As part of the promotion for his new movie, America, D’Souza did a little cut-and-paste on the interview that Barack Obama did with Zach Galifinakis. It’s fairly amusing. What interested me more was the very last part of the video, which has a preview of America. I have to say that the cuts of America’s contributions to the world gave me chills, so I was primed for the import of the movie’s premise: What if America never existed? It’s a shame that these movies don’t make it to Marin.
A friend sent me this great Facebook post:
A Country Founded by Geniuses, but Run by Democrats
If you can get arrested for hunting or fishing without a license, but not for entering and remaining in the country illegally — you might live in a nation that was founded by geniuses, but is run by Democrats.
If you have to get your parents’ permission to go on a field trip or to take an aspirin in school, but not to get an abortion — you might live in a nation that was founded by geniuses, but is run by Democrats.
If you MUST show your identification to board an airplane, cash a check, buy liquor, or check out a library book and rent a video, but not to vote for who runs the government — you might live in a nation that was founded by geniuses, but is run by Democrats.
If the government wants to prevent stable, law-abiding citizens from owning gun magazines that hold more than ten rounds, but gives twenty F-16 fighter jets to the crazy new leaders in Egypt — you might live in a nation that was founded by geniuses, but is run by Democrats.
If, in the nation’s largest city, you can buy two 16-ounce sodas, but not one 24-ounce soda, because 24-ounces of a sugary drink might make you fat — you might live in a nation that was founded by geniuses, but is run by Democrats.
If an 80-year-old woman or a three-year-old girl who is confined to a wheelchair can be strip-searched by the TSA at the airport, but a woman in a burka or a hijab is only subject to having her neck and head searched — you might live in a nation that was founded by geniuses, but is run by Democrats.
If your government believes that the best way to eradicate trillions of dollars of debt is to spend trillions more — you might live in a nation that was founded by geniuses, but is run by Democrats.
If a seven-year-old boy can be thrown out of school for saying his teacher is “cute,” but hosting a sexual exploration or diversity class in grade school is perfectly acceptable — you might live in a nation that was founded by geniuses, but is run by Democrats.
If hard work and success are met with higher taxes and more government regulation and intrusion, while not working is rewarded with Food Stamps, WIC checks, Medicaid benefits, subsidized housing, and free cell phones — you might live in a nation that was founded by geniuses, but is run by Democrats.
And this is what Orwell’s “doublethink” is all about: “Doublethink means the power of holding two contradictory beliefs in one’s mind simultaneously, and accepting both of them.”
Last night, we went to see the American
Conservative Conservatory Theater’s production of 1776 — The Musical. It was a lovely production, with almost uniformly strong performances. 1776 hit Broadway in 1969, at the height of the Vietnam war and one year into Nixon’s first term. Although ostensibly meant to record (musically) those Continental Congress deliberations that led to the signing of the Declaration of Independence (it starts on May 7, 1776, and concludes on July 4, 1776), the book’s writers couldn’t resist throwing in some pro-Democrat, anti-War politics along the way — but more on that later.
The play’s energy comes from John Adams, the explosive, deeply committed patriot who was, as the characters keep reminding him, “obnoxious and disliked,” but was nevertheless respected for his driving will. The character is drawn as cantankerous, loyal, brilliant, and devoted to his wife, Abigail. Credit goes to John Hickok for his solid performance. He acted well, sang well, and danced well, which is always a good thing in musical theater.
Likewise, Andrew Boyer was a charming Benjamin Franklin, a genius, wit, patriot, and semi-faux dilettante who was, nevertheless, just as committed to the cause of liberty as was Adams. Unlike Howard da Silva, the actor in the original stage version, who also starred in the 1972 movie of the same name, Boyer did not use a booming, deep voice for the part. Instead, he opted for the slightly tremulous voice of an older man. On rare occasions, his words seemed to slither down his neck and into his collar, but overall making it clear that Franklin had been around a while made for a smart performance.
Brandon Dahlquisit played Thomas Jefferson, and while he was occasionally too languid and passive for my taste, he had a lovely voice.
Although the three leads anchored the play, the star turns came from Jeff Parker, as John Dickinson, the landed Pennsylvanian who would not separate from England, and Jared Zimmerman, as Edward Rutledge, the slave-owning
North South Carolina planter who would not tolerate Jefferson’s stand against slavery in the proposed Declaration of Independence and who, in a magnificently delivered performance of Molasses to Rum, about the “triangle trade“, reminded the assembled New Englanders that they too profited from slavery. Both men fully inhabited their roles and their singing was better than the lead actors. Parker also demonstrated true professionalism when he refused to let a bloody nose impair one of his key scenes defending the status quo.
The rest of the cast turned in equally fine performances. There are only two female roles in the play, but both actresses carried them off well. Abby Mueller, as Abigail Adams, couldn’t sing as well as she could act, but her acting was warm and immediate enough to overcome her occasional lapses into sour notes. Andrea Prestinario, who had the one other female role, as Martha Jefferson, Thomas’s new bride, was pretty as a picture and could sing quite well. She was a little too enthusiastic as Jefferson’s well-loved bride the morning after, but it was a charming performance.
As for the rest of the men portraying the delegates to the Continental Congress, military messengers, and pages, each fully carried his own weight. Their performances were fluent and their singing was tuneful (always a good thing in a musical).
The production quality was as good as the acting. The set was a simple one, never shifting from the interior of Constitution Hall (as it’s now known) in Philadelphia. The men sat at and moved around tables set in tiers, with the highest point occupied by John Hancock, the Congress’s president, and the Congress’s secretary. On the stage’s left, were those opposed to independence (southern slavers and northern landowners) and on the right were those who supported it (small northern farmers, laborers, and professionals). The costumes were just right — neither too fancy, nor too plain — and the nine-pierce orchestra, which was hidden under a stage extension built over the pit, did a delightful and professional job.
All in all, it was as good a performance as one could ask for. And yet, I still have quibbles.
Quibble number one: The second act drags. The first act has several cheerful, rousing, clever songs. The second act is dominated by dirges about war and slavery. The entire audience was getting very restless in the last half hour. A man seated near me fell asleep, snoring loudly; another person kept burping; while a third man went on a knuckle-cracking binge. I understand that the authors wanted us to have a sense of how fragile the alliance was between north and south, and landed and professional, but the second act should have been trimmed, either when written or when produced.
Quibble number two: The waltz did not exist in 1776, although it crops up in two musical numbers. Just sayin’….
Quibble number three (and this is the big one): When John Dickinson makes the case for staying loyal to England, the Mother Country that has served many well, and that offers tremendous opportunities in the new world for wealth and advancement, the scene ends with slave-0wners and the gentry singing “Cool, Cool Considerate Men.” By the time the song begins, the audience fully understands that these are the “bad” guys because they support slavery and big money at the expense of “the people.” Having established this premise, the song then goes on the attack against Republicans, circa 1969. The men identify themselves as “conservative” and, in a repeated chorus, say that the country must move “to the right” and never “to the left.”
The audience in San Francisco loved this song, chortling every time the dandified 1 percenters moved “to the right.” I, on the other hand, wanted to stand up and holler out, don’t you guys know any history? The notion of conservative is as 19th century construct, while the ideas of Left and Right originated with French Revolution, in 1789, long after the events portrayed.
Speaking of the French Parliament, Baron de Gauville explained, “We began to recognize each other: those who were loyal to religion and the king took up positions to the right of the chair so as to avoid the shouts, oaths, and indecencies that enjoyed free rein in the opposing camp.” It’s worth keeping in mind that the ones on the Left eventually relied on the guillotine to make their point.
No one in the Continental Congress was moving either Left or Right. Nor was the Revolution one of the “workers of the world,” since this was a pre-industralized era, versus “capitalists.” The American revolution was a middle class revolution. Middle class people in the north (farmers, tradesman, professionals) and middle class people in the south (plantation owners, tradesman, professionals) were yearning for economic freedom. They actually had few problems with the British model for law and society. They simply resented being bossed around from the other side of the Atlantic, often to their economic detriment.
For a song to imply that Republicans — the party that freed the slaves — are a bunch of Neanderthal racists is invariably irritating, and tends to blunt my enjoyment of 1776. It also foments stupidity in the audience, blunting their ability to realize that Republicans, who value individual liberty, are the heirs of the Founders, as opposed to Democrats, the party of big government, who would have chosen, in 1776, to remain wedded to England, with everyone subordinate to the King.
If you’re in the Bay Area, and want to see a good performance of a Broadway classic, I can recommend this production. Just keep in mind that, despite the strong often impressive reliance on historic events, it’s entertainment, not fact.
So far, despite the efforts of some people who will go nameless in this post, we continue to be blessed to live in the United States of America. Despite the constant nibbling away at the edges, we are still a land of free, brave, and prosperous people, and we can only hope that we stay that way.
The men who signed this great document did so knowing that, the moment their name appeared on that paper, they had the hangman’s rope around their neck. It was win or die.
At many times over the next seven years, death seemed like a very real possibility to these patriots, and there were certainly man ordinary men — not statesmen, but farmers and shopkeepers, fathers, brothers, and sons — who freely gave their lives on the field of battle to the greater cause of individual liberty.
In the American of 2013, we too often look back and see America’s independence as a foregone conclusion. There were no such comforting conclusions then. Instead, there were many dark days when it looked as if freedom was illusory and impossible. Those patriots never gave up their struggling for individual liberty and neither should we.
Happy July 4th!!
And thanks to the men and women who have put themselves at the front line to preserve this liberty over the years.
Happy birthday, America!
I’m quite the traditionalist when it comes to renditions of the Star Spangled Banner, but I really, really like the passion behind Madison Rising’s version. They’re looking to reach 5,000,000 hits this July 4th, so please watch it and, if you like it, spread the love:
By the way, you can contrast this heartfelt version, with its deep and abiding respect for America, with Lady Gaga’s gay-themed version.
UPDATE: One more thing to add here is that Madison Rising is a conservative band, dedicated to using the gospel of rock to sell conservative beliefs and American patriotism. I like that in a rock band.
For reasons I’ll explain shortly, I was kvelling to a friend about how wonderful Marin County is. I then wrapped up by saying the Marin is an outlier, unlike the rest of America. The moment the words were out of my mouth, it occurred to me that I’m probably wrong. While Marin is an outlier economically, being one of the richest counties in America, the values I’m about to describe are American and it’s the large urban areas, the ones that fill the headlines, that are American outliers.
To begin at the beginning….
My son had a school project that required him to ask people to fill out a little survey. Having exhausted the neighborhood without receiving a sufficient number of responses (most people are out of town for ski week, which is a wealthy community’s luxury vacation), he got permission at the local mall to set up a table.
I can only say that people were lovely. Those that couldn’t, or didn’t want to, participate, were polite. And those who did participate were delightful. One parent, having taken the survey, returned home and immediately came back with seven children (her own and friends’ children) to help out. I knew several of the people who came by, as well as some of the children whom I’d watched grow up over the years. My overall sense was of a happy, healthy, highly functional little community.
Based upon my perception that I live in a very good community, I later remarked to my friend that we are lucky to live in Marin. I added that it would have been impossible to complete this project in “other communities.” My examples of “other communities” were Oakland and San Francisco — both highly urbanized areas. My friend, however, who lives in one of Oregon’s bigger cities, remarked that, as long as you didn’t wander into one of the yuckier neighborhoods in her city, you could have done the same project in there too.
It was her remark that got me thinking about a little-mentioned American ethos — friendliness. Or perhaps you could call it generosity of spirit.
As you all have gathered, I’ve traveled fairly extensively throughout Western Europe, parts of Central Europe, the Mediterranean, and some parts of Latin America. I’ve sampled the Far East (my Japan trip) and spent meaningful amounts of time in Israel. In every place in which I’ve traveled, I’ve had the pleasure of meeting nice people. (Okay, not in Tunisia, but that was a few months into the Arab Spring, and the Tunisians were clearly a people on edge.)
Despite invariably having met pleasant individuals, I’ve never been a county, other than my own, that offers friendliness as a national hallmark. In my travels abroad, I’m pleasantly surprised when I meet nice, friendly people. At home, I’m equally surprised when I’m met with unfriendliness.
Part of this, of course, is the urban versus suburban or rural divide. As a tourist, one tends to go to the capital cities (London, Rome, New York, Prague, etc.) and the nature of cities is that they are less friendly than smaller communities. That is, unless you go to cities such as Dallas, Houston, or other Southern cities that still take pride in their manners.
Even cities that suck up a lot of headline space with violence horror stories tend to confine that icky behavior to specific neighborhoods. I know that Chicago is right up there amongst America’s murder capitals, but when I was in downtown Chicago on a business trip a few years ago, people couldn’t have been nicer. The same holds true for other major American cities, provided that one is able to overlook regional eccentricities. For example, people in Boston were rigid, but friendly; people in New York, rude but friendly; and people in L.A. peculiar, but friendly.
We Americans are fully aware of how nice we are. Or, rather, we’re aware that, barring certain urban environments (which are usually subsets of a larger, nicer urban area), we are nice, helpful, friendly people. That’s why mass murders in suburbs upset us so much. It’s not, as the race-mongers would have us believe, that we only care when white kids die. It’s that we’re terribly aware that urban toxins are polluting our communities. These toxins may not be factory smoke or ground-water pollution, but they are every bit as vile and dangerous.
So is Marin County an outlier because it’s nice? No. It’s an outlier because it’s affluent, but it’s niceness is quintessentially American. That’s something worth remembering when we see headlines about shootings in Vegas or Chicago or Detroit. Although those cities are strongly identified with America, they are behavioral outliers. We’re nice more often than not. (And no, I haven’t found a study to prove this. I’m just basing it on having traveled extensively at home and abroad.)
Oh, one more thing. You know those recently listed, incredibly miserable American cities? Here’s a little chart identify something they all have in common:
You don’t need to be a statistical genius to realize that there’s a strong correlation between Democrat politics (and many of these cities have been Democrat strongholds for decades) and unhappiness. I’m not going to make the effort now, but I’m willing to bet that one could find an equally strong correlation between crime-ridden, or unfriendly, cities and Democrat politics.
Honestly, you’d think that Republicans would figure out a campaign along the lines of “You’ve been miserable Democrats for decades. Try being a happy Republican.”
I did something very nice yesterday: I attended a luncheon at which Victor Davis Hanson spoke. I’ve read his work for years, and knew that I would be in the presence of an intellectual giant. Hanson is an expert in both Classic and military history (not to mention Classic military history). He is also an acute observer of the American political and social scene.
There’s always a risk going in that a Classics scholar’s delivery will dry and dusty, and heavily larded with Latinisms and allusions to long-forgotten historic figures known only to those who have studied them closely. Hanson is not that scholar. Instead, he is the professor you always wished you could have had in college.
Hanson is a focused speaker who uses his unusually wide body of knowledge to support a carefully constructed, well-thought out narrative. He doesn’t waste words. He also doesn’t use sesquipedalian words to impress — nor does he need to. He’s impressive enough speaking in straightforward English. (And yes, it was my little joke to use a ridiculously long word to highlight the fact that Hanson eschews ponderous obfuscation. Yup. Another little — very little — joke.)
So what did Hanson speak about? He spoke about the cusp on which America now finds herself. On the one hand, we see a world in disarray, both at home and abroad. On the other hand, America still towers over other nations when it comes to her people, her resources, and her accomplishments. If America is unable to succeed it will be because we will have followed in the path of other successful nations that disintegrated from within.
Hanson opened by detailing all the facts that should have responsible people worried. The situation abroad his grim. In 2008, Barack Obama promised direct dialog with the North Koreans, Syria, and Iran. Since that time, North Korea has produced a video imagining a joyful future in which North Korea destroys us with a nuclear attack; Syria is in the midst of a bloody civil war, with both sides hating America only slightly less than they hate each other; and Iran gleefully thumbs its nose at the world as it continues work on its nuclear arsenal.
Even as the world’s bad actors — Russia, China, North Korea, Pakistan, Iran, etc. — work to buff their nuclear credentials, Obama is showing his post-election flexibility by promising Russia that America will unilaterally downsize her nuclear arsenal. Those countries within the geographic radius of predatory nuclear nations are (rightly) becoming extremely worried.
In the Middle East, Obama has embraced a bifurcated policy. On the one hand, he leads from behind so that countries such as Egypt, Mali, and Libya can fall into the hands of radical Islamists. On the other hand, his visceral dislike for Netanyahu and Israel gives him an aggressive stance towards that small, democratic nation.
Not only has the Nobel-prize winning President failed to bring about world peace, he’s presided over some of the worst killing in America’s recent wars. Obama has overseen the deaths of as many American troops in four years as George Bush did in eight (not that we hear anything about that from the media). Moreover, the same president who said that it was inhumane and immoral to waterboard three known terrorists has recently announced that he has the unilateral power to use drones to kill American citizens.
I was gratified to hear Hanson make the same point I made during George Bush’s presidency — that his “wild man” persona, no matter how ill-deserved, was an effective deterrent to thugs, because they did not know how he would act under provocation. Obama, though, brings absolutely reliability to the process: When the chips are down . . . he does nothing. This means, Hanson says, that “we’re in a very dangerous period abroad.” Oh, joy.
Things at home aren’t any more cheerful. Hanson, who has an impressive mastery of facts, ran through those gloomy numbers and statistics about the debt, the deficit, the unemployment rate, and the usually flat, but occasionally shrinking, economy.
The only bright spot in Obama’s America is the Left’s/media’s relentless cheerfulness. Having embraced Obama, Hanson notes, the media also embraces a European style economy (not from the hip 60s, but from the decayed 2010s), and calls it good.
California, Hanson’s home state and mine, looks equally grim. Although California has 1/6 of the total American population, it manages to support 1/3 of the nation’s welfare recipients. Despite the highest teacher pay in the US, we’re number 48 in public school education. (California was number 1 in the 1960s and very early 1970s.) And although Californians are forced to fork over the highest taxes in America, we have the worst infrastructure.
These facts are deeply depressing, but there is a bright side, and it’s not that we’re going European. It’s that, if we can find the will, America still has the resources for greatness. To make this point, Hanson pivoted from focusing on the grim news we see in the news every day, and started identifying America’s staggering resources.
Although the U.S. has 6% of the world’s population, we produce 26% of the world’s goods. One American worker is as productive as three Chinese workers.
Our military continues to be the wonder of the world. Even downsized (and Hanson emphasized during the question and answer period that sequestration would slow, rather than reverse, military growth), it will take a long time for other nations to catch up. Even one of our aircraft carriers (and we have eleven) is greater than the carrier strength of the other nations put together. Our problem when it comes to wars, isn’t resources or our troop’s abilities. It’s the leadership’s will to win, or lack thereof.
Despite the shabby state of our primary education system, and despite the political correctness that has destroyed liberal arts programs all over America, when it comes to the hard sciences, the US still leads in higher education. Of the top ten ranked universities in the world, eight are American. And of the top ranked fifteen, five of those are in California.
Either because of, or despite, our education system, America continues to lead the world in technological innovation. In that regard, California’s own Silicon Valley, despite California’s hostile business environment, is still one of the most important intellectual and electronic/technological hubs in the world.
We also lead the world when it comes to exporting our culture. Americans may be fascinated by a variety of indigenous cultures around the world, but everyone else wants to be American. They watch our movies, buy our clothes, listen to our music, mimic our military, copy our educational institutions, and love our food.
Our fundamental strength has long been and, for now, continues to be the fact that we are not a class-based society. Unlike all other countries (whether modern European ones, Latin American banana republics, or Eastern autocracies), people in America do not need the right social or familial connections, the right accent, the right university degree, or the right anything else to succeed. If they’ve got discipline and drive, they’ll rise up, and if they add to that a touch of marketplace genius, the sky’s the limit.
America’s “room at the top” philosophy may explain why America is the only major nation left in the world with a positive demographic growth trend. Not only do immigrants want to come here, but people who live here still believe in having children. With our fertility rate at 2.1, we’re still growing ever so slightly.
The same is not true for the rest of the world. In Japan, said Hanson, the stores sold more diapers last year for old people than they did for babies. All over Europe, countries have negative population growth. China still has 1 billion or so people, but the Chinese one-child policy has ensured that the future will see a dramatically shrunken population. Russia has more abortions than babies.
The Arab world and Iran are in even worse shape. Aside from a catastrophic demographic decline, if one takes away their oil (which is beginning to be tapped out) it turns out that they do not have functioning economies. They have no education, their misogyny means that 50% of their population cannot contribute to their economic well-being, and their controlling doctrine, even more than Islam, is nihilism. When they insist on a world-wide caliphate, they don’t offer any positive vision about this new world. Instead, they threaten only destruction.
At the end of his talk, Hanson half-jokingly said that the Islamist line of argument is “Give us what we want, or we’ll make you as miserable as we are.” Part of America’s diffidence in dealing with Islamists is that we’re unwilling to suffer for short intervals, even if that limited suffering is what it takes to protect entirely us from Islamic nihilism.
The European Union is also a disaster. Not only is it going broke very quickly, it’s completely undemocratic. Once accepted into the EU, countries must abide by its Kafka-esque bureaucratic rulings. Worse, once in, there is no mechanism for dissatisfied countries to leave. (When Hanson said that, it occurred to me that the EU is the governmental equivalent of a Roach Motel: countries check in, but they don’t check out.)
Our wonderful Constitution, despite the current fights over the Second Amendment and the religious component of the First, is mostly intact. Because we have a simple, functioning Constitution, we are the most stable major nation in the world.
America is also fortunate that we have massive amounts of the two things that every society needs to survive: food and fuel. Even the Democrat’s relentless attack on California’s central valley (which sees vast swathes of land reduced to dust in order to protect the Delta Smelt), has not changed our status as the world’s major food producer. Not only do we grow the most food, people like and want American food — it’s clean, safe, and tasty.
We also lead the world in fossil fuel reserves. While the Arab lands are being pumped dry, American ingenuity means that, on private lands all over America, we are starting to produce meaningful amounts of oil and natural gas that can support us at home and leave enough to send abroad. If Obama would allow drilling on federal land, and if democrat-run states would allow drilling on their soil, we would have almost unimaginable amounts of cheap fuel. (Obama, amusingly, used the SOTU to boast about America’s oil production, even as he conveniently forgot to tell the American people that this production is all on private land, since he and many Democrat governors have forbidden it on public land.)
America also continues to be the world’s largest coal producer. [UPDATE: I erred when i said this. Please see a comprehensive correction here.] Surprisingly, given the Left’s war on coal, it’s still a money-maker. Even though the government is preventing its use at home, the rest of the world, especially Europe, is begging for more.
Given America’s vast human and natural resources, why aren’t we doing better? I can stop looking at my notes now, and quote directly from Hanson’s latest article at National Review:
The gradual decline of a society is often a self-induced process of trying to meet ever-expanding appetites rather than a physical inability to produce past levels of food and fuel or to maintain adequate defense. Americans have never had safer workplaces or more sophisticated medical care — and never have so many been on disability.
By any historical marker, the future of Americans has never been brighter. The United States has it all: undreamed-of new finds of natural gas and oil, the world’s preeminent food production, continual technological wizardry, strong demographic growth, a superb military, and constitutional stability.
Yet we don’t talk confidently about capitalizing and expanding on our natural and inherited wealth. Instead, Americans bicker over entitlement spoils as the nation continues to pile up trillion-dollar-plus deficits. Enforced equality, rather than liberty, is the new national creed. The medicine of cutting back on government goodies seems far worse than the disease of borrowing trillions from the unborn to pay for them.
History has shown that a government’s redistribution of shrinking wealth, in preference to a private sector’s creation of new sources of it, can prove more destructive than even the most deadly enemy.
(You really should read the whole article, which is a pleasing amalgam of ancient history, mid-20th century trends, and our modern condition. It takes a truly great writer and thinker to blend those disparate elements so seamlessly and to arrive at a compelling conclusion.)
If the opportunity to hear Victor Davis Hanson comes your way, seize it. It’s a great pleasure to be in the same room as a speaker who uses his education, knowledge, and intelligence to support fundamental American principles.
I thought about Margaret Thatcher today. Lord knows, she was something. Brilliant, indomitable, focused, feisty, witty, and absolutely convinced of her right-ness and righteousness. She was the un-RINO. Her unswerving commitment to her principles enabled her to turn England around. We forget that sometimes, because the Labor party managed to take her legacy and destroy it by turning England into an Orwellian state.
For a few brief shining years, though, she fought back against a socialist norm that had turned England into a decayed, drab society. She privatized businesses, fought victorious wars, and generally reminded the English of their greatness. I was there during that transition period. The unions fought back ferociously but Maggie, unlike today’s loosey-goosey Republicans, would not back down. She wasn’t driven by polls or scared by a Leftist media. She understood economics and human nature. The last half of the 1980s and much of the 1990s saw an English economic renaissance. Had the British people been smart, they could have kept it going; instead, they opted for a renewal of socialism, the EU, unlimited immigration, and the strong velvet chains of a nanny state.
I mention this because I refuse to accept that Obama can “destroy” America. He can — and will — damage it. If we can get a handful of Maggie Thatchers, though, or even one Maggie Thatcher, someone who is both a visionary and a fighter, America can be turned around. And if we’re smart, once that turnaround happens, we’ll stick with it.
Incidentally, although this sounds awful, I think we need to go over the fiscal cliff in January. Three reasons: First, this is what Americans voted for and, in a republican democracy, they should get it; Second, the longer we delay, the worse the inevitable fall will be; and Third, this disaster needs to happy during the long haul of a Democrat presidency (and Senate) so that Americans can grasp cause-and-effect. Only when the socialist economic infection erupts in its full fury will Americans begin to accept that their nation is sick. When that happens, God willing, we’ll have a Thatcher-esque politician cogently explaining to Americans that the cure lies in reaffirming constitutional and free market principles.
For a bleak look at America’s future as the “New France” and a ray of sunshine called hope, a Frenchman comes a-blowing the clarion call to resistance against the Progressive barbarian Left. The key take-away:
“Once again, you don’t need a lecture from this Frenchman, but it seems to me that some of you, in the emotion of that unexpected electoral defeat, forgot this simple fact: America is always outnumbered.
This unique nation, founded not on feudal or religious fault lines but on a radical philosophy of individual freedom isn’t the norm in this world: it is an anomaly. If you needed a quick and simple reminder on the basis for American exceptionalism, there you go.
America is always outnumbered and, until the rest of the world sees the guiding light and builds shining cities on America’s model—if that day ever comes—America will always be outnumbered.
Yet it doesn’t matter: America’s strength isn’t in numbers, it’s in her soul.
Hear this final prophecy America: only one man can kill the Republic, and it isn’t Barack Obama. The one man who will kill your Republic is the one man who will last give up and renounce it.
Don’t you dare be that man.”
Vive la Resistance!
Yes, I understand that the embassy in Cairo is besieged but it does strike me as cowardly to abandon core principles as this juncture (emphasis mine):
U.S. Embassy Condemns Religious Incitement
September 11, 2012
The Embassy of the United States in Cairo condemns the continuing efforts by misguided individuals to hurt the religious feelings of Muslims – as we condemn efforts to offend believers of all religions. Today, the 11th anniversary of the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks on the United States, Americans are honoring our patriots and those who serve our nation as the fitting response to the enemies of democracy. Respect for religious beliefs is a cornerstone of American democracy. We firmly reject the actions by those who abuse the universal right of free speech to hurt the religious beliefs of others.
You’d think that you wouldn’t have to provide basic constitutional lessons for U.S. Embassy employees but I guess they need a little review:
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.
If we Americans want to say Islam is an incitement to violence, we can. If we want to put Jesus in a vat full of urine, we can. If we want to say Jews are greedy, we can. If we want to say Hindus worship cows, we can. If we want to say Mormons wear funny underwear, we can. We are allowed to hurt the religious feelings of religious people. It’s our right as Americans to be rude. Neither tact, nor forbearance, nor non-mutual respect, nor polite lies are required under our Constitution.
Last thought: It is possible that the language from embassy — that it’s bad “to hurt the religious feelings of Muslims” — is as foolish as it is because the embassy people meant them ironically. Perhaps the White House said “say something that won’t hurt Muslim feelings,” and some P.O.’d embassy official came back with this nonsensical, unconstitutional PC fecal matter. I mean, the statement is too close to parody to be real. Isn’t it? Come on, someone. Please agree with me right about now.
Of course, if that statement is a heartfelt expression from America’s representative on Egypt’s soil, God help us all, because our government is in the hands of dhimmis.
UPDATE: For more on embassy awfulness (proving that this is no joke, but is their real thinking) just check their twitter feed:
Is it possible that these government representatives do not understand that the essence of free speech is the ability to criticize religion? No, it may not be very nice, but in a normal, non-sharia, world, this type of criticism leads to a debate that enriches the marketplace of ideas — and may the best idea win. We do America a profound and lasting disservice if we abandon this core principle to pander to a 7th century mentality, the practitioners of which are deathly afraid to subject their beliefs to an intellectual airing and analysis.
Spending two weeks in a country does not make one an expert on that country. Indeed, I’m sure the opposite is true, which is that one learns just enough to be dangerous. One sees the country without understanding it. Nevertheless, both from looking at the Japanese in action and from speaking to myriad people, both Japanese and Western, I’m prepared to make the dangerous leap to conclusions.
I can’t speak for other people, but what struck me most strongly about Japan was the homogeneity — not just racially, although it is bizarre in today’s world to be in a country where everyone, with the exception of tourists and the American military, is racially Japanese — but also behaviorally. No matter where we traveled in Honshu, the behaviors were identical. Everyone said “Arigatou gozaimasu” (0r “thank you very much”) constantly. And I do mean constantly. Whether listening to shop keepers, desk clerks, train announcements, bus drivers, subway passengers, or anyone else in any other walk of life, that phrase must have popped up every third or fourth sentence. So much so that one began to doubt that it had any real meaning. It began to feel like a verbal twitch, akin to an American “um” or “like.” Nevertheless, the Japanese fully understand its polite import, and someone who deletes that phrase from his or her vocabulary is definitely rude.
The bowing is akin to the thank yous — all the Japanese do that, to the point at which it feels leached of meaning. However, had anyone failed to do it, it would have been quite obviously rude. I found myself bowing reflexively and then, being American, felt guilty for doing so. Americans shouldn’t be bowing. I consoled myself, though, by telling myself it’s a meaningless, mannered act, rather than a showing of fealty to a sovereign power. Given the reflexive bowing, I was almost inclined to forgive Obama for bowing to the Emperor — but not quite. He’s the American president and it was just wrong to bow to the Emperor, no matter how nice a man the Emperor is and no matter the ritual nature of the bow.
Wherever we traveled, the bus drivers spoke in sibilant whispers. As best as we could tell, they were constantly muttering under their breath such things as “Everyone sit down, thank you very much,” “we’re all on the bus, thank you very much,” “move to the back, thank you very much,” “the next stop is _______________, thank you very much,” or various other mindless nothings, many of which had already been announced on the overhead recording (complete with multiple pre-recorded “thank you very muches”). Please note that it wasn’t just the repetitive phrases that were homogenous — it was that identical whisper that the drivers all over Honshu murmured into the microphones. The first time it was funny, the second intriguing, the third, fourth and etc., it was kind of weird.
My overall sense was that the Japanese are obsessively attached to behaviors. I liked their obsessive cleanliness, since it meant that travel was less onerous to me. Since I was raised by a (Japanese) concentration camp survivor with a fetish for cleanliness (cleanliness in a tropical camp could mean the difference between life and death), I have a few obsessive behaviors myself. Traveling always squeezes me emotionally, as I deal with musty beds and less-than-clean bathrooms. In Japan, especially because we stayed in tour-group vetted hotels, I didn’t see anything that was less-than-clean.
Nevertheless, even with my appreciation for all things clean, it was strange that, everywhere we went, barring public venues such as train stations or stadiums, the bathrooms were equipped with virtually identical bathroom slippers. They might be a plain tan color or, more commonly, a snazzy his-and-her toilet design (see below), but they were all styled the same.
The deal with these slippers is that, when you enter a bathroom barefoot or in socks (as is the case in all homes, hotels or nice restaurants), you immediately put on the toilet slippers. If you forget to take them off when you leave the bathroom, it’s akin to walking out with toilet paper attached to your derriere. Being a fastidious type, I liked the fact that I didn’t have to walk barefoot onto a potentially urine-spattered floor. Nevertheless, the ubiquity of identical slippers no matter where we traveled was peculiar.
The most fascinating example of the Japanese ability to function in unison was the baseball game we attended. Although I’m no baseball fan, it was a very enjoyable experience. The stadium was, of course, immaculate (including the bathrooms). The fans were happy and friendly, making it a vastly different experience from attending, say, an Oakland Raiders game, which can be rather frightening. The fans never booed the opposing team or a bad player on their own team. Instead, they cheered for their own team. We Americans cheer too, but in a chaotic, unstructured fashion. The Japanese have cheerleaders in every section and the fans follow along with chants and rhythmic beats on their noisemakers (which look a bit like small bowling pins). I’m not unique in observing this. Others, too, have drawn the same conclusions about Japanese group think as played out in the baseball stadium:
The difference is in the atmosphere of the stadium as the game is being played. Both teams had huge bleacher-seating fan sections all of whom cheered for every batter during every inning. This is not just random cheering, it’s highly organized. Think college football games, except pull people from all ages and demographics. Everyone had noise makers and shirts. Businessmen in suits pulled a jersey over their shirt and tie. Old women screamed their hearts out.
The collective nature of the cheering reflects Japanese culture of groupthink, not standing out, etc. I’ve never seen such a highly organized cheering machine in any other sports venue or game I’ve attended. Such a collective fan spirit means many people show up by themselves but instantly join in. The fans cheer while their players are batting. Then they sit down and are quiet the other half of the inning, again reflecting the Japanese value of respect and dignity for opponents.
The whole baseball game experience was charming, but the groupthink bothered me. You see, as far as I’m concerned, groupthink goes a long way to explaining how a polite, thoughtful, kind, decent group of people can suddenly morph into a monomaniacal killing machine. The Japanese did it. The Germans did it. The Chinese did it. If the lemming group moves in a nice direction, all is good. However, if the lemmings get steered towards the cliff, nothing will stop them. Since morality is defined by manners, when the manners dictate death, off they all go, engaging in mass suicide or homicide.
Americans, traditionally, have appeared more like surly herded cats than enthusiastic lemmings. For every stain on American history (slavery, the treatment of the Indians, the imprisonment of Japanese-Americans, Jim Crow), there have been countervailing forces, vigorously protesting these injustices. Yes, the injustices happened, but they were never the product of a unanimous society mindlessly going along. Instead, they were the result of societal tension and were destroyed by that same societal tension.
Many years ago, I read Pierre Berton’s Klondike : The Last Great Gold Rush, 1896-1899. I enjoyed reading the book, but with time’s passage, only two things remain in my memory. The first is Berton’s description of the Klondike mosquitoes, which were so big and aggressive that they could quickly kill a horse. The second is his description of a town that was split evenly down the middle between Canada and the United States. On the Canadian side, the townspeople instantly formed a provisional government, and quickly had an orderly, top-down society. The American side, however, was a Wild West town, with a pure democracy, in which every townsman had a voice. The streets were muddy, crime was rife, and little got done.
At the time I read the book, I was actually embarrassed by the American Klondike town — “What violent, disorganized losers Americans are!” Since then, though, I’ve come to appreciate the American unwillingness to bow down to leaders. We don’t — and shouldn’t — look to a strong leader for help. We look to ourselves. It may slow us down, but it also allows us to innovate and, most importantly, helps us put the brakes on bad ideas. We herd as badly as cats do, and we should be grateful for that fact.
The Declaration of Independence: A Transcription
IN CONGRESS, July 4, 1776.
The unanimous Declaration of the thirteen united States of America,
When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.
We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.–That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, –That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn, that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security.–Such has been the patient sufferance of these Colonies; and such is now the necessity which constrains them to alter their former Systems of Government. The history of the present King of Great Britain is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations, all having in direct object the establishment of an absolute Tyranny over these States. To prove this, let Facts be submitted to a candid world.
He has refused his Assent to Laws, the most wholesome and necessary for the public good.
He has forbidden his Governors to pass Laws of immediate and pressing importance, unless suspended in their operation till his Assent should be obtained; and when so suspended, he has utterly neglected to attend to them.
He has refused to pass other Laws for the accommodation of large districts of people, unless those people would relinquish the right of Representation in the Legislature, a right inestimable to them and formidable to tyrants only.
He has called together legislative bodies at places unusual, uncomfortable, and distant from the depository of their public Records, for the sole purpose of fatiguing them into compliance with his measures.
He has dissolved Representative Houses repeatedly, for opposing with manly firmness his invasions on the rights of the people.
He has refused for a long time, after such dissolutions, to cause others to be elected; whereby the Legislative powers, incapable of Annihilation, have returned to the People at large for their exercise; the State remaining in the mean time exposed to all the dangers of invasion from without, and convulsions within.
He has endeavoured to prevent the population of these States; for that purpose obstructing the Laws for Naturalization of Foreigners; refusing to pass others to encourage their migrations hither, and raising the conditions of new Appropriations of Lands.
He has obstructed the Administration of Justice, by refusing his Assent to Laws for establishing Judiciary powers.
He has made Judges dependent on his Will alone, for the tenure of their offices, and the amount and payment of their salaries.
He has erected a multitude of New Offices, and sent hither swarms of Officers to harrass our people, and eat out their substance.
He has kept among us, in times of peace, Standing Armies without the Consent of our legislatures.
He has affected to render the Military independent of and superior to the Civil power.
He has combined with others to subject us to a jurisdiction foreign to our constitution, and unacknowledged by our laws; giving his Assent to their Acts of pretended Legislation:
For Quartering large bodies of armed troops among us:
For protecting them, by a mock Trial, from punishment for any Murders which they should commit on the Inhabitants of these States:
For cutting off our Trade with all parts of the world:
For imposing Taxes on us without our Consent:
For depriving us in many cases, of the benefits of Trial by Jury:
For transporting us beyond Seas to be tried for pretended offences
For abolishing the free System of English Laws in a neighbouring Province, establishing therein an Arbitrary government, and enlarging its Boundaries so as to render it at once an example and fit instrument for introducing the same absolute rule into these Colonies:
For taking away our Charters, abolishing our most valuable Laws, and altering fundamentally the Forms of our Governments:
For suspending our own Legislatures, and declaring themselves invested with power to legislate for us in all cases whatsoever.
He has abdicated Government here, by declaring us out of his Protection and waging War against us.
He has plundered our seas, ravaged our Coasts, burnt our towns, and destroyed the lives of our people.
He is at this time transporting large Armies of foreign Mercenaries to compleat the works of death, desolation and tyranny, already begun with circumstances of Cruelty & perfidy scarcely paralleled in the most barbarous ages, and totally unworthy the Head of a civilized nation.
He has constrained our fellow Citizens taken Captive on the high Seas to bear Arms against their Country, to become the executioners of their friends and Brethren, or to fall themselves by their Hands.
He has excited domestic insurrections amongst us, and has endeavoured to bring on the inhabitants of our frontiers, the merciless Indian Savages, whose known rule of warfare, is an undistinguished destruction of all ages, sexes and conditions.
In every stage of these Oppressions We have Petitioned for Redress in the most humble terms: Our repeated Petitions have been answered only by repeated injury. A Prince whose character is thus marked by every act which may define a Tyrant, is unfit to be the ruler of a free people.
Nor have We been wanting in attentions to our Brittish brethren. We have warned them from time to time of attempts by their legislature to extend an unwarrantable jurisdiction over us. We have reminded them of the circumstances of our emigration and settlement here. We have appealed to their native justice and magnanimity, and we have conjured them by the ties of our common kindred to disavow these usurpations, which, would inevitably interrupt our connections and correspondence. They too have been deaf to the voice of justice and of consanguinity. We must, therefore, acquiesce in the necessity, which denounces our Separation, and hold them, as we hold the rest of mankind, Enemies in War, in Peace Friends.
We, therefore, the Representatives of the united States of America, in General Congress, Assembled, appealing to the Supreme Judge of the world for the rectitude of our intentions, do, in the Name, and by Authority of the good People of these Colonies, solemnly publish and declare, That these United Colonies are, and of Right ought to be Free and Independent States; that they are Absolved from all Allegiance to the British Crown, and that all political connection between them and the State of Great Britain, is and ought to be totally dissolved; and that as Free and Independent States, they have full Power to levy War, conclude Peace, contract Alliances, establish Commerce, and to do all other Acts and Things which Independent States may of right do. And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes and our sacred Honor.
The 56 signatures on the Declaration appear in the positions indicated:
Thomas Heyward, Jr.
Thomas Lynch, Jr.
Charles Carroll of Carrollton
Richard Henry Lee
Thomas Nelson, Jr.
Francis Lightfoot Lee
Robert Treat Paine
With a birthday that falls very close to July 4, I’ve always been quite proprietorial about this holiday. One small part of my brain, while watching fireworks, always thinks “For me? Why thank you!”
Fortunately, that’s only a smart part of my brain at work. The bigger part of my brain has a more noble thought: the best birthday gift in the world is that I am an American, born into a country that, by its founding charter, maximizes individual freedom and minimizes government control over people’s lives.
This year, we are very much at a crossroads. In 2008, the American people decided to experiment by granting virtually unlimited political power to a cadre of people who have faith only in government, and who view the American people as infantile ignoramuses who can function only under the direction of self-styled experts. This experiment has seen these experts abandon the contractual relationship that is supposed to control the various branches of government in their relationship to each other and in their relationship to the people. I will not do a parade of grievances here (you can readily compile your own), but I will note that it was a parade of grievances resulting from overwhelming government pressure that, in 1776, led the American colonists to part ways with Britain. Historically, Americans don’t like to be pushed around.
My hope for the coming election is that Americans find their backbone and their maturity. Both backbone and maturity can be scary. An adult, looking at a sleeping baby, thinks how delightful it must be to be coddled and bathed and fed and sheltered, all with minimal effort on the baby’s part.
What adults forget is how desperately children seek out and fight for freedom and responsibility as they grow. From the toddler’s “No,” to the five-year-old’s “I can do this myself,” to the teenager’s “You’re not the boss of me,” our development shows that we are programmed to be self-governing. To deny us that growth is to arrest our development in ways that can only stunt us, whether we’re viewed as individuals or a nation.
For reasons unique to me, Bookworm will continue to be my nom de cyber in the coming year. However, on Facebook, which is my main point of intellectual (as opposed to social) contact with my corporeal (as opposed to cyber) friends, I am much more aggressively pursuing a conservative agenda. When people make some fatuous liberal statement, I politely ask them to develop that thought, and then equally politely point out the holes in their reasoning and their facts. With increasing frequency, I’m posting articles that challenge liberal paradigms. I do the same in face-to-face conversations. Confrontation is not my style, but I continuously strive to following Dennis Prager’s dictum to “prefer clarity to agreement” (keeping in mind that clarity often leads to agreement).
One of the things that will help you catch the holes in liberal arguments is to read Jonah Goldberg’s The Tyranny of Cliches: How Liberals Cheat in the War of Ideas. This book gives operating instructions for spotting the conversational tricks that liberals use to shut down conversations without actually having to touch upon substantive issues. You can’t fight what you can’t see. These clichés obscure ideas, leaving hapless conservatives fighting chimeras. Their use also suggests either that liberals have no idea what they’re talking about (the majority, probably) or that they’re very busy hiding the ball (the dangerous power-brokering minority).
The other thing you can do, and this is just for fun, is to help out my friends at Madison Rising. I’ve blogged here before about their Star Spangled Banner, which I thought was spine tingling. The guys have now issued a challenge:
Let’s show Press and Tosh – and everyone else – that we still believe in this country and our National Anthem.
Take the Challenge: Help Madison Rising reach 1 million views & downloads by Election Day (November 6th).
Watch the video NOW. If you like what you see, download the song from one of the sites below. [Go to this link for the download sites.]
Happy Independence Day, Everyone! It’s a great day to be an American.
Regular Bookworm Room readers know that we travel a lot. Mr. Bookworm inclines towards Europe, while I hew to the good ol’ U.S. of A.
While having lunch with Don Quixote today, I said that I’d love to take the kids Boston (which I’ve been to once and they’ve never been to), New York (once for me, twice for the kids), Philadelphia (kids and I have each been once), and Washington, D.C. (once before). Listening to my list, DQ pondered “Where would you go for a Red State vacation?”
That was a very good question. The major tourist cities, including my own San Francisco, are bright blue. When I think of red states, I have a hard time bringing to mind a major tourist destination other than national parks. I love national parks, but is there some Red State destination that is redolent of conservative American values?
So — If you were tasked with planning a two-week family vacation, either by plane or by car, that gave the kids a good taste of Red State America, what itinerary would you choose?
I love fairy tales. I’ve always loved fairy tales. Growing up, I devoured fairy tale books, with special emphasis on the Disney movies, with their beautiful princesses. My personal favorite was Disney’s Cinderella. I saw it once when I was a child and then, in a pre-video era, all I could do was replay endlessly in my memory the wonderful scene when Cinderella’s rags are transformed into a princess’s ball gown. When I saw the movie again as an adult, I was worried that it wouldn’t live up to my expectations, but I needn’t have feared. The movie was as charming as I’d remembered, and the transformation scene was a perfect piece of animation (and, rumor has it, Walt Disney’s own favorite animation moment):
The message in Cinderella couldn’t be more clear. First, be beautiful. But if you can’t achieve beauty, at least be a patient Griselda, one who tirelessly toils for cruel tyrants, with the promise of future reward.
That’s the theme in the majority of fairy tales that originated in the old world: be good, be passive, and some deus ex machina figure, usually magical, will come and rescue you. Passivity is the name of the game. In one fairy tale after another, the lead character, usually the youngest child of at least three siblings, prevails by virtue of being nice.
The other way to prevail in fairy tales that started life in the old world was to use guile. My favorite in this genre is The Valiant Little Tailor:
A tailor is preparing to eat some jam, but when flies settle on it, he kills seven of them with one blow. He makes a belt describing the deed, “Seven at one blow”. Inspired, he sets out into the world to seek his fortune. The tailor meets a giant, who assumes that “Seven at one blow” refers to seven men. The giant challenges the tailor. When the giant squeezes water from a boulder, the tailor squeezes water (or whey) from cheese. The giant throws a rock far into the air, and it eventually lands. The tailor counters the feat by releasing a bird that flies away; the giant believes the small bird is a “rock” which is thrown so far that it never lands. The giant asks the tailor to help carry a tree. The tailor directs the giant to carry the trunk, while the tailor will carry the branches. Instead, the tailor climbs on, so the giant carries him as well.
The giant brings the tailor to the giant’s home, where other giants live as well. During the night, the giant attempts to kill the man. However, the tailor, having found the bed too large, sleeps in the corner. On seeing him still alive, the other giants flee, never to be seen again.
The tailor enters the royal service, but the other soldiers are afraid that he will lose his temper someday, and then seven of them might die with every blow. They tell the king that either the tailor leaves military service, or they will. Afraid of being killed for sending him away, the king instead sends the tailor to defeat two giants, offering him half his kingdom and his daughter’s hand in marriage. By throwing rocks at the two giants while they sleep, the tailor provokes the pair into fighting each other. The king then sends him after a unicorn, but the tailor traps it by standing before a tree, so that when the unicorn charges, he steps aside and it drives its horn into the trunk. The king subsequently sends him after a wild boar, but the tailor traps it in a chapel.
With that, the king marries him to his daughter. His wife hears him talking in his sleep and realizes that he is merely a tailor. Her father the king promises to have him carried off. A squire warns the tailor, who pretends to be asleep and calls out that he has done all these deeds and is not afraid of the men behind the door. Terrified, they leave, and the king does not try again.
Old world fairy tales do not feature epic battles of good against evil, or even minor battles of good against evil. They abandon the heroic tradition of Greek dramas or even the mighty warriors of the Bible. Instead, they present a world of little people who prevail because of good deeds or guile.
Different scholars have theorized that fairy tales originated to keep children in line (hence the emphasis on passivity and good house-cleaning skills as the way to achieve worldly success) or as fireside stories, often quite ribald, that peasants told each other during long, dark nights (explaining the tales that featured otherwise insignificant people prevailing through stealth and guile). Regardless of origin, the net result is a genre that instructs children that assertiveness and self-reliance are much less important than submitting to tyranny with good grace and being sneaky when possible.
American-born fairy tales are vastly different. Of course, I use the phrase “American-born” advisedly. Because America is a nation of immigrants, we imported our fairy tales too, which explains why every American child is conversant with Cinderella, Snow White, and Aladdin. Nevertheless, Americans did create their own canon.
To begin with, American children dined on political hagiographies of our first leaders, with Parson Weems’ delightful, and untrue, stories about Washington leading the pack. These tales focused on distinctly American virtues: being honest, straightforward, and physically brave, virtues that are the antithesis of the trickery or downtrodden apathy in European tales.
American tales also dreamed big. We had the imaginary Paul Bunyan, John Henry, and Pecos Bill, whose size or energy literally changed the landscape in which they lived. Real figures, such as Johnny Appleseed or Davy Crockett had their actual exploits mixed with a large dollop of artistic license, and these tales opened up the West for Americans. Popular literature imagined dynamic, self-confident young people who made their own way in the world. They had help, but it wasn’t magical. Instead, it came from people who were attracted to the hero or heroines can-do spirit and gave them a helping hand. (Louisa May Alcott and Horatio Alger were masters of this genre.)
That notion of the pushing, striving, dynamic American hero got a spectacular boost when Hollywood came into being. Old Hollywood quickly discovered that American audiences craved big stories, with big heroes. Western movies impressed upon Americans that America’s fictional heroes didn’t succeed because they sat around waiting for magic to appear; they succeeded because they blazed trails, fought battles, civilized the wilderness, and generally took control of their own destinies.
World War II movies also emphasized Americans’ fighting spirit. We didn’t have endless movies about our victimization at Pearl Harbor. Instead, movie after movie celebrated America’s fighting spirit, both at home and on the battlefield. We had an enemy, said Hollywood, and we valiantly met in on the field of battle.
In the 1970s, Hollywood started feeling terribly guilty about the cultural imperialism in these tales and came up with the anti-hero. That played well to a guilty middle class, but was never a dramatic trope that had legs. The anti-hero works only if he acts . . . heroically. Americans want the little guy to win because he’s got guts. The artsy crowd may enjoy a Dog Day Afternoon, but ordinary Americans want to see little ole Luke Skywalker take on the empire, intrepid Indiana Jones fight bad guys the world over, or (with a big thank you to the British woman who dreamed him up) Harry Potter and Co. face off squarely against evil, and win through a combination of virtue and martial skills (all nicely packaged in some sparkly magic gimmicks).
The recent staggering success of The Avengers is just one more indication that Americans want their fairy tales to be proactive. The characters in The Avengers are pretty (it is Hollywood after all), but their attractiveness — an attractiveness that has generated a staggering $1 billion in ticket sales — comes about because they are strong and aggressive. They defeat the evil alien force by rock ‘em, sock ‘em, beat ‘em up action. There is no room for negotiation, house cleaning, or even guile here. The only “goodness” that counts is one that is folded tightly into loyalty, patriotism, and physical bravery.
The Left is busily trying to chip away at these classic American virtues. Leftist movies have failed at the box office, but the Leftist challenge to the American virtues of physical bravery can be seen in the Left’s wholeheartedly embrace of the anti-bullying campaign. Many have asked why bullying has seemed to be on the rise in recent years. I think I figured out the answer when, in a casual conversation with my kids, I mentioned “school-yard fights.”
I got a surprising response to that throw-away line: “What’s a school-yard fight, Mom?”
“In the old days,” I said (just like a fairy tale), “when kids, especially boys, would get into fights, they started hitting each other.”
“Did they get suspended?”
“Maybe. But what usually happened was that they’d start swinging at each other. Everyone in the school yard would instantly circle them and start hollering ‘Fight! Fight!’ Then, a teacher would wade through the crowd, saying ‘Come on, everyone, break it up. Break it up now.’ The teacher would then wade into the fight, separate the two kids, shake ‘em out and, more often than not, tell them to stop fighting. And that would be the end of it.”
“That would never happen today.”
(Incidentally, I am not talking about gang fights, which are a form of urban warfare. I’m talking about the old-fashioned elementary school playground battle, where two little kids settled the matter with some kicks and punches.)
No, it certainly wouldn’t. The focus today is on the bully. The bully gets suspended and the bully gets counseling. Kids are told that, if they get bullied, they should immediately get teachers involved. Good kids know that any type of self-defense is dangerous, as it could lead to suspension.
I hate bullying. I was bullied when I was a child and, I’m sad to say, when I had the opportunity, I immediately turned around and bullied others (verbally). I had a sharp tongue and wasn’t afraid to use it. But that sharp tongue was my self-defense. A well-timed insult, especially one that raised a laugh from the audience, deflected the bully and kept me safe. I never ran to the teacher. I got a reputation for being somewhat mean (which was partially deserved), but people left me alone. Had I been a boy, I might have punched someone and been left alone.
My point is that the best way to deal with bullying is two-pronged: First, create an environment in which bullying is frowned upon and mutual respect is the order of the day. This starts at the top, with teachers and administrators. In too many schools, however, teachers and administrations treat students with condescension, disdain, arrogance, or fear. Second, teach the victims how not to be victims. If you take away the targets, you take away a lot of the bullying. If students see themselves as warriors, not victims, bullying will become a much less enticing activity for those who are naturally inclined to dominate cruelly those around them.
I can already hear people saying that, if you emphasize the warrior spirit, our schools will start looking like a gladiator camp. Au contraire. If you emphasize brutality, that’s true. But if you emphasize the honorable side of the warrior, one that sees him respecting widows and orphans (so to speak), our schools will actually be much more civil than they are now. I’ve never known nicer kids than those who are martial arts black belts. They have a quiet self-confidence about them, that makes it unnecessary for them to lash out. Moreover, their peers respect them, and feel no need to test them.
It times to take the European Leftism out of our fairy tales, and reinstate an American ideal that involves honor, strength, and the willingness to fight for what’s right.
If St. Patrick’s Day had fallen on a school day, every child at the bus stop, whether Irish, Jewish, Asian, East Asian, or Black, would have been wearing something green. No one would have found this peculiar. Today, I know that when I go out to run errands, I’ll see adults from every end of the ethnic, racial, and religious spectrum wearing a touch of green. On my Facebook page, “Happy St. Patrick’s Day” wishes abound. As they used to say at my predominantly Asian high school, “On St. Patrick’s Day, everyone is Irish.”
Stop and think about that for a minute. Can you imagine any other country in the world — indeed, in the history of the world — when everyone in the nation, or at least everyone who has the capacity for enjoyment, borrows a specific racial identity just for fun? We take it for granted, but it really is the most visible manifestation of the fact that, even in this politically correct day and age, vestiges of America’s Melting pot still remain. In our homes, we hew to our racial, ethnic, and religious identities. In the streets, however, provided that there is no conflict with beliefs that are core to our home identities, we cheerfully embrace a uniquely American ecumenicalism.
So to all of you, Happy St. Patrick’s Day! Aren’t we lucky we can all enjoy it together?
This article that just appeared in Bloomberg.com, regarding Stockton-writ-California-writ-USA-writ-large’s pending bankruptcy, is just so absolutely jaw-dropping crazy…uh, no, wait….it isn’t really so crazy after all. Never mind.
If Stockton Is Broke, Why Isn’t San Diego?: Steven Greenhut
Here’s the money take-away: referencing the fact that, for the past 20 years, city employees could earn full lifetime health benefits (employee and spouse) after working only one month, Stockton City Manager Bob Deis noted…
“There was no money set aside to fund those commitments.”
And that’s the rub with our national, state and local governments, isn’t it? They can promise anything to get peoples’ votes, but there is no obligation to deliver. All they can do is make empty promises. And so, like moths to a flame, do we the people incinerate our futures and our freedoms on the soaring promises of hopey-change utopians. We once-proud, free, self reliant Americans have shown ourselves to be all too willing to give up our freedoms in exchange for promised government benefits…i.e., retirement pensions, health care, security, education…with not even a guarantee that the government will or can deliver.
You see, the government can never guarantee such promises, because (as our European cousins have so amply demonstrated) these are promises that government never could deliver. Government can’t deliver because a) government itself cannot create those benefits and b) because, inevitably, in the end, there is never enough money to pay for other people to provide those benefits.
The only thing the government can guarantee is that a) once surrendered, you won’t get your freedom, retirement, health care, security, or money back and b) the only way that it can even pretend to deliver on its promises is by taking away even more of your freedoms and money. Flame – moth – destruction.
For almost a thousand years, Catholics around the world, as part of their mass, have taken responsibility before God for their own failings:
Confíteor Deo omnipoténti et vobis, fratres,
quia peccávi nimis cogitatióne, verbo, ópere et omissióne:
mea culpa, mea culpa, mea máxima culpa.
Ideo precor beátam Maríam semper Vírginem,
omnes Angelos et Sanctos, et vos, fratres,
oráre pro me ad Dóminum Deum nostrum.
Or, as translated into English:
I confess to almighty God
and to you, my brothers and sisters,
that I have greatly sinned,
in my thoughts and in my words,
in what I have done and in what I have failed to do,
through my fault, through my own fault,
through my own most grievous fault;
therefore I ask blessed Mary ever-Virgin,
all the Angels and Saints,
and you, my brothers and sisters,
to pray for me to the Lord our God.
I’ve always found extraordinarily beautiful the single phrase italicized above: “mea culpa, mea culpa, mea máxima culpa,” which I translate in my mind as “I have sinned, I have sinned, I have grievously sinned.” The Latin has a lovely rhythm, and I like the murmuring “m” that is repeatedly cut off by the hard “c” and “p.”
I also like the sentiment expressed. It’s not that I believe that most of us spend our lives perpetually sinning, especially carrying out grievous sins on a routine basis. Nevertheless, what appeals to me about the phrase the way it constantly reminds us to be humble. Making that statement — I have sinned, please forgive me — acknowledges that we cannot control all things and that, with the best will in the world, we make mistakes, sometimes serious, sometimes not so serious. And when we err, we owe someone an apology. If there’s no one else to whom we can apologize, there is always God before whom we can make amends. It is the ultimate statement of personal responsibility and, by extension, individual will. We act, and we take responsibility for our acts, even if they don’t always turn out so well.
One aspect of moral decline is when people abandon the principles behind this confession and refuse to take responsibility for their own actions. Broadway songwriter Stephen Sondheim, whose writing and thinking generally doesn’t appeal to me, has a surprisingly firm grasp on this problem. Back in the 1950s, in West Side Story, the Jets cheerfully explain that society at large forced them to become hoods. They are not responsible for what they do, leaving no room for remorse or redemption:
Almost thirty years later, Sondheim, in Into the Woods, wrote a song, “Your fault,” that makes the same point. As with “Officer Krupke,” it’s a remarkably astute summing up of a secular culture that has abandoned personal responsibility:
Both Sondheim songs are narcissism in action. Narcissists simply cannot take responsibility for their own conduct. They cannot apologize; they can only blame:
Some people have more trouble apologizing than others. As the gifted psychoanalyst Dr. Nancy McWilliams has written, narcissists have particular difficulty expressing remorse because to them it implies fallibility and personal error, admissions that are psychologically intolerable to such people.
Narcissists are not pleasant people with whom to deal. They are responsible only for successes, and are quick to blame anyone but themselves for their failures. If you’re the one standing closest to a narcissist when something bad happens, you can be assured that, when the narcissist is done, he will have himself, everyone else, and possibly you too convinced that it’s all “your fault.”
Bad as this is at an individual level, what do you do when an entire culture goes narcissist, making for a collective abdication of responsibility? A friend asked me this question (well, he didn’t quite ask that question, but he sort of did) in connection with the fatal football riots in Egypt. He pointed out that, now that the dust has settled, the rioters are blaming the military police. Given the routinely thuggish practice of Egypt’s military police, and given the dislocation that generally characterizes Egypt now, the police are certainly a convenient scapegoat. Occam’s razor, however, dictates that one look a little closer to home: the two teams have a long history of thuggish behavior towards each other, and it is just as likely, if not more likely, that the rioters used Egypt’s chaos as a cover for bringing to the boil a long simmering rivalry.
Where does this behavior stop? Interestingly enough, the Obama administration is giving us an easy answer. It stops when all blame rests in two places: Israel and the American government (carving out the Obama years as a blameless exception, of course). The latest manifestation of this new version of the confession (“America has sinned, she has sinned, she has grievously sinned”) is the Obama administration’s decision to block the Iran Sanctions Bill, which officially holds Iran responsible for the Marine barracks bombing in Beirut, back in 1983. The bill is part of a package of legislation that attempts to hamstring Iran financially as a way of preventing the regime from going nuclear and, perhaps, allowing dissidents to bring the regime down from within.
The Obama administration’s ostensible reason for blocking the bill is that it just needs a little more time to talk to Iran because this time, more than three years after Obama was sworn in, Obama and his team are sure that talks will make a different. Really. This time. Oh, yes, this time the president’s gift of gab will work, and Obama is so certain of this, he doesn’t want any sticks near as he waves his oratorical carrots before the Iranians.
Marine families are devastated. They understand that it’s not just pragmatic negotiation requirements that drive the administration’s stand (especially because negotiation has been less than useful to date). A principled administration, one that truly believed in America, could never take this stand. What makes it easy for the Obama administration is that, in any dealings between America and another nation, if something goes wrong, it’s all America’s fault. It’s therefore no skin off the administration’s back to ignore the facts.
Obama is just the most visible and powerful manifestation of this mindset. James Taranto caught Abe Rosenthal, at the New York Times making the same call (bolded emphasis mine):
Hey, Remember Pearl Harbor?
Reading the recently launched blog of New York Times editorial page editor Andrew Rosenthal has become one of this columnist’s guilty pleasures. Here he is inveighing against the latest Republican outrage, or something:
Sen. Mike Lee, the Utah Republican, tweeted the following yesterday afternoon: “Jan. 4, 2012, may well be a day that will live on in infamy, as a day the Congress ceded one of its rightful powers to the executive.”
This was alarming. What did the President do on January 4 that would warrant a comparison to Pearl Harbor? Did the president order a drone strike that day, maybe? Or sign a bill authorizing indefinite detention for suspected terrorists? Actually, those things happened on other dates without anyone–to my knowledge–invoking Japan’s attack on a Hawaiian naval base.
Lee was referring to the president’s “recess” appointments at a time when the Senate was not actually in recess, but that’s not what makes Rosenthal’s post so perversely amusing.
First of all, while we’ll concede that Lee’s words were an echo of Franklin D. Roosevelt (who actually said “a date which will live in infamy”), does that really amount to “a comparison to Pearl Harbor”? The opening line of Pat Benatar’s 1981 song “Promises in the Dark” is, “Never again, isn’t that what you said?” Would Rosenthal say Benatar was comparing her romantic disappointments to the Holocaust? (Though come to think of it, it sounds as though Benatar has had a few dates that live in infamy.)
Second and even more bizarre, look at the examples Rosenthal cites of events that he thinks are more comparable to Pearl Harbor: the killing and detention of America’s enemies. A more apt comparison would be to a Pearl Harbor-like strike by the Allies against the Axis. Remember the Battle of Taranto!
I think I’ve beaten this horse to death. I’ve certainly covered all the items in my mental checklist of ideas for this post: Past recognition of personal responsibility? Abandonment of that doctrine? America as the narcissists’ ultimate scapegoat, at home and abroad? Yup. All there.
America culpa, America culpa, America maxima culpa.
Bruce Bawer, American expat extraordinaire, posted an especially insightful post over this weekend, in which he notes that the peculiarly American assumption that all people want to be free just may be a tad naive.
He cites Jewish writer Tuvia Tenenbom’s (“I Sleep in Hitler’s Room”) observation, upon traversing the former East Germany, that most of the people Tenenbom encountered longed for the “good times” living under the East German dictatorship. In the Middle East, we see peoples offered the light of freedom only to turn further toward the darkness. As Bawer points out, we should know that not all people want to be free: after all, the masses that marched in support of the Nazis and Communists hardly marched for the cause of freedom. Read it all…Bawer makes excellent points in support of his thesis.
We, as a nation, have existed on the premise that all people (like our forefathers) want to be free. This (false?) premise has driven much of American foreign policy. It may also blind us to what is really going on in our own country with regard to the Liberal/Left, the Democrat party and the OWS movement.
I believe that I can understand the pull of serfdom for many people. Just think of all of the difficult life decisions that are taken away from the individual serf: as wards of the state, they don’t have to worry about where they will get their food (of course, they can forget about shopping at Whole Foods as well), whether they will meet their financial needs (albeit at a subsistence level), understanding politics, moral values, education, finding a job…etc. It is, in other words, regression to the mind of a child. They can simply exist for the moment of the day: no responsibilities but, also, no hope. Like vegetables, if you think about it.
So, what do you think? Is what is happening today a defining struggle between those of us that want to be free and those that seek a return to childhood? Is it as simple as this? Because, if it is, then we really are witnessing the final death struggle of the American Republic.
I kept reading about Obama’s Rose Garden speech, but it wasn’t until this morning that I actually sat down and read the speech. Aside from the obvious factual and ideological problems (not to mention how pedantic and vulgar it is in its expressions and ideas), what jumps out at me about the speech is the way in which this man reveals his alienation from America. The guy may have been born here but, when it comes to understanding the American social and economic model, it’s clear that he was raised in mid-19th century Europe.
A little background: Mid-19th Century Europe was the setting against which Marx and Engels came up with the idea of modern socialism. It wasn’t the first attempt at upending the existing power structure (for example, a little thing called the French Revolution had preceded it), but it was the most sustained intellectual statement about socialism, and therefore the most powerful, and the one with the most lasting consequences.
I won’t rehash socialism here, but I will say one thing about it: it’s premised upon a complete lack of social mobility. The Marxist theory is that workers of the world need to unite and overthrow the existing power structure because, absent that unity, they will never achieve either economic, political or social power. Sure, an exceptionally talented person in France or Germany or England might squeak by, but on the whole, the class system is too rigid ever to free the poor. In a class world, say the socialists, there is no way up and there is no way out.
Even back then, when Marx and Engels were disseminating their poisonous ideology, America was different. Yes, we do have a class system, although it’s one defined by economic status (poor, working class, middle class, upper middle class, and rich), not by birth. More than that, it’s fluid and always has been. From the very earliest days, if you weren’t making it on the East Coast, you could head out West. And if you weren’t making it as a printer, you could become a farmer (or vice versa). For many young men, the military was a way up, as it still is today for men and women alike.
Our presidents, men such Andrew Jackson, Abraham Lincoln and Ulysses S. Grant, demonstrated that you didn’t have to be born with a silver spoon in your mouth to ascend to the highest offices in the land. Likewise, the immigrants who crowded into New York in the late 19th and early 20th centuries lived to see their children move out to the suburbs and partake of the good life.
While it is certainly true that their have been poor people and immigrants who never made it in America, and whose children didn’t make it either, “making it” — that is, leaving poverty behind and becoming middle class or even rich — has always been a real possibility in America, not just a fairy tale. To Obama, though, whose Leftist upbringing has alienated him from American values and reality, the possibility of “making it” without a Big Government fairy godmother is inconceivable.
In Obama’s speech, his first few paragraphs are the usual populist tripe. I’m ignoring that here, because it’s embarrassing to read that generic, uninspiring, obvious stuff, and we all know that he’s lying when he says he has a bill to pass; when he says that Congress, which has received nothing from him, is dragging its feet; when he claims that his goal is to shrink inefficient government; and when he says that government needs to pay its bills. I’ll also ignore the sleazy demagogic attacks against Boehner and the Republicans, something no decent President should do.
Instead, I’m honing in on a few paragraphs that explain a great deal about Obama’s mindset if you keep in mind the distinction between European rigidity (a rigidity that still exists in Europe) and American economic fluidity:
It was an approach that said we need to go through the budget line-by-line looking for waste, without shortchanging education and basic scientific research and road construction, because those things are essential to our future. And it was an approach that said we shouldn’t balance the budget on the backs of the poor and the middle class; that for us to solve this problem, everybody, including the wealthiest Americans and biggest corporations, have to pay their fair share.
Yes, the above is classic “class warfare” language: the poor and the middle class are fighting for a slice of the pay that the “wealthiest Americans and biggest corporations” are stealing. But the above dichotomy fails to consider that today’s poor kid can be tomorrow’s wealthiest American. It also ignores the fact that, unlike traditional European wealth, which was family based, ownership in America’s corporations can be bought and sold by ordinary people. My IRA and my mutual fund savings make me a member of dozens of American’s biggest corporations. If they get screwed, so do I. Obama’s statement is correct only if one moves to Europe, circa 1848.
The heart of Obama’s view of America is in this paragraph (emphasis mine):
So, today, I’m laying out a set of specific proposals to finish what we started this summer — proposals that live up to the principles I’ve talked about from the beginning. It’s a plan that reduces our debt by more than $4 trillion, and achieves these savings in a way that is fair — by asking everybody to do their part so that no one has to bear too much of the burden on their own.
Ignore for a moment that the rich and the corporations (or, as I call them, the employers and wealth creators) pay 40% of America’s taxes, while the bottom 50% of Americans (economically at the bottom, I mean) pay no taxes, something that one would think more than meets Obama’s requirement that “everybody . . . do their part.” What’s more interesting to me is, again, the assumption that America’s socioeconomic status is immutable. Obama has taken Jesus’ statement that “The poor you will always have with you,” and transmuted it into “You will always be poor.” We (Big Government) need to rescue you from the rich because you will never be able to take advantage of opportunities to rise above your poverty. Again, Europe, circa 1848.
The following are more examples of the same rigidity:
And that’s why this plan eliminates tax loopholes that primarily go to the wealthiest taxpayers and biggest corporations –- tax breaks that small businesses and middle-class families don’t get. And if tax reform doesn’t get done, this plan asks the wealthiest Americans to go back to paying the same rates that they paid during the 1990s, before the Bush tax cuts.
I promise it’s not because anybody looks forward to the prospects of raising taxes or paying more taxes. I don’t. In fact, I’ve cut taxes for the middle class and for small businesses, and through the American Jobs Act, we’d cut taxes again to promote hiring and put more money into the pockets of people. But we can’t afford these special lower rates for the wealthy -– rates, by the way, that were meant to be temporary. Back when these first — these tax cuts, back in 2001, 2003, were being talked about, they were talked about temporary measures. We can’t afford them when we’re running these big deficits.
I talk over and over again about the Regressiveness of the so-called Progressives. Their economic world view is Europe in the mid-19th century, their abortion view is America in the mid-2oth century, their race view is America in the late 1950s and early 1960s. Obama is a product of the Left, and the Left is fundamentally un-American in that it refuses to acknowledge what America is: a country in which anyone has the opportunity to break free of poverty and race.
The murderous frenzy unleashed on 9/11 is an awkward size. Had it been smaller — a handful of people, or even a hundred people, killed at a mall or a hotel — we would have noted it as a tragedy powered by a crazy person (or two) in thrall to bad ideas. We would have criminalized the crazy person and moved on with our lives. Had it been monumentally bigger — say, the size of Hitler’s Poland invasion — we all would have easily recognized it as “a war,” and would have treated it accordingly, both strategically and emotionally.
What do you do, though, when nineteen men hijack four planes and kill 2,996 people? Actual events proved that, in the post-modern world, our nation had no template to define our emotional response following 9/11. We had a vacuum.
The one thing you can say with certainty about America today is that, when there is a vacuum, politics will fill it. Following a short frenzy of national mourning, the nation divided itself into two oppositional viewpoints with regard to what 9/11 means. The Left (of course) took refuge in a Walt Kelly worldview: “We have met the enemy and he is us.”
Leftists in the media, Hollywood, and academia swiftly absolved al Qaeda and Islam from any seriously responsibility for what happened. While only the Truthers could deny that Islamist al Qaeda members flew those planes, people on the Left knew what really mattered: the nineteen al Qaeda hijackers were as much victims as we were, if not more so. It was our overbearing, racist, arrogant, resource-hogging, Israel-loving, capitalist country that drove them to commit their foul deeds. God damn the U.S. of KKK! Those chickens roosted but good!
This template has served the Left for ten years now. The details may vary, but the tone is unchanging. Americans are bullies. We’ve bullied the Muslims so much over the past few decades, it was inevitable that they, prodded beyond bearing, turned on us. And while it’s sad that 2,996 non-combatants (mothers, fathers, sisters, brothers, sons, daughters) had to die, that’s what happens when you give your allegiance to — and, worse, make your money from — a system that is inherently parasitical.
It is this paradigm that led the current occupant of our White House to tell us that 9/11 wasn’t just our tragedy, so that our current efforts to mourn prove that we’re not only bullies, we’re also self-centered bullies. The White House assures us, though, that we can atone for our sins by approaching 9/11, not as a national day of mourning, but as a “National Day of Service.” The message is clear: We Americans don’t deserve to mourn. Not only was it not about us, it was our fault! This analysis sees just two narrow categories of victims on that fateful day: those who died and those who killed. The rest of us were guilty, and we have to work hard to expiate that stain from our collective conscience.
That’s the Leftist view. There are, thankfully, other voices in America. Those of us who reject the Leftist paradigm see ourselves neither as evil-doers nor as victims (although we were victimized by evil). We are warriors. George Bush understood that when he addressed the Emergency Rescue Workers the site of the World Trade Center:
That’s also what George Bush understood when he took America to war. When we are attacked, we fight back. And when we are attacked by a shadowy organization that takes succor from various Islamic tyrannies around the world, we challenge those tyrannies. It’s not pretty, it’s not surgically neat, it’s not politically correct, but it is necessary. We mourn our dead and then we hunt down their killers. We have met the warrior and he is us.
And speaking of warriors, I think it is appropriate to end this post by talking about Rick Rescorla. Nowadays, Rick Rescorla is not a name that will elicit much recognition if you mention it in liberal enclaves. A few might have a hazy memory of him, since his heroic actions garnered some attention in the immediate wake of 9/11 but, since then, Rescorla hasn’t been a big part of the American collective consciousness. That’s a shame, because Rick, although born and raised in England, is the essence of America.
If you really want to know about the man, you have to go to the military blogs, where his actions are accorded a rare degree of reverence that has not diminished with time. For the long versions of Rick’s story — and I urge you to read these versions — check out the Mudville Gazette and Blackfive. Just be sure to have a box of tissues at your side when you read, because you’ll need it. I can’t do justice to the long version (and, as I said, it’s been done), so here is the short version, to whet your appetite and to carry through the premise of this post:
Rick Rescorla was born in post-War England, yet he somehow managed to be fiercely anti-communist. He didn’t just talk the talk, he walked the walk. At sixteen, he joined the British military and fought against communists in both Cyprus and Rhodesia. When the battle between the free world and the communists moved to Vietnam, he moved too, relocating to America, and joining the U.S. Army. He fought ferociously in Vietnam (see the Mudville Gazette and Blackfive), making a name for himself as a warrior’s warrior.
After returning to the States from Vietnam, Rick completed his education, taught, and eventually moved into the corporate world, ending up as Morgan Stanley Dean Witter’s VP of security. His new address — World Trade Center, south tower, 44th floor.
Rescorla was working in the World Trade Center in 1993, when a truck bomb exploded in the basement. This bombing was one of those “small” terrorist attacks I mentioned in the first paragraph, above. Most everyone saw it as a criminal matter and moved on. Not so Rick Rescorla. Warrior to the bone, he understood that this was the first small shot in a big battle. He also understood that the Twin Towers were irresistible targets and their tenants sitting ducks. Rick couldn’t change the towers’ attraction to terrorists, but he could change the tenants’ vulnerabilities — at least the tenants over whom he had control.
Under Rick’s leadership, Morgan Stanley Dean Witter conducted regular evacuation drills. Every employee knew out to get out of the building. You can easily imagine employees over the years trying to avoid the drills (“Hey, I’ve got a lot of work to do here”) and jokingly complaining as they were forced to comply (“One little bomb blows up over ten years ago, and I’m having more fire drills than my kid in elementary school.”). The jokes stopped first thing in the morning on 9/11.
When the planes hit the Towers, Rick instantly knew what had happened. He didn’t know the details, but he understood the core issue — the World Trade Center had once again become a terrorist target. He and his team swung into gear. (Again, please see the Mudville Gazette and Blackfive to understand what Rescorla and his security group accomplished.) Singing “Men of Cornwall” at the top of his lungs, Rick and his team rescued approximately 2,700 Morgan Stanley Dean Witter employees. Only three employees were unable to follow Rick and his team to safety.
Sadly, it wasn’t just those three employees who died. Never leaving their posts, Rick and two of his security team went back into the South Tower one last time, to make sure they’d done their jobs. They had indeed done their jobs — but they didn’t make it out again. The Tower collapsed, taking them with it. (I’m sorry to say that I cannot honor Rick’s team members by writing their names here, as I cannot find that information.)
Rick may have died, but his memory and what it stands for linger on. He is America’s fighting spirit. He is proof that you don’t have to be born on American soil to have American virtues. It is enough to love freedom and to be willing to fight for that freedom. He is American initiative, ignoring bureaucratic paralysis and acting in the face of danger. He is American sangfroid, singing his flock to salvation. He was a warrior and a hero. He is us.
This year, on the tenth anniversary of the end of the world as we knew it, I will most certainly remember the innocent men and women who died in a billowing, dusty cloud fueled by incredible evil. But I’m also going to remember the day by saying I am neither victim nor criminal. My nation is neither victim nor criminal. We are not lambs to the slaughter. We are warriors.
As I do every year, I went with my family to our town’s Fourth of July Parade. It’s a great parade, with all sorts of community groups participating, including the various chambers of commerce; Little League baseball teams; bagpipers (Marin is home to a thriving bagpipe community); an impressive selection of WWII vehicles from from the Garbarino Military Vehicle Museum, a private collection of lovingly restored military vehicles; marching bands; and the usual flotsam and jetsam of community organizations in a small town.
Thousands of people turn out to line the parade route. Flags are everywhere: they festoon the trucks and cars and children wave them wildly. It’s like the colorized version of a 1940s movie. Attending is a delightful experience.
But there’s something funny going on here. In 2008, Barack Obama got 78% of the Marin County vote. This was not an accident. Despite being the beneficiaries of the best America has to offer in terms of wealth and natural beauty, Marin’s residents are die-hard Democrats.
To the extent they veer away from soccer and carpools, and into politics, the Facebook posts I see demonstrate that, at least in significant numbers, these investment bankers, lawyers, doctors, architects, educators, accountants, etc., worship at the shrine of socialized medicine, government price controls, and higher taxes. They are fervently anti-War, despite their cheers for the WWII vehicles and the sprinkling of WWII vets who sat in those vehicles. They embrace multiculturalism with a passion, think Israel is unfair to the beleaguered Palestinians whose land they stole, and are dismayed by America’s long history of slavery, imperialism, sexism and racism, not to mention the grossly unequal way America treats its own poor. They voted for Barack Obama because they agree with him that America needs to be fundamentally changed in order to be worthy: she needs to be turned into a pacifist, socialist, small county.
This is America, and Marinites are entitled to head to the polls, determined to obtain transformation. Whether they’ll like it if they get it is another question, of course.
But what I really wondered today is what all the flag waving was about. A vast number of the attendees and participants disrespect our country’s history, dislike her institutions, and want to remake her into something entirely different from what she is today. They don’t want to improve her, they want to transform her. If patriotism is the “devoted love, support, and defense of one’s country,” what does one call enthusiasm for the symbols of a country, without any attendant support for the country itself? Perhaps a better term than patriotism would be “theater of the absurd.”
Cross-posted at Right Wing News
Every July 4th, I feel it’s incumbent upon me, as a freedom-loving blogger, to write something meaningful. And every July 4th, I fail to do. Somehow, instead of golden prose about our nation, I invariably end up posting a picture of a waving flag and wishing everyone a “Happy July 4th.” It’s not the magnitude of the task that’s gotten in my way. Instead, looking back, it’s the sense I’ve always had that love of country goes without saying. Sure, the Leftists are anti-American but, because it’s so obvious to ordinary people that America is a grand experiment in freedom and a truly excellent way in which to live, it seems redundant to pile on with patriotic encomiums.
This year, though, the third July 4th we’ve seen under Barack Obama’s presidency, I have a sense of a nation under siege, not from a foreign enemy, but from a Fifth Column. Day after day, I read about the administration’s assaults on our “American-ness.” By this I mean that Obama’s policies aren’t simply well-intended, but incompetent, efforts to preserve the nation in a modern incarnation of the Founder’s vision (or, indeed, of the vision of most Americans up through the 1960s). Instead, Obama and his crew truly intend to be transformational — not, as naive voters believed, to raise us up; but, as Communists understood, to tear us down and rebuild us in an image alien to the traditional American ethos.
Whether it’s by returning us to a pre-industrial era by choking off our energy supplies; reducing us to a poor nation by drowning us in debt; destroying our status as a shining city on a hill by subordinating our interests to every tin-pot tyrant the world over; leaving us prey to terrorism (and even larger attacks) by yielding at every point to enemies who have us in their existential cross-hairs; constraining our individuality by a vastly increased bureaucracy that controls our banking, manufacturing, health care, etc.; or generally projecting an apologetic, self-abnegatory, self-loathing attitude that colors a nation’s view of itself, Obama is busy making America less than it was, less than it is, and less than it could be.
Sadly, the Obamas of the world have been busy at work in our education system for the past forty years, leaving two or three generations of Americans incapable of articulating what it is that makes our country special. Worse, they’ve been told that our country is anything but special. It’s not even average. It’s bad: a selfish, gluttonous, arrogant bully. Although they might experience a sense of loss if the current administration ultimately succeeds in transforming this nation, in the here and now, as the transformation is in progress, we have several generations of Americans who, like the dodo, don’t realize that they’re staring at their own extinction. Only when the last dodo is standing will he or she starting thinking “Damn, why didn’t I stop this before it happened.”
So — what’s wonderful about America?
America’s founding myth is wonderful. I say “myth” here because I want to avoid the Leftist’s snarling, soul-destroying debate about the Founder’s personal failings, whether it was the slaves they had, the slaves they let others have, the rights they denied women, the merchant class they supported, etc. The Founders were human. But before Browning was even a twinkle in his father’s eye, they already understand that “A man’s reach must exceed his grasp, or what’s a heaven for?” In this case, they focused on the lodestar of individual liberty. Looking beyond their own imperfections, they labored mightily to produce a political system that, for the first time in history, had individual freedom as its guiding principle. Even the dreaded “three fifths” clause was an attempt to weaken slavery’s hold on the nation with the plan that the system, always economically unfeasible, would prove to be politically unsustainable in a nation predicated on the idea of individual freedom, even if it hadn’t yet attained the dreamed-of reality.
Americans readily embraced this national mythology. Even when I was growing up in the 1960s, when the taint was taking hold in education, we still understood that the American system was intended to free individuals from government. That the Founders hadn’t succeeded in freeing blacks from their fellow man was an entirely separate thing from the grand plan of limited government. For the fist time in history, men envisioned a system by which they could make their own choices, unencumbered by an all-encompassing, all-controlling, all-mighty religious and political body. That’s a wonderful thing. Sure it was a new idea. Sure it had bugs (that darn slavery again). But the myth of freedom was what counted, and it’s what drove America inexorably forward for more than two hundred years, even as other nations fell by the wayside.
America’s natural beauty is wonderful. I’m willing to be that, no matter where you live, if you can still afford to hop into your car and drive 25 miles, you’ll see something lovely, whether it’s a mountain, a plain, a beach, a river, a forest, a field, a meadow or something else that strikes your fancy. We live in a country that is wonderfully and abundantly blessed by nature. We’ve got the spectacular displays (Yellowstone, Niagara Falls, Yosemite), the eerily beautiful austere sites (Death Valley, most of Nevada, the Badlands), the colors (all of New England in the Fall), and just the regular lovelies of sunrise over mountains and sunsets over beaches. How fortunate we are.
America’s man-made beauty is pretty damn wonderful too. Sure, we’ve got the strip malls and the slums, but we also offer San
Francisco, Chicago, New York, Atlanta, Mount Vernon, Montpelier, Seattle, Los Angeles, St. Augustine, Austin and Boston, and every other city or town, all reflecting something unique and wonderful about America. As long as you don’t limit yourself so that beauty can only be found in English castles, French chateaus or German schlosses, you’ll find beauty here.
America’s people are wonderful. I used to love traveling to Europe. Heck, I lived abroad as a student. I know my history pretty well, and found it wonderfully satisfying to see history in situ. The more I traveled, though, the more I wanted to come back home. I finally realized that it was because you don’t live in the past, you live in the present — meaning that you live with the people of your own time. And in my time, Americans are friendly. This doesn’t mean they’re all nice; nor does it mean that the more reserved Europeans aren’t nice. It simply means that, in ordinary interactions, Americans are more likely to give you a “howdy” and some help. That doesn’t sound like much, but as we move through our days, these simple kindnesses add up.
America’s people are also wonderful because they are generous. So far as I know, they are the only people in the world who, for the last 150 years, have sent their sons and daughters to battle for other people’s freedoms. Is there a disaster somewhere in the world? Americans are there, with money and with helping hands. Was your house destroyed? Americans will help you build it again. We are a helpful people.
America’s dynamism is wonderful. We go, we hustle, we do, we hurry, we invent, we innovate, we streamline, we create, we do it all. We’re like some super duper product advertised on the shopping channel. If the American spirit was a product, I’d want to buy it.
There is so much to love about America: it’s system, it’s people, it’s nature. Appreciating our virtues doesn’t mean being blind to our faults. We are a work in progress, but those who wish to destroy America are doing something very evil indeed.
Happy July 4th, America. We have a lot to celebrate.
Cheap fuel is an important key to peace, human welfare and prosperity. We have the key.
The world can’t do without fuel and the scramble for world fuel resources lies at the root of most of our current geopolitical problems. The high price of fuel affects the environment (e.g., 3rd world deforestation) and the price and availability of food for those that can least afford it.
The scramble for fuel lies behind Arabia’s, Iran’s, Russia’s and China’s geopolitical manipulations – in Arabia and Russia’s cases, to keep the availability low and the price high, in China’s case to exploit reliable fuel sources in many of the most political and economically vulnerable parts of the world, notably in Africa. We in the U.S., meanwhile, are forced to maintain hugely expensive military commitments to keep world fuel supply lines open in the interest of protecting a world economy upon which we depend. Demand for high-priced oil keeps Europe in dhimmitude to an increasing subversive Islamicist influence while, in the Middle East, oil revenues fuel subversive jihadi movements worldwide, further tying down our military resources and our economic infrastructures.
Fuel’s impact on food production and prices is one of the factors stoking popular revolts from Mexico to Egypt. Fuel protects human lives by keeping people warm in the winter and cool in the summer. It’s no accident that some of the most strident, anti-oil environmentalism derives from a narrow cafe latte strip of our Pacific coast that enjoys temperate climate year-round and no worries about food prices and availability. Climate “I-got-mine”ers, I guess we could call them.
Cheap oil, coal and gas, in short, would resolve many of our world’s problems. However, there are ideological obstacles that must be overcome, the biggest one being America’s environmental movement, which increasingly takes on the trappings of a fundamentalist religion. Ask most Americans today and I propose that the large majority believes profoundly that a) we are running out of fossil fuels; b) there are practical alternatives to fossil fuel energy and c) fossil fuels contribute to global warming, ergo, fossil fuels are bad. Besides, people say, oil derricks despoil the view…even in areas where nobody ventures.
Let’s just focus on (a) for now: it’s a false premise!
A November, 2010 report by the Congressional Research Service highlights just how rich in fossil fuels the United States is – richer, in fact, than any other country in the world…even without considering the huge potentials of shale oil and methane resources. You can find an excellent summary of the report, with a link to the original CRS report, here:
The U.S. has more than enough safe and reliable energy resources to meet our needs and those of other nations until practical alternatives inevitably come on-line. We’ve had a petroleum based culture for a little over 100 years. We have enough for another 100 years. Making those resources (and other under-developed global resources) available to the U.S. and the global marketplace will drop the price of energy worldwide. That’s just simple economics: increasing supplies reduces prices. It would also boost domestic jobs development, improve our trade deficits, and reduce the costs of domestic manufacturing. Added fossil fuel supplies will help defund our enemies and relieve pressures on our allies.
The obstacles to its development are ideological and enviro-religious, not economic or environmental. As long as these resources remained unavailable, the U.S. and much of the rest of the world will continue to pay huge costs…not just in terms of imported energy and high prices, but also in terms of lost jobs and a dangerously unstable world.
The world desperately needs cheap energy. That’s a hard fact. For the world’s richest resource of fossil fuel energy to withhold its resources from the world in the interest of the self-satisfied, comfortable bourgeoisie of the environmental left is not just irresponsible, it’s immoral. You can’t be against “Big Oil” and “Big Coal” and in favor of “World Peace”.
Oh, and one more thing: while this author benefits greatly from fossil fuels, he does not work or benefit directly from the fossil fuels industry, although his retirement savings and pension fund assets in all likelihood depend upon the success of an incentivized and profitable energy sector to fund his retirement, social security, medical care and all other government and private industry benefits. In that, he’s probably just like you.
Here’s a good example of American imperialism, whereby rich and greedy American billionaires fund the sabotage of democratic institutions in foreign countries to further their own ideological and economic interests.