Seth Mandel writes at Commentary online:
The fact that the Supreme Court will hear a religious freedom-based challenge to the ObamaCare contraception mandate is the kind of story that possesses significance likely beyond any volume of coverage it will receive. Indeed, while liberal activists will repeatedly try to cast this in the mold of the fictional “war on women,” their own arguments reveal just how far-reaching a definitive ruling on this would be for American religious and political practice. …
Liberals have a curious definition of rights. Last night … the birth-control activist Sandra Fluke [said] on MSNBC …
There’s an attack on allowing employers to be required to provide this insurance coverage on insurance that employees pay for, at the same time that there’s an attack on public availability through clinics.
One more time: [Fluke reckons that] there’s an attack on allowing employers to be required to provide this insurance.
To the left, there is no freedom without government coercion. … That’s the argument the left is running with: they want you to be forced to provide the funding for even their most private activities; only then will you be truly free.
But Fluke isn’t the only one making this argument. … [In] an MSNBC roundtable on the issue … the panelists are panicked at the thought of affording Americans full religious liberty because, essentially, it’s then a slippery slope to protecting all constitutional rights. And then – mayhem, or something:
“This is another reason why we should have moved toward a single payer system of health coverage, because we’re just going to end up with one challenge after another – whether it’s in the courts or outside of the courts – and I just don’t see an end to this,” [Bob] Herbert submitted.“We’re already on the slippery slope of corporate personhood,” he continued. “Where does it end?”
“Where does it end” is the attention-getter in that comment, but I think Herbert’s plea for single-payer health insurance is just as telling. Put the government in charge of the country’s health care, Herbert argues, because then it will be much more difficult for Americans to “challenge” the government’s infringement on their freedom. It’s not just legal challenges either. Herbert says those challenges can be brought “in the courts or outside of the courts,” the latter perhaps an allusion to the shady world of participatory democracy.
So this is much more than a fight over birth control, or even health insurance. It’s about two fundamentally different views on American constitutional freedoms. Conservatives want those freedoms to be expansive and protected, as the Founders did. Liberals want those freedoms to be curtailed lest … the democratic process imperil the state’s coercive powers.
Thus far we agree with Seth Mandel. We are for individual freedom: the Left (whether it calls itself liberal or progressive or socialist) is not.
Free people can say what they like and do what they like (short of interfering with anyone’s else’s freedom), and that means they can believe anything they like, worship anything they like or nothing at all, make and follow any self-imposed rules they like. They only mustn’t impose their rules on anyone else, or if they’re in a group on anyone outside it.
If the government pays for everyone’s health care, it will claim the right to dictate how everyone must live in order to stay healthy. Paying for health care is the quickest way for a government to become a dictatorship. That is why government should not be the paymaster for health care.
But now the article changes from making good sense to arguing a spurious case for religion as a brake on government power:
The Founders saw religious freedom as elemental to personal liberty in America. But they were not alone in thinking that unimpeded religious worship was a guard against an overly ambitious or arrogant national government. As Michael Burleigh writes about the role of religion in post-French Revolution European politics, with a supporting quote from Edmund Burke:
The political function of religion was not simply to keep the lower orders quiescent, as has been tiresomely argued by generations of Marxists, but also to impress upon those who had power that they were here today and gone tomorrow, and responsible to those below and Him above: “All persons possessing any portion of power ought to be strongly and awfully impressed with an idea that they act in trust, and that they are to account for their conduct in that trust to the one great Master, Author, and Founder of society.”
Guarding against ambitious and arrogant government was not at all the point of allowing religious freedom in America. Allowing freedom and establishing participatory democracy set limits on government power, but the idea that the unleashing of all religions was done to ensure some sort of cumulative force for restraint is absurd.
Edmund Burke was an important philosopher of Conservatism. But that assertion of his does not stand up to examination. Were the popes and primates of the Catholic Church ever restrained in the way they exercised their nearly totalitarian power by remembering that they were “here today and gone tomorrow”? That they would have to “account for their conduct” to their Master, Author or whatever else they called their god? No, they were not. Nor did their actions ever suggest that they thought they “ought to be”. They carried on, and expected their successors to carry on, in the well-established tradition of compulsion by terror.
Mandel goes on:
Religion was not the “opiate of the people,” intended to keep them in line. It was, rather, to keep the government in line. This was not a revolutionary idea; it predated the American Constitution, certainly. As Francis Fukuyama writes in The Origins of Political Order: “The existence of a separate religious authority accustomed rulers to the idea that they were not the ultimate source of the law. The assertion of Frederic Maitland that no English king ever believed that he was above the law could not be said of any Chinese emperor, who recognized no law other than those he himself made.”
The medieval Church kept everyone in line, monarchs and people alike, as firmly as it could. It did exercise a brake on the powers of the secular rulers. (One famous example: King Henry II of England felt that he had to submit to the humiliating punishment imposed on him by Pope Alexander III for letting his knights murder Archbishop Thomas Becket in 1170.) But it is also true that the secular rulers exercised a brake on the power of the Church. There was a long sustained secular-papal power struggle (manifested notably, for instance, between the Pope-supporting Guelphs and the Emperor-supporting Ghibellines in Italy, a struggle that lasted from the 12th to the 15th centuries).
The Church or the belief in a Heavenly Judge had nothing whatever to do with English kings accepting that the law was above them. Magna Carta held them to it, and it was issued by King John in 1215 without any help from the Church.
Mandel seems to be trying to build a case – which he touches on by mentioning the Founders, but then wanders off it – that the liberty-enshrining Constitution of the United States was a product of the religiousness of those who framed it. The Constitution itself said no such thing. Individuals among the framers may have thought they were carrying out their God’s will when they wrote it – who can know? But what is certain is that they were inspired by the secular ideas of the Enlightenment – ideas which broke the power of the Churches forever. With all due respect to Edmund Burke – it was especially in post-French Revolution European and American politics that religion had no significant role.
If rulers are to be restrained by anything, it must be by the people they rule: by the democratic process that Mandel himself refers to.
“God” is superfluous to democracy, to justice, and to freedom. In his – ie the Church’s – long reign over Europe, there was no democracy, no justice, and no freedom. And wherever else religion dominates to this day, there is only oppression, injustice, subjugation and fear.
“Liberal” is a misnomer for the American mainstream Left. The Democratic Party has become a socialist party, and socialists are not liberal in the plain meaning of the word. Democrats are not for liberty, they are against liberty. They are for government control of the people. They hate Republicans, conservatives, the Tea-Party and anybody who believes in individual freedom and a government that serves rather than masters the people, and their hatred inspires and motivates them. They reflexively blame the Right for everything that goes wrong. Every time there is a terrorist attack in America the leftist MSM declares that the Right must be to blame. In almost all instances it turns out that their allies, Muslim jihadis, are actually the perpetrators. (The few exceptions have almost all been lunatics.) The growth of illiberality among the so-called liberals dates back at least five decades, when the Left did its utmost to blame the Right for the assassination of President Kennedy. The fact that the assassin, Lee Harvey Oswald, was a creature of the Left was …
… an inconvenient fact [which] had to be expunged. So, 24 months after the assassination, Arthur Schlesinger Jr., the Kennedys’ kept historian, published a thousand-page history of the thousand-day presidency without mentioning the assassin.
So George Will writes at Investor’s Business Daily. He goes on:
The afternoon of the assassination, Chief Justice Earl Warren ascribed Kennedy’s “martyrdom” to “the hatred and bitterness that has been injected into the life of our nation by bigots.” The next day, New York Times luminary James Reston wrote in a front-page story that Kennedy was a victim of “a streak of violence in the American character”, but especially of “the violence of the extremists on the right”.
Never mind that adjacent to Reston’s article was a Times report on Oswald’s communist convictions and associations. …
Three days after the assassination, a Times editorial, Spiral of Hate, identified Kennedy’s killer as a “spirit”: The Times deplored “the shame all America must bear for the spirit of madness and hate that struck down” Kennedy. The editorialists were, presumably, immune to this spirit. The new liberalism-as-paternalism would be about correcting others’ defects.
Hitherto a doctrine of American celebration and optimism, liberalism would now become a scowling indictment: Kennedy was killed by America’s social climate whose sickness required “punitive liberalism”.
That phrase is from the Manhattan Institute’s James Piereson, whose 2007 book Camelot and the Cultural Revolution: How the Assassination of John F. Kennedy Shattered American Liberalism is a profound meditation on the reverberations of the rifle shots in Dealey Plaza.
The bullets of Nov. 22, 1963, altered the nation’s trajectory less by killing a president than by giving birth to a destructive narrative about America.
In George Will’s view, however, this meant the beginning of liberalism’s own decline in America.
Fittingly, the narrative was most injurious to the narrators. Their recasting of the tragedy to validate their curdled conception of the nation marked a ruinous turn for liberalism, beginning its decline from political dominance.
Punitive liberalism preached the necessity of national repentance for a history of crimes and misdeeds that had produced a present so poisonous that it murdered a president.
To be a liberal would mean being a scold. Liberalism would become the doctrine of grievance groups owed redress for cumulative inherited injuries inflicted by the nation’s tawdry history, toxic present and ominous future.
Kennedy’s posthumous reputation — Americans often place him, absurdly, atop the presidential rankings — reflects regrets about might-have-beens. …
But the Kennedys were not the stuff great leaders are made of. JFK was not on course to take American power, prosperity and prestige to new heights. Rather, “the Kennedys pioneered the presidency-as-entertainment”.
Under Kennedy, liberalism began to become more stylistic than programmatic. After him — [and] after his successor, Lyndon Johnson, a child of the New Deal, drove to enactment the Civil Rights Acts, Medicare and Medicaid — liberalism became less concerned with material well-being than with lifestyle and issues such as feminism, abortion and sexual freedom.
Sexual freedom being the only freedom liberals now manifestly approve of. More – they promote it with enthusiasm.
The bullets fired on Nov. 22, 1963, could shatter the social consensus that characterized the 1950s only because powerful new forces of an adversarial culture were about to erupt through society’s crust. Foremost among these was the college-bound population bulge — baby boomers with their sense of entitlement and moral superiority, vanities encouraged by an intelligentsia bored by peace and prosperity and hungry for heroic politics.
It is a devastating thought, that people can become bored by peace and prosperity. An appetite for heroic politics is an even worse phenomenon, a romantic phenomenon. It’s what motivated millions of Germans passionately to support the Nazi Party in the 1930s. And, as George Will implies, it is a desire that drives many into the collectivist Left – the Left that anti-liberal “liberalism” has become in America.
Liberalism’s disarray during the late 1960s, combined with Americans’ recoil from liberal hectoring, catalyzed the revival of conservatism in the 1970s. As Piereson writes, the retreat of liberalism from a doctrine of American affirmation left a void that would be filled by Ronald Reagan 17 years after the assassination.
But since Reagan the illiberal Left has risen again. And its season in power this time has been as disastrous for America – and for the world – as were the years of President Franklin Delaney Roosevelt (who helped to defeat Nazism, but allowed Communism to spread in Eastern Europe, and fathered the New Deal.) What it is doing now is probably even worse.
Our reader Dale Jensen, commenting on our post Feminists submit to Muslim male domination (August 24, 2013 – about Swedish women putting on hijabs in mistaken solidarity with Muslim women) made these points which we extract from the full comment:
Cultural Marxism sees everything through the lens of oppression. In the deluded mind of Leftists, whites and indeed all of Euro culture is built on the oppression of non-whites; i.e. the legacy of imperialism. Whites must therefore pay for their past sins. Islam is seen as noble while anything associated with the West is seen as evil. That is why “we see a glorification of Islam on the part of many Leftists”. …
The Left are also pathological altruists. … This is the legacy of post-Kantian philosophy. Kant was trying to save Christian ethics from the skepticism which characterized much Enlightenment thought (he wasn’t wrong about that). His Categorical Imperative basically destroys self-interest as acting from “inclination” is always outside the realm of morality (it becomes amoral) and acting from “duty” is the only path to virtue. Kant would go on to advocate an extreme form of altruism where duty to the “other” is basically the only way to be moral. The moral philosophers that followed him would expand this. Auguste Comte would argue that Christian ethics was too selfish because it focused on the salvation of the individual soul. The legacy of this is that today genuine self-interested action, at an individual or national level, is considered outside the realm of morality (or immoral) whereas only duty-oriented action to the “other” is moral. The Other has become the standard of morality. Now you package that with egalitarianism and you see that you must sacrifice for the cultural other. …
According to the dictates of Leftist egalitarianism, the more non-Western or non-White the “other” is, the more you must appease or surrender to them. This combines Leftist egalitarianism and Post-Kantian altruism to get the modern spectacle. So Islam being the most non-Western and evil of our enemies must be appeased. What better way to offer sacrifices to our Islamic enemy than to give them White, Western women. It is the sign of a culture (Euro-White) sacrificing itself pure and simple; all on the altar of egalitarianism and white guilt. …
Female biological need for male psycho-sexual strength – this is also important. Leftism (and feminism in particular) has gelded and castrated the modern male. To use Nietzschean terminology, it has turned most men into some version of the “Last Man”; a video game playing, pro-sports team worshiping, overweight, feminized Last Man. Feminism has undermined male strength and male authority. Women crave this on a deep psychological level. Male dominance is something that makes a woman feel feminine. Without it, a woman is never fulfilled. I’m not saying that dominance needs to be malevolent. I think the dominance men wielded prior to the 1960s was actually benevolent, especially compared to the rest of the world. But it was undermined. Now we are seeing some women seek out that order and that dominance from Islam and Muslim men who are not wussified by feminism and Leftism. These women in the name of modern liberalism are turning themselves into basically Chattel Slaves of Muslim Men. It could make you want to cry or spit. …
The West is committing suicide. We are seeing this in many ways. But the way Western women are behaving is a leading indicator. To watch this knowing what is coming at the end of the tunnel is heart breaking. On my darker days I wonder if the entire liberal / libertarian project is inherently flawed, and only a strict Conservative regime can work. I’m uncertain about that last though.
We are not sure what a “strict” Conservative regime would be, but we do think the liberal project is entirely flawed, and the libertarian project has flaws in it.
There are many points in the comment worth discussion and we invite further comment on any or all of them.
“The only way the Constitution can protect us, is if we protect the Constitution.”
And we hear many more wise words from Professor Thomas Sowell in this video made just before the 2012 presidential election.
We who counted ourselves luckier than the general run of humankind because we live in the United States of America are no longer standing on firm ground but on shifting sands.
What accustomed ways, what assumptions on which we’ve always relied, what expectations we’ve long held, what values we’ve taken for granted, are not being interrogated anew?
Customs, values, standards, principles – the elements that cement civilization – are being let go, one after another, at ever increasing pace as we are moved away from liberty into serfdom.
Have you relied on custom? On long accepted moral norms? On the probity of public servants? On high standards of medical practice? On the intellectual openness of universities? On the integrity of scientists? On the solidity of old established institutions? On common values of decency, civility, and honesty?
You, we, can do so no longer. The wrecking crew is out. The fundamental transformation of America is underway.
Immense progress in science and technology will not help us because all invention will come under the ever-expanding control of the government and its ideological army of wreckers.
Over what part of our lives, even the most intimate, is government not taking control?
Our freedom of speech has been qualified by political correctness. Certain words are taboo, and it is widely accepted that they ought to be, on the grounds that some might take offense if they hear them.
In almost everything we commonly do, in almost every sphere of normal activity, we find ourselves in a state of uncertainty. So multitudinous are the regulations continually heaped upon us by government that we could be unknowingly breaking the law every hour of every day, in our businesses, our professions, our leisure, our shopping, our travel, or while simply breathing inside our own homes. The hand of government is on our thermostats. Its scolding tongue lashes us if we use more water than it deems necessary to our survival. It tells us what we ought to eat and drink; what we must do with our garbage; what we may not carry on a plane; what we may not move from one state to another. If we unintentionally break an obscure business regulation, we can be raided by an armed SWAT team and heavily fined. If we gather people together at regular intervals in our home to share a common interest we can be sentenced to a term in prison. (The example our link leads to concerns a bible-studying group. We would hate to attend it ourselves, but we defend the freedom of everybody.)
Do not expect the money you earn, save, or invest to keep its value. Our currency is being continually debased. We cannot even be sure that our cash will be safe in a bank. It’s all too possible that government will summarily confiscate it. What happened recently to private deposits in Cyprus banks could happen here – a blatant act of government theft:
According to in-house memos now circulating, the DHS has issued orders to banks across America which announce to them that “under the Patriot Act” the DHS has the absolute right to seize, without any warrant whatsoever, any and all customer bank accounts, to make “periodic and unannounced” visits to any bank to open and inspect the contents of “selected safe deposit boxes”.
We can no longer rely on our title deeds to protect our property tenure. On the grounds of “eminent domain” any real estate, including your own home, can be snatched away by government and handed over to someone else who wants to change its use for his own benefit. In the case of land, the government can declare it subject to environmental laws that make it impossible for its owners to use it as they choose.
Government agencies which many or even most considered irreproachably honorable (if also terrifyingly powerful) – such as and chiefly the Internal Revenue Service - have turned out to be rotten with corruption.
We are surveyed by government all the time. We have come to expect that we cannot make a phone-call 0r send an email that government doesn’t know we made or sent. And government can look at what we said in them at any time it chooses. Under “Obamacare” we cannot have an ingrowing toenail, a terminal disease, a deformity, an embarrassing whatever that untold numbers of persons will not be informed about.
In the matter of our health and “Obamacare”, we do not know how we will pay for medical consultations and treatment in future; what insurance we may have, at what price, or what it will cover.
The political principles on which the Republic was founded are no longer the bedrock of the American nation.
The values our civilization was built on – which are not in any religion but in pre-Christian classical antiquity and the Enlightenment – are no longer esteemed. Worse, they are despised, mocked, and discarded.
Mark Steyn, recognizing the rot, writes of a recent momentous day in the decay of America – June 26, 2013:
First thing in the morning, Gregory Roseman, Deputy Director of Acquisitions (whatever that means), became the second IRS official to take the Fifth Amendment, after he was questioned about awarding the largest contract in IRS history, totaling some half a billion dollars, to his close friend Braulio Castillo, who qualified under a federal “set aside” program favoring disadvantaged groups — in this case, disabled veterans. For the purposes of federal contracting, Mr. Castillo is a “disabled veteran” because he twisted his ankle during a football game at the U.S. Military Academy prep school 27 years ago. How he overcame this crippling disability to win a half-billion-dollar IRS contract is the heartwarming stuff of an inspiring Lifetime TV movie. …
The so-called comprehensive immigration reform is so comprehensive it includes special deals for Nevada casinos and the recategorization of the Alaskan fish-processing industry as a “cultural exchange” program, because the more leaping salmon we have the harder it is for Mexicans to get across the Bering Strait. While we’re bringing millions of Undocumented-Americans “out of the shadows,” why don’t we try bringing Washington’s decadent and diseased law-making out of the shadows?
Just when you thought the day couldn’t get any more momentous, the Supreme Court weighed in on same-sex marriage. When less advanced societies wish to introduce gay marriage, the people’s elected representatives assemble in parliament and pass a law. That’s how they did it in the Netherlands, Belgium, Spain, Norway, Sweden, Portugal, etc. But one shudders to contemplate what would result were the legislative class to attempt “comprehensive marriage reform,” complete with tax breaks for Maine lobstermen’s au pairs and the hiring of 20,000 new IRS agents to verify business expenses for page boys from disparate-impact groups. So instead it fell to five out of nine judges, which means it fell to Anthony Kennedy, because he’s the guy who swings both ways. Thus, Supreme Intergalactic Emperor Anthony gets to decide the issue for 300 million people.
As Spider-Man’s Uncle Ben so famously says in every remake, with great power comes great responsibility. Having assumed the power to redefine a societal institution that predates the United States by thousands of years, Emperor Tony the All-Wise had the responsibility at least to work up the semblance of a legal argument. Instead, he struck down the Defense of Marriage Act on the grounds that those responsible for it were motivated by an “improper animus” against a “politically unpopular group” they wished to “disparage,” “demean,” and “humiliate” as “unworthy.”
What stump-toothed knuckle-dragging inbred swamp-dwellers from which hellish Bible Belt redoubt would do such a thing? Well, fortunately, we have their names on the record: The DOMA legislators who were driven by their need to “harm” gay people include notorious homophobe Democrats Chuck Schumer, Pat Leahy, Harry Reid, Joe Biden, and the virulent anti-gay hater who signed it into law, Bill Clinton. …
In his dissent, Justice Scalia wrote that “to defend traditional marriage is not to condemn, demean, or humiliate those who would prefer other arrangements, any more than to defend the Constitution of the United States is to condemn, demean, or humiliate other constitutions.” Indeed. With this judgment, America’s constitutional court demeans and humiliates only its own. …
As I say, just another day in the life of the republic: a corrupt bureaucracy dispensing federal gravy to favored clients; a pseudo-legislature passing bills unread by the people’s representatives and uncomprehended by the men who claim to have written them; and a co-regency of jurists torturing an 18th-century document in order to justify what other countries are at least honest enough to recognize as an unprecedented novelty. Whether or not, per Scalia, we should “condemn” the United States Constitution, it might be time to put the poor wee thing out of its misery.
Hayek warned us that an over-mighty state would put us on “the road to serfdom”. Well, we’ve arrived. We’ve passed the sign at the side of the road saying “Welcome to Serfdom” and we are now in Serfdom itself. It is built on a quagmire of erroneous theory. Serfs may console themselves with an illusion of security, but serfs are not secure; they exist at the whim of their masters.
By the time Islam takes over and imposes sharia law over the whole of North America, we’ll hardly notice any difference.
Afterword: One of our readers and commenters, Roger, laments the drop in standards of personal presentation among his professional colleagues with this description. (Please note we make no judgments of a person by his taste or appearance. We quote this comment because it conveys how some American citizens feel they have strayed into an alien world.)
Yes, our society is changing. I attended a construction “kick-off” meeting yesterday, at which all of the construction “professionals” were present as well as the major trades. This project is for the renovation of a very high end residence, if I mentioned the Client’s name many of you would know the person. The Architect wore an ill fitting suit that looked like it had been piled into a corner of the utility room for weeks, bare feet and flip-flops (on a construction site!) The project manager wore a loose undershirt of the type colloquially known I believe, as a “wife beater”. His entire upper body was covered in multicolored tattoos depicting what seemed to be scenes from robot wars featuring children’s Saturday morning cartoon characters. The representative of one of the mechanical trades wore a patched and worn out dungaree overall and sported a bone through his nose. [They all] wore various metal items in different parts of their faces; earrings, nose rings, lip rings, etc. None seemed in the least bit surprised at the attire of the others. I admit my concentration suffered as I wondered when it was exactly that I had been abducted and brought to this planet, and when the hell could I go home.
This infuriating story, which we quote almost in full, is about a victim of the Obama administration, showing how it zealously, even sadistically, implements its leftist policy, through the IRS and other government agencies, to target conservative groups and persecute individuals who form them. It comes from National Review, written by Jillian Kay Melchior.
The Engelbrechts were not, until recently, particularly political. They had been busy running a tiny manufacturing plant in Rosenberg, Texas. After years of working for others, Bryan, a trained machinist, wanted to open his own shop, so he saved his earnings, bought a computerized numerical-control machine, which does precision metal-cutting, and began operating out of his garage. “That was about 20 years ago” he says. “Now, we’re up to about 30 employees.”
For two decades, Bryan and Catherine drove to work in their big truck. Engelbrecht Manufacturing Inc. now operates out of a 20,000-square-foot metal building on the prairie just outside of Houston … They went back to their country home each night. Stress was rare, and life was good.
But the 2008 elections left Catherine feeling frustrated about the debates, which seemed to be a string of superficial talking points. So she began attending tea-party meetings, enjoying the political discussion. A spunky woman known for her drive, Catherine soon wanted to do more than just talk. She joined other tea partiers and decided to volunteer at the ballot box. Working as an alternate judge at the polls in 2009 in Fort Bend County, Texas, Catherine says, she was appalled and dismayed to witness everything from administrative snafus to outright voter fraud.
These formative experiences prompted her to found two organizations: King Street Patriots, a local community group that hosts weekly discussions on personal and economic freedoms; and True the Vote, which seeks to prevent voter fraud and trains volunteers to work as election monitors. It also registers voters, attempts to validate voter-registration lists, and pursues fraud reports to push for prosecution if illegal activity has occurred. …
In July 2010, Catherine filed with the IRS seeking tax-exempt status for her organizations.
Shortly after,the troubles began.
That winter, the Federal Bureau of Investigation came knocking with questions about a person who had attended a King Street Patriots event once. Based on sign-in sheets, the organization discovered that the individual in question had attended an event, but “it was a come-and-go thing”, and they had no further information on hand about him. Nevertheless, the FBI also made inquiries about the person to the office manager, who was a [King Street Patriots] volunteer.
The King Street Patriots weren’t the only ones under scrutiny. On January 11, the IRS visited the Engelbrechts’ shop and conducted an on-site audit of both their business and their personal returns, Catherine says.
“What struck us as odd about that,” she adds, “is the lengths to which the auditor went to try to … find some error. She wanted to go out and see [our] farm, she wanted to count the cattle, she wanted to look at the fence line. It was a very curious three days. …”
Bryan adds: “It was kind of funny to us. I mean, we weren’t laughing that much, but we knew we were squeaky clean. … ”
Two months later, the IRS initiated the first round of questions for True the Vote. Catherine painstakingly answered them, knowing that nonprofit status would help with the organization’s credibility, donors, and grant applications. In October, the IRS requested additional information. And whenever Catherine followed up with IRS agents about the status of True the Vote’s application, there was always a delay that our application was going to be up next, and it was just around the corner …
As this was occurring, the FBI continued to phone King Street Patriots. In May 2011, agents phoned wondering “how they were doing”. The FBI made further inquiries in June, November, and December asking whether there was anything to report.
The situation escalated in 2012. That February, True the Vote received a third request for information from the IRS, which also sent its first questionnaire to King Street Patriots. Catherine says the IRS had “hundreds of questions, hundreds and hundreds of questions.” The IRS requested every Facebook post and Tweet she had ever written. She received questions about her family, whether she’d ever run for political office, and which organizations she had spoken to.
“It’s no great secret that the IRS is considered to be one of the more serious [federal agencies],” Catherine says. “When you get a call from the IRS, you don’t take it lightly. So when you are asked questions that seem to imply a sense of disapproval, it has a very chilling effect.”
On the same day they received the questions from the IRS, Catherine says, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) launched an unscheduled audit of their machine shop, forcing the Engelbrechts to drop everything planned for that day. Though the Engelbrechts have a Class 7 license, which allows them to make component parts for guns, they do not manufacture firearms. Catherine said that while the ATF had a right to conduct the audit, “it was odd that they did it completely unannounced, and they took five, six hours. It was so extensive. It just felt kind of weird.”
That was in February. In July, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration paid a visit to Engelbrecht Manufacturing while Bryan, Catherine, and their children were out of town. The OSHA inspector talked with the managerial staff and employees, inspecting the premises minutely. But Bryan says the agent found only “little Mickey Mouse stuff, like, ‘You have safety glasses on, but not the right kind; the forklift has a seatbelt, but not the right kind.’” Yet Catherine and Bryan said the OSHA inspector complimented them on their tightly run shop and said she didn’t know why she had been sent to examine it.
Not long after, the tab arrived. OSHA was imposing $25,000 in fines on Engelbrecht Manufacturing. They eventually worked it down to $17,500, and Bryan says they may have tried to contest the fines to drive them even lower, but “we didn’t want to make any more waves, because we don’t know [how much further] OSHA could reach.”
“Bottom line is, it hurt,” he says. “[$17,500 dollars] is not an insignificant amount to this company. It might be to other companies, but we’re still considered small, and it came at a time when business was slow, so instead of giving an employee a raise or potentially hiring another employee, I’m writing a check to our government.”
A few months later, True the Vote became the subject of congressional scrutiny. In September, Senator Barbara Boxer (D., Calif.) wrote to Thomas Perez, then the assistant attorney general of the civil rights division at the Department of Justice (who has now been nominated for labor secretary): “As you know, an organization called ‘True the Vote’, which is an offshoot of the Tea Party, is leading a voter suppression campaign in many states,” Boxer wrote, adding that “this type of intimidation must stop. I don’t believe this is ‘True the Vote’. I believe it’s ‘Stop the Vote’.”
And in October, Representative Elijah Cummings (D., Md.), the ranking minority member of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, attacked True the Vote in a letter. He wrote that: “Some have suggested that your true goal is not voter integrity, but voter suppression against thousands of legitimate voters who traditionally vote for Democratic candidates.” He added that: “If these efforts are intentional, politically motivated, and widespread across multiple states, they could amount to a criminal conspiracy to deny legitimate voters their constitutional rights.” He also decried True the Vote on MSNBC and CNN. …
The next month, in November 2012, the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality, the state’s environmental agency, showed up for an unscheduled audit at Engelbrecht Manufacturing. Catherine says the inspector told her the agency had received a complaint but couldn’t provide any more details. After the inspection, the agency notified the Engelbrechts that they needed to pay for an additional mechanical permit, which cost about $2,000 per year.
Since then, the IRS has sent two further rounds of questions to Catherine for her organizations. And last month, the ATF conducted a second unscheduled audit at Engelbrecht Manufacturing.
Catherine says she still hasn’t received IRS approval for her nonprofits, though she filed nearly three years ago. …
On behalf of the True the Vote and King Street Patriots, Representative Ted Poe (R., Texas) sent a Freedom of Information Act request to the FBI, OSHA, and the ATF, inquiring whether the organizations were under criminal investigation. A statement on Poe’s website states that “the reply from these agencies was that none of these individuals were under criminal investigation. Well, if they’re not, why are they being treated like criminals? Just because they question government?”
… Other Tea Party groups decided not to form nonprofits at all after learning about her experience, [Catherine] says. “They were scared,” she explains, “and you shouldn’t be scared of your government.”
Meanwhile, Catherine says the harassment has forced her to seriously reconsider whether her political activity is worth the government harassment she’s faced.
“I left a thriving family business with my husband that I loved, to do something I didn’t necessarily love, but [which] I thought had to be done,” she says.”But I really think if we don’t do this, if we don’t stand up and speak now, there might not [always] be that chance.”
Her husband offers an additional observation: “If you knew my wife, you’d know she doesn’t back down from anybody. They picked on the wrong person when they started picking on her.”
The Washington Post reports that Steven T. Miller, the Acting Commissioner of the Internal Revenue Service, appearing today before the Senate Finance Committee, denied that he misled Congress about the targeting of conservative groups seeking tax-exempt status. He said -
I’m not going to disagree at all with the characterization of bad management here, but the actions were not politically motivated.
Jillian Becker comments: “There are few writers in the world whose appreciation of a political book is as worth having as Daniel Greenfield’s. Those who regularly read Front Page and his daily essay at his own website, will know this to be true.”
Imagine the UK Without Thatcher
With the recent death of Margaret Thatcher, one novel takes a look at a UK without Thatcher. L: A Novel History by Jillian Becker, the author of, Hitler’s Children: The Story of the Baader-Meinhof Terrorist Gang, is a modern 1984 taking place in an England fallen to the left. A country where the atrocities and horrors perpetrated in the east found their way to the west.
1984 showed us tyranny from the perspective of an ordinary man coping with the tyranny of an omnipresent Big Brother, while L takes us into the mind of Big Brother.
Becker’s L is a child of the modern left, attracted to the violent spectacle of revolution, feeding on blood and pain, gorging on the emotional spillage of the disgruntled, perpetrating riots, terrorist attacks and finally the mass starvation of the United Kingdom.
1984 takes place in the fragments of a lost history, but L develops its history out of the recent past. L doesn’t emerge out of a vacuum. He is the child of privilege, the student of leftist academics and the tyrant who rises out of the class warfare struggles of the burgeoning welfare state.
L abandons his name, going by a single letter, dabbling in dehumanizing Marxist theory while developing a cult of followers, the L-ites, who become the core of a movement that takes over the United Kingdom. L: A Novel History is as much about L, piecing together his inner thoughts from diary entries and newspaper articles, as it is about the milieu of the period and the more moderate figures on the left who hand over power to him and allow him to perpetrate his acts of terror.
As Becker notes in her introduction, there are historical precedents for L, for his associates and the fascist opposition that eventually allies with him. What she has done is transpose the history of various Communist atrocities from Russia and Eastern Europe into an England on the wavering end of the Cold War.
As a fictional history, L: A Novel History assembles painstakingly an entire alternate history in a metafictional narrative composed of newspaper articles, diary entries and historical speculation that combines the perspectives of L, his followers, the L-ites, his opponents, both genuine and disingenuous, and the people of England who react with bewilderment and then horror as the stores are emptied, the food vanishes and they are put through a brutal and degrading process meant to break their spirit.
L’s great obsession is the cultivation of empathy. Like most sociopaths, he is incapable of genuinely empathizing with others, but has a narcissistic obsession with the experience of emotion as spectacle.
Embodying the privileged empathy of the left, L promises to raise up the people, but instead degrades them, robbing them of their dignity, their humanity and finally their lives, in order to force them to identify with the sufferings of the less well off.
L is Big Brother given form, substance and motive. His resentments and narcissism represent all too well the modern left. Obsessed with image, L is driven to be a cult figure and succeeds in achieving true cult status at the expense of millions for his grand experiment in enforced empathy.
The UK has a long literary tradition of dystopias which imagine a descent into fascism, even as in real life it has continued a descent into Socialism. Jillian Becker’s L: A Novel History challenges that fictional narrative with a meta-fictional narrative that warns of what might have been and what may yet be.
May yet be in America …
The classicist Donald Kagan has given his last lecture at Yale, leaving it now in the hands of the pirates of education – the Left.
These are extracts from an article titled “Democracy May Have Had Its Day” by Matthew Kaminski in the Wall Street Journal:
Universities, he proposed, are failing students and hurting American democracy. …
On campus, he said, “I find a kind of cultural void, an ignorance of the past, a sense of rootlessness and aimlessness.”
Rare are “faculty with atypical views,” he charged. “Still rarer is an informed understanding of the traditions and institutions of our Western civilization and of our country and an appreciation of their special qualities and values.” He counseled schools to adopt “a common core of studies” in the history, literature and philosophy “of our culture.” By “our” he means Western.
This might once have been called incitement. In 1990, as dean of Yale College, Mr. Kagan argued for the centrality of the study of Western civilization in an “infamous” (his phrase) address to incoming freshmen. A storm followed. He was called a racist — or as the campus daily more politely editorialized, a peddler of “European cultural arrogance.”
Oh for some European cultural arrogance!
Not so now. Mr. Kagan received a long standing ovation from students and alumni in the packed auditorium. Heading into retirement, he has been feted as a beloved and popular teacher and Yale icon. The PC wars of the 1990s feel dated. Maybe, as one undergrad told me after the lecture, “the pendulum has started to swing back” toward traditional values in education.
Has it? Is political correctness outdated? Or becoming outdated? Isn’t that too good to be true?
Mr. Kagan offers another explanation [to the author of the article, in an interview]….
Actually, he’s Dr. Kagan. Or Professor Kagan (since we don’t do as the Germans do and string the titles together to make “Professor Dr.”). But for all we know Donald Kagan prefers the Mr.
“You can’t have a fight,” he says … “because you don’t have two sides. The other side won.”
He means across academia, but that is also true in his case. Mr. Kagan resigned the deanship in April 1992, lobbing a parting bomb at the faculty that bucked his administration. His plans to create a special Western Civilization course at Yale — funded with a $20 million gift from philanthropist and Yale alum Lee Bass, who was inspired by the 1990 lecture — blew up three years later amid a political backlash. “I still cry when I think about it,” says Mr. Kagan.
As he looks at his Yale colleagues today, he says, “you can’t find members of the faculty who have different opinions.” I point at him. “Not anymore!” he says and laughs. …
Democracy, wrote Mr. Kagan in “Pericles of Athens” (1991), is “one of the rarest, most delicate and fragile flowers in the jungle of human experience.” It relies on “free, autonomous and self-reliant” citizens and “extraordinary leadership” to flourish, even survive. These kinds of citizens aren’t born—they need to be educated. …
“Meaningful freedom means that you have choices to make,” Mr. Kagan says. “At the university, there must be intellectual variety. If you don’t have that, it’s not only that you are deprived of knowing some of the things you might know. It’s that you are deprived of testing the things that you do know or do think you know or believe in, so that your knowledge is superficial.”
As dean, Mr. Kagan championed hard sciences, rigorous hiring standards for faculty, and the protection of free speech. Those who see liberal education in crisis return to those ideas. “Crisis suggests it might recover,” Mr. Kagan shoots back. “Maybe it’s had its day. Democracy may have had its day. Concerns about the decline of liberty in our whole polity is what threatens all of the aspects of it, including democracy.”
Taking a grim view of the Periclean era in Athens, Plato and Aristotle believed that democracy inevitably led to tyranny. The Founding Fathers took on their criticism and strove to balance liberty with equality under the law. Mr. Kagan, who grew up a Truman Democrat, says that when he was young the U.S. needed to redress an imbalance by emphasizing equality. The elite universities after the war opened to minorities and women, not to mention Brooklyn College grads like himself—then “it was all about merit,” he says.
The 1960s brought a shift and marked his own political awakening. Teaching at Cornell, Mr. Kagan watched armed black students occupy a university building in 1969. The administration caved to their demands without asking them to give up their rifles and bandoliers. He joined Allan Bloom and other colleagues in protest. In the fall of that year, he moved to Yale. Bloom ended up at the University of Chicago and in 1987 published “The Closing of the American Mind,” his best-selling attack on the shortcomings of higher education.
In the decades since, faculties have gained “extraordinary authority” over universities, Mr. Kagan says. The changes in the universities were mirrored in the society at large. “The tendency in this century and in the previous century at least has been toward equality of result and every other kind of equality that could be claimed without much regard for liberty,” he says. “Right now the menace is certainly to liberty.”
Yes, and it is impossible to have equality of result and liberty at the same time. In other words, it is impossible to have socialism and liberty. One or the other is the choice.
His lifelong passion is Thucydides and the Peloponnesian War — the epic clash between those former allies, militaristic Sparta and democratic Athens … As Thucydides wrote, people go to war out of “honor, fear and interest.” War, he also said, “is a violent teacher.” Another enduring lesson from him, says Mr. Kagan, is “that you can expect people, whatever they may be, to seek to maximize their power” — then a slight pause — “unless they’re Europeans and have checked their brains at the door, so mortified are they, understandably, by what happened to them in the 20th century. They can’t be taken seriously.”
We would say “morbid” rather than “mortified” because of what they did to themselves in the 20th century. It’s a long slow suicide, but few Europeans heard in the public arena seem to realize it.
These days the burden of seriousness among free states falls on America, a fickle and unusual power. The Romans had no qualms about quashing their enemies, big or small. While the U.S. won two global conflicts and imposed and protected the current global order, the recent record shows failed or inconclusive engagements in the Middle East and Afghanistan.
Some would argue that free societies are too soft to fight brutal wars too long. Mr. Kagan offers culture and political leadership as an explanation. “We’re a certain kind of culture which makes it hard for us to behave rationally when the rational thing is to be tough,” he says. “We can do it when we’re scared to death and there seem to be no alternatives. When it’s time to nail down something, we very often sneak away.”
Some would argue that free societies are too soft to fight brutal wars too long. Mr. Kagan offers culture and political leadership as an explanation. “We’re a certain kind of culture which makes it hard for us to behave rationally when the rational thing is to be tough,” he says. “We can do it when we’re scared to death and there seem to be no alternatives. When it’s time to nail down something, we very often sneak away.”
The protection and distance offered by two oceans gives America the idea — or delusion — of being able to stay out of the world’s problems.
Libertarians, please note.
Mr. Kagan also wonders about possible “geocultural” shifts at play. A hundred years ago, most people worked the land for themselves. Today they work for a paycheck, usually in an office. “Fundamentally we are dependent on people who pay our salaries,” says Mr. Kagan. “In the liberal era, in our lifetime, we have come more to expect it is the job of the government to provide for the needs that we can’t provide. Everything is negotiable. Everything is subject to talk.” Maybe that has weakened the American will.
Also don’t forget, says Mr. Kagan, “unsubtle Christianity” and its strong strain of pacifism. “Who else has a religion filled with the notion ‘turn the other cheek’?” he asks. … “If you’re gonna turn the other cheek, go home. Give up the ball.”
In 2000, Mr. Kagan and his younger son, Frederick, a military historian and analyst, published “While America Sleeps.” The book argued for the reversal of the Clinton Cold War peace dividend to meet unforeseen but inevitable threats to come. The timing was uncanny. A year later, 9/11 forced the Pentagon to rearm.
With the end of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, the U.S. is slashing defense again. “We do it every time,” Mr. Kagan says. “Failing to understand the most elementary childish fact, which is: If you don’t want trouble with somebody else, be sure he has something to be afraid of.” …
His 1995 book, “On the Origins of War,” made a moral and strategic case to exert as much effort and money to safeguard peace as to win a war.
Thucydides identified man’s potential for folly and greatness. Mr. Kagan these days tends toward the darker view. He sees threats coming from Iran and in Asia, yet no leadership serious about taking them up. The public is too ignorant or irresponsible to care. “When you allow yourself to think of it, you don’t know whether you are going to laugh or cry,” he says.
The Kagan thesis is bleak but not fatalistic. The fight to shape free citizens in schools, through the media and in the public square goes on. “There is no hope for anything if you don’t have a population that buys into a strong and free society,” he says. “That can only be taught. It doesn’t come in nature.”
So does Donald Kagan have hope that “the pendulum is swinging back”? Towards variety of ideas and traditional standards in higher education? Towards liberty and an understanding of the value of liberty? Towards strong democracy?
If so, we wish we could share that hope, but see nothing to encourage it. He has switched off his light at Yale. Is there another?
We need to engage the argument raised by Mark Tapson in a review article titled Christianity, Islam, Atheism. It is also the title of a book he is reviewing. We have not read the book, and we trust him to be giving a fair representation of what the author says in it. We examine the ideas as Mark Tapson presents them to us:
Now that the Boston bombers have turned out, contrary to the fervent hope of the left, to be not Tea Partiers but Muslims, the media are spinning the terrorists’ motive away from jihad and shrugging, helplessly mystified, about the “senseless” attacks. And so our willful blindness about Islam continues. Nearly a dozen years after the 9/11 attacks, too many Americans still cling to militant denial about the clear and present danger of an Islamic fundamentalism surging against an anemic Western culture. What will it take to educate them? And once awakened, what steps can we take to reverse the tide?
The vicious Boston attack makes these questions and William “Kirk” Kilpatrick’s new book Christianity, Islam, and Atheism: The Struggle for the Soul of the West all the more timely. [The book is] intended not only as a wake-up call to the West about Islam, but also as a practical guide, especially for Christians, to push back against its spread and to countering Islam’s Western apologists.
Christianity, Islam, and Atheism opens with a section titled “The Islamic Threat,” in which Kilpatrick describes the rise of supremacist Islam and our correspondingly tepid defense of Western values.
It is true that supremacist Islam is rising, and that the West is defending its values only tepidly.
Our collapse in the face of Islam, he says, is due in large part to our abandonment of Christianity, which has led to “a population vacuum and a spiritual vacuum” that Islam has rushed to fill.
None of that is true. The West has not yet “collapsed in the face of Islam”, it has just ceded too much ground. By “population vacuum” we suppose he means the shrinking populations of the European countries, which are importing population (the wrong – Muslim – population) to compensate for a shortage of workers, but whose socialist economies cannot provide enough jobs for the immigrants once they’re there.
As for “a spiritual vacuum”, it exists only in the eyes of these Christians who notice that once-Christian Europe has become largely non-religious. Europeans who still want to believe in a skylord have not shown a new fascination with Allah; most of them have stuck to Jesus or the Trinity.
It seems that a lot of prisoners convert to Islam. Some say that’s because they get better food and other privileges that the European authorities have been intimidated into conceding to Muslims. It may be, of course, that the cruel and blood-thirsty god Allah* exerts an irresistible pull on villainous men, but it’s a bit of a stretch to call that “filling a spiritual vacuum”.
“A secular society… can’t fight a spiritual war,” Kilpatrick writes. Contrary to the multiculturalist fantasy dominant in the West today, “cultures aren’t the same because religions aren’t the same. Some religions are more rational, more compassionate, more forgiving, and more peaceful than others.” …
That depends on what historical era you are looking at. Today most Christian sects are usually peaceful. But that hasn’t always been the case, and may not be the case in the future.
As for Christianity being more compassionate, sure it is in theory but again has not always been in practice. And whether compassion is as desirable a value as Christianity insists it is, remains philosophically open to question.
The same can be said of forgiveness. In our view forgiveness is not a very good idea. First, it makes no difference to what has been done. Second, and more important, it is contrary to justice.
As for some religions being more rational than others, all religions depend on faith, not reason. It is impossible to argue that one irrationality is superior to another.
Kilpatrick notes that Christians today have lost all cultural confidence and are suffering a “crisis of masculinity,” thanks to the feminizing influences of multiculturalism and feminism. He devotes significant space to encouraging Christians to, well, grow a pair, to put it indelicately, in order to confront Islam, the “most hypermasculine religion in history”:
“On the one hand, you have a growing population of Muslim believers brimming with masculine self-confidence and assertiveness about their faith, and on the other hand, you have a dwindling population of Christians who are long on nurturance and sensitivity but short on manpower. Who seems more likely to prevail?”
We take his point. We would be happy to see well armed muscular Christian men marching to war – literally, not figuratively – against Islam.
Kilpatrick devotes a chapter to “The Comparison” between Islam and Christianity, in which he points out that Christians who buy into the concept of interfaith unity with Muslims would do well to look more closely at our irreconcilable differences instead of our limited common ground; he demonstrates, for example, that the imitation of Christ and the imitation of Muhammad lead a believer in radically different directions.
Again, not always. Leaving aside the question of whether Christians killing other Christians and non-Christians believed they were acting as their Christ would have acted in the same circumstances, there were centuries during which multitudes of Christians “imitated Christ” by rejecting this world and deliberately seeking hideous martyrdoms. Some still do. As Muslims do.
In “The Culture War and the Terror War” section, Kilpatrick notes that Christianity is on the losing side of the many fronts of our own culture war, and this doesn’t bode well for the West’s clash with a resurgent Islam. An obsession with the shallow, ephemeral distractions of pop culture isn’t helping to shore up our cultural foundations. “Our survival,” he writes, “hinges not on generating a succession of momentary sensations, but on finding narratives that tell us who we are, where we have come from, and where we are going”:
“Our ability to resist aggression – whether cultural or military – depends on the conviction that we have something worth defending: something that ought to be preserved not only for our own sake but also for the sake of those who attack us.”
Yes. But that something doesn’t have to be the irrational beliefs and moral sentimentalities of Christianity. It could, for instance, be one’s country. And for Americans that could mean the high values that America was founded to embody, above all individual freedom under the law.
In the section “Islam’s Enablers,” Kilpatrick addresses the multiculturalists, secularists, atheists, and Christian apologists for Islam whose intellectual influences have contributed to the moral decline and Islamization of the West. In a chapter with the great title “Multiculturalists: Why Johnny Can’t Read the Writing on the Wall,” Kilpatrick comments on the indoctrinating impact of multicultural educators and their whitewashing of Islam and denigration of our own culture:
“[O]ur students would have been better served if they had spent less time studying the Battle of Wounded Knee and more time studying the Battle of Lepanto, less time understanding the beauty of diversity and more time understanding the misery of dhimmitude.”
We wholly agree with this statement. We too see multiculturalism as as an evil. We see Christian apologists for Islam as fools. But how are secularists and atheists – as such – contributing to the moral decline of the West? Mark Tapson does not tell us, and we wonder if the book does.
Finally, in “The Cold War with Islam,” Kilpatrick is pessimistic of our desire to win the hearts and minds of “moderate Muslims.” He examines at length just what that label actually means, and then notes that such a strategy isn’t an especially helpful one:
The promotion of the moderate myth is counterproductive because it misleads the West into thinking that its problem is only with a small slice of Islam and because it strengthens the hand of traditional Islam, which is the source of radicalism, not the solution to it.
Again,we secularists-and-atheists agree.
Then comes this:
What are his recommendations for mounting a defense of our values against the aggressive spread of Islamic ones?
Reviving the commitment to our own Judeo-Christian values for starters, and then, “instead of a constant yielding to Islamic sensitivities, it may be time for some containment. Sharia… should not be allowed to spread through Western societies.” He touches on immigration, noting that it’s a problematic issue but suggesting that it’s reasonable to question the motives and agendas of immigrant groups. The message we must send? “Islam will not prevail. The West will not yield. You must accommodate to our values and way of life if you choose to live among us.”
As for going on the offensive, “instead of making excuses for Islam… we should be devoting our energies to exposing its hollowness,” relentlessly sowing the seeds of doubt among Muslims and encouraging them to abandon the faith.
In all of which we heartily concur except “reviving the commitment to our own Judeo-Christian values”. To which we will return.
Finally, there is this:
Taking that to the next level, Kilpatrick urges Christians to undertake the daunting task of mounting a widespread evangelizing of Muslims, luring them to Christianity with the liberating message of the Gospel. He concedes that this is a long-term strategy and we have no time to lose, but “both Islam and the left stand on very shaky ideological ground… Christians should take courage from knowing that in this war of ideas, all the best ideas are on their side.”
Yes, Islam and the left do stand on very shaky ideological ground. But so does Christianity. Its theology to start with is so super-absurd that it’s a wonder the early Christians managed to sell such a bill of goods even to ignorant slaves and women in the declining years of the Roman Empire.
But what are the moral-philosophical ideas of Christianity? Let’s look at a few of them, the ones that contemporary Christians commonly say they hold.
To love all mankind? Impossible. An encouragement to hypocrisy.
Forgiving wrongdoing? Unjust. Kindness to the guilty is cruelty to the righteous.
Loving the sinner while hating the sin? A refusal to hold individuals responsible for their actions.
Acting humble? Self-abasement is an act of pride, not humility. Pride is not bad, but dissimulation is.
Teaching Christian theology and mythology as “the Truth”? Not only wrong but self-defeating, as doctrines were never even settled, disputes over them being the cause of wars and persecution throughout Christian history.
Omitted from the discussion in the review article is the fact that multitudes of Christians are also devout leftists. While it is true that the left is coddling and kow-towing to Islam, it is also true that Christian churches are teaching Marxism, often under the name of “liberation theology”.
To speak of a “Judeo-Christian” tradition is to ignore the hideous fact that Christendom has been actively persecuting the Jews from the time its gospels were written. What is meant is that Christianity, after some initial hesitation, accepted part of the Jewish moral code. But citing a “Judeo-Christian tradition” ignores the fact that Christianity was a revolt against Judaism, and owes more to Greek mysticism and cosmogony, Greek other-worldliness, and Greek religious rites – the unrespectable side of classical culture – than it does to Judaism. It also ignores the thousand years of darkness that Christianity brought down on Europe. Europe owed its greatness not to a “Judeo-Christian” tradition, but to the classical enlightenment Christianity eclipsed, and its eventual rebirth.
We too would like the West to be true to the values and practices of its highly evolved civilization, which we would name not as compassion, forgiveness, charity, love, but as freedom, democratically elected government, law and order, tolerance, reason, the pursuit of science, and an endless striving to make human existence happy, long, informed, exploratory, and innovative.
Its passed time that those old bug-a-boo superstitions, shrouded in the cobwebs of the ages, were swept away.
Enough of Jehovah, the sometimes over-vengeful, sometimes just, tribal-chief type of tyrant.
He was dropped by the Christians, though they might pretend that he somehow weakened and mutated into their God the Father or dissolved into the whole of their mystical Greek-style Triune Godhead. As God the Father he’s been so inconspicuous as to be best pictured dozing if not comatose these last two thousand years. Enough of him.
Jesus the Christ, whether as plump European baby, or as golden-curled Caucasian male model in a full-length white nightgown, or as a tortured body executed for sedition by the Romans on a wooden cross, or as well-nourished judge seated on a stump with a cloud for a footstool condemning multitudes to Hell, has nothing of interest to offer enquiring minds. Enough of him.
As for Allah with his side-kick Muhammad – the savage bully and his mouthpiece – he could be dispelled with more certainty and speed if the West would give up religion, and all respect for religion as such.
The downfall of the gods began quite some time ago and is overdue. (No nod to Nazism-inspiring Wagner should be inferred.) They – the gods – should all have disappeared in the Enlightenment. But they’ve been allowed to hang about far too long. Away with them.
Let the West defend itself with confidence in its intellectual, secular-moral, economic, and military superiority; with guns, drones, Specter bombers, and nuclear war capability; with science, technology, intelligence, and the Constitution of the United States; and always above all with unrelenting critical analysis of all ideas.
* Quotation from the linked source: “There are 493 passages that either endorse violence or talk about the hatred of Allah for the infidels, meaning all non-Muslims. The Quran is a book mainly concerned with how Muslims are to think and act towards those outside of Islam; that is, either kill them or force them to live as second-class citizens and pay [special punitive] taxes (Jizya).” It explicitly commands Muslims to “kill the infidel” (eg. Koran 9:5). It prescribes atrocious punishments for such “crimes” as adultery, homosexuality and apostasy. It is a manual of instruction in barbaric aggression.
Margaret Thatcher’s reign over Britain was a pause in the decline of the nation. That is the verdict of almost all the most insightful obituaries that have appeared since her death. She changed Britain, held it for a while as a model to the world of how capitalism can restore wealth and prestige, but did not succeed in reversing its downward trend.
Nevertheless she was one of the British people’s greatest leaders.
Mark Steyn writes:
In Britain in the Seventies, everything that could be nationalized had been nationalized, into a phalanx of lumpen government monopolies all flying the moth-eaten flag: British Steel, British Coal, British Airways, British Rail . . . The government owned every industry — or, if you prefer, “the British people” owned every industry. And, as a consequence, the unions owned the British people. The top income-tax rate was 83 percent, and on investment income 98 percent. No electorally viable politician now thinks the government should run airlines and car plants and that workers should live their entire lives in government housing. But what seems obvious to all in 2013 was the bipartisan consensus four decades ago, and it required an extraordinary political will for one woman to drag her own party, then the nation, and subsequently much of the rest of the world back from the cliff edge.
Thatcherite denationalization was the first thing Eastern Europe did after throwing off its Communist shackles — although the fact that recovering Soviet client states found such a natural twelve-step program at Westminster testifies to how far gone Britain was.
She [Margaret Thatcher] was the most consequential woman on the world stage since Catherine the Great, and Britain’s most important peacetime prime minister. In 1979, Britain was not at war, but as much as in 1940 faced an existential threat.
Mrs. Thatcher saved her country — and then went on to save a shriveling “free world,” and what was left of its credibility. The Falklands were an itsy bitsy colonial afterthought on the fringe of the map, costly to win and hold, easy to shrug off — as so much had already been shrugged off. After Vietnam, the Shah, Cuban troops in Africa, Communist annexation of real estate from Cambodia to Afghanistan to Grenada, nobody in Moscow or anywhere else expected a Western nation to go to war and wage it to win. Jimmy Carter, a ditherer who belatedly dispatched the helicopters to Iran only to have them crash in the desert and sit by as cocky mullahs poked the corpses of U.S. servicemen on TV, embodied the “leader of the free world” as a smiling eunuch. Why in 1983 should the toothless arthritic British lion prove any more formidable?
And, even when Mrs. Thatcher won her victory, the civilizational cringe of the West was so strong that all the experts immediately urged her to throw it away and reward the Argentine junta for its aggression. “We were prepared to negotiate before” she responded, “but not now. We have lost a lot of blood, and it’s the best blood.” Or as a British sergeant said of the Falklands: “If they’re worth fighting for, then they must be worth keeping.”
Mrs. Thatcher thought Britain was worth fighting for, at a time when everyone else assumed decline was inevitable. … [But for her and] anyone with a sense of history’s sweep, the strike-ridden socialist basket case of the British Seventies was not an economic downturn but a stain on national honor.
A generation on, the Thatcher era seems more and more like a magnificent but temporary interlude in a great nation’s bizarre, remorseless self-dissolution.
She was right and they were wrong, and because of that they will never forgive her. … For eleven tumultuous years, Margaret Thatcher did shock them. But the deep corrosion of a nation is hard to reverse …
Not just hard. Impossible. What great power that declined and fell ever rose to greatness again?
China had to turn to the capitalist model set by Margaret Thatcher to save its economy – which it did, spectacularly.
But far from acknowledging a debt, this obituary published in China belittles all her achievements, putting her whole career through the Marxist class-analysis mincer.
Petty, mean, and puerile, it is an exercise in Schadenfreude; sneer after sneer concluding with a spiteful joke:
Thatcher grew up in a classical English petty-bourgeois family. Her father owned two grocery shops in Grantham. He preached the word of God, was staunchly patriotic, and became the town’s Mayor from 1945-6. His self-confidence derived from selecting food that commanded a good price and turned a good profit. His daughter, Margaret, also formed her intellectual outlook around the petty proprietor’s fetish for the magical qualities of prices. …
Her marriage to Dennis Thatcher in 1951 elevated her into the ranks of the bourgeoisie. He had inherited his wealth and felt that business distracted him from dabbling in amateur military escapades. He was generally seen as a blithering incompetent buffoon to be shunted out of ears reach, in case some bigoted diatribe escaped his lips, but Margaret dearly loved him and treasured the life opportunities his wealth had opened up for her. Dennis funded her career change from studying the chemical composition of ice cream, to studying to become a barrister …
The 1960s were characterized by an entrenched social-democratic consensus whereby social and economic development was widely seen as the product of an alliance between theclasses. Employment was easy to come by and wages rose, and public housing, health care and education expanded rapidly. This all smacked of communism to Margaret Thatcher, who was allowed to bark vitriol against socialism to the gleeful cheers of her bourgeois-aristocratic colleagues in parliament.
The victory of the mineworkers against the Conservative government in two strikes in 1972 and 1974 led to an election, which the then Prime Minister, Edward Heath, claimed would answer the question “who runs Britain?” He lost the election to a minority Labour government and Margaret Thatcher became the Conservative Party leader in 1975.
The shopkeeper inside her, meant she automatically gravitated toward economic theory based on price. Her ideology imagined a world of free and unrestricted competitive pressures where atomized individuals replace organized workers. The pathway to this free market utopia involved selling off state resources and public housing at prices that were absurdly low. This created a significant constituency within the working and middle classes who suddenly acquired money from nothing. In this way the shopkeeper’s delusion, that an economy is simply a nation of buyers and sellers, was materially anchored in the minds of those who suddenly had loads of money. In this way a significant minority acquired a material stake in Thatcher’s “property owning democracy.” Making goods and services was replaced by selling second hand bricks; producing coal, steel, ships, trains and cars was replaced by speculative instruments conjured up by a Thatcherite tribe of arrogant barrow boys who were encouraged to take over the trading floors of the City of London, elbowing aside the “toffs” in bowler hats, and revolutionizing financial markets in a cocaine fueled [?] speculative orgy.
So severe was the economic dislocation and the scars of social conflict that the government was thrown into deep crisis. However, luck was on the side of Mrs. Thatcher, as President General Galtieri of Argentina used their nation’s historical conflict over British occupation of the Malvinas Islands to launch a war to take them by force. Thatcher dispatched the British fleet and reconquered the Islands, whipping up a wave of jingoistic flag-waving. Riding a new tide of popularity, the real war began. Its objective was to smash the central core of trade union strength, the National Union of Mineworkers. Huge reserves of coal were stockpiled, the police were militarized, and war was declared on millions of British workers. Thatcher proclaimed the miners’ union to be agents of the Soviet Union. When she described them as “the enemy within” she had the look of hysteria in her eyes. The strike lasted a year and was defeated. This was a result of Thatcher’s determination and an impotent response by the majority of Labour and Trade Union leaders. The defeat of the miners union led to greater control by capital over labour and a long period of passive industrial relations.
The greatest nonsense is spoken about Thatcher’s significance in the struggle against what she called “the Evil Empire” of the USSR. The role of the U.S. President Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher was insignificant and peripheral. Even though the Soviet press had given her the name, “the Iron Lady,” of which she was so proud. The collapse of the USSR was a result of internal disintegration and not external pressure. …
May the Iron Lady rust in peace!
China’s prosperity is the result of allowing private enterprise. It makes China a rising world power.