What is America for Mummy?

633701545[Not long after wwe met, Jessica asked me in an email, 

Perhaps the parallel goes beyond just the early pilgrims? America is either a vision of what can be, or it is nothing.

That is the choice we face, and it’s a stark one. Either we are who we have always said we are, or we are just another slave state like Europe.The question must be answered by the American people, we already know what the government thinks, don’t we?

Churchill said, in the Grand Alliance

But I had studied the American Civil War, fought out to the last desperate inch. American blood flowed in my veins. I thought of a remark which Edward Grey had made to me more than thirty years before—that the United States is like “a gigantic boiler. Once the fire is ignited under it there is no limit to the power it can generate.

That is true, we are Americans, we can do anything, if we choose to. Is the fire under the boiler lighted? If it is not, the dream is over. If it is, anything is possible for us.

This is one of Jessica’s first posts here, I was looking through our records and it struck me that we often become bogged down in detail, in theory, in the mundane day-to-day stuff that we deal with. We tend to forget what it’s all about, and we shouldn’t. Almost from the beginning America has been a dream; a dream of freedom above all, but also of material prosperity.

It was such a potent dream that Italian peasants told each other that the streets were paved with gold, although they knew what really awaited them was hard work, and bias against them because of their language and religion but, they came anyway, and if they didn’t have much but hard work and cramped tenements, their children did. And that’s really what the dream has always been: for our children to have a better life than we did. In the nineteenth century, Russian immigrants who had never had anything but black bread, except maybe on holidays, wrote home ecstatically that “in America, we eat wheaten bread every day.” And that too was part of the saga of America.

That’s what we have built over the last 400 years, a dream of freedom, of individual liberty, yes, but also of freedom from material want by virtue of hard work. And you know, as Jess is going to tell you again here, that is really pretty damned heroic as well. Neo]

When I was ten, I lived in America for a year – in the mid-West. I remember when we got to O’Hare airport looking at its size and marvelling; it seemed bigger than the town in which we lived in Wales. I recall going to St. Louis and seeing the Arch, and going up it and looking across the vastness of the city and asking my mother: ‘What is America for mummy?’ I can’t remember what she answered – she probably thought it was me trying to be clever; but it was a real question, and one I came to ask a few times whilst I was there.

I think I asked it for the reason many foreigners ask – there is something different about America.  I remember going with my mother to a Kiwanis Club and being struck by the way everyone put their fist on their breast as they swore the oath of allegiance to the flag. Indeed, I was so impressed that I memorised it so that the second time we went, I could do it too. I remember a nice man smiling but saying that I couldn’t do it because I was not an American citizen.  ‘How do you get to be one of those’, I asked? ‘Well, little lady, you could always marry an all-American boy’, was the answer.  I think I said something about ‘smelly boys’ and never wanting to get married because I wanted to be a nun. But a bit later I recall thinking that maybe the kind man had a point.  America, the very idea, seemed Romantic.

My father was fifty when I was born, and his tastes in movies became mine. When other teenage girls were swooning about Kevin Costner (really???), I was dismissive. John Wayne was my hero – and remains so. He summed up America for me. Strong, but never boastful about it. I remember crying when I saw ‘The Man who shot Liberty Valance’ – it was so unfair – it was Tom Donovan, not Ransom Stoddard who shot Liberty Valance, so why did the latter end up with the girl? Huh, I remember thinking, if I had been ‘the girl’ there was no way I’d have chosen Jimmy Stewart over John Wayne – what was she thinking?  But, as Tom Donovan might have said: “Whoa, take ‘er easy there, Pilgrim”.

The film’s message, which passed me by in my indignation, was about the passing of the old West, and the place of myth in the making of a nation. America is a nation built around myths and legends. That is not to say they are wrong, it is to say that those movies told a bigger story about the making of a great nation and what made it that. All nations need myths, and the point about the American one seemed to be encapsulated in my second favourite John Wayne film – ‘She wore a Yellow ribbon.’ Captain Nathan Brittles was the quintessential quiet American. A man who, having lost his family, was married to the army, and who did his duty, no matter what. My teenage heart went out to him, and I was very sniffy about the heroine going off with those ‘boys’ rather than a ‘real man’.

What John Ford caught in those films – especially the great trilogy which began with ‘Fort Apache’ and ended with ‘Rio Grande’ – was the very idea of America.  Call me a Romantic (no, do) – but that idea of America remains with me to this day. God Bless America – the land of the free.

[I think Jess is very right, America is romantic, and yes, you can call me one too. But if we take the romance, and yes the legend and the saga out of our history, we are left with a strip of dirt, and just another group of people. That’s not my America, either. Here’s a piece of the legend. Neo]

I also have a post up at Jess’ Watchtower, and last year I had a pretty good musical post.

Happy Independence Day

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239 Times

pic_giant_070314_AWell, we’re still here, and we’re still, whatever the Supreme Court says, still America, and yes, by God’s grace that is so.

239 years ago a group of guys gathered in Philadelphia said loud enough to be heard in London that

Resolved, That these United Colonies are, and of right ought to be, free and independent States, that they are absolved from all allegiance to the British Crown, and that all political connection between them and the State of Great Britain is, and ought to be, totally dissolved.

That it is expedient forthwith to take the most effectual measures for forming foreign Alliances.

That a plan of confederation be prepared and transmitted to the respective Colonies for their consideration and approbation.

Tthe resolution passed, and a document that started “When in the course of human events…” was published. A committee including Thomas Jefferson (mostly), Benjamin Franklin, and John Adams wrote it. It became the Mission Statement first for America and then the free world. John Adams then said:

“I am apt to believe that it will be celebrated by succeeding generations as the great anniversary festival. It ought to be commemorated as the day of deliverance by solemn acts of devotion to God Almighty; it ought to be solemnized with pomp and parade, with shows, games, sports, guns, bells, bonfires and illuminations from one end of this continent to the other, from this time forward forever more.”

A man who knew his countrymen well, then and now. because it’s more about the American character than anything else. David Azerrad said this morning:

What sets us Americans apart is that we do not merely declare for liberty. We staunchly stand for it. To be an American is not only to know that you are born free, it is to have the courage to defend your freedom. This admirable aspect of the American character is evident in the fifth grievance the Declaration levels against the king.

It reads: “He has dissolved representative houses repeatedly, for opposing, with manly firmness, his invasions on the rights of the people.” The king acted as monarchs are wont to do. Our forefathers, although they were subjects, did not take his abuses passively. They resisted—with manly firmness.

[…]

The 56 men who signed our Declaration of Independence set the example for their fellow countrymen and for future generations. They did not simply proclaim the universal rights of man. They also pledged“to each other, our Lives, our Fortunes, and our sacred Honor.” And they meant it. Twelve served as combat commanders during the Revolutionary War. Five were captured and imprisoned by the British. Seventeen lost part of their fortunes.

America is not a country for servile men and women. We not only have aright to be free, but a duty to be free. For “when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such government, and to provide new guards for their future security.” Free as we are, we have no liberty to choose despotism—even if it is sugarcoated, as it is today, with material comfort and license.

As Samuel Adams said in his rousing oration on American Independence: “If ye love wealth better than liberty, the tranquility of servitude than the animating contest of freedom—go from us in peace. We ask not your counsels or arms. Crouch down and lick the hands which feed you. May your chains sit lightly upon you, and may posterity forget that ye were our countrymen!”

But the men to use those arms have never been lacking. From the men, like joseph Plumb Martin and his fellow Continental soldiers, right on down to today, that freedom has been won and maintained by the best of us, Warriors of America. A reminder to a troubled world, we are still here, we still care, and we will again some day soon (I trust) be on scene.

Perhaps we should end with something a man with an American mother said:

Never give in! Never give in!

Never, never, never, never — in nothing great or small, large or petty.

Never give in except to convictions of honor and good sense.

That man, of course, was Sir Winston Churchill.

Stupid Selfies and Kitteh Videos

Klavan and Whittle on culture.

Enough said.

Interpretive Jiggery-pokery; Part One

91237701A lot of electrons have been disturbed in commenting on the SCOTUS rulings last week. A lot more will be, some of them by me, but underlying the whole sordid mess, is a pernicious view of the law. Justice Kennedy opened his opinion of SSM with this:

The Constitution promises liberty to all within its reach, a liberty that includes certain specific rights that allow persons, within a lawful realm, to define and express their identity. The petitioners in these cases seek to find that liberty by marrying someone of the same sex and having their marriages deemed lawful on the same terms and conditions as marriages between persons of the opposite sex.

In the analysis section, he says this:

The nature of injustice is that we may not always see it in our own times. The generations that wrote and ratified the Bill of Rights and the Fourteenth Amendment did not presume to know the extent of freedom in all of its dimensions, and so they entrusted to future generations a charter protecting the right of all persons to enjoy liberty as we learn its meaning. When new insight reveals discord between the Constitution’s central protections and a received legal stricture, a claim to liberty must be addressed.

Those two statements are consistent with each other and with the school of thought that can find new rights (or make them up out of the whole cloth) in a two hundred year old document, whose authors meant no such thing, if (and that’s very doubtful) they even thought of such things. That school is what is often called ‘the living constitution’. And it is fully capable of finding rights that don’t exist and were never intended.

Yesterday, No Mans Land published on All along the Watchtower, an excellent history of marriage in Christianity. But that, while interesting, has little to do with the court ruling, because like Roe v. Wade, the court simply decided what it wanted without recourse to the law. I probably should add that while I’ve always thought Marbury v. Madison was right, I’m beginning to doubt my conclusion.

Because the real problem isn’t with any of that, the real problem is the conception of the law. What Kennedy works from is the old Roman conception of the law that flows strongly in European law. It holds that one can do anything that the law permits. It leads to many laws, and a fair percentage of them perverse, and is imposed from the top down, like these SCOTUS opinions.

But American law, like English law, is based on the Common Law, and law that has built up over time, using precedents. We spoke the other day of the start of the written Common Law, in the days of King Æthelberht of Kent. Contemporary with St. Augustine of Canterbury, King Æthelberht’s Law was the first written version of the Common Law, indeed the first written law code in any of the Germanic languages. This was the basis of King Alfred the Great’s Code, and all subsequent English/American law, including Magna Charta.

The key takeaway here is that Anglo-American law is based on a different principle, that one can do anything that the law does not forbid. That difference is fundamental. That is also the basis of the Ten Commandments. That is an entire law code, in ten simple “Thou shalt not’s. More on that in an earlier post of mine, here, and Jessica postulated that Jesus boiled it down even more  here.

And so we see that there is a fundamental flaw in these decrees from SCOTUS, the court simply chooses to violate the fundamental basis of our law to grant non-existant rights.

More to come on this, of course.

Cultural Tyrants

I wrote last week about how proud I am to be fellow citizens with the admirable citizens of Charleston, that post is here. Their reaction is pretty much what one would expect of American citizens and/or Christians, traditionally the same thing white or black. That anybody was surprised, says more about our current culture (very bad things) than anything else. Writing for The American Spectator magazine, Scott McKay has some thought as well.

Following the nine killed by 21-year-old ninth grade dropout and troglodyte Dylann Roof at the Mother Emanuel AME Church last week, the people of that venerable South Carolina city have given the nation one of our more inspiring spectacles — thousands gathering in prayer and demonstrating for unity and civility. Had the reaction of Charleston been the major story, the massacre — disgusting and tragic as it was — would have told us something good about the basic character of the American people.

Your author will go so far as to say Charleston’s reaction has told us something true, as well — about most of us, at least.

Unfortunately, most of us are not represented by our betters in politics, media and the cultural elite. Our ruling class missed the unity and healing in Charleston completely — so anxious were they to make Roof the epitome of the knuckle-dragging white Southerner (and Republican, at that, though there is no evidence of his membership in the GOP) and present a “teachable moment” to the American people who foolishly believe despite the presence of a black president that America has not fundamentally advanced on race since the bad old days of Jim Crow.

The left, including the President, instantly tried one more time their narrative on gun control, when America yawned in boredom in their faces, they decided that the Battle Flag of one of the most revered American armies, North or South, would be a more viable target. It is, mostly because that flag was defiled after the war and again in the 1960s for the racist purposes of the Democratic Party, and the founder of its terrorist arm, as well as some of it’s more modern members. there is a reason, why the left wants us to forget our history after all, and it is largely because of their place in it. But because it has been misused institutionally that flag is vulnerable, through no fault of its own. The same can validly be said for American history.

The Battle Flag is likely a poor choice for us to occupy that last trench, and yet at some point we are going to have to push back, or we will lose our America, its idealism, its history of trying to do the right thing, its belief that freedom is always better, and yes, its eternal optimism. So if not the Battle Flag, What? If not us, Who? If not now, When? America can never be defeated by an external enemy, neither can Christianity, both can be destroyed by a cancerous rot, and it appears to be metastasizing. To continue with Scott:

The preservation of Southern history, heritage, and culture might not seem like much of a cause to many of our readers, and that’s fine. But the same crowd howling about the racist rednecks in South Carolina and Mississippi is also demanding that students at UCLA not be taught that America is the land of opportunity, for that is also racist and thus offensive. At Cal-Berkeley, traditional American mantras about meritocracy or our country as a melting pot are now unacceptable. At Cal-Irvine the American flag itself is offensive. So are crosses on display in public places, or dogs or the smell of pork in Dearborn and Minneapolis. Or churches wishing to specialize in intersex weddings. Or “manspreading” males on New York subway trains.

This isn’t stopping at the Confederate flag. It accelerates with each victory the cultural Left achieves. And never, ever is there a price paid for its aggression.

At some point, the rest of us are going to have to exact that price. The stars and bars can go, and if Bedford Forrest, who may have been a singular cavalry officer but did, after all, serve as first Grand Wizard of the Democratic Party’s 19th-century terrorist arm, goes with it that’s not an unbearable loss to anyone’s heritage. But while we’re scrubbing the bad baggage from our culture, can we have a merciful end to the painfully stupid leftist obsession with cop-killing racists such as Mumia Abu Jamal, communist terrorists like Bill Ayers, and psychopathic Marxist white supremacists like Che Guevara? How about, as Victor Davis Hanson suggested, an end to racist Leftist institutions like the Congressional Black Caucus and La Raza? If we’re to crack down on the cultural cachet of the Old South, can we conduct a similar purge of the New Black Panthers?

Perhaps as a small token of exchange we could see a prosecution of Al Sharpton for his well-known tax evasion? Is that so awful a price?

A price must be exacted. The Left cannot be allowed its double standards and guilty pleasures on the way to unquestioned cultural dominance. If traditional America must perish under Alinsky’s Rule #4 (“Make the enemy live up to its own book of rules”), then so must the Left.

Continue reading: Cultural Tyrants | The American Spectator.

The time for the backlash is, I fear, drawing very near, and as we did on that construct of the Democratic Party, the Confederate States of America, it is likely that we will wreak a terrible vengeance on those who would destroy the very idea of America, or the dream that is America will end. And von Clausewitz did teach us, after all, that war is simply politics by another name.

Why Conservatives Dislike What Passes For The Liberal Arts

JAdamsStuart

JAdamsStuart (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

John Adams famously wrote to his wife, Abigail in 1780, saying, “I must study Politics and War that my sons may have liberty to study Mathematics and Philosophy.” And that is the glory of a civilization, that it makes the time to study.

You, who know me, know that there are few stronger proponents of a liberal education than me. You also know that I think it is nearly impossible to obtain one in the University system. One cannot learn when one is subject only to one side of an issue. There must be (at least) two sides argued effectively of every issue.

Arguing does not consist of personal attacks and telling people to “sit down and shut up”. But invariably that is what is happening today, in our ‘elite’ institutions, and so I submit, they no longer have any utility, whatsoever to someone who wishes to obtain an education. They exist simply to credential those, who mistakenly think themselves fit to rule their betters.

David Patten writing in The Federalist has some things to say recently on this.

Christopher Scalia has a product to sell, and he’s wondering why conservatives aren’t buying it. As an English professor at an elite university, he’s troubled that so many high-profile conservatives have been speaking dismissively about the liberal arts.

His sales pitch is reasonable enough: the liberal arts can make an important contribution to producing the sort of well-informed and critically engaged public that democracies need to thrive. A liberal-arts education exposes students to a wide range of facts, ideas, and experiences, making it harder for the government to control the minds of its citizens. Likewise, the critical-thinking skills students develop from wrestling with complex and sophisticated ideas enable them to ask better questions and challenge authority more effectively.

Actually, he’s right about the liberal arts, but that’s not what they are teaching these days. Continuing:

Perhaps the best example of the problem with how the liberal arts are being taught at today’s universities occurred last year at Marquette University. In an ethics class, a young teacher’s assistant (TA) was confronted by a student who wanted to debate the ethics of gay marriage. The TA told the student this issue was not up for debate. She asked the student to stop talking about the possibility that there could be an ethical argument against gay marriage. This line of thought made him a homophobe, and a gay student in the class might feel hurt if he discovered one of his classmates harbored doubts about the legitimacy of his choices.

Sadly, the consensus in the academy seems to be that this young TA got it right. Meanwhile, her colleague who exposed the incident to the public—thinking people would be horrified by what was going on in Marquette’s classrooms—was stripped of tenure and fired.

This is disheartening, for multiple reasons. The TA seems oblivious to the fact that if everyone else were as closed-minded as she, no one would have questioned the former consensus that homosexuality is a form of deviancy. But someone, quite possibly in an ethics class, challenged the prevailing point of view. This person asked how someone’s rights could be denied on the basis of a moral code he did not subscribe to. This started a debate. The objector was not told to shut up and stop making everyone feel uncomfortable.

Another reason this incident was so ironic is that it occurred in a philosophy classroom. If there is one discipline that cannot survive in an atmosphere of political correctness, it is philosophy. Philosophy critically evaluates ideas. It does not remove some from discussion just because someone might find them offensive.

John Adams also said, “There are two types of education… One should teach us how to make a living, and the other how to live.” When one trains as an electrician, and sometimes alas as an engineer, one doesn’t take many courses in English, let alone philosophy, that is unfortunate, but perhaps necessary. perhaps we do need electricians more than philosophers, but I think it in large part a false dichotomy. A goodly part of philosophy can be understood as simple common sense, and mechanical skills should never be denigrated either,

As a philosopher myself, I too balked when Sen. Marco Rubio discouraged an audience from pursuing a degree in Greek philosophy. While he accurately cited the lousy job market for Greek philosophers, a bad job market is an insufficient reason to discourage the study of philosophy. Ideally, a liberal-arts education would help produce the sort of citizen that can contribute meaningfully to our nation’s political discourse. That is more important in the long run than a steady paycheck straight out of college.

But the price is only worth it if liberal-arts universities remain committed to fostering open-minded, free-thinking individuals. Increasingly, conservatives are coming to doubt this commitment, so they are left wondering whether students might not be better served spending their college years preparing themselves for the job market.

Why Conservatives Dislike What Passes For The Liberal Arts.

Remember most of us are not attacking the liberal arts, we are attacking the way the are (not) taught any longer. When they are again taught, we will again support them, because we agree with the Adam’s quote that opened this article.

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