Raging against the Machine

Raging against the Machine

  • Jyoti [the writer’s wife] was a psychiatrist who earned actual money. But psychiatry was killing her, her role was not to cure people but to medicate them, to stick plasters on the wounds the Machine had gouged into the people at the bottom of the pile. There was nothing she could do about the wounds, and they kept coming.
  • My culture comes, most recently, from the southeastern suburbs of England. It’s a culture of hard work, of ‘getting on,’ of English Protestantism channeled into secular ambition. It’s about settling down and having a family, contributing, progressing, climbing up; not bad things, necessarily, not for a lot of people. But it’s also about selling up, moving on, about property ladders and career ladders, about staking your place on the consumer travelator that represents progress in a burning world. It’s about feeding the Machine that rips up the people and rips up the places and turns them all against each other while the money funnels upwards to the people who are paying attention. This is the crap our children are learning. There is not much sign at all that the tide is turning.
  • The only possible opening for a statement of this kind is that I detest writing. The process itself epitomizes the European concept of ‘legitimate’ thinking; what is written has an importance that is denied the spoken. My culture, the Lakota culture, has an oral tradition, so I ordinarily reject writing. It is one of the white world’s ways of destroying the cultures of non-European peoples, the imposing of an abstraction over the spoken relationship of a people. … Newton, for example, ‘revolutionized’ physics and the so-called natural sciences by reducing the physical universe to a linear mathematical equation. Descartes did the same thing with culture. John Locke did it with politics, and Adam Smith did it with economics. Each one of these ‘thinkers’ took a piece of the spirituality of human existence and converted it into a code, an abstraction … Each of these intellectual revolutions served to abstract the European mentality even further, to remove the wonderful complexity and spirituality from the universe and replace it with a logical sequence: one, two, three. Answer! (Quoting Russell Means)
  • ‘In Western Civilization,’ says the poet Gary Snyder, ‘our elders are books.’ Books pass on our stories. Books carry the forbidden knowledge and the true. Books are weird things, inhuman things, abstract things, but they are gateways, at their best, to the world to which the drum and the fire and the sweat lodge used to take us. The Otherworld. At her best, the writer is a shaman, a priestess, a summoner.

Paul Kingsnorth, in Savage Gods.

Hungary

Tucker in Hungary

Of Tucker Carlson in Hungary, Bill Kristol says out loud what others have been insinuating:

The New American Right is now explicitly embracing the Old European Right. Not to put to fine a point on it, the New American Right is…anti-American.

Rod Dreher is having none of it — from Kristol the rest of the Sacred Confraternity of Circle-Jerking Pundits:

Is anybody really moved by an older man calling a younger man “anti-American” because he goes to a NATO country and American ally, and speaks well of it? Isn’t that, you know, nuts?

The idea that an American conservative who admires some of what Viktor Orban does, and believes, is somehow “anti-American” is not only insulting, but is a smear designed to make people believe that to be a real American, you have to endorse selling your country, its institutions, and its traditions out to globalist liberals and American hegemons willing to start wars to turn the whole world into America. Forget it. I love my country, though I don’t love what it’s becoming. If I can learn from the Hungarians how to better resist what the people who are ruining America are doing, then that’s pro-American to me.

Rod Dreher

Which is less bad?

I would rather have honest government over dishonest government, but if I had to choose between a corrupt president who rewarded his cronies, and a president who was morally fastidious, but whose administration stopped using the word “mother” in federal documents, substituting instead “birthing people” — well, that’s not a hard choice to make. A society can survive Huey P. Long; it cannot survive losing the meaning of “mother”.

Rod Dreher, ‌Why Conservatives Should Care About Hungary

The last word on Andrew Cuomo

Are you getting tired of news about Andrew Cuomo? Me too.

Peggy Noonan has the mike-drop line:

No one in New York is walking around saying “I don’t believe it” or “That’s not the Andrew I know.” It’s apparently the Andrew Cuomo a lot of people knew.

You may now resume your regularly-scheduled activities.

Another inversion, realignment

I’ve said since Election 2016 that a major political realignment was under way (though I said it much more in the early days, before the daily assaults from Trump became too dominant in my thoughts). Here’s an emergent example:

We’ve come to an odd pass in American politics. The people who have the deepest suspicions about the way government works are increasingly enthusiastic about the use of government power.

Somehow, many of the same folks who say that government authorities shouldn’t be trusted to make sure vaccines are safe or that elections are fairly conducted also say that we should have the government set industrial policy, regulate speech on the internet, or even engineer the size and shape of American families. How can institutions so corrupt as the ones described by right-wing nationalists be trusted with the power to administer matters far more complicated than testing vaccines or counting ballots?

Chris Stirewalt, ‌The Contradictions of Paranoid Nationalism.

This is perhaps hyperbolic, but it is at least directionally right as to some of Rod Dreher’s recent utterances, for instance:

Hungary is an important example for American conservatives in part because it compels us to recognize that the state is the only means we have left to defend ourselves from those who despise us and our institutions, and want to force us to bow to soft totalitarianism. This is a hell of a thing for an American conservative raised in the Reagan era to grasp, but that’s where we are. Just as the king’s role was in part to protect the people from the depredations of the nobility, in this current era of leftist capture of US institutions (including the military!), the state is the only means by which we conservatives can exercise power in our own self-defense.

Sullivan the Prophet

[Andrew Sullivan’s] term “Christianist” felt like a mild slap in the face, right until the afternoon of Jan. 6, when a mob of believers stormed the Capitol on a “righteous” mission to overturn an election — with crosses in the crowd and prayers on their lips.

David French, reviewing Out on a Limb


You can read most of my more impromptu stuff at here. It should work in your RSS aggregator, like Feedly, should you want to make a habit of it.

When will we say “Enough!”

When will we say "Enough!"

The women with whom I spoke – currently and formerly incarcerated at “Chowchilla” prison (as the Central California Correctional Facility is colloquially known), this state’s highest security women’s prison – are watching as biological males begin to self-identify as females and transfer in. Washington state, which has a similar policy, has already allowed a rapist and serial killer of women to transfer into the women’s prison. As is true in Washington state, California requires no sex reassignment surgeries or hormones for men to become eligible for transfer to the women’s prison. Self-identification is enough. With good reason, these women are terrified.

Abigail Shrier, ‌Incarcerated Women Brace for Influx of Male Inmates

This is insanity imposed on us by a tiny minority of highly-educated ideologues and idiots. I’m sick of it. I’ll never knowingly vote for an unhinged, narcissistic Donald Trump-type, but I’ll vote for sane people who will try intelligent ways of stopping this sort of thing.

Helpful glossary

Populist worries

We worry desperately about money—not because of obsessive acquisitiveness, but because constructing a bulwark against a failing culture requires heaps of it. (How much is private security, in the absence of a police force? Private school, in the absence of non-racist public ones? Non-woke doctors, who will fulfill their oath to heal us? How much is all this going to cost, and how will we possibly afford any of it?)

Abigail Shrier, Don’t Judge Me

Interesting point. The overall article, though, is a defense of Ohio Senatorial candidate J.D. Vance against a wild screed in The Atlantic (which journal I didn’t renew, though I might some day).

Rod Dreher, too, vouches for Vance. As a Hoosier, I have no horse in this race.

Young ideologues

The youth is an intellectual merely, a believer in ideas, who thinks that ideas can overcome the world. The mature man passes beyond intellectuality to wisdom; he believes in ideas, too, but life has taught him to be content to see them embodied, which is to see them under a sort of limitation. In other words, he has found that substance is a part of life, a part which is ineluctable.

Richard Weaver, Ideas Have Consequences

I highlighted it, but apparently didn’t take it readily to heart.

The Enlightenment

The Enlightenment not only helped us to discover the Atom bomb but also gave us the intellectual means to use it without great guilt.

Stanley Hauerwas, Resident Aliens

I’m pretty bearish on "the Enlightenment," starting with the congratulatory name. I may write at greater length on this some day.

A crack in qualified immunity

"[W]hy should university officers, who have time to make calculated choices about enacting or enforcing unconstitutional policies, receive the same protection as a police officer who makes a split-second decision to use force in a dangerous setting?"

Justice Clarence Thomas, via Jonathan Adler.

Justice Thomas got his tacit wish very recently in the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. Arrogant University of Iowa Administrators once again (yes, the University is a recidivist) decided that relatively conservative Christian groups should be brought to heel by stripping them of recognition until they stopped being, well, relatively conservative.

The 8th Circuit held that the individual administrators cannot shield their pocketbooks from individual liability for dollar-damages by claiming "qualified immunity" — because qualified immunity requires that the law be at least a bit murky, and the law against public institutions’ viewpoint discrimination is crystal clear.

Yay for the 8th Circuit!

Affective primacy

You can feel affective primacy in action the next time you run into someone you haven’t seen in many years. You’ll usually know within a second or two whether you liked or disliked the person, but it can take much longer to remember who the person is or how you know each other.

Jonathan Haidt, The Righteous Mind. I experience that regularly, but I didn’t know there was a name for it.

How the BoBos Broke America

Third, [the BoBos have] come to dominate left-wing parties around the world that were formerly vehicles for the working class. We’ve pulled these parties further left on cultural issues (prizing cosmopolitanism and questions of identity) while watering down or reversing traditional Democratic positions on trade and unions. As creative-class people enter left-leaning parties, working-class people tend to leave. Around 1990, nearly a third of Labour members of the British Parliament were from working-class backgrounds; from 2010 to 2015, the proportion wasn’t even one in 10. In 2016, Hillary Clinton won the 50 most-educated counties in America by an average of 26 points—while losing the 50 least-educated counties by an average of 31 points.

… In 2020, Joe Biden won just 500 or so counties—but together they account for 71 percent of American economic activity, according to the Brookings Institution. Donald Trump won more than 2,500 counties that together generate only 29 percent of that activity. An analysis by Brookings and The Wall Street Journal found that just 13 years ago, Democratic and Republican areas were at near parity on prosperity and income measures. Now they are divergent and getting more so. If Republicans and Democrats talk as though they are living in different realities, it’s because they are.

[T]he educated elite tended to be the most socially parochial group, as measured by contact with people in occupational clusters different from their own. In a study for The Atlantic, Amanda Ripley found that the most politically intolerant Americans “tend to be whiter, more highly educated, older, more urban, and more partisan themselves.” The most politically intolerant county in the country, Ripley found, is liberal Suffolk County, Massachusetts, which includes Boston.

With their amazing financial and convening power, blue oligarchs move to absorb any group that threatens their interests, co-opting their symbols, recruiting key leaders, hollowing out their messages. “Woke capitalism” may seem like corporations gravitating to the left, but it’s also corporations watering down the left. Members of the blue oligarchy sit atop systems that produce inequality—and on balance their actions suggest a commitment to sustaining them.

David Brooks, How the BoBos Broke America

Great article to read and argue with. I say that as someone who almost certainly qualifies as a BoBo. The second paragraph in particular was an eye-opener.

Da Press

I have finally internalized the lesson that the press is too biased to merit reliance. All of them.

So how is one to know what’s going on in the world? Curate the least unreliable?

Next lesson: we’re not meant to know what’s going on far, far from kith and kin.

UPDATE: Someone who apparently feels as I do about this suggests that BBC World News is still reliable. I’m going to try it.

Viktor Orbán week

Tucker Carlson is in Budapest this week, which is the worst thing about Budapest I can think of off-hand. (I tried watching him to see what he had to say about Hungary, but I couldn’t get past his initial, dishonest, manipulative demagoguery about other things.) This has given the usual suspects an occasion to publicly affirm that they’re still on the left-liberal team, and gives Rod Dreher yet another chance to push back.

[W]hat sets [Viktor Orbán] apart from American conservative leaders is that he recognizes the nature of the crisis, and is prepared to act boldly to address it. He believes that contemporary Western liberalism has surrendered to a civilizational death wish. I prefer the (possibly flawed) ways that Orban is meeting the crisis than the ways that the American Right is failing to do same.

Which is the only power capable of standing up to Woke Capitalists, as well as these illiberal leftists in academia, media, sports, cultural institutions, and other places? The state. That’s it. This is disorienting to Anglo-American conservatives, who are accustomed to seeing the state as the enemy, and institutions of civil society, especially business, as friends of freedom. It’s no longer true, and people on the Right who want to fight soft totalitarianism had better start to understand this. This is why American conservatives ought to be beating a path to Hungary and Poland (as well as to Spain, to talk to the Vox party, and to other European countries to learn from non-Establishment populist parties).

Rod Dreher.

Yes, I do include Rod in the unreliable sources. I could qualify that assessment, but suffice for now that he has backed up his "on balance" defense of Hungary with facts, whereas its foes have shown me no more than hand-waving, epithets, hyperbole, and "everybody-knows-ism." I’m more inclined to credit Rod.

The Spectator is closer to the situation than I am, and here’s its take:

Brussels’s problem is not really with Poland or Hungary. More fundamentally, ‘unity in diversity’ has become anathema to it. It cannot accept that the geographical borders of Europe do not neatly overlap with the European Union’s ideological fault lines.

‌Hungary, Poland and the EU’s ‘diversity’ problem

Ack-bassward

I’m not going to get into the history or beliefs of Orthodox Christians, beyond saying that the tradition began with the Schism of 1054 when millions of Christians who were unhappy with the direction of the Catholic Church (on theological and political grounds) broke away to form their own tradition.

Ryan Burge, Orthodox Christians Are More Republican Today than Twelve Years Ago. Why? – Religion in Public.

You’d have done better to say nothing at all, Ryan, since what you said is ass-backward. Here’s a more accurate account:

The unity of the universal church was disrupted over the 11th through 13th centuries as an increasingly willful Patriarch of Rome broke away from the other four great Patriarchates, taking the West into schism from the rest of the Church.

Little, nutritious bites

…they trained students to be spelunkers of their personal identities and left them incurious about the world outside their heads.

Mark Lilla, The Once and Future Liberal

Even the man we nailed on a tree for a lookout said little about it; he told us evil would come.

Les Murray, New Selected Poems

Adiaphora

The essential point I want to make here is this: elite liberals, as a class used to comfortable and orderly lives, were massively freaked out by the election of Donald Trump, and what they have demanded in turn is not a new and better political movement but for everyone else to be freaked out too … Feel the way that we feel or you will be exiled.

Liberal Democrats want the bad things they say they fear to happen; that much is obvious. They would rather the bad things happen and be proven right about the threat than for the bad things not to happen at all. This is porn. It’s all porn.

Freddie deBoer, ‌Orange Cheeto Man Bad?


The Spectacle of Latinx Colorism
The idea of sameness can devastate as much as it can connect.
By Karla Cornejo Villavicencio

They lie awake at night at the New York Times worrying about different things than I worry about.


open letter from a distinguished surgeon – Snakes and Ladders


I was gratified to read Federal Judge Imposes Sanctions on Lawyers Who Filed Frivolous Election Suit – Reason.com

May this be the first of many sanctions against rogue lawyers who joined in spreading manure about Election 2020.

I know that a lawsuit is preferable to riots in the streets, but you can’t just throw any crap on paper and call it a good faith legal claim. There’s junk law just as there’s junk science.


You can read most of my more impromptu stuff at here. It should work in your RSS aggregator, like Feedly, should you want to make a habit of it.

Goldberg the Idealist versus Gladwell the Reichian

[I]magine I was out of the loop and asked someone why Jeffrey Toobin lost his gig at The New Yorker and the answer was, “He pleasured himself on a Zoom call in front of his colleagues and boss.” I might have a lot of questions, but “Why was he fired?” really wouldn’t be one.

Apparently, that just shows I’m ensconced in a bourgeois, Judeo-Christian mindset.

From the New York Times:

Malcolm Gladwell, one of the magazine’s best known contributors, said in an interview: “I read the Condé Nast news release, and I was puzzled because I couldn’t find any intellectual justification for what they were doing. They just assumed he had done something terrible, but never told us what the terrible thing was. And my only feeling — the only way I could explain it — was that Condé Nast had taken an unexpected turn toward traditional Catholic teaching.”

[A]s doctors sometimes say about how to diagnose a patient, “If you hear hoofbeats, think horses, not zebras.”

If you read a press release announcing that a 60-year-old man—with a checkered sexual history—was fired for going into manual override at a meeting and the “only way” you can explain it is that the publisher of Vogue, Vanity Fair, and Glamour has made a shocking right turn toward Rome, you’re not even hearing zebras—you’ve spotted a herd of unicorns.

What is strange about Gladwell’s conclusion is that he’s the sort of guy who would normally argue that taboos about sexual behavior don’t spring up ex nihilo. The story in Genesis that Gladwell cites—which, for what it’s worth, was already on the scroll shelves long before the Catholic Church was founded—surely has analogs in other cultures. I don’t know this for sure, but I strongly suspect that Jeffrey Toobin would get fired from many of the leading magazines in most Muslim, Hindu, or Confucian societies for similar behavior. Has Conde Nast taken an unexpected turn toward Koranic social teaching?

More to the point, Gladwell seems incapable not only of finding fault with Toobin’s behavior, but incapable of assigning blame to his own side’s moral system. Conde Nast, which no doubt is decidedly on the MeToo side of all these debates, made a mistake in Gladwell’s eyes. Okay. But one doesn’t have to suddenly imagine that the owners of Teen Vogue have gone Opus Dei to explain why MeToo-ers might have a problem with men exposing themselves to colleagues. The scalps of Matt Lauer, Louis C.K., Mark Halperin, et al, weren’t collected by Catholic Torquemadas; they were collected by Gladwell’s friends, colleagues, and peers.

Jonah Goldberg, Morality as a Foreign Language (emphasis added).

I was as puzzled by Gladwell’s moral tone-deafness as Gladwell is by Condé Nast’s decision, and I think I found the answer in one of today’s blogs from the still-if-only-occasionally-useful First Things (whose Editor-in-Chief, Rusty Reno, became far too Trumpy for me over the last quadrennium).

Carlo Lancelloiti, who translated works of philosopher Augusto Del Noce into English, explains that Del Noce was frustrated by his fellow Catholics’ failure to correctly assess the sexual revolution. It was not just a relaxation of modesty standards:

In reality, he explained, what they were facing was “a condemnation of modesty as abnormal …” These words encapsulate what he considered the worst possible misunderstanding of the sexual revolution: as a slackening of morals. Looser sexual morality may have been its practical result, and was probably how common people experienced it, but it was absolutely not how the sexual revolution was conceived by the many writers, filmmakers, therapists, journalists, and intellectuals who advocated for it. To them it was not a moral slackening but a moral quickening. It meant freeing people from irrational and oppressive taboos, harmonizing morality and nature, reconciling life and science. The revolution was “in its own way” intransigently moral—it just inhabited a different ethical universe. This is why, Del Noce wrote, “any ‘dialogue’ with the advocates of sexual liberalization is perfectly useless, simply because they start by denying a priori the metaphysics that is the source of what they regard as ‘repressive’ morality” …

In order to explain the “philosophy” of the sexual revolution, Del Noce refers to the works of Austrian psychoanalyst Wilhelm Reich … Del Noce summarizes Reich’s programmatic book The Sexual Revolution … as follows:

Reich’s thought is based on the premise . . . that there is no order of ends, no meta-empirical authority of values. Any trace not just of Christianity but of “idealism” in the broadest sense . . . is eliminated. What is man reduced to, then, if not to a bundle of physical needs? When these needs are satisfied—when, in short, every repression is removed—he will be happy . . . Having taken away every order of ends and eliminated every authority of values, all that is left is vital energy, which can be identified with sexuality . . . Hence, the core element of life will be sexual happiness. And since full sexual satisfaction is possible, happiness is within reach.

Reich’s approach is crudely scientistic: Sexuality has no symbolic meaning and no intrinsic finality—such as the procreation of children—while “sexual happiness” (as psychological well-being) enjoys the status of supreme human goal and takes on great social and political significance

Carlo Lancellotti, The Origins of Sexual Totalitarianism (emphasis added)

Oddly enough, the “scientism” of Reich does not require moral neutrality, as most scientisms profess. He finds a new morality to be derived from science:

The following sentence from The Sexual Revolution sums it up nicely: “Religion should not be fought, but any interference with the right to carry the findings of natural science to the masses and with the attempts to secure their sexual happiness should not be tolerated.” Del Noce rephrases it as follows: “the Church is tolerated only to the extent that she does not take any stance on the moral assertions that supposedly derive from science, understood as the only valid form of knowledge.

(Italics added)

In this light, Gladwell showed admirable restraint by acting bewildered by, not outraged at, Toobin’s dismissal for public wanking which, after all, was a rejection of the evil of modesty in Toobin’s — ahem! — single-minded pursuit of sexual happiness, the summum bonum.


Out of the crooked timber of humanity no straight thing was ever made.

Immanuel Kant, Idea for a Universal History with a Cosmopolitan Purpose

You shall love your crooked neighbour
With your crooked heart.

W.H. Auden, As I Walked Out One Evening

The worst judge of all is the man now most ready with his judgements; the ill-educated Christian turning gradually into the ill-tempered agnostic, entangled in the end of a feud of which he never understood the beginning, blighted with a sort of hereditary boredom with he knows not what, and already weary of hearing what he has never heard.

G.K. Chesterton, The Everlasting Man (PDF)

You can read most of my more impromptu stuff here or join me and others on micro.blog. You won’t find me on Facebook any more, and I don’t post on Twitter (though I do have an account for occasional gawking).

But what about Fox?

I have hinted strongly that the Senate will not convict Trump on any impeachment articles for fear of his carpet-bombing them from Twitter after his removal from office. I may have overlooked something:

Though it is the most-watched cable (shall we say) “news” channel in the United States, [Fox’s] average primetime viewership of about 2.5 million people is less than 1 percent of the nation …

However, those Fox News viewers punch far above their weight in one regard: They are the core of any hard-right primary challenge that might be waged against an incumbent Republican senator. … Trump is neither popular nor admired among the Senate majority, but he is feared, therefore tolerated. The fear stems from his firm grip on that Fox News-viewing core and the belief that he could turn the core into an incumbent-crushing machine.

To the extent that Trump’s grip begins to loosen, the fear will begin to lift and the president’s Senate firewall will begin to crumble. That’s how I figure it, and I think Trump might be making a similar calculation, because his Twitter feed has been peppered lately with his annoyance at Fox News over various perceived acts of hostility. He might believe that he can maintain his standing solely through his unmediated tweets, regardless of Fox News. But I don’t think he really wants to find out.

David Von Drehle, (Trump’s fate is in the hands of Fox News) goes on to explain why Fox might turn on Trump. Hint: It rhymes with “Paul Ryan.”

It’s one of the cheeriest hypotheticals I’ve read in a while.

* * * * *

I sought to understand, but it was too hard for me, until I went into the sanctuary of God; then understood I their end.

(Psalm 72:15-17, Adapted from the Miles Coverdale Translation, from A Psalter for Prayer)

* * * * *

You can read most of my more impromptu stuff at here. It should work in your RSS aggregator, like Feedly, should you want to make a habit of it.

I highly recommend blot.im as a crazy-easy alternative to Twitter (if you’re just looking to get your stuff “out there” and not pick fights).

Irenic Politics

Jonathan Haidt has said that conservatives generally understand liberals better than liberals understand conservatives. I now offer a corollary that Trump supporters understand Never Trump Conservatives no better than liberals do.

Exhibit A is the premise of a column by Never Trumper Peter Wehner, who got a missive from a Trumpist friend:

I have a colleague who claims [talkshow host and now Presidential hopeful Joe] Walsh has instantly become the face of the Never Trump movement (much to his delight) and that his fellow Never Trumpers will never write a word of condemnation of Walsh, thereby proving their disingenuous position.

As a Conservative Never Trumper, I’m astonished at the cluelessness of that. First, I don’t need a “face” for my opposition to Trump. Second, I don’t know who Joe Walsh is well enough to adopt him, and the little I’ve heard makes me consider him quite unsuitable.

Wehner responds similarly, but first turns the tables:

I will get to Mr. Walsh and his racist rants in a moment, but first I will admit that my initial reaction to this email was bemusement at the question posed to me. Mr. Trump’s most vocal supporters are now demanding that Mr. Trump’s most vocal critics do what they will not, which is to publicly recoil against a politician — in this case, Mr. Walsh — who appeals to the worst instincts and ugliest sentiments in America.

Their argument seems to be that decency requires the president’s relatively few conservative critics to call out Mr. Walsh for saying detestable things while Mr. Trump’s right-wing supporters cheerfully defend him under any and all circumstances, regardless of the fact that the president’s rhetoric is pathologically dishonest, dehumanizing, cruel, crude, racist and misogynistic. There’s a word for what Trump supporters are doing here: hypocrisy.

Then he does turn to Walsh as promised. Read it yourself if you like.

I should add that I understand Trumpistas about as badly as they understand me, which has been a frustration to me ever since Trump proved that he had nontrivial political support. (Before then, I worried about his fans about as much as I worried about any fans of bloodsport and other spectacle.)

Back to the beginning: there are exceptions to any generality. There’s a newish Know Your Enemy podcast from two lefties (one a former conservative) who admirably describe conservative positions.

I find their attacks after the initial descriptions somewhere between non-existent and unpersuasive — which could be by design, given the literal import of the irenic podcast title (promising knowledge, not persuasion) and assuming a Left audience rather than an undecided or Right audience.

But I wonder whether their podcast, in describing conservatism so well, may turn some of their listeners from Left to some version of Right, given Haidt’s observation of how poorly Left understands Right currently.

Answer: probably not if Haidt’s Moral Foundations Theory is correct and there aren’t some other complicating factors it doesn’t cover. But greater mutual understanding would be a helpful alleviator of polarization anyway.

* * * * *

You can read most of my more impromptu stuff at here. It should work in your RSS aggregator, like Feedly, should you want to make a habit of it.

I highly recommend blot.im as a crazy-easy alternative to Twitter (if you’re just looking to get your stuff “out there” and not pick fights).

“Now what?” How about National Conservatism?

This morning, I sincerely suggested that there’s no sense in my (or anyone’s) mere rehearsing and re-rehearsing the core evils regularly reflected in our President’s rhetoric, even on the pretext of a new Presidential utterance confirming that he does, indeed, spout racism, xenophobia and misogyny.

This is not more of that.

I read later today a sort of answer to Damon Linker’s question “now what?”, via Bradford Littlejohn, who I admire, but who was a mere auditor, then reporter, of the answer.

[A]lthough I have poured myself into the project of retrieving resources for bold and faithful Christian citizenship for the past ten years, although I have outwardly pooh-poohed counsels of despair and helmed an organization committed to renewing Christian public witness, rather than retreating behind ecclesiastical strongholds, when I’ve been honest with myself, I’ve always said with Boromir, “It is long since we had any hope.”

I suspected that we were entering the twilight years of the American republic, that my children would grow up into a world much darker, more solitary, nastier, and more brutish than I had, and my task was simply to (to quote another favorite Tolkienism) “fight the long defeat” with as much boldness and faithfulness as possible—and build, if perhaps, networks of knowledge and friendship that could survive the dark days ahead.

This pessimism was only in part due to the aggressive crusade against nature and reason that has infected progressivism in the West, and the weakness, corruption, and amnesia in the church. It was also because it seemed clear to me that America lacked—and perhaps had long lacked—a genuine conservative movement in any historically meaningful sense.

But at the National Conservatism Conference this week, I realized for the first time that whatever the virtues and vices of Trumpism, the election of Trump in 2016 had had the effect of a violent earthquake—reducing the previous political categories and expectations to rubble and leaving the field incredibly open to build and think something new. Of course, in such a landscape, gangs are prone to roam and loot, extremism is apt to breed, and our worst impulses can be given free rein. There is no guarantee that anything genuinely constructive can come out of such rubble. But this week at least gave me hope in the possibility.

Based on my reading in preparation for my May trip to the Republic of Georgia, the comment about gangs, looting, and extremism made me think “My gosh! He just described the Republic of Georgia, 1990-2003! And, yeah, it does kind of fit what’s going on in America right now.”

But in 2003, Georgia had its “Rose Revolution” and order was restored in what has become a stable Christian democracy, despite some economic problems. So there really may be some hope.

I’ll let you read Wilcox for a fairly detailed account of what seemed to transpire at the Conference, but one anecdote stood out to me as pretty solid proof that this is Not Your Father’s Conservatism (nor mine).

One hallmark of the conservative “fusionism” of the last 60 years or so has been economic libertarianism, a/k/a “laissez-faire.” A realist might well say (I have no doubt that they do) that “laissez-faire” is a myth, and the reality is an economy designed to serve certain interests, and to disserve others.

The National Conservatism Conference seemingly is ready to drop the pretext, to expel the Libertarians (or at least put them on a short leash), and to entertain (gasp!) explicitly outome-oriented, non-neutral stuff like, for instance, a national Industrial Policy:

[T]he most memorable session of the conference was probably the Monday night public debate between Oren Cass (author of The Once and Future Worker) and Richard Reinsch on the resolution “America Should Adopt an Industrial Policy.” Although excellent arguments were put forward on both sides, Cass’s affirmative ultimately carried the day, 99 to 51—this was not your father’s conservatism. The crucial moment in the debate came in during the section for speeches from the floor, when J.D. Vance [author of Hillbilly Elegy and a growing presence in conservative circles] came up to the microphone and said:

“Near where I live in Silicon Valley, there are neuroscientists paid by Facebook who are hard at work developing horrible apps to addict your children’s brains. Just down the road, there are neuroscientists paid by the National Institutes of Health who are working just as hard on finding cures for dementia. The first group earns about twice as much as the second group. In my mind, this debate is over the question, ’Are we OK with that? And if we’re not, is this a political problem that demands a political solution?”

mic drop

(Emphasis in original) Sohrab Amari should be pleased.

Note that there likely is no shortage of progressives who likewise “are not OK with that,” at least so far as brainwashing children goes. So the political realignment which I’ve been predicting (it’s hardly rocket science to predict realignment at my high and vague level of generality, folks) could become very interesting and barrier-shattering. (Can you say “strange bedfellows”?)

Littlejohn’s account of the Conference is far and away the most positive I’ve seen yet, and if he were wet behind the ears I’d discount it pretty deeply. But he’s not.

Still, one criticism is captured in the “optics”: “Elite Insurgents at the Ritz” (read the articles linked there, too).

Another was that “(Sniff!) They didn’t invite me and I’m more expert than who they did invite so it’s all a set-up funded by the Usual Shadowy Opinion-molders.

Still another is that Josh Hawley was the only headliner who was an officeholder, the rest being authors, academics, pundits and such. (Can you say “Václav Havel”?)

Points taken.

I think we’re still fairly far from seeing a proof of concept, but with “the field incredibly open to build and think something new,” and with this “something new” fitting America better than the policies of the Robespierre “Squad” of zealous Democrat freshmen, we might see it as soon as Donald Trump finally stands down.

One can hope.

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You can read most of my more impromptu stuff at here. It should work in your RSS aggregator, like Feedly, should you want to make a habit of it.

I highly recommend blot.im as a crazy-easy alternative to Twitter (if you’re just looking to get your stuff “out there” and not pick fights).

Subliminal religion in politics

“Chase religious ideas out one door and they inevitably come in another — because the human mind naturally rebels against a worldview as incomplete, as manifestly threadbare, as pure materialism.” Ross Douthat

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I used to say “I’m not religious. I’m a Christian,” which was not entirely misleading about Evangelicalism: Ken Myers of Mars Hill Audio Journal once referred to Evangelicalism, in its doctrinal diversity if not chaos, as orthopathos, “right feeling,” rather than orthodoxy, “right belief.”

I am fortunate that I was kidding myself about the “not religious” part, and that the truth finally manifested itself. With my religion now being capital-O Orthodox Christianity, I have no hesitation calling myself “religious” (and for today, at least, I have no interest in quibbling over the etymology of the word).

I still casually follow doings in the Evangelical and Calvinist Christian traditions, but even someone who is “interested in religion” as well as “religious” cannot keep up with every tradition other than his own. Part of what I can’t keep up with is the menagerie of people today who earnestly deny being religious (my old denial was playful) while clearly toying with ideas that do not enjoy a Neil deGrasse Tyson Seal of Approval.®

So I was grateful for today’s Ross Douthat column on The Meaning of Marianne Williamson, which was extremely stimulating for anyone who acknowledges that religion is both consequential and ubiquitous. He helped me place Williamson, heretofore only very vaguely known to me, in a religious neighborhood to which I’ve at least paid a little attention in the past.

Douthat’s point is not that Williamson is a serious contender for the Democrat nomination or election in 2020 (though she might be a forerunner in something of the way Pat Buchanan foreshadowed our Very Stable Genius). I would have been a very hard sell on that, as are the pollsters so far.

Rather, I’d call Douthat’s perspective “meta,” in the the sense that he uses Williamson partly as a springboard into the sometimes conflicted psyches of people who fancy themselves staunch adherents of reason and science, and specifically the possible development of a “Religious Left.”

An appetizer:

A recurring question in American politics since the rise of the Moral Majority and the Christian Coalition has been “where is the religious left?” One possible version has been hiding in plain sight since the 1970s, in the form of Williamson’s style of mysticism, the revivalism of the Oprah circuit, the soul craft of the wellness movement, the pantheistic-gnostic-occultish territory at the edges of American Christianity’s fraying map. We don’t necessarily see it as a “left” only because it has acted indirectly on politics, reshaping liberalism and the wider culture from within and below, rather than acting through mass movements and political campaigns.

Certainly in the eternal pundit’s quest to figure out what a “Donald Trump of the left” would look like, a figure like Williamson is an interesting contender. If Trumpism spoke to an underground, often-conspiratorial populism unacknowledged by the official G.O.P., Williamson speaks to a low-on-data, long-on-feelings spirit that simmers just below the We Are on the Side of Science and Reason surface of the contemporary liberal project.

It’s not a coincidence, against this background, that some of the refugees from contemporary progressivism who form the so-called Intellectual Dark Web or publish in journals like Quillette have commonalities with the Bush-era new atheists who once bashed right-wingers for their religiosity — or indeed are Bush-era new atheists, in the case of Sam Harris, born again as an I.D.W. eminence and scourge of the progressive left. In this trajectory you can see one potential arc for proudly secular liberals, if the left’s future belongs to woke covens and progressive pantheism …

… but then it’s also not a coincidence that perhaps the most popular of the Intellectual Dark Webbers, Jordan Peterson, talks about Enlightenment values in one breath while offering Jungian wisdom and invoking biblical archetypes in the next. Chase religious ideas out one door and they inevitably come in another — because the human mind naturally rebels against a worldview as incomplete, as manifestly threadbare, as pure materialism.

It would take the entire course in miracles to put Williamson in the White House, but she’s right about one big thing: There’s more to heaven and earth, and even to national politics, than is dreamed of in the liberal technocrat’s philosophy.

At this level of abstraction and speculation, other approaches probably are plausible, but by all means read Douthat all if his approach intrigues you. I think you’ll find it rewarding.

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You can read most of my more impromptu stuff at here. It should work in your RSS aggregator, like Feedly, should you want to make a habit of it.

I highly recommend blot.im as a crazy-easy alternative to Twitter (if you’re just looking to get your stuff “out there” and not pick fights).

Omitted legacy

This is, though certainly not by premeditated design, a supplement to yesterday’s blog.

“The alt-right is a combination of ideology and tactics,” [David] French said Friday at the Aspen Ideas Festival, co-hosted by the Aspen Institute and The Atlantic. “Ideologically, the alt-right is white nationalist. It is post-constitutionalist. And it is often quite pagan … Nobody knows how big it is … if it numbers in the thousands or the tens of thousands … It’s not a huge number of people.”

But tactically, he continued, “they punch way above their weight. So how are they doing it? Well, in 2015 and 2016 … they did it as a wave of targeted harassment directed primarily against Trump critics.” …

As he sees it, the alt-right’s core tactic is inflicting pain for political ends, “often in the way that is the most personal.” Is the Republican Party influenced by the alt-right? “Yes,” French said. “Cruelty as a tactic is now a part of the playbook on the right.”

For anyone who doubts that Trump, the Republican Party’s leader, has a cruel streak, read up on his past. If you doubt that Trumpism has that same streak, read Adam Serwer’s “The Cruelty Is the Point” …

Conor Friedersdorf, The Alt-Right’s Tactical Cruelty. I did read up on it, and even read Adam Serwer (who’s not my cup of tea in most regards).

People disagree about the ideal traits to have in a leader. But almost no one wants a president who has proven himself an addict to being cruel, mean-spirited, and spiteful. For decades, Trump has been deliberately cruel to others, often in the most public ways. He behaves this way flagrantly, showing no sign of shame or reflection.

What kind of person still acts that way at 70? A bad person.

It is that simple.

Conor Friedersdorf, The Senseless Cruelty of Donald J. Trump. This concludes a long and convincing set of examples.

At a rally in Mississippi, a crowd of Trump supporters cheered as the president mocked Christine Blasey Ford, the psychology professor who has said that Brett Kavanaugh, whom Trump has nominated to a lifetime appointment on the Supreme Court, attempted to rape her when she was a teenager. “Lock her up!” they shouted.

Even those who believe that [Christine Blasey] Ford fabricated her account, or was mistaken in its details, can see that the president’s mocking of her testimony renders all sexual-assault survivors collateral damage. Anyone afraid of coming forward, afraid that she would not be believed, can now look to the president to see her fears realized. Once malice is embraced as a virtue, it is impossible to contain.

Adam Serwer, The Cruelty Is the Point. True to form, Adam Serwer frequently disappointed, but his introductory material about grinning lynch mobs was powerful and on point, and this block quote is true and revealing.

If you wonder about my agenda in writing these things, I’ll try to summarize as truthfully as I can:

  1. They are deathworks and I’m loathe to call out only deathworks from the left. Ephesians 5:11, if that helps.
  2. I’m anticipating another horrid Presidential electoral choice next year, and I “think out loud” about such things. Policy aside, the cultural legacy Trump is leaving is deeply, deeply evil.
  3. I’m calling to repentance professing fellow-Christians who not merely considered  Trump the lesser evil in 2016, but have become his enthusiasts. That is incomprehensible to me and legitimately scandalous to the sentient non-Christian world.

That’s what comes to mind.

Though I may belabor some topics, I haven’t repeated this often enough: The 2016 Presidential election foreshadows major partisan re-alignments I’m still having trouble projecting. My alienation from the Republican Party grows ever deeper, but the Democrats, for new reasons as well as the same old same-old, are not attracting me at all.

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You can read most of my more impromptu stuff at here. It should work in your RSS aggregator, like Feedly, should you want to make a habit of it.

I highly recommend blot.im as a crazy-easy alternative to Twitter (if you’re just looking to get your stuff “out there” and not pick fights).

Clippings, 2/16/19

1

If you subscribe to First Things, don’t miss Baptism of Blood in the March edition. If you don’t, save the link for 30 days or so and the paywall will drop:

[W]hen they saw the video and knew with certainty what had happened, their confidence returned: “We now have a holy martyr in heaven, so must rejoice—nothing can harm us anymore.”

Which explains why the families handled the video with a complete sense of ease. There was an iPad in every household on which one could watch the full-length, uncut, unedited video. Malak’s mother was the only one who refused to look at the screen, while all her family’s young men, cousins, and brothers stared at it, apparently undisturbed, pointing out the men they recognized, as they had often done. There could have been no better place to watch the video—surrounded by the men’s families and runny-­nosed children, in rooms adorned with images of the crowned Twenty-One …

What would the murderers say about their video being shown like this? Would it surprise them to see how unflappable these simple-minded, poor folk were? Would they be able to see that their cruelty had failed to achieve the intended goal, and that their attempt to intimidate and disturb hadn’t succeeded?

Written of the families of the 21 Coptic Martys, beheaded by Muslim terrorists on a beach in Libya, and referring to a terrorist propaganda video of the rehearsed slaying. I immediately acquired an Icon of these Holy Martys and made it a point to join Copts in Matins and Liturgy two years ago.

(First published in micro.blog)

2

America Is Torn Between Trump’s Fibs and Progressives’ Fantasies.
The president is a master of little lies, but the left rejects the big truths that sustain politics and culture.

The problem with such a headline is that one may merely shake one’s head in vigorous affirmation without reading it:

My father … served for many years as an aide to Gov. and later Vice President Nelson Rockefeller. One night in 1979, he announced Rockefeller’s death before the television cameras. He thought it his duty as a gentleman to lie about the circumstances, and he never got over the shame of that lie.

Mr. Trump works with huckster falsehoods—the flashy superlatives of a car salesman. The progressive left works with conceptual falsities. Voters in 2020 will decide which style of lies they prefer.

Mr. Trump composes his reality after the manner of a Renaissance painter’s pentimento, except that he works at the speed of Twitter , making adjustments as circumstances shift. He slaps new paint over old facts when they become inconvenient. Mr. Trump’s abuses, he and his followers believe, somehow come right by coalescing in a larger truth—the mythic America that radiated from my father’s old Saturday Evening Post and came to its apotheosis in the Neverland of Dwight Eisenhower’s 1950s.

The progressive left embraces new visions of perfection—tamer in its methods than its 1930s predecessors, but sometimes outdistancing them in the fusion of dogmatic correctness with a fairly advanced decadence. Progressives are busy reinventing the Kingdom of God on Earth, trying to make their version as different as possible from his. They contrive elaborate new genders, for example—ones the deity didn’t think of. They invent vocabularies, terms ecstatic and bristling—“cisgendered,” “heteronormative,” “intersectionality”—designed to bully reality into compliance.

Their version of the kingdom mixes hopes of social justice with sexual nullifications and revenge fantasies. In my mother’s time, the far left in its dreams crushed capitalism and ushered the workers into paradise. Today they sweep white civilization and toxic males into the dustbin of history.

3

It was also exhilarating to see a congresswoman confront a figure who has pleaded guilty to misleading Congress before, and who helped cover up and minimize the slaughter of more than 800 civilians, including children, in El Mozote, El Salvador … [T]hat Abrams would go before the House and not be called to account for his past record would be an outrage. Making the powerful uncomfortable is what the Congress is supposed to do.

Now look at [Congresswoman Ilhan] Omar. She didn’t just push back on AIPAC’s distortion of American foreign policy, she reiterated a classic anti-Semitic trope that American Jews buy influence, period. She didn’t just confront Elliott Abrams, she refused to let him answer anything but loaded “yes” or “no” responses. And last week, for good measure, she demanded an investigation into the decision by USA Powerlifting to ban transgender women from competing in women’s powerlifting contests, because of the unfair advantage that developing a male body for most of your life will give you in lifting weights. The organization instituted the ban after a young trans woman, JayCee Cooper, smashed the state record for women’s bench press in Minnesota, beating her nearest female rival by a mile, only a year after joining the sport.

If the Democrats want to fight the next election on the need for a radical rebalancing of the economy in favor of the middle and working class, for massive investment in new green technology, for higher taxes on the superrich, and for health-care security for all Americans, they can win. If they conflate those goals with extremist rhetoric about abolishing everyone’s current health insurance, and starting from scratch, as the Green New Deal advises, not so much. If they insist that men and women are indistinguishable, that girls can have penises and boys can have periods, as transgender ideology now demands, they’ll seem nuts to most fair-minded people.

Are they really capable of fucking this up once again? The answer that is emerging in the first months of the new Democratic House is: of course they can.

Do not miss Andrew Sullivan’s Friday offering, on a single topic for a change. He had me howling in laughter at the hapless progressives, but then brought me crashing back to earth.

I won’t spoil it for you.

4

Socialism is … more frequently praised than defined because it has become a classification that no longer classifies. So, a president who promiscuously wields government power to influence the allocation of capital (e.g., bossing around Carrier even before he was inaugurated; using protectionism to pick industrial winners and losers) can preen as capitalism’s defender against socialists who, like the Bolsheviks, would storm America’s Winter Palace if the United States had one.

Time was, socialism meant thorough collectivism: state ownership of the means of production (including arable land), distribution and exchange. When this did not go swimmingly where it was first tried, Lenin said (in 1922) that socialism meant government ownership of the economy’s “commanding heights” — big entities. After many subsequent dilutions, today’s watery conceptions of socialism amount to this: Almost everyone will be nice to almost everyone, using money taken from a few. This means having government distribute, according to its conception of equity, the wealth produced by capitalism …

The “boldness” of today’s explicit and implicit socialists — taxing the “rich” — is a perennial temptation of democracy: inciting the majority to attack an unpopular minority. This is socialism now: From each faction according to its vulnerability, to each faction according to its ability to confiscate.

George Will. I hope Rod Dreher will take to heart this equivocation before he actually names his forthcoming book “Cultural Socialism” — a title so wrong on so many levels that I don’t know where to start.

5

Former representative Beto O’Rourke of Texas is experiencing a … sudden star turn. It’s easy to see why so many are attracted to him. He’s young (46), charismatic, has a beautiful family and appeals to a cross-section of Americans. But something about him seems manufactured. A leaner, lankier version of two likely role models, Bobby Kennedy and Barack Obama, his practiced performances tend to make one wish for the real McCoys. With unmistakable echoes of Obama’s cadences and Kennedy’s mannerisms, O’Rourke seems to have been created by an artificial intelligence that was informed by polls and demographic projections.

Kathleen Parker

6

Yes, Moscow Boosts Western Anti-Imperialist Voices. So What?

As we discussed recently, there will necessarily be inadvertent agreement between Russia and westerners who oppose western interventionism, because Russia, like so many other sovereign nations, opposes western interventionism. If you discover that an American who opposes US warmongering and establishment politics is saying the same things as RT, that doesn’t mean you’ve discovered a shocking conspiracy between western dissidents and the Russian government, it means people who oppose the same things oppose the same things.

If you really listen to what the CNNs and Ben Nimmos and Washington Timeses are actually trying to tell you, what they’re saying is that it’s not okay for anyone to oppose any part of the unipolar world order or the establishment which runs it. Never ever, under any circumstances. Don’t work for a media outlet that’s funded by the Russian government even though no mainstream outlets will ever platform you. Don’t even subscribe to an anti-establishment subreddit. Those things are all Russian. Listen to Big Brother instead. Big Brother will protect you from their filthy Russian lies.

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Is (Liberal) Democracy Dying?

The Atlantic for October is a theme issue:

840

I can’t provide URLs because it’s still subscriber-only, but you get get to your favorite bookstore and pick up a copy. All of the following are from that issue, as was Anne Applebaum, A Warning From Europe: The Worst Is Yet to Come, about which I blogged earlier.

1

It is much harder to struggle against irrelevance than against exploitation.

Yuval Noah Harari, Why Technology Favors Tyranny.

And a stunning microcosm:

On December 6, 2017, another crucial milestone was reached when Google’s AlphaZero program defeated the Stockfish 8 program. Stockfish 8 had won a world computer chess championship in 2016. It had access to centuries of accumulated human experience in chess, as well as decades of computer experience. By contrast, AlphaZero had not been taught any chess strategies by its human creators — not even standard openings. Rather, it used the latest machine-learning principles to teach itself chess by playing against itself. Nevertheless, out of 100 games that the novice AlphaZero played against Stockfish 8, AlphaZero won 28 and tied 72 — it didn’t lose once. Since AlphaZero had learned nothing from any human, many of its winning moves and strategies seemed unconventional to the human eye. They could be described as creative, if not downright genius.

Can you guess how long AlphaZero spent learning chess from scratch, preparing for the match against Stockfish 8, and developing its genius instincts? Four hours.

(Emphasis added)

2

Many progressives, particularly young ones, have turned against what were once sacrosanct American principles. Freedom of speech is an instrument of the dehumanization of women and minorities. Religious liberty is an engine of discrimination. Property rights are a shield for structural injustice and white supremacy. In a recent poll, two-thirds of college-age Democrats said that “a diverse and inclusive society” is more important than “protecting free speech rights.” Only 30 percent of Americans born in the 1980s believe that living in a democracy is “essential,” compared with 72 percent of Americans born in the 1930s.

… One of our students told us: “I don’t know any lefty people my age who aren’t seriously questioning whether the First Amendment is still on balance a good thing.”

Amy Chua and Jed Rubenfeld, The Threat of Tribalism.

But wait! There’s more! It’s not tribalist without at least two tribes!

In a 2017 survey by the Pew Research Center, less than half of Republicans said that the freedom of the press “to criticize politicians” was “very important” to maintaining a strong democracy in the United States. In other 2017 surveys, more than half of Trump supporters said the president “should be able to overturn decisions by judges that he disagrees with,” and more than half of Republicans said they would support postponing the 2020 presidential election if Trump proposed delaying it “until the country can make sure that only eligible American citizens can vote.”

I can’t pick which side is worse. Can you?

3

Jeffrey Rosen incited in me kindly feelings toward California:

Voters in several states are experimenting with alternative primary systems that might elect more moderate representatives. California and Washington State have adopted a “top two” system, in which candidates from both parties compete in a nonpartisan primary, and the two candidates who get the most votes run against each other in the general election — even if they’re from the same party. States, which Louis Brandeis called “laboratories of democracy,” are proving to be the most effective way to encourage deliberation at a time when Congress acts only along party lines.

Madison and the Mob.

4

This author was shot, randomly, with a 22:

Knee-jerk calls for gun control didn’t resonate with me. Yet a reverence toward guns no longer felt right either.

I found my ambivalence unsettling. Everyone else seemed so sure about how to feel about guns—people on campus, on the internet, back home. Unlike most of them, I had made intimate acquaintance with gun violence. I should have had some special insight. If what had happened to me wasn’t fodder for clarity, I feared nothing ever would be.

As we drove, he asked me to remind him what I was writing about. I said some- thing lazy, offhanded: “What it was like getting shot in a place that loves guns.”

“It’s not love,” he said. We pulled into the parking lot of his store, which sits high on a hill. You can see almost all of Tuscaloosa from there. “It’s about necessity.” He mentioned rattlesnakes and coyotes. For people in rural areas — that’s more than 40 percent of Alabamians — guns are still a day-to-day defense against such animals. Yes, there is ample love for guns in Alabama. But to forget that they’re tools is to miss an important point.

Elaina Plott, The Bullet in My Arm.

Perhaps, but they’re not the kind of tools Our People use now, are they dear?

5

A 2018 U.S. Magazine asking whether democracy is dying might be suspected of a hit on 45, but it really was not. He did get more than passing mention in David Frum’s contribution, though:

[A] Donald Trump with impulse control would not be Donald Trump …

When Trump refers to “my” generals or “my” intelligence agencies, he is teaching his supporters to rethink how the presidency should function. We are a long way from Ronald Reagan’s remark that he and his wife were but “the latest tenants in the People’s House.”

In 2016, Trump supporters openly brandished firearms near polling places. Since then, they’ve learned to rationalize clandestine election assistance from a hostile foreign government. The president pardoned former Sheriff Joe Arpaio, convicted of contempt of court for violating civil rights in Maricopa County, Arizona, and Dinesh D’Souza, convicted of violating election-finance laws—sending an unmistakable message of support for attacks on the legal order. Where President Trump has led, millions of people who regard themselves as loyal Americans, believers in the Constitution, have ominously followed.

Building an Autocracy.

6

To stop the rot afflicting American government, Americans are going to have to get back in the habit of democracy.

[In the 19th Century] From churches to mutual insurers to fraternities to volunteer fire companies, America’s civic institutions were run not by aristocratic elites who inherited their offices, nor by centrally appointed administrators, but by democratically elected representatives.

Civic participation was thus the norm, not the exception.

Democracy had become the shared civic religion of a people who otherwise had little in common.

But the United States is no longer a nation of joiners. As the political scientist Robert Putnam famously demonstrated in Bowling Alone, participation in civic groups and organizations of all kinds declined precipitously in the last decades of the 20th century.

Trump turned the long-standing veneration of civic procedure on its head. He proclaimed that America is “rigged”; that “the insiders wrote the rules of the game to keep themselves in power and in the money.” The norms and practices of democratic governance, he insisted, had allowed elites to entrench themselves.

Trump secured the Republican nomination by speaking directly to those voters who had the least experience with democratic institutions. In April 2016, when the Republican field had narrowed from 17 candidates to three, a PRRI/The Atlantic survey found Trump enjoying a narrow lead over second-place Ted Cruz among Republican-leaning voters, 37 to 31 percent. But among those who seldom or never participated in community activities such as sports teams, book clubs, parent-teacher associations, or neighborhood associations, Trump led 50 to 24 percent. In fact, such civically disengaged voters accounted for a majority of his support.

Yoni Applebaum, Americans Aren’t Practicing Democracy Any More.

7

And finally:

The cardinal fact always is the loss of contact with objective information. Public as well as private reason depends upon it. Not what somebody says, not what somebody wishes were true, but what is so beyond all our opining, constitutes the touchstone of our sanity. And a society which lives at second-hand will commit incredible follies and countenance inconceivable brutalities if that contact is intermittent and untrustworthy. Demagoguery is a parasite that flourishes where discrimination fails, and only those who are at grips with things themselves are impervious to it. For … the demagogue, whether of the Right or the Left, is, consciously or unconsciously an undetected liar.

Walter Lippman, November 1919 (before my father was born), quoted in a side-bar.

I’m venturing a guess that nobody born since 1970 will understand his use of “discrimination” unless they have a liberal arts college education.

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