Earlier this month Boston-based, amateur historian Kevin M. Levin published a volume titled, Searching for Black Confederates: The Civil War’s Most Persistent Myth (University of North Carolina Press), in which, against substantial evidence both contemporary and modern, he maintains that it is simply a myth that Southern blacks, whether slave or free, fought for the Confederacy. In his screed Levin takes aim in particular at North Carolina Museum of History Curator Earl Ijames. Mr. Ijames, who is himself black, has done substantial research on “colored Confederates,” including the production of an acclaimed film on the topic, in which he documents black Confederate soldiers and their participation in Confederate ranks.
An article in The [Raleigh NC] News & Observer (September 12) describes Levin’s approach:
“The ‘black Confederate’ narrative is intended to fundamentally shift the history of the Confederacy,” Levin said in a phone interview with The News & Observer. “It’s an attempt to get the Confederacy right on race relations. That’s its goal. That’s what I was attempting to undercut with the book.” Of Ijames, Levin said, “He is operating under a fundamental misunderstanding of the Confederacy and of the Civil War in history. He has pushed this false narrative.”
Curator Ijames’ 75-minute documentary film, released in 2014, titled “Earl Ijames’ Colored Confederates and U.S. Colored Troops,” offers documentation that blacks aligned with both sides during the Civil War in the hopes of securing their freedom. “It’s just an inconvenient truth for some people” that blacks served as Confederate soldiers, Ijames has stated.
In the same news article, Frank Powell of the North Carolina Sons of Confederate Veterans was quoted in support of Ijames:
“To call him [Levin] an historian is a misnomer. Most of his stuff is wrong. He’s more of an agenda-pusher. We have a real problem nowadays with these people who don’t want to just change our history, but to eradicate it. And not just Confederate, but all of Western history. They want to tear all of that down so they can remake it to their liking…The problem is that, unfortunately, they didn’t keep very good [troop] records. A lot of the records got destroyed at the end of the war. I’ve read accounts about numbers. Some say 50,000 and some say 500,000. You just don’t know because of the lack of records. Five hundred thousand is probably too many. But 50,000 may not be enough.”
Not content to engage in debate, since debate implicitly suggests at least two legitimate sides to an argument, zealous supporters of Levin's position go so far as to suggest that Earl Ijames should be perhaps even dismissed from his position. W. Fitzhugh Brundage, a William Umstead Distinguished Professor of History at the University of North Carolina who wrote an endorsement for the jacket of Searching for Black Confederates, has declared that “if the museum in any way allows its name to be associated with, or provide space for, an uncontested description or claim about substantial numbers of black Confederates, I think it’s doing a disservice to North Carolina citizens.”
What emerges with indelible transparency in this debate is that the fanatical Progressivist Left is pushing an agenda, an ideological template. And in that template there is no room for dissent or disagreement. In our present cultural context race and racism have become weaponized, talismanic cudgels for totalitarian Progressivists with which to beat historically-dominant European civilization and “white supremacy” over the head, poisoned arrows in the quiver of the post-Marxist social justice warriors employed to advance their agenda. Jarring and glaring exceptions that interrupt or undermine this narrative must be rejected and condemned at all costs: that blacks, whether slave or free, would have fought for the Confederacy simply cannot be true because it does not serve the ultimate goals of the revolutionary race zealots.
In other words, if history doesn’t confirm my ideology and my bias, well then, just go back and rewrite that history to make it so! And this methodology dominates the craft of the vast majority of current historians and the history tomes that they obediently churn out—ideologically tendentious and shaped to further an agenda.
How does this differ from the intellectual environment of the old Soviet Union, except perhaps that it is more insidious and more pervasive?
From late 1983 until its fitful demise in the early 2000s, I served as a contributing editor, adviser, or just simply a contributor to the old Southern Partisan magazine. Although a last issue came out in 2009, the quarterly had pretty much ceased regular publication a few years before that, largely due to internecine South Carolina politics and personalities. The valiant efforts of former Sons of Confederate Veterans Commander-in-Chief Chris Sullivan, as editor, to keep it alive were, alas, to no avail.
Yet during its nearly three decades of existence the Southern Partisan published some of the finest writing about the South, Southern history, and Southern culture since the Agrarians of Nashville back prior to World War II. Begun originally in 1979 under the aegis of Thomas Fleming and Clyde Wilson, it featured in its pages essays by such luminaries as Mel Bradford, Cleanth Brooks, Eugene Genovese (not a Southerner, but an internationally-recognized historian who developed a sympathetic fascination about the South), Tom Landess, Russell Kirk, Reid Buckley (brother of William), Andrew Lytle, Don Livingston, and many others.
I was privileged and very fortunate to be associated with those giants in a small way; over the years I had around fifteen essays and reviews published by the Partisan on subjects that have continued to interest and fascinate me: historical Southern figures such as Nathaniel Macon and Robert Lewis Dabney, several reviews of books by the late Dr. Russell Kirk (for whom I had served as assistant back in the early 1970s), an appreciation of the Southern-born actor and star of Westerns Randolph Scott, and lastly, reviews of books of Patrick Buchanan (a larger-than-life political figure with deep roots in the Old South and with a rambunctious mixture of Confederate and Irish Catholic ancestry!).
There’s an old maxim that states “you’re known by the enemies you have”; and the Partisan had its share…and for many of us associated with it, that indicated we were having some effect. For much of its existence, it was a veritable bete noire for Morris Dees and his radical Leftist Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC). In addition to seeing Klansmen under the bed of every “conservative” Southern politician and ferreting out every stench of Southern “racism,” the SPLC simply went apoplectic when the topic of the Partisan came up. They termed it “arguably the most important neo-Confederate periodical”, and thus the most dangerous to their fanatical totalitarian Marxist social justice agenda. The views it reflected were reactionary and anchored in a hateful past, not worthy of serious consideration in modern America.
But the Southern Partisan could not be dismissed so cavalierly. Even The New York Times, the national journalistic flagship for frenzied and inflamed Progressivism, while denouncing the magazine “as one of region’s most right-wing magazines,” also begrudgingly admitted that "Many of [its] articles, however, are more high-minded historical reviews in the tradition of the Southern agrarian movement, which glorified the South's slow-paced traditions of farms and small towns."
Although the Southern Partisan ceased to exist a decade ago, other voices have arisen to fill that void, most notably The Abbeville Institute, its superb summer schools and seminars, and its online review and blog. Clyde Wilson’s daughter Anne has also established a fine site, Reckonin.com, and it offers excellent commentary and reviews. And there are other venues where good writing and essays from a traditional Southern viewpoint appear.
In 1985 I had the opportunity to interview the late historian Eugene Genovese for the Partisan (Fall 1985, volume V, no. 4), and it was the beginning of a close friendship that lasted until his untimely death in 2012. And it was a friendship that forever influenced me and my conception of Southern history and culture. For, beginning as a Vietcong supporter back in the 1960s, through a long and at times difficult evolution into the 1980s, Genovese had subjected the history of the South, the issue of slavery, and the “Southern mind” to the most severe and close examination. And, after it all, he became a stouthearted and brilliant defender of the South and its traditions (his friendship with the late Mel Bradford had undoubtedly assisted in that process).
For Genovese the key to Southern history had been and was its firm foundation in traditional Christianity. It was a form of mostly Calvinist Protestantism, but also in a wider sense which warmly incorporated Catholics and Jews in its midst, but united in an broad consensus on the idea of a Christian society, which he found best expressed in the writings of the brilliant South Carolina Presbyterian theologian, James Henley Thornwell (d. 1862).
Here he is in a passage on the South Carolinian, demonstrating a view that found resonance throughout the South:
Shortly before his death Thornwell…in a “Sermon on National Sins,” preached on the eve of the War, and boldly in a remarkable paper on “Relation of the State to Christ,” prepared for the Presbyterian Church as a memorial to be sent to the Confederate Congress, he called upon the South to dedicate itself to Christ. He criticized the American Founding Fathers for having forgotten God and for having opened the Republic to the will of the majority. “A foundation was thus laid for the worst of all possible forms of government—a democratic absolutism.” To the extent that the state is a moral person, he insisted, “it must needs be under moral obligation, and moral obligation without reference to a superior will is a flat contradiction in terms.” Thornwell demanded that the new Constitution be amended to declare the Confederacy in submission to Jesus, for “to Jesus Christ all power in heaven and earth is committed.” Vague recognition of God would not do. The state must recognize the God of the Bible—the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost.
After the war—after Southern military defeat and the destruction of much of Southern society and eventually its culture—Thornwell’s clarion calls were picked up by another Presbyterian divine, Robert Lewis Dabney, who turned his Biblical ire and critical (and prophetic) intellect to the developing “Yankee empire,” religious indifferentism, and to the triumph of globalist capitalism and an imperialist and plutocratic “democratic despotism” (something that the Northern writer Henry Adams, scion of the Adams of New England, also recognized).
In his magnum opus, The Mind of the Master Class (2005), co-authored with his wife Professor Elizabeth Fox-Genovese, Eugene Genovese offered the finest and fullest—certainly the most documented—account and evaluation of a “Southern mind and intellect” that had conserved and illuminated the original, but oh-so-fragile vision of the Framers of the Constitution. Despite, or perhaps because of his earlier interest in Marxist theory, Genovese came to understand well, better than almost all his contemporaries, the extreme dangers inherent in post-War Between the States America.
And that was why my interview with him nearly thirty-five years ago was so eye-opening. (The full lengthy interview published in the Southern Partisan is now reprinted in my recently published book, The Land We Love: The South and Its Heritage , chapter 29: “A Partisan Conversation: Interview with Eugene Genovese.”)
I quote below some extensive passages from that interview. Eugene Genovese and the Southern Partisan were incredibly productive and profound in their contribution to the defense, survival, and, even just maybe the reflorescence of Southern heritage. In our perilous times, when our traditions and heritage often seem hanging on by a mere thread, we can do no better than refer to their sturdy intellectual armament.
Here is Genovese from 1985:
This piece was previously published on My Corner on September 8, 2019.
Back in my junior year in high school in Garner, North Carolina, there was not one—not one—school shooting in the entire United States that year, and not one act of what is now called “domestic terrorism.” In fact, in our schools other than some minor and normally harmless fist-fights (mostly to settle private disputes between rambunctious teenage boys, often over a girl), the extreme violence as we see and experience in our day was basically non-existent.
In fact, all through my grammar school and then high school years the schools were open, like most all educational institutions in the Tar Heel State. Just like all our stores and places of commerce, almost anyone could just walk in freely, although normally for schools they went to the administration office if something was desired. I can remember when my mother came to pick me up when Hurricane Hazel was on the way, or when news came that one of my grandfathers had passed away near Charlotte, and we needed to prepare to make the sad trip there for the funeral: she didn’t have to go through a metal detector and be searched for a concealed weapon. That was unthinkable. People weren’t like that then, certainly not in our state.
There was no need to have all the doors locked, or to hire security and police staff…or for that matter, to have employed babbling psychologists, sociologists, and “grief counselors” ready to assist students who suffered “mental problems.” Indeed, it was considered the height of intellectual folly and ridiculousness to even think about having “staff psychologists” or “grief counselors” lurking about to handle personal issues—mental illness—when the real solution to any potential problem was strong two-parent families (which then accounted for around 90% of domestic situations) at home, and solid discipline at school, plus the fact that the vast majority of families (and their children) were churchgoing and, at least publicly, professed some sort of faith in God, and thus in His Commandments.
The administrators of our schools and proprietors of our places of business weren’t afraid of some deranged gunman coming in and shooting up the place. That just did not happen.
Since then and with the triumph of modern progressivism, we have been informed that those older modes of behavior and belief, that way of life and conducting ourselves, was bad, that it restrained our freedom, that it limited us, that it was certainly “sexist” and probably also “racist.” We have been instructed that the older credo about marriage and the family is passe’ and in our contemporary culture just no longer applies. Marriage as a sacred institution, and for many of us a sacrament, has been in so many words downgraded to “if it feels good, just do it,” or, “shack up for a while and see if it works, and if not, then just split.” Too bad about any children born in this situation; they’ll just have to live with the less bad parent, usually the mother (but what happens if both are bad?).
No need here to cite statistics: you already know or have an idea what they reveal. Even in two-parent families, modern theories of child-raising dominate in far too many cases. Older, traditional ideas are relics of a bygone and, we are told, “not very enlightened age.”
And the schools? From the earliest primary grades to high school and then our colleges, “progressive” modern educational theories now undergird and inform instruction, certainly in public institutions of so-called “learning.” There has been a long-march, a continuous and largely effective campaign to implant an ideology, inculcate it in the unformed minds of our youth. How else to explain, in large part, the indoctrinated, zombie-like graduates of our schools and colleges, who simply mouth the ideological slogans and post-Marxist pablum instilled into them through twelve years of schooling and then another four of college? The University of the South-Sewanee, “Ole Miss,” UVa…what have they become in our day?
And our entertainment industry and sports?
I was struck one recent morning as I forced myself to watch a few brief minutes of “Fox & Friends” on the television, and beheld the woefully dumb blond Ainsley Earhardt rhapsodize about the 1990 film, “Home Alone,” one of the most inane and insipid movies of the past thirty years, as one of her favorite motion pictures. Just an example, but an example that says quite a bit about not just the twice-divorced Earhardt, but about what has happened to American society and the standards of taste now regnant and dominant in our decaying culture…and which now wash over my beloved North Carolina.
When was the last time you viewed a film without a plethora of four-letter words—and lots of them—or bedroom scenes which bare almost everything, punctuated by grunts, groans, and grimaces? Take a look at HBO, Showtime, Cinemax, and regular weeknight television, almost any program.
I recall Groucho Marx on his early 1950s TV quiz program, “You Bet Your Life,” when he intimated in a very humorous way, sexual relations between a married couple. Everyone in the audience laughed (after gasping), but everyone also knew back then that such relationships were very special and should be within matrimony. There were limits to what should be said, not because of prudery, but because such intimate acts were very unique expressions of the sanctified marital bond. Of course, such relations also existed outside that bond—and that was also talked about and illustrated within our culture—but everyone, or almost everyone, knew that that was NOT normative, NOT the way things should be, NOT if families and their offspring were to succeed, and NOT if our society was to survive.
So, in recent days we have the specter of a dozen or so Democratic candidates blaming the shootings in El Paso and Dayton on Donald Trump—he is, according to that sorry excuse for a political leader, Beto O’Rourke, the reincarnation of Adolf Hitler! He’s a racist and the white-nationalist-in-chief who is directly responsible for ALL the violence we’ve seen, whether in a Walmart in El Paso or a high school in Parkland, Florida.
Yet the real culprits, those really responsible for the condition of our country and for the situation we find ourselves in are those like Beto O’Rourke, Cory Booker, Kamala Harris, and Julian Castro, and their intellectual associates and immediate forebears, who have inflicted—and continue to inflict—on us the insane policies and nostrums, the ideology that is at the very root of our situation in and the breakup of this country.
No, Beto: it is people like you and those who taught and instructed you who produced the crisis we see around us, the dislocation, the despair, the heartache, the fatherless boys, the broken families, the rage and misdirected anger…and the violence. Look in the mirror and SEE the culprit, and then go take a thirty day Ignatian Retreat in silence and pray God that He will forgive your Evil.
After watching a portion--but only a portion--of the Democratic "debate" last night (after twenty minutes, I had to go retch!), I discovered when listening to Elizabeth Warren that I was suffering from—Intestinal (Food) Racism! At last I KNOW what it is that is causing me such systemic problems in my stomach and lower tract! You see, now I know that historically the lighter colored food that I eat and attempt to digest has dominated and oppressed the darker hued food. Thus, those pieces of white bread and mashed potatoes have systemically oppressed those poor chocolate eclairs and that yummy chocolate pudding! The intestinal problems I have had and continue to have are clearly due to that white food supremacy! And, thus, all my intestinal discomfort and digestive issues can be resolved simply by an immense government program of restorative reparations!
Thus, I must now go on a strict regimen of drinking only black coffee and eating black beans, imposing alimentary affirmative action on my eating process. And, more, since this intestinal racism is apparently endemic and a product of historic European colonialism, I must begin to restrict and even penalize the lighter and white-colored foods I consume, in the name of equality and alimentary social justice.
And, of course, the major culprit in all of this racism is, you guessed it: milk, which of course is lily white. And the question must then be asked: is not lily white milk an inheritance of Neo-Confederate white supremacy and systemic racism and bigotry? Didn’t Morris Dees at the Southern Poverty Law Center write something about this years ago?
Oh Oh! what then must be the remedy? Well, for one, white milk must be subject to a new and heavily enforced civil rights bill which would require, as part of a new program of affirmative action, that 50 % of all white milk must now be colored by dark syrup. And to secure this goal chocolate syrup is not enough to solve the issue; no, it must be very black licorice syrup, carefully legislated by law.
And, of course, as all of this...these prescriptions...will require proper and ironclad implementation, a whole new agency of the Federal government must be created: the US Department of Alimentary Equality and Justice. And, certainly, there must be a new $500 million Federal building erected in Washington, plus new offices in all fifty states. And, to accomplish this necessary program--which is just as critical to our national well-being as our battle against climate change--my estimate is that it will take over 100,000 new very "woke" and socially-conscious government workers who all have graduated from our premiere universities with degrees in food science or social work, taught by suitably progressive professors.
Budgetarily, I estimate, based on a recent study completed by the Al Sharpton Studies in Historic Obesity and Lingering Emaciation [ASSHOLE] Institute, that a mere $100 trillion would provide for the first ten years of this program.
Obviously, given the pusillanimous, cowardly position of the Republicans, I do not anticipate strong opposition from the GOP, but rather they will on Fox and in Congress do what they usually do, appropriate this idea and soon make it their own, and thus normalize it as American as Lemon meringue pie....Oops! I mean CHOCOLATE PIE.
This piece was previously published at My Corner on July 31, 2019.
Those familiar with the over 300 installments in the MY CORNER series (and before that, with CONSERVATIVE CRACK-UP) will know that one of my primary objectives has been to distinguish historic and traditional “conservatism,” a conservativism that traces its roots back to the Founding and the intent of the Framers, from what is generally termed “Neoconservatism.”
Over the past several years, through excellent essays by various historians and authors such as Drs. Paul Gottfried, Clyde Wilson, and Jack Kerwick, and columnists such as Patrick J. Buchanan, Christopher DeGroot, Ilana Mercer, and "The Dissident Mama," I have attempted to examine the very real and stark differences both ideologically and historically between Neoconservatism and traditional conservatism. And going further back, I have cited commentary by the late Russell Kirk and Mel Bradford, plus detailed studies by scholars like Gary Dorrien (The Neoconservative Mind, 1993), and Stefan Halper and Jonathan Clarke (America Alone: The Neo-Conservatives and the Global Order,2004).
And of the Neoconservatives, I have taken a highly critical look at some of their leading propagandists, including Ben Shapiro, Jonah Goldberg, Victor Davis Hanson, Dinesh D’Souza, and Rich Lowry, and what these gentlemen propound.
One of the central differences between traditional conservatives—henceforth, I call them “traditionalists”—and the Neocons, is how they view the South, in particular, how they view the Confederacy and its important figures…how they view the public monuments to Confederate veterans…and what they think should happen to them in the face of the unrelenting and unhinged campaign by the lunatic social justice warriors of the left to topple them.
Monuments, flags, and markers are inanimate symbols, but they represent something far more palpable and real: who we honor in our history, how we do it, and the importance of remembering who we are as a people. And on these questions the Neocons have essentially been on the side of the frenzied Neo-Marxist iconoclasts, or, at least, silent in the face of the fierce campaign to erase and deconstruct a critical part of our history.
And that is very significant.
Of course, a major reason for this has been the Neocon genealogy which can be traced to a universalist mid-twentieth century Marxism and their embrace of the Lincolnian idea of the nature of the American union (for them unitary and expansive), and their ahistorical positing of the idea of equality as fundamental in and to the American Founding, that is, an “equality” of individuals basically across the board. And, of course, that egalitarianism is carried forward not just in their domestic propositions, but also in their intense desire to “make the world safe for democracy” and “impose equality” on the rest of the globe.
During the 1970s into the 1990s the Neoconservatives displaced the once more significant voice of the traditionalists in “conservative” media and foundations. Journals that once featured the writings of Southerner Mel Bradford and traditionalist Russell Kirk, magazines and foundations that once heralded the participation of Paul Gottfried and Joseph Sobran and Sam Francis, now withdrew the welcome mat. And to replace these writers and academics came the likes of Goldberg, Lowry, Shapiro, and others of their ilk.
The differences were startling, for not only did the entire focus of the old “conservative movement” become altered, but the quality of writing declined perceptibly. And the heritage and traditions of the Southland and the profound appreciation for the heroes of the Confederacy—a sure characteristic of the traditionalists of the Older Right—were met with, at best, silence and ignored, or more commonly with the Neocons joining in with the hysterical progressivists and decrying the “racism” and “white supremacy” of the South.
Thus, the shameful praxis of a Ben Shapiro during the Virginia gubernatorial race in 2018, or the outright condemnations of Confederate heritage byNational Review editors and writers Rich Lowry andVictor Davis Hanson. And these are just a few examples of the stridently anti-Confederate, anti-Southern bias of leading Neoconservatives. Watch Fox News most any day to see this on full display….
It is quite ironic to see the fatuous and historically ignorant (the best that can be said of him) Dinesh D’Souza pontificate on Fox News about American history, and in particular, about how today’s current Democratic Party is essentially the same as the old Democratic Party of the post-War Between the States period, or how—somehow—the current crop of Democratic presidential wannabees are just like, in the same mold as the old “segregationist” (AKA states’ rights) Democrats like Senators Richard Russell of Georgia or John Stennis of Mississippi. (Witness the recent hullabaloo over Joe Biden’s reference to Stennis and the late Senator Herman Talmadge of Georgia.)
In other words, for D’Souza the Democratic Party is the “racist” party, while the GOP represents the enlightened, egalitarian and anti-racist heritage of the post-War Republican Party. And thus, the Republican Party, representing as it does “equality” for all, expansive “democracy” and “true anti-racism,” stands at counter-purposes to Democratic Party…. You know, which opposed the Civil Rights and Voting Rights Bills of the 1960s and objected to the Brown v. Board of Education Supreme Court decision (1954): legislation and a legal decision that fatally weakened what remained of the constitutionally-enshrined rights of the states over education, accommodations, and voting.
This, we are told by the Necons, is what “conservatism” is all about; and since we are the “exceptional nation,” chosen by God to spread this egalitarian notion all around the globe, then it is our “moral” duty to do so.
But the so-called “conservatism” heralded, propagated and defended by these individuals is nothing more than a warmed-over, slightly less toxic mix of the same venom served up by those further to their left. Indeed, given their own Trotskyite origins and genealogy, this is only logical. And in so many ways it helps normalize the leftward trajectory that this nation has been on for the past 150 years.
Perhaps even more significantly, this intellectual fervor among the Neocons has had significant repercussions and effects politically. For Neoconservatism in practice is the dominant narrative of most “conservative” Republican politicians in 2019, in contradistinction to, say, the views of the late Republican Senator Robert Taft, or the first couple of terms of the late Senator Jesse Helms, whose understanding of America was in accord with the older traditional vision.
And that brings me to the latest emanation of what I would call the Neoconservative “Neo-Reconstructionism” regarding the South and Southern tradition. And it brings me to that “conservative voice,” Senator Ted Cruz of Texas.
A number of my friends supported Cruz in the GOP primaries in 2016; he was, we were informed, a “true conservative” and not a rabble-rousing, bull-in-the-china shop like Donald Trump. And many of those friends were good Southern men who love our Southern and Confederate heritage. And Ted Cruz, certainly, good conservative that he was, would not oppose it, would he?
Cruz is just like the other timorous, historically inept politicians infected with the intellectually poisonous Neocon virus which manifests both its ignorance of and disdain for Southern heritage and the symbols of that heritage, which are, in effect, the symbols of the older America and its Founding.
Cruz considers General Nathan Bedford Forrest a horrible racist; his statues should come down, and under no circumstances should he be memorialized by the State of Tennessee. Rather, Cruz celebrates zealous Abolitionist and supporter of women’s suffrage, Frederick Douglass, whose extra-marital relationship with German Marxist revolutionary,Ottilie Assing, may have shaped his thinking.
This piece was originally published on My Corner on July 13, 2019.
We celebrate July 4th each year as the anniversary of America’s declaration of independence from Great Britain. For many Americans, the day has become little more than another holiday, a day off from work, and a time to barbecue with family and friends.
The Declaration of Independence and the day we set aside to commemorate it should make us reflect on the sacrifices of the men who signed it. Representatives from thirteen colonies came together to take a momentous step that they knew might land them on the scaffold or suspended by the hangman’s noose. They were protesting that their traditional rights as Englishmen had been violated, and that those violations had forced them into a supreme act of rebellion.
For many Americans, woefully unversed in our country’s history, the Declaration of Independence is a fundamental text that tells the world who we are as a people. It is a distillation of American belief and purpose. Pundits and commentators, left and right, never cease reminding us that America is a new nation, “conceived in liberty and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.”
Almost as important as a symbol of American belief is Abraham Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address. It is not incorrect to see a link between these two documents, as Lincoln intentionally placed his short peroration in the context of a particular reading of the Declaration.
Lincoln bases his concept of the creation of the American nation in philosophical principles he sees enunciated in 1776, and in particular on an emphasis on the idea of “equality.” The problem is that this interpretation, which forms the philosophical base of both the dominant “movement conservatism” today - neoconservatism - and the neo-Marxist multicultural Left, is basically false.
Lincoln’s opens his address, “Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth …” There is a critical problem with this assertion. It was not the Declaration that “created” the new nation; the Declaration was a statement of thirteen colonies, announcing their respective independence from the mother country, binding themselves together in a military and political alliance. It was the Constitution, drafted eleven years later (1787), after the successful conclusion of the War for Independence, that established a new nation. And, as any number of historians and scholars have pointed out, the American Framers never intended to cobble together a country based on the proposition that “all men are created equal.”
A brief survey of the writings of such distinguished historians and researchers as Barry Alan Shain, Forrest McDonald, M. E. Bradford, George W. Carey, and others, plus a detailed reading of the commentaries and writings of those men who established the nation, give the lie to the claim (See for example, Elliott’s Debates, a compilation of the debates over the new Constitution).
The Framers of the Constitution were horrified by “egalitarianism” and “democracy,” and they made it clear that what they were establishing was a confederated, stratified republic, in which most of the “rights” were reserved to the authority of the respective states (with their own particular arrangements), and in which serious restrictions and limitations on voting and participation in government were considered fundamental. Indeed, several states also had religious tests, and others had established churches, none of which were directly touched by the First Amendment, added to insure that a national religious establishment would not be effected. A quick review of The Federalist Papers confirms this thinking; and a survey of the correspondence and the debates over the Constitution add support to this anti-egalitarianism.
Obviously, then, Lincoln could not found his “new nation” in the U. S. Constitution; it was too aristocratic and decentralized, with non-enumerated powers maintained by the states, including the implicit right to secede. Indeed, slavery was explicitly sanctioned, even if most of the Framers believed that as an institution it would die a natural death, if left on its own. Lincoln thus went back to the Declaration of Independence and invested in it a meaning that supported his statist and wartime intentions. But even then, he verbally abused the language of the Declaration, interpreting the words in a form that its Signers never intended.
Although those authors employed the phrase “all men are created equal,” and certainly that is why Lincoln made direct reference to it, a careful analysis of the Declaration does not confirm the sense that Lincoln invests in those few words. Contextually, the authors at Philadelphia were asserting their historic — and equal — rights as Englishmen before the Crown, which had, they believed, been violated and usurped by the British government, and it was to parliament that the Declaration was primarily directed.
The Founders rejected egalitarianism. They understood that no one is, literally, “created equal” to anyone else. Certainly, each and every person is created with no less or no more dignity, measured by his or her own unique potential before God. But this is not what most contemporary writers mean today when they talk of “equality.”
Rather, from a traditionally-Christian viewpoint, each of us is born into this world with different levels of intelligence, in different areas of expertise; physically, some are stronger or heavier, others are slight and smaller; some learn foreign languages and write beautiful prose; others become fantastic athletes or scientists. Social customs and traditions, property holding, and individual initiative — each of these factors further discriminate as we continue in life.
None of this means that we are any less or more valued in the judgment of God, Who judges us based on our own, very unique capabilities. God measures us by ourselves, by our own maximum possibilities and potential, not by those of anyone else — that is, whether we use our own, individual talents to the very fullest (recall the Parable of the Talents in the Gospel of St. Matthew).
One hundred years later the great Southern philosopher and theologian Robert Lewis Dabney—much better read and better informed than many of his post-War contemporaries—understood this exactly:
The very axioms of American politics now are, that ‘all men are by nature equal,’ that all are inalienably ‘entitled to liberty and the pursuit of happiness,’ and that ‘the only just foundation of government is in the consent of the governed.’… Our recent doctors of political science have retained these formularies of words as convenient masks under which to circulate a set of totally different, and indeed antagonistic notions; and they have succeeded perfectly. The new meanings of which the ‘Whigs’ of 1776 never dreamed are now the current ones.
The modern version is that there are no superiors or inferiors in society; that there is a mechanical equality; that all have specifically all the same rights; and that any other constitution is against natural justice. Next: when our wise fathers said that liberty is an inalienable, natural right, they meant by each one’s liberty the privilege to do such things as he, with his particular relations, ought to have a moral title to do; the particular things having righteous, natural limitations in every case, and much narrower limits in some cases than in others.
Radical America now means by natural liberty each one’s privilege to do what he chooses to do. By the consent of the governed our forefathers meant each Sovereign Commonwealth’s consenting to the constitution under which it should be governed: they meant that it was unjust for Britain to govern America without America’s consent. Which part of the human beings living in a given American State should constitute the State potentially, the populus whose franchise it was to express the will of the commonwealth for all—that was in their eyes wholly another question, to be wisely decided in different States according to the structure which Providence had given them. [Italics mine]
Dabney’s interpretation is the meaning the Founders intended, as their writings and speeches clearly indicate. Lincoln’s “new nation” would have certainly struck them as radical and revolutionary, a veritable “heresy.” Even more disturbing for them would be the specter of modern-day neoconservatives — that is, those who dominant the conservative movement and claim to rigorously defend the Constitutional republic against the abuses of the Marxist multiculturalist left — enshrining Lincoln’s address as a basic symbol of American political and social order.
They would have understood the radicalism implicit in such a pronouncement; they would have seen Lincoln’s interpretation as a contradiction of the “First Founding” of 1787 and a revolutionary denial of its intentions; and they would have understood in Lincoln’s language the content of a Christian and millennialist heresy, heralding a transformed nation where the Federal government would become the father and mother and absolute master of us all.
Thus, as we commemorate the declaring of American independence 243 years ago, we should lament the mythology about it created in 1863, and recall an older generation of 1787, a generation of noble men who comprehended fully well that a country based on egalitarianism is a nation where true liberties are imperiled.
Increasingly, the Tucker Carlson Tonight program is the only program I can watch regularly on Fox News without thinking that I’ve made a mistake, and somehow I’ve dialed into NBC. At least, that’s the message that is coming through more and more regarding topics like race—and “racism,” and gender—and “feminism.” For Fox seems to be tagging along as a kind of red-headed stepsister to the far left media, essentially normalizing, tepidly at times, what is essentially a progressivist narrative on those hot topics.
Oh, yes, I can hear the objections to my assertion: Fox is just trying to defend the genuine “concept of equality” against those who wish to pervert it in racial and gender matters—Fox is trying to fight back against the extremists who have subverted our traditions of fairness and equal justice under the law. And then: we must admit that Fox defends religious freedom against those who wish to extinguish it. Finally, Fox has been in the forefront of exposing the Russia Hoax and defending the president. Isn’t this true? After all, what else is there?
How, then, can I be so harsh in my criticism?
These are good questions, questions that should be addressed.
I would respond by acknowledging that the network has defended President Trump and helped to expose the Russia Hoax and does generally defend religious freedom. But I would also cite other facts included in any number of past installments in the MY CORNER series which examine how the network and many of its commenters often split hairs, and in the name of opposing the far Left, end up as no real opposition at all.
Consider the number of pundits who are involved in same sex unions who now appear regularly on the network and Fox’s apparent de facto acceptance of that assault on an essential belief of Western civilization. Or, consider Fox’s canonization of race hustler Martin Luther King Jr. and the disastrous civil rights revolution, and its eagerness to attack older traditions and figures of conservatism, in particular, of the Confederacy, as “racists,” “segregationists,” and “reactionaries”. (Remember Fox host Brian Kilmeade’s series on the “Civil War” which could have been—and maybe was—taken right out of Marxist historian Eric Foner’s textbooks?) Or, consider the network’s nearly complete support for globalism and employing American arms (and the lives of American boys) to impose “democracy” (and thus current “American values”) on every poor, benighted desert oasis or impenetrable jungle in every God-forsaken corner of the world. I would argue strenuously that this internationalism is, both historically and philosophically, a leftist position and that it stands in direct opposition to traditional American conservatism.
Such “conservative opposition” ends up through its faint, often nugatory response to the far left actually solidifying a generally progressivist advance, whether in issues regarding race and gender, and perhaps more fundamentally, in the very understanding of what America is--or should be--all about.
In a real sense, this is what the presidential election of 2016 was all over. In that election it was Donald Trump who (perhaps in spite of himself) symbolized a return to an older understanding, and that understanding stood—and stands—in stark contradiction to the view of America and what defines this country held by both the far Left AND most talking heads at Fox and in the Neoconservative foreign policy establishment in Washington: frenetic globalism abroad and acceptance of an essentially progressivist template on issues of race and gender at home, even when protesting otherwise.
Tucker Carlson seems to understand this better than anyone else at Fox. His nightly comments usually at the beginning of his programs offer insight into his thinking. Of course, he is part of the Fox, and he cannot be expected to critique his own network, even if he should take positions which are at direct variance with the general drift clearly observed.
Somehow he manages to balance that with his own refreshingly free-of-cant, non-Neoconservative views on most (but not all) topics. And, certainly, it helps that his prime time program is ranked number one in its time slot. What news network is going to kill the goose that lays the golden egg?
Just as critical as he has been of the lunacy of the Democrats and the loony progressivists, he has not exempted the establishment Republicans from his withering criticism, either. And most recently he offered one of those remarkable monologues that you don’t expect to ever hear from someone who calls himself a “conservative” these days, but, down deep, you know for a fact is absolutely true.
Just as international financier and billionaire George Soros has been a kind of power behind the throne of dozens of leftist movements, foundations, and action, including major elements of the Democratic Party, so the Koch brothers have exercised a tremendous influence in GOP circles, and in shaping Republican positions on such hot button issues as immigration, feminism, and the future of the Internet. And that influence, Carlson declared forcefully, is the antithesis of what voters who voted for Donald Trump in 2016 wanted or desired.
Below are his comments from Wednesday, June 19; they should be nailed to the walls of Congress and sent to every Republican candidate running for office in 2020: where do YOU stand—with the Koch brothers, or with the grass roots Americans who made their choice known in 2016?
Time to ‘fess up.
The news broke (in England) at the beginning of last week that Pulitzer Prize winning biographer of the late Martin Luther King Jr., Dr. David Garrow, had unearthed a cache of new documents, many supposedly under strict lock-and-key at least until 2027, detailing some horrific cases of sexual activity by King, as many as forty such incidents, and one in which King stood by and watched and egged on a fellow black Baptist minister.
Here is the background of what happened: On January 31, 1977, Federal District Judge John Lewis Smith signed a court order that instructed the FBI to deposit all of its extensive electronic surveillance material—audio tapes, notes accompanying, etc.—with the National Archives, and sealing them for fifty years. However, as Garrow relates in a blockbuster article (nearly 8,000 words, with documentation) in the English journal, Standpoint:
…in recent months, hundreds of never-before-seen FBI reports and surveillance summaries concerning King have silently slipped into public view on the Archives’ lightly-annotated and difficult-to-explore web site. This has occurred thanks to the provisions of The President John F. Kennedy Assassination Records Collection Act, which mandated the public release of tens of thousands of government documents, many of which got swept up into congressional investigations of US intelligence agencies predating Judge Smith’s order. Winnowing the new King items from amidst the Archive’s 54,602 web-links, many of which lead to multi-document PDFs that are hundreds of pages long, entailed weeks of painstaking work.
In his long essay Garrow continues his explanation of how supposed-to-be secret documents and tapes became available to him:
Wiretap summaries…were supposed to be sealed pursuant to Judge Smith’s 1977 order, but by then the Department of Justice had forced the FBI to share many of its King records with the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence Activities, often called the Church Committee after the name of its chairman, Idaho Democrat Frank Church. In turn, all of the FBI’s documents relating to the Church Committee and the subsequent House Select Committee on Assassinations came to be covered by the 1992 Kennedy assassination records act.
Now, Garrow is not a conservative, no right wing fanatic out to “besmirch” the reputation of the late civil rights icon. Not at all.
He was—at least until this article and its implications—a highly respected, liberal author and academic, whose biography of King, Bearing the Cross (1986), won him praise and a Pulitzer, and has been used as the basis of film and screen adaptations.
But after his Standpoint essay, The Washington Post dropped the guillotine’s blade on him: he had said and written too much, he was no longer a “respectable” (that is, establishment liberal) historian, his findings were pronounced to be “dubious” and “of little value.” Indeed, the Post found a whole slew of its favored leftwing “historians” to literally denounce Garrow for his transgressions, even though he had written that he believed these new revelations would not damage King’s reputation [“No. Not at all. I don’t think that’s possible”].
The FBI recordings and notes document as many as forty “sexual episodes” involving King, a married man, with women, many of them “rough” and unnatural sex. But perhaps the most revolting occurred when King and a fellow black pastor, Logan Kearse, were staying at the Willard Hotel in Washington D.C., in early January 1964.
Professor David Greenberg of Rutgers University, writing in the highly-respected Politico, June 4, raises a number of serious questions about these new revelations and what they may portend not just for the “King legacy” and its meaning, but also for how Americans view their history. Unlike The Washington Post and other zealously leftist media outlets who either attempted to ignore the story, or else downplayed it as meaningless “speculation,” not based of substantiated or confirmed fact, Greenberg—no conservative himself—understands that this new documentation and its significance should be confronted. It could not simply be explained away or swept under the carpet and ignored.
Certainly, as Greenberg admits, many of our American heroes, despite their many virtues, have had “feet of clay,” have had their faults. Nevertheless, we have continued to admire them…at least, that has been the case until fairly recently, when, it seems the fanatical Neo-Marxist social justice warriors have sought to totally cleanse our culture and our country of practically all figures of historical significance, specifically if they were white and male. Now no one is safe from the howling and frenzied mob of brainwashed students and professional race-and-sex warriors.
And it is not just the statues to Confederate volunteers who went off to war and died for their states, such as the “Silent Sam” monument that was violently toppled by a crazed mob on the campus of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill on August 20, 2018, or the equestrian monument to Robert E. Lee at Charlottesville, Virginia. Now literally the existence or names of hundreds of statues, plaques, schools, highways, and other symbols of historic figures, including of Founders such as Washington, Jefferson and James Madison, are severely threatened with disposal in the waste bin of history…and memory.
Will these new revelations affect King’s contemporary position in America, a position and symbolism revered not only by the political and cultural Left, but also by the pseudo-conservative establishment, who also claim his legacy?
Not likely. The King case is unique. As demonstrated by The Washington Post’s strenuous attempt to discredit Garrow and defend King as a kind of plaster saint, largely untouchable, but also illustrated by the reaction of the dominant Neoconservatives (on Fox News), King’s status will remain sacrosanct in the increasingly authoritarian culture and society where the new dogmas on race and sex reign supreme, and woe be to anyone who dares transgress or come close to denying them.
Witness an episode on the Laura Ingraham Show (May 29, 2019), after both the [London] Sunday Times and Daily Mail had first reported the revelations. Dinesh D’Souza, who fancies himself an historian of merit, but whose level of historical knowledge and comprehension is far less than that of my intelligent cocker spaniel Jasper, attempted to explain that all America’s black leaders historically were conservatives and Republicans: “[When I think of] The great black Americans of our history I think of Frederick Douglass, Ida B. Wells, Harriet Tubman and Booker T. Washington," he said during an interview with Laura Ingraham on Fox News. “All of these were Republicans, they were conservatives….” And Martin Luther King was just the latest in that line: he had his faults, yes, but his “message of equality” was far greater and simply must be celebrated by all, including conservatives. He was, in short, an epochal giant who ushered in the final stage of completing that revolutionary message.
And in this sense, D’Souza like the dominant Neoconservative narrative, echoed another vaunted exponent of the King mythology, Jonah Goldberg (August 28, 2013):
“…the genius of King’s appeal to an ideal of colorblindness was deeply patriotic, rooted in the foundational principles of the republic….When the architects of our republic wrote the magnificent words of the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence, they were signing a promissory note to which every American was to fall heir. This note was a promise that all men, yes, black men as well as white men, would be guaranteed the unalienable rights of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. In the American context, these are universal appeals. King pleaded for the fulfillment of America’s classically liberal revolution.” [Italics mine].
Which is a complete inversion of the American Founding and a more-or-less misreading, purposeful or not, of American history.
The symbolic canonization of Martin Luther King and the obligatory imposition of his cult on the nation was and is an action, collaborated in by both the zealous progressivist Left and the slightly less-Leftist Establishment conservative movement, with more dogmatic power and enforcement than any hierarch in Rome or any despot in Soviet Russia ever dreamed of, because it is more pervasive, far more than skin deep or simply a prophylactic, as the old Soviet power over Eastern Europe was for forty-five years. It is emblematic of not only the insistence on external assent in actions and words, but of a steady internalization which is equally monitored, the slightest variance from which brings excommunication, denunciation, loss of reputation and position, shunning, shaming, and even imprisonment.
This, then, is the legacy of King and those like him, those who protected him and glorified him, and the so-called civil rights transformation which opened the door wide for the aberrations and hideous results in racial and sexual questions we see and experience around us today.
No. Would that the Garrow revelations meant a serious re-examination of King, but they probably won’t. For there is literally no one of stature willing, no one fearless enough, to risk the obloquy and defamation to follow. We must, hopefully, wait for some future generation to do that.
This piece was previously posted on My Corner on June 8, 2019.
June 3 of this year is the two-hundred and eleventh anniversary of the birth of Jefferson Davis. Born in Kentucky in 1808, actually not far from the birthplace of his future nemesis, Abraham Lincoln, Davis in another time might have risen to become in his own right a celebrated president of the United States. As it was, it was his thankless duty to captain the forlorn Confederacy through four years of tragic and bloody war which saw the end not only of the society and culture he loved, but, in effect, the practical end of the old constitutional republic originally set up by the Founders.
From a good family and with advantages that augured well for future prominence, Davis at an early age demonstrated both leadership potential and intelligence. Like many other well-bred Southern boys of the period, he received a superb classical education. In 1815 Davis entered the of Saint Thomas Catholic school at St. Rose Priory, a school operated by the Dominican Order in Washington County, Kentucky. At the time, he was the only Protestant student (he was an Episcopalian) at the school. As a boy he desired to enter the Church, but his age and family argued against it. Nevertheless, he would carry a strong affection and love for the Catholic Church throughout his life.
His famous war time correspondence with Pope Pius IX, an inveterate foe of liberalism in any form who was pro-Confederate, is famous, and indicates that the pope recognized Davis as de facto head of the Confederate States of America. In his correspondence the pope refers to Davis as the “Illustrious and Honorable President,” an implied recognition of the Confederate government. Responding to Davis’s expressed desire to find a just resolution to the conflict raging between the Confederacy and the North, Pope Pius finishes a letter to the Confederate leader acknowledging that there were, in fact, two separate governments in America: “May it please God,” wrote the pontiff, “at the same time to make the other peoples of America and their rulers…receive and embrace the counsel of peace and tranquility,” as Davis did.
After the conclusion of the war, while Davis was a prisoner in Fortress Monroe, Virginia, the pope addressed to Davis correspondence demonstrating his great sympathy for the Confederate president. The Blessed Pius IX sent a picture of himself to Jefferson Davis with the hand-written inscription: “Come unto me, all ye who are weary and heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” [“Venite ad me omnes qui laboratis, et ego reficiam vos, dicit Dominus” – St. Matthew 11:28] Associated with the famous communication from Pius IX is the equally famous “Crown of Thorns,” for the longest time believed to have been woven by the pope and also remitted to Davis. Davis’s major biographer, Hudson Strode, accepted that account as the correct one.
Yet detailed research by a more modern biographer, Felicity Allen in her Jefferson Davis, Unconquerable Heart, reveals that the crown was most likely woven by Varina Davis. Records donated by the New Orleans Confederate museum and now housed in the Howard-Tilton Memorial Library at Tulane University (Rare Books and Manuscripts Division) indicate that both the autographed photograph of Blessed Pius IX and the crown were originally donated, according to the inventory, in 1891: “The Pope sent this picture to Jefferson Davis whilst a prisoner at Fortress Monroe. Accompanying the picture is a crown of thorns made by Mrs. Davis that hung above it in Mr. Davis’ study.” [Quoted by Felicity Allen from correspondence with Tulane University, August 6, 1985; see for extensive detail: Jeff Davis's Crown of Thorns.]
Unfounded rumors abounded both during and after the war that Davis had converted clandestinely. But he remained an Episcopalian throughout his life. Nevertheless, the sympathy for the Confederacy and its president shown by the pope and the Catholic Church during the war were clear. Robert E. Lee, pointing to his own portrait of Pius IX, told a visitor that he was “the only sovereign…in Europe who recognized our poor Confederacy.”
Although Davis’s tenure at the helm of the Confederacy receives by far the most attention historically, his pre-war career was truly illustrious: A West Point graduate, Davis distinguished himself in the Mexican-American War as a colonel of the Mississippi Rifles volunteer regiment, and as United States Secretary of War under President Franklin Pierce. Both before and after his time in the Pierce administration, he served as a US Senator from Mississippi. As senator, he argued against secession but believed each state had an unquestionable and constitutional right to secede for just cause from the voluntary Union of the Founders, just as they had seceded from England seeking political liberty. Davis resigned from the Senate in January 1861 after receiving word that his State of Mississippi had voted to leave the Union.
Davis explained his actions saying:
“[T]o me the sovereignty of the State was paramount to the sovereignty of the Union. And I held my seat in the Senate until Mississippi seceded and called upon me to follow and defend her. Then I sorrowfully resigned the position in which my State had placed me and in which I could no longer represent her, and accepted the new work. I was on my way to Montgomery when I received, much to my regret, the message that I had been elected provisional President of the Confederate States of America.
Davis had been a patriotic American who tried to save the Founders’ republic from Northern revolutionaries, and who reluctantly departed the Union with the old constitution intact to form a “more perfect Union.” He contended that he would rather be out of the Union with the Constitution than to be in the Union without the Constitution. The Southern States, he stated, seceded not to defend slavery but in order to save the Constitution of the Founders. Davis remarked in July 1864:
“I tried in all my power to avert this war. I saw it coming, and for 12 years, I worked night and day to prevent it, but I could not. The North was mad and blind; it would not let us govern ourselves, and so the war came, and now it must go on till the last man of this generation falls in his tracks, and his children seize the musket and fight our battle, unless you acknowledge our right to self-government. We are not fighting for slavery. We are fighting for Independence, and that, or extermination, we will have . . . Slavery never was an essential element. It was the only means of bringing other conflicting elements to an earlier culmination. It fired the musket which was already capped and loaded. There are essential differences between the North and the South that will, however this war may end, make them two nations.
At the end of the War, when a fellow traveler remarked that the cause of the Confederates was lost, Davis replied: “It appears so. But the principle for which we contended is bound to reassert itself, though it may be at another time and in another form.”
Davis was critical of the Gilded Age corruption and political ignorance of the United States Constitution. In 1881 he remarked: “Of what value then are paper constitutions and oaths binding officers to their preservation, if there is not intelligence enough in the people to discern the violations; and virtue enough to resist the violators?”
President Davis was never indicted for treason. He demanded a fair trial in order to argue the constitutionality of the South’s actions in 1860-1861. This was denied by his Jacobin tormenters, and the reason was revealed by Chief Justice of the US Supreme Court, Salmon P. Chase, in 1867. Chase admitted that:
“If you bring these leaders to trial, it will condemn the North, for by the Constitution, secession is not a rebellion. His [Jefferson Davis] capture was a mistake. His trial will be a greater one. We cannot convict him of treason.” [quoted by Herman S. Frey, in Jefferson Davis, 1977, pp. 69-72]
President Davis died on December 6, 1889. In death as in life, citizens across the South mourned his passing and honored him as their champion.
In 1893 his body was transported by funeral train to Richmond where he was interred at Hollywood Cemetery. At each stop thousands of mourners, white and black, paid respects. In Raleigh historic photographs show a mammoth procession down Fayetteville Street. My grandfather (on my mother’s side), then a thirteen year old apprentice, stood along the street paying respects to Davis, and he would, sixty-seven years later, recount that moving and indelible experience to me, his young grandson.
Our traditions do not really die. Sometimes, under attack, they remain dormant, to be re-awakened by new generations that re-discover them and the supreme importance that they have played, and can continue to play, in our lives, if we let them.
That’s right: It is time to disestablish our public school system, sell or lease the public school facilities to various independent associations (e.g., family groups, churches, corporations, etc.), and use the tax monies as vouchers for parents for their school age children so they may go where parents judge best.
It’s time, it’s right, and it’s necessary if the nation and our state survive.
Back on Wednesday, May 1, thirty-four public school systems in North Carolina closed for a day in the middle of the week so that teachers and support staff could travel to the state capital Raleigh to engage in an organized mass demonstration titled “Red 4 Ed.” The rally was organized by the North Carolina Association of Educators (NCAE)—and the object was to demand that state legislators give them large salary raises and additional benefits for their work in and out of the classroom. Dressed out in red T-shirts with a Marxist-style clenched fist emblazoned on the front, participants partially surrounded the State Legislative building and screamed out their demands. Some demonstrators at this “non-partisan” rally held signs demanding Medicaid expansion (a hot political issue in the state General Assembly) and, of course, “gun control” (e.g., “more funds, less [sic!] guns” a sign read—hopefully, this placard was not created by an English teacher!!). And anti-Trump sentiment was
also present, if mostly just below the surface.
Raleigh Police estimated that “fewer than 19,000” attended the May 1 rally, fewer than the rally held on May 1 last year. Yet, the loquacious leftwing Mark Jewell, President of the NCAE, estimated the total at 30,000, going so far as to tweet out a highly doctored photograph attempting to prove his assertion; when called out for his dishonesty by others and by other photographers, Jewell conveniently deleted his post [“How big was the teacher’s rally? NC education leader posted an altered crowd photo,” The News & Observer, May 2, 2019]
Among the speakers at the rally was the irrepressible black extremist and radical social justice advocate the Reverend William Barber who
…wrapped up the rally, giving his first speech on the grounds since he was banned from the property after a [violent] protest in 2017. A judge recently lifted the restriction, specifically denying a prosecutor’s request that Barber be kept away at least until after the teachers rally, because he tends to draw a crowd. “They didn’t want me to come,” Barber told the crowd, “but it looks like they’ve got a bigger problem than me.” Barber told the teachers, teacher assistants, nurses, counselors, custodians and other school workers who stood in the sun that they were right — morally, legally, constitutionally and religiously — to stand where legislators could hear them and demand better treatment. “It’s time to teach them a lesson,” he said again and again, to the teachers’ cheers. Barber especially praised the group’s solidarity, advocating not only for themselves but for each other and the students…“Together,” he said, “we will turn North Carolina around.” [For the second year, teachers march through Raleigh demanding more education funding, News & Observer, May 1, 2019.]
Interestingly, the average salary (as of March 2019) for a public school teacher in North Carolina comes in at $53,975, and the General Assembly is proposing the restoration of extra pay for advanced degrees and pay raises ranging from 1 percent or $500 for school support staff to 4.6 percent for teachers, 6.3 percent for assistant principals and 10 percent for principals. The Republican-sponsored budget would bring teacher pay to $55,600 by 2020. Such figures are actually higher than what the average North Carolinian makes per year: $52,752 (by 2017 figures). Thus, teachers currently average $1,223 more per annum than the average Tar Heel makes.
Yet this is not seen as anywhere nearly sufficient by the unionized NCAE which is joined at the hip to the state Democratic Party. The NCAE is demanding a $15 minimum wage for school support staff, a five percent raise for all school employees and a five percent cost of living adjustment for retirees; Medicaid expansion statewide; and the hiring of “thousands of additional staff psychologists, social workers, counselors, nurses, and other health professionals” to meet the “national standard.” In reality, this effort was little more than politics at its worse: using teachers as pawns in a larger battle against the Republican legislature. No doubt, if the GOP General Assembly were to raise all salaries by $10,000, there would still be rancorous complaints from the NCAE and its minions.
One friend, a retired educator and college professor, remarked that given the state of public education in North Carolina, were our public school system a private business, probably half of those teachers would be terminated for ineptitude and inability to perform their jobs. Of course, there are many dedicated public school teachers who deserve our appreciation and support—but could they not do even better if not weighed down by excess bureaucracy and unqualified fellow personnel?
That comment is no exaggeration when you consider the relative success of the operation of charter schools in the state (cf., Lindsay Marchello, “A Public Decision: School Choice has a Long History in North Carolina,” Carolina Journal, May 2019, pp. 1 et seq.). The Raleigh Charter High School, for example, ranks as one of the top high schools in the United States, and it achieves that without an expensive sports program, without a cafeteria serving three meals a day, without an auditorium, and without all the additional “support staff” deemed so necessary by public educators.
Our public school system has increasingly become not so much a vehicle for educating our children as rather a massive Petri dish in which to incubate future social and cultural revolutionaries who are “woke” to the perceived “crises” in the environment, to the “white racism” inherent in our history and societal structures, to the misogyny and “toxic masculinity” which has oppressed women (and the LGBTQ community), and to the absolute imperative to “overthrow” the institutionalized “prejudice” and “inequality” that characterize our society and our republic.
Thus, any opposition to such demonstrations as we saw on May 1, even the slightest demurrer or questioning of the basic premises of such manifestations and demands is met with shrieking accusations—the same ones we are now accustomed to hear regarding so many other issues—about race, gender, prejudice, equality and “right-wing extremism.”
Here, for example, is long-time Democrat strategist and former special assistant to Democrat Governor Jim Hunt, Gary Pearce, making those accusations:
…why the anti-teacher, anti-public-school rhetoric and action? There are five reasons: race, religion, ideology, politics and – as is so often the case in politics – money….Under Trump, the Republican Party is dominated by rural, high-school-educated whites. Hostility to “race-mixing” still runs strong….Sometimes this is camouflage for race, and sometimes its [sic] sincere conviction. The Supreme Court not only struck down school segregation, it “took God and prayer out of the schools”….The Republican Party today holds to a rigid right-wing ideology that is rabidly anti-government….The rise of anti-public-school politics coincides with the rise of an ultra-wealthy, ultra-reactionary oligarchy…who have deployed their wealth to shape politics, dictate policy and reshape society in a way that serves their own selfish interests at the expense of most Americans.
The message is clear: if you in any way oppose the full demands of the educational establishment—the real oligarchy—and the Democratic Party, you must be a racist, a bigot, an intolerant Christian fanatic, or somehow connected to “ultra-reactionary, ultra-wealthy oligarchs”—and one of those unenlightened “rural, high-school-educated whites”! (Notice the dripping ill-concealed condescension.)
And you should just shut up. Got that?
Fascinating: back in 1981 it was a critical phone call by Pearce that assisted me in getting a full time position (initially pretty low paying, but it was still a job) with the Department of Cultural Resources. But in 1981, it seems, Pearce had not yet “evolved” into the raving social justice fanatic he apparently is now, and the old Democrat Party still had room for folks with traditional ideas about merit over race and gender.
Over 140 years ago the great Southern theologian, essayist, and critic Robert Lewis Dabney prophesied the future failure of public education in a series of essays he penned for Planter and Farmer magazine and later for the Richmond Enquirer (1876). State-run education imposed an unnatural equality on students and exposed the school system to ideological manipulation by “demagogues, who are in power for a time, in the interests of their faction.” “Providence, social laws, and parental virtues and efforts, do inevitably legislate in favor of some classes of boys,” he declared. “If the State undertakes to countervail that legislation of nature by leveling action, the attempt is wicked, mischievous, and futile.” The older system of largely private education left “the school as the creature of the parents, and not of the state….This old system evinced its wisdom by avoiding the pagan, Spartan theory, which makes the State the parent. It left the parent supreme in his God-given sphere, as the responsible party for providing and directing the education of his own offspring.” (R. L. Dabney, “The State Free School System,” reprinted in Dabney, Discussions, vol. IV, “Secular,” pp. 201-210)
So, yes, our legislature—and legislatures around the country—must continue the process of disestablishment: more charter schools, more support for home schoolers, more voucher programs, more parental control, with a final goal that our public school system—which is now serving as a vehicle for ideological and cultural indoctrination—be dismantled. Let newly-formed associations of parents, corporations (why not Duke Power, Red Hat, etc), church organizations, and others assume control of buildings and use them; why not take the tax monies collected and disperse them accordingly? Would this not be real school choice? And, if in some few cases, perhaps in some poorer counties, this would work less well, then certainly there would be no time limit in the process of disestablishment.
In the long run our students—our children—will be far better off, better educated, and better prepared to meet the challenges of the 21st century. And the ideological incubation so prevalent today would, hopefully, in large part subside.
Boyd D. Cathey holds a doctorate in European history from the Catholic University of Navarra, Pamplona, Spain, where he was a Richard Weaver Fellow, and an MA in intellectual history from the University of Virginia (as a Jefferson Fellow). He was assistant to conservative author and philosopher the late Russell Kirk. In more recent years he served as State Registrar of the North Carolina Division of Archives and History. He has published in French, Spanish, and English, on historical subjects as well as classical music and opera. He is active in the Sons of Confederate Veterans and various historical, archival, and genealogical organizations.