to Atlanta.

As I decide where to have dinner, I have the uncomfortable thought: that there is a restaurant in Lexington where people with my political views are not welcome. The idea is so foreign to me. I spent several years supporting myself waiting on tables and tending bar in the late 1970s and early 1980s. Back then, it was “no shoes, no shirt, no service,” or no service only for drunkenness, fighting, or nonpayment of a check. 

It is also troubling to me, given that I fled tyranny in the arms of my parents from Communist Yugoslavia. I grew up hearing their stories about political oppression. Imagine what it feels like to see things that resemble those stories in this country.

I have faced discrimination in academia. The “American dream” is to work your way up, right? I was “outed” as a conservative when the topic of my dissertation failed to advance the Marxist gender/race/class line contemporary English departments demand. As an adjunct instructor, I was expected to join in group conversations during the 2004 Democratic presidential primary speculating about who could beat the evil George W. Bush. My silence outed me. After I wrote columns, I was told that suddenly no more classes would be available for me to teach the following semester.

But back in 2004, it would never have occurred to me that such discrimination would occur outside of academia, that I could be legally discriminated against in restaurants.

It gives me little comfort that I am not easily recognizable like Sarah Sanders. Wilkinson has broadcast to the world that my kind are not welcome in her trendy establishment, a place that dare not refuse service to someone because of race. She feels righteous, claiming her actions are as justified as refusing service to someone who openly advocates murder. 

Would I feel comfortable in Wilkinson’s restaurant? What if a server overheard me expressing my political views? If I made a reservation, would staff Google my name? I might not get the boot, but would I have my food spit in, or worse? No doubt, other restaurant owners are taking note, and I wonder: how do other Lexington restaurateurs feel? Do they also not want my business? What about the hotel where I stay?

Where this will end? Will conservatives be excluded next from grocery stores and hotels (as Maxine Waters would have it)? Will we be forced to sleep in our cars when traveling? It is hard to imagine this happening, but we now have those who feel no shame in openly advocating it. The inconceivable has happened in my lifetime—in a “free country.”

The ironic thing is that I support the concept of farm-to-table restaurants. I am a regular customer of the organic farmers who come here on the village square in Clinton, New York. I am against tax-subsidized corporate farming—something started by Democrat Franklin D. Roosevelt. I am opposed to it because it led to the near-starvation of many black farmers and tenant farmers who were excluded from Roosevelt’s New Deal subsidies. Yet, African Americans had to pay the higher taxes and inflated prices for these programs. It also bears repeating that it was a Democrat president, Woodrow Wilson, who imposed segregation in the federal workforce. His protégée, Franklin Roosevelt, continued the policies even as he wooed black voters with “relief” payments instead of jobs and denied black children afflicted with polio the opportunity to use his Warm Springs facility while his wife posed with them for campaign photo-ops.

Barack Obama took up FDR’s mantle and was even portrayed in a way that evoked his image on the cover of a prominent magazine. His proposed federal regulation of small farmers who sold at public markets was met with a letter of protest from a farmer who sold organic produce from his five acres at such markets throughout the Atlanta area where I was living. Under President Trump, businesses, including farm-to-table establishments, are thriving.

Breaking bread is a way for people to come together. Having a meal should not be a political act. Yet, liberals and the Democratic National Committee, beginning in 2015, encouraged “conversations” with family members over Thanksgiving dinner to point out how benighted they are to vote Republican. Now it’s OK to kick Republicans out of restaurants and your family gatherings.

Charles Murray, the author of Coming Apart, who is much vilified on our liberal campuses, could write an updated version of his book based on the new levels of exclusion that go beyond zip codes to businesses run by self-righteous, intolerant, well-to-do liberals. If we are “divided” as a nation as many say, it is not because of conservatives or what our president says. It is because of people like Wilkinson.

The Red Hen is off my places to patronize, no doubt to the pleasure of Stephanie Wilkinson. I am one person, without much financial clout.

So were the African Americans riding the buses in Montgomery, Alabama. The time has come for conservatives, and all Americans who value the freedom of association and policies of non-discrimination, to take a page out of the playbook of that boycott and others like it. This isn’t a fight that conservatives started, but it is one we must win. The branding, exclusion, and assaults must stop.

Photo credit: TKTKTKTK

Identity Politics • Post • Progressivism • Religion and Society • The Culture • The Left

The Ahmari Theory of Internal Diplomacy

How should conservative and traditionalist Americans go forward in today’s current political climate? That is the question at the root of an ongoing dispute arising from Sohrab Ahmari’s First Things article, “Against David French-ism” and David French’s rebuttal in National Review called “What Sohrab Ahmari Gets Wrong.

Ahmari argues, “The only way is through”—that is, we must “fight the culture war with the aim of defeating the enemy and enjoying the spoils in the form of a public square re-ordered to the common good and ultimately the Highest Good.” Essentially, he is arguing for a restoration that places God and natural law at the center of the ordered world we inhabit; he calls for actually treating the culture war as a war.

French, for his part, argues that the way forward contains two components, namely, “zealous defense of the classical-liberal order . . . and zealous advocacy of fundamentally Christian and Burkean conservative principles . . . It’s the formulation that renders the government primarily responsible for safeguarding liberty, and the people primarily responsible for exercising that liberty for virtuous purposes.” We need to continue on the path of using peacetime liberal democracy to achieve our ends through the institutions of law, conserving our inheritance as we go.

Most of the commentary emanating from this initial encounter has been frustrating to read because the partisans of neither side seem to be able to agree on the most basic questions worth asking before going forward. That is: what is the strategic situation of conservatism, Christianity, traditionalism, and family in America? Are we holding our own against the radical Left? Or are we in danger of losing the culture war for good? Hardly any social conservatives I know argue that we are winning the culture war. What we can’t seem to agree on is whether we’re not losing or losing badly.

I think we are losing, and losing badly. Perhaps I’m overly alarmist, like Paul Ehrlich—predicting imminent doom like he did in the Population Bomb. In the 1970s, he wrote, “The battle to feed all of humanity is over . . . (and as a result) hundreds of millions of people are going to starve to death.” He said, “nothing can prevent a substantial increase in the world death rate.” I suppose many conservatives of the French variety would argue as much. But am I over dramatizing the strategic defeat which traditionalists and conservatives have been handed by the Radical Left over the last 100 years?

I don’t think so. My evidence? Look at American social life over the past century. Out-of-wedlock pregnancy, which used to be nearly nonexistent and was so for centuries, grew from less than 1 in 10 births 90 years ago to nearly 2 in 5 today. Divorce, which was once so toxic that it caused a schism within Christendom, is now commonly accepted by a majority of people who profess to be Christians. The average age at which a young person first consumes pornography is 11. And every year, 600,000 of the unborn are killed in the nation’s abortion factories to satisfy our insatiable need for inconsequential sex. As Cardinal Robert Sarah notes, the West (including the United States) is undergoing a silent apostasy. Americans go to church less, pray less, and believe in God in far fewer proportions than in generations gone by. Michael Anton goes into greater detail describing our poor strategic situation in The Flight 93 Election.

Again, this is the essential question that we have to answer going forward: are we just losing or losing badly and in danger of imminent collapse?

The wing of the Republican Party dominated by the likes of Mitt Romney, George W. Bush, and David French are 21st century Graham Martins in the culture war. Noble but painfully blind, Graham Martin lost a foster son during the Vietnam War. He was a Cold Warrior of the highest order and made greater sacrifices against the Communist menace than most Americans ever did. But Ambassador Martin wrote to Secretary of State Henry Kissinger two weeks before the fall of South Vietnam that he did not want to start evacuating the capital city of Saigon because “Panic in Saigon arising from our actions” was “a far greater worry to me than North Vietnamese capabilities.” Martin couldn’t see past the few tactical victories which the South won as it collapsed; those tactical victories made him blind to the strategic collapse which was unfolding at the same time. As a result, a humanitarian disaster unfolded as countless South Vietnamese were unable to get away from the advancing Communists, leaving them to be persecuted, imprisoned, and murdered.

French, likewise, has spent a lifetime fighting for conservative and Christian causes. He has won numerous tactical victories; but how can any clear-eyed assessment of our situation conclude that strategically we’ve been winning?

The “David French” wing of the conservative movement tells us that we should hold to liberal democracy and its institutions. National Review editor Rich Lowry points out that Ahmari was shocked into his scorched-earth position by the Kavanaugh hearings. “Imagine, though, if conservatives had made the case for Kavanaugh on the basis that decency doesn’t matter to us much anymore—so we don’t care about the truth of the allegations against him—and furthermore, that we expect him to impose his Christian (or more specifically, Catholic) values on the country,” Lowry argues. “We would have lost the confirmation fight in a rout and would have deserved to.”

Yes, we win occasional tactical victories like the confirmation of Brett Kavanaugh. But overall, I see long term defeat. Just look at our declining families and churches. Just look at the state of American marriage and a birth-rate which has plummeted to record lows.

On the other hand, people skeptical of the Ahmari approach such as Rod Dreher ask, “First, if not liberalism, then what? . . . The (Catholic) Church can’t even get most of the Americans who profess the Catholic faith to agree with . . . core Catholic teachings. So, for all liberalism’s flaws, there is no alternative that is both preferable and realistic, at least not at the present time.” Dreher goes on to say that we are doomed anyway because Christians are a minority within our neo-pagan culture that values equality above religious freedom. It is true that practicing traditionalists are a minority in this country and it is true that our views are falling out of the mainstream. Dreher is also right that most people who nominally call themselves Christians are just neo-pagans underneath. But perhaps a time of exertion and persecution will wake them from their slumber and force them to choose to God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob or the God of Sex, Consumption, and Radical Autonomy?

The question is, what are we going to do to preserve our place in this country before the state religion of progressive liberalism wipes us out? Adam Serwer, potentially has an answer.

In his Atlantic article, “The Illiberal Right Throws a Tantrum,” he scolds the Ahmari wing of the Republican Party as Orbanists (after Hungary’s Victor Orban, a pejorative for people skeptical of globalism, liberal democracy as a mechanism, and progressive liberalism). He mocks Ahmari for even considering the idea of abandoning liberal democracy. “Black Americans did not abandon liberal democracy because of slavery, Jim Crow, and the systematic destruction of whatever wealth they managed to accumulate,” Serwer explains. “Latinos did not abandon liberal democracy because of ‘Operation Wetback,’ or Proposition 187, or because of a man who won a presidential election on the strength of his hostility toward Latino immigrants . . . The American creed has no more devoted adherents than those who have been historically denied its promises, and no more fair-weather friends than those who have taken them for granted.”

Besides the fact Serwer evidently never read illiberal African Americans like Stokely Carmichael or Latino Americans like Reis Tijerina and besides the fact that he thinks he’s speaking up for Hispanic Americans while advocating policies that undermine the wages of minority groups, he provides a clue as to the answer going forward. African Americans and Hispanics gained their rightful place in this society by gaining political and cultural power through nonviolent civil disobedience. They consistently agitated non-violently to get the state to overreact, proving that the regime was founded on coercion, belying its claims to neutrality.

If you accept the hypothesis that we are being defeated strategically, then other methods need to be tried and soon. For me, the ultimate strategic goal needs to be a new sort of Peace of Westphalia. It ought to allow adherents of traditional religion who place family and church at or above the individual in importance for crafting laws and cultures to do so. It ought to allow those of us who see our pre-Enlightenment Christian heritage as just as valuable if not more valuable than the liberal democrats see theirs and to craft laws which allow us to live this way without being molested by Progressive Liberal jihadists.

What does this mean and how do we get there? It means identifying Progressive Liberalism as a religion which seeks to destroy our own religion. And it means acknowledging that progressive liberalism, for now, has become the state religion of our liberal democracy—saturating most of our other institutions (our culture, the family, our social norms, etc.). It means understanding that our liberal democracy cannot be neutral as long as progressive liberalism remains the state religion. It means truly waging a cultural war of the most intensive kind to remove it from imperiling our ability to exist in this country without being completely marginalized.

We need to recognize we are religious minorities and then demand the same minority rights which others have used to carve out their own spaces in this country. And if they refuse us this right, then we need to goad them intelligently into using state power against us to illustrate to everyone that they’re about the bald faced use of power to suppress the family, the Church, and the little platoons that make a civil society worth its salt.

How can we do this? It means preferring traditionalists by patronizing their businesses and supporting individuals legally (as David French, to his credit, has done) and financially when they are persecuted by the state religion of Progressivism. It means boycotting businesses which seek to expand the stranglehold which the religion Progressive Liberalism has over this country. Other minority groups have that right; so should we. Or, in other words, we need to separate the Progressive Liberal religion (our chief adversary) from the Liberal Democratic State. And yes, maybe it means even more aggressive peaceful measures than that—refusing to accept the actions of an illegitimate state which persecutes the Church.

Perhaps the threat of Ahmari’s rejection of liberal democracy is still useful because the threat of a total conservative rejection of liberal democracy imperils a great many things which the Left adores. Perhaps it will work on secular liberals of good will by making them understand that there are conservatives and traditionalists who are just as committed to their religion as the Progressive Liberals who dominate our culture, our corporations, and our government. Perhaps this can goad enough Americans of good will to get the federal government to take one huge step back from national policy and towards a federalism that allows us actually to coexist in a truly pluralistic society.

In international relations, Henry Kissinger called this the “Madman Theory of Diplomacy.” President Nixon pretended to be a madman, capable of anything, even using nuclear weapons on Beijing, Hanoi, or Moscow. The threat of President Nixon the madman worked to get the Communist Bloc to negotiate. Maybe it will work on the leftist bloc. It’s certainly worth trying in light of the state of American social and political life today. Perhaps the “Madman Theory of Internal State Diplomacy” can save both the system of liberal democracy for traditionalists and today’s neo-pagans alike.

Photo Credit: Nastasic/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.

Content created by the Center for American Greatness, Inc. is available without charge to any eligible news publisher that can provide a significant audience. For licensing opportunities for our original content, please contact

Photo Credit: Rogers/Express Newspapers/Getty Images

America • Center for American Greatness • Conservatives • Declaration of Independence • Donald Trump • Post • Progressivism • The Culture • The Left

They Don’t Hate Donald Trump—They Hate You

Fourth of July parades may be banned soon in America. 

Think I’m joking?

Do you remember after the “confederate statues” debate flared up again, President Trump asked a rather provocative question: “I wonder, it is George Washington next week, and is it Thomas Jefferson the week after?” 

At the time, of course, the president was ridiculed for even uttering such a thing. 

Well, here we are, less than 24 months after he made that prediction and Thomas Jefferson is next. And this time it’s not just a statue. 

This week, just in time for our nation’s biggest national holiday, the politicians who are charged with running his hometown have decided that our third president, the man who penned one of the most important documents in human history, is now déclassé, a dead white pillar of the patriarchy who must be consigned to the “ash heap of history.” 

With just one naysayer, the city council of Jefferson’s hometown, Charlottesville, have decreed that from July 1, 2019 forth the holiday celebrating his birth is to be held no more. They have decreed that they will hold “Liberation and Freedom Day” instead as a rebuke to the former slaveowner who was a champion of Enlightenment values and the father of the University of Virginia. 

This is not a one-off. Nor is it just about history. It’s about the here and now. In fact, if you call yourself a patriot and love America, this is very much about you.

Deliberately in preparation for this year’s Independence Day celebrations, the New York Times posted a truly reprehensible “video essay” titled “Please Stop Telling Me America Is Great.” An admixture of out-and-out lies, distortions, and unbelievably cherry-picked statistics, the video ends with this admonition: “America may have once been the greatest, but today, America, we’re just OK.”

Just OK? Is that why fathers risk the lives of themselves and their 2-year-old daughters attempting to traverse the Rio Grande? 

Just OK? The nation that saw 620,000 of it’s own citizens die in its bloodiest war ever, a war to end slavery? 

Just OK? The nation whose GI’s stormed the beaches of Normandy and whose Marines took Iwo Jima in a global war that we did not start and in which we had aggressed no one? 

Just OK? The nation that stared down the deadliest ideology in human history, one that cost the lives of 100 million human souls until its embodiment, the Soviet Union collapsed? That nation is “just OK?” 

Name one other nation that meets just one similar criterion, let alone all of them. Just one.

Forget the rank perversion of the staff at the New York Times—to include all the editors and executive staff who had to clear such a piece of blatant anti-American propaganda—instead, just posit the simple question: if America isn’t “great,” then what is? 

Are the countries of Europe, which started both the first and the second world wars, which invented the concentration camps and then perfected genocide, which today are, for the most part, committing a slow collective suicide, politically and demographically—are they great?

Is Russia great for the New York Times, the nation whose leader “colluded” with our president despite all the evidence to the contrary? 

Or China, the actual dictatorship that still has labor camps today

How about Iran, the terrorist-sponsoring theocracy facilitated to the tune of $150 billion by our last self-loathing president and which threatens us daily? Is that nation great for the New York Times

What about Iran’s other sworn enemy, Israel? Can you imagine what the staffers who wrote and produced “Please Stop Telling Me America Is Great” would respond if asked whether Israel is “great?” Their responses would likely come straight out of the anti-Semitic talking points of Ilan Omar or Rashida Tlaib

The attack on historic statues, the attack on the memory of our Founding Fathers, the attack on our national holiday, isn’t just politics. It isn’t simply about hating the man who will be the focal point of today’s celebrations in Washington, D.C. This is about America and it’s about you, if you love America.

I know Donald Trump. I advised him on national security when he was one of 17 GOP candidates and then served as his strategist when he became president. 

My decision to do so was easy because within minutes of meeting him, I knew two things about the man: he was, and still is, not a politician, and he loves our country. And this is exactly why you were not meant to choose him. 

He is not part of the “elite” political class that had run our country into the ground over the preceding decades, and he did not believe that we should live in a borderless world where the writ of the United Nations is more important than what the American people want for our country. Nor did he subscribe to the establishment belief that America’s future was simply a future of “managed decline.” Donald Trump believed that America can be made great again, and it was in fact that simple belief, tuned into the MAGA campaign slogan that would propel our first non-general, non-politician into the White House. 

In the scant two-and-a-half years since his inauguration, on every field, from national security, to economics, to domestic policy, to our global standing, the 45th president has proven that not only are we a great nation but that we are again the greatest nation on the Earth. That is what the Left hates him. But they hated you first because you believed it too and you made his victory possible. 

Savor that thought today, as you celebrate our Republic and as the those who loathe America stew in their own bile. 

Happy Independence Day America.

Content created by the Center for American Greatness, Inc. is available without charge to any eligible news publisher that can provide a significant audience. For licensing opportunities for our original content, please contact

Photo credit: Mohammed Elshamy/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images

America • Center for American Greatness • Conservatives • Declaration of Independence • Donald Trump • Post • Progressivism • The Culture • The Left

They Don’t Hate Donald Trump—They Hate You

Fourth of July parades may be banned soon in America. 

Think I’m joking?

Do you remember after the “confederate statues” debate flared up again, President Trump asked a rather provocative question: “I wonder, it is George Washington next week, and is it Thomas Jefferson the week after?” 

At the time, of course, the president was ridiculed for even uttering such a thing. 

Well, here we are, less than 24 months after he made that prediction and Thomas Jefferson is next. And this time it’s not just a statue. 

This week, just in time for our nation’s biggest national holiday, the politicians who are charged with running his hometown have decided that our third president, the man who penned one of the most important documents in human history, is now déclassé, a dead white pillar of the patriarchy who must be consigned to the “ash heap of history.” 

With just one naysayer, the city council of Jefferson’s hometown, Charlottesville, have decreed that from July 1, 2019 forth the holiday celebrating his birth is to be held no more. They have decreed that they will hold “Liberation and Freedom Day” instead as a rebuke to the former slaveowner who was a champion of Enlightenment values and the father of the University of Virginia. 

This is not a one-off. Nor is it just about history. It’s about the here and now. In fact, if you call yourself a patriot and love America, this is very much about you.

Deliberately in preparation for this year’s Independence Day celebrations, the New York Times posted a truly reprehensible “video essay” titled “Please Stop Telling Me America Is Great.” An admixture of out-and-out lies, distortions, and unbelievably cherry-picked statistics, the video ends with this admonition: “America may have once been the greatest, but today, America, we’re just OK.”

Just OK? Is that why fathers risk the lives of themselves and their 2-year-old daughters attempting to traverse the Rio Grande? 

Just OK? The nation that saw 620,000 of it’s own citizens die in its bloodiest war ever, a war to end slavery? 

Just OK? The nation whose GI’s stormed the beaches of Normandy and whose Marines took Iwo Jima in a global war that we did not start and in which we had aggressed no one? 

Just OK? The nation that stared down the deadliest ideology in human history, one that cost the lives of 100 million human souls until its embodiment, the Soviet Union collapsed? That nation is “just OK?” 

Name one other nation that meets just one similar criterion, let alone all of them. Just one.

Forget the rank perversion of the staff at the New York Times—to include all the editors and executive staff who had to clear such a piece of blatant anti-American propaganda—instead, just posit the simple question: if America isn’t “great,” then what is? 

Are the countries of Europe, which started both the first and the second world wars, which invented the concentration camps and then perfected genocide, which today are, for the most part, committing a slow collective suicide, politically and demographically—are they great?

Is Russia great for the New York Times, the nation whose leader “colluded” with our president despite all the evidence to the contrary? 

Or China, the actual dictatorship that still has labor camps today

How about Iran, the terrorist-sponsoring theocracy facilitated to the tune of $150 billion by our last self-loathing president and which threatens us daily? Is that nation great for the New York Times

What about Iran’s other sworn enemy, Israel? Can you imagine what the staffers who wrote and produced “Please Stop Telling Me America Is Great” would respond if asked whether Israel is “great?” Their responses would likely come straight out of the anti-Semitic talking points of Ilan Omar or Rashida Tlaib

The attack on historic statues, the attack on the memory of our Founding Fathers, the attack on our national holiday, isn’t just politics. It isn’t simply about hating the man who will be the focal point of today’s celebrations in Washington, D.C. This is about America and it’s about you, if you love America.

I know Donald Trump. I advised him on national security when he was one of 17 GOP candidates and then served as his strategist when he became president. 

My decision to do so was easy because within minutes of meeting him, I knew two things about the man: he was, and still is, not a politician, and he loves our country. And this is exactly why you were not meant to choose him. 

He is not part of the “elite” political class that had run our country into the ground over the preceding decades, and he did not believe that we should live in a borderless world where the writ of the United Nations is more important than what the American people want for our country. Nor did he subscribe to the establishment belief that America’s future was simply a future of “managed decline.” Donald Trump believed that America can be made great again, and it was in fact that simple belief, tuned into the MAGA campaign slogan that would propel our first non-general, non-politician into the White House. 

In the scant two-and-a-half years since his inauguration, on every field, from national security, to economics, to domestic policy, to our global standing, the 45th president has proven that not only are we a great nation but that we are again the greatest nation on the Earth. That is what the Left hates him. But they hated you first because you believed it too and you made his victory possible. 

Savor that thought today, as you celebrate our Republic and as the those who loathe America stew in their own bile. 

Happy Independence Day America.

Content created by the Center for American Greatness, Inc. is available without charge to any eligible news publisher that can provide a significant audience. For licensing opportunities for our original content, please contact

Photo credit: Mohammed Elshamy/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images

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.

Photo Credit: iStock/Getty Images

Books & Culture • feminists • Hollywood • Identity Politics • Post • The Culture

Scarlett Laughs

Strong, female characters are all the rage in Hollywood these days. In “The Force Awakens,” J.J. Abrams merely remade the 1977 “Star Wars” with a skinny girl playing Luke Skywalker. Of course, if you dare to dislike this new genre of movies you are sexist, because strong, female characters! There’s even a study “proving” those who dislike the trainwreck that is “The Last Jedi” are sexist.

Hollywood execs are patting themselves on the back for inventing the “strong, female, character.” Somewhere Chaucer and Shakespeare smolder, wondering when they can expect their royalty checks. Indeed, so is God. The strong, female character is as old as Deborah in the Book of Judges.

The great irony is that strong, female characters were once a matter of course in Hollywood. Then in the late 1960s and early ’70s Hollywood itself destroyed her. As feminists marched and politicians bent to their demands, Hollywood began to treat female characters as extras in some imagined feminist dystopia.

It was Hollywood that turned women into pathetic stereotypes. Women were the gun molls in “Bonnie and Clyde” and “Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid.” They were enablers and victims in “The Godfather” movies. I can not think of a single strong or even memorable woman in any Scorsese or Coppola movie.

The great auteurs of the 1970s used women as props, either victims or vixens. The ’70s women were plot devices, not fully developed characters. I grew up in the ’70s, with only two kinds of Hollywood women. They were either murder victims or prostitutes; unless they were prostitutes getting murdered. With the exception of a certain princess from Alderaan, as a teenager, I never saw a strong woman on the big screen.

In contrast, when I’d watch movies on the old movie channel, there were reporters, businesswomen, army nurses, even scientists. I was told again and again, that women of the 1930s were oppressed and women of the 1970s were liberated. But the old movie channel told a very different story.

Those women from black white movies were tough in a realistic way. They were not like today’s ridiculous female heroines—chicks who are all of 95 pounds and beating up men three times their size. The women in the movies of the 1930s and ’40s were resilient, resourceful, and intelligent. In other words, they were tough in a feminine way. They were not just carbon copies of male heroes.

Let’s compare a 1930s and 1970s woman in virtually the same role, con woman. Ellen Brennan is a very good actress, but in “The Sting” she might as well be played by a sock puppet. Ray Walston (TV’s “My Favorite Martian”) has more memorable lines and scenes than the movie’s only woman. Brennan steals a wallet, that’s it. Meanwhile in the oppressive ’30s, we have Barbara Stanwyck in “The Lady Eve.” She owns Henry Fonda from the moment she lays eyes on him. Stanwyck manipulates Fonda, leading him on a merry chase, until the movie’s final moment when she pulls him into her bedroom. Yep, the oppressed and repressed 1930s woman pulls man into her bedroom. Oops, sorry. Spoiler alert.

Then the 1940s arrive and Hollywood had a whole new group of strong female characters. The teeny tiny Rey and teeny tiny Batwoman, beating up men thrice their size is not empowering; it’s laughable. But the vigor and courage of the army nurses in “So Proudly We Hailed” and “They Were Expendable” are towers of quite believable strength.

Howard Hawks and John Ford liked their characters tough and larger than life. In contrast with most of the ’70s directors they knew that weak women didn’t make men look stronger. A strong Humphrey Bogart needed a strong Lauren Bacall. In “To Have and Have Not,” Lauren Bacall was only 19. But Bacall’s character is more of a grown woman than the childish “Captain Marvel,” supposedly an Air Force veteran.

Then there is John Wayne alongside Maureen O’Hara in “The Quiet Man,” Ford’s magnificent love story. John Wayne the great and powerful, will no longer fight. He killed someone in the boxing ring, and is haunted by that still. Yet, Wayne the ultimate tough guy, cannot help but fight with and love O’Hara’s equally tough character, Mary Kate. Mary-Kate doesn’t cure him with enabling or meekness. Nope! She out stubborns him. Her desire for her dowry is greater than his trauma. There was a strong female character. Will there ever be another?

Finally there is the champ—one of the strongest women ever put on film. You aren’t allowed to say that of course, because she was on the side of those whose statues we must now tear down. But there never was, and probably never will be, as strong a woman in movies as Vivien Leigh’s Scarlett O’Hara. Her entire life, quite literally, is burnt to ashes. But she rises and builds a great business. She has financial success; when everyone around her says it is unseemly for women to do anything but stay home. Scarlett has more right to the name Phoenix than any of the X-Men.

Scarlett O’Hara still stands atop the adjusted for inflation box office.

I think she always will. The entire Yankee army couldn’t take Scarlett down, and a horde of super and space heroes won’t be able to topple her, either.

Those were the strong, female characters, that inspired me in my youth. These women fought against villains and succeeded without fantasy super powers. They brought men like Henry Fonda and Jimmy Stewart and, yes, even the epitome of the male hero, John Wayne, to their knees.

The great auteurs of the ’70s threw women like that under the bus. They beat women and raped women and killed women and degraded women. Now Hollywood pats itself on the back for their ridiculous dress-up paper dolls and proclaim voila! As if it is the first time we’ve ever seen the “strong female character.”

Scarlett, Mary-Kate, Portia, the Wife of Bath, and Deborah laugh. You should, too.

Photo Credit: Mondadori Portfolio via Getty Images

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.

Photo Credit: Kay Nietfeld/picture alliance via Getty Images


America • Defense of the West • Post • The Culture • The Left

Reclaiming the Republic

Are Americans too corrupt to be free? As our Constitution’s framers well knew, a republic is the most demanding form of government. If the people aren’t careful in choosing elected officials and diligent in defending basic principles of self-government, they will invite politicians to bribe them. At first, politicians will give tiny bribes that don’t stand out as corruption—offers for the government to protect people, making their lives easier, more streamlined, and more comfortable. Slowly, but predictably, we come to think of these bribes as what our government “owes” us, and we become dependent subjects of distant elites.

This is the danger we came close to embracing in 2016, and it continues to grow.

From helping the deserving poor, our government moved on to creating more poverty by fostering welfare dependency, and now to “protecting” aggressive crybullies to keep their feelings from being hurt by normal folk seeking to go about their lives unmolested. Yet we continue to ask for more—more subsidized healthcare, more free education, more guarantees that no one will refuse to celebrate our choice of spouse, sex, or even profession. It is as if Americans have decided that “freedom” means forcing everyone else to protect our psyches and support us no matter what choices we make.

All this government “protection” has taken a heavy toll on our society and character. Family breakdown, crime, dependency, assaults on religious freedom, and now the loss of free speech and the invasion of our privacy by high-tech gurus and the surveillance state—all of these are born of our desire to be “protected”and in the name of making us a more just, “woke” people.

Is it any wonder our rulers would deny us the right to vote them out of office? That they would dismiss people who vote “wrong” as deplorable clingers who refuse to get with their program of security, comfort, and enlightenment?

They’ve even told us that virtue itself is less a matter of governing our own lives than of helping them govern all our lives. The “best” citizen is no longer the hard-working provider for his family, the public-minded volunteer at the local library (unless he’s a drag queen), or the child who shows initiative by selling lemonade or mowing lawns to raise money for charity or simply start a business. Now the good citizen is a “social justice warrior” who hectors his classmates or sues his neighbor to make certain no one gets in the way of celebrating “alternative lifestyles” or maligning the cop on the beat as a thug, even as we bow down before the faceless mechanisms of the deep state.

How, then, can we hope to take our country back from a government whose employees live by Reagan’s Nine Scariest Words: “I’m from the government and I’m here to help”? How can a people so lost in dependency on government, social media, and the smug “helping professions” win back the right and reality of self-government?

In assessing our chances and determining our next moves, Americans should keep two important facts in mind.

First, much, if not most, of our people are not nearly so far gone as we think. Families still form and stay together in America, and most Americans never leave the spouse they first married. We still support ourselves and recognize that government’s essential, limited role is to protect America’s borders and the families, churches, and local associations in which we live from those who would undermine them.

Second, traditional American institutions, beliefs, and practices are not, in fact, intolerant remnants of a dead past. They are good things—natural things destined to reassert themselves once freed from the grip of a hostile administrative state. The family of husband, wife, and children is natural. The local community in which citizens welcome public expressions of patriotism and faith is natural to us. The American character, with roots going back before our republic was formed, is not oppressive; it is a good character, one of hard work, loyalty, honor, and a determination to uphold our basic values even in the face of a hostile government, be it that of King George III or of bureaucrats who decree that little girls must share restrooms with grown men.

Our condition looks worse than it is because the relatively few people who dominate our big government, big media, big tech, and big “culture”—as well as corporate human resource departments—hate us. But then people who rise to the top in large organizations often see themselves as better than the people they have surpassed.

What to do? We can and must: break up big government by refusing to accept its bribes and insisting that officials follow our laws and Constitution—or suffer real, legal consequences; break up big tech by using antitrust actions to restore competition and protect our privacy; stop allowing government contracts and student loans to subsidize intolerant, “woke” universities with their billion-dollar endowments; stop giving tax breaks to Hollywood peddlers of hatred toward Middle America; and stop allowing the mainstream media to dictate what we think about the issues of the day, even as they provide cover to an increasingly arrogant and lawless deep state.

Donald Trump’s victory, and the current cultural conflicts over marriage, abortion, religious freedom, speech on campus, and the whole LGBTQ+ extremism of transgender aggression aren’t a last gasp of resistance to “the tide of history.” They are the first act of effective resistance by Americans who object to having the fringe program of a decadent cultural elite thrust down their throats.

The American way of faith, family, and freedom remains our rightful inheritance. It is a way of life natural to us and worth fighting for. We got into this mess by choosing the ease and protection of life in the shadow of big government. Speaking up in the public square, at the ballot box, on campus and, where necessary, in court, we can reclaim our deeper values, reconnect with our deeper virtues, and take back what is properly ours: the rights and duties of self-government.

Photo Credit: Justin Tierney/EyeEm/Getty Images