Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Who are the Real White Supremacists?

Picture this: A classic line-up, like in the old crime movies. The witnesses: A motley assortment of cultural “agents of change”, including one representative each from Hollywood, the mainstream media, TV, Broadway, the Democratic Party, and of course the SPLC. The accusation: The “hate crime” of being a “white supremacist”. And the line-up includes one each from the following: (1) Neo-Nazis/skinheads/officially-white-supremacist groups; (2) a representative of the “alt-right” (might or might not be a Breitbart staffer); (3) a member of the Republican Party; (4) a member of the Trump administration; (5) a representative of the high-tech Valhalla called Silicon Valley; and (6) a representative of the international financial cartel (banks, brokers, and various and assorted money changers).

Obviously, with no further information, the witnesses will unanimously declare the members of groups 1 and 2 to be, unambiguously, white supremacists. And, after a bit of hesitation and perhaps with some qualifications, they won't fail to declare members of groups 3 and 4 likewise. As for groups 5 and 6, some good-natured chuckling will be heard – surely those groups are just fillers, just brought in to make the proceedings seem fair and impartial. It would be the most ridiculous thing in the world for anyone to seriously suspect our moguls of the digital and Internet age, or members of the international financial cartel (who are, after all, globalists by definition, and hence to be counted among the anointed elite before whom we should all bow at every opportunity), of anything as nasty, atavistic, and primitive (not to mention testosterone-laden) as white supremacy.

And yet those last two groups are, in fact, the supreme white supremacists on the planet; no one else even comes close.

Here is my argument. While the Neo-Nazis/skinheads/officially-white-supremacist groups may talk the the talk... and while the “alt-right” may say the same thing on occasion, but in a more gentlemanly manner, the ones walking the walk are those with global reach – politically and economically (and therefore militarily as well). And they, in turn, have the resources to pressure the very groups that whine endlessly about “white supremacism”, and bend them to their will. In other words, the “progressives” are doing the white supremacists' work for them.

How does this happen? Well, first we have to think about what white supremacism is and what it is not. It is, basically, the notion that the white race is superior, period – not based on history or current marks of achievement, but “just because”. And this -- let's say primitive -- point of view is little more than simple cohesion that can be found in any racial group – or, let's say, any racial group that has a will to survive. It's the ancient paradigm of Us vs. Them – of my group (race, ethnic group, tribe) vs. The Other. And as such it's human nature – or at least human nature before it is reshaped by the “agents of change” (such reshaping being, of course, notoriously ineffectual, and serving mainly to drive formerly normal and acceptable attitudes underground).

But more than one outcome can come from this basic attitude. One is the feeling that “we're the best”, but along with it comes a benign, even paternalistic (or condescending, if you like) attitude toward other races – thus the nearly-forgotten memes like “the noble savage” (referring to Native Americans) and “our little black brothers”. The point is that those other races, although considered inferior, are not only tolerated and wished no harm, but may actually be the object of charity (as they, in fact, are). But they are objects of charity precisely because they are considered inferior – and hopelessly so. But – and so the implicit logic goes – because they are perennial objects of charity, that constitutes further evidence of their inferiority. (If this rings a faint bell it's no accident.)

But then there is the other main branch of the white supremacy tree, which is more like a zero-sum premise. In order for us (the white race) to prosper, the other races have to be subdued, and there are many ways this can be expressed – political discrimination, economic exploitation, devaluing in general, unequal application of laws, and, in the extreme, slavery or even outright genocide. And history is replete with examples of all of these, and more besides. And the decision, by the dominant race, as to which of these options to elect – or which combinations to elect – varies according to economic circumstances, above all. The root of what is called “racism” is fear, certainly – but the paramount fear is nearly always the fear of The Other – the alien -- “taking over” in some way, the expected result being that “I” will wind up having less of what I have, and “They” will have some, if not all, of what I should have had. In other words, in boils down, more often than not, to issues of property, resources, income, and wealth, with other factors like skin color, cultural habits, language, religion, etc. being secondary, or reduced to mere window dressing. (Another way of putting it, in the case of African-Americans, is that skin color is a simple, easily-detected surrogate for other factors which are less visible and more complex.) (And if white people are so innately afraid of dark skin, why do they spend so much time and money getting deep tans each summer, hmmm?)

One can see this very clearly when it comes to the issue of immigration, which is styled a “racism” issue by the open-borders crowd, but which is, more than anything else, a matter of economics – although crime and lifestyle issues have some relevance as well, as does the “changing the face of America” notion, although I would be willing to bet that that is, again, more window dressing than anything else. (For, after all, America has, and has always had, more than one face, which is easy enough to discover if one is willing to venture more than a few miles from one's birthplace.)

I'll go further than that. I've always felt that slavery (of blacks by whites in the American South) was not an example of racism, although it was certainly the essence of white supremacy. The whites didn't hate the slaves for being black; in fact, I doubt they hated them at all. Blacks were a commodity and a resource; they were bought and sold, not unlike livestock or land or farm equipment or real estate. The fact that they also happened to be human beings was briefly noted by some, ignored by others, and made into a political movement by Northern activists. And here was, of course, a great political divide, but it was more subtle than the current wisdom would recognize. Among Southerners who considered blacks to be an inferior species, there were no regrets about slavery (other than, perhaps, the same kind of regret one might feel about mistreatment of horses or other livestock). Among those who recognized the humanity of the slaves, but also recognized that they were essential to the Southern economy, there was considerable ambivalence and regret – and this has been extensively documented. And I'm sure there were Southerners who refused to own slaves on principle (and not because they were too expensive), but who more or less kept their opinions to themselves. In the North, on the other hand, I can't believe that all was lily-white (so to speak). For one thing, it was Northern merchants who had a vital role to play in the slave trade; they may not have owned slaves (although many did in colonial times) but they were perfectly happy to ship them between Africa and the South. And I imagine there were Northerners who would have been perfectly happy to own slaves if the opportunity was there. As always down through history, the activists – the anti-slavery movement – were a minority, at least at the start, and possibly right up to the Civil War. If the citizens of the North were anything like citizens these days, the most common attitude was probably along the lines of “I don't want to get involved”, “It's none of my business”, “It's a Southern thing”, “I don't know any black people”, or even “They're probably better off than they would have been if they'd stayed in Africa” -- that last being a notion that persists to this day when it comes to the descendants of the slaves.

Now, having said all that, I also imagine that there was a more or less instantaneous attitude change among Southern whites after the war was lost (the Emancipation Proclamation only having made the end of slavery official). Suddenly, blacks were a threat – politically, economically, and in many other ways – so if “racism” didn't exist prior to that date, that would be when it began in the South. (Some insight into this phenomenon can be gained from viewing the D. W. Griffith classic, “Birth of a Nation” -- assuming one can even find it these days.)

The point I'm trying to make is that racism is not only about skin color. In fact, it may not even be primarily about skin color; there is always more to it. But skin color does, obviously, have symbolic significance and is an easy marker – a bit of perceptual shorthand, if you will. In any case, any form or degree of racism, since it represents fear of The Other, also represents a preference for one's own group, and an at least implied feeling of the superiority of one's own group – in short, white supremacy, even if it's not called that or if that is not a major theme in the debate. It could even take the form of believing that blacks are equal in pretty much every way – beyond mere legal equality – but that they're still alien in some sense, and therefore deserving of no more than second-class citizenship. There are as many nuances to this issue as there are people concerned with it, I suppose – since of all the political and social issues of our time, this is the one that permeates all areas of society the most, and about which it is the most impossible to be neutral, apathetic, or ignorant. (The announcement that the election of Barack Obama in 2008 reflected that we had become a “post-racial” society was a masterpiece of propaganda, or naiveté, or both. If anything, positions have hardened since then.)

Let us now shift gears and talk about that erstwhile progressive movement called eugenics, of which the sainted heroine and leader in this country was none other than Margaret Sanger, founder of Planned Parenthood and still held in the highest esteem by liberals, progressives, environmentalists, Utopians, and all right-thinking citizens. This concept and movement was based on the premise that, contrary to the Declaration of Independence and the Gettysburg address, all men are not created equal – that there are many points of superiority of the white race over other races, and of the healthy over the handicapped, and of the dim-witted over the clever. And no one, please note, objected to this premise in strident tones, or in any tones at all as far as I'm aware, with the possible exception of the Catholic Church.

From this basic premise flow a number of possible consequences. One – the most benign – would be to provide adequate prenatal care and nutrition, and procedures to maximize the chances of a healthy birth, combined with enlightened infant care (including, most obviously, breast feeding – and we forget that in former times that was considered nasty, primitive, and unsanitary – and a habit of the lower classes). These measures might (and have been proven to) reduce the incidence of handicaps both physical and mental. And this may very well have been part of the eugenics movement, at least at the beginning.

But this, sadly, was not good enough to insure a happy, healthy society on the road to Utopia – so sterner measures had to be adopted, starting, of course, with “family planning”, which is another word for birth control, which is the same as contraception (again, at first). And this was all presented as “education” -- i.e. of the racially, ethnically, and economically inferior classes – and as a way to free women from the tyranny of men and their unbridled lusts, and from the burden of bearing and raising children – at least more children than someone in polite society should have, which is generally considered two, i.e. “replacement level” (but not quite). (And, please note, there was plenty of implicit and not-so-implicit religious bigotry at work here, which was a natural extension of the anxiety – already nearly a century old – about various ethnic immigrant groups, most of which were Catholic, invading our shores. Catholics – then as now (mistakenly) – were notorious for having “all those children” because the Pope ordered them to. And once again, it's the fear of The Other on the surface, but really the fear of aliens flooding in and “taking over”.) So all across the land, bourgeois (and Protestant, if that) women in big flowered hats were getting together of an afternoon over tea, and regretting how the populations of various alien elements (starting with the Irish, I guess) had gotten out of control, and pledging both time and money to rescue their less fortunate sisters from squalor. One of the pillars of “Americanization” was to get these new arrivals to “control themselves” and have smaller families – again, to deal the the threat of them “taking over”.

And on the professional medical side, the campaign took other forms, including mass sterilization of black women and of the “feeble-minded”, among others. Science saves the day! But of course it didn't end there. Eventually, crude methods of contraception were replaced (but not entirely) by “the Pill” -- and we can debate far into the night as to the overall impact of the Pill on women's health. But there were plenty of other techniques as well, all receiving the seal of approval from medical and public health entities, which were almost unanimously "progressive" in their orientation.  

And, as we all know, the culmination of all of this was the legalization of abortion, which was commonly presented as a last resort -- “when all else fails”, including abstinence (always a dead letter), non-pharmaceutical methods like spacing or “rhythm”, and contraception. So in a sense, legalized (and often free) abortion is the end game, or the reductio ad absurdum, of progressivism; the road to Utopia, it turns out, must run through a vast graveyard.

At this point it bears mentioning that abortion has now gone beyond alleged economic necessity or convenience, and morphed into a hard-core eugenicist agenda, namely the elimination of the handicapped (and those deemed likely to be handicapped). And what is presented as “merciful” for the parents (mainly the mothers) is, clearly, nothing more than an economic consideration for those in charge; why should anyone who will inevitably be handicapped, and thus a burden to society, be allowed to live, i.e. be born?

Please note that this argument is made by the very same people who campaigned for the Americans with Disabilities Act, and who are unwavering in their support for “accommodations” for every sort of physical, mental, and emotional disability, regardless of the economic and social cost. What it boils down to is that the progressives have claimed for themselves the right to determine who is, and who is not, a human being and thus deserving of life. The unborn have no rights because they are not human, but the born have rights no one ever dreamed of up until recently.

Except! There is also a quiet but growing movement in favor of, let's call it, retroactive abortion, another word for infanticide. Simply being born is no longer enough; now there has to be a kind of trial period during which the individual's fitness is determined by “experts” -- which is another way of saying how well they will fit into society with the minimum expense and inconvenience. (Whoever is afraid of “death panels” as an inevitable facet of socialized medicine has to start here.)

To give credit where credit is due, these progressives are more consistent than those for whom the mere technicality of birth is the great divide. If the powers that be can declare that the unborn are not (yet) human, they should certainly be able, and entitled, to declare born children not yet human, until certain factors are checked off on a list. In other words, if the definition of life is political rather than medical, then let us make the most of it – and this includes, by the way, the “brain dead” and other hopeless cases resulting from injury or disease, and of course the elderly. Value to society becomes paramount, and anyone deemed of no, or negative, value can be justifiably eliminated. If this sounds like a page out of the basic text for Nazism, it is, and not coincidentally because the Nazis were great fans of Margaret Sanger (as were others of like mind in Europe as well as the U.S.).

All of the above points could be expanded on at greater length, but I want to get back to the main theme, which is “white supremacism”, real or alleged. Surely, if one is the more vicious sort of white supremacist, they will have absolutely no problem with birth control/abortion programs that always seem to be aimed at minorities. (Whether there is conscious racism involved can be debated, but what is called in other contexts “adverse impact” cannot. The numbers are there, and they are striking.) In fact, if I were a white supremacist I would donate every spare dime I had to Planned Parenthood. And for all I know, that is what some skinheads/Neo-Nazis do with money they don't spend on beer, junk food, and motorcycles.

And what about the “Alt-Right”? Are they in favor of eugenics? Because there is, after all, a considerable overlap between the alt-right and conservatism, and conservatives are reliably opposed to any progressive/liberal programs, including free abortion on demand for any reason. What I suspect is that some members of the “Alt-Right” are secretly not all that upset about the abortion industry's focus on people who are likely to become wards of the state and/or troublemakers. Others are willing to accept those costs in order to adhere to pro-life principles. I would not want to be the one calling for a “show of hands” on this question at an Alt-Right gathering – not that there would be any guarantee of honest answers.

Charity is where you find it – and it's an odd thing when charity is selectively directed at certain categories of the powerless but not at others. The same can be said of “humanism”; which humans are deserving and which ones are not? What I will call “radical” or “heroic” charity can be found – or so it appears – primarily among seriously religious people, with Catholics leading the way more often than not. It's a mindset that is also found among traditional missionaries – to honor all life, regardless of physical or mental status or potential – and regardless of religious convictions, for that matter. Do the good works of missionaries stop at the church door? Not that I'm aware. I doubt very much if St. Teresa of Calcutta quizzed the sick and destitute as to their belief systems prior to accepting them for care.

But moving right along, we now come to Republicans and “Trumpists”, and here I suspect that many, if not most, are pretty much convinced that the white race is superior – or that, at the very least, it has contributed more on the plus side to humanity and to world history than other races. The more intellectual among them will defend the “Western tradition”, and point to Europe (historic, not current) as the exemplar. But at the same time, I don't think that premise keeps them from maintaining a basically charitable attitude toward other races... and I certainly don't think it has convinced any of them to give up the pro-life vs. pro-choice fight. If you want to say, well, it's all just politics and cynicism, I will point to cases where political futures have been threatened, or terminated, because a politician was insufficiently “pro-choice”. They were willing to pay the price for their inconvenient beliefs.

I'll go further than that. I suspect that many of our conservative (of whatever variety) politicians, being believers in God, fear that the triumph of abortion has put our (presumed) privileged status as a nation and as a society at risk. In other words, if America is, in any sense, “God's country”, how much longer can it remain so if abortion is not only legal but, by and large, tolerated? One can find testimonies to this effect in many speeches and writings by conservative politicians... and again, I think there's more going on there than base politics. Personally, I'm willing to accept what they say as their actual beliefs until proven otherwise. So if they are, nonetheless, white supremacists, it's white supremacism of the softest, most benign sort.

Now we come to the true villains of the piece – the titans of American industry and their colleagues across the water. If you like to follow the money, then by all means let's do so. American high-tech moguls may not be unanimous in this respect, but they are nearly so – they provide tremendous financial as well as political support for... well, you pick the term. “Family planning”... “reproductive rights”... “population control”... and so many other bloodless terms for what is, in actuality, a very bloody business. And what is the focus of all their support? Why, the “third world”, of course, which, oddly enough, seems populated (or over-populated) almost exclusively by persons of a non-white persuasion.

So what is their motive? Granted, they are all Utopians to some degree or other – and they dream of a perfect world... not the “next world”, which I suspect never crosses their minds, but making this world perfect... in their own image, if you will. The whole world ought to be like Silicon Valley. But there are things standing in the way. One is, of course, religion, which they like to call “superstition”. Others are nasty old things like traditions, customs, ethnic identity, and of course the great mantra of our time, “racism/sexism/homophobia”. “Why can't these people just... I don't know... get their act together? What's wrong with them? But we can help!” (Do I hear echoes of colonialism, and of the “white man's burden”? Freakin' right I do!)

And thus begins the next long march. First it was humanism (with the French Revolution as the key energizing event), then “Manifest Destiny” (a polite term for genocide against the American Indians), then international communism, then the long march through American institutions (which has resulted in, among other things, the nice library lady now being an “agent of (radical social) change”), and now the eugenics/population control continuum, which is championed and enforced by allegedly benign entities like the United Nations.

And of course there is an economic component to all of this; in fact it's the single biggest component. Nary does one head of a Silicon Valley titan fall upon the pillow after a hard day's work than he will be jolted awake in the dark of night by visions of numberless hordes of darker-skinned people than he forming a bridge across the ocean like army ants and surging up the California coast with nothing else in mind but invading his palatial gated estate and taking his stuff. The invading armies have already taken over great swaths of Europe (wherever not seriously resisted), but the Rio Grande is a lot closer. Military action (which they could procure if need be) is too crude and ham-handed – at least for the time being. So the problem has to be attacked at the root – namely reproduction (one blushes to think upon this, but one must press on). And so we have plane loads of contraceptives being parachuted onto dusty third world fields... and agents of change under the U.N. flag trying to convince women (and men, if need be) that this family and children thing is overrated... and, as usual – and not even as a last resort – abortion for all, and don't worry about what those silly old priests, pastors, and witch doctors say. Sterilization is the future! (When actually it's a non-future.) And this has gotten to the point where third world leaders are, basically, bribed by the U.N. and other entities to accept what amounts to the soft genocide of their own people, in exchange for a panoply of “benefits”. (Oh, wait – hasn't the same deal been worked out with the “black leadership” in this country? Or am I just imagining things?)

A further irony – why is the Third World suddenly showing not only a striking ability to reproduce, but an equally striking ability to have most of those who are born survive to adulthood, and thus to reproductive age? A lot of it has to do with advances in medicine, sanitation, and nutrition... and those are, in turn, by and large products of guess who, the Western, i.e. white, powers – America and Western Europe. So we invested heavily in the welfare of the Third World – in an act of charity, at least to some extent – and now we seem to be plagued by regret. “Oh, wait – you mean that if you provide improved medical care, sanitation, and nutrition, you wind up getting more people? More than you want, in fact? More than are “sustainable”? Well golly gosh, who'd a thunk it?” So in that sense, we created a monster – a well-nourished one – and said monster is now taking over considerable chunks of Paris (cue Mickey Mouse as “The Sorcerer's Apprentice”). Another way of putting it is that the road to Utopia has, as its goal, enhancement of “quality of life”, while at the same time suppressing quantity of life. Any Utopian vision you can name (and there are many) paints a picture of, basically, an all-middle class world ruled by an elite – or, failing that, a massive slave army ruled by an elite, with a middle class remnant populating the bureaucracy. And this vision has, in fact, been realized more than once in the 20th Century, most prominently by totalitarian regimes, but to a less extent by “soft” socialistic regimes. But their work is not yet done.

Finally we turn to the global elite, AKA The Regime (as opposed to national regimes, which come and go at an alarming rate). And actually, all that I said about the high-tech/media/entertainment/political regime in this country can be applied on a global basis as well, since our home-grown elites have become (assuming they weren't always) a subsidiary of the global entity. Their world views are the same, their goals are the same, and their techniques are, basically, the same. If there are uneasy heads among the elite in this country, then there are equally uneasy heads among the global elite – perhaps even more so since the tide of humanity they dread is already lapping at their doorstep. Utopia is on their mind, make no mistake – a perfect world with them in charge and with anything that threatens it in the cross hairs. And the Europeans are no amateurs in this matter; all we have to do is recall the vision of “The New Soviet Man” in the USSR, or “the Master Race” in Nazi Germany. They showed the way; their mistake was in being too obviously radical and ham-handed about it. They could not harness the propaganda potential of the world-wide media, “entertainment”, and the Internet because those things didn't exist up until recently. But all of these difficulties have been overcome, not in small part because of the influence of the United Nations, but also aided by the global reach of the banking and “securities” industries. Plus, the USSR and Nazi Germany still held out for their respective brands of nationalism, whereas “nationalism” has now become a dirty word, and something to be avoided and suppressed whenever and wherever found. This is why Brexit has caused such an uproar, and why resurgent nationalism in Europe is subject to perpetual criticism and indignation – and why, needless to say, the Trump phenomenon has caused the globalists to come out of the woodwork. Based on the reactions of the elite and of their unthinking robotic army of flying monkeys, it is clear that globalism is the new world religion, with all other liberal/progressive causes being subordinate. You name the liberal/progressive cause or obsession, and I'll show you its intimate connection with globalism, and thus with Utopianism on a world scale. And lest the “check engine” light labeled “conspiracy theories” on your dashboard has come on, I will merely point out that none of this is the least bit secret; it's an open agenda which is pursued openly, in broad daylight – such is the confidence that those in charge of pursing the agenda have in its success. But the Achilles heel of all of this is in that little phrase, “demographics are destiny”. As secure as the elite are in their fortresses (and yes, they do believe in walls after all) they are having as hard a time dealing with human nature as the Soviets and Nazis did. Most of the human race is still (without necessarily knowing it) obeying the command given to Noah and his sons: “Be fertile and multiply and fill the earth.”

Thursday, November 16, 2017

Assume the Position

The conventional wisdom in real estate is that location is everything. To which we might add, timing is also everything. I recall the gas crises back in the 1970s when the market for homes outside the Beltway – i.e., more than 30 minutes away from downtown or the Mall – went comatose. That was the time to buy, of course, since the minute gasoline became plentiful again real estate in the D.C. suburbs started on its course to stratospheric heights – a trend which continues to this day. (I've always felt that there is a certain poetic justice in the fact that the people who believe themselves entitled to tell everyone else how to live their lives have to, themselves, live with astronomical housing prices as well as grotesque traffic jams from pre-dawn to far into the night.) (Not to mention the truly horrific summer weather.)

It's a similar story in politics. Location – and let us translate that to “position” or “stance”, or even “optics” -- is everything, and timing is everything as well. It's a truism that what motivates politicians above all – Job One – is running for office, winning, and then staying in office... and they will pretty much do, and say, whatever it takes in order to achieve those goals. Politicians in our time can rarely be described as men (or women) of principle, and it's enough to make one weep to consider the Founding Fathers, who were, by comparison, philosophers – and deep thinkers when it came to the nature of man, society, the significance of America, and government. By comparison, today's politicians, while some may be technically intelligent, are total knuckle-draggers when it comes to real thinking, and, in way too many cases, moral imbeciles. So for them survival is not only Job One, but the only thing that makes any sense. “Public service” is something they talk about, and pretend to believe in, but judging by their behavior it winds up on the cutting room floor, more often than not.

If it's true that we get the government we deserve, then it must also be true that we get the leaders and, in general, the politicians we deserve. The basic model for the American Experiment included the concept of an informed and enlightened citizenry – and this was back in the days when “the press” involved setting type by hand and printing one sheet at a time. What we have evolved into is a world of information... of nothing but information, in fact, but most of it is noise disguised as information – random outpourings of the monster we call “the media” which are designed to keep us safely locked in our respective cocoons while believing that we are “informed”.

And politicians are victims of this system as well; let's face it. They tend – if we believe even half of what they say – to be even more deluded than the bulk of the citizenry. They believe – or claim to believe – in ideas that were suspect from the beginning, and which have long since been shown to be delusional and destructive. They are not only creatures of the media, but are totally dependent on those media for their survival – for the sustaining of their image. If politicians are Dr. Frankenstein and the media are the monster, then it's clear that the monster has taken over the castle and that the hapless doctor has to bend to his every whim.

There's nothing terribly new about any of this, and in fact the “Information Age” got under way in earnest soon after World War II, although there were precursors (like radio), and of course the printed word has been with us always – or so it seems. And there's no sense pretending that there is, or ever has been, any such thing as pure, unbiased “news”. Any medium, no matter how venerable, has, to some degree, been an instrument of influence, opinion-making, and propaganda, and the average citizen has ever been at a disadvantage when it comes to understanding events outside his immediate purview. (I recall that we used to regularly mock and make fun of the obvious and blatant propaganda organs of the Soviet Union, like Pravda, Izvestia, and Radio Moscow. That was before we discovered how many American newspapers, magazines, and radio and TV stations were firmly under the thumb of the CIA.) (And don't even get me started on Radio Free Europe, whose broadcasts were, mysteriously, unavailable to anyone living in the U.S.)

But again, this is all business as usual, and no surprise to anyone who hasn't been living under a rock since infancy. We are doomed to act not on what we know (which is very limited in scope) but on what we think we know, or what we believe, or what we (as my high school chemistry teacher used to say ) “fancy”. Ignorance is our lot, sadly. And that ignorance is only aggravated by the amount of time we spend riveted to, and obsessing about, “the news”. It can be said that the more we think we know, the higher a percentage of our “knowledge” is delusion and flights of fancy. (Back when the Cold War was still hot, I used to imagine being up in front of a philosophy class and challenging them to prove to me that there was such a place as Russia (anyone who had actually been there was disqualified). No one was ever able to do this – but, of course, it was only my imagination so who knows?) (The idea was that “Russia” may have been no more than a fictitious bogeyman invented by the government in order to scare people into supporting massive arms buildups and the military draft.) (And here we are in 2017 and the bogeyman hiding under everyone's bed and plotting to steal their vote is -- Russia!)

So in a sense we can pity the politicians, since they are in the same epistemological boat as the rest of us. The problem is that, even though they are fellow victims, they take advantage of the situation to further victimize others. They are adept at the “fact” game, and the “truth” game; they are fast talkers (if not fast thinkers) and just love to tell us what we want to hear, even if it's terrifying. The goal of what I will call verbal terrorism is, of course, to frighten us into not only giving up our common-sense view of things, but becoming helpless and dependent, and easy prey for them and whoever comes along afterward. Think of it as them gaming the system in their favor, the way certain wily prison or concentration camp inmates will somehow gain advantages in power, influence, and resources through scheming, wile, and social dominance (all familiar traits of politicians). Yes, they are in the system, they are victims in a way, and they harbor many of the same delusions the rest of us do, but within those constraints they manage to turn things to their advantage.

Consider now the dilemma of the current crop of politicians in Congress. Actually, consider the dilemma of the Republicans, since the Democrats are facing no dilemma whatsoever as they contemplate the 2018 election season. The Democrats' position is crystal clear: Trump is illegitimate and a usurper who stole the presidency with the help of the Russians, and we must, by any and all means, drive him from office as soon as possible. This is their position, pure and simple, and we can expect them to run on that position, since they have no other. Their thinking at this point goes no further than the image of Trump fleeing the White House with family in tow and being escorted out of town – tar and feathers optional. Of course, it may have occurred to a few of them that the result of this would be that Mike Pence would become president. But that would be illegitimate as well, so he would also have to be impeached, and... well, it's hard to come up with a scenario where Hillary would return to Washington in triumph and ascend to the throne that she has been so rudely denied for so long. At least it's hard to come up with that scenario consistent with the Constitution – but who cares about that silly old hunk of paper anyway? If Hillary descended on Washington the way Lenin descended on Petrograd, she would undoubtedly be declared president by popular acclaim, and any naysayers would be dealt with most severely; at least this is the fantasy no doubt entertained by many members of the “resistance”.

That's the Democratic position in a nutshell; cue “To Dream the Impossible Dream”. The party may lack a clear leadership structure (as witness the cat fight between Hillary and Donna “Bobo” Brazile), but no one can deny that it represents ideas – a world view. And there are countless weak-egoed people in that party who would still be willing to walk over hot coals at Hillary's bidding. For the Republicans, however, it's a far different story. Leadership? Hard to say. Ideas? None that I can come up with offhand. And who's going to walk over hot coals for Yertle the Turtle, er, I mean Mitch McConnell?

Here's where we get back to “position” and “timing”. For starters, we're already seeing Republicans dropping out simply because it would offend their tender sensibilities to run again under the Republican banner, which has been so badly contaminated by Trump and “Trumpism”. They prefer to wash their hands of the entire matter, and thus remain as pure as the driven snow. Yeah, right. But that's just the tip of the iceberg. The rest of them (all representatives and a third of senators) have to make a decision, and make it soon. Many of them were “never Trumpers” during the election season last year, and others undoubtedly agreed but hesitated to say so in so many words because they knew which way the wind was blowing. Some got elected because they openly supported Trump, and some because they openly opposed him; same with the losers. Again, position and timing. (And location, if we're talking “red” vs. “blue” vs. “hard to predict”.) In short, the 2016 election was, for many of them, a gamble – and for the House of Representatives it's going to be “here we go again” next year.

But this time the landscape has changed. Instead of having to respond to Trump's campaign, and adopt positions vis-a-vis the many issues he brought up, now they have to stake out a position vis-a-vis the actual Trump administration – 9 months young at this time, but over twice that come November of 2018.

And how are they responding, other than the ones who've already bailed? Well, the “never Trumpers” are holding firm, more or less, and showing solidarity with the Democrats. But is that anything that will get them re-elected a year from now? Isn't loyalty worth anything any longer?

Then you have the more or less silent majority, who remain more or less silent, but sooner or later their constituents will, hopefully, demand that they fish or cut bait, and declare which side they're on.

Then you have the ones who openly support Trump, or seem to be doing so – but is this nothing more than a gamble on their part? And will this positioning morph in some way over the next year?

They're all gambling, as a matter of fact, and they're gambling on at least two things at once: (1) the fate of the Trump administration; and (2) public opinion. And that gamble has a temporal element in that the administration's fortunes will surely continue to develop in as chaotic a fashion as they've been doing to date... and as to public opinion, we know how it can turn on a dime.

If there were a publicly-traded crystal ball industry, a “buy” recommendation would be in order at this point. Unfortunately, there is no such entity, so the denizens of Capitol Hill are caught in a multi-layered dilemma – and richly-deserved, in my opinion.

The trajectory, or fate, of the Trump administration is anyone's guess. To begin with, his administration has yet to get off the ground. Sure, he's managed to spray roach killer on a lot of Obama's executive orders with executive orders of his own; this was Job One, and he's doing it. All well and good. But if you only live by the executive order, you also die by the executive order. What counts in the long run is legislation, and in that area Trump's program, or proposed program, is at a standstill. And this is with majorities in both houses of Congress! But again, we have to remember that the “never Trumpers” tip the scales; as they indicated, without a hint of shame, during the 2016 campaign, they would rather lose the election than see Trump as president, and now they are saying that they would rather join the Democrats than see Trump succeed. But again, how is this going to play out in flyover country next year? Time will tell.

If we want to be brutally frank about it, we are still operating under Obama's policies and with Obama's programs. The Trump administration is, so far, Obama's third term, with no signs of anything that can change it. Obama rules the bureaucracy, AKA the “deep state”, from his mansion on a hill in D.C.; why else would he have stayed in Washington if it were not to perform this function?  He's got plenty of time to go back to Chicago and return to community activism.  He has become the gray eminence of the Democratic Party, gently easing out Bill Clinton, although the latter could always reassert his Svengali-like control if he felt the urge. What all of this adds up to is that Trump is in a position new to American politics: With his (OK, “his”) party in power in both houses, he finds himself hobbled and kneecapped at every turn, because half of “his” party is against him, in addition to pretty much everyone else on Earth except those who voted for him, who have shown, so far, admirable loyalty.

What this means is that, short of actual impeachment, the Trump administration is going to remain theoretical. It's going to slog along, confined to the White House, while the rest of the country goes on its merry, or not so merry, way. But, again, we have this hard core of loyal Trump supporters, and we have to assume that they will vote in 2018. So any Republican who expects to get elected, or re-elected, in 2018 has to concentrate on positioning. Who will be going to the polls on Election Day of 2018? Trump loyalists? Never Trumpers? Skeptics? Independents? The mind boggles.

But let's not overlook the temporal dimension. Between now and a year from now, anything can happen. Trump might pull off some significant triumphs in terms of domestic (read: economic) policy, or in terms of foreign policy. That would enhance his value as an ally and as a possible source of support. On the other hand, any number of bad things might happen domestically (read: economically) or foreign policy-wise. And in that case, Trump is going to become a liability that no one will want to be identified with.

All of this adds up to an Excedrin headache par excellence for Republican office holders and office-seekers. One can almost smell the scent of fear and cowardice oozing out of the Capitol. Now, life would be simpler for them if they were men (women) of principle. If that were so, they could simply run on the basis of principles and ideas, and the pro- vs. anti-Trump issue wouldn't even come up. Or if it did, it would be irrelevant. But that's not the way things work these days. Everyone is looking for coattails to ride, and whoever rode in on Trump's coattails may be starting to wonder if that was such a good idea. Ditto with anti-Trump coattails (whatever they might be). The current “buzz” is that you have to be pro-Trump to get elected or re-elected. Even if that's true, it's only true right now, today. It may not be true tomorrow. By the time next fall rolls around, Republican candidates may have all joined the resistance, and be trash-talking along with Pelosi and Schumer. (In which case, why bother voting for a Republican when you can vote for the real thing? But that's been a question ever since the Republicans ceased being true conservatives.)

The only bright spot in all of this is that Trump seems to be more able than any career politician to ignore the “nattering nabobs” in Congress, and the media, and Hollywood, and everywhere that nattering nabobs congregate. He seems to have a vision, and a program, and a plan, and he seems to be determined and consistent about it, and not spending a whole lot of time figuring out how to make people happy and like him – which, in itself, is extremely refreshing. But if Trumpism is so radically removed from business as usual in Washington, are its chances of survival, not to mention success, any better than those of any other outsider and/or populist movement down through history? Are we to have, basically, four years of stalemate followed by a return to the usual way of doing things (accompanied by a resounding Republican defeat in 2020, no doubt)? Will the establishment have taught those pesky populists a damn good lesson? (Bernie-ites and Warren-ites should be paying attention to this as well, by the way.) And – if the pendulum has swung more in the populist direction than ever before with the ascendence of Donald Trump, what will it look like when it swings back the other way, which it almost certainly will?

Ah, yes -- “interesting times”.

Monday, October 16, 2017

Bells are Ringing

One of the many pleasures I enjoy while sitting on my back porch (among now-struggling herbs and tomatoes, undoubtedly deceived by the last gasp of Indian Summer, which is supposed to come to a thundering close in the next day or so, according to the weather gurus) is the sound of church bells at various times of the day. And I've gotten pretty good at identifying, when conditions are right, which bells from which church are ringing at any given moment – the ones across the valley and the ones up the road being the most prominent. I might add that in this, perhaps the most unabashedly Catholic city in the country, all of the bells are rung (or broadcast, if electronic) by Catholic churches as far as I know, although I also have to add that the Episcopalians are no slouches in this matter, if one includes the change ringing at the National Cathedral in Washington, D.C. – a bit of tradition in a Gothic edifice more often given over to secular humanism. (This custom persists much to the delight of traditionalists and aesthetes alike, and undoubtedly much to the dismay of the neighbors on “Cathedral Hill”, although I have yet to hear of anyone dropping a dime and complaining to the D.C. Noise Ordinance Ministry.) Well, holiness is where you find it, even if it is inadvertent.

It happened again today (Oct. 14), under a cloudless sky with the temperature topping 80 degrees, on the centennial plus one day of the Dance of the Sun in Fatima, Portugal. And what is the message of the bells? Because, like the rain, the sound of the bells falls upon the just and the unjust alike. It is, among other things, a way of asserting not only the presence of believers but of belief itself -- the reality of the spiritual dimension of life – a dimension that is typically lost in the daily shuffle of politics, controversy, and the endless struggle between belief in God and belief in “ideas” -- the latter based on the premise that the observable world is all that there is, and all that is worthy of our concern. The message of the bells is: “No, wait! There is something more.” -- and as that master lyricist Jon Hendricks, who set words to countless Count Basie classics, inscribed on my ancient LP jacket a few years back, “Short Jazz Poem: 'Listen!'”

Another way of putting it is that it represents hope in the midst of chaos – and of uncertainty and despair. For the secular/materialist/humanist project which has been in full swing since at least as far back as the French Revolution, while it seems to have a goal – it is “progressive”, after all – is ultimately a recipe for frustration. The perfectibility of man and of society is a will-o'-the-wisp in a fallen world, and those who pursue it are on a fool's errand. And this is not to say that life cannot be made better in the material sense, through advances in medicine, nutrition, technology, and the whole panoply of things that constitute “progress”. But small, incremental advances are not enough for those whose entire world view is limited to the material, and who see man as, basically, a small, insignificant creature scuttling around between “the sky above and the mud below”, to borrow the title of a French documentary film from 1961. The premise seems to be that “progress” -- whatever that means – will free humankind from the fetters of mere earthly existence, and create a new man, and even a new species. In this is their hope, and in this they trust – and no skepticism or gainsaying will divert them from their course, which inevitably requires more control, more pigeonholing, and ultimately totalitarianism and tyranny. To save the human race from itself requires, basically, the abolition of humanity, starting with the human spirit, which is inexplicably attracted to what Freud called illusions – religion, faith, belief in the unseen.

And it's not even just about bells. Two years ago, on a trip to the Near East, I stayed a few days in Bethlehem, a holy city for Christians which is populated mainly by Muslims and under the watchful eye of Jews – thus, the uneasy dynamics among the “People of the Book”. At certain times of the day the Muslim call to prayer could be heard coming from a nearby minaret – amplified, no doubt, but nonetheless having an ancient and alien (to me) sound. It would start as a kind of low rumble, and I was uncertain, at first, what it was or where it was coming from. But then it became clear that it was, in a sense, the equivalent of church bells in the Christian world. It was, again, a kind of assertion; in a place of so much strife the spiritual was not only real, but paramount.

It is said that bells serve to drive the Devil away. But even he is capable of “cultural appropriation”, as witness the AC/DC classic “Hell's Bells”. So bells are a marker – for good or ill. They tell you that that there is more to “reality” than what simply meets the eye or tantalizes the senses... that something's up... that the day of reckoning is at hand (even if “at hand” in cosmic time still means many millennia in our time). But they can also be reassuring -- an intervention of sorts into our oft-dreary material existence. For without them, what would be left to get our attention? If I lived in a place where bells could not be heard I would feel that something had been lost – that a cosmic alarm clock had been silenced because humanity had been reprobated and given up to its fate.

Friday, October 13, 2017

Statuary Rape

It's a truism – but true, nonetheless – that the most dangerous enemy is one that has nothing to lose. The Confederacy was – and continues to be – a defeated nation. And “nation” is what it was; let's not quibble about that. It did exist, for four short years, and the Civil War, AKA The War Between the States, was not so much a “civil war” as a war between nations. Why do we call the South “rebels” but accept without question all of the other “separatist” movements and their resulting nations (think: South Sudan) as perfectly reasonable historical events? Why are we not exerting pressure on Russia to do something to “preserve the (Soviet) union”? (Heaven knows, they'd like to, and they have, in fact, made moves in that direction.) Why do we not wax nostalgic about the long-lost glory days of Yugoslavia? And how did we manage to let Czechoslovakia break in half after all the effort we went to to unite the Czechs and the Slovaks? And why aren't we all over England's case when it comes to Scotland and Wales? And so on.

But as William Faulkner said in so many words, to a Southerner the Civil War is not so much history as current events. Because the battle rages on, and in our time the battle is heating up again, for the umpteenth time. For the inconvenient truth is that defeated nations do, in fact survive – culturally and in spirit at least, as well as politically, and even economically.

The lesson is that winning is not always winning, and losing is not always losing. In the long, or very long, run, surprising things happen. The Ottoman Empire was supposedly reduced to a faint memory after World War I, and yet here we are nearly 100 years later dealing with an alleged caliphate in the form of ISIS. The intrusions of Islam into Europe were turned back by events like the Battle of Vienna (1683 – again, current events) but the descendants of the Ottoman forces are now flooding into Europe (and the U.S.), propelled by not only economic forces but by sheer demographics, i.e. “population pressure”. It turns out that people who are willing to reproduce beyond their “replacement numbers” can, in fact, not only come back to life but constitute a dominant force – and it doesn't have to be about sheer firepower. Turkey was once termed “the sick man of Europe”, but it has now become a freeway for a “soft invasion” of countries which can now be called “sick”, simply because of their lack of political and spiritual willingness to survive. They contracept and abort, and the Moslems just keep having kids. The term “suicide” for what's happening in Europe is not too strong.

Call it what you will – invasion, immigration, migration, whatever – the point is that the powers that be – the global elite with their headquarters in Western Europe – are now reduced to hunkering down in their ancient stone fortresses (or Brussels highrises) while the Moslems take over large sections of their large (and not so large) cities. And all of the traditions and cultural history of Western Europe are turning out to be no match for this human wave; what's remarkable is that what is happening now didn't happen sooner.

Likewise, we are experiencing our own human wave, namely that from Latin America. But no one ever asks, why now? Why not sooner? After all, Latin America has always been there – or at least since the time of Columbus. And there have always been, if you'll pardon the expression, “wetbacks” who have braved the mighty waters of the Rio Grande in order to gain a foothold in the Southwest, and reclaim what was lost in the Mexican War. So why this sudden flood of humanity? The answers, of course, are many – and debatable. Economics, of course, is at the top of the list (no, not “ideas” or “freedom” in general) – people looking for “opportunity”, but also fleeing violence and chaos in their home countries – much of which can be attributed to “drugs”. But why are “drugs” such a big deal all of a sudden? Well, where are these drugs headed? Who are the customers... the buyers? Americans, of course, and everyone wants a piece of that ever-expanding pie. And it's not just about the cities, or about the “inner cities”; the Middle South is becoming a wasteland of drug addiction, with opioids replacing moonshine as the substance of choice. And what is addiction, after all, but an expression of despair – and the more dominant the drug culture becomes, the deeper the despair becomes. But what causes, or at least contributes mightily, to despair? Hopelessness... alienation... desperation... a feeling of being left out, of having been bypassed on the road to high-tech Utopia. When an individual is declared a non-person, or a group is declared “deplorables”, they tend to act accordingly, unless they have sufficient resources and self-esteem to overcome bigotry and persecution by the ruling elite. People are highly suggestible, after all – especially in the aggregate. Pronounce a given group “victims” often enough and they start to agree with you, and think of themselves as victims; this is the essence of victimology – the politics of division, of divide-and-conquer. The East and West Coasts sit fat and happy while the heartland appears helpless and depressed. You don't need outright cultural genocide to get this effect; the gradual erosion of identity and self-respect is enough. The Middle South is the inner city writ large, but with different skin tones.

To draw a bright line between the Civil War, and its aftermath, and the current pathologies of the American South is to oversimplify, certainly. And yet the South's own spokesmen over the years – think not only Faulkner but Tennessee Williams, and many others – were perfectly willing to draw a line of this sort, if only indirectly by implication. Ever since the conclusion of “the late unpleasantness” -- which was anything but a “conclusion”, but only the start of a new stage – the South has been on the defensive – politically, economically, and culturally. Much has been made of “the New South”, where, thanks to migration from the North (not to mention air conditioning) the South has remade itself into a respectable ally in the inevitable drive toward a socialist paradise, where (to paraphrase St. Paul) there is no South vs. North, no black vs. white, no rural vs. urban – where we are all united in the ongoing pursuit of American exceptionalism and hegemony. (An interesting sidebar to all of this is that the U.S. military, particularly the Army, is still, in many ways, a Southern institution, thanks to a military tradition that predates the Civil War but that persists, nonetheless, to the present day.)

But the truth is far different, as we are, once again, seeing. It's no longer simply a matter of racial integration – that battle was won in the courts a couple of generations back, and eventually “hearts and minds” followed suit, by and large (or the older generation died out, which has the same effect). Economically, the South and the North are joined as never before; you don't have to go through customs to travel on an odd-numbered interstate highway in either direction. Politically, it can be argued that the South has, at various times, more or less taken over Congress, not to mention the presidency, which has been blessed (ahem) with a sorry gaggle of Southern governors and other politicians (LBJ, Carter, Clinton, and Bush II).

But what is it that has stood fast, and has remained as the last redoubt of Southern pride? Tradition, basically (cue Tevye from “Fiddler on the Roof”). And what constitutes that tradition? Patriotism, but of an odd sort – the patriotism of a defeated nation, and of those who identify and express solidarity with it, for whatever reasons. And it's precisely because they were defeated – and defamed, mainly but not exclusively because of slavery – that this patriotism, this pride, has survived pretty much intact up to the present day. “The love that dare not speak its name” has become the love of, and pride in, place -- “blood and soil” -- something the perpetually restless and money-grubbing North cannot fathom. And it's not as if the North doesn't have these things; they just don't put much stake in them. For Northerners (of which I am one, by the way) it is enough to seek one's fortune wherever the odds favor it; “place” is secondary, and “blood” is strictly forbidden as a source of anything honorable. So we have a “nation” of, basically, (1) perpetual gypsies and migrants ever on the quest for the almighty dollar, and (2) people for whom the land -- “place” -- is everything, which explains why they persist in staying in “poverty pockets” in the Appalachians and elsewhere. Poor land is still land, whereas you can't grow corn or raise pigs in a stock portfolio or bank account.

So there is a profound lack of understanding, not to mention empathy, between the two – a lack that no politician or national leader has yet managed to remedy. (And yes, that includes Southern presidents.)

(It bears mentioning that the location of the nation's capital was chosen explicitly as a meeting place between North and South – the idea being that, with that strong a symbol, the two preexisting cultures would there find common ground. And this was, needless to say, generations before warfare broke out between the two.  And I have always found it amusing that while Washington, D.C. was firmly in the North – and well-defended – Alexandria, Virginia was firmly in the South, just a few miles down what is now U.S. 1. Yes, there were forts between D.C. And Alexandria, the sites of which remain, in many cases – unless they've been obliterated by housing developments.)

So, yes – the Old South is truly “gone with the wind”, and the Confederacy is the Lost Cause. No one can realistically argue about that. However, it is one thing to declare peace and work for reconciliation, and another to drive a stake into the heart of the losing nation/society/culture. The North, AKA the U.S., AKA the preserved Union, was at least smart enough to leave the South with its memories, its pride, and its icons – military and political. There was considerable tolerance for the remaining symbols of the South as well – flags in particular. (And what is it about flags? Well, that's a discussion for another time.) We could all chuckle indulgently when someone said, at least half in jest, “Save your Confederate money, boys, 'cause the South will rise again!” And – unless I'm sadly mistaken -- “Dixie” was a permitted song in music class in my (New York state) public school, because... well, it was historic, after all. In fact, if memory serves, we even had a perfectly courteous North/South debate in junior high social studies class. Try that these days! You'd have a SWAT team breaking the door down in five minutes, followed by an army of social workers, grief counselors, and facilitators toting teddy bears and Play-Doh.

The fact remains that for believers in the Lost Cause, just about all they have left is iconography, the first and foremost of which is – you guessed it – statuary. It's the only tangible, and public, record of that which was, is not, and is never more to be – of a dream that died. Now, we can debate all day and into the night as to whether slavery was an essential element of antebellum Southern culture. It was certainly key to the Southern economy, no doubt – and a major factor in politics, especially on the national level, where Southern legislators had to trek to Washington and be beat over the head on a regular basis by the abolitionists. But I'm talking about culture here – about the self-image of a people... a highly complex matter that includes, yes, “blood and soil”, but also traditions from whatever source, customs, approaches to government (recall that the Confederacy was much more libertarian than the Union, even at that time, not to mention ever since), religion (and yes, the South had a different mix of denominations then, as it continues to have – possibly the most stable remnant of former times), dress, manners, class structure... you name it. The South was another country then, not only literally for four years, but figuratively – as it continues to be, but only in the pale, ghostly remnants that Tennessee Williams was so fond of putting on stage. The Middle South – the “border states” -- were a kind of hybrid in many ways, as I found out when I lived in Missouri for a few years. And as such, they had, and continue to have, a kind of identity crisis – and it bears noting that many contemporary dysfunctions (like opioid addiction) seem to have inflicted the Middle South much more severely than the Deep South. One might say that anyone born and raised in the Deep South is a Southerner, without a doubt – whereas a person born and raised in the Middle South has a choice. They can adopt, and immerse themselves in, the Southern way of life (such as it remains in an increasingly cosmopolitan, rootless society), or they can be more like Midwesterners, or even Westerners; the choice is theirs. But with that choice comes, potentially, disorientation, and a frustrated search for identity.

But to have, or adopt, the “Southern” point of view is not simply a matter of geography, either. Witness the fact that there are “country-western” radio stations in every state of the union; this is, among other things, Southern pride asserting itself wherever its proponents may be, and in public, no less – and in a forum that the Regime seems indifferent to (the same way they don't harass NASCAR about its “carbon footprint”). And of course “Southern” also correlates highly with “Scotch-Irish”, with the Appalachians, and with – dare I say it? -- being white. So to celebrate, or take pride in, being of the South, and to memorialize the Confederacy and its key figures, is pretty much automatically to express white pride, if not outright white supremacy (or at least wishing for it). And white pride is something that must be banned, banished, crushed, and stamped out at all costs, according to the masters of the political, media, and entertainment universes. Southerners have to be kept on as the butt of jokes and satire, but to take them seriously would be a great breach of P. C. etiquette.

And after all, since when do we allow the losing side in any war to celebrate... anything? Do we allow aging Nazis to chant the Horst Wessel Song with weak, quavering voices? To we allow the Japanese to raise cups of sake in celebration of the Bataan Death March? Not bloody likely. A defeated enemy is still an enemy, basically – no matter how much rehabilitation has gone on in the meantime. Any hint of the mindset that led to war must be quashed without mercy, even if it is only one small element of overall national history, pride, and remembrance.

And likewise with the Confederacy. It is a particular mark of totalitarianism to give no quarter... to tolerate not the slightest deviation from the party line, either in word or symbol... and to allow no breaks, no days off, no truces from the ongoing and perpetual hate that must be expressed at all times, through all channels and media, by all right-thinking people. This has characterized repressive regimes throughout the 20th Century, and now characterizes our own in this one respect, at least – that the Confederacy has become, in retrospect, the Great Satan, and deserves no recognition for anything other than having been totally and irredeemably evil. Which means, as far as all forms of nostalgia for the Lost Cause or for what it represents in the present day, game over – no more flags, no more statues, no more names on buildings, bridges, highways, etc. -- no more graves (!) -- no more anything. History is not being rewritten, it's being destroyed. And who feels the pain the most? Basically, those who have adopted the Confederacy and its Lost Cause as a symbol of their own cause – as a group and as individuals. And yes, these are the same “deplorables” who voted for Donald Trump, and who saw him as their last, best hope for preserving some self-respect against the assaults of the larger culture and the Regime, as embodied in that which lies “inside the Beltway”.

When an entire people has been declared anathema and beyond the pale, and their culture is assaulted on all sides, and they find themselves economically disadvantaged for whatever reasons, and they find themselves exploited by ever newer and more exotic drugs, and they are treated as buffoons and laughingstocks by the popular culture... what do they have left? Symbols, basically. Flags and statues. The flags have been banned already, so the statues are all that's left, and they are, in many cases, being actively defended by those who at least believe in not tossing greats chunks of our collective history down the memory hole.

So how are they supposed to react? The election of Trump certainly gave them an at least temporary feeling of empowerment – at least as long as it takes for a few thousand of them to be put in uniform and sent over to Afghanistan – but did it improve their lot in any tangible way? Not that I'm aware. Not unlike the election of Barack Obama, which was supposed to be such a boon to the black community, but which seems only to have aggravated its problems, the people who voted for Trump had high expectations – finally “one of us” in the White House! He'll stand up for us, even if no one else (including mainstream Republicans) has. Of course, expectations like this are bound to run up against cold political realities, not to mention personal ones, like – through what fantastical thought processes did they end up with the idea that a New York City billionaire was one of them? But for the time being, nonetheless, there is an assertiveness afoot that has the Establishment going literally mad.

And it's not as if Trump truly “represents” any given grievance group, from the “alt-right” on down to much lower life forms. What counts (again, as with Obama) is that people think he represents them, and that will lead only to frustration when their collective lot doesn't change. But again, statistics and “bean counting” by clerks in Washington, D.C. wearing green eyeshades don't really express the essence of this issue, or any other. One can be poor but have pride, or rich but in despair. What sustains a culture – as we should know by now – is not material prosperity; in fact, that can actually hasten a culture's demise by causing a shift in priorities among its members. And it's not technology or being more “in touch” with the “modern world”. It is, after all, tradition (Tevye again) – and that tradition can be obvious, out in the open, and celebrated with great gusto, or it can be more like a quiet stream that permeates daily life and is expressed most clearly in rites of passage, or it can become a kind of subversive element – a sign of rebellion (or of the failure thereof). But it might be said that the smaller the remnant, the more zeal with which people cling to it. Would statues and flags be as important if the Confederacy still existed? It seems unlikely, because there would be so many other things sustaining the culture as well (hopefully not including slavery). But as a gesture of defiance they loom large, and so the reaction of the ruling elite, with their commitment to totalitarianism, looms large as well.

You can snuff out the symbols if you snuff out the people first; that's called genocide. But to snuff out the symbols while the people remain is fraught with risks, and the establishment won't know what those risks are, or their magnitude, until it's too late.

Friday, June 16, 2017

2020 Vision

It's not too soon to be talking about the 2020 election – I mean, the campaign started on Inauguration Day the same way it always does. Let's accept that (with weary resignation) as a given. But the 2016 election provided an exceptional number of “lessons learned” for both parties – or let's say it provided an exceptional number of lessons that might be learned, or lessons that will be ignored, or non-lessons that are mistaken for lessons.

I'll say it again – the 2016 campaign provided a rare juxtaposition of two varieties of populism, the traditional Bernie Sanders version (which was successfully quashed by the Democratic establishment, none of whom appreciated the irony of it all) and the Donald Trump version (piggybacking on the Tea Party), and the latter actually won against all odds, which shows that populism is not always doomed to defeat despite its track record of usually being snuffed out by the ruling elite. (Note that the last bona fide populist to run on a major party ticket was William Jennings Bryan, who managed to get nominated by the Democrats three times, and lost each time.)

So it could be claimed that the Democrats have, basically, given up on populism, except for buzzwords and “optics”. The blandishments of power – of being part of the establishment and of the ruling elite – have proven way too seductive. The Republicans, on the other hand, have more recently discovered populism, starting with Nixon's “Southern strategy” and extending through Reagan to Trump (skipping over Ford, Bush I, and Bush II, all of whom were too obviously products of the ruling class).

The problem is whereas populism used to come naturally to the Democrats, it still makes the Republican establishment uneasy; they don't trust the unwashed masses – “the people”, with all of their strife, demands, and impulsiveness. Much better to settle back into the comfortable country-club mode and hope that they can attract enough of the middle class to gain victory – said middle class being motivated primarily by fear of the lower class. (When Obama threatened those corporate moguls with visions of peasants with pitchforks, he was engaging in a bit of temporary nostalgia – referring to those golden times when “the people” put FDR in office in order to put the ruling class in its place, which, of course, he spectacularly failed to do, even though he was a master of what we now call “optics”.)

Trump, of course, is not a theorist, or an ideologue – and he never will be a politician, which is the ultimate offense. He simply refuses to play that game, and for people for whom that is the only game in town – nay, the only game in life – he represents an alien life form. And sure enough, the people in both parties who play that game, and their facilitators in the wider culture, are as eager to eliminate this thing in their midst as white blood cells are to eliminate bacteria.

So the battle that is raging right now is likely to go on until Inauguration Day 2021, or until Trump is driven from office – whichever comes first. And any arguments that Trump's election benefited the Republican Party fall on deaf ears; recall that, during the campaign, many members of the Republican establishment came right out and said that they would rather lose the election than see Donald Trump in the White House. Try reminding them that they won because he won, and they will erupt with indignation: “win” on his terms? That can hardly be called winning. And this is one reason, other than sheer habit, why they are as limp as wet noodles when dealing with the hard-core believers in the Democratic Party. “Turn the reins of government over to the likes of Schumer, Pelosi, Feinstein, and Franken, we don't care. We're in despair! We're taking our dolls and going home!” And yet this is the party that is dreaming of some kind of comeback in 2020? If the Trump administration crashes and burns like the Hindenburg (oh, the humanity, etc.) they will feel fully vindicated. But if Trump manages to pull it off, they won't be any happier. They will be campaigning for hope and change every bit as fervently as the Democrats. (The term “loyal opposition” only applies where there is a monarch on the throne, like in England. Over here it's an unknown concept.)

So let's entertain a few possible scenarios, shall we? Number one, Trump continues to be thwarted, blocked, frustrated, and filibustered at every turn, but remains in office, his administration fated to be judged a dismal failure, even when compared to that of Jimmy Carter, the very definition and exemplar thereof. This will obviously be a signal to the Republicans to go back to the tried and true, and nominate another bland nobody – a face in a suit – in 2020. Oh, you say that a party hardly ever fails to nominate a sitting president for a second term? I don't think that quaint custom is going to impress anybody next time around. But wait – what if Trump has as many supporters then as he had in 2016, or even more? That's the point at which the proverbial smoke-filled room will be resurrected from the dead. They will figure out some way to keep Trump from running for re-election, or from being nominated if he does run, popular support or no. For all I know, they'll take a page from the DNC play book and pull the same tricks on Trump that the Democrats played on poor old Bernie.

Number two, Trump leaves office for whatever reason, and Pence winds up as placeholder the way Ford did after Nixon was run out of town. He could wind up being nominated, just as Ford was, and wind up losing just as Ford did. But at least that way things would return to normal. (And by the way, I would be willing to bet that a good many of these pajama-clad “snowflakes” who wander around college campuses bleeding from every orifice because they feel “attacked” by Donald Trump think that if he were successfully impeached, Hillary would automatically become president. Um.... that's not how it works, kiddies. But hey, don't they all agree with Henry Ford who supposedly said “history is bunk”?)

Number three, Trump actually succeeds – not just by his own lights, but by general consensus of his supporters and some grudging acceptance by his opponents, who are legion, and are at the present time united in their hostility and resistance. About the only way this ever happens, historically, is if a major conflict starts and the U.S. is perceived as winning, or at least not losing. It has happened before. The problem is that once someone becomes a “war president” their fate is, from that point on, linked to that war; just ask LBJ. It's all about timing, basically. Men may make history when it comes to starting wars, but history turns around and unmakes men when it comes to ending them.

So, to sum up – and again, I ask your indulgence and that you ignore my previous hilarious mistakes when it comes to political prognostication. The Democrats will toy, once again, with populism but nominate, once again, a solidly establishment type, thus frustrating the populist remnant within the party – you know, those naïve folks who still believe the Democrats are the party of “the people”. The Republicans will nominate a face in a suit – who knows, maybe one of the countless 2016 contenders, and they will have about as much appeal to what remains of the Trump base, or of the Tea Party, as Hillary had to those who “felt the Bern”. And the republic will be, no matter who wins, back in the hands of the establishment – the ruling class – the globalist elite – and things will slouch on as before, as if the Trump era was nothing but a bad dream... an interregnum. The sane (allegedly) adults will be in charge again, and somewhere Dick Cheney will be laughing.

Saturday, June 3, 2017

Whose Populism Is It Anyway?

I read a column in The Washington Times the other day that had me scratching my head. The topic was the already eagerly anticipated 2020 election, but what caught my attention was some of the terminology. Here are some quotes:

“... a Democratic Party that is tilting further leftward in a push toward economic-centered politics...”

“... President Trump's economic populism.”

“If Democrats are fighting for America's working families...” (quote from Elizabeth Warren)

“Her [Warren's] message of leveling the playing field for working families...” (quote from Nick Rathold)

“... the populist economic message that Ms. Warren and Mr. Sanders are touting.”

“... the populist message of Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders...” (quote from Adam Green)

The key words here are “economic”, “working families”, and “populist”/”populism”. So let's drill down a bit, since it appears that both sides are talking about the same issues and trying to appeal to the same people on those issues – not that this would be unusual in politics, but it doesn't get to the heart of the matter. If they're in so much agreement, why is there so much opposition and hostility?

The notion that the Democratic Party is suddenly enamored of economic-centered politics is a bit startling, since that is the only issue they have ever been concerned with. Way back in the Progressive Era, it was already about fairness... leveling the playing field... redistribution of income... and so on. It was, as it remains, more about outcomes than opportunities. Pretty much every domestic policy initiative by the Democrats over the past century or more has been aimed at equality of outcomes in some way, with a socialist nirvana as the ultimate goal. “Opportunities” are only a means to an end – and if they don't result in equal outcomes, then more opportunities have to be made available, ad infinitum. I'm not sure what the Democrats would be all about if it weren't for economics – foreign policy maybe? But they seem to consider that an annoyance, and something that has to be either minimized or ignored. Even foreign policy in our time is aimed, from the Democratic perspective, at equal outcomes on a global level – if the minimum wage anywhere in the world is lower than that in, say, Australia, there's a problem, and it has to be fixed (presumably by us).

How about “working families”? Oh, right – those folks who turned out in droves to vote for Trump. The Democrats have quite openly, and explicitly, chosen to eject and ignore working families in favor of a plethora of minorities. “Working men” (and women), AKA “labor”, finally caught on, and despite the pleadings and threats from their union leadership, chose to vote not only their pocketbooks but their basic values, which the Democrats have done everything to belittle and defeat. “Labor” cannot be counted on any more, and Trump's attracting the labor vote was similar to Nixon's “Southern strategy” -- just show people what is really going on and hope the scales fall from their eyes.

And when it comes to “leveling the playing field”, well, again Trump had it figured out. Get the government (as inspired by Democrats/liberals/progressives) out of the business of harassing, punishing, and persecuting honest working people and of attacking their culture and values. The government doesn't do this to the ruling class, and it doesn't do it to the comfortable upper middle class.. and it doesn't do it to the dependent class either. But it certainly has been sticking it to the working class, and again, their eyes have been opened (for the time being at least – and hopefully for keeps).

Then we have “populism” -- oy, where to begin? I've already commented (as have any number of other talking and/or writing heads) that the 2016 campaign was, for one brief, shining moment, a struggle between two varieties of populism – one represented by Bernie Sanders and the other by Donald Trump. So... what is populism, anyway? What, if anything, did these two campaigns in common?

The paradox of populism in America is that this country was, allegedly, founded to foster and preserve individual rights – i.e., the rights of the people. And this is still a key component of our self image, our iconography, and our various secular liturgies, litanies, and memes. And yet, mysteriously, the notion of government “of, by, and for the people” keeps having to be re-asserted, as if it's a delicate and fragile thing, and easily suppressed or ignored. But why is it, seemingly, always on the defensive? After all, we have the same Constitution now that we had back in 1789. There have been no revolutions, and we have never been conquered by a foreign power. So what's the problem?

The opposing forces to the interests of the people have been seen differently at different times, but there are certain common themes. One is uncontrolled immigration – not a new topic by any means. Another is industrialization. Then we have capitalism, banks, and big business (or businesses of any size which involve management vs. labor, wages, and profits). (The current buzzwords “Wall Street” and “crony capitalism” are subsets.) And then we have – depending on one's perspective – either too many laws and regulations, or not enough, thus the perennial pendulum swing in labor law between preference for capital and preference for labor. And we also have that new bugaboo, “concentration of wealth”, which is not all that new but keeps getting renamed and redefined. (It was “concentration of wealth” that stimulated the establishment of the income tax, lest we forget, and that happened more than 100 years ago.)

Interestingly, two things which are never mentioned in polite company as being opposed to the interests of the people are personal debt and war. And yet, in terms of draining the life out of an economy and out of its citizenry, it would be hard to find two more obvious candidates. Perhaps it's because these are the two leading weapons of the Regime to enslave people and nations, and they have structured the discussion in such a way that these things never come up (or if they do, the people who bring them up are immediately labeled as nut cases).

Perhaps our discussion of populism could profit from defining precisely who “the people” are, and what the forces opposing them are alleged to be depending on one's prior political position. If we insist on using the term “populism”, we find that political movements and organizations of violently opposing sorts have each used the term, or at least not objected to being described that way. The same is true if we merely talk about “the people as opposed to _____” (select from the list of offenders above, or add your own). But if we dig down a bit, and ask precisely who these “people”, so-called, are, we can get some clarifying answers. The old populists were, of course, for the “working man”, whether on farms or in factories, not unlike the target group for the Bolsheviks. The middle class was already being viewed with suspicion (in a shout-out to the French Revolution and Marx), and the ruling class was, of course, beneath contempt and the perpetual enemy. When the New Deal rolled around things were pretty much the same, but it should be noted that, although white ethnics were part of the picture, it had yet to reach out and embrace blacks... and Hispanics were still way down the road (or across the Rio Grande). And let's not forget that the first great populist-style program of the Kennedy administration was the War on Poverty, which initially focused on, guess where, all-white Appalachia. Whites elsewhere, and blacks, had to fight to get on the A-list.

So far, so good. It seemed that everyone calling themselves a populist, or preaching in favor of “the people”, was in basic agreement as to who “the people” were. One group that was more or less ignored in all of the discussions was white Southerners – and that was the basis for the “aha!” moment for Nixon. (He really ought to get credit for one of the greatest political coups of the 20th Century – right up there with Trump's victory.) He found a group that had been left out of the political process on the national level; it was a large group, and worth courting. And thus was created the great divide/bifurcation/schism of “the people” for political purposes. (It's worth noting that there had never been anything like solidarity between the white and black working classes, or between the white and Hispanic agricultural workers, but those differences didn't have any discernible impact on mainstream politics of the populist variety – unless you include 1960s folk singers, of course.)

Even more remarkable, all of a sudden there was a subset of “the people” who were actually loyal (albeit newly so, and probably not without some misgivings) to the Republican Party. But that's not the same as saying they were “conservative” in the William F. Buckley sense... and they were certainly not libertarian in the Ron Paul sense... and the Tea Party had yet to manifest itself as a semi-organized force. Despite all of this, the phenomenon of card-carrying “people” being Republicans, or at least voting that way, was revolutionary. Suddenly the party of country clubs, business, Wall Street, and the bourgeoisie had to make room for the (relatively) unwashed – and yet it was the key to success, not only for Nixon but also for Reagan and Bush II (Bush I having basically ridden in on Reagan's coattails and stayed for a while), and now for Trump.

The consequence of all of this was that the meaning of “the people”, and of populism, became totally contingent on who was using the terms, and to what purpose. Having written off the white working class, the Democrats' definition of “the people” was limited to minorities – albeit enough of them to constitute a majority. The Republicans, on the other hand, gradually morphed into champions of “the people” of different sorts – white, mostly working class but lower middle class as well (assuming there's even a difference any longer), and basically anyone with a grievance against the liberals/Democrats/progressives and their “people”. So “the people” were divided (so much for “e pluribus unum"!) into camps, grievance groups, voting blocs, and gangs.

And yet the perennial struggle persisted – that of “the people” vs. anything that oppresses them, either intentionally or accidentally, with new issues added on a regular basis. For the Democrats, it was post-Civil Rights and Voting Rights Acts “residual racism”, as well as anyone held responsible for the defeat of the Equal Rights Amendment, and later on came to include pro-lifers, “homophobes”, anyone opposed to open borders, and a host of other real or imagined enemies. For the Republicans, the new villains included government programs which eroded, or directly attacked, gun ownership, freedom of speech, freedom of assembly, and freedom of religion, as well as excessive taxation and the regulatory burden. Add ObamaCare and you have a perfect formula for a political (mostly) civil war, which the 2016 election certainly was, and which its outcome continues to be. And yet this civil war, just like the original one, is “people vs. people” as much as the government or ruling elite vs. the people. People on both sides consider themselves to be more real... more genuine... more representative of American values... more entitled to be heard... etc. You could stand up at a Bernie Sanders or Elizabeth Warren rally and ask every “real American” to raise their hand, and I daresay more of those in the room would. Try it at a Trump rally and you'll get the same result.

So yes, the great divide – or the most recent great divide – in American politics is between “the people” on one side and “the people” on the other. “Economic populism” sounds like something the Democrats would be all in favor of, and yet it's attributed to Trump. Is this because he's an insincere, hypocritical demagogue who only pretends to favor the people's interests? But the same can be said for pretty much any leading Democrat at least since World War II. “Economic-centered politics” could be a characteristic of the Trump administration, but no – the Democrats seem to have a monopoly on that particular semantic nuance. And as far as leveling the playing field, well... has anyone asked, recently, when affirmative action is going to cease as a government policy? The answer, of course, is never, since even if we did somehow manage to equalize outcomes there would still be the question of reparations, and when reparations cease is a totally political question, since there is no possible objective criterion for when enough is enough. (Another way of putting this is, at what point can blacks be considered to have been “paid back” for slavery? From the karmic point of view, the answer really is “never”. Politically, it's debatable, but the debate has yet to occur.)

I guess what I'm trying to do here is not only clarify the meaning of words, but point out the forces behind their non-clarification. After all, if everyone's a populist, no one's a populist, right? The term loses all meaning. If everyone is equally for “the people” then that term cancels out and we'd better start looking for some new descriptors. And as for “leveling the playing field”, no one really wants to do that, do they, any more than anyone wants truly “equal rights”. That would be bad politics. What people want is preferences... advantages... whether enshrined in law or as a side benefit of other laws, regulations, or the economy in general.

Again, we are up against human nature – not only that of individuals, but of groups, parties, factions, what have you. Everyone wants an “edge”. It's not enough to just go out and seek one's fortune in the world and its many and varied marketplaces. You have to have that ID card that lets you in the door ahead of the rabble and the undeserving (not to mention the "deplorables"). Combine this with the ebb and flow of politics and the cynical manipulation of words and of people, and you have what we have now – a state of perpetual war that in its sheer intractability is not unlike that which our foreign policy has fostered. One could point out the massive waste of human and other resources that all of this entails, but that would seem wonkish compared to the unstoppable energy and self-centeredness that is a part of fallen human nature.