I’m opposed to the notion of official ideology — not just fascism, Communism and Baathism, but the fluffier ones, too, like ‘multiculturalism’ and ‘climate change’ and ‘marriage equality’. Because the more topics you rule out of discussion — immigration, Islam, ‘gender fluidity’ — the more you delegitimise the political system. As your cynical political consultant sees it, a commitment to abolish Section 18C is more trouble than it’s worth: you’ll just spends weeks getting damned as cobwebbed racists seeking to impose a bigots’ charter when you could be moving the meter with swing voters by announcing a federal programmne of transgendered bathroom construction. But, beyond the shrunken horizons of spinmeisters, the inability to roll back something like 18C says something profound about where we’re headed: a world where real, primal, universal rights — like freedom of expression — come a distant second to the new tribalism of identity-group rights.
… As it happens, the biggest ‘safe space’ on the planet is the Muslim world. For a millennium, Islamic scholars have insisted, as firmly as a climate scientist or an American sophomore, that there’s nothing to debate. And what happened? As the United Nations Human Development Programme’s famous 2002 report blandly noted, more books are translated in Spain in a single year than have been translated into Arabic in the last 1,000 years. Free speech and a dynamic, innovative society are intimately connected: a culture that can’t bear a dissenting word on race or religion or gender fluidity or carbon offsets is a society that will cease to innovate, and then stagnate, and then decline, very fast.
As American universities, British playwrights and Australian judges once understood, the ‘safe space’ is where cultures go to die.
We have tested and tasted too much, lover-
Through a chink too wide there comes in no wonder.
But here in the Advent-darkened room
Where the dry black bread and the sugarless tea
Of penance will charm back the luxury
Of a child’s soul, we’ll return to Doom
The knowledge we stole but could not use.
And the newness that was in every stale thing
When we looked at it as children: the spirit-shocking
Wonder in a black slanting Ulster hill
Or the prophetic astonishment in the tedious talking
Of an old fool will awake for us and bring
You and me to the yard gate to watch the whins
And the bog-holes, cart-tracks, old stables where Time begins.
O after Christmas we’ll have no need to go searching
For the difference that sets an old phrase burning-
We’ll hear it in the whispered argument of a churning
Or in the streets where the village boys are lurching.
And we’ll hear it among decent men too
Who barrow dung in gardens under trees,
Wherever life pours ordinary plenty.
Won’t we be rich, my love and I, and
God we shall not ask for reason’s payment,
The why of heart-breaking strangeness in dreeping hedges
Nor analyse God’s breath in common statement.
We have thrown into the dust-bin the clay-minted wages
Of pleasure, knowledge and the conscious hour-
And Christ comes with a January flower.
Kate, then 21, was a vision of understated beauty with flowers in her hair as she wed Ben Goldsmith, bringing together two of Britain’s most fabulously wealthy dynasties. He was worth £300 million; his bride a comparatively paltry £18 million.
Now, her marriage destroyed, she spends her life trying to control a wannabe rapper. As Jay’s manager, Kate, 31, has had to fit in with him — swapping designer dresses and jolly lunches for tracksuits and snatched cigarettes outside recording studios.
Meanwhile, Jay, who has a daughter by a previous relationship and a penchant for marijuana and Jack Daniels, has introduced her to life a world away from her comfortable upbringing.
When they go out partying, which is often, Jay likes to make an impression. His reputation is as a man who doesn’t care who he offends — a trait that many blame for his failure thus far to turn talent into record sales.
A smitten Kate, however, feels he can do no wrong. Witness the events of last week, when Jay, 37, (real name Timothy Elpadaro Thedford) demonstrated that while you can take the rapper out of the deprived housing projects of New Orleans, a questionable legacy remains.
Bishop William Henry Elder's 1864 letter to Abraham Lincoln
To His Excellency, Abraham Lincoln, President of the United States:
Excellent Sir, It becomes my duty as Catholic Bishop of the diocese of Natchez, which comprises the State of Mississippi, to claim Your Excellency’s protection against an attempt of Brigadier General J. M. Tuttle, to interfere with my ecclesiastical administration.
Pardon the length of this communication. I have condensed it as much as I could do, consistently with my obligation of giving you the information, which the importance of the case makes it necessary for you to have.
General Tuttle requires me to read, or direct the priests under my jurisdiction to read, in the public services of the Cathedral Church of Natchez, a certain prayer, which is found in some Catholic prayer-books, for the public authorities, ecclesiastical and civil. He did, indeed, say that he gave me no order, but only a request to read it as a favor to him. But he immediately nullified his own distinction by declaring that, if I did not comply with his requests, he would consider it as a proof of disloyalty, which would be subject to punishment. He further declared his meaning in these words: ‘you are free to read it or not, as you see fit, but if you do not choose, you must take the consequences.’ And in reply to my inquiry, whether he would not before passing a sentence against me, make a specific charge and allow me a hearing on the matter, he said that I might have a trial and I might not. I have not recited the prayer, not directed others to recite it. I have explained to General Tuttle that said prayer is not at all a part of our regular church service, and is not found in the book which contains our service — the Missal; that it has indeed been recited sometimes during the divine services, but only at the free choice of the priest or Bishop, and even with some stretch of his discretionary powers, since the canonical usage of the Church excludes the public recital during Mass of prayer for any person not contained in the Missal; and that in a great many Churches of the United States — I believe the majority of them — it never has been recited publicly.
It has been remarked to General Tuttle by an officer of the United States Army, that this prayer would be especially incongruous at present, because it recommends to the favor of Almighty God both the Government of the United States, and the Governor, Legislature, and civil officers of this State — Mississippi — the declared enemies of the United States. The General says that he wishes it to be read with the self-contradiction ‘just as it is in the book’. I have told him that in Natchez, during the time that I have been here (about seven years), we sometimes read it, sometimes omit it, and sometimes read other prayers in its place; that for a while, I read a similar prayer for the Confederate authorities, but afterwards I laid aside all these prayers of a local character, and conformed more closely to the approved usages of the Church by adopting a prayer, belonging to the authorized Liturgy, the Litany of the Saints. This change was made in November, 1862, long before the United States forces occupied Natchez, and while the Confederate military were in quiet possession of the place. And I have told General Tuttle that if the Confederate authorities had attempted to compel me at that time to resume the reciting of the prayer in their behalf, I should have resisted them as I resist now.
I have the honor to remain with profound respect, Your Excellency’s most humble servant, William Henry Elder Bishop of Natchez
Is it possible to read the words of someone like Theodore Kaczynski and be convinced by the case he makes, even as you reject what he did with the knowledge? Is it possible to look at human cultural evolution as a series of progress traps, the latest of which you are caught in like a fly on a sundew, with no means of escape? Is it possible to observe the unfolding human attack on nature with horror, be determined to do whatever you can to stop it, and at the same time know that much of it cannot be stopped, whatever you do? Is it possible to see the future as dark and darkening further; to reject false hope and desperate pseudo-optimism without collapsing into despair?
It’s going to have to be, because it’s where I am right now. But where do I go next? What do I do? Between Kaczynski and Kareiva, what can I find to alight on that will still hold my weight?
I’m not sure I know the answer. But I know there is no going back to anything. And I know that we are not headed, now, toward convivial tools. We are not headed toward human-scale development. This culture is about superstores, not little shops; synthetic biology, not intentional community; brushcutters, not scythes. This is a culture that develops new life forms first and asks questions later; a species that is in the process of, in the words of the poet Robinson Jeffers, “break[ing] its legs on its own cleverness.”
What does the near future look like? I’d put my bets on a strange and unworldly combination of ongoing collapse, which will continue to fragment both nature and culture, and a new wave of techno-green “solutions” being unveiled in a doomed attempt to prevent it. I don’t believe now that anything can break this cycle, barring some kind of reset: the kind that we have seen many times before in human history. Some kind of fall back down to a lower level of civilizational complexity. Something like the storm that is now visibly brewing all around us.
“And in his soul fight, fight, fight to preserve that which is life in him from the ghastly kisses and poison — bites of the myriad evil ones. Retreat to the desert, and fight. But in his soul adhere to that which is life itself, creatively destroying as it goes: destroying the stiff old thing to let the new bud come through. The one passionate principle of creative being, which recognizes the natural good, and has a sword for the swarms of evil. Fights, fights, fights to protect itself. But with itself, is strong and at peace.”—D.H. Lawrence, “St. Mawr”
Jeffrey Tucker used to be something of a 'libertarian brutalist'
Here’s his 2012 paean to the Property and Freedom Society:
The meeting is the annual gathering of the Property and Freedom Society, as founded and headed by the famed radical intellectual Hans-Hermann Hoppe, a man who has become a legend in his own time. He makes his home in Istanbul, but comes here once a year to run this little adventure. His newest book, The Great Fiction, has been published by Laissez Faire Books. The book is on display here and is the talk of the conference.
As culturally conservative libertarians, we are convinced that the process of de-civilization has again reached a crisis point and that it is our moral and intellectual duty to once again undertake a serious effort to rebuild a free, prosperous, and moral society.
The split Tucker sketches out is nonspecific, as if he’s trying to avoid naming names, between the ones who are nasty and racist and the ones who turn every visit to the convenience store into an encomium to spontaneous order. In fact, the split is this: On the one hand you have the euphoric, liberationist libertarians who equate gender norms with state oppression, encourage things like prostitution and drug use, and aren’t too concerned about the long-term trajectory of society writ large — why worry when we can’t centrally plan it? On the other side are the more conservative ones who see liberty as the space in which civil society flourishes, which must be jealously protected, especially from the left.
In other words, it’s not “brutalists” and “humanists,” it’s libertarians intent on abetting that “process of de-civilization,” through sucking up to the left on a conceptual and political level, and the ones who refuse to.
Now, O’Hare Airport in Chicago, the busiest airport in the world, is Mayor Daley’s pride and joy, both his personal toy and the visible symbol of his city’s status and importance. If the least little thing went wrong at O’Hare and Daley heard about it, he was furious and would burn up the phone lines to his commissioners until the situation was corrected. So we knew that was the place to get at him. But how? Even if we massed huge numbers of pickets, they’d be virtually lost in the thousands of passengers swarming through O’Hare’s terminals. So we devised a new tactic. Picture yourself for a moment on a typical jet flight. The stewardess has served you your drinks and lunch or dinner, and afterwards the odds are you’ll feel like going to the john. But this is usually awkward because your seat and those of the people sitting next to you are blocked by trays, so you wait until they’re removed. But by then the people closest to the lavatories have got up and the OCCUPIED signs are on. So you wait a few more minutes and, more often than not, by the time the johns are vacant, the FASTEN SEAT BELTS signs are on, so you decide to wait until landing and then use one of the terminal restrooms. You can see this process in action if you watch the passenger gate at any landing airplane. It looks like almost half the debarking passengers make a beeline for the lavatories.
Here’s where we came in. Some of our people went out to the airport and made a comprehensive intelligence study of how many sit-down pay toilets and stand-up urinals there were in the whole O’Hare complex and how many men and women we’d need for the country’s first “shit-in.” It turned out we’d require about 2500 people, which was no problem for TWO. For the sit-down toilets, our people would just put in their dimes and prepare to wait it out; we arranged for them to bring box lunches and reading material along to help pass the time. What were desperate passengers going to do — knock the cubicle door down and demand evidence of legitimate occupancy? This meant that the ladies’ lavatories could be completely occupied; in the men’s, we’d take care of the pay toilets and then have floating groups moving from one urinal to another, positioning themselves four or five deep and standing there for five minutes before being relieved by a co-conspirator, at which time they would pass on to another rest room. Once again, what’s some poor sap at the end of the line going to say: “Hey, pal, you’re taking too long to piss”?
“If to rid ourselves of the present rule of Massachusetts and Connecticut, we break the Union, will the evil stop there? Suppose the New England states alone cut off, will our nature be changed? Are we not men still to the south of that, and with all the passions of men? Immediately, we shall see a Pennsylvania and a Virginia party arise in the residuary confederacy, and the public mind will be distracted with the same party spirit. What a game too will the one party in their hands, by eternally threatening the other that unless they do so and so, they will join their northern neighbors. If we reduce our Union to Virginia and North Carolina, immediately the conflict will be established between the representatives of these two States, and they will end by breaking into their simple units. Seeing, therefore, that an association of men who will not quarrel with one another is a thing which never yet existed, from the greatest confederacy of nations down to a town meeting or a vestry; seeing that we must have somebody to quarrel with, I had rather keep our New England associates for that purpose, than to see our bickerings transferred to others. They are circumscribed within such narrow limits, and their population so full, that their numbers will ever be the minority, and they are marked, like the Jews, with such a perversity of character, as to constitute, from that circumstance, the natural division of our parties. A little patience, and we shall see the reign of witches pass over, their spells dissolved, and the people recovering their true sight, restoring their government to its true principles. It is true, that in the meantime, we are suffering deeply in spirit, and incurring the horrors of a war, and long oppressions of enormous public debt. But who can say what would be the evils of a scission, and when and where they would end?”—Thomas Jefferson, to John Taylor, 1798
“Very few people that leave the good old folkways can keep from getting all mixed up in the mind. We can make raids and excursions into the wild, but it has to be from well kept strongholds.”—Robert Frost
“For every Southern boy fourteen years old, not once but whenever he wants it, there is the instant when it’s still not yet two o’clock on the July afternoon in 1863, the brigades are in position behind the rail fence, the guns are laid and ready in the woods and furled flags are already loosened to break out and Pickett himself with his long oiled ringlets and his hat in one hand probably and his sword in the other looking up the hill waiting for Longstreet to give the word and it’s all in the balance, it hasn’t happened yet, it hasn’t even begun yet, it not only hasn’t begun yet but there is still time for it not to begin against that position and those circumstances which made more men than Garnett and Kemper and Armstead and Wilcox look grave yet it’s going to begin, we all know that, we have come too far with too much at stake and that moment doesn’t need even a fourteen-year-old boy to think This time.”—From Faulkner’s “Intruder In the Dust”
The forbearing use of power does not only form a touchstone, but the manner in which an individual enjoys certain advantages over others is a test of a true gentleman.
The power which the strong have over the weak, the employer over the employed, the educated over the unlettered, the experienced over the confiding, even the clever over the silly—the forbearing or inoffensive use of all this power or authority, or a total abstinence from it when the case admits it, will show the gentleman in a plain light
The gentleman does not needlessly and unnecessarily remind an offender of a wrong he may have committed against him. He cannot only forgive, he can forget; and he strives for that nobleness of self and mildness of character which impart sufficient strength to let the past be but the past. A true man of honor feels humbled himself when he cannot help humbling others.
We, the delegates to the Third North American Secessionist Convention, meeting in Manchester, New Hampshire, do declare the following:
The recent election in the United States, far from signaling a change in the imperial system or a restructuring of the essential political order, unfortunately perpetuates the two-party system and its old familiar politicians that for decades have promoted the interests of the corporate/financial elite whose willing servants they remain.
The recent financial flailing and machinations in the U.S., including the trillion-dollar bailout of the institutions that created the economic meltdown in the first place, provide ample and blatant evidence of Wall Street’s control over U.S. politics in the interest of trying to see that the rich get richer and the rest get nowhere.
Together these two processes, along with a long string of abuses and usurpations over the past decades, unmistakably indicate that the U.S. is bankrupt in every way—financially, economically, politically, socially, academically, militarily, spiritually, and morally.
This fact should demonstrate to the North American public, and the world, that it is the very scale and complexity of the various interlocking political and economic systems that is the fundamental cause of their failure—as well as the reason that no one on the scene has any idea whatsoever of how to fix it.
That being the case, it is necessary, for the restoration of democracy—not to mention sanity, prosperity, sustainability, governance, and peace—that the imperial system be dismantled, and various states, regions, and elements of North America exert their right to secede into independent regimes laying their foundations on such principles and organizing their powers in such form as to them shall seem most likely to effect their safety and happiness.
It is to this end that the secessionist movement will dedicate its energy, time, talents, moneys, and sacred honor, and we invite, indeed implore, the participation of our fellow citizens.
We, the participants in the First North American Secessionist Convention, though representing many different and diverse groups and constituencies, agree on the following principles as representing the truths of natural law and historical experience:
1. Any political entity has the right to separate itself from a larger body of which it is a part and peaceably to establish its independence as a free and legitimate state in the eyes of the world.
2. Governments are instituted among peoples, deriving their just powers from the consent of their citizens, and whenever any form of government becomes destructive of the legitimate goals of life, liberty, prosperity, and self-determination, it is the right of the people in democratic fashion to alter or abolish it, and to institute new government in such form as to them shall seem most likely to effect their safety and happiness.
3. Any government formed by and dependent upon a constitution to regulate its actions and affairs has certain legitimate powers delegated to it, but any powers not so delegated are reserved to the people of that state and their democratically chosen political bodies.
4. Nations once independent should engage in peace, commerce, good will, and honest friendship with all nations, and observe good faith, justice, and harmony toward all, but establish entangling relationships with none, nor engage in colonial dominance, political or economic, over any.
5. Direct democracy, with one vote for each and every citizen (as the polity shall designate citizenship), has proven to be a desirable form of governance among people, but it can operate with justice and equality only when at a small enough scale that each person may be known to every other person; when representative forms of government are undertaken, they should likewise best be established at a scale small enough so that each representative can be informed of the opinions and beliefs of the general run of the people in the constituency or community which that person is chosen to represent.
It is within this body of principles that we ask all governments to operate and it is by them that we ourselves, individually and the organizations we represent, intend to be guided.
The Negroes are right — make sure you’ve got that — they’re right … I’ve always been on their side, but if there’s no middle ground, if people like me have got to choose, then I’m on the side of Mississippi.
I will go on saying that the Southerners are wrong and that their position is untenable, but if I have to make the same choice Robert E. Lee made then I’ll make it. My grandfather had slaves and he must have known that it was wrong, but he fought in one of the first regiments raised by the Confederate Army, not in defense of his ethical position but to protect his native land from being invaded.
Q. Do you believe regional loyalty is a good quality?
A. Well, you must believe in something.
Q. What about your belief in the principles expressed in your books?
A. I shouldn’t be betraying them. My Negro boys down on the plantation would fight against the North with me. If I say to them “Go get your shotguns, boys,” they’ll come.
“As democracy is perfected, the office represents, more and more closely, the inner soul of the people. We move toward a lofty ideal. On some great and glorious day the plain folks of the land will reach their heart’s desire at last, and the White House will be adorned by a downright moron.”—H.L. Mencken, 1920
“Faking an interest in the snow, a man
Draws, with heavy black ink from a fountain pen, a drift
Against the house across the street. Snow sensitively shaded
Covers the garage, the front door, every window
That would have taken in the morning’s sunlight. Now
The house is a drumlin of black and white, a well-defined
Burial mound, no strand of furnace smoke
Escaping. This is the isolation the man has hoped for,
His gripes toward his neighbor unimportant, the spiraling
Of actual snow having its effects on somebody else,
One who eagerly squints at the nimbused evergreens.”—David Wyatt, “Winter’s Glory”
Smack in the middle of the United Kingdom, Leamington Spa is like a less picturesque Bath—genteel, sedate, irredeemably English in a Masterpiece Theater sort of way. But the town has darker undercurrents: Aleister Crowley was born here in 1875, and today it’s home to a mysterious entity called Cybernetic Culture Research Unit. Now in its third year of existence, CCRU’s institutional status is, to say the least, disputed. Which is why its membership is currently holed up in an office on The Parade (Leamington’s main street), rather than working c/o the Philosophy Department of Warwick University a few miles away, as was the case the last academic year.
Since my knowledge of CCRU stems from its disorientating textual output—the journal Abstract Culture—plus a few wilfully opaque email communiques, I’ve scant idea what I’ll encounter after pressing the button marked ‘Central Computer’. Inside CCRU’s top-floor HQ above The Body Shop, I find three women and four men in their mid to late twenties, who all look reassuringly normal. The walls, though, are covered with peculiar diagrams and charts that hint at the breadth and bizareness of the unit’s research.
But before I can enquire further, I’m entreated to sit in the middle of three ghettoblasters. CCRU have prepared a re-enactment of a performance-cum-reading given at their Virotechnics conference in October 1997. The first cassette-player issues a looped cycle of words that resembles an incantation or spell. From the second machine comes a text recited in a baleful deadpan by a female American voice—not a presentation but a sort of prose-poem, full of imagery of “swarmachines” and “strobing centipede flutters”. The third ghettoblaster emits what could either be Stockhausen-style electroacoustic composition or the pizzicato, mandible-clicking music of the insect world. Later, I find out it’s a human voice that’s been synthetically processed, with all the vowels removed to leave just consonants and fricatives.
What CCRU are striving to achieve is a kind of nomadic thought that—to use the Deleuzian term— “deterritorializes” itself every which way: theory melded with fiction, philosophy cross-contaminated by natural sciences (neurology, bacteriology, thermodynamics, metallurgy, chaos and complexity theory, connectionism). It’s a project of monstrous ambition. And that’s before you take into account the the most daring deterritorialisation of all—crossing the thin line between reason and unreason. But as they say, later for that.
The soul, of course, is a complex thing. Long ago Plato suggested that we consider it as divided into three parts—the appetitive, spirited, and rational—that correspond to the three basic kinds of human desires: the desire to satisfy physical appetites, the desire for recognition, and the desire for truth. Once this tripartite division is recalled, tobacco’s relation to the soul becomes clear: the three prevalent types of smoking tobacco—cigarettes, cigars, and pipes—correspond to the three parts of the soul.
But when McCarthy leveled his guns at the Eisenhower administration for not being “tough enough” on communism, he got his comeuppance. That was when he found himself in the cross-hairs of the anti-homosexual witch hunt.
In 1952, journalist Hank Greenspun wrote a column about the ambitious senator which could not have found its way into print without powerful support. It said that “Joe McCarthy is a bachelor of 43 years. … He seldom dates girls and if he does he laughingly describes it as window dressing. It is common talk among homosexuals in Milwaukee who rendezvous in the White Horse Inn that Senator Joe McCarthy has often engaged in homosexual activities.” (Las Vegas Sun, Oct. 25, 1952)
While McCarthy was said to have briefly threatened to sue Greenspun for libel, he later declined to do so, reportedly after lawyers told him it meant he’d have to testify about his sexuality. Less than a year later, McCarthy married his secretary, Jeannie Kerr.
Johnson initially blocked the FBI from obtaining a sworn statement from Valenti or approaching the photographer, asserting that Valenti was “attracted to the women and not to the men,” files show. But under FBI pressure, the president relented and approved an investigation of his close friend.
In the Washington of the early 1960s, allegations or proof of homosexuality could end a career. In October 1964, Walter Jenkins, another senior aide in the Johnson administration, was arrested for allegedly having sex in the men’s room of the Washington YMCA. The news leaked just before the election, and Johnson, rushing to stem the political damage, quickly secured the resignation of Jenkins, then his longest-serving aide.
Even Bill Moyers, a White House aide now best known as a liberal television commentator, is described in the records as seeking information on the sexual preferences of White House staff members. Moyers said by e-mail yesterday that his memory is unclear after so many years but that he may have been simply looking for details of allegations first brought to the president by Hoover.
In Valenti’s case, agents located the photographer and he confirmed that he had attended parties with Valenti and stayed at his apartment on two occasions. But he stressed that Valenti was strictly a platonic friend, records show. Historians have suggested that Hoover himself may have been gay and that the bureau’s fascination with the sex lives of others was a manifestation of deeper currents in his psychology. Hoover never married and was a constant companion of his longtime FBI aide Clyde Tolson.
Valenti was a successful Texas businessman before joining Johnson in the White House in the hours after President John F. Kennedy was assassinated. After three years in Washington, Valenti was named head of the Motion Picture Association, where he served as Hollywood’s chief lobbyist from 1966 to 2004. His tanned face became a fixture on the annual Academy Awards broadcast.
Bill Moyers’ involvement is an interesting data point.
H is an historian and biographer. He is American of Dutch ancestry born and reared in the Middle West. He has been in love with America all his life. He can recite whole chapters of Thoreau and volumes of American poetry, from Emerson to Steve Benet. He knows Jefferson’s letters, Hamilton’s papers, Lincoln’s speeches. He is a collector of early American furniture, lives in New England, runs a farm for a hobby and doesn’t lose much money on it, and loathes parties like this one. He has a ribald and manly sense of humor, is unconventional and lost a college professorship because of a love affair. Afterward he married the lady and has lived happily ever afterward as the wages of sin.
H has never doubted his own authentic Americanism for one instant. This is his country, and he knows it from Acadia to Zenith. His ancestors fought in the Revolutionary War and in all the wars since. He is certainly an intellectual, but an intellectual smelling slightly of cow barns and damp tweeds. He is the most good-natured and genial man alive, but if anyone ever tries to make this country over into an imitation of Hitler’s, Mussolini’s, or Petain’s systems H will grab a gun and fight. Though H’s liberalism will not permit him to say it, it is his secret conviction that nobody whose ancestors have not been in this country since before the Civil War really understands America or would really fight for it against Nazism or any other foreign ism in a showdown.
But H is wrong. There is one other person in the room who would fight alongside H and he is not even an American citizen. He is a young German emigre, whom I brought along to the party. The people in the room look at him rather askance because he is so Germanic, so very blond-haired, so very blue-eyed, so tanned that somehow you expect him to be wearing shorts. He looks like the model of a Nazi. His English is flawed—he learned it only five years ago. He comes from an old East Prussian family; he was a member of the post-war Youth Movement and afterward of the Republican “Reichsbanner.” All his German friends went Nazi—without exception. He hiked to Switzerland penniless, there pursued his studies in New Testament Greek, sat under the great Protestant theologian, Karl Barth, came to America through the assistance of an American friend whom he had met in a university, got a job teaching the classics in a fashionable private school; quit, and is working now in an airplane factory—working on the night shift to make planes to send to Britain to defeat Germany. He has devoured volumes of American history, knows Whitman by heart, wonders why so few Americans have ever really read the Federalist papers, believes in the United States of Europe, the Union of the English-speaking world, and the coming democratic revolution all over the earth. He believes that America is the country of Creative Evolution once it shakes off its middle-class complacency, its bureaucratized industry, its tentacle-like and spreading government, and sets itself innerly free.
The people in the room think he is not an American, but he is more American than almost any of them. He has discovered America and his spirit is the spirit of the pioneers. He is furious with America because it does not realize its strength and beauty and power. He talks about the workmen in the factory where he is employed. . . . He took the job “in order to understand the real America.” He thinks the men are wonderful. “Why don’t you American in- tellectuals ever get to them; talk to them?”
“[O]ne of the most striking things about this passage is its tone, or perhaps we should say its genre. The remedies demanded (public recantation, propitiatory sacrifice) are of the sort necessitated by ritual defilement, rather than the giving of offense. It is also clear that Thomas does not merely wish Eich to say that he has changed his views, he truly, sincerely, desperately hopes that Eich be transformed. The key realization is that the howling mob which Thomas has ginned up is only partially an instrument of chastisement. It is also intended to educate. Thomas is in this to save souls.”—Anonymous, in response to ValleyWag editor Owen Thomas’s demand for a public recantation from Brendan Eich
“It seems to me that many conservatives looking at the same pattern of facts react differently because we have a different understanding of the larger story of liberal democracy. We take the arrangement of rights and liberties at the core of the liberal-democratic understanding of society to exist in the service of sustaining the space in which society thrives, rather than of taking society “forward” and away from its roots. There is room in that space for different parts of society to sustain quite different ways of living, and room for people to debate our broader society’s social and political course – which can take different directions at different times in response to different circumstances. Liberty is not the yearned-for endpoint of that story, when we will be free at last from the burdens of the past. Liberty is what exists in that space now, what allows for different people (and groups of people) to pursue different paths and debate different options, and what allows society to address its problems in various ways as they arise. Liberty is not what we’re progressing toward but what we are conserving. It is a means to social, moral, and material progress, but the shape of that progress is itself defined and debated in a dynamic, incremental, and ongoing way in that space in which society lives, rather than existing as an ideal of social justice understood as individual moral liberation and standing always as the criteria against which everything society does must be tested.”—Yuval Levin