“As the nation reckons with its racist history, legislation calling for the removal of Confederate commemorative works from national parkland is likely to be reconsidered this year,” solemnly writes Kim O’Connell of the National Parks Traveler.
She adds that “one might be forgiven for believing that the South won, based on a reading of the monuments alone.”
In that case, I’ll never set foot on a federal park again. I’ll even go a step further by expressing my fervent hope that young Southern men and women withdraw their support of the American imperial enterprise, opting not to serve in any of the branches of the American military – yes, refusing to support the geopolitical interests of a government that resembles less a constitutional republic, more a tyranny with each passing day and, like many earlier empires, sustaining its power by pitting one cultural segment of society against another.
What is conveniently ignored by writers such as O’Connell in the midst of this proto-totalitarian woke struggle is that national unity and the ultimate construction of what amounts to a global American empire was secured through the construction of thousands of such monuments in town squares, cemeteries and, yes, national parks in every corner of the vanquished Confederacy.
It ultimately was achieved only because the Northern conquerors concluded, however half-heartedly, that post-war unity was achievable only through an acknowledgement of the bravery and sacrifices of the Confederate fighting man.
Without this acknowledgment, the South very well could have ended up as the American version of Ireland or even the Balkans, a soft, vulnerable underbelly of an aspiring empire. And given where we are heading with all of this neo-Puritanical cleansing, we may end up with something resembling Northern Ireland during the troubles or, even worse, the past Yugoslavian Balkans.
Speaking as an amateur historian of frontier religious history, I find this development quite fascinating but not all that surprising: Baptists, in this case, presumably Southern Baptists, have returned to their pre-Frontier roots, namely, Reformed Christianity. A couple of things stand out in the material that a new Reformed Baptist Church in Alexander City, Alabama, has posted to their Web site, notably, an allusion to Communion as a sacrament rather than an ordinance.
This represents a significant departure from the historic frontier Baptist and earlier Radical Protestant emphasis on Communion simply as a memorial of Christ’s atoning grace. Also, the comments are quite interesting, especially among those who discern this as a Baptist embrace of Protestantism.
There has always been a strongly held view among many Baptists, historically regarded as the Landmark tradition, that they represent the restoration of the New Testament Church – another interesting Baptist distinctive, though also shared among other movements, one that also dates back to pioneer settlement of the American Back Country. Many egalitarian-minded frontiersmen regarded settlement as an opportunity to abandon creeds and confessions and to set everything right by returning to the pristine attributes of the First Century Church.
However, earlier, pre-frontier Baptists had hewed to many of the teachings of Reformed Christianity, which is not surprising, considering that this was the regnant form of Protestantism not only in Britain but also the American colonies in the 17th and 18th century.
History has demonstrated time and again that many movements, political and religious alike, have returned to facets of their original roots. Baptists, who have generally followed a divergent path over the last 200 year following settlement of the American frontier, may prove no exception;
It’s interesting to consider the factors that have contributed to this. So-called New Testament Christianity, which gained traction during American frontier settlement, offered the advantage of lean messaging, at least, the case could be made that it did. Moreover, these teachings were exceptionally well-suited to a relatively unlettered, itinerate and rather culturally unrooted people people who had become both intellectually and the temperamentally untethered from the creeds and confessionals that had prevailed in Europe and along the American coast.
Yet, this lean messaging, popular and arguably practical within a frontier setting, seemed to many increasingly threadbare in late 20th century America in the face of rising levels of education and affluence and within a nation struggling with the demands of post-modernism as wells as the complexities of a post-industrial, technological society. In fact, in 1977 a group of disaffected evangelical intellectuals, convinced that evangelical Christianity had become untethered from much of the substance, notably the creeds, confessions and liturgies that had sustained the faith for two millennia, issued the Chicago Call, admonishing their fellow churchmen to return to the ancient teachings of the faith.
However, this effort largely fell on deaf ears, leaving many of these disaffected intellectuals to embark on the path to Rome, Constantinople, Lambeth and, in some cases, Geneva.
Now, as Christianity and particularly the evangelical faith seem more imperiled than ever, especially in the face of a rapidly permutating left that seems increasingly intent to subdue Christianity, at least, the conservative expressions of it, as a formative force in American life, many evangelicals likely will become more receptive than ever to the admonishments such as the Chicago Call.
There possibly, if not likely, will be stronger inclinations than ever among evangelical Christians to return to what growing numbers within the ranks perceive as more enduring foundations.
To repeat a phrase that I have employed several times in this forum, the American Empire simply is too big to succeed.
Indeed it is the reason why an awareness of the increasing likelihood of secession is becoming the proverbial elephant in the living room, certainly among the growing numbers of us ordinary Americans in the red heartland who perceive what our malignant ruling class ultimately has in store for us.
Yet, I have been intrigued by how mainstream conservative commentators, recently Podcaster Dan Bonjino, have been absolutely flummoxed by this emerging phenomenon. It undoubtedly is as readily evident to them that secessionist sentiment is spreading, yet they hold steadfastly to the same hidebound argument that a return to federal principles will resolve all of this.
Notions of American exceptionalism inevitably will die hard, but then, conservatism in America is deeply rooted in this mindset. And given that so much of what passes for conservatism on this side of the Atlantic is rooted in propositional nationhood, this really isn’t all that surprising.
Interestingly, conservatives seem to have forgotten that previous attempts to restore old-time federalism have proven futile. Incoming President Reagan, way back in 1981, undertook a concerted effort to return to bona federalism, offering to return welfare policy back to the states. Virtually all the governors balked, stressing that their states lacked the revenue base to support a safety net that dates all the way back to the New Deal and that people, blue and red alike, expect as matter of course.
That is why I am convinced that the political dynamics in this country ultimately will necessitate a secessionist movement that ultimately takes on regionalist rather than state unilateral action, as the late diplomat and political thinker George F. Kennan portended in his own writings.
We will likely see states banding into regional compacts, forming what could be described as incipient federations. These conflicts ultimately will prove essential to preserving some facet of the social safety net to which virtually every American has grown accustomed over the past century.
Whatever the case, to borrow a line from the late Betty Davis, “Fasten your seat belts – it’s going to be a bumpy ride!”
I had a conversation a few years ago with a young, very bright and exceedingly well-educated woman who was from an Afrikaans background. She had all the hallmarks of Afrikaaner ancestry, including a Dutch surname. When I asked about her heritage, she became rather indignant and dissimisive, assuring me that she was not. I find this sort of thing very sad and troubling.
Indeed, the older I get the more evident it becomes to me that one simply cannot abandon one’s identity and instead should embrace it. I will always be proud to be a small-town Southerner and count it as a far, far greater influence on my life and outlook than any other influence, including being American.
As a matter of fact, I have reached a point in life where I really don’t give a tinker’s dam that some people, notably the people who purport to be our elites, regard Southern identity as some sort of historical focus of evil against which all that is lofty and sublime should be defined, including the conceptual rope of sand known as “propositional (American) nationhood.” Concepts such as this only work to perpetuate the notion there is such a thing as individualism bereft of ethnic and cultural influences.
The further I get along in life, the more this notion strikes me as just another form of intellectual snake oil.
It is intriguing and, quite frankly, heartening, that observers on both ends of the political spectrum perceive that the American Empire is in headlong decline and that something new invariably must follow, whether this occurs years or a few decades from now.
For me, this decline became increasingly evident more than a decade ago when California governors, beginning with moderate Republican Arnold Schwarzenegger, began characterizing the Golden state as a nation within a nation, possessing all the accoutrements of nationhood, including one of the world’s ten largest economies.
Now such affirmations almost seem routine. Legislators in the nation’s second largest state, Texas, are even considering putting a secession initiative on the state ballot – an effort that has earned the endorsement of the Lone Star State’s prominent GOP leaders and that even has piqued the interest of GOP leaders in other states.
Granted, formal secession from the American Empire is decried by elites, particularly when these calls eminate from red states. But the rhetorical cat is out of the bag. Growing numbers of pundits on both ends of the political spectrum no longer are overlooking the obvious: the American Empire is in terminal decline, much like its erstwhile Soviet nemesis some three decades ago.
As this article in The Nation attests, the telltale signs of decline and collapse are readily perceptible. Yes, there’s the inevitable leftist pablum through which the reader must wade to encounter some truly interesting nuggets, notably mention of the challenges of constructing a new civilization from the imperial rubble.
As many of us on the right and even a few on left see it, there is only one basis on which this civilizational reconstruction can occur: It must begin with smaller political entities rather than the oversized, lumbering, bureaucrarized white elephant we’re contending with now.
In the 2020 election, Donald Trump won 83 percent of the nation’s counties – small wonder people speak of the red American heartland- but those counties only accounted for 30 percent of the national GDP
This is a remarkable development considering that Republicans as recently as 2016 have been historically derided as the “fat cat” corporate party, though their power was limited, as they faced rather intractable opposition in the academy, public education, ths media, Silivon Valley, and the arts and entertainment sectors.
We now inhabit a country in which a single party, the Democrats, wield something approaching cultural and political hegemony, which, aside from academia, traditional and digital media and Big Entertainment, includes deepening support from the national security apparatus as well as the corporate sector.
As this column by American Consequence’s Shane Devine points out, Wall Street contributed more than $74 million directly to Biden’s campaign. Trump, by contrast, received $18 million, even less than the paltry $20 million he received in 2016.
The massive corporate support for the Democrats evident in the last two election cycles likely portends a major U.S. political realignment. As this column stresses,
Of Wall Street’s total 2020 contributions, not only to campaigns but to all political organizations, including “dark money” groups, 62% went to Democrats and 38% went to Republicans. Comparatively, in 2016, they gave 50% to Republicans and 49% to Democrats. In 2012, they gave 69% to Republicans and 31% to Democrats. The Chamber of Commerce, which has long been the top-spending lobbying client, endorsed 30 Democratic House candidates in the 2020 election.
In the face of these sweeping changes, the Republican Party increasingly is signaling its aspiration to function as a worker-nationalist party, appealing not only to aggrieved, increasingly economically marginalized white heartland voters but also the growing cultural demographic of Hispanic blue-collar workers.
Yet, one is led to wonder how far such an increasingly marginalized party will get in the future, especially one now so isolated from main sources of cultural power as well as the political power that actually counts in this post-constitutional landscape: adequate levels of support within the federal bureaucratic sector.
Meanwhile, the Democrats, the ascendant party, confident in their increasing cultural clout, will undoubtedly follow through with their plans for a transformation of the federal judiciary. Among other things, this will pave the way for Democratic aspirations for through-going electoral “reform,” ultimately enabling them to erode Republican dominance in the red heartland.
In time, the Democrats will be emboldened to leverage their immense political and cultural clout to undertake a thorough-going cultural transformation to their liking – something that they already feel confident boasting about. Securing statehood for Puerto Rico and D.C., they will virtually assure their control of the Senate for generations.
Small wonder why the Democrats are increasingly behaving like a vanguard party, not all that different from the ones in Soviet-dominated Eastern Europe that functioned as cultural and political monoliths but that also kept tame opposition around for domestic and international consumption.
“Half adolescent and half malevolent” is one columnist’s description of the self-anointed left-wing “journalistic” watchdogs, a group that I personally regard as the advance guard of the America’s incipient woke capitalist Peoples Democracy.
This apt description was supplied recently by columnist Glenn Grenwald, a self-described liberal free-speech advocate, to characterize the growing legions of young “woke” journalists, notably New York Times Tech reporter Taylor Lorenz, who have undertaken a wholesale cleansing of digital venues on the basis that they harbor intolerance.
I must confess that I detest prattling little busybodies such as these more that Hell itself. Any thinking person who cherishes the manifold freedoms, notably free speech, which have been secured across centuries through a considerable expenditure of blood, should, too.
Indeed, whenever I run across horrendous accounts such as these, which, alas, are becoming increasingly frequent, I’m prompted to ask: What compels someone to trifle with such a deeply revered Anglo-Amedican tradition, one regarded on this side of the Atlantic as a constitutional right, formally enshrined in both state and federal law? For that matter, why would anyone associated with a profession that historically has regarded the First Amendment as the cornerstone of a free, open society arrogate to onself the privilege of circumventing such a elemental right? And it’s worth stressing that this is a right that has been reaffirmed generation after generation by legions of eminent jurists – legal specialists – who possess considerably more training and insight into this subject than any journalist, certainly a tech reporter such as Lorenz.
Until recently, I’ve tended to think of the wokesters, especially self-anointed Millennial watchdogs and hall monitors such as Taylor, simply as fanatics, though writer and social critic Jim Kunstler recently offered an even more damning characterization. He believes that much of this woke zeal this is driven by sheer sadism.
“Wokery is not about principle, not even a teeny-weeny bit. It’s simply about coercion and punishment,” Kunstler contends, adding that the recent Trump impeachment trial is the first step in the setting out of a narrative through which elites will undertake the permanent persecution of the unwoke. Much of this is being driven by our elites sheer passion for vengeance, he argues.
Recently, though, the thought has occured to me that the hall-monitoring penchant evinced by Taylor and others among the oligarchy’s agit/prop apparatus stems from a social phenomenon that has garnered deepening roots within elite education for the past few decades.
Educational critic and author William Deresiewicz, a searing critic of the Ivy League, calls out all forms of elite education, particularly the Ivy League, for the way its admissions policies tend to produce apple polishers – sycophants, more commonly known as teacher’s pets.
In his book Excellent Sheep, Deresiewicz contends that the admissions policies of most highly selective universities typically emphasize two factors: stratospheric SAT scores as well as high extracurricular achievement, factors that have tended to favor the sorts of students who have perceived the advantages of attacting and endearing themselves to teachers and other authority figures.
He also contends that the marbled halls of federal power and the newsrooms of the nation’s elite media outlets teem with these sorts of people, those who feel that they not only are genetically endowed but also singled out by the people in charge to undertake lofty tasks such as ferreting out and condemning unsavory speech.
Maybe it’s this, more than a penchant for sadism, that accounts for the herd mentality among so many of the woke inquisitors, such as Lorenz.
I have always admired Andrew Sullivan’s erudition and rhetorical gifts and his remarkably nimble mind. I think that his self-identification as a conservative throughout his adult life is a courageous one. His book The Conservative Soul: How We Lost It, How to Get It Back was a tour de force, especially his brilliant summary of the life and legacy of Michael Oakeshott.
Yet, I am struck by how he apparently has allowed his addiction to fame and court culture acceptance to blind him to the utter debasement of the American ruling class.
Predictably, Sullivan’s worst animus is reserved for Donald J. Trump, who is now facing his second and unprecedented impeachment trial. Sullivan should know better. Granted, the 45th president is no saint. I and millions of other heartlanders find much of what the former president says to be maddening, intemperate and self-destructive. But Trump speaks on behalf of a deeply and legitimately grieved segment of American society, one whose anger and alienation is every bit as real and as legitimate as the groups that our oligarchical class has assigned accredited victimhood. To pander to a segment of society, which evinces the rankest form of hypocrisy – denigrating a deeply and increasingly alienated segment of society not only to signal its sophistication but also to preserve its own singular advantages – well, does not befit a man of Sullivan’s intellectual integrity, ethical foresight and essentially conservative convictions.
Sullivan is especially one among the cognoscenti who should know better. A quarter century ago, as editor of New Republic, he published an account of Richard Hernstein’s and Charles Murray’s “The Bell Curve.” He editorial decision was something that any responsible editor should have applauded, given that the text offered a well-reasoned, researched and entirely legitimate critique of the previous quarter century of government social policy.
That courageous but responsible decision – one that any editor in his shoes should have endorsed – has haunted his career ever since. Indeed, because of this decision, now regarded by our elites as a serious breach of etiquette, Sullivan’s career has suffered egregiously. And this should serve as a lesson to him and to any other reasonably independent-minded member of the real nature of our oligarchy as well as of the Mandarin class that sustains it.
Donald Trump may not be a pleasant man, but the elites who despise and denigrate him are the principal reason why he wields so much clout, if not adulation, among roughly half of the American electorate. Some 74 million Americans have utterly washed their hands of the regnant managerial liberal class, and the spectacular ascent of Donald Trump has been a major driving force behind this rejection. And that is why our debased ruling class, consumed by a cloying sense of virtue and entitlement and enraged by this obstreperous act of rebellious contempt, is determined to erase Trump’s legacy and, ultimately, to marginalize and silence his electoral base.
Heartlanders know who the real enemies of ordered liberty are. They’re not the bedraggled, angry protestors who breached U.S. Capitol security last month. No, the real enemies are the ones in power who have used their agit/prop arm to transform this breach into the American equivalent of the Reichstag fire.
As I said, Andrew Sullivan should know who the real enemies are.
“When they come for you they will talk like social workers.”
Tucker Carlson and other pundits on the right are anticipating the oligarchy soon will undertake a wholesale rooting out of all dissident thought, speech and expression in America, though it will be undertaken via the most polite and fastidiously therapeutic language.
Yet, it’s worth pointing out that that a de facto form of censorship arguably has existed for quite some time in America. Before the end of the Fairness Doctrine and the advent of the Internet, about the only method available to any genuine dissenter was handing out mimeographed publications on a street corner or at a mass event, such as a concert or college football game. Better-funded forms of moderate dissent – the sort of dissidence regarded as palatable to the managerial liberal elites, such as William F. Buckley’s National Review – were available through U.S. Mail.
As a teenager in the mid-Seventies, I can remember regarding myself as something of a dissident simply for receiving a publication called Conservative Digest in the mail – something that caused my parents some concern because northwest Alabama was such a heavily unionized Democratic enclave at the time.
To be sure, conservatives such as William F. Buckley and James Kilpatrick, were afforded a small slice of exposure, but back then they were regarded as dissident voices in a country and culture dominated by managerial liberalism. And because the media bandwidth was so constricted and dominated at the time by managerial liberalism, elites so no harm in affording some exposure to accredited forms of dissent – after all, it aided the propaganda struggle against the Soviets.
Elites could extol free speech because all forms of genuinely threatening dissent were contained. Things changed somewhat – from the standpoint of elites, decidedly for the worse beginning in the 80’s – with the abolition of the Fairness Doctrine. Things spiraled virtually out control in the 90’s when the Internet initially developed into kind free speech Wild West. Now elites are slowly managing to rein in all of this troubling dissent. Things ultimately will return to something akin to the status quo that prevailed in the Seventies: There will be accredited venues of dissent and Establishment media organs once again will extol free speech and affirm what a singularly free nation the United States truly is.
Millions of Americans are reminded every day of how quickly our national bonds are eroding.
One conspicuous example is how blue cities and states, borrowing a page from proto-Confederate nullifier John C. Calhoun, have established sanctuaries to obstruct federal immigration policy.
Of course, now that red state legislatures, notably South Dakoka’s GOP-controlled House of Representatives, are resortingto the same practice, we can rest assured that the oligarchy’s agit/prop arm will decry such obstruction as a portent of full-scale insurrection.
Granted, it amounts to rank hypocrisy, but the left, once again, is banking on its virtual lock on all the principal political and cultural institutions to drive this dissent out of respectable venues of discussion.
They very well may succeed. In fact, they likely will succeed. The inevitable accusing finger will be pointed at the legislative malefactors, backstopped with cries of “Insurrection!” In some cases, incriminating social posts will be uncovered by the vigilant watchdogs of the oligarchy’s agit/prop apparatus. In the end the majority of these obstreperous men and women, facing political and financial ruin and even the harassment of close family members, will cower and ultimately express contrition.
But then, maybe not. More and more I and undoubtedly many others who closely follow political discourse, or what passes for it these days, are struck by the levels of contempt that ordinary Americans evince for this country’s ruling class.
Maybe we really have reached an impasse, one that may end up bearing more than a passing resemblance to events that gripped and eventually sundered the American Union in 1861.