Thursday, January 6, 2011


As I've pointed out many times, the political culture in this country is based on ideas -- which, if not unique in history, is definitely atypical. Most political cultures in history, and at present, are based on time-honored things like religion, race, ethnicity... even skin color (as a subset of race) and gender. (There has yet to be an entirely GLBT country, but just you wait!) In other words, political cultures and politics – and hence the public consciousness – are usually based on tangibles... things one can see, hear, and touch. But that wasn't good enough for the Founding Fathers... and it wasn't good enough for the French revolutionaries, or the Russian revolutionaries, or any of their clones over the years. And thus, “revolutionary” societies tend to be – or at least claim to be – free from all taint of racism, sexism, or ethnic consciousness. Well... sometimes it works out this way, and sometimes it doesn't. After all, even revolutionary societies typically have a dominant ethnic or racial group... and more traditional societies definitely have. In fact, one can almost say that ethnic, racial, or religious dominance is an earmark of traditional societies... so much so, in fact, that one can't really speak of “dominance”. It's more like homogeneity. In many ways, it's only the unnatural size of most countries in our time that has led to questions of dominance. If you take sub-Saharan, i.e. black, Africa, there was a time when the highest level of “government” was the tribe – and it was, by definition as well as in fact, completely uniform in the racial, ethnic, and religious sense. But then the colonialists stepped in and said, well, this simply won't do, we can't go around governing or supervising hundreds of different tribes, some no more extensive than a single village... so we'll come up with artificial borders enclosing a huge area and call it a colony, or country – and thus abominations like the Congo, Nigeria, and so on, where, if left to their own devices, people readily revert to a tribal model... with or without having first annihilated all the members of opposing tribes. They engage in hostilities they might not have otherwise engaged in, in other words – just to reclaim their birthright.

And so it is with us, in a way. We pride ourselves on not suffering under the choking uniformity of “old world”, provincial cultures... but at the same time we deprive ourselves of one of the more universal bases of identity – both group and individual -- the kinds of things that make people willing to fight, and die, and make sacrifices without having to be brainwashed or coerced. “Ideas” are difficult things to cuddle up to on a cold winter night... but we still contend that they are far superior to any other basis for political or social action, and so are willing to make the sacrifice -- the new, revolutionary kind of sacrifice. So while deracination is liberating in some respects, it is enslaving in others – mainly because it makes us slaves to ideas, and to the people who manipulate those ideas for their own purposes. And when those ideas fail, we have nothing to fall back on, having given all of that up generations ago. So a nation of failed ideas becomes a nation of alienation... and that alienation is not confined to urban areas (its natural dwelling place) but spreads out into the countryside as well. And thus, even people in isolated corners of the country find themselves under severe pressure to give up what is left of their natural identity, and trade it in for ideas which have already either outlived their usefulness, or been twisted completely out of shape. And this is why “political correctness” is so vicious – because it expects us to trade something for nothing... or simply for the sake of getting along, and not being shunned by the mainstream media and their sheep-like victims.

I referred above to “darkest Africa”, and what happened when the colonial powers moved in. But it wouldn't do to limit the discussion to that area. Please witness what happened to Eastern Europe in the post-Cold War era: the re-Balkanization of places like Yugoslavia, as well as of the Soviet Union itself. While Germany was reuniting, the Soviets were fragmenting... and in the Caucasian region, it seems that there is no governmental or administrative division small enough that it cannot be further fragmented by feuding groups. So what we are seeing in those places is a kind of re-tribalization – which may not fit nicely into the globalist view of things, but is much more natural and durable than the alternatives. And the point is, people who live in a relatively uniform country are not beset with the problems we experience on a daily basis, from our much-vaunted “diversity”. I mean, what would “race relations” mean in a country with only one race? Or “ethnic conflict” with only one ethnic group? Or “religious and/or sectarian strife” with only one sect? Think of the peace and quiet that descends when you realize that your neighbor is not going to climb into your window in the middle of the night and slit your throat because you're of a different race, creed, or ethnic group. It must be marvelous... truly. And note, we do not enjoy this level of peace and quiet in this country – far from it! The high water mark of ethnic tensions may be past (although Hispanic vs. non-Hispanic tension has certainly filled the gap to some extent), but race is as big an issue as ever, despite what anyone wants to claim. And now we have a new religious issue to worry about, as exemplified by the Islamic mosque controversy. So there is no peace in “diversity” -- nor should anyone expect there to be. The only people who harbor that delusion are people like the pacifists and Quakers, who revel in their own deracination and “quake” at any mention of racial, ethnic, or religious differences – i.e., differences worth fighting over. The Jews, at least, hold on to their tribal consciousness even though they want everyone else deracinated – culturally castrated – because they feel that it's in their best interests. Well, it's hard to blame them since they've had some unpleasant experiences with “master race” theories. But our new breed of formerly- or pseudo-Christian “peacemakers” is willing to deracinate themselves as well – for which, I suppose, they should win a cultural “Darwin Award”... and good riddance.

So the price of “diversity” in this country has been, paradoxically, to actually suppress ethnic and religious differences. We are now expected to willingly march, like sheep to the slaughter, into a great deracinating and ecumenical melting pot, where all the rough places will be made plain, and there will be no more strife among religious and ethnic groups – which means, in effect, that there will be no more religion – I mean the real kind, not just the “cultural” kind – and no more ethnicity. (Think of the loss to good eating alone!) This is, of course, very much on the mind of the Regime, which is itself extremely exclusive when it comes to religion and still fairly exclusive when it comes to ethnicity. So in this sense, it's simply the earliest stage of American history writ large – the white Protestants are in charge, just like always... but not in such an obvious way as formerly. I mean, gosh, we have a black president now! Doesn't that mean the end of racism? Well, of course not. Race is much too valuable a political and economic (read: extortion) tool to be set aside. And, our noble black president is as much a slave to the white power structure as his non-ancestors were to the man in the big house on the old Southern plantations. Make no mistake – the black man is still very much under the white boot in this world, and one black president in America is not going to change that. The most he'll manage to do is, basically, shut the black militants up until his term of office ends, at which point they'll be back in the streets and on the airwaves, complaining about what a racist society this is and how much discrimination they suffer on a daily basis. But with one of their own (even though he really isn't) in the White House, all of their militancy has to be put on hold for a while. (This might, in fact, be one of the better arguments for keeping him in office -- along with the fact that the homeless magically disappear every time there's a Democratic president.)

But at least blacks in America are allowed to maintain and perpetuate their own culture – as pathological as it is at times. Other ethnic groups are expected to check their identities at the door, and as for Catholics... well! Anyone suspected of being more loyal to the Pope than to the United States – as Kennedy (mistakenly) was – can hope for nothing better than second-class-citizen treatment. (The fact that this same criterion doesn't seem to apply to American Jews vis-a-vis Israel is the best single indicator of who is in charge of making, and enforcing, the rules.)

And it's not as if ethnic/religious identity is extinct in this country. It's certainly not extinct in Pittsburgh, for instance. But it's regarded as a bit of a throwback... a charming bit of quaintness, like the Amish. Something to take winsome pictures of for National Geographic, but nothing more. Heaven forbid anyone should start taking it seriously, and heaven forbid it should ever again start to impact politics on the national level! Then serious measures would have to be taken. So the bottom line to all this is that “diversity” is used, by the Regime, as a weapon against true diversity. For example, someone who is “diverse” is not allowed to be racist... whereas a person who is truly diverse is almost inevitably racist – at least to some degree. By which I mean, they are highly likely to believe in the the superiority of their own race and the inferiority of others – just as Lincoln did. (Yes, it's true. Wake up from your grade-school history class slumbers and check it out.) And I say that this is a natural thing, and that, up to a point, it can even be a healthy thing. Group cohesion is one of the best indicators of group health, and one of the best predictors of the survival of the group. (Hey, all you Darwinians out there -- are you with me on this?) But let's admit that it can go too far; the “master race” notion popularized by Hitler led to the deaths of millions of Germans and the physical, social, and economic destruction of their country. So along with racial and ethnic pride – and religious pride, if that's not a contradiction in terms – should come tolerance. And to be tolerant, we don't even have to feel that the other group is just as good as us, but different. We can consider them markedly inferior – but still allow them to pursue their own destiny in their own way. But it takes a stong stomach at times. We threw down the "white man's burden" and allowed Africa to be Africa -- and got characters like Idi Amin and Robert Mugabe. We don't have to understand their karma in order to allow them to deal with it in their own way.

And this brings us to American foreign policy, which is blatantly intolerant, according to the above definition. But again, this intolerance harks back to the origins of this nation, and all of the hidden time-bombs of intolerance that underlay the work of the Founding Fathers. As long we were a nation of white Protestants (with a Utopian bent), all was well. But look at what happened when we were inundated with a bunch of Irish Catholics fleeing the Irish famine (which was engineered by British Protestants, by the way – just thought I'd throw that in as an ironic note). Then we found out how tolerant we really were. And did the emancipation of the slaves change the hearts and minds of all white people as to the merits of the black race? Not so much. And each racial, ethnic, and religious group that washed up on our shores faced the same wall of intolerance – either blatant or more subtle -- as it continues to do. Sometimes, in fact, it manifested itself as a kind of paternalistic condescension – the best example being the attitudes of white liberals toward blacks in our time. But that's still intolerance in the sense that it constitutes a refusal to see the other group as equals. They must, in some way, be seen as inferior, weaker, stupider... more in need of help... more in need of things like “set-asides”, affirmative action, preferences, subsidies, reparations, etc. The liberals will fight any attempt to make blacks, or Hispanics, truly equal to whites – not worse, and not better... not discriminated against, nor discriminated for. And you would think, from all their propaganda and protestations, that such a thing would be an ideal world for them – a truly “peaceable kingdom”. But it would also rob them of the most cherished part of their self image, and of their – or so they claim – purpose for living. Where would the activist or the “community organizer” be without the “underprivileged”? Where would the demagogue be without the mob? And where would the politician be without the frightened... the gullible... the passive... the impulsive... and so on? Careers and lifetimes are built on human weakness – one's own and the weakness of others. Show me a strong man working with other strong men. It happens in Ayn Rand's novels, but in real life? Very seldom. Most human transactions in our times involve power relationships, and more often than not someone is at a disadvantage. It's not that most transactions are coerced... but they are contaminated, and overly influenced by power and position. I'm not saying that the free market model is wrong, or should be abandoned; if anything I'm saying that it needs to be protected with more diligence than it is. The essence of “democracy” is not, as the high-school civics teachers contend, “majority rule”. You find that in all kinds of places. It was “majority rule” that allowed the Turks to slaughter the Armenians. No, the essence of democracy is minority rights, by which I mean, in most cases, rights equal to those of the majority. This is much tougher for most people to stomach than majority rule based on raw power (which comes either from the barrel of a gun or from the voting booth – or some combination of the two). In this country, the majority at any given time typically doesn't go so far as to practice genocide on the minority – but they do bully and kick them around quite a bit. This has become the new “American way” in our time, and it has given rise – not surprisingly – to what has been referred to as the “paranoid style” in American politics. It is not enough, any more, to acknowledge that you and your opponents have a difference of opinion as to how the country should be run. Now it's, they are also evil, and they are out to get me. Well, OK. Sometimes that's actually true; why deny it? Frankly, I think our politicians would get along much better with each other if the media weren't in the mix. The media are the real rabble rousers of our time, and the rabble they rouse is, more often than not, themselves. Listen to the “talking heads” from anywhere along the political spectrum, and you'd think that Congress would resemble a WWF cage match – but it really doesn't. Hardly ever. And the reason is that it is made up of politicians, who are, as a class, the most willing to compromise, and the least principled, people on the planet. Unlike their constituencies, I might add – which is why the political game is so bizarre. Politicians have to pretend to have principles in order to get elected... they have to pretend to share the dismay, anger, rage, and indignation (and occasionally the hopes and dreams – but it's safer to emphasize the negative) of the unwashed hordes standing before them at political rallies, or watching them on TV... but once in office, they will do anything to “get things done”. Their greatest fear is being tagged as a “do-nothing Congress”. They were sent to Washington to be “lawmakers” and, by golly, that's what they're going to do, and the citizenry can go to hell. I mean, isn't that basically the attitude? Yes, these people are morbidly obsessed about their popularity, and about their “record”, but no considerations of quality go into that obsession. And as long as they aren't punished by the voters by being voted out of office, the behavior will persist.

And yet, it would be incorrect to say that Americans, on the whole, are in a state of despair. Discouragement, maybe... helplessness, much of the time... and certainly puzzlement and dismay as we gradually, and painfully, learn that, in the present scheme of things, the average person – the “honest citizen” -- simply does not count. What counts, if anything, are the outliers... the troublemakers... the anti-social element... the ones who “act out”. And yet, even these are compromised. The ones who are not incarcerated are co-opted and made to learn what living a life of noisy impotence is like. The middle class, on the other hand, lives a life of quiet impotence... but what is noteworthy is that, up until recently, they only remained quiet because they thought that, on some abstract level, they were in charge. After all, they exercised their right to vote! What more could be asked? But now it is becoming more and more apparent that their votes are meaningless, and that voting is a pathetic exercise in pseudo-democracy. The people who are really in charge – not just the figureheads, who come and go – remain in charge no matter what. And the things that really count – that contribute to one's welfare or to one's failures – are totally out of the hands of the voting public... or the non-voting public, for that matter. So it's not just the rising tide of victimhood that is floating all political boats; it's the rising tide of _perception_ of victimhood... and this tide is rising much more rapidly among the middle class than among the traditional victims, i.e. minorities and the proletariat. Those groups are always ticked off about something, and the middle class has always been complacent and slumbering... until now. And of course, even this feeling is based on, let's admit, somewhat provincial and short-sighted considerations. Anyone with a sense of history can see that the American middle class is, for all of the erosions it is suffering at present, still enjoying a higher standard of living than most people in history, and than most people in the world right now. So for all their talk about principles, they turn out to be relativists after all. “Things aren't as good for me as they were for...” -- my parents, grandparents, whoever... even if they are only saying that in a relativistic way according to certain carefully-selected criteria. I mean, my grandparents had servants! They lived in a house with a back staircase! But they were solidly middle class. Imagine my parents having had anything like that – other than the once-a-week cleaning lady. And imagine me having anything like that. Impossible! So what does it all mean? Has there been a great reshuffling in the economic/class system? Has the working class risen up, and the middle class been pulled down as a result? Is it a zero-sum game after all? It is certainly true that the middle class has had to pay a kind of protection money, ever since the New Deal, in order to maintain some semblance of the old social order. I mean, I don't see them using calling cards, and having “at-homes” any more. But in many ways their lives are better than they were back then, and the heck with the servants. So what's the complaint? “Things should be better than they are; we should be allowed to keep more of our money.” Well, fine. But then you have to look at the suburbs of Washington, DC, which are severely stratified as to income as the result of real estate prices. What's the guy with a $700,000 McMansion going to do with the extra money he gets back if the government cuts expenditures – and hence his tax bill – by, say, 50%? (As long as we're speaking theoretically here, let's go all the way!) Why, he's going to move into the next neighborhood up the road, and into an $800,000 McMansion. That's as far as his vision takes him. And that marks him – let's admit – as middle class, a representative of the great American bourgeoisie... that group that everyone else hates and despises, and the group that now gives rise to the “tea parties” because a few of them are waking up to reality.

Now, make no mistake – I'm not saying that there is anything the least bit commendable about socialism, or “leveling”, or “progressive taxation”, or about class warfare. It's just that the alternative is not necessarily edifying. If one bases one's political convictions on aesthetics, then Soviet poster art is clearly far superior to middle-American housing, malls, and restaurants and motels along the Interstate. No, the first thing we must do when debating these issues is to hold our nose, quite worrying about bad taste, and ask, simply, do people have the right to the fruits of their own labor? The liberals say no, they don't; and the Regime says they do if they're a member of the ruling elite, but not otherwise. Militant minorities say that they have the right to the fruits of everyone _else's_ labor, based on concepts like “discrimination”, “reparations”, and so on, but where they run into trouble is when they wind up on the other side of the equation. Now that Hispanics have overtaken blacks as the preferred minority group, blacks are going to have to start paying some of the Hispanics' bills – and rightly so, since, by liberal standards, it is always incumbent on everyone else to provide for the politically-dominant minority.

And yet, through it all, there is hope. Or let's say, things haven't become totally hopeless as yet. And this is because we – or a decent percentage of us – are still capable of indignation. This attitude will, naturally, always be found more among minorities and the powerless – but, as I pointed out above, it is more and more to be found among those with a decent standard of living who see threats on all sides. If you feel that your own country is dead-set on destroying your culture, your lifestyle, your standard of living, and your values... well, a certain level of indignation is in order, don't you think? And yet this is derided by the media as “paranoia”, “hate”, and what not, because they represent the power elite, which is made up almost entirely by the ones who were indignant a generation or two ago – namely the liberals/socialists/collectivists/totalitarians. Now that we're so close to Utopia, it's considered very poor form for anyone to indulge in reactionary protests; after all, don't they want a world of overwhelming “fairness”? Well, clearly not, if what is meant by “fairness” is equality of outcomes at all costs. But the liberals don't believe in that either; any world in which they and their ideas are not dominant is unacceptable to them. So this “fairness” and “equality” thing is just a scam – just words designed to, once again, arouse the rabble.

But the significance of indignation – from anywhere along the spectrum – is that people still expect the government to serve the people, and to protect their interests. And we tend to forget what an unusual thing this is, historically – or even in the present day. Governments, above the tribal/village level, have generally been sources of oppression as far as the average person is concerned. They engender fear... and the most natural reaction is to stay out of the way – stay “off radar”. The notion that “the government is here to help you” -- well, we make jokes about it, but the fact is that people still believe it. But that makes them a rare breed, according to global or historical perspectives. So in a paradoxical sense, our indignation is a sign of our optimism – foolish tho' it may be – about government. We expect more, and we refuse to give up expecting more. Or at least – and this is the middle-class premise – we expect to be left more or less alone in order to pursue our livelihood, but then have that livelihood and any wealth that it produces protected. This, of course, is the source of middle-class ambivalence about government – it wants carte blanche to earn and invest, but a protective umbrella over anything that is earned and over any return on investment. And that's just on the domestic side; when it comes to foreign policy, the middle class is all for a “muscular” foreign policy and for “force projection”, but gets resentful when this results in an erosion of freedoms back home. (Yes, if you supported the invasion of Iraq don't complain about the TSA inspecting your poo-poo undies! The two are directly related.)

And there's another process going on here as well, and it has to do with cognitive dissonance, which I've discussed before. When the government fails to live up to its many promises (implied or otherwise), we feel that indignation is in order. But that's only on the top layer. That still assumes that our leaders want to live up to their promises... or that they made those promises with at least some degree of sincerity and/or realism. The next level down is that they don't intend to live up to those promises, and that they never did – which leads to things like the tea parties and the time-honored desire to “throw the rascals out”. But that's still just one level down, and, for one thing, assumes that the people who appear to be in charge really are. What we are seeing more and more these days, however – and one has to give the alternative media, and the Internet (and not only Wikileaks) a lot of credit for this – is that the agenda of government, and of its operatives, has absolutely nothing to do with the welfare of the citizenry, except by sheer accident... and that any of the processes, and decisions, that really count are made and conducted in secret, and usually by people who never ran for office in their life. Now, again, none of this would have upset most people down through history all that much – any more than it upsets people when some of the more notorious state and local governments turn out to be rackets. Well, duh! And the Europeans are traditionally blasé about this sort of thing as well; an honest and sincere leader, or public servant, is held up as a kind of saint because he (or she) is so exceptional. But we get upset. And again, it's because of our expectations, but also because of fear. I don't think Americans have a burning desire to believe what the establishment says as much as fear of any of the alternatives. Americans overall tend to be a somewhat skeptical lot, but at the same time they are so wedded to their vision of government, democracy, law and order, etc. that any other possibility puts them in a panic.  And they are especially troubled by the idea that government can, and does, operate in secret most of the time... i.e. when it really counts.  That seems somehow un-American (even tho' anyone else on earth would accept it as the normal way of things).  Another reason for this phobic response may be that they have never seen or experienced a revolution, so as far as they're concerned government = stability, and any thought of change or overthrow is extremely threatening.  And another reason is that, as I said before, they have very little to fall back on in terms of tradition or structure independent of government -- the old, reliable points of reference like race, ethnicity, and religion have been declared taboo. So... if the Wizard of Oz – the Great White Father in Washington – turns out to be a little man behind the curtain, and an evil one at that... well, what then? Our illusions are shattered, and, with them, what little is left of our national identity... or identity as a “people”... and our identity as individuals. It has been pointed out that the most frightening thing about the descent into madness – schizophrenia – is the loss of identity... a sense of who one is, or even _that_ one is. And this can overtake a nation as well, especially if all of the traditional points of reference have been systematically excised from the national consciousness.

See, here's what all sides of the debate have to realize. We are an ideational society, first and foremost. This is what was intended by the Founding Fathers, and it's still the way things are, after all these years. But what it means is that, if you buy into the notion of an ideational society, you also buy into the notion of constant, chronic, and unending dialogue and debate, with nothing ever being settled. And you buy into a kind of relativism, where you can claim that right is on your side – but it really isn't, or at least no one can prove it. Because what do you have to fall back on? Race, religion, and ethnicity are all taboo – which really means that morals are taboo, and all we have left is “ethics” (the Quakers again). The standards and values derived from those more traditional things are not allowed into the dialogue. So all that's left is debate, and politics – which means, ultimately, relativism... which means, ultimately, raw political (and police) power. So it does no good for the liberal media to squeal like a stuck pig whenever the tea partiers hold a rally, because their ideas are no better and no worse – they're just part of the dialectic. I mean... this is the way the system is set up. I don't say it's good, or the best... it's just the way it is. And likewise, the tea partiers would have a hard time proving that the liberals were any less “American” than they are. Less traditional, maybe... less “family-oriented”... less concerned with morals... less religiously-inclined... but they believe in ideas, and that's the essence of being an American. You don't like it, move to the nearest theocracy.

Now, someone might say, “But! But! Isn't it more a matter of how much one's ideas have diverged from those of the Founding Fathers? Shouldn't that be the criterion?” Well, it might be if said Founding Fathers had included, in the founding documents, stipulations that they believed in those ideas because they were white, male, heterosexual, Protestant (or at least Christian)... but they didn't. Those documents are completely free of any of the pesky, messy, old-fashioned points of reference that have influenced people's opinions and world views for eons. They are, in fact, blueprints for a new and basically secular world in which ideas, and nothing else, rule – ideas which are, to most people, abstractions. And as abstractions, they can be infinitely interpreted, twisted and turned, until they come out in any shape, size, or color that one wishes – which they have been. So objections to the “unconstitutionality” of laws, government programs or policies, while they may be valid in the strict, literal constructionist sense, are easily trampled in the dust by the endless parade of “ideas” and “interpretations”. This is why the Supreme Court is in a curious situation – it has to constantly chart some sort of course (resembling a drunk's path home from the neighborhood bar) between literal interpretation and illiterate – I mean liberal – interpretation of the Constitution. And which is truer to “original intent” -- the words or the (presumed) ideas behind them? We have ample evidence of the latter... and some would say, well, that's what they “meant” to say in the Constitution. But if that's so, why didn't they say it? Chances are it's because even our most hallowed documents were the product of considerable and energetic debate – bordering on violence at times – with the result being compromises which often satisfied no one. And those compromises left a hole which has come to be labeled “interpretation”. And what is the basis for interpretation? As often as not, free-floating ideas – things like “penumbras” for example. So it all gets knocked into a cocked hat, and it's only sheer inertia that keeps us from descending into anarchy, violence, and civil war.

Unless... well, this is where the Regime steps in. Knowing full well that the Constitution was fatally flawed in many ways, they began, early on, heating up the fires of “interpretation” until they glowed red hot – as they continue to do to this day. John Adams said that “our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other.” We read this quote often enough, but few stop to consider its significance. It is that the Constitution is not a rigid structure, nor a checklist, nor an exact blueprint for anything (including totalitarianism). It is a structure that requires – nay, demands – interpretation on a regular basis. We criticize certain phrases for being “ambiguous” -- like “promote the general welfare”. Correct. But they are ambiguous on purpose. A moral people would have figured out, by now, what “the general welfare” is, and what it is not – to say nothing of what constitutes “commerce among the several states”, “the right of the people to keep and bear arms”, “law respecting an establishment of religion”, etc. But we're still debating those points, and many more besides. And thus, the constant churning of ideas... and issues which the Founding Fathers may have thought, in their idealism and optimism, had been settled... but, it turns out, were not. Or, we have decided that they're not, which, pragmatically, amounts to the same thing. If they were settled once, and are now not, does it mean that we were a moral people once, and are now not? The evidence certainly seems to point in that direction.

So... in our lack of morality, and our despising of Natural Law, we find ourselves in a perpetual whirlwind of ideas with little or no foundation, and no anchor points. We use words which represent solid, agreed-upon concepts... or at least used to. But we use them in new, perverted, bizarre ways – so they lose all of their original meaning and become clubs with which we can smite each other over the head, like the blind denizens of some dystopian inferno. And one might well ask, what, after all, good have all of these ideas ever done? Wouldn't we have been better off sticking with the old verities, like almost every other country – blood and soil, race, ethnicity, language, religion, culture? And, let's admit, all the potential "isms" that go with them? Haven't we paid dearly for our enamoration with ideas, and exchanged our birthright for a mess of ideational pottage? Well... the American experiment, for all of its flaws, did work out for a while. And it attracted millions of people who “voted with their feet” -- although one could question whether that was because things were so good over here, or so bad over there. But the bottom line is that you don't find very many people trying to sneak out of the United States (other than the bin Laden family and Israeli spies), whereas millions are doing the opposite, and this continues right up to the present moment. There are people who, inexplicably, want to become American citizens and thus take on their share of a titanic and intractable national debt. And they also want to be involved in our overseas follies and in all of our racial, social, and economic strife at home. They must be crazy. Or... maybe they're just captivated by ideas, like the rest of us.

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