Center for American Greatness • Post • Progressivism • Religion and Society • The Culture • The Left

Inverting the Wisdom of the Ages

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They have called the people happy, that hath these things,” says the psalmist, thinking of tall sons and lovely daughters, great herds of sheep, fat oxen, and full granaries, “but happy is that people whose God is the Lord.”

We have inverted that wisdom, and placed a severe limit on the one item in that list of worldly blessings that bears intimations of eternity. We call those people happy who have the sheep, the oxen, the granaries, and sons and daughters, so long as there are not so many of the latter as to trouble your enjoyment of wealth; but miserable are those people whose God is the Lord.

That is because they must suffer under a theocracy, so the reasoning goes, and theocracies are wicked things. Let us tease this out a little.

In a theocracy, it is not simply the case that a people’s sense of the divine law informs their decisions as to the civil law. If such is the definition of theocracy, then Martin Luther King, Jr. was a theocrat when he invoked the prophet Amos, the theologians Augustine and Thomas Aquinas, and the reformer Luther to call his fellow Christian pastors to repentance for their racism. William Wilberforce was a theocrat when he placed before the eyes of his semi-Christian countrymen the glaring contradiction between loving your neighbor as yourself, and rounding up hundreds of your neighbors, naked and terrified, and shipping them across the ocean in a stinking and disease-ridden hull, to be sold at auction. Dorothy Day, by this definition, was a theocrat. Clara Barton was a theocrat. The leaders of the YMCA movement were theocrats. Every single social reformer who was inspired by the exalted moral teachings of the prophets, or of Jesus Christ, was a theocrat.

Of course, this is nonsense. Not one of those people worked for a civil government run by priests. But there are theocracies in the world today. They are Islamic, not Christian, and the law is engraved in Arabic upon the pillars of paradise, admitting of no translation, much less of interpretation.

The question for us in the non-Islamic West is not whether to set up priests and ministers as the de facto governors of the state. It is whether people are encouraged, or even permitted, to appeal to the law of God when they attempt to craft human laws that are just, and to persuade their fellow men that they are so. And here the cold steel probe strikes the nerve.

For if we are going to evaluate a supposed theocracy, must we not ask the obvious question, “What understanding of God do these people have?” The Canaanite theocracy is one thing, the Israelite another. It is one thing to make your children “pass through the fire to Moloch,” to guarantee good harvests in the coming year, or to avert a sag in your bank account. It is another thing to free all your slaves at the jubilee, because you, too, were once a slave in Egypt. It is one thing to farm out your daughters and your young sons to serve as temple prostitutes in the worship of Asherah. It is another thing to hear the tender but admonitory words of Jesus, “Suffer the little children to come unto me, and hinder them not, for of such is the kingdom of heaven.”

And now we perceive the source of the fear. For people reveal their motives more clearly when their fears are unreasonable. If I am afraid of a charging bull, that says nothing about me; any man other than a toreador would be so. If I am afraid of an old lady with a rosary, praying in front of an abortion clinic, as Pennsylvania State Representative Brian Sims recently showed himself to be, as he showered her with exaggerated and unmanly abuse, that reveals a great deal.

He could have said, “Madam, I understand your concern for innocent human life, but I believe that in this matter you are deeply mistaken, and this is why.” Sister Joan Chittister, who charges pro-life Catholics with hypocrisy when they do not agree with her about what to do to assist the poor, might, instead of inveighing against them and giving aid to their many and powerful opponents, say, “My fellow Catholics, you are right about this, and I congratulate you, and am grateful for your efforts, but there is more at stake, and you are missing it.” But they do not speak this way.

Thomas Jefferson, no theocrat, took out his scissors and excised from the gospels every miracle that Jesus performed. The excisions should not surprise us. That he kept the gospels at all—that is the main thing. For Jefferson, never quite reliable in his morality, saw that the words of Jesus raised the eyes of man toward a moral vision that was more demanding, more fulfilling, purer, more merciful, and more just than any vision that man has ever had. It was a vision beside which Plato seemed a trader in vagaries, Seneca a trimmer, and Epictetus cold-hearted and aloof.

That moral vision is what strikes terror to the heart. And well it should. Nobody comes out looking good.

We must acknowledge, as Jefferson in his odd way also did, that although we may insist all day long that no one may judge another, even while we exceed in censoriousness our most malignant caricature of the Puritan, yet God judges us, and on our own we will be found wanting. That judgment does not come only after the trump of doom. It comes now; it is built into the human soul. Evil is its own first punisher.

But how to ignore that fact, or, if you will, the fear that such might be the case? You must exaggerate the political threat, in order to parry the existential and spiritual threat.

Somehow you know that you cannot really turn Jesus into a pom-pom girl for the empty promises of sexual liberation. You cannot really imagine Jesus picking apart the members of John the Baptist in his mother’s womb. That does not mean that everybody hears well when Jesus blesses the poor. We don’t hear well at all. The difference here is between people who are dull—that is, most of us who call ourselves Christian—and people who are shrieking, to drown out the voice of conscience.

Ye shall be as gods,” said the serpent. That is the apex upon which the whole inverted pyramid stands, trembling.

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Democrats • feminists • Post • Pro-Life • Progressivism • The Culture • The Left

Abortion vs. Civilization

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The recent push in Alabama to restrict most abortions has energized the culture war. But despite the seething passions on both sides, nothing has really changed.

Abortion has always been anti-family, always been about convenience, and always been evil.

What has changed is the candor of abortion extremists. The far Left’s recent embrace of late-term abortion on demand is as sign that the time for compromise and “dialogue” is rapidly fading.

Most people are still repulsed by overt infanticide—and most well-meaning liberals who aren’t so extreme probably do not realize what they are supporting when they acquiesce to a general “right to choose”—but the embrace of late-term abortion as a serious topic of discussion heralds a nation in decline.

The truth is that abortion is not just a “leftist” issue. It’s a gruesome convenience with which a broad swath of America has made peace.

A Cultural Shift
Abortion is popular. According to a Morning Consult poll, most Americans oppose Alabama’s new abortion law. A sizable chunk of Republicans—40 percent—either have no opinion or oppose the law, too.

By some estimates, nearly 50 percent of Republicans believe Roe v. Wade should remain the law of the land.

If the new abortion extremism is a sign of some cultural shift, it’s not that a large segment of the population suddenly supports infanticide. It’s that an even larger segment of the population, libertarians, soft conservatives, and the like, quietly tolerate abortion in the name of “small government.”

It would appear that America has largely accepted abortion as part of the nation’s liberal contract. Even so-called conservatives find themselves unable or unwilling to oppose abortion in the name of non-interference.

Some conservatives who say that they are passionately opposed to abortion will nevertheless withhold judgment and make allowances for it on the principle of separating private belief from public policy. A moral outrage is received with a libertarian shrug: it’s not my business to “legislate morality.”

The notion that government should not “legislate morality,” and instead allow evil and injustice to thrive—in the name of minding one’s business, like a good American—shows how deeply liberalism has degraded the social fabric.

The social apathy that attends widespread acceptance of abortion is part and parcel of the corrosion done by liberalism, and its evil twin, utilitarianism. All arguments for abortion boil down to these two principles: that the freedom of the individual should remain as unrestricted as possible by inconvenience; and that the Good of society should be measured by convenience and pleasure.

Matters of Convenience
Abortion has been widely accepted as a necessary trade-off to accommodate the freedom and convenience of the individual. The ascendance of a philosophy of moral libertarianism, and the decline of family and community, have coincided with the acceptance of industrial-scale butchery. The abortion state is a gruesome convenience that must continue in order for humans to enjoy their sexual and personal freedom without consequences.

A grim data set from Florida paints a portrait of what most “pro-lifers” have always suspected about abortion. According to the statistics, fewer than than 2 percent of abortions in Florida last year involved cases of rape, incest, or life-threatening danger to the mother. Nearly 98 percent were for no specific reason or poverty.

If this data set is representative, then abortion exists largely, if not primarily, for convenience, if not as a form of contraception outright.

Yet pro-abortionists focus on the extreme, implausible cases of pregnancy through rape or incest in order to justify the rule. All that the extremists’ candor has done is clarify what abortion was really always about.  

Some children are born under the right circumstances. Others are “mistakes.” The child is always a hypothetical hindrance; the only tangible considerations are the desires, plans, and convenience of the those who contemplate killing it.

While abortion is often presented as the sole domain of women, the convenience of abortion knows no sex. It often gets lost amid the cliches of the debate that abortion is immensely liberating for men, too. Every man who supports a “woman’s choice” is, however secretly, supporting his right to evade the responsibility of becoming a father whenever he doesn’t feel like it.  

Abortion is, and always was, fundamentally about convenience. But the mind has clever ways of making selfishness look like altruism. To justify the violence necessary to accommodate the restlessly free individual, liberals look to a demonic, utilitarian arithmetic soaked in fatalism.

Pro-abortionists always assume that children born into challenging circumstances are without hope before their lives have even begun. The idea that it’s more cruel to bring a child into the world at the “wrong” time or under difficult circumstances, rather than simply killing it outright, is cynical nonsense.

But this is exactly how abortion is always ethically calculated: people are imagined as factors in a giant pleasure calculator rather than as ends in themselves. Their value and worth are measured relative to the convenience of the whole.

Abortion is thus justified as a compassionate release from pain for all involved. Individuals who are burdensome to the convenience machine are projected as having little chance of thriving in it, and only posing a hindrance to those with the luck to have survived the moment of birth.

A Barbarous Sacrament
Abortion serves the convenience of the individual in the bloodiest conceivable way, but those individuals are themselves denied essential value. They become part of an inhuman aggregate,  a civilization that has given up its humanity for pleasure.

The world envisioned as the liberal ideal, with abortion as its sacrament, is barbarous. There is no more society; instead there is a loosely connected mesh of individuals abstracted into a monstrous, libidinal organism. Individuals no longer exist within a web of meaning and social bonds; stripped of their dignity, severed from social ties and obligations, they are like isolated cells within a pulsing, hyper-stimulated dendrite.

Consumption and convenience are the guiding principles of this debased thing; life has no worth that is inconvenient. Anything that stands in the way of personal choice must be consumed, even innocent lives. Humans are mere fungible flesh, disposable according to their addition or subtraction from the convenience of the monster.

Civilization is reduced to a debased and dysfunctional state. With convenience and individual choice taking precedence over all else, the things that make society civilized are discarded. There are no hard and fast moral truths; ambiguity and arbitrariness rule. Morality, family, and community are dissolved in a libidinal acid bath. There are no consequences, no right and wrong, only the craving of the present moment.

This is a monstrous vision of humanity, but it is liberalism’s ideal. Liberalism can brook no limitations on the individual will. Abortion is core to liberalism and its ideal of a “liberated” humanity.

Abortion at any time, for any reason was an inevitable development given liberalism’s advance.

Abortion is necessary for the liberation of the individual, male or female, from the burdens that would hinder the personal quest. Abortion is about a woman’s choice, but more broadly it gives humans the choice to opt out of forming families, to retreat from responsibility for their neighbors and wider society.

Run-Away Individualism
Every form of liberation requires the destruction of whatever tethers and bonds are limiting one’s freedom. Abortion replaces the most intimate bonds of all with the restless individual will.

Family and community are replaced by individualism, materialism and careerism as the new ideal. A child conceived at the wrong time may frustrate the plans of those who did not “plan” for the child, so the child is disposable. Social responsibility is replaced with personal caprice.

With abortion, there is always a possibility to erase one’s “mistakes,” however grave. One’s freedom is curtailed as little as possible by things that, and people who weren’t “planned.”

If people cannot be expected not to kill their offspring, then virtually no social responsibility can be expected of them at all. But this retreat from social responsibility is not just the province of the Left; it is the consequence of a widely shared liberal tradition.

The “live and let live” mentality is a strong American instinct that is shared by “both sides.” The radicalization of abortion laws either way shows a certain divergence, but abortion has still very much been accepted by a large part of the population as the American way.

To counteract this will require a return to a more encompassing politics than the laissez-faire mentality which animates the thinking of libertarians who imagine restrictive abortion laws as an infringement on the hallowed principle of small-government.

It will require recognizing that right and wrong are binding and universal, not circumstantial and up to the individual; that society is more than individuals minding their own business in isolation; that politics is about justice, and that laws that sanction evil are lawlessness; that upholding standards is necessary for civilized society; that withholding judgment from evil in the name of “small government” is not a virtue; that abortion barbarizes humanity and destroys the things that make civilization possible; that true liberty is not freedom from consequences or the necessity of worrying about one’s neighbor. Above all it recognizes that the purpose of civilization is living a virtuous and happy life.

The popularity of abortion signals a nation and culture in steep decline. A change in course will require rejecting run-away individualism for the things that really matter.

Photo Credit: Emily Kask/AFP/Getty Images

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

Making Immigration Great Again

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Read the rest at the Claremont Review of Books.

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America • History • Hollywood • Post • The Culture

Hollywood’s Happy Hoodlum Makes Murder Routine

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The crook is in a parking lot trying to break into a car when he sees a lady with shopping bags approaching her vehicle. Pretending to be a friendly stranger, he insists on helping her load the bags into her trunk. She tells him that since she didn’t ask for his help, he won’t be getting a tip.

He grins and says, “Oh, that’s OK, ma’am. I’ll just take your car.”

That’s a “laugh” line from the 1998 crime film, “Out of Sight.” Presumably, few people in the chuckling audience were ever victims of a carjacking. But the really odd thing is that in the film’s plot, the grinning carjacker is one of the good guys.

Most of the crooks in “Out of Sight” are either mean as snakes or dumb as posts (or both), and in the end, right does prevail, more or less. So the movie is hardly the worst example of glorified crime ever to come out of Hollywood. But it’s long past time for Tinseltown to be getting over its love affair with criminals.

That affair has been going on at least since James Cagney gave his girlfriend a face full of grapefruit in “The Public Enemy” (1931), but it reached a crescendo in the 1960s and ’70s—which, it so happens, is when real-life American crime posted its steepest increases in the modern era.

In those days, a vogue for attractive, successful screen criminals enlisted Hollywood stars including Paul Newman and Robert Redford (partners in crime in “The Sting” and “Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid”), Steve McQueen (a gentleman thief in “The Thomas Crown Affair”), Warren Beatty (a charming bank robber in “Bonnie and Clyde,” a charming pimp in “McCabe & Mrs. Miller”), and Rock Hudson (a dashing serial killer—yes, a dashing serial killer—in “Pretty Maids All in a Row”).

It included “blaxploitation” films (“Superfly,” with its drug-pusher hero) and had an international dimension. (In the European caper film “Topkapi,” it’s perfectly all right to be a jewel thief, but unforgivable to be a “schmo.”) The celluloid crime wave subverted even the rock-ribbed rectitude of John Wayne (who organizes a violent gold robbery in “The War Wagon”).

These movies usually ignored the canons of ’30s gangster epics and ’40s film noir, in which the lawbreaking protagonist’s unhappy fate is sealed when he takes his first wrong step. In many of them, the crooks get away scot-free; in others, their violent last stand is depicted as heroic rather than pathetic.

Many of the films went out of their way to portray policemen as ugly, corrupt, or coldly evil. In at least one (“Lawman,” with Burt Lancaster), the peace officer holds center stage as a bloody sociopath. The image common to virtually all of them is that of the happy hoodlum, the gutsy, daring rogue.

Most of the liberal media’s film critics purred happily at this “cute crook” genre. (There were honorable exceptions: New Yorker critic Pauline Kael, for example, tore up “Butch Cassidy” as supercilious and morally deranged.) Tellingly, those same critics were livid in 1974 about “Death Wish,” with its strong depiction of the agonies suffered by crime victims and their survivors. But critical acclaim and commercial success aren’t the only reasons crime on screen was running wild. First, it had to get permission.

No cute-crook picture would have been allowed under the old Motion Picture Production Code, which decreed that “the sympathy of the audience should never be thrown to the side of crime, wrongdoing, evil or sin.” Nor could the gruesome slasher genre have flourished under the code, which required also that “the technique of murder must be presented in a way that will not inspire imitation.” In the 1960s, the code was abandoned. The cinematic crime wave was the result.

A closer look at two hit films, 23 years apart, may serve to illustrate how greatly American culture changed in one generation. I happened to see them one after the other on television one night, and the contrast was striking.

The Late Show was “Shane,” produced and directed in 1953 by George Stevens, a veteran both of Hollywood and of the war in Europe. Set in the late 19th century, “Shane” tells the story of a former gunfighter, weary of violence, who reluctantly defends a group of Wyoming homesteaders against a cattle baron’s efforts to force them off their land. When the cattleman’s bullying and bloodless half measures are thwarted, he sends for a gunfighter of his own, one with no scruples about murder.

This villain (played by a young and very scary Jack Palance) promptly goads one of the farmers into a duel in which the sodbuster is hopelessly outmatched. The gunman dispatches his victim with a sadistic smile, and the farmers are given to understand that the same fate awaits them all if they don’t clear out. In the absence of state law enforcement, it falls to Shane to bring retribution down on both the killer and his employer.

Next on the tube was “The Outlaw Josey Wales,” a 1976 western starring Clint Eastwood. In its opening scene, Civil War guerrillas massacre a Missouri man’s family, turning him from a peaceful farmer into a remorseless killer. The film is little more than an arrangement of set-pieces in which the hero guns down a series of contemptible minor characters.

What struck me then is that Eastwood was playing his part in the very same manner as the gunslinging bad guy in “Shane.” He had the same soft, hissing voice, the same cold air of menace. The only difference was that whereas Palance’s gunman smiled at his victims while shooting them, Eastwood’s character would grimace, shoot, and then spit tobacco juice on the corpse. And this was how the “good guy,” the audience’s role model, behaved!

Equally stark was the contrast in what the two films showed of a gunfight’s aftermath. In “Josey Wales,” it’s just “bang! bang!” and on to the next showdown. But in “Shane,” when the sodbuster dies, we go to his funeral, we listen to the hymns sung and prayers said over his grave, we hear his widow’s sobs. We even watch his dog whining and scratching at his coffin as it’s lowered into the ground.

Moreover, George Stevens’ film shows the humanity of all its characters, inviting the audience’s sympathy for everyone involved. When the hero metes out justice at the end, the mood is not triumph but sorrow. His motivation throughout is never spite; it’s a sense of shared obligation, of duty accepted and fulfilled for the sake of others.

“Shane” is very much an icon of its era, reflecting a generation’s gratitude to all the reluctant warriors, the loved ones who accepted the grim and bloody challenge of defeating the Axis in World War II.

“Josey Wales” is equally a sign of its times. But go back far enough, and you’ll find lots of Hollywood films with nobler themes.

Many, of course, laud duty and honor and have no killings at all: classics like “It’s a Wonderful Life” and lesser-known gems like “The Strawberry Blonde” and “Third Man on the Mountain.” Others show criminal violence while teaching us earnestly to hate it: “The Killers,” “The Asphalt Jungle,” “The Naked City,” “On the Waterfront,” “West Side Story,” “The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance,” “Murder, Inc.”

More recent movies are more problematic, mainly because of their harsher depictions of bloodshed; yet many of them retain moral clarity about the human cost of crime: “In Cold Blood,” “Bullitt,” “Hang ’Em High,” “The Onion Field,” “The Black Marble,” “Fort Apache, the Bronx,” “An Eye for an Eye,” “Fargo.”

Francis Ford Coppola’s “Godfather” trilogy might be counted among that bunch, as its tale is tragic and its depiction of mob violence is unflinchingly grim. Yet it seems more a glorification of crime than a repudiation of it. In Coppola’s eyes, the Corleones conduct themselves with dignity, and their victims—from the Hollywood horse’s ass who finds a horse’s head in his bed to the rival mob bosses who fall like tenpins before the Godfather’s righteous wrath—all have it coming to them. Real-life wrongdoers ranging from Mafia don Joseph Bonanno to Iraqi despot Saddam Hussein have fallen in love with this image of the gangster as hero.

The Martin Scorsese gangster films, such as “Goodfellas” and “Casino,” paint a much different picture. They could even be called the anti-Godfathers, full of vicious characters whose disputes are petty and stupid and whose respect for the people around them is tenuous to non-existent. Scorsese’s gangsters are more pathetic than heroic. They are apt to trample the rights and snuff out the life of anyone, fellow hoodlum or hapless innocent, who crosses them in any way at all, and when they finally do meet their end, they themselves are the ones who “have it coming.”

All the same, for every serious and worthwhile crime drama, you have a dozen moral monstrosities: slasher films from “Friday the 13th” to “Scream,” cute-crook movies from “Bonnie and Clyde” to “Natural Born Killers,” mass murder as catharsis in “Carrie” and “The Matrix.”

I stopped paying attention to Hollywood’s output around the turn of the century, but I doubt very much that the past two decades have seen any improvement in that regard. This little mash-up of recent movie mayhem suggests the party is far from over.

Under the old code, Hollywood had a care for what effect its products might have on the more impressionable members of the audience. Not so in the post-code era. And what do you suppose would be the result?

Let’s leave the cinema for a moment and read a line of dialogue from reality: “Murder is not weak and slow-witted, murder is gutsy and daring.”

Those words were written in 1997 by a 16-year-old boy just before he butchered his mother, then shot two of his classmates to death and wounded seven others at a high school in Pearl, Mississippi. His was the first in a series of schoolhouse massacres that, as the riots and assassinations were to the ’60s, have become a signature of our times.

Can a line of responsibility be drawn from the entertainment industry to all that mayhem? Not entirely—though in some cases, where the little morons have consciously aped some atrocity they’ve seen on the big screen, you can just about do that. (“Natural Born Killers” and “The Matrix” were especially fruitful that way.) But there’s enough of a connection to have a lot of us seeking some way to confront those who promote death-worshiping movies, song lyrics and video games.

With regard to motion pictures, however, just how kind and gentle do we want them? Can a diet of “Mary Poppins” appeal to a youth who wants, above all, to be seen as “gutsy and daring”? We often hear about the huge number of on-screen homicides a boy has witnessed by the time he reaches his teens. But children have been raised on tales of blood ever since Achilles slew Hector and David slew Goliath, and indeed long before that.

By way of illustration, here is a bedtime story as told by Barry Lyndon to his son Bryan:

We crept up on their fort, and I jumped over the wall first. My fellows jumped after me. Oh, you should have seen the look on the Frenchmen’s faces when 23 rampaging he-devils, sword and pistol, cut and thrust, pell-mell came tumbling into their fort. In three minutes, we left as many artillerymen’s heads as there were cannonballs. Later that day we were visited by our noble Prince Henry. “Who is the man who has done this?” I stepped forward. “How many heads was it,” says he, “that you cut off?” “Nineteen,” says I, “besides wounding several.” Well, when he heard it, I’ll be blessed if he didn’t burst into tears. “Noble, noble fellow,” he said. “Here is 19 golden guineas for you, one for each head that you cut off.” Now what do you think of that?

“Were you allowed to keep the heads?” asks Bryan. “No, the heads always become the property of the King.” “Will you tell me another story?” “I’ll tell you one tomorrow.” “Will you play cards with me tomorrow?” “Of course I will. Now go to sleep.”

Barry’s tale is given a heart-breaking reprise when young Bryan lies dying.

It may be hard to recall today, but in America the words “shoot-em-up” used to have a happy meaning. It referred to Western B-list pictures starring good-hearted, clean-minded cowboys like Roy Rogers and Gene Autry. Young boys would come home from Saturday matinees, take their toy pistols out to the back yard, and holler “Bang! Bang! You’re dead!” at each other to their heart’s content—and no one had anything to fear. It was all in fun, with no malice at all.

What’s changed? Is it simply a difference in quantity, too much time in front of the boob tube, too many “first-person shooter” video games? Many experts say so. But isn’t it obvious that there has also been a change in quality, in the moral context in which deadly conflict is presented?

A mother who lost her child in one of the early school massacres said something that reinforces the point. With the atrocity at Columbine High School renewing her own grief, Suzanne Wilson of Jonesboro, Arkansas, argued that kids shouldn’t be kept unaware of violence.

“Let the children go to funerals,” she said. “Let them see what happens after the shots are fired. Let’s show them the empty bedroom. Let them know that death is final.”

Wilson was speaking of real life, of course—of real funerals like her daughter Brittheny’s. But her words made me think of the mother’s bereavement in “The Naked City” and of the sodbuster’s funeral in “Shane.”

“The Outlaw Josey Wales,” with its serial-killer hero, was released amid a crime wave unequaled in our history, a 50-year disaster that Hollywood’s movie mayhem both reflected and incited. Mercifully, this crime tsunami has receded from its 1991 crest, yielding to tough lock-’em-up policies, proactive “stop and frisk” policing, a resurgent if increasingly proscribed reliance on the death penalty, and stubbornly law-and-order social attitudes.

Yet each of those anti-crime factors has itself accumulated a burden of complaints and countervailing efforts that threaten to move further improvement beyond our reach and may even put whatever improvement we’ve already achieved at risk.

Meanwhile, as shown by the continuing craze for massacres in schools, churches, nightclubs, concert venues and other public places—to say nothing of the relentless daily toll taken by routine murders in our streets, parks and homes—we remain a long way yet from normalcy.

And the happy hoodlum continues to be a Hollywood staple.

Photo Credit: John Springer Collection/CORBIS/Corbis via Getty Images

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America • Education • History • Post • The Culture

‘Hope’ and History

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Clear, accurate, and inspiring, Wilfred McClay’s Land of Hope: An Invitation to the Great American Story is a welcome antidote for agenda-driven history textbooks that paint the United States as an illegitimate nation born of evil.

A review of Land of Hope: An Invitation to the Great American Story, by Wilfred M. McClay (Encounter Books, 504 pages, $34.99)

What is the purpose of history? Is it merely a record of facts—of dates and kings, wars and voyages? Or is it something more?

Evaluating a history textbook must begin with knowing what history is.

A nation’s history is more than just a list of facts to memorize. It weaves the facts into an intellectual and emotional tapestry that tells us who we are, what our lives are about, and what kind of people we should aspire to be. It should be:

  • Informative: Helping us understand the past by telling us what happened, when, and why.
  • Enlightening: Helping us understand the present by comparing it to the past.
  • Inspiring: Helping us develop moral character by learning stories of past heroism and villainy.
  • Supportive: Helping our countries flourish by legitimizing the social order.

In his History of Rome, the ancient Roman writer Livy explained those four goals in a way that eerily foreshadowed America’s current predicament:

My wish is that each reader will pay closest attention to how men lived, what their moral principles were, under what leaders and by what measures our empire was won; then how, as discipline broke down bit by bit, morality at first foundered, subsided in ever-greater collapse and toppled headlong in ruin—until the advent of our own age, in which we can endure neither our vices nor the remedies needed to cure them.

An honest account of the facts is essential, but it’s not enough. To survive, any country must believe that it is good (even if imperfect) and that it deserves to survive. Truthful and inspiring historical stories about the country’s origin, leaders, and ideals provide that foundation. Conversely, stories that are biased and negative tend to undermine the foundation.

Any history book must balance those goals against each other. Some books are unabashedly patriotic, such as Our Island Story in Great Britain and A Patriot’s History of the United States in America. Others are very negatively biased, such as Howard Zinn’s bestselling and influential People’s History of the United States, which depicts the United States as an unrelenting criminal enterprise of genocide, racism, and exploitation.

McClay’s new textbook Land of Hope, on the other hand, strikes the right balance. It is optimistic without being jingoistic, acknowledging America’s mistakes without reading like a brief for the prosecution. It celebrates America’s achievements, but not uncritically: “celebration and criticism are not necessarily enemies.” And its goals are explicit:

To help us learn . . . the things we must know to become informed, self-aware, and dedicated citizens of the United States of America, capable of understanding and appreciating the nation in which we find ourselves, of carrying out our duties as citizens, including protecting and defending what is best in its institutions and ideals.

The most popular competing textbooks are Jill Lepore’s These Truths and James Fraser’s By the People. McClay’s book lacks the former’s globalist glibness and the latter’s dizzying overload of textbook-y features. But how does Land of Hope fare by the criteria of good history?

It Is Informative
Land of Hope gives an accurate account of America’s history that is undistorted by the selective emphasis and omission found in other textbooks. One key piece of evidence comes in McClay’s description of the U.S. Constitution, which:

. . . is not, for the most part, a document filled with soaring rhetoric and high-sounding principles. Instead, it is a somewhat dry and functional document laying out a complex system of boundaries, markers, and rules of engagement, careful divisions of function and power that provide the means by which conflicts that are endemic and inevitable to us, and to all human societies, can be both expressed and contained; tamed; rendered harmless, even beneficial. Unlike the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution’s spirit is undeclared, unspoken; it would be revealed not through words but through actions.

Implicit in McClay’s description is that the United States was influenced but not formed by Enlightenment rationalism. The Founders had studied the history of failed republics to learn what worked and what didn’t. And they were the heirs of a British legal and social tradition from which they learned that well-informed pragmatism was wiser than well-intentioned rhetoric.

Napoleon Bonaparte dismissed England as “a nation of shopkeepers,” preoccupied with the practical issues of life instead of lofty ideals. Napoleon was wrong, and the British defeated him. The lofty ideals that led to the horror of the French Revolution largely had been avoided in America by a Constitution designed for practical issues. McClay highlights that fact.

It Is Enlightening
Learning about our history reveals that many current quandaries are neither new nor unique. President Trump’s alternating use of provocation and conciliation seems strange until we learn that earlier presidents (like many world leaders) used the same strategy. McClay describes how Abraham Lincoln followed a similar path:

His initial thinking began to emerge more clearly in his eloquent First Inaugural Address on March 4, 1861. Its tone was, in the main, highly conciliatory. The South, he insisted, had nothing to fear from him . . . But secession was another matter. Lincoln was crystal clear about that: it would not be tolerated.

Compare that to President Trump’s inaugural address on January 20, 2017:

We, the citizens of America, are now joined in a great national effort to rebuild our country . . . Every four years, we gather on these steps to carry out the orderly and peaceful transfer of power, and we are grateful to President Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama for their gracious aid throughout this transition. They have been magnificent.

That was the conciliation. “We” are joined in a national effort. The Obamas “have been magnificent.” And then comes the crystal clear:

Today’s ceremony, however, has very special meaning. Because today . . . we are transferring power from Washington, D.C. and giving it back to you, the American people.

Apart from the tweeting, almost any of that could have been said in 1861 just as easily as it was now. By 2017, Washington had virtually seceded from the United States, and it was time for it to come back into the fold.

It Is Inspiring
Land of Hope is short on emotionally stirring tales, but the reason is obvious: it’s a textbook, not The Children’s Book of American Heroes. It says nothing about George Washington chopping down a cherry tree, Paul Bunyan creating the Grand Canyon, or Davy Crockett catching a bullet in his teeth (that was only done by actor Fess Parker in the movie version).

Instead, it tells factual stories about people who achieved great things. Quietly, humbly, and often without fanfare, they shaped our national character. Land of Hope portrays them not as saints or fanciful superheroes, but as prudent and courageous Americans trying to do their best.

One of the first would have been approved by the Greek philosopher Plato, who wrote that the only people who could be trusted with power were those who didn’t want it. George Washington, who led the American colonies to vanquish the mighty British army, became America’s first president. But he didn’t want the job:

Nearing the age of sixty, after enduring two grinding decades of war and politics in which he always found himself thrust into a central role in determining the direction of the country, he wanted nothing so much as to be free of those burdens . . . [but] if the task before the country was a great experiment on behalf of all humanity . . . how could he refuse to do his duty?

The only omission with which I disagreed was the story of Nathan Hale, an American soldier captured in 1776 by the British and executed as a spy. His final words, “I only regret that I have but one life to lose for my country,” were echoed almost 200 years later when newly-inaugurated President John F. Kennedy called on Americans to “ask not what your country can do for you; ask what you can do for your country.”

It Is Supportive
The final criterion of good national history is that it help our country flourish by legitimizing the social order. We don’t usually think of history as doing that, but its importance is evident when we consider books that do the opposite.

Take, for example, how Jill Lepore’s book portrays the United States and its origin. After noting correctly that “a nation is a people who share a common ancestry” she claims “the fiction that [America’s] people shared a common ancestry was absurd on its face; they came from all over”—a statement that is technically true but highly misleading, since the vast majority were British. Then comes the indictment:

The nation’s founding truths were forged in a crucible of violence, the products of staggering cruelty, conquest and slaughter, the assassination of worlds . . .  Against conquest, slaughter, and slavery came the urgent and abiding question, by what right?

I don’t doubt that Lepore is being honest about how she sees America. If she wasn’t, she wouldn’t have an endowed chair as a history professor at Harvard. But her view leads only to the question of whether America should be destroyed now or later.

Land of Hope presents our country’s history in an affirmative way that is more than just “technically true.” Alexander Hamilton identified the stakes in Federalist 1. America is a great experiment to decide:

. . . whether societies of men are really capable of establishing good government from reflection and choice, or whether they are forever destined to depend for their political constitutions on accident and force.

Amid the tumult and hysteria of 2019, it’s tempting to say that the decision has yet to be made. But the American record, checkered like that of all great nations, shows the answer to Hamilton’s question is a qualified “yes, we can.” Perfection exists only in Heaven. If the United States has sometimes fallen short of its heritage and its ideals, it has more often shown itself as a worthy heir and sturdy practitioner of both.

Land of Hope stands squarely in that American tradition.

Photo Credit: Getty Images

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America • Post • The Culture • The Left

Restoring the Lost Consensus

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Looking around the cultural landscape today, I conclude that we are in the midst of a sort of negative religious revival: let’s call it America’s First Great Awokening.

Evidence of our society’s wokeness—a false awakening sparked by political grievance—is all around. I’d like to begin with what the philosopher Nicholas of Cusa called the “coincidence of opposites.” Unpacking exactly what Cusa meant by that arresting phrase would take us into the thickets of metaphysical speculation. But we see pedestrian examples of that strange coincidence everywhere. Indeed, one of the great tests of our wokeness is the extent to which many things have mutated into their opposites—not awake but awoke. Inversion is a dominant principle of our social life.

Consider, to take just one example, the fate of our colleges and universities. Once upon a time, and it was not so long ago, they were institutions dedicated to the pursuit of truth and the transmission of the highest values of our civilization. Today, most are dedicated to the repudiation of truth and the subversion of those values. In short, they are laboratories for the cultivation of wokeness. This is especially true, with only a handful of exceptions, of the most prestigious institutions. The tonier and more expensive the college, the more woke it is likely to be.

Read the rest in The New Criterion.

Photo Credit: Brian Blanco/Getty Images

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

Reparations and Diversity Are Not the Path to Equality

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Photo credit:  Marvin Joseph/The Washington Post via Getty Images

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America • Post • Progressivism • The Culture • The Left

Courageous Homesickness

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Many social conservatives excel at diagnosis of our social ills, but often fail or stop short of prescription. They can tell us where we’ve gone wrong, but haven’t a practical plan for going right once more. Instead, in the words of Anthony Esolen, they “brandish popguns against the family-dissolving forces,” or seek distractions and abandon the fight entirely.

A review of Nostalgia: Going Home In A Homeless World, by Anthony Esolen (Regnery Gateway, 256 pages, $28.99)

Esolen, however, is not among them. He is not one of “those in our time who do sense that we have strayed far from home, but who do not choose the heartache of the battle.” His book Nostalgia: Going Home In A Homeless World is a field manual for that battle.

It’s not a book for those conservatives resigned to defeat and seeking solace only in “I-told-you-so’s.” The classical model for “nostalgia,” Esolen explains, is the wily, belligerent, indefatigable Odysseus. There is nothing merely wistful about his longing for home. It’s neither a return to an idealized past, nor a romanticized vision of a perfect future.

Odysseus seeks his home because it is his home. He belongs there, and has duties there—including the duty of restoration.

In this mad time, when so many in the West repudiate our very civilization, the story of a war hero scheming and fighting his way home, and undoing “change” when he gets there, is a refreshing reminder of what it looks like when well-adjusted people have healthy instincts. Nostalgia is Esolen’s encouragement to us to commit ourselves to such a journey, despite the obstacles and perils in our way.

There are joys along the way, as well. Esolen is one of those writers who’d be worth reading for his wordcraft alone. Musing, critiquing, mocking, exhorting, and craftily employing his literary allusions in a manner which draws us back to great books many of us haven’t thought about since college (or to which we were cheated out of ever having been introduced).

One more observation about Nostalgia: Esolen fans frequently compare him to the notoriously quotable G.K. Chesterton. It’s an apt comparison, I think. And If the Chesterton Society is to be followed, a century from now, by an Esolenian Society (a glorious notion!), some of the aphorisms they’ll put on their coffee mugs and beer steins, or perhaps engrave upon their ceremonial swords, appear on Nostalgia’s pages.

“Men are seldom as bad as the worst of their ideas.”

“To ‘progress’ in quicksand is to sink further.”

“Freedom is to the soul as health is to the body—it is a power.”

“Man without culture is an inert thing.”

“No pilgrim, no progress.”

“To be working in a tradition is to be alive.”

“The progressive has turned original sin, which afflicts all mankind, into political error, which conveniently afflicts his opponents and not himself.”

“A stupid law may be revoked. A depraved custom may be repudiated. A forgotten virtue may be recalled. Otherwise we are bound as slaves to the most irresponsible and irrepressible among us, who wreak havoc and call it history.”

Certainly that last lengthy quote would require a particularly long sword, or a very tall stein, for proper inscription. But then, Anthony Esolen reminds us that we have a lot worth fighting for—and that, is worthy of a tall drink.

Photo Credit: DeAgostini/Getty Images

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America • Center for American Greatness • Cultural Marxism • Defense of the West • Post • The Constitution • The Culture • The Left

The Constitution Does Not Protect Freedom of Speech

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Around the inner rotunda of the Rhode Island state capitol stands this quotation from Tacitus: Rara temporum felicitas ubi sentire quae velis et quae sentias dicere licet. “Rare happiness of the times,” said the sardonic republican, “when it is permitted to think what you will and speak what you think.” Rare indeed.

Let us concede for the sake of argument that freedom of political speech in the broadest sense is a good thing, speech that bears not only upon whom we should elect to public office and what laws they should pass, but upon what is good and bad, true and false, wise and foolish.

Americans believe that that freedom is secured by constitutional provisions. They are wrong. Such freedom, such latitude for seeking the truth and securing the common good, must live within the hearts, the minds, and the cultural habits of a people. Otherwise it is dead, even while the constitutional provisions continue, like soulless automata, or the living dead.

The provisions march on, blindly and aimlessly, granting liberty to pornographers on principle, a mistaken principle as I believe, while ordinary people are ever more forbidden to think what they will and speak what they think, even about such ordinary things as what a marriage is, or what a man or a woman is and what they are for.

The phenomenon is, strangely enough, nowhere more evident than when the word “community” is invoked, like a talisman; and the undead shakes the dirt from his grave.

Where are true communities to be found? A communitas implies a place and identifiable members, sharing duties and benefits in common: think of a commons, or a town hall, or a public ball field. The community chest gathers donations from everyone in town, to disburse them to individual charities or to the poor according to their needs and the capacity of the whole. A Greek polis is a community, but a community need not be “political” in that specific sense. Your local parish is a community, or it should be. People who come together to build and operate a school form a community. An old-fashioned guild of shoemakers, ensuring quality of work, honoring their patron on Saint Crispin’s Day, and providing for their widows and orphans, form a community.

Such communities may require the awkwardly put “community standards” from their members, and these may be helpful or harmful, sensible or merely self-righteous and snobbish, as the case may be, and if you don’t like East Podunk, whose zoning laws will not permit bright orange houses, you may move to West Podunk, land of the garish. But in the absence of a real community, to call upon “community standards” is to establish an excuse for censoriousness, intolerance, and mendacity.

When I was a professor at Providence College, we used to receive messages from the administration, containing the words “Providence College community.” Mostly I ignored the phrase, as one of those pleasant fictions that the bureaucratic among us have enjoyed since the days of Orwell. The word “community” added nothing to the meaning. It was a smiley face in the margins, suggesting, “Here you are to have a feeling,” a tenth of a degree warmer than usual. For there were 4,000 students, transient of course, 250 professors, hundreds of staff members, at least 100 adjuncts, also transient, and nobody could know even a small percentage of all those people, by face or by reputation or by family.

Even so, you might attain some measure of community if you all shared a fundamental belief in God, regardless if you worshiped together; or if you all believed that the point of education was to discover the truth, regardless of what you thought the truth to be. But the school, like most others, was stocked with atheists and agnostics, some professed, some so by the sheer acedia of a life devoted to avarice, prestige, and hedonism. And the very idea that there is a truth to discover outside of the province of the slide-rule and the microscope was not only controversial but condemned by many as downright oppressive and wicked.

So there was no community. Why appeal to it, then, other than as a psychological hiccup? To shut down the expression of beliefs that those in power do not like. Hence it was that a professor of politics, while students nodded like puppets, delivered herself of the remarkable opinion that although the object of her public loathing (me) enjoyed academic freedom, that freedom must be used “responsibly,” according to community standards. The inversion was complete. Someone who does not believe in objective moral truth, and who therefore in moral debates cannot use her academic freedom “responsibly,” condemns someone else who does believe in objective moral truth, who seeks it, who declares what he believes he has seen, and who therefore can have cause to speak of what is responsibly or irresponsibly done.

Recently, four people, one of them an enfant terrible of conservative discourse, Milo Yiannopoulos, were banned from the public space provided by the Piranha Brothers, controllers of Facebook, for violating the unwritten law. Again, “community standards” were invoked. But there is no community. Facebook has become a gigantic public utility, like the telephone companies. There is no Facebook jamboree. Facebook has no fish-fry and clam bake. Facebook does not gather funds from little faces everywhere to succor the faceless. There are many thousands of what we might call notional Facebook commons, whereby people who are far-flung in geography write to one another about the topics of the times. These notional communities have little or nothing to do with one another, and nothing at all to do with Facebook, no more than conference calls have to do with Skype.

What can the Piranha Brothers possibly mean to convey, then, when they nailed Yiannapoulos’ head to the floor? It can have nothing to do with a “community.” It has to do instead with a desire that certain kinds of notional communities should be constrained or should not exist at all.

Hence the Piranha Brothers will permit you to put your ignorance of religion and your contempt for religious people on full display, all day long and every day of the week; the spike will never penetrate your temple. But they will not permit you to say, bluntly, that a man who believes he is a woman is in the grip of a delusion. If someone complains, out you go, and out goes your “community” or your portion thereof.

We must expect more of this in the future: people whose intolerance and censoriousness rises in proportion as their faith fades and their longing for the truth grows dull. We will hear the word “community” every day, and never see the real and living thing. We will have the Constitution, neither alive nor dead, but undead, and people who are afraid to let slip the wrong truth at work will continue to believe that they live in a free nation.

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America • American Conservatism • Conservatives • Post • The Culture

Ben Shapiro DESTROYS Ben Shapiro

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Suffice to say, Ben Shapiro was long overdue for his opportunity to be the one who gets “destroyed” in a debate. And who would’ve guessed that the occasion for his destruction would be in an interview with the septuagenarian Andrew Neil of the BBC?

And here’s the real twist: It was not even Neil who destroyed Shapiro. Rather, Shapiro “destroyed” Shapiro. And that was quite a feat.

From his ridiculous suggestion that Neil—a longtime member of the Conservative Party—is on the Left, to his pompous declaration that he is somehow superior because he is “more popular” than Neil, there is enough in the arrogance he displayed to undo him.

But rather than belabor the question of Shapiro’s childish behavior and what it says about his temper, his inability to debate anyone who’s not a blue-haired college feminist, and his unjustly inflated ego, it would be more useful to examine what Shapiro revealed about his actual ideas, such as they are.

For even in that brief interchange before Shapiro stormed off in a rage, quite a lot was revealed about his political ideas. These are ripe for more careful examination, and that examination will demonstrate the inconsistencies within his own beliefs. In this case, his arrogance—though difficult to miss—should not overshadow how objectively wrong he is on the substance. Nor should it obscure how—in more ways than the damage that comes from such petulant displays—he is not helping the American Right.

False Dichotomies
Shapiro tried to frame the current state of affairs on the American Right as a series of debates between what he considers the “old guard” of conservatism and the rising Trump movement. He characterizes these debates as “Nationalism vs. Patriotism” and “Populism vs. Free Marketeerism” (now that’s a word you’ve probably never heard before).

This is either disingenuous on his part or else he grossly mistaken. In the American context, there is no distinction between nationalism and patriotism. An American nationalist is a patriot and an American patriot is a nationalist. To suggest otherwise shows a clear lack of understanding of one, or the other things and, perhaps, of both.

Patriotism is a generic love of one’s country, whereas nationalism is the belief that one’s country is the greatest country in the world, and therefore superior to all others. Considering that many a conservative—including those from the NeverTrump camp—talk endlessly about America being the greatest country on God’s green earth, they should have no issue with American nationalism.

But because President Trump has used the word “nationalist” and they want very much to dislike and disown him, they will find fault because remember: “Orange man bad.”

In trying to pit populism against “free marketeerism” (whatever that is) Shapiro is being downright absurd, if not simply harmful to crucial and necessary developments on the Right.

First, populism is not an economic theory. It’s a broader political idea that has to do with the consent of the governed, specifically, it refers to the dynamic between the populace and its leaders as their chosen representatives. It is manifested in leaders who repeatedly make appeals to their people and vow to stand for them against an entrenched political elite; a very common thing in politics. And last I checked, socialism is the opposite of “free marketeerism” and capitalism. Not populism. If Shapiro is worried about defending capitalism, perhaps he should be more concerned about the threat coming from socialism and join forces with the populists who are having some success in fighting it.

If we are to do some of the heavy-lifting for Shapiro (and it wouldn’t be the first time), then he is most likely referring to the economically populist ideas that President Trump has introduced into the mainstream and is now utilizing to the fullest with his trade policy, as well as his support for a massive infrastructure spending bill, among other things that bucked the traditional conservative orthodoxy on government measures in the economy. Instead of seeing these as potential methods to fend off socialism by ameliorating the harsher effects of unbridled capitalism, Shapiro is happy to label everything that doesn’t match up to the talking points he memorized in the early 2000s as “socialism.” Shapiro is not a strategic thinker.

Other examples of things Shapiro finds anathema are the broader push for government to step in against Big Tech censorship, or to halt the damage to workers brought on by the alarming rise of automation in many blue-collar industries. Freedom, for Shapiro, isn’t secured by protecting the political rights that are in place to protect the dignity of all American citizens, it’s secured by foolishly genuflecting at the altar of predatory economic enterprises who have weaponized a woke ideology for fun and profit. Forget that these emissaries from the tech industry and other quarters have become the kind of seething factions Madison warned us about in Federalist 10.

As Tucker Carlson explained in his conversation with Shapiro, taking up some of these positions on the Right is not a betrayal of capitalism, nor is it somehow the opposite of free-market thinking. This is how we protect America from the socialists and persuade voters who do not have their interests served by the policies Shapiro advocates.

Such economically populist ideas (which is only to say that they are more popular than the status quo that Shapiro upholds) are simply staking out a middle ground between the hardline, Ayn Rand-worshipping conservatives who think the free market has the powers of a benevolent god, and the socialists who want total government control over everything.

If such a middle ground can be staked out—one that serves the economic interests of the vast majority of the American voting population—it would be the most politically genius move in a generation. It would have the potential for massive crossover appeal for Republicans and make it possible to break the Democrats’ stranglehold on the middle class, and even cut through some of the more intransigent identity politics of our time. Let me be more clear: unless we do this, we will lose our country. There is nothing to be gained from tacking firmly to the right for the sake of a donor class worried primarily about losing its privileges, if it means we risk losing the vast middle class to the socialists.

Apparently, Shapiro didn’t learn a thing from that exchange with Carlson. Not surprising.

Punting the 2020 Issue
Shapiro’s political ignorance was on further display as he gave one of the most basic and elementary takes on the 2020 election, defaulting to the conventional wisdom that Joe Biden is Trump’s biggest threat (yawn). His reasoning is that Biden supposedly has appeal in the Rust Belt, and has a long political career that has established him to much of the American public. This familiarity, he claims, makes Biden a bigger threat than some of the political newcomers who Trump “drags through the mud,” as Shapiro says.

In the first place, familiarity does not automatically equal good press. Sure, people know who Biden is, but how many of those people only know him for his creepy touching of women? Or his numerous and idiotic gaffes? They probably know he was vice president. And?

Secondly, the claim that Trump only does well against political newcomers would come as a surprise to Hillary Clinton (nevermind how ironic that sounds coming from a man who established his career as a slayer of ill-informed undergraduate students). Hillary Clinton is a terrible politician, but she’s no greenhorn.

It’s safe to bet that even Dick Morris could probably produce a more compelling—and accurate—election take.

If nothing else, it was interesting to see Shapiro forced into a corner on the subject of his political loyalties going into the next election. When Neil pressed him on his opposition to Trump in 2016 compared to 2020, he eventually forced Shapiro to admit that he’d vote for Trump over Biden. Let’s all see if he keeps his word on that (but please, don’t hold your breath).

Free Speech for Me, But Not for Thee
While skirting the issue of his own brand centering around videos showcasing his alleged ability to “destroy” his opponents, Shapiro tries to put the blame on his fans who make such video compilations of him, rather than on his own videos that also make use of what Neil describes as “coarse” language.

When Neil further presses him about such labeling, Shapiro defaults to platitudes about the First Amendment, saying “I think that people can describe me however they please. It’s a free country.”

This is especially laughable, considering that Shapiro was much less sanguine about being labeled “alt-right”  when The Economist recently so labeled him in one of its articles. But, of course, that label wouldn’t help him sell product.

Shapiro’s response then was to go on an obsessive multi-tweet rant in which he attacked President Trump and Steve Bannon, listed all of the times he has virtue-signaled against the alt-right, and then ended his tirade with a demand that The Economist retract the “pathetically inaccurate and defamatory nonsense” immediately; a demand with which they eventually complied by changing the title.

But if some rambunctious kids can label Shapiro with coarse “bro-language” why can’t The Economist’s label Shapiro as it sees fit? The First Amendment is not a one-way street that only allows people to label you however they please when they are fans of yours, making video compilations that paint you in a way that suits your interest; they also extend to those who oppose you and wish to talk about you in critical terms. This mindset is no different than the one held by the social media giants who endlessly seek to silence one side of the political spectrum, while letting the other side run free.

If it’s a matter of genuine defamation by falsely labeling someone alt-right, then by that same logic, Ben Shapiro is just as guilty as The Economist—or, for that matter, every single leftist who recklessly labels everyone they don’t like as “alt-right.” In August of 2016, he infamously tweeted out an almost entirely erroneous list of “alt-right and alt-right friendly people,” which included such notorious “white supremacists” as Milo Yiannopoulos, Pat Buchanan, Ann Coulter, Ron Paul, and… President Donald J. Trump.

When the Destroyer Becomes the Destroyed
Although this is certainly not a medical diagnosis, it might be safe to say that Shapiro suffers from short-term memory loss.

He didn’t remember anything from his debate with Tucker Carlson; he completely forgot about his tirade against The Economist simply exercising its free speech rights against him (which was on top of also forgetting how he, too, has falsely labeled people “alt-right”); he conveniently forgot about all the videos that he himself has posted using the word “destroys” in a reckless manner; and, somehow, he forgot that Donald Trump defeated a career politician to become president of the United States.

Even Shapiro’s excuse for this shoddy interview performance seems to prove this theory. He claimed that he “wasn’t properly prepared” in advance . . . for an interview about a book that he just wrote.

This is only worth mentioning because it further highlights how Shapiro truly only lives in the moment, and couldn’t care less about what happened yesterday or what could happen tomorrow. His entire persona is built on short clips of him “destroying” dumb college kids in rooms filled with hundreds of his fans, eager to offer him blind applause and accolades.

When you’re living in moments like those, it’s all too easy to feel as if you’re on top of the world, God’s gift to the American people, the best debater you’ll ever see, and the absolute greatest conservative commentator to ever exist. With such a devoted following in such carefully-constructed bubbles, everything he says must feel revolutionary, new, bold, and provocative.

But as soon as he steps outside of an auditorium, into a place where no sycophants are in sight to goad him on, and he meets someone who is determined to do his job and ask genuinely tough questions, the entire Hollywood-invented facade crumbles apart in spectacular fashion. Once again, a demigod manufactured by Conservatism, Inc. bleeds; and it could not be more satisfying to see.

Photo Credit: Rich Polk/Getty Images for Politicon 

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Center for American Greatness • Cultural Marxism • Post • The Culture • The Left

Unteachable Moments

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A great deal of the Left’s grip on the culture is rooted in its collective ability to manipulate information in the form of official narratives in the news, history, or statistics. The contemporary political goal comes first, and the facts are backfilled, manipulated, and emphasized or deemphasized accordingly. In other words, much of the Left’s stock in trade is a form of propaganda.

Thus, whenever some plausible (which is really only to say, “marketable”) connection may be made, we hear much about white males and their “toxic” masculinity, even as their many achievements are neglected. Following the cues of popular culture, one would think this group is disproportionately criminal; just look at the cast of villains on “Law and Order,” the obsession with otherwise ordinary white male serial killers, and the umpteenth PBS special on Emmett Till.

We can see this curation of what is deemed relevant from an unfortunate, recent school shooting that occurred at Colorado’s STEM school. Far from this being a paroxysm of right wing-hatred, Christian militancy, or an incel uprising, the killers were a gay male and a transgender “female,” who masqueraded as a male at the tender age of 16. Apparently they were angry at the world—and particularly hostile to Christians—even though the star is rising for their identity groups.

The male shooter left a statement on social media: “You know what I hate? All these Christians who hate gays.” While these killers come from now-elevated social backgrounds—particularly the faddish transgenderism—these identities often are not freestanding choices, but symptoms of a broader disturbance of identity.

Because these killers were not “white racists” or “anti-bully” avengers, but rather two exemplars of the Left’s identity aristocracy, the story has not occasioned nearly as much discussion and soul searching as that of the Columbine killers, the California car spree killer, or the Parkland school shooter. These incidents became stories about “bullying,” “misogyny,” and “the need for gun control” respectively, amplified by incessant national media coverage.

Other incidents, such as the anti-white killings by Omar Thornton or the anti-Christian killings at the STEM school last week tend to fall into the memory hole, and key facts are often concealed in national reporting.

This is not random. This type of information casts doubt upon the leftist worldview and reinforces a more conservative one. Violent street crime is similarly little noticed or explored—and the fact of disproportionate minority involvement in such crimes is suppressed—for the same reasons. Small choices in language, including the nihilistic expression “robbery gone wrong,” allow the media to conceal the hatred and cruelty often present in ubiquitous street violence. Much of this culminates in a real “war on noticing things,” in the words of comedian Patton Oswalt.

The propaganda aimed at promoting transgenderism as a fashionable cause akin to the gay rights crusade of a decade ago depends, in part, upon widespread ignorance of the condition of those involved. A great many people who call themselves transgender actually have another, significant mental health disorder. One study noted that the “frequency of personality disorders was 81.4 percent. The most frequent personality disorder was narcissistic personality disorder (57.1 percent).” Other studies have found even higher rates of personality disorders among this population. Similarly, many of these individuals have high rates of drug abuse and suicidal ideation.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, the mutilating surgery involved most often does not solve the true problem—a significant disturbance in the psyche—and there are often post-surgical regrets, which cannot be repaired after the irreversible physical changes and artificial hormonal load required for such a procedure.

Again, this should not be surprising. The source of human happiness is some correspondence between objective reality and one’s view of reality. Humility and gratitude are two sides of the same coin, involving a proper and proportional sense of oneself and the world around him. Psychological adjustment means adapting one’s sense of identity to one’s objective circumstances and finding some healthy means of coping and thriving.

Desiring to be another sex suggests a massive problem with one’s appraisal of reality, and mere surgery cannot repair whatever makes one desire to be something wholly different from what one already is.

One wonders if a movie like “Silence of the Lambs,” which explored this phenomenon, could ever be made today. Before transgenderism became fashionable, we knew that a great many serial killers—including the BTK killer and Canadian Colonel David Williams—had a deep desire for consuming and in a sense becoming their victims, even dressing in their female victim’s clothing. Cross-dressing and more extreme variations on that theme used to be widely seen as disturbing behavior, not merely an odd preference. That such rejections of less pressing social demands leads to gross deviations from universal rules condemning sadistic rape and murder, while not typical, is not terribly surprising.

Behaviors are connected. We are not islands unto ourselves, and part of the demands of morality is the proper treatment of others, in addition to conformity to other rules and social expectations, including those involving self-care and self-discipline. When one deviates from these things in matters related to the self, and desires in some sense to obliterate and replace oneself, a desire to obliterate the broader society which naturally limits the self and its appetites is but a short logical step away for some deeply disturbed people.

The degeneracy and freakish behaviors justified and promoted endlessly in the news, movies, and higher education are not mere anomalies or side issues for the Left. The Left is defined by its hostility to limits of all kinds, including the limits of traditional religion and traditional morality. Just as the Left has made a cult of transgenderism, it similarly has embraced and promoted violence to families, to the unborn, to children, to the elderly, to property, to nations, and to all that is good, decent, and beautiful.

The STEM School shooters announced their intention to “f**k society.” Their shooting undoubtedly made this intention plain. But conservatives used to realize that their disordered transgendered fetish is another way of expressing the same sentiment.

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 licensing@centerforamericangreatness.com.

Photo Credit: Joe Amon-Pool/Getty Images

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America • History • Post • The Culture • the family

Our Modern ‘Satyricon’

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Sometime around A.D. 60, in the age of Emperor Nero, a Roman court insider named Gaius Petronius wrote a satirical Latin novel, “The Satyricon,” about moral corruption in Imperial Rome. The novel’s general landscape was Rome’s transition from an agrarian republic to a globalized multicultural superpower.

The novel survives only in a series of extended fragments. But there are enough chapters for critics to agree that the high-living Petronius, nicknamed the “Judge of Elegance,” was a brilliant cynic. He often mocked the cultural consequences of the sudden and disruptive influx of money and strangers from elsewhere in the Mediterranean region into a once-traditional Roman society.

The novel plots the wandering odyssey of three lazy, overeducated and mostly underemployed single young Greeks: Encolpius, Ascyltos and Giton. They aimlessly mosey around southern Italy. They panhandle and mooch off the nouveau riche. They mock traditional Roman customs. The three and their friends live it up amid the culinary, cultural and sexual excesses in the age of Nero.

Certain themes in “The Satyricon” are timeless and still resonate today.

The abrupt transition from a society of rural homesteaders into metropolitan coastal hubs had created two Romes. One world was a sophisticated and cosmopolitan network of traders, schemers, investors, academics and deep-state imperial cronies. Their seaside corridors were not so much Roman as Mediterranean. And they saw themselves more as “citizens of the world” than as mere Roman citizens.

In the novel, vast, unprecedented wealth had produced license. On-the-make urbanites suck up and flatter the childless rich in hopes of being given estates rather than earning their own money.

The rich in turn exploit the young sexually and emotionally by offering them false hopes of landing an inheritance.

Petronius seems to mock the very world in which he indulged.

His novel’s accepted norms are pornography, gratuitous violence, sexual promiscuity, transgenderism, delayed marriage, childlessness, fear of aging, homelessness, social climbing, ostentatious materialism, prolonged adolescence, and scamming and conning in lieu of working.

The characters are fixated on expensive fashion, exotic foods and pretentious name-dropping. They are the lucky inheritors of a dynamic Roman infrastructure that had globalized three continents. Rome had incorporated the shores of the Mediterranean under uniform law, science, institutions—all kept in check by Roman bureaucracy and the overwhelming power of the legions, many of them populated by non-Romans.

Never in the history of civilization had a generation become so wealthy and leisured, so eager to gratify every conceivable appetite—and yet so bored and unhappy.

But there was also a second Rome in the shadows. Occasionally the hipster antiheroes of the novel bump into old-fashioned rustics, shopkeepers and legionaries. They are what we might now call the ridiculed “deplorables” and “clingers.”

Even Petronius suggests that these rougher sorts built and maintained the vast Roman Empire. They are caricatured as bumpkins and yet admired as simple, sturdy folk without the pretensions and decadence of the novel’s urban drones.

Petronius is too skilled a satirist to paint a black-and-white picture of good old traditional Romans versus their corrupt urban successors. His point is subtler.

Globalization had enriched and united non-Romans into a world culture. That was an admirable feat. But such homogenization also attenuated the very customs, traditions and values that had led to such astounding Roman success in the first place.

The multiculturalism, urbanism and cosmopolitanism of “The Satyricon” reflected an exciting Roman mishmash of diverse languages, habits and lifestyles drawn from northern and Western Europe, Asia and Africa.

But the new empire also diluted a noble and unique Roman agrarianism. It eroded nationalism and patriotism. The empire’s wealth, size and lack of cohesion ultimately diminished Roman unity, as well as traditional marriage, child-bearing and autonomy.

Education likewise was seen as ambiguous. In the novel, wide reading ensures erudition and sophistication, and helps science supplant superstition. But sometimes education is also ambiguous. Students become idle, pretentious loafers. Professors are no different from loud pedants. Writers are trite and boring. Elite pundits sound like gasbags.

Petronius seems to imply that whatever the Rome of his time was, it was likely not sustainable—but would at least be quite exciting in its splendid decline.

Petronius also argues that with too much rapid material progress comes moral regress. His final warning might be especially troubling for the current generation of Western Europeans and Americans. Even as we brag of globalizing the world and enriching the West materially and culturally, we are losing our soul in the process.

Getting married, raising families, staying in one place, still working with our hands and postponing gratification may be seen as boring and out of date. But nearly 2,000 years later, all of that is what still keeps civilization alive.

Photo Credit: Universal History Archive/UIG via Getty Images

(C) 2019 TRIBUNE CONTENT AGENCY, LLC.

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America • Post • The Culture • the family

Her Children Will Rise Up and Call Her Blessed

<When I was young and brash and full of dreams for the future (and in the process of making them come true), had anyone told me I would embrace motherhood joyfully, I would have scoffed. Could someone have enumerated the various episodes of vomit, crying, screaming, temper tantrums, refusals, Legos on the floor, suspect dried items of unknown origin stuck to the wall, load upon load of laundry, fatigue, and the acquisition of enough marks on my body that it resembles a world map, I would have turned up my nose and stormed away.

What is astonishing to me is the incredible joy and humor and depth to be found in such seeming banality. How when you feel the soft slump of a newborn melt into your chest, it is to brush up against the sublime.

Somehow, in these moments, you are finally in touch with a love so intense that you could not have imagined it existed. Somehow, when you hear childish peals of laughter after you blow raspberries on a chubby toddler stomach, your delight surpasses all other forms you have experienced. Somehow when you watch your first child walk out your front door for the last time, you will weep with the loss of that presence, that you will endure a period of grief as you bid adieu to the years of hard work and wish them back to do again, a little better this time, and you will bear witness to sadness as you contemplate your household one person quieter.

The magic of motherhood is found in the unique ability to kiss a boo boo and banish its pain, to comfort a child both from a bully and a broken heart, to cheer on a luckless child from yet another boring sideline for some unending sports event, to exchange a worldly identity which was once so important for the title “Johnny’s mom.”

If you’ve known the pain of childbirth—not the coming-into-the-world-kind, but the slammed door, snarky response, rolled eyes, and expression of disapproval kind—you are a mother.

If you have endured the stuttering, stammering first attempts as a small reader sits tucked next to you, you’re a mother.

If you have watched in dismay as a treasure trove of worms and bugs and rocks gets dumped triumphantly on a clean counter in an excited attempt to show you some precious thing collected that day, you are a mother.

If you sat up late at night, waiting for the slam of the front door that shakes the house, announcing the safe arrival of a new driver, you are a mother.

You might be a mother if, like Susanna Wesley coping with her large litter of children, you feel like dropping to your knees in the middle of the day and throwing an apron over your head in fervent prayer—even if it is only to pray that you are not tempted to hurt one of them. You might be a mother if, like Erma Bombeck, you declared emphatically each child your favorite and gave them each the reasons why. You might be a mother if, like yours and mine, they put up with us and our attitudes and our rebellion and self-made emergencies, and they loved us anyway.

If you have felt your knees go weak and dropped to them only to feel fat toddler arms encircle your neck in a hug and have marveled at the downy soft hair against your cheek, you are a mother.

If you stayed the desire to run after your children and cover their ears and their eyes with what the world would tell them and show them, you are a mother.

If you have cracked open a book, scanned online articles, called respected friends to search for advice on how to handle a troubling issue with a child, you are a mother.

If you have laughed so hard you cried when you really should have been angry at the little one for some transgression committed, you are a mother.

If worry could generate power like an electric plant, mothers could power the world.

If pride in our offspring could fill a space, the universe would have no voids.

If love could be felt as tangibly as our teenagers’ disapproval in our presence at times, we would have world peace.

If you’ve stood sentry at a too-small grave, clutching a handful of flowers, and still grieve for a life and possibilities lost . . . if you have had a lion’s share of time sitting beside a hospital bed in a pediatric unit, wishing that it was you instead of her . . . if you have been jealous for “normal” problems for your child instead of those granted to him . . . you are one of the most special kinds of mothers.

If you’ve known the dual pain and pleasure of watching a child cross a stage in a cap and gown and felt the excitement at the future and the sorrow at the years past, you know keenly what it is to be a mother.

If you’ve laughed at the remembrance of a too-bold proclamation uttered at an uninformed time (“My child would never . . . ”) and have found that a God who has a delightful sense of humor has taught you a lesson or two or three about such egoism, you are now a better mother.

If you’ve apologized after you lost your temper because your child just can’t seem to remember where to put her shoes away, or how to turn the lights off, or what time you told him to be home, you might be a wiser mother.

If you’ve thanked God for the painful mirror that is known as “Motherhood” that teaches so many necessary and useful lessons, you might be a more humble mother.

As we gaze back through our lives and relish memories of times gone by, it is easy to remember the grubby fists bringing handfuls of yellow dandelions for the most precious bouquet ever received. With tears, we recall the ghost of a child’s grin that shines through the spaces in his mouth where baby teeth have gone and adult ones haven’t yet been received. We smile with the remembrance of a phone call issued for the sole purpose of saying “I love you, Mom.” The memories flood, and we savor those veritable monuments to times past. Happy Mother’s Day to every woman who recognizes “Mother” as not just a job description but, rather, an explanation of who we are.

Photo Credit: Getty Images

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America • Center for American Greatness • Conservatives • Free Speech • Identity Politics • Post • race • The Culture • The Left

Challenging Liberal Racism

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About a year ago, Vice published an article by Kesiena Boom called “100 Ways White People Can Make Life Less Frustrating For People of Color.” Offered as a way for the “anxious [White] allies of the world” to “be the change,” the article serves as a pretty good example of leftist attitudes on race. But what if these leftist, liberal attitudes are themselves racist?

By now we’re all familiar with the broad outlines of this narrative. Racism is real whether you can see it or not (No. 1). Don’t engage in “cultural appropriation” (No. 11). Don’t claim to know what is or isn’t racist (No. 17). Realize that “some days are mentally exhausting for people of color” (No. 20). Make a fuss if a collection of art, music, literature, or whatever, doesn’t include proportional representation by people of color (No. 27). Understand the “intersections of race and gender” (No. 43). Shut up and “just listen” (No. 68).

Perhaps the biggest common thread in Boom’s article is its air of moral superiority. People of color will dictate the terms of any discussion on race, and white people will keep quiet and listen. The problem with accepting this premise, however, is that the stakes are too high. According to Pew Research, by 2020 one-third of America’s eligible voters will be “nonwhites.”

Colorful Symmetries, Troubling Trends
If America’s “people of color” were as diverse in their voting preferences as non-Hispanic whites, the fact that they’re about to constitute one in every three voters wouldn’t mean much. But the opposite is the case. In the 2018 election, white voters leaned Republican, 54 to 44 percent, but Republican competitiveness ended there. Only 29 percent of Hispanics voted Republican, only 23 percent of Asians voted Republican, and only 9 percent of blacks voted Republican.

The conclusions you can draw from this unambiguous data have profound implications. The voting patterns of nonwhites are nearly monolithic in favor of Democrats, and the impact of this is transforming America’s political landscape. If nonwhites were the only voters, then today—based on the proportions of Blacks, Hispanics, and Asians in the electorate—Democrats would get 78 percent of the vote. When you bring that monolithic preference into the total electorate, the symmetry is rather neat: without nonwhite voters, Republicans get 54 percent of the national vote; with everyone participating, Democrats get 54 percent of the vote.

This fact—that America’s politics are fundamentally altered by nonwhite voters preferring Democrats by a margin of nearly four to one—makes it necessary for white Republicans not only to stop being silent on issues of race and racism, but it obligates them to speak up. It is absurd, manipulative nonsense for anyone to tell white conservatives that they have to “shut up” and just be an “ally” on issues of race, when their destinies and their futures are being decided by nonwhite voters.

Not only are nonwhite voters already delivering the decisive swing vote in elections across the nation, and always in only one direction, but this reality is just beginning.

In just 16 years, between 2000 and 2016, the proportion of non-Hispanic white children in the U.S. declined from 61 percent of all children to 51 percent. Today, three years later, it’s less than 50 percent. Based on decades of consistent voting patterns and already established demographics, America is sliding, irrevocably, toward permanent rule by Democrats.

Shutting up is not an option. Whites have as much right to comment on issues of race as nonwhites, and just as much to lose if they are silent. And after all, what if the most toxic, devastating forms of racism aren’t coming from conservative Republicans, but from liberal Democrats? Wouldn’t everyone, especially nonwhites, want to hear the news?

Liberal Racism Rightly Understood
One of the reasons Republicans lose the vote of nonwhites is because Democrats have successfully tainted Republicans as racists. Who wants to vote for a party filled with racists? But if you examine the various types of racism infecting American society, there’s a strong argument to be made that the actual racism is coming from the Democrats.

First of all, you can rule out the obvious racism that everyone deplores. If you object to two people who love each other marrying because they’re from different races, you’re a racist. If you prejudge someone before you get to know them and dislike them because of their race, you’re a racist. If you deliberately deny someone an opportunity solely because of their race, you’re a racist. These are examples of toxic, indefensible racism that no serious person in American society defends.

But the third example provides a segue into what we might call liberal racism, because liberal racism isn’t whites denying nonwhites opportunities, it’s institutionalized discrimination against whites in favor of less qualified nonwhites.

If that raises the hackles of social justice warriors and their professional enablers in the diversity bureaucracy, that’s just too bad. Because affirmative action of all kinds is racism, plain and simple. And it doesn’t do anyone any good. It places less qualified nonwhites into college classrooms and corporate offices where they are not able to compete with their peers. This tempts the underachievers to believe the diversity bureaucracy’s B.S. about needing safe spaces and special treatment, and it embitters every better-qualified college or job applicant who didn’t get the opportunity they’d earned through merit.

These laws breed corruption and resentment wherever they appear. Small business owners are told they can’t compete for contracts or loans unless they have nonwhite partners. A cottage industry is formed where nonwhite partners, with no assets to put at risk and minimal qualifications, make themselves available to business owners who have invested decades of their lives and every penny they’ve ever made into a business. Who carries more risk? Who worked harder? How is this helpful?

There are nonwhite conservatives who understand there are no shortcuts to success. The list of influential black conservative Republican intellectuals and influencers, is huge, including Thomas Sowell, Clarence Thomas, Ben Carson, Herman Cain, Larry Elder, Ward Connerly, Condoleezza Rice, Alan Keyes, Star Parker, Walter Williams, Mia Love, Candace Owens, and countless others. Unfortunately, their work is marginalized by the liberal press and by their ideological opponents within their communities. But it isn’t just to nonwhites that white conservatives have to be more outspoken, it’s to other whites who have not questioned the liberal catechism on race.

Enforced racial quotas that do more harm than good to both whites and nonwhites are not the only liberal policy with racist consequences. Another example of liberal racism is K-12 public education policies, where the iron grip of leftist teachers unions have denied quality education to generations of nonwhites in America. Conservative Republicans didn’t destroy our public schools, the liberal Democrats did, by supporting teachers unions that care more about pay, benefits, and job security than about the children they’re supposed to educate.

Along with eliminating the ability to fire incompetent teachers, and drowning effective instruction in a torrent of “process” rules and bureaucracy, liberal Democrats have supported so-called “restorative justice,” which in practice makes it almost impossible to expel nonwhite students for discipline problems unless a proportional number of whites have also been expelled. Lack of discipline ranks as high as bad teachers and politicized curricula among the reasons why our public schools are failing, and expulsion quotas make matters worse, not better. Liberal Democrats are to blame for all of it.

Republicans, by contrast, support increasing the proportion of classroom teachers in K-12 schools and cutting back the expensive bureaucracy. Conservative Republicans support charter schools, homeschooling, private schools, and school vouchers—all designed to make schools compete to provide quality education. Conservative Republicans support bringing discipline back into the classroom, firing incompetent teachers, restoring math and language fundamentals to the curriculum, and reforming out-of-control teacher pensions that are bankrupting public education. What’s racist about any of that?

Environmental Justice?
Another example of liberal racism is the indirect but devastating effect of “green” politics. The real world result of renewable portfolio standards is huge increases to the cost of energy. This means members of low-income communities, often nonwhite, are less able to afford to pay their utility bills. Affluent white liberals can congratulate themselves for supporting expensive renewables because paying those bills doesn’t take up such a high percentage of their disposable income.

Environmentalist policies in general disproportionately harm nonwhites, along with all low-income communities. Restricting housing development under environmentalist pretexts creates a real estate bubble, forcing rents and home prices up. Low-income people have to pay higher rents to live in places further from their jobs, and then they have to sit in congested roads because liberals wanted to allocate public funds to high-speed rail and other impractical, but “environmentally correct” transportation boondoggles.

None of these green policies—certainly not renewable energy or restrictions on housing development—does much for the environment. But they do make life much harder for low-income households, many of which are nonwhite.

When it comes to liberal racism, the biggest culprit is socialism itself. Mainstream Joe Biden type Democrats are just corrupt liberals, mouthing anti-racist platitudes to attract votes while their liberal racist policies do more harm than good to nonwhites. But the rising tide of die-hard socialists within the Democratic party—fueled, in part, by rising percentages of nonwhite voters—threatens to bring new levels of misery to everyone, nonwhites most of all.

Whether this new breed of Democrats are just pandering cynics like U.S. Senator Kamala Harris (D-Calif.), or fanatical ignoramuses like Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.), their ideas, including reparations, redistribution of wealth, open borders, free healthcare, free college tuition, 100 percent renewable energy, guaranteed income, guaranteed jobs, and so forth, are utterly infeasible. If even half of these schemes ever became law, the United States would lose the prosperity that is the surest and, possibly, only way that nonwhites can be assured the opportunity for upward mobility.

Ultimately, that’s what liberal racism is all about. It isn’t about raising nonwhites up through equal opportunity, it’s about enforcing equal outcome, no matter what the cost. In the real world, that cost would be crushing. History is filled with examples of failed socialist utopias, and current events provide additional examples unfolding before our eyes.

America’s “people of color” need to make some tough choices. Do they want to adhere to the liberal racist temptation to blame any shortcomings in their lives on white oppression, or do they want to grab the American dream the only way it can endure, which is through hard work and merit against an immutable and equally applied standard?

It is ludicrous that conservative whites cannot join that conversation. The future of America is at stake, and everyone’s voice must be heard.

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 licensing@centerforamericangreatness.com.

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Donald Trump • Podcast • Religion and Society • The Culture • The Left

‘Who Do the Democrats Think They Are, Judging Christians?’

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Chris Buskirk of American Greatness joins Sebastian Gorka to discuss the moral lecturing of anti-Trumpers against Christians. Watch the fill clip below.

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America • Cultural Marxism • Post • Progressivism • Religion and Society • The Culture • The Left

Why the Left Mocks the Bible

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At PragerU, we have released about 400 videos on virtually every subject outside of the natural sciences and math. Along with 2 billion views, the videos have garnered tens of thousands of comments. So we have a pretty good handle on what people most love and most hate. For example, any video defending America or Israel inevitably receives many negative responses. But no videos elicit the amount of contempt and mockery that videos defending religion, explaining the Bible or arguing for God do.

Why is that?

There is a good reason. The Bible and the left (not liberalism, leftism) are as opposed as any two worldviews can be. While there are people who claim to hold both a Bible-based worldview and left-wing views, these people are few in number. Moreover, what they do is take left-wing positions and wrap them in a few Bible verses. But on virtually every important value in life, the left and the Bible are diametrically opposed.

Here are a few examples:

The biblical view is that people are not basically good. Evil, therefore, comes from within human nature. For the left, human nature is not the source of evil. Capitalism, patriarchy, poverty, religion, nationalism or some other external cause is the source of evil.

The biblical view is that nature was created for man. The left-wing view is that man is just another part of nature.

The biblical view is that man is created in the image of God and, therefore, formed with a transcendent, immaterial soul. The left-wing viewindeed, the view of all secular ideologiesis that man is purely material, another assemblage of stellar dust.

The biblical view is that the human being has free will. The left-wing viewagain, the view of all secular outlooksis that human beings have no free will. Everything we do is determined by environment, genes and the matter of which we are composed. Firing neurons, not free will, explain both murders and kindness.

The biblical view is that while reason alone can lead a person to conclude murder is wrong, murder is ultimately and objectively wrong only because there is a transcendent source of right and wrongGodwho deems murder evil.

The biblical view is that God made order out of chaos. Order is defined by distinctions. One such example is male and femalethe only inherent human distinction that matters to God. There are no racial or ethnic distinctions in God’s order; there is only the human sex distinction. The left loathes this concept of a divine order. That is the primary driver of its current attempt to obliterate the male-female distinction.

The biblical view is that the nuclear family is the basic unit of societya married father and mother and their children. This is the biblical ideal. All good people of faith recognize that the reality of this world is such that many people do not or cannot live that ideal. And such people often merit our support. But that does not change the fact that the nuclear family is the one best-suited to create thriving individuals and a healthy society, and we who take the Bible seriously must continue to advocate the ideal family structure as the Bible defines it. And for that, perhaps more than anything, we are mocked.

The biblical view holds that wisdom begins with acknowledging God. The secular view is that God is unnecessary for wisdom, and the left-wing view is that God is destructive to wisdom. But if you want to know which view is more accurate, look at the most godless and Bible-less institution in our society: the universities. They are, without competition, the most foolish institutions in our society.

For nearly all of American history, the Bible was the most important book in America. It is no longer. This is a moral and intellectual catastrophe. If you want to understand why, consider reading “The Rational Bible,” my commentary on the first five books of the Bible. The second volume of “The Rational Bible,” “Genesis,” is published today.

Photo Credit: Getty Images

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America • First Amendment • Free Speech • Post • Silicon Valley • Technology • The Culture • The Media

Understanding Google’s Military Mindset

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Google tried to censor the Claremont Institute last week. The tech giant backed off under pressure, but the tactical maneuver was hardly a failure. To see why, we only have to think strategically.

The Claremont Institute is a conservative think tank devoted to preserving the original meaning and vitality of the Constitution and Declaration of Independence. Claremont has launched a new campaign against the dangers of multiculturalism, as Institute President Ryan Williams announced in an essay last month in its digital publication, The American Mind. The essay explains how multiculturalism and identity politics are anathema to the American principles of equal natural rights.

Google decreed that essay, and indeed Claremont’s whole American Mind site, to be “a racially oriented publication”—an absurdity belied by Claremont’s long-standing fight against racial classifications, and Google’s indifference to rampant leftist obsessions with racial and ethnic differences.

When the Institute responded aggressively, publicly challenging Google, several conservative outlets expressed outrage.

Google backed off, claiming it had made a “mistake.” Given the facts and applying the most basic logic, this is obviously false.

The most relevant fact is that Institute staff had to spend two hours on the phone asking Google how its ban (on paid advertisements for the Institute’s upcoming banquet) could be appealed, and for clarification about the grounds of the ban. Google responded that there was no appeal. Further, the ban would be withdrawn only upon complete capitulation to Google’s political correctness: the Institute would have to censor itself and repudiate four decades of patriotic scholarship and advocacy.

To understand what’s happening here, one has to think strategically. We are in a cold war with the Left. That war is heating up. Many soft-headed conservatives and libertarians either fail to see this or they’re clinging to the tiniest shreds of information they hope will allow them to ignore what’s happening. Even those of us who appreciate what is going on, do not always see how the other side really is thinking and acting in terms of war.

A military mindset is at work behind Google’s action—which represents the censorship and propaganda agenda of the whole social media conglomerate. To see this, it helps to reflect on a few lessons from one of the 20th century’s great but under-appreciated teachers of war and strategy, Harold W. Rood. Fittingly, Rood himself (who passed away in 2011) was affiliated with the Claremont Institute and taught for many years at Claremont McKenna College.

He had two sayings he was fond of repeating to his students: “Politics is war by other means,” and, “There are no coincidences.”

Take the second one first: The targeting of Claremont was no mistake and no accident. Scholars and activists associated with the Claremont Institute were among the earliest supporters of Donald Trump. The Institute’s Claremont Review of Books published Michael Anton’s famous “The Flight 93 Election”—the only essay that arguably had a significant effect on the 2016 election. And the Institute, more so than any other conservative think tank, has devoted its entire existence to explaining and defending what it means to be an American—an identity grounded in our founding principles of color-blind equal rights.

If Google could have bullied the Claremont Institute into submission, it would have been a massive victory for the regressive Left, and laid the foundation for a vastly more intense and aggressive censorship campaign.

But that wasn’t really what Google expected to happen, which brings up Rood’s second aphorism. The Left’s unrelenting propaganda, intimidation, censorship, de-funding and de-platforming are all tactics as part of a strategy in a “war by other means.” Google’s attempt to ban Claremont’s ads was a classic reconnaissance operation: initiate a small provocative skirmish with the enemy to probe his defenses and see how he responds; then pull back, analyze, and plan for the next (bigger) assault.

Google’s claim that it had made a “mistake” is a transparent falsehood. They were testing the perimeter. Thank goodness, Claremont stood its ground. That was necessary and important. Google has learned that at least one of its targets isn’t soft. But this simply means that the next assault will incorporate what the company learned this week; so it will strike harder.

Will you be ready?

Photo credit: iStock/Getty Images

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Donald Trump • Post • Progressivism • The Culture • The Left

What About Me?

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I thought it was wacky, but it also made a lot of sense,” said the British newlywed, after saying, “I do.” To herself.

Yes. Melissa Denton took her own hand in marriage. It was “empowering.” Possibly stunning and brave. Guests in the hundreds flocked to enjoy the occasion. There, they devoured a vegan “feast” after raining petals over the solo bride’s head. It was the best day of her life.

Ms. (or Mrs.—this is not clear) Denton tells us that three weeks before her decision to marry herself, a familiar tragedy swelled. Receiving on Christmas Eve a text from her boyfriend of half a decade, it read: “I can’t do this anymore. It is over.” A veteran already of two divorces, the mother of two couldn’t eat, sleep, or smile.

Eschewing the familiar breakup cure of booze-laden sessions, and the pursuit of disposable lovers, Denton then decided to marry herself. Which is entirely normal for 2019, one should consider.

This alternative course of correction is apparently not a one-off. “Sologamy” is actually a thing. And countless women have hewn, hemmed, and hitched themselves to themselves.

What once perhaps would have warranted an extended vacation within the cushioned walls of an asylum, is now celebrated as an act of self-affirmation.

Her reasoning, to be kind, is fairly understandable. Kind of. Anyone familiar with the gummy trap of depression can attest to the disfiguring power of that brilliant black.

But to marry oneself (I can’t believe I have to say this) is an act of supreme self-adulation. And an extreme, though not entirely surprising feature of the generation educated in the 1990s. And a mere symptom of the malaise which permeates the cracks in the reality-TV West.

Growing up in the 1990s, my generation imbibed on the teat of self-help slop. All were brilliant. All were bright. Not one would be left behind. Indeed, the self-esteem culture rip-roared through that decade. Teachers even refrained from marking work in red pen, red being alarming. A soothing green somehow glossed over inflated grades.

Fostered by cotton-wrap parenting, grade inflation, social media’s instant feedback loop, generations after Generation X are suffused with narcissistic tendencies.

Never enough, it seems, is said about Millennial self-obsession. Our safe spaces. Our selfies. Every whim recorded. Every wallow rarefied. Everyone a victim.

Yet selfies are innocuous. Perhaps pretending to marry oneself is also. But the wider culture of narcissism has grave political implications. Take a swipe at the Democratic presidential hopefuls. The primary will resemble a circus of victimhood. The winner will be whomever promises best to soothe teeming cadres of enthusiastic victims.

American psychologists Jean Twenge and Keith Campbell, in their work The Narcissism Epidemic: Living in the Age of Entitlement posited that the good intentions of the 1990s have bred a generation entirely cocooned within itself.

That work spurred further research suggesting that 59 percent of American college freshmen in 2014 deemed themselves “above average” in intellectual self-confidence, compared with 39 percent in 1966.

If you value freedom and self-expression, this isn’t good. To put it mildly. Researchers at the London School of Economics found that:

At extremes, narcissism undermines institutions that underpin a strong society, with links to shallow values, less intellectual interest and value on hard work, aggression and relationship complications, and lack of empathy and concern for others.

After all, the classic features of narcissism tend to represent those of a four-year-old child. But these children have a vote. Millennials are almost America’s largest voting bloc.

An entire generation schooled only in self-adulation is perfect fodder for the progressives. And they know that. All the narcissists want in return for their vote is protection from a reality which doesn’t charitably boost their grades. Nor tell them how wonderful they are.

Because that is what narcissism is. A bubble. Those ensconced are so hopelessly fragile that almost every effort is siphoned toward ensuring that bubble never glimmers against the intrusions of real life.

Which is why the relative sanity of Joe Biden won’t puncture the Democratic veneer of self-obsession.

Reeling still from 2016—that grave intrusion of reality—the Democratic base, frothier even than it was in the wake of that disappointment, wants more than the correction of Trump’s presidency. They want it—and those responsible—purged from the earth. Impossible though that may be, progressive narcissism steeps not in the injurious real world.

Perhaps they don’t want to win. To finally defenestrate their obsession would cut dead the supply of righteous indignation, their lifeblood. As for those who choose to marry themselves, perhaps the spectacle matters more than the substance.

Photo Credit: Salwan Georges/The Washington Post via Getty Images

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Cultural Marxism • Identity Politics • Immigration • Post • The Culture • The Left

Mogadishu Comes to Minneapolis

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Ridley Scott’s 2001 masterpiece, “Black Hawk Down,” has become, like his 2000 “Gladiator,” a classic tale of the triumph and tragedy as well as the courage, heroism, and sacrifice of a small band of brothers showcasing crucial elements of what classicist Victor Davis Hanson, has called, “the Western way of war.”

Based on Mark Bowden’s 1999 chronicle, “Black Hawk Down” narrates the story of the 1993 attempt by U.S. Special Forces to capture Somali warlord Mohamed Farrah Aidid and his entourage in and near the Somali capital city of Mogadishu.

The true story, as is commonly known, becomes a horrific bloodbath in which 19 American soldiers died at the hands of surprisingly resistant Somali militants. However, the story, under Ridley Scott’s careful command, becomes a celebration of the valor of American soldiers in the face of foreign fighters.

At the same time, like Scott’s other great film chronicling an ethnic and religious clash, “Kingdom of Heaven,” “Black Hawk Down,” despite the unjust protest of leftist film critics, presents a humanizing if not sympathetic view of the Somali people—the scene in which young smiling Somali boys playfully run along with beleaguered members of Delta Force and the Army Rangers down the infamous Mogadishu Mile is one of the most haunting and surreal in the film.

Certainly, even the most patriotic and conservative viewer might find cause to sympathize with the people of Somalia and might even press for humanitarian aid.

No serious person, however, was watching “Black Hawk Down” and thinking that it would be a great idea to import a large chunk of radicalized Muslim Somalis to the United States. No serious person could have thought that without also knowing that careful consideration would have to be given to the effects such a transplanting would have on the social fabric of the United States.

Yet, as we’re learning from a torrent of unsettling and shocking news from the snowy state of Minnesota, large numbers of “Black Hawk Down” extras, many of whom have been radicalized with a virulent anti-American sentiment, have been transplanted to the home of the descendants of the Vikings and of Vikings football.

The most famous radical Muslim Somali living in the United States right now is, of course, U.S. Representative Ilhan Omar, a native of Mogadishu, who was just six years old when the events depicted in “Black Hawk Down” took place—however, Omar was safely nestled on the East Coast of the United States at the time.

After living in New York and then Northern Virginia, Omar made her way to the University of North Dakota and then to the University of Minnesota where she worked as a fellow at the Humphrey School of Public Affairs before climbing her way (or being pulled) through the largely liberal Minnesota political machine all the way to becoming one of the first Muslim congresswomen.

Yet, despite having the rainbow-colored diversity carpet laid out for her by American liberals, it seems that Omar, at least when she is being honest, does not much like the United States of America.

As President Trump tweeted recently, Omar evinced a dismissive and glib tone about 9/11 during a speech to the Council on American-Islamic Relations.

Also, Omar seems to think that American disgust at al-Qaeda is a humorous and weird thing.

Representative Omar is further keen on constantly expressing how America is a terrible and unjust country structured around “systematic racism.”

One wonders, if America is such a terrible and racist place deserving of terrorist attacks by murderous organizations such as al-Qaeda—which as Omar suggests to us, are nothing to be afraid of—why does not the proud Somali Muslim woman move back to the country of her birth?

It seems, however, that the people of Minnesota are abundantly blessed with enough Somalis—80,000, in fact, including 43,000 settled there by noted American patriot Barack Hussein Obama—to make Ilhan Omar feel quite at home in the frosty and forested state on America’s Canadian border.

The people of Minnesota, however, may not quite feel as comfortable with this demographic change as Representative Omar does.

In fact, there have been a host of ethnically motivated gruesome murders and attempted murders upon Minnesotans by Omar’s voting base.

A notable recent example was the case of a five-year-old boy who was thrown off a balcony at the Mall of America by Emmanuel Deshawn Aranda, misleadingly described by the media merely as a “Minnesota man.”

Moreover, in a bit of Orwellian cruelty, the media seeking to avoid a conservative backlash fueled by yet another violent ethnically motivated immigrant attack, initially referred to the attempted murder as an “accident” or “fall.”

Indeed, the list of violent crimes resulting from intense cultural and religious friction the once peaceful and united “Land of 10,0000 Lakes” is so long as to make linking to all of them impossible.

The post-World War II luxury of Americans sitting comfortably in their homes watching anti-American politicians and brutal street violence in far off lands on their TVs is now, sadly, over.

As Norman Podhoretz recently argued, there is a need for a vigilant and honest assessment not only of current American immigration policy but the entire phenomenon of post-1965 immigration.

We need a country that has a diversity that works; one in which cultures live together loyally and lovingly as Americans.

As Abraham Lincoln famously said on the steps of the Illinois State Legislature in 1858, “A house divided against itself, cannot stand.”

Photo Credit: Stephen Maturen/AFP/Getty Images

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

The New Social Contract We Must Reject

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

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

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

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

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

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

How did this happen?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Photo credit:  Getty Images

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