As part of its campaign to pander to the important and urgent needs of African-Americans with extremely divisive yet ultimately performative identity politics, the Biden-Harris administration has announced that it will resume Barack Obama’s decision in 2015 to remove Andrew Jackson from the twenty-dollar bill and replace him with Harriet Tubman.
Jonathan Waldman’s celebratory and condescending column in The Washington Post exemplifies the ‘smugnorance’ of ‘gliberal’ opinion:
Back in 2016, when Barack Obama was president, the Treasury Department announced that the $20 bill would be redesigned to feature Harriet Tubman, the former enslaved person [this is the new politically correct terminology for ‘slave’] who led others to freedom. In order to avoid offending people too much, President Andrew Jackson, who currently occupies the front of the $20, would not be banished completely but would have his image placed on the back of the bill, rather smaller in size.
ow doomed are the ‘United’ States of America when something which should be as mundane as whose faces are on the currency becomes a battleground for identity politics? Can anyone imagine the Chinese or the Russians inflicting this upon themselves?
Amusingly, ‘Dr.’ Waldman (I assume a liberal pundit like him wants his Ph.D in Communications duly noted) is the obverse of the ignorant, outraged conservative to whom he condescends in his column. Despite his know-it-all tone, he clearly knows nothing about either Jackson or Tubman aside from whatever children’s stories he learned in Social Studies and Sunday School, yet he is as excited about the change as his strawman conservative is upset about it.
I can already hear my inner libertarian whispering, ‘What’s worse, the government changing whose face is printed on our money or the fact that the government is printing our money in the first place?’ Admittedly, cultural and social issues like this one are often fodder for keeping the people disunited on the issues which directly affect their liberties and their livelihoods. So who really cares how the Treasury Department is rebranding its currency when the new Treasury Secretary spent the past four years collecting a small fortune in speaking fees from financial institutions which she formerly regulated and which she will now regulate again? Yet what the libertarians and the socialists who make such objections cannot understand (because they are perverted mirror-images of each other) is how degrading the heroic figures on our currency and depreciating the value of that same currency are, in fact, two sides of the same coin. The latter is a form of economic warfare which impoverishes us materially and the former is a form of psychological warfare which demoralises us (which is another way of saying ‘impoverishes us spiritually’).
I have written about Jackson from the perspective of a Jeffersonian American Southerner several times before. In ‘The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly,’ I attempted a comprehensive assessment of Jackson’s biography and legacy, which if nothing else contains enough information for others to make up their own minds. In ‘The Cause of Jackson is the Cause of Us All,’ I criticised the Obama-Biden administration’s redesign of the twenty-dollar bill and the Red Team’s craven non-response. I also reviewed Bradley J. Birzer’s In Defense of Andrew Jackson, which is a good book even though the author was so drawn into the cult of personality around Jackson that he apparently forgot to do his research when it came to Jackson’s temper tantrums.
Jackson is an American legend who risked his life for his country when the life of that country was itself at risk.6 The Abbeville Institute’s Brion McClanahan was right to include Jackson next to Davy Crockett in his Politically Incorrect Guide to Real American Heroes. Yet however brave and brilliant of a leader he was on the battlefield, Jackson was more of a barbarian ‘chieftain’ than a civilised ‘commander-in-chief.’ He demanded absolute personal loyalty and reacted to anyone whom he believed had betrayed him as if he had betrayed the Union itself – personal weaknesses which made it child’s play for other politicians to manipulate him to their ends and caused conflict not only within his administration but also within the Union.
Needless to say, I am not a ‘Jacksonian,’ especially since the few pro-Trump neoconservatives have appropriated that term in order to rebrand their same old ‘invade the world, invite the world, in hock to the world’ agenda as nationalistic and populist instead of globalist and elitist. That said, I am absolutely opposed to this historical purging of Jackson – not so much because of who he was, but more because of who he represents. Jackson’s enemies want him erased because he was a white male slave-master and Indian fighter who was, as a Scotch-Irish frontiersman in contrast to the Anglo-descended and Atlantic-oriented Founders, arguably the first native American President.
Like many Blue Teamers, Joe Biden is a left-Lincolnian American, though his Vice President, Kamala Harris, is a part of the next generation of Anti-American 1619ers (who claim that, as she herself put it in a speech calling for ‘Columbus Day’ to be renamed ‘Indigenous Peoples Day,’ our country is ‘the scene of a crime’). Pres. Biden is attempting to make a separate peace with these 1619ers, and though it may buy this doddering octogenarian enough time to pretend to be Abraham Lincoln, there will be no peace in our time. Eventually the 1619ers will come for the left-Lincolnians, too.
Remember, during the horrific ‘Summer of 1619,’ all of the slippery-slope arguments that have been made against Confederate history slipped into all of American history. The Anti-American 1619ers know that the American South has always been the internal other and eternal villain in Lincolnian America, which was why they isolated and attacked it first. The Lincolnians were so self-righteous, however, that they did not realise that these 1619ers were not conventional Lincolnians like them and had no respect for the American ‘Treasury of Virtue,’ either. These 1619ers are, in other words, attacking from the high ground which feckless ‘conservatives’ and ‘liberals’ have ceded to them in a futile attempt to remain politically correct.
The right-Lincolnians on the Red Team are regressing to their traditional role of denying what is happening in the present by rewriting what happened in the past. ‘Harriet Tubman replacing Andrew Jackson is actually conservative!’ these hucksters are boasting. ‘Did you know that Jackson was a Democrat and that Tubman was a Republican?’ Scott Greer (who has written about ‘The Humiliation of the Harriet Tubman $20’ at Revolver) has termed this type of argument ‘political judo.’ This was the Red Team’s belly-up (or, to be brutally honest, bent-over) position in 2015, too, when the Obama-Biden administration first announced this change.
Such stupefying ignorance must be confronted because it is so cancerous on the Red Team. Do Red Teamers really expect patriotic Americans to believe that Jackson, Martin Van Buren, John C. Calhoun, and Thomas H. Benton are in any way personally or politically comparable to Anti-American 1619ers like AOC, Ilhan Omar, Ayanna Pressley, and Rashida Tlaib? To put it in simplistic Blue/Red terms, the Democrats in the 1800s were the party of small business and small government, while the Republicans in the 1800s were the party of big business and big government. If these Red Teamers were alive when Jackson was elected President, then they would have been Democrats (or maybe not, but that is just as useful information).
There are some Jeffersonian Americans (usually the ones leaning more libertarian) who, because of their historical grievances with Jackson, reckon that he is getting what he deserved. This argument is not as intellectually debased as ‘Jackson big Democrat, Democrats big bad, Jackson big bad’ argument of Red Teamers, but it is no less petty and ultimately self-defeating.
Trust me, the 1619er purging of Jackson has nothing whatsoever to do with whether he exceeded his orders during the Seminole Affair, whether he got too personally entangled in the Petticoat Affair, whether his policy of patronage made corruption better or worse, whether he was right to resort to violence when South Carolina nullified the tariff, whether he exercised his veto power properly, whether replacing the national bank with his pet banks was constitutional monetary policy, whether his disbursement of the Treasury surplus was constitutional fiscal policy, whether the gag order was the wisest way to respond to anti-slavery petitions, whether Indian removal was the lesser or greater evil facing the five civilised tribes, or any of the other issues which Jeffersonian and Lincolnian Americans have debated in good faith over the years. Do you even think that prigs like Dr. Waldman at The Washington Post have ever heard of any of the above? Like it or not, as far as the Lincolnian Americans and the Anti-American 1619ers are concerned, Jackson represents us Jeffersonian Americans at the Abbeville Institute.
Although ‘representation matters’ is a reductive slogan in support of disunifying and undemocratic identity politics, there is nothing wrong with African-American historical representation per se. In fact, given the unique role that African-Americans have played in American history, they should be much more represented than they are. The fact that African-Americans are not better-represented is an example of how past racism can manifest itself in the present, albeit in an inert state. Yet as much as this remnant of racism may be well past its half-life, the Anti-American 1619ers nevertheless claim that it is literal white supremacy endangering their lives, the left-Lincolnian Americans hasten to appease this racial hypochondria, and right-Lincolnians retreat further into their historical fables. Jeffersonian Americans, meanwhile, are left by ourselves wondering how and why our country has gone so insane.
Historical representation for African-Americans is fair, but why Harriet Tubman? There are many other African-Americans who made a greater contribution to the course of American history.
Frederick Douglass, for example, was a major abolitionist and civil-rights leader. (The historian David W. Blight’s recent Pulitzer-winning biography on Douglass definitively claims his place in history.)
Booker T. Washington braved the discrimination, segregation, and terrorism of ‘Jim Crow’ to create educational and vocational opportunities for his people (while Afro-Marxists like W.E.B. Du Bois and Langston Hughes sniped at him from up north as an ‘accommodationist’).
The Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., who practically singlehandedly accomplished the Civil-Rights Revolution through sheer force of moral authority, should go without saying.
Trailblazing athletes like Jackie Robinson and Jesse Owens – or even modern athletes like Michael Jordan and Tiger Woods – arguably contributed more to the advancement of African-Americans than Tubman.
If Jackson must be replaced by a black woman so that the Biden-Harris administration can check off more identity-politics boxes, then someone like Ida B. Wells (who was a truly ‘intersectional’ leader for black civil rights, women’s suffrage, and organised labour)10 is much more qualified than Tubman.
‘Sojourner Truth’ is another African-American woman whose real biography and legacy have, like Tubman’s, been distorted through affirmative-action history. Yet from what is actually known about each of them, she did more good in her life than Tubman.
Although Tubman is portrayed today as an attractive action hero, her story has been sensationalised and sentimentalised in the melodramatic style of anti-slavery fiction like Uncle Tom’s Cabin. Tubman was not only unable to read or write (and thus was not able to leave a definitive account of her life), but also was an epileptic and narcoleptic prone to severe hallucinations (which may account for all the contradictory and uncorroborated claims that she made about herself).
Historians know that not very much is actually known about Tubman’s life and that much of what people think they know is a myth.
In an essay in The New York Review of Books, Prof. James M. McPherson of Princeton University (the Pulitzer-winning author of the Oxford History of the Civil War Era who recently made headlines for joining with other experts to criticise ‘The 1619 Project’) traced the historiography of the Tubman myth and attempted to assemble a factual rather than fictional biography.
According to Prof. Milton Sernett of Syracuse University (author of Harriet Tubman: Myth, Memory, and History) in ‘The Truths Behind the Myths of Harriet Tubman,’ she ‘is an American heroine, but her life story is shrouded in myth and exaggeration.’
When the Obama-Biden administration first announced the replacement of Jackson with Tubman on the twenty-dollar bill, Jamiles Lartey wrote an article for The Guardian, ‘Harriet Tubman: The Woman, the Myth, the Legend Muddied by $20 Bill Plaudits,’ trying to manage public expectations. Mr. Lartey interviewed Kate Larson, a biographer of Tubman who stated, ‘I am stunned and excited and thrilled that Harriet Tubman is having her day, but at the same time, for so many years, I have been working towards rewriting those myths.’
These are just a few examples. We simply do not know very much about the truth of Tubman’s life. She was a slave who escaped from the Upper-Southern State of Maryland and braved going back there in order to help some of the slaves she knew escape, but the ‘thousands’ of slaves that she claimed to have freed throughout the Deep South are likely legends. She may have served the Union as a nurse (and maybe even as a scout and a spy) during the War, but the ‘raids’ that she claimed to have led against Confederate troops are also likely legends.
Although it is not fair that history ‘forgot’ Tubman for so long, it is not all that surprising, because the politically incorrect truth is that however interesting and inspiring her individual story may be, she herself is individually not that important. If Tubman had never escaped slavery herself and was simply emancipated during the War – or even if Tubman had died when she was struck on the head by an overseer – American history would probably not have happened all that differently from how it did happen. Yet it would be impossible, by contrast – quite literally impossible – for history to forget Jackson, who was arguably the most important person alive in his time and place, ‘The Age of Jackson’ or ‘Jacksonian America.’
We do know, however, that Tubman she helped plan the ultra-abolitionist John Brown’s terrorist attack on Harper’s Ferry, which had it succeeded was intended to start a slave insurrection and exterminate the white population of the American South.13 Brown’s raid (to be specific, the refusal of Republican officials in Northern states to enforce the law, arrest the conspirators, and extradite them to Virginia, as well as the positive reaction to Brown among the Northern intelligentsia) was one of the final cuts convincing the Southern states to secede from the Union after a Republican was elected President on Northern electoral votes alone. Anti-American 1619ers are also getting a monument in Richmond, Virginia, to Brown’s predecessor, the woman- and children-slaughtering Nat Turner, which is so perverse that it is comparable to if the Muscogee Nation built a monument in honour of Col. Jackson and his Tennessean militiamen. When the 1619ers are dreaming about a nightmarish race war, surely some of the less ideological Lincolnian Americans must be reconsidering their strategy of politically correct appeasement?
I stopped trying to reason with the Lincolnians and the 1619ers a long time ago. I once believed that an earnest, informed argument was capable of changing people’s minds, but I have since learned that is not how people (especially Americans in this hyper-partisan and hyper-tribal environment) think. For example, I told myself that no American could honestly hate someone as honourable and humane as Robert E. Lee. How could anyone hate one of the most tragic and heroic figures of such a tragic and heroic civil war, who said things like ‘slavery as an institution is a moral and political evil in any country’ and ‘if the Government is disrupted, I shall return to my native State and share the miseries of my people, and save in defence will draw my sword on none’? He was no ‘slaver’ or ‘traitor’ – and if he was, then so was his father, Henry Lee III (who was one of George Washington’s most loyal soldiers), and so was Washington himself. Yet hate him they do,14 and the only thing that they see as tragic about that civil war is that more ‘slavers’ and ‘traitors’ like Lee were not shot or hanged. Lee was a much more honourable and humane man than Jackson, so if they hate the former then there is no reason for them not to hate the latter, too.
I once believed that ‘presentism’ (making ethical and intellectual judgements about the past with the ethical and intellectual standards of the present) was simply political correctness run amok and that Americans were people who meant well and would stop if they knew better. Now I know that presentism is actually an authentic expression of that peculiar Yankee character of self-loathing and self-righteousness that has contaminated the American national character.
I once believed that this conflict over symbols could be solved through compromise. Why could the Biden-Harris administration not do with lesser-known but no-less-important figures like Tubman what the U.S. Mint has done with our states, our parks, our historical events, and other historical figures: Issue commemorative (and collectible) coinage? Why stop at commemorative and collectible coinage, however? Why not embark on a public-works project of building new monuments to include other Americans who have traditionally been excluded from the narrative of American history? Such a project would beautify public spaces while also edifying the public’s historical consciousness. As silly as ‘The Garden of American Heroes’ seemed, it at least had the right idea. Now I know, however, that taking things away from us is the whole point and that we get nothing back for what we give up. The Anti-American 1619ers are not benevolently trying to right a wrong. They chant about ‘diversity,’ ‘equity’ and ‘inclusion,’ but to them these words are simply euphemisms for ‘victory.’ They have the barbaric mentality of one tribe that has conquered another tribe, is tearing down their idols to their old gods, and forcing them to bow down to their new gods.
My mission is not to try to change anyone’s mind anymore, but to ‘preach to the choir,’ so to speak. I want to communicate with those Americans and Southerners who are afraid and angry about what is happening to our identity and our patrimony – to the people who have been curtly informed by Washington Post columnists ‘we understand your feelings, we get why you don’t like this, but we’re doing it anyway, you’ll get used to it.’ I want them to know that they are not alone and do not have to feel ashamed of who they are and where they come from anymore.
Given the changing demographics of this country, it is inevitable that the symbols of our people will be removed and replaced with the symbols of a new people. The terrifying Summer of 1619 was an acceleration of this process. The Blue Team is dominated by this new American people – like the Biden-Harris administration’s nominee to lead the Department of Justice’s Civil Rights Division, Kristen Clarke, who in a published article from when she was at Harvard University argued, ‘Melanin endows blacks with greater mental, physical, and spiritual abilities – something which cannot be measured by Eurocentric standards.’ So Jackson is, in Anti-Racist America, not just racist, but actually racially inferior to Tubman. When Pres. Biden calls himself a ‘transition candidate,’ this is the future to which he is transitioning.
The Red Team, by contrast, is dominated by craven collaborationists with this new occupation government (literally: look at the now-indefinite military occupation of our capital city!), such as the Lincoln Project. In an article for The American Conservative, ‘We Owe the Lincoln Project Our Thanks,’ Saurabh Sharma argues, ‘They’ve done conservatives a great service by laying bare the grift and hypocrisy at the heart of the Republican establishment.’ In ‘The Lincoln Project, Facing Multiple Scandals, is Accused by its Own Co-Founder of Likely Criminality,’ Glenn Greenwald (who had to resign from the website that he co-founded when it began colluding with the Blue Team, Deep State, and Big Tech to censor his work) argues that ‘liberals heralded this group of life-long scammers, sleaze merchants, and con artists as noble men of conscience, enabling them to fleece and deceive the public.’
Years ago, after reckoning that I had to ‘get right with Jackson,’ I came to the conclusion that instead of puritanically and pettily erasing his image (he is simply too important of a figure to pretend did not exist), it would be more edifying for us to erase the negative ways in which he influenced the office of the presidency and our national character. For example, I compared how Jackson treated the American Indians to how we have treated other poorer and browner people like the American Indians. How can we, un-shamefacedly, seriously condemn a President for atrocities from two centuries ago when we have occupied Afghanistan for 20 years, have totally isolated Venezuela from the global economy, have unilaterally broken a treaty with Iran, have abused the Palestinians living in ‘the world’s largest open-air prison,’ and are complicit in ‘the world’s worst humanitarian crisis’ in Yemen?
Jackson was from a time when and a place where warfare between Americans and Indians, regardless of ‘who started it’ or whatever other games historians like to play, was ‘kill-or-be-killed.’ Even then, Jackson was never genocidal toward the American Indians, but actually paternalistic (even literally so: one of his adopted sons was an American-Indian boy orphaned during the Creek War). Of course, he was not above collectively punishing the American Indians in a state of war – as his retaliatory massacre of the Creek at Horseshoe Bend for the Creek massacre at Fort Mims exemplifies – but he did not want to exterminate their race systematically. In fact, he espoused the policy of ‘Indian removal’ in order to protect the American Indians from the literally genocidal frontiersmen, who would have exterminated them in order to annex their land. Jackson’s brutality came from his brutal experience on the frontier, where conflict between Americans and Indians was an ever-present threat, but even then he still showed some humanity. What is our excuse for using our imperial power to starve and bomb people who pose no threat to us whatsoever?
At the same time, instead of puritanically and pettily erasing Jackson’s image, it would also be edifying for us to emphasise the positive ways in which Jackson influenced office of the presidency and our national character. Jackson, in many ways, continued what Thomas Jefferson started by personifying a popular revolution which significantly ‘democratised’ and ‘liberalised’ American society (which at the time was nevertheless the most democratic and liberal society in the Western world). This is why the Democratic Party, until ‘The Great Awokening,’ proudly claimed Jefferson and Jackson as its founding fathers.
Now I see how utterly naïve these appeals were. The purging of Jackson is not an honest effort to reckon with the good and the bad of our history, as all truly patriotic people should be able to do. Lincolnian Americans like Pres. Biden and Anti-American 1619ers like Vice Pres. Harris are purging Jackson to make an invidious statement that they are better than him and better than the people whom they see him as representing. As Philip Leigh put it in his lecture at the 2019 Abbeville Summer School on the New South, ‘To speak ill of others is a dishonest way of praising ourselves.’
What makes this arrogance and contempt even more offensive is that it is not even true. Jackson, for all his faults, was a genuinely heroic figure whose life illustrates the best and the worst about our country. Anyone who is not an insufferably moralistic ‘presentist’ knows that historically speaking, ‘great’ often does not mean ‘good.’ In any event, no one in the Biden-Harris administration, despite the creepy adoration of the media class, is either great or good.
Speaking in the Senate in 1836, John C. Calhoun (the greatest Southern statesman in American history) contrasted Andrew Jackson and Martin Van Buren:
When the South was divided, the opposition must ever be feeble. It was a historical fact, that all effective opposition to the administration of this Government has come from the South. The North has never been able to turn out an administration. He [Calhoun] intended no disparagement to that great section. He spoke of the fact simply, without pretending to go into the cause; while, on the other hand, the South has never failed to overthrow an administration to which it was opposed. But two administrations had come in against its choice, both of which were speedily and decisively overthrown. General Jackson would soon be out of power, and the administration that may succeed him could not keep the South divided. He would tell the coming Administration to beware. If there be any who expected the President’s nominee [Van Buren] could successfully play the game which he has, he would be woefully mistaken. With all his objections to the President, he would not deny him many high qualities; he had courage and firmness; was bold, warlike, and audacious, though not true to his word, or faithful to his pledges. He had, besides, ‘done the State some service.’ He terminated the late war gloriously at New Orleans, which had been remembered greatly to his advantage. His nominee had none of those recommendations; he is not of the race of the lion or the tiger; he belongs to a lower order – the fox; and it would be in vain to expect that he could command the respect, or acquire the confidence of those who had so little admiration for the qualities by which he was distinguished. By the dexterous use of patronage, for which he and his party were so distinguished, an individual here and there, who preferred himself to the country, might be enlisted; but the great mass, all that were independent and sound in the South, would be finally opposed to him and his system.
Van Buren may have been a vulpine figure compared to the leonine figure of Jackson, but what does that make the left- and right-Lincolnians on the Blue and Red teams today, who are lower even than Van Buren? They are downright verminous and insectile.
Sometimes I am frustrated with how much time I have spent defending Jackson given that he is not someone whom I particularly admire and was often an antagonist to the Jeffersonian historical figures whom I do admire (such as Calhoun, who was far more intelligent and had far more integrity than Jackson). Yet the fact is that Jackson, in death as in life, is in the thick of the fighting, and even though we Jeffersonian Americans have our historic differences with Jackson as a man, Jackson as a symbol is one of us. If Jackson were alive today, he would tell us that you do not always get to choose the ground on which you have to fight. We shall never dishonour ourselves like the right-Lincolnians on the Red Team, who are so afraid of the Blue Team and who are so ashamed of American history that they will only defend it if they can do so on liberal terms. If Jackson were alive today, he would do the same for any of us: He would not abandon his people to others who want us to go extinct and all evidence of our existence to be erased because of comparatively trivial political disagreements.
I have been asked how we can respond to such insults to our heritage as Americans and Southerners. The answer is that there is nothing that we can do in the short run. These insults are not going to stop and no one else is coming to save us. What we can do in the long run, however, is become less alienated from our heritage and less alienated from each other as a people. The Blue Team knows that it can get away with insulting us – and the Red Team knows that it can get away with not responding to these insults – because we have been reduced from Jeffersonian and Jacksonian freeholders to passive consumers and workers living atomised and deracinated lives.21 Ours must be a long-run strategy: Cultural persistence as a form of political resistance. John Devanny’s speech at the Abbeville Institute’s 2020 Scholars Conference (the last 10 or so minutes in particular) and his article ‘What Can Be Done?’ is full of wise advice.
One of the most damaging delusions of Lincolnian Americans has been the pursuit of some logical or rhetorical trick to force the Anti-American 1619ers to stop insulting them with the dreary litany of ‘ists’ and ‘phobes.’ Jeffersonians know better than our Lincolnian compatriots, however, because our nomocratic tradition is aware of the fundamentally un- and even anti-conservative chiliasm and gnosticism intrinsic to their teleocratic tradition (hence why left-Lincolnians like James M. McPherson and Eric Foner describe the War and Reconstruction as ‘the Second American Revolution’ and ‘the Second Founding,’ respectively). In other words, how can any Lincolnian American oppose the extremes to which the Anti-American 1619ers take ‘equality’ when they themselves are constantly quoting ‘the proposition that all men are created equal’ to convince the 1619ers that America cannot be racist? The Lincolnians have unwittingly set themselves against history.
One little act of ‘living not by lies’ which I have decided to practice is to request alternatives to the Tubman $20 whenever possible and always be happy to explain myself to curious cashiers, waitresses, etc.: ‘Nothing against Harriet Tubman, but as flawed as Andrew Jackson was, the American Union and the State of Florida would not exist as they are today without him – and without many other hardened frontiersmen, including ancestors of mine who were literally named in honour of him – and so, in my opinion, what Joe Biden and Kamala Harris did was ungrateful, unpatriotic, and the opposite of “unifying.”’
Your country is desolate, your cities are burned with fire; strangers devour your land in your presence; and it is desolate, as overthrown by strangers. So the daughter of Zion is left as a booth in a vineyard, as a hut in a garden of cucumbers, as a besieged city. Unless the Lord of Hosts had left to us a very small remnant, we would have become like Sodom, we would have been made like Gomorrah. – Isaiah 1:7-9
Yet I will leave a remnant, so that you may have some who escape the sword among the nations, when you are scattered through the countries. Then those of you who escape will remember Me among the nations where they are carried captive, because I was crushed by their adulterous heart which has departed from Me, and by their eyes which play the harlot after their idols; they will loathe themselves for the evils which they committed in all their abominations. And they shall know that I am the Lord; I have not said in vain that I would bring this calamity upon them.– Ezekiel 6:8-10
O my God, I am too ashamed and humiliated to lift up my face to You, my God; for our iniquities have risen higher than our heads, and our guilt has grown up to the heavens. Since the days of our fathers to this day we have been very guilty, and for our iniquities we, our kings, and our priests have been delivered into the hand of the kings of the lands, to the sword, to captivity, to plunder, and to humiliation, as it is this day. And now for a little while grace has been shown from the Lord our God, to leave us a remnant to escape, and to give us a peg in His holy place, that our God may enlighten our eyes and give us a measure of revival in our bondage. – Ezra 9:6-8
(This is the third part of a three-part series. Part 1 of the Remnant begins here, part 2 begins here.)
We are living through an iconoclastic terror in which irreversible and unforgivable damage will be done to our cultural heritage. It is an atrocity and a tragedy not unlike the Spanish Red Terror – when Communist revolutionaries desecrated Catholic churches and massacred Catholic clergy, even going so far as to exhume and execute in effigy the corpses of monks and nuns. For what is a monument but a symbolic grave – a grave for the memory, if not the body, of a person, or a people? Yet we, the Southern people, do not live in bronze or stone. As horrible as it is to lose our monuments, that is not to lose everything. We must become ‘living monuments’ of our people. The virtues that we admire in our heroes and that we once memorialised in these beautiful works of art? Now, more than ever, we must embody those virtues ourselves and make our lives beautiful. Our ancestors’ graves may be desecrated, but even if their memories are exhumed and executed in effigy, they themselves cannot be killed – and it is not because they are already dead. It is because they live in us.
The Hebrew prophets knew that the ruling classes and the masses would not heed their message, but they also knew that their duty was not to preach to them anyway, but to ‘The Remnant.’ According to the Bible, the Remnant is what remains of a people after suffering a catastrophe – the Assyrian conquest of Israel or the Babylonian conquest of Judah – which must preserve the heritage of their people within themselves until a time comes when it can be restored to its former glory. ‘Major Prophets’ like Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, and Daniel, as well as many other ‘Minor Prophets’ spoke of ‘a faithful remnant’ with hope for their people’s future. In the books of Ezra-Nehemiah, Haggai, and Malachi, the Jewish people who returned to Jerusalem from exile in Babylon are referred to as ‘a faithful remnant.’ The Jews have continued to survive as a people because generation after generation remained faithful to their ancient heritage in spite of their dispossession and persecution. (In fact, part of the reason that they have been persecuted in the first place was because they never fully assimilated wherever they lived and always kept themselves somewhat apart, with Jewish institutions and Jewish traditions of their own.) Because of the faith of this Remnant, the Jewish people have not only created diaspora communities around the world for thousands of years, but also created a country of their own in their ancestral homeland after thousands of years of exile.
Living amid the death throes of the Roman Empire – barbarian invasions, economic crises, political corruption, and social dissolution – an Italian monk named Benedict founded the first Catholic monasteries in order to preserve a ‘faithful remnant’ of Christianity and the Classics. Because of how the Catholic monasteries which Benedict founded virtually saved Western Civilisation during the ensuing Dark Ages, Benedict has been canonised as the ‘Patron Saint of All Europe.’ Rod Dreher (a Christian author and blogger at The American Conservative who lives in Louisiana) has proposed a plan for how Christians can use what he calls ‘The Benedict Option’ in the modern post- and even anti-Christian world. Ironically, Mr. Dreher has also compared contemporary Christians to Rome’s ‘Final Pagan Generation,’ a generation which appeared to be blissfully ignorant of or even indifferent to the threat that Christianity posed to its world.
We Southerners must practice a version of the Benedict Option among ourselves and become ‘The Remnant,’ so to speak, of our own people. Each one of us must be like Benedictine monks, conserving the blueprints of our culture and civilisation so that one day our children can reconstruct a new American South after these Dark Ages. Each one of us must aspire to be the ‘Patron Saint of All Dixie,’ doing great works to honour the memory of our ancestors and sacrifice for the future of our descendants. If we do nothing, then we shall go down in history for our complacency and cowardice as America’s ‘Final Southern Generation,’ born into a country where our people belonged but dying in a country where our people have been banished.
M.E. Bradford, in Why the South Will Survive (a tribute to I’ll Take My Stand on its semi-centennial anniversary), summarised our mission as the Southern Remnant:
For the sake of memory, let us preserve the iconic things – buildings, monuments, gardens, rites, celebrations, and stories – which have defined us for over three hundred years as a people apart, and which carry in themselves the seeds of restoration as a context for the tradition. Objections to these reminders of an earlier South or to an attention to its history must be resisted, at every turn and with every resource. Those who would destroy the icons and erase that memory are not Southerners as we define the species here, but instead serve chiefly to recall to us why we have never agreed to be absorbed by the deracinated abstractions of the Union at large
Since the symbols of our ancestors will be purged from public places, we must display our pride in our ancestry ourselves. Set out family portraits and set out photo albums. Fly a flag from your porch or yard. Put a (polite) bumper sticker on your car. We must also learn about our ancestry, too. Trace your genealogy and learn family lore from your elders. Join hereditary societies like the Sons of Confederate Veterans and the United Daughters of the Confederacy (which are in desperate need of new blood) in order to fraternise and organise with your fellow Southerners. We must also treat our patriotic symbols with the respect that they deserve (so no ‘rebel flag’ bikinis, boxers, beer cozies, beach towels, etc.) Many Southerners are so far out of touch with their roots – who they are, where they come from, and what they have done – that they are insensible to how personal these attacks on our ancestors truly are.
We must behave like traditional Southern gentlemen and ladies, practicing the Southern manners that we preach (which, as George Garrett has explained, are an expression of the Christian commandment to ‘love thy neighbor as thyself’ and ‘do unto others as you would have them do unto you’). If we treat others and ourselves with respect, then others will respect us more, we will respect ourselves more, and our spheres of influence will not only be more civilised, decent, and humane, but also will grow in influence. Describing the literature of Tom Wolfe (a native of Richmond who moved to Manhattan, where he satirised every aspect of American race, class, and sex, including/especially the poor manners of New Yorkers), Garrett explained that for Southerners manners are ‘a mean between brute savagery (barbarism) and frivolous foppery (foolish over-sophistication),’ ‘the mean between the utterly idiosyncratic (mannerism) and the tediously conventional (cliché and stereotype),’ and ‘represent a formal obligation to one’s neighbor (who is always Everyman) and the recognition of the love of God and presence of the Holy Ghost in all of one’s fellow creatures.’
We must study all 400 years of Southern history, not just the 16 years of the War and Reconstruction, which however epic is just one chapter of our story. ‘The North defeated the South in war, crushed and humiliated it in peace, and waged against it a war of intellectual and spiritual conquest,’ according to Frank L. Owsley. ‘In this conquest the North fixed upon the South the stigma of war guilt, of slave guilt, of treason, and thereby shook the faith of its people in their way of living and in their philosophy of life.’ We must renew our faith in that way of living and philosophy of life, as Owsley urged us to do, but in order to do that have to go back in time to before that conquest. As Richard M. Weaver demonstrated in his juxtaposition of the diaries of the Cavalier William Byrd II of Virginia and the Puritan Cotton Mather of Massachusetts, there were already distinct Southern and Northern identities as early as the 17th century. Colonial history is often overshadowed by the Founding (which slaveholding Southern soldiers and statesmen dominated, much to the chagrin of the American ‘Girondins’ and ‘Jacobins’ alike), but it was then and there that our heritage originated. Prior to the War and Reconstruction, of course, ‘America’ was synonymous with Southern history: Daniel Boone and the Cumberland Gap, the Lewis and Clark Expedition, Francis Scott Key and the Battle of Fort McHenry, Andrew Jackson and the Battle of New Orleans, Davy Crockett ‘The King of the Wild Frontier,’ Sam Houston and the Texas Revolution, ‘Remember the Alamo! Remember Goliad!’, Kit Carson and the Rocky Mountains, Zachary Taylor and the Battle of Buena Vista, Winfield Scott and the Battle of Mexico City, and the popular literature of the ‘frontier humourists’ who fictionalised the settlement of western territory. As the monuments to our history are torn down, we must build up new ones in our hearts.
That said, we must be prepared to keep ‘mowing the lawn,’ so to speak, continually refuting the lies that Yankees never tire of telling about the War and Reconstruction. They believe in the simplistic formulation that since secession was ‘all about’ slavery, the war was also ‘all about’ slavery, and therefore the Federals were ‘good guys’ and the Confederates ‘bad guys.’ We must show that secession did not cause the war – that the Union’s reasons for invading the Confederacy were not the same as the Confederacy’s reasons for seceding from the Union. We must show that slavery was a national problem which required a national solution and that no national political party (including/especially Abraham Lincoln’s Republicans) proposed such a solution. We must show that the so-called solution to slavery which the Northern anti-slavery movement proposed would have amounted to the greatest act of self-disinheritance in history with no positive precedents whatsoever. We must show that when white Southerners recoiled at these demands, the Northern anti-slavery movement only intensified their rhetoric and threatened them with the very slave insurrections that they feared the most. We must show that the Northern anti-slavery movement had non-humanitarian ulterior motives, to say the least – from the capitalists (who figured that ‘free labour’ blacks would work harder for less money) to the nativists/racists (who wanted to keep blacks out of the American West), to the statists (who wanted to weaken the power of the Jeffersonians so that they could enact the Hamiltonian programme). We must show that the Southern defense of slavery from external attacks by the Northern anti-slavery movement coincided with the internal reform of slavery by white Southerners, contradicting the Northern anti-slavery propaganda to which the pro-slavery arguments were responding. We must show, in sum, that white Southerners had inherited rather than invented the institution of slavery and that the solution to that problem was hardly as self-evident as ‘presentism’ (or ‘anachronistic moralism’) makes it seem.
Yankees lie that secession was treason – an illegal and undemocratic plot to destroy ‘government of the people, by the people, for the people.’ We must show, by contrast, that secession was legal and democratic. We must show that secession was the act of conventions of the people of the states, which in the American small-f federal and small-r republican tradition were elected in order to represent the people in their sovereign capacity amid great public crises. We must show that it was supreme state conventions such as these which delegated power to the general conventions in Philadelphia in the first place and ultimately had the authority to accept/reject whatever their delegates proposed. We must show that the people of the states never surrendered their sovereignty by forming ‘a more perfect union,’ but spelled out in their ordinances of ratification and constitutional amendments that they reserved whatever powers they had not delegated to that compact and enumerated in that charter. We must show that just as the people of the states had, through their sovereign authority, ratified the Constitution of the United States of America, so through that very same sovereign authority did they repeal that ratification of the Constitution and dissolve their connection with the United States of America. We must show what ‘saving the Union’ meant in practice – declaring supreme state conventions to be ‘combinations of criminals,’ overruling the ‘consent of the governed’ with sheer military power, and overthrowing the duly elected governments of the seceded states under occupation. We must show, in sum, that it was secession which exemplified ‘government of the people, by the people, for the people.’
Yankees lie that the Confederates committed war crimes. This particular lie is most popular in Hollywood because however historically inaccurate it may be, entertainment media has the creative freedom to tell whatever story it wants and audiences are often dumb enough believe whatever they watch. We must show the absurdity of this lie by reminding everyone that the War was a war of invasion – that it was the Union that invaded the Confederacy, not the other way around. ‘The Rape of Athens’ was much more representative than ‘The Lawrence Massacre,’ and even then there are notable differences between those two atrocities. The former was committed by regular Union troops at the order of their commanding officer; the latter was perpetrated by irregular Confederate ‘Bushwhackers.’ The former was an act of indiscriminate violence against black and white women alike; the latter was an act of discriminate violence against ‘Jayhawker’ men for their indiscriminate violence against women. The former was hailed throughout the Union and resulted in the promotion of the court-martialed commander by the U.S. President himself; the latter was condemned throughout the Confederacy and resulted in the outlawing of those who perpetrated the crime. The former was enabled by a Union commander who was elected U.S. President after the War; the latter was committed by men who became ‘Wild West’ outlaws after the War. As far as the lie that Confederates committed war crimes against their own people is concerned, we must show that while conflict between civilians and the military is inevitable when they are fighting a war in their own country, Confederate civilians cheered on the Confederate military even after they had given up on the Confederate government. We must show, in sum, that Yankees are, with their usual insufferable self-righteousness, projecting their own war guilt onto their war victims.
We must all contribute to a renaissance of Southern arts. Whatever our individual talents are – culinary? literary? performing? visual? – we must make our experience as the Southern Remnant our muse. The alleged cultural inferiority of the American South is nothing more than Yankee arrogance and ignorance – our lack of a derivative culture ‘poured in from the top,’ in Donald Davidson’s phrase, as opposed to an original culture arising from the folk. What has always made the American South a ‘Mirror for Artists,’ in another phrase of Davidson’s, is her closeness to nature, her historical consciousness, and the cohesiveness of her communities, a muse which starkly contrasts with atomised, deracinated, and citified life.
We must cook Southern cuisine in our homes for our family and friends in the tradition of old-fashioned Southern hospitality. Indeed, what would American cuisine be without dishes as diverse as barbequed pork and deep-fried chicken? Buttermilk biscuits and cornbread? Greens and grits? Chili and gumbo? Peach cobbler and pecan pie? To say nothing of sweet tea and whiskey! (Note: Support local Southern restaurants, not nü-South ‘foodies’ appropriating our culture in their ironically antiquarian ‘eateries.’)
We must read Southern literature and write some poetry or prose of our own when we find our voice. Indeed, what would American literature be without Southern writers as diverse as Edgar Allan Poe and William Gilmore Simms? William Faulkner and Walker Percy? Florence King and Tom Wolfe? Augusta Jane Evans and Eudora Welty? Cormac McCarthy and Flannery O’Connor? (Note: Culturally appropriating the ‘Southern Gothic’ genre in order to tell a moralistic tale about how evil Southerners are is the polar opposite of philosophical and theological beliefs about good and evil which inspire that genre.)
We must listen to Southern music and write some of our own when we find our sound. Indeed, what would American music be without Southern genres as diverse as bluegrass and ragtime? Blues and jazz? Funk and soul? R&B and rock n’ roll? Gospel and sacred harp? (Note: The degeneration of country music from its folk roots into ‘bro-country’ and ‘hick-hop’ – veritable redneck minstrel shows – is the cultural appropriation of Nashville by Los Angeles.)
When it comes to the visual arts, we cannot replace the great public works of art of ours which have been and will be destroyed: They were from a time when our people were self-conscious and self-confident in spite of – or, perhaps, because of – military defeat and occupation as well as economic exploitation and impoverishment. That proud sense of self has been perverted into self-hatred and self-righteousness. Our unique experience as aliens in our own country must inspire unique works of art less public and more private but no less proud. ‘By the rivers of Babylon,’ lamented the Psalmist, ‘there we sat down, yea, we wept when we remembered Zion.’ Our duty as the Southern Remnant is to keep the memory of Zion alive even as we are spiritually, if not geographically, exiled in a modern-day Babylon, so that our posterity will be prepared to rebuild when our homeland belongs to us again.
Consider these arts our version of the Hebraic Law. For the Jewish people, the strict observance of a code of arcane (and sometimes seemingly arbitrary) laws kept them apart from host populations which otherwise would have assimilated them. We, the Southern Remnant, must keep ourselves apart from the American mainstream, but while the Hebraic Law is fundamentally unnatural, the ‘Southern Law’ should come naturally to us. What could be more rewarding than eating America’s best cuisine, reading America’s best literature, listening to America’s best music, trying your hand at yourself, and then sharing the fruits with friends and family?
Rootedness – that feeling of belonging to a particular people in a particular place during a particular period – is at the core of Southern identity. ‘From that moment there crept over my spirit a feeling akin to patriotism for this piece of land – for its history and for its beauty,’ Don Anderson described the experience of rediscovering his ancestral home. ‘From that moment I have been drawn to it as a magnet.’ We must deepen our roots in land where we live by exploring the outdoors (picnics at the park with friends and family are nice, but not the same) and taking up outdoor sports like fishing and hunting (collegiate and professional sports are popular Southern pastimes, yet they are degrading diversions converged with ‘Woke Capitalism’). For a taste of that agrarian life which hardened and humbled our ancestors, try growing a garden on whatever land you own (or at least mow your own lawn). Hamilton C. Horton listed such recreational activities – gardening, hunting, fishing, etc. – as examples of how Southerners can bend their identities without breaking them, choosing to be ‘culturally agrarian’ as much as we can even as other aspects of our lives are necessarily industrialist. As Horton put it, ‘Within the South there remains a tendency to view the land as something more than just a commodity.’ At the same time, we must cultivate local and small (or ‘human-scaled) communities, where human individuality, family, diversity, and unity can flourish. It was an agrarian economy and society which created and sustained those human-scaled communities, and while few of us today can live according to the Jeffersonian agrarian ideal like Andrew Lytle and Wendell Berry, the Southern Remnant can still be good neighbors and citizens in whatever community where we live.
We must go back to church – though not just whatever your family’s traditional denomination was, but to an orthodox Christian church of whatever denomination or maybe even of no denomination. For one, it is what we always should have been doing together. The very reason that the Jewish people had to survive as a ‘faithful remnant’ was that they betrayed the covenant of their fathers for the false gods of the Philistines. For another, it is the only way that we are going to endure these tribulations together. The Jewish people were only able to remain faithful to their covenant because they did not disperse as individuals but cohered together in diaspora communities. Last, but not least, what Cleanth Brooks called ‘The Enduring Faith’ of the American South has historically been free from the Gnostic heresies of Puritanism which revolutionised American Christianity and (in a secularised but no less zealous form) America’s civic religion. ‘The best one can say,’ remarked Brooks, ‘is that a venerable tradition has not been wholly lost – that there remains at least a foundation upon which to rebuild.’
And it should go without saying that if you are a single young man or woman, get married, be a good husband or wife, have children, and be a good father or mother. There can be no Remnant if there is no next generation. As they say, ‘Demography is destiny.’ We must also educate that next generation, as all effective Remnants have done. (The Jewish people, for example, did not just expect their children to be well-educated, but educated their children well themselves – for if they had done otherwise then they would have been assimilated into their host populations and would no longer exist today.) Beyond ‘the three R’s,’ the purpose of education should be the individual pursuit of intellectual excellence. The American public-school system, however, is more like a factory than an academy: It is dumbed down to the lowest common denominator, dominated by corrupt unions with no stake in the success of the students, designed to instill conformity/uniformity of behavior/beliefs rather than critical thinking, and is converged with ‘Cultural Marxism.’ As the Southern Remnant, we must, according to John Gould Fletcher and Thomas Fleming respectively, make education ‘an ally of culture and civilization’ in which students are ‘schooled by the best minds of the ages, rather than by those semi-literate denizens of teachers’ colleges, the writers of textbooks.’ If you can, send your children to classical Christian academies which teach the Canon and the Trivium (and are, not coincidentally, objectively superior to prep-schools in terms of ‘college and career readiness’). If there are no such an academies in your area or you absolutely cannot afford tuition, then homeschool your children. With the curricula and communities that are available online, homeschooling is easier and more effective than ever. While public-school students are taught in unsafe environments by unqualified ‘teachers’ (people with degrees in ‘education’ with one eye on the next chapter in the textbook and the other on standardised tests), homeschooled children can be taught in a safe environment by some of the best teachers of a subject in the world. Of course, there is no substitute for the family – that is, for raising your children right yourself.
We must reject the hyper-partisan factionalism of the Democrats and the Republicans (which is mentally and morally degrading to spectators as well as participants) and rededicate ourselves to our political patrimony. What is this Southern political tradition? It is so much more than ‘States’ Rights,’ which is just a particular expression of it under our federal and republican form of government. (Not to belittle the importance of states’ rights, of course, which are so important that the great John Randolph of Roanoke once remarked, ‘Asking one of the States to surrender part of her sovereignty is like asking a lady to surrender part of her chastity.’) The Southern political tradition can be summarised as an order of Self, Society, and State in which the ‘Country’ must come before the ‘Court,’ governance is ‘Nomocratic’ not ‘Teleocratic,’ the ‘City of Man’ can never equal the ‘City of God,’ ‘Change is not Reform,’ and ‘The Lamp of Experience’ is ‘A Better Guide Than Reason.’ These traditions are not only ‘absolutely necessary for the continuation of our form of government,’ according to George C. Rogers, but also provide ‘a different framework of values and institutions through which we can approach the world with purpose and coherence,’ according to Samuel T. Francis. The American South has, in the words of her greatest statesman, John C. Calhoun, traditionally been ‘the balance wheel of our complex and beautiful system,’ but as Democrats and Republicans have suppressed real Southern leadership in the government, the consolidation of and corruption by power combined with dissolution of public order and policy has become so catastrophic that the country is now in a permanent state of crisis.
As the Southern Remnant, our political role will be comparable to that of the Hebrew prophets, who were always on the margins of their society but whose lives influenced and inspired future leaders. We are in the political wilderness and cannot overthrow our own Ahabs and Jezebels, but we can, like Elijah, call down fire from heaven to expose their evil lies to our people. We can, like Daniel, read the writing on the wall at the Belshazzar’s feast that is the American civic religion. Indeed, we are living through a veritable plague which, if not called down by Moses to punish Pharaoh, has nevertheless exposed the fragility not just of our current administration but of our entire system of government.
There have been sympathetic intellectual histories of the American South by academics like Richard Beale Davis, Michael O’Brien, and Eugene D. Genovese, yet according to the poseur-professor pundits and the poseur-pundit professors who dominate news panels, opinion pages, and podcasts, there is no peculiar Southern thought and whatever we say we think is either a conscious lie or a false consciousness for white supremacy. A gap has been growing between what first-rate historians (many of whom are amateurs) are rediscovering about the American South and what third-rate celebrity-historians who want to be called for comment keep echoing and exaggerating. ‘As Southerners we are so used to certain slanders that we no longer even bother to answer them,’ remarked Thomas H. Landess. ‘But there are some slanders that need answering in order to isolate our true vices as well as to affirm our virtues.’ As the Southern Remnant, we must continue to disentangle what is beautiful and valuable in our heritage from the legacy of slavery and segregation.
We must be like Robert Penn Warren, who in The Legacy of the Civil War admitted that the ‘Great Alibi’ had turned the ‘great virtues’ of Southern heritage into ‘vicious absurdities,’ exemplified by white resistance to civil rights:
Does he ever realize that the events of Tuscaloosa, Little Rock, and New Orleans are nothing more than an obscene parody of the meaning of his history? It is a debasement of his history, with all that was noble, courageous, and justifying bleached out, drained away. Does the man who, in the relative safety of mob anonymity, stands howling vituperation at a little Negro girl being conducted into a school building, feel himself at one with those gaunt, barefoot, whiskery scarecrows who fought it out, breast to breast, to the death, at the Bloody Angle at Spotsylvania in May, 1864? Can the man howling in the mob imagine General R.E. Lee, CSA, shaking hands with Orval Faubus, Governor of Arkansas? Does that man in the mob ever wonder why his own manly and admirable resentment at coercion should be enlisted, over and over again, in situations which should, and do, embarrass the generosity and dignity of manhood, including his own? Does he ever consider the possibility that whatever degree of dignity and success a Negro achieves actually enriches, in the end, the life of the white man and enlarges his own worth as a human being?
Contrary to the ‘white nationalists’ claiming to be ‘Southern nationalists,’ we share a heritage with our black brothers and sisters. When Martin Luther King argued that ‘the language, the cultural patterns, the music, the material prosperity, and even the food of America are an amalgam of black and white,’ he was describing the American South which he and his wife called home. The American South is not so much a race (‘white’) or an ethnicity (‘Anglo’ or ‘Celtic’), but rather a nation comprised of diverse races and ethnicities united by history, including Cajuns, Cubanos, ‘Dutch’ (i.e. German and Swiss Anabaptists), French Huguenots, Indians (Cherokee, Choctaw, Creek, Chickasaw, and Seminole), Sephardim, Tejanos, and of course Africans. Indeed, of the eleven distinct ‘American Nations,’ six of them are in the American South. We are a unique ‘nation within a nation,’ however, as we are the single largest geographical region within the Union (larger than many other independent nations) and older than the Union itself (older than many other independent nations). We are, in a word, sui generis. As Clyde N. Wilson declared, ‘The South is a national asset a priceless and irreplaceable treasure that must be conserved.’
The South is a distinctly American expression of Western Civilisation, and so as the Southern Remnant we are conserving more than just our particular Southern heritage, but our Classical and Christian heritage as well. ‘Though the South is our subject,’ observed Stark Young, ‘we must remember that we are concerned first with a quality itself, not as our own but as found everywhere, and that we defend certain qualities not because they belong to the South, but because the South belongs to them.’ Southerners are (or at least were) the heirs of what was best from antiquity. When Alexander Solzhenitsyn was exiled from the USSR and began touring the Western world, Marion Montgomery argued that Solzhenitsyn believed in the same qualities of life as we do and paraphrased Young’s reminder to us: ‘He affirms and defends certain qualities of life not because they belong to the Russia he loves, but because the Russia he loves belongs to them.’ This makes the American South a fairly inclusive identity and inheritance, one which is less about ‘blood and soil’ and more about ‘soul.’ I, for example, am not someone whom most Americans would identify as ‘Southern,’ at least not until they get to know me. I was born and raised in Florida’s suburbs, where my family moved from Maryland. These suburbs are largely homogenised and have little local culture left, though it is still Southern if you know what you are looking for and where to look. I went to school for my undergraduate degree up north in Pennsylvania (where I stuck out as one of the few not from ‘PA’ or the Tri-State Area) and for my graduate degree out west in California (where I stuck out as one of the few who was not a first- or second-generation immigrant or on a student visa). After graduate school, I moved back to my suburban hometown where I live to this day. My Southern heritage is chiefly one of tastes and values – tastes and values instilled in me by my family. So you do not have to be ‘outwardly Southern’ to be ‘inwardly Southern,’ the latter of which is far more important, anyway. My wife and her family, who emigrated from the former USSR, are more ‘Southern’ than many ‘Southerners’ whom I know, even though they would never identify themselves as such, in the sense that they maintain the same ‘qualities of life’ from the Old World that the American South alone has maintained in the New World and which has differentiated her from the rest of the Union.
‘Tradition is not simply a fact, but a fact that must be consistently defended,’ argued Allen Tate. ‘It can always be defended,’ he added, ‘but a recovery and a restoration is a more difficult performance.’ Whether you are young or old, as the Southern Remnant, we are all living during a momentous time in the history of our people in which our traditions are just a single generation away from extinction. No individual can carry the burden of the whole Southern tradition himself or herself, but if each one of us contributes our God-given talents to the cause, then together we can defend and even restore those traditions. Of course, we must distinguish between living in the past and the past living in us. We must accept that we can never go back to 1650, 1750, 1850, or 1950, nor should we want to. We must accept that change is a part of life – but unlike most other Americans who mouth such clichés as they shrug off any and every change to their culture and civilisation, no matter how manifestly for the worse, we add that conservation must also be a part of life. We want to conserve what is eternal and universal about our heritage, which in 1950 was different from what it was like in 1850, in 1850 was different from what it was like in 1750, and in 1750 was different from what it was like in 1650. Yet there is no reason, by 2050, for our heritage not only to have persisted but also to have prospered. Indeed, one of the consistent themes of ‘The Remnant’ in Hebrew prophecy is not merely the survival, but the revival, of the people through those faithful few – and our people have succumbed just as much to American idolatry as the Israelites did to Ashtoreth, Baal, and Molech. As John Shelton Reed argued, the toll that ‘Industrialism’ has taken on our society has vindicated traditional Agrarian ‘ideas on the proper relation between work and leisure, on the importance of humanizing scale, on respect for nature, on autonomy and self-respect,’ which are now as popular in New England and the Pacific Coast as they were in the American South. Furthermore, argued Reed, even though we have been uprooted from an agrarian way of life, our Southern heritage – which is as much about what we remember as what we have experienced – has continued to find ways to adapt. ‘It continues to crop up here, there, and everywhere,’ he remarked, ‘like grass through concrete.’
In 1994, Eugene D. Genovese delivered a series of lectures at Harvard University titled ‘The Southern Tradition.’ The Communist-turned-Catholic Italian-American professor was one of the most prolific and prominent scholars of the South, authoring classic works such as Roll, Jordan, Roll: The World the Slaves Made and many others with his wife, Elizabeth Fox-Genovese (who was no less of a Southern historian herself). These lectures, published as The Southern Tradition: The Achievement and Limitations of an American Conservatism, were a landmark moment in his career and demanded the attention of his profession.
Genovese accepted the modernisation of the American South insofar as it entailed ‘long overdue if incomplete justice for black people,’ but cautioned that modernisation’s ‘desirable features are coming at a price Northerners as well as Southerners, blacks as well as whites, will rue having to pay and need not pay.’ According to Genovese, ‘That price includes a neglect of, or contempt for, the history of Southern whites, without which some of the more distinct and noble features of American national life must remain incomprehensible.’ This ‘Southern tradition,’ protested Genovese, had been ‘silenced’ as supposedly ‘immoral and intellectually inferior’ and ‘wrongly equated with racism and white supremacy,’ and the purpose of his lectures was to redeem that tradition. ‘Rarely these days, even on Southern campuses, is it possible to acknowledge the achievements of the white people of the South,’ argued Genovese. ‘To speak positively about any part of this Southern tradition is to invite charges of being a racist and an apologist for slavery and segregation.’ According to Genovese, ‘We are witnessing a cultural and political atrocity – an increasingly successful campaign by the media and an academic elite to strip young white Southerners, and arguably black Southerners as well, of their heritage, and therefore, their identity.’
Pardon me, but in these discouraging times, part of Genovese’s encouraging introduction must be quoted at length:
Recall that great speech by Martin Luther King in which he evoked a vision of the descendants of slaves and slaveholders, sitting together on the hills of Georgia as Southern brothers. That vision will be realized when, and only when, those descendants, black and white, can meet with mutual respect and appreciation for the greatness, as well as the evil, that has gone into the making of the South. Black Americans have good reason to protest vehemently against the disgraceful way in which their history has been taught or, worse, ignored, and demand a record of the nobility and heroism of the black struggle for freedom and justice. But that record dare not include the falsification and obliteration of the noble and heroic features of the white South. To teach the one without the other is to invite deepening racial animosity and murderous conflict, not merely or even primarily in the South but in the North. For it is worth noting that our most vicious urban explosions are occurring in the ‘progressive’ North and on the West Coast, not in the ‘bigoted’ and ‘reactionary’ South.
Invoking Martin Luther King (an old-fashioned African-American Baptist minister who believed in communication, love, and nonviolent protest), as Genovese did, seems downright quaint nowadays. If the Rev. Dr. King were active today, the spokespersons of ‘Black Lives Matter’ would write navel-gazing think-pieces for The Atlantic or The New Yorker denouncing him as an ‘Uncle Tom,’ the balaclava-masked and brass-knuckled punks and thugs of ‘Antifa’ would attack his marches for their ‘accomodationism’ and ‘incrementalism’ with ‘white supremacy,’ and the famously ‘articulate, bright, and clean’ Joe Biden would say ‘come on, man…he ain’t black.’
As enraging and depressing as it is to witness the destruction of our monuments by fools who know nothing and fanatics who care for nothing, we must overcome our anger and despair, because the fact is that this is only going to get worse. In Richmond, in Virginia, and in the rest of the nü-South, we are utterly powerless to resist this revolution. Those places are more lost to the American South than they were during the War and Reconstruction, for at least then the destruction was coming from without rather than from within. If demographic changes have been creeping up on us like the tide, then this ‘anti-racist’ moral panic has crashed on us like a tidal wave. We must do what we can to preserve the symbols of our heritage for our posterity, of course, but what is even more important for our posterity is that we preserve our heritage itself. In other words, it is more important that we preserve what those monuments symbolise than those symbols themselves. To be sure, these barbarians and fanatics are doing irrevocable and unforgivable damage to our public spaces (as if the empty pedestals and piles of rubble were not bad enough, just wait until you see what artistic abominations are put up in their place), but one space that they can never spray-paint or sledge-hammer is our hearts and our minds.
The great Southern theologian James Henley Thornwell’s stern disquisition on ‘Our Danger and Our Duty’ early in the War can still speak to the Southern Remnant today.
Thornwell warned Southerners not to underestimate the danger facing them or to overestimate themselves:
Our fields, our homes, our firesides and sepulchres, our cities and temples, our wives and daughters, we must protect at every hazard. The glorious inheritance which our fathers left us we must never betray. The hopes with which they died, and which buoyed their spirits in the last conflict, of making their country a blessing to the world, we must not permit to be unrealised. We must seize the torch from their hands, and transmit it with increasing brightness to distant generations. The word failure must not be pronounced among us. It is not a thing to be dreamed of. We must settle it that we must succeed. We must not sit down to count chances. There is too much at stake to think of discussing probabilities—we must make success a certainty, and that, by the blessing of God, we can do. If we are prepared to do our duty, and our whole duty, we have nothing to fear. But what is our duty? This is a question which we must gravely consider.
Although the danger is now civil/political rather than military, it is not much more peaceful and the stakes have not much changed from the danger which Thornwell perceived.
Using the Greek city-states’ wars against the Persian Empire as examples of how a smaller power could win against a larger power, Thornwell inspired Southerners to do their duty:
Let us imitate, in Christian faith, this sublime example. Let our spirit be loftier than that of the pagan Greek, and we can succeed in making every pass a Thermopylae, every strait a Salamis, and every plain a Marathon. We can conquer, and we must. We must not suffer any other thought to enter our minds. If we are overrun, we can least die; and if our enemies get possession of our land, we can leave it a howling desert. But, under God, we shall not fail. If we are true to Him, and true to ourselves, a glorious future is before us. We occupy a sublime position. The eyes of the world are upon us; we are a spectacle to God, to angels, and to men. Can our hearts grow faint, or our hands feeble, in a cause like this? The spirits of our fathers call to us from their graves. The heroes of other ages and other countries are beckoning us on to glory. Let us seize the opportunity to make ourselves an immortal name, while we redeem a land from bondage and a continent from ruin.
Southerners did their duty as best they could – indeed, they fought harder and suffered worse than any other Americans in our history – but as Thornwell would have understood better than most, the ways of Providence are often inscrutable.
We cannot know when or where our people shall rise again; we can only do our duty and have hope. Robert E. Lee himself gave that very advice to Charles Marshall, a Marylander and his aide de camp who was struggling to understand how God could have willed for their cause to be lost. ‘My experience of men has neither disposed me to think worse of them nor indisposed me to serve them; nor, in spite of failures which I lament, of errors which I now see and acknowledge, or of the present aspect of affairs, do I despair of the future,’ wrote Lee in 1870. ‘The truth is this: The march of Providence is so slow, and our desires so impatient; the work of progress is so immense and our means of aiding it so feeble; the life of humanity so long, that of the individual so brief, that we often see only the ebb of the advancing wave and are thus discouraged.’ As Lee put it, ‘It is history that teaches us to hope.’
 That essay, ‘Two Diarists,’ was intended to be a chapter in an unfinished American version of Plutarch’s Parallel Lives, in which Richard Weaver would have compared the lives of famous Northerners and Southerners just as Plutarch compared the lives of famous Greeks and Romans. Two other intended chapters have been published separately: ‘Two Orators’ (which contrasts Daniel Webster’s national theory of the Union with Robert Y. Hayne’s federal theory) and ‘Two Individualists’ (which contrasts the alienated individualism of Henry D. Thoreau with the ‘social-bond individualism’ of John Randolph of Roanoke). Not one of Weaver’s North-South distinctions have anything to do with race and slavery.
 Consider the contributions of the Virginians alone: George Washington (‘The Father of His Country’), Thomas Jefferson (‘The Father of Democracy’), James Madison (‘The Father of the Constitution’), and George Mason (‘The Father of the Bill of Rights.’ Not to mention Richard Bland, Patrick Henry, Edmund Pendleton, George Wythe, the Lees, the Harrisons, and the Randolphs, and many more.
 ‘Historians have been debating for decades about the character of American slavery,’ the historian Thaddeus Russell commented after watching the ‘Roots’ remake in 2016. ‘Please do me a favor and read them.’ Indeed, the popular assumption (as exemplified by both versions of the melodramatic and sentimentalist ‘Roots’) is that American slavery was defined solely by physical and psychological terror against blacks by whites. This anachronistic moralism, or ‘presentism,’ is a projection of black self-pity and white-self-hatred onto their past. As Mr. Russell put it, ‘Remarkable how many people, with scant historical knowledge, think the more brutal the depiction of slavery the more accurate it is.’ The truth is that while there was surely physical and psychological terror against blacks by whites (motivated by fear of a racial insurrection á la ‘St. Domingue’ or Haiti, not racial hatred per se), economic incentives and ethical imperatives made slavery a far more humane system than anyone who gets his/her history from ‘Roots’ would ever believe. (Mr. Russell’s book, A Renegade History of the United States, has an informative chapter on slavery which is rooted in evidence instead of ideology.) So while the macabre, Mandingo-esque fetishes of Kara Walker are promoted to the public and pronounced ‘genius,’ the ‘Uncle Remus’ folklore collected by Joel Chandler Harris has been purged from the public and pronounced ‘racist’ (e.g. the literal memory-holing of Disney’s ‘Song of the South’ movie and now ride). The end result is that authentic African-American experiences have been replaced with an inauthentic dialectic which may correspond to ‘politically correct’ opinions but which is nevertheless historically inaccurate. ‘The 1619 Project’ by The New York Times is an attempt to make this presentist moment permanent.
 In retaliation, the local Federal commander in Kansas committed ‘collective punishment’ against four counties just across the border in Missouri, virtually depopulating them by deporting the people from their homes and destroying whatever property the deportees could not carry with them. One of the deportees was Pres. Harry Truman’s mother, who could recall how her family’s farm was burned and they were forcibly removed.
 American Christianity can feel, for lack of a better word, ‘hokey.’ I myself have always felt alienated in Evangelical Protestantism, including/especially its ‘Fundamentalist’ forms. In my opinion, this very American form of Christianity is to blame for the modern stereotype of the sanctimonious, sophistic, and superstitious Christian. Although evangelicalism and fundamentalism are nowadays associated with the American South, these were, in fact, Northern movements which spread to the South. Prior to this religious reconstruction, ‘the Real Old-Time Religion’ of the South, so to speak, had more in common with the Christianity of Hilaire Belloc, G.K. Chesterton, T.S. Eliot, C.S. Lewis, and J.R.R. Tolkien.
 The tragic dimension of Southern history (an alternative experience of failure, poverty, and a belief in one’s own sinfulness as opposed to the mainstream American experience of success, prosperity, and a belief in one’s own righteousness), means that the South has more in common with the rest of the world (which has also experienced such conflict) than with America the self-proclaimed ‘exceptional’ and ‘indispensable’ nation. ‘Yet America, for once in its brief and not always glorious history, must try to learn that its own experience is peculiar, that it has been unusually fortunate in coming to maturity in an epoch of untypical peace and prosperity, and that it cannot continue to judge the world by the norm of its own mythology,’ argued Sam Francis. ‘This lesson is perhaps what the South, and only the South, can teach America – has in a sense always tried to teach it, and has never succeeded in teaching it.’
 The nomination and presumptive election of the quintessentially status quo candidate and quasi-senile Joe Biden is a depressing vote of confidence in the system after the brief opportunity that Donald Trump on the Right and Bernie Sanders on the Left appeared to represent.
 Robert Penn Warren was no triumphalist Yankee, however, and was just as critical of Northern self-righteousness from winning the War (what he called the ‘Treasury of Virtue’) as he was Southern self-pity from losing the War. According to Warren, these ‘psychological’ costs were of ‘a kind more subtle, pervasive, and continuing, a kind that conditions in a thousand ways the temper of American life today.’
 Aside from the fact that authentic expressions of African-American folk culture are condescendingly censored as ‘racist stereotypes’ (e.g. Disney’s memory-holed ‘Song of the South’), the fact is also that black people are as much the heirs of ‘The Southern Tradition’ as white people. Eugene Genovese addressed this important issue.
In ‘The Southern Tradition and the Black Experience’ (his acceptance speech upon receiving the Rockford Institute’s ‘Richard Weaver Award for Contributions to Scholarly Letters’ in 1993), Genovese argued that black people’s unique history made them equally African and American:
Other peoples contributed much to the development of an American national culture, but despite acute discrimination, they were not condemned as an inferior race, and they were able to progress and consolidate their gains through the steady accretion of political power. Not so for Africans and their descendants. Africans arrived with Europeans at the beginning of our history. Everything was done to separate them from their religions, languages, and general culture. Worse, unlike European immigrants, they were repeatedly driven backward and prevented from consolidating political and economic gains. Yes, they were offered the Christian religion, the English language, and the Anglo-Saxon political tradition, but they were simultaneously barred from full participation as equals and told to accept their place as menials and as, at best, second-class citizens. In the event, by forging a distinct Afro-American culture, which should not be confused with the manifestations of moral decadence now celebrated by a cynical academia and mass-media, blacks survived the ordeal of slavery and segregation spiritually as well as physically. We need to understand the black experience as that of a people at once American and yet a people apart. Historically, it has been an experience that offers rational grounds for both integrationist and black-nationalist ideologies.
In response to the essay symposium which Rev. Eugene Rivers of the Azusa Christian Community initiated when he published ‘On the Responsibility of Intellectuals in the Age of Crack’ in The Boston Review, Genovese reiterated what differentiated the African-American experience from the experience of other peoples in this country:
The customary discussions of the black experience as a ‘class,’ ‘national,’ or ‘colonial’ question each offer useful insights but invariably prove partial and inadequate. The black experience in America has been unique, that is, without parallel in the experience of other peoples. Others were absorbed into an American national culture that they enriched by their Old-World experiences. Blacks came as slaves whose masters imposed a strange new religion; assaulted their family relations and indeed denied them legal sanction for any family at all; and did everything possible to destroy their African cultures while denying them access to much in white American culture. As a rich and many-sided scholarship has demonstrated, blacks survived not only physically but also spiritually. Against all odds, they forged a culture that interpenetrated with white culture and yet emerged as an Afro-American culture apart.
According to Genovese, ‘Black Studies’ scholarship had documented ‘the emergence of a black community that lived in intimate contact with whites, contributed to a general Southern and American culture, absorbed much from whites and Indians too, and, withal, forged a black culture significantly distinct, significantly autonomous, significantly African-influenced, and nonetheless specifically American.’
Although Genovese, in 1997, defended some of the work that ‘Black Studies’ were doing, he was opposed to their ideological construction of an artificial ‘Afro-centrist’ identity for black people, their rejection of a black ‘American’ identity, and their general deconstruction of ‘Western civilisation’ itself:
The rage over Afrocentrism is merely the latest version of this decades-old story. No time need be wasted on the blather that aims to denigrate the great civilization of the West while it presents a child’s version of Africa as well as Asia and pre-colonial Latin America. But once again the unwillingness of universities to promote full, open, honest debate has had ironic results. For not only are integrationists, black and white, being silenced: It is by no means clear that Afrocentrism, as normally preached, contributes to a serious black-nationalist interpretation of the black experience in the United States. Arguably, it encourages a black racism that would assimilate the black experience in the United States to a transnational racial myth and thereby render incoherent all attempts to construct a rational black-nationalist perspective on American history.
In his response to Rev. Rivers, Genovese also pointed out that African-Americans have had uniquely negative experiences with the most unexceptional aspects of Western civilisation (i.e. the bad things that it has had in common with every civilisation) but have also had uniquely positive experiences with the most exceptional aspects of Western civilisation (i.e. the good things that makes it different from other civilisations):
There is, nonetheless, a great danger in yielding to a black-separatist repudiation of American nationality as there is in yielding to a one-sided integrationism. Recall that Du Bois himself never wavered in his allegiance to Western civilization while he pioneered in African studies. And here we need to take the measure of the nihilistic denigration of Western civilization, which would deprive all Americans, white and black, of a precious heritage. Today, from the heart of the establishment that controls our universities and media, we hear calls for the repudiation of Western civilization itself as something uniquely horrible. Our children are being taught that the West has been racist, sexist, and imperialist. They are not being taught that the same could be said about every other great civilization and no few not-so-great civilizations. The undeniable truth is that the West has been unique in only one respect. It alone, thanks largely to its Christian heritage and a derivative doctrine of freedom without parallel anywhere in the world, has generated mass-movements against racism, sexism, and imperialism, and exported them across the world. The struggle of black people for equity and justice, notwithstanding all defeats and frustrations, has constituted an inseparable part of this legacy. Does, for example, anyone in his right mind advocate a separate black path of development unillumined by the Christian tradition of spiritual freedom, to say nothing of the personal and political protections of the Common Law?
In his speech at the Rockford Institute, Genovese gave an example of how the Southern political tradition could benefit African-American interests in this country (that is, a degree of political autonomy if not full political separation) but has been effectively denied to them by white liberals because of its ‘racist’ history:
When Lani Guinier tried to raise urgent questions about the distribution of political power, she, in effect, raised the very questions forcefully posed by the political theory of John C. Calhoun and his pro-slavery compeers – most notably, the doctrine of the concurrent majority. For in truth, racists or no, the Southern conservatives were the first to raise most of the burning questions in the early days of the republic, and we have much to learn from their efforts. The question remains: Is it possible to separate the healthy core of that thought from the indefensible framework in which it was originally presented? I have no idea how Ms. Guinier would have responded to this challenge if she had been given her day in court. I do note, as no few others have, that the liberals who control the White House and Congress went to extraordinary lengths to suppress the issues.
No one was a more thoughtful scholar of ‘the world the slaves made’ and ‘the world the slaveholders made’ than Genovese. Since his death in 2012, however, academic hacks out to make a name for themselves have begun labeling him an ‘apologist’ for ‘white supremacy.’ Such outrageous and preposterous defamation says more about his critics than it does him.
This piece appeared at the Abbeville Institute site on August 10, 2020.
Let us now praise famous men, and our fathers that begat us…
All these were honoured in their generations, and were the glory of their times.
There be of them, that have left a name behind them, that their praises might be reported.
And some there be, which have no memorial; who are perished, as though they had never been; and are become as though they had never been born; and their children after them.
But these were merciful men, whose righteousness hath not been forgotten.
With their seed shall continually remain a good inheritance, and their children are within the covenant.
Their seed standeth fast, and their children for their sakes.
Their seed shall remain forever, and their glory shall not be blotted out.
Their bodies are buried in peace; but their name liveth forevermore.
– Ben Sira of Jerusalem
(This is the second part of a three-part series. Part 1 of the Remnant begins here.)
Yet it is a vile lie that our monuments are ‘racist.’ After the War and Reconstruction, despite their severe impoverishment Southerners sacrificed financially in order to build monuments to Confederate veterans before that generation had completely passed (as well as to provide them with their own state pensions, in addition to having to pay for federal Union pensions). The Confederate monument which once stood where I live in Florida, for example, was the product of an eight-year fundraising campaign from 1903 to 1911, in which the local chapter of the United Daughters of the Confederacy held bake sales, sewed dolls for Christmas, sponsored spelling bees, and hosted lectures. ‘It is only once that a Confederate monument is erected in a community and this monument is not only for the memory of the men who fell fighting for the Lost Cause, but also for the further enhancing of an already beautiful city,’ editorialised the local newspaper, ‘and so all citizens are asked to join hands in this laudable endeavor and civic enterprise.’
Yet the Southern Poverty Law Center  has propagated a conspiracy theory that Confederate monuments were built with the insidious ulterior motive of establishing ‘white supremacy,’ claiming that there is a correlation between the construction of monuments and racial conflict. Yet correlation does not equal causation: The SPLC does not consider the fact that the construction of both Confederate and Union monuments are also correlated with the semi-centennial (1911-1915) and centennial anniversaries of the War (1961-1965). The truth is far less cynical and far more commonsensical: Southern descendants of Confederate veterans built monuments in honour of their ancestors for the same reason that Northern descendants of Union veterans built monuments in honour of their ancestors during the same period. Although the public is still opposed to the removal of Confederate monuments (44% to 32% according to Morning Consult/Politico, which unfortunately is down from 52% and up from 26% three years ago), academia and the media classes have been steadily poisoning their memory and pressuring politicians.
The commemoration of the Confederate monument which once stood where I live in Florida exemplifies ‘the meaning of monuments’ and ‘what monuments stand for,’ as the local newspaper put it at the time. On 8 February 1911, the monument, named ‘Memoria en Aeterna’ (Latin for ‘In Eternal Memory’), was ceremoniously unveiled outside the county courthouse. 5,000 people (including children let out of school for the day) crowded the streets, windows, and balconies downtown. In addition to the Sons of Confederate Veterans and United Daughters of the Confederacy, actual living Confederate veterans from Florida attended the event. Between patriotic orations by local leaders, the crowd sang along with renditions of Southern folk songs such as ‘Dixie,’ ‘Way Down on the Sewanee River,’ and ‘Florida, My Florida,’ as well as the old Confederate anthem ‘The Bonnie Blue Flag.’
The mayor, D.B. McKay, congratulated the UDC for its contribution to the city. ‘It is a beautiful and appropriate tribute, and will stand forever as a testimonial of our undying love for the cause that we of the South believe was right, and of our pride in the splendid achievements of the hosts who through those terrible years made records on land and sea unparalleled in the history of the world,’ pronounced the mayor. ‘This monument, massive and imposing though it is, is insignificant by comparison with the love and reverence of our people for our cause and the men who espoused and defended it – and no less for the noble women who had such an important part in the great conflict.’ As the mayor put it, ‘It is a proud and priceless heritage left us – the history of the part played by the women and men of the South in the War Between the States – and every true daughter and son must be thrilled with emotions of the loftiest character as the mind dwells on those trying days and months and years.’
Mrs. Henry Brash (née Sarah Zelwicker), introduced the local chapter of the UDC. ‘It is indeed a joyous event, this being the first public monument ever erected in our city, and we should be doubly proud and honour the day as well as the deed that marks an epoch in the history of our city,’ she declared. ‘This shaft of marble though it be but cold, white stone – the sculptured work of chisel and hammer – yet it has a purpose to serve.’ Sarah hoped that building a Confederate monument would not only honour the last living members of that generation, but also keep their memory alive among future generations. ‘To the sons of veterans and daughters of the Confederacy, this monument recounts the deeds of fathers and mothers and though, we of this generation can never know their trials and hardships, yet we revere their memories for what they suffered,’ she explained. ‘To the children of the Confederacy it teaches that respect for the dead, which is ever to be praised, whether they fell victorious or conquered.’
‘And so I reiterate the statement, that monuments serve a purpose and this shaft pointing heavenward is no exception,’ concluded Sarah, who quoted from a poem:
W.G. Brorein, an industrialist from the North who had been invited to the event, gave an extemporaneous speech in which he argued that ‘the coming into this country of the Stars and Bars had made a greater Union of States’ as well as that ‘the figure of Gen. Robert E. Lee in the National Hall of Fame is a recognition of the South and its accomplishments since the figure of Lee represents the embodiment of all that the Confederacy stood for.’
H.S. Phillips, the state attorney for the circuit court and the keynote speaker, described why the Confederacy was still enshrined in Southerners’ memories and why those memories should now be enshrined in stone:
It is a good thing to honour the heroes of the Confederacy by erecting monuments to their memory. If it meant the revival of the passions of war, if it meant to foster and perpetuate a narrow sectionalism, it would be our duty to regard it as unwise and ill-time. But it means just the reverse. It means not only that the personal characters of the great leaders of the Confederacy and the heroism and courage of those who wore the gray, must be held up for the admiration of their countrymen, but that their fortitude under defeat, their manly acceptance of the result, their entire postbellum record as patriotic and upright citizens shall be set forth the inspiration and guidance of the youth of the South. No American boy can be harmed by studying the lives of the great leaders of the Confederacy and becoming familiar with the wonderful courage and fortitude of those who followed them. If a higher type of manhood and womanhood than that of the Old South can be found, let the world point it out to us and we will give it recognition.
By publicly and permanently honouring Confederate soldiers with a monument, argued Phillips, posterity would be inspired to identify with and emulate them:
My countrymen, the Daughters of the Confederacy did much for the present and future generations of this city when they erected yonder monument in honour of the Southern soldiers. Let it forever stand, not as a record of civil strife, but as a perpetual protest against whatever is low and sordid in our private and public life. Let it stand as a memorial of personal honour that never brooked a stain, of knightly genius unsoiled by ambition, and of heroic constancy from which no cloud of misfortune could ever hide the path of duty. Let it stand as a reproof and censure if we shall ever sink below the standards of our fathers.
Indeed, I can still remember when my grandfather (a lieutenant colonel in the U.S. Army who taught ‘The History of the Military Art’ at West Point) and I (a teenager in my first year of high school) paid our respects to the Confederate monument in his rural Tennessee hometown. I have a picture of us there on my desk. It is a cherished memory and a constant source of inspiration.
The monument itself is one of the most beautiful that I have ever seen. According to the director of the Florida Public Archaeology Network at the University of West Florida, it is ‘one of the most striking Confederate monuments in Florida.’ It was sculpted in Italy out of marble from Georgia. Two soldiers stand back to back alongside an obelisk – one a determined figure going forth at the start of the war (‘united in the past, one in the future’ inscribed on his pedestal), the other a defeated figure at the end of the war (‘lest we forget’ inscribed on his pedestal). On the south side of the obelisk’s pedestal is inscribed an epitaph ‘to the honour and courage of the patriots of the Confederate States of America,’ and on the north side of the obelisk’s pedestal is inscribed a poem:
Every Confederate monument has a story just like this one. Yet a new book – Learning from the Germans: Race and the Memory of Evil by Susan Neiman – compares monuments like this to the Nazis and calls for a Vergangenheitsaufarbeitung of American history. Actually, what is evil is teaching a people to hate themselves by lying to them that their ancestors were as evil as the Nazis. It evinces a hatred of a people that is quite disturbing and if anything suggests that Dr. Neiman learned the wrong lesson from the Germans. Besides, as far as Nazi comparisons go, which side was it that centralised power in a revolutionary party, conquered in the name of reuniting a mythical nation, waged total warfare against enemies whom it deemed sub-human, established collaborationist governments in occupied territory, ordered the expulsion of ‘the Jews, as a class’ from war zones, and was staffed with German nationalists/socialists?
Given that any of our monuments can now be destroyed with impunity, the best that we can hope for at this point is that the United Daughters of the Confederacy and the Sons of Confederate Veterans save as many of them as possible to spare them from these horrifying sacrificial spectacles, like what befell Linn Park in Birmingham, Alabama. A statue of Charles Linn (a Finnish immigrant, citizen of Alabama, and Confederate naval captain who helped found the city of Birmingham) was spray-painted with ‘Black Lives Matter’ and torn down by a mob. The mayor had the 115 year-old Confederate Soldiers and Sailors Monument removed (in violation of a state law and a court ruling) after it was severely damaged by a mob and defaced with ‘Black Lives Matter’ and ‘Antifa’ graffiti/propaganda like ‘Apartheid,’ ‘ACAB,’ ‘F—k 12,’ various anarchist signs, and even more that was illegible/illiterate.
What befell the Albert Pike Memorial in Washington, D.C., was just as awful. Pike was a Massachusetts-born American who pioneered the Arkansan frontier. He was an autodidactic linguist, a captain in the Mexican War, a legal advocate for Indian claims against the U.S. government, a thirty-third degree Freemason, and a brigadier general in the Civil War who negotiated Confederate alliances with the Cherokee, Chickasaw, Choctaw, Creek, and Seminole. After his death, the Freemasons honoured him with a monument by Gaetano Trentanove (an Italian immigrant whose work Pike had admired) which was dedicated in 1901. A mob defaced this monument with ‘Black Lives Matter’ and ‘Antifa’ graffiti/propaganda – ‘1312,’ ‘Abolish ICE,’ ‘ACAB,’ ‘End White Supremacy,’ ‘F—k Albert Pike,’ ‘F—k MPD’ (Metropolitan Police Department), ‘F—k The Pigs,’ ‘F—k White Supremacy,’ ‘George Floyd,’ ‘No Justice, No Peace,’ ‘Revolution,’ various anarchist signs, and even more that was illegible/illiterate. The words ‘author,’ ‘orator,’ ‘philanthropist,’ ‘philosopher,’ ‘scholar,’ and ‘soldier’ on each side of the monument were spray-painted over with words like ‘racist,’ ‘slaver,’ and ‘traitor’ (the last of which is particularly amusing from self-proclaimed revolutionary anarchists). Then, when the mob had spray-painted all it had to say on the statue, it tore it down and set it on fire.
The UDC was wise to remove its 131 year-old monument in Alexandria, Virginia, and should continue to be proactive in taking back our monuments before it is too late. The alternative is the savage sacrifice described above.
Whenever I see photos and videos of these angry, ugly mobs massing around the monuments of our heroes, I feel like the Pevensie sisters in ‘Triumph of the Witch’:
A great crowd of people were standing all round the Stone Table and though the moon was shining many of them carried torches which burned with evil-looking red flames and black smoke. But such people! Ogres with monstrous teeth, and wolves, and bull-headed men; spirits of evil trees and poisonous plants; and other creatures whom I won’t describe because if I did the grown-ups would probably not let you read this book - Cruels and Hags and Incubuses, Wraiths, Horrors, Efreets, Sprites, Orknies, Wooses, and Ettins. In fact here were all those who were on the Witch’s side and whom the Wolf had summoned at her command. And right in the middle, standing by the Table, was the Witch herself.
Just as the White Witch ritually degraded Aslan before sacrificing him, so these mobs (consumed with a maliciousness and spitefulness that can only be described as sadistic) degrade our heroes with all manner of obscene and profane graffiti/propaganda before destroying them:
‘Stop!’ said the Witch. ‘Let him first be shaved.’
As horrifying as it is for us to witness, I must confess that, like Lucy, seeing our heroes standing alone, like lions, above packs of raving hyenas and jackals actually makes them look more heroic than ever.
Just as the Witch taunted Aslan before killing him that his sacrifice meant nothing and would not stop her from killing the rest after he was dead, so appeasement only makes these mobs more aggressive:
When once Aslan had been tied (and tied so that he was really a mass of cords) on the flat stone, a hush fell on the crowd. Four hags, holding four torches, stood at the corners of the Table. The Witch bared her arms as she had bared them the previous night when it had been Edmund instead of Aslan. Then she began to whet her knife. It looked to the children, when the gleam of the torchlight fell on it, as if the knife were made of stone not of steel and it was of a strange and evil shape.
In the United Kingdom, of all places, mobs have begun vandalising historic monuments (including those to the dead of both World Wars) and self-proclaimed ‘anti-racist activists’ have published a ‘Topple the Racists’ hit list of monuments throughout the city. British colonialists who traded in and owned slaves? Any statues of them are ‘celebrating’ and ‘glorifying’ slavery, of course! Earl Grey, the prime minister who oversaw the abolition of slavery throughout the empire? Well, abolition only passed because the government paid reparations to slaveowners (but not slaves), so topple that racist, too! Winston Churchill, the prime minister who rallied the West to fight Nazism in World War II and Communism in the Cold War, widely hailed as one of the greatest heroes of the 20th century? A monument to him has been defaced with ‘Black Lives Matter’ and ‘Antifa’ graffiti/propaganda – ‘ACAB,’ ‘Education For The Masses,’ ‘F—k 12,’ ‘F—k Your Agenda,’ ‘F—k The Lot,’ ‘TIKB’ (Turkish for ‘Union of Revolutionary Communists of Turkey’), Tupac Shakur lyrics, the words ‘Was A Racist,’ anarchist and communist signs (such as the Soviet hammer and sickle), and even more that was illegible/illiterate. ‘Enoch Was Right.’
So-called ‘art conservationists’ disgraced themselves by joining in the iconoclasm, albeit from a safe distance on social media. When a mob began massing to tear down a monument of Christopher Columbus in St. Paul, Minnesota, someone named Erin L. Thompson tweeted, ‘I’m a professor who studies the deliberate destruction of cultural heritage and I just have to say…use chain instead of rope and it’ll go faster.’ When a mob began vandalising a ‘racist monument’ in Birmingham, Alabama, someone named Sarah Parcak (an ‘Egyptologist’ at the University of Alabama) encouraged and instructed them to tear down an obelisk. ‘WATCH THAT SUMB---H TOPPLE GET THE ---- OUT OF THE WAY IT WILL SMASH RUN AWAY FROM DIRECTION,’ she mashed into her keyboard. Someone named Madeline Odent (the wife of an American banker who is a curator in an English museum) tweeted out what household solvents vandals could use to do permanent damage to bronze statues of ‘genocidal racists’ like…Winston Churchill and Margaret Thatcher…‘The members of the elite did not object at all to paying a price, the destruction of civilization, for the fun of seeing how those who had been excluded unjustly in the past forced their way into it,’ Hannah Arendt (a Holocaust survivor) warned in The Origins of Totalitarianism. ‘The temporary alliance between the elite and the mob rested largely on this genuine delight with which the former watched the latter destroy respectability.’
The ‘American Girondins,’ as Brion McClanahan and John Devanny have dubbed them, still do not understand the radical nature of the ‘American Jacobins’ who will be the death of them. In just a few years, the Jacobins’ demands have shifted from removing Confederate flags from Confederate monuments – to removing Confederate monuments and placing them in museums – to mobbing Confederate monuments before they can be removed and placed in museums – to removing American monuments and placing them in museums – to mobbing American monuments before they can be removed and placed in museums – to destroying the museums themselves! Yet the latest issue of National Review (one of the premier publications of ‘Conservatism, Inc.’ or ‘Big Con’) is a massive retreat by the Right in the face of the Left, conceding on practically every issue but clinging to Social Studies and Sunday School lessons about ‘The Gettysburg Address.’ Just as these cowardly conservatives – ‘a party which never conserves anything,’ according to the great Southern theologian Robert Lewis Dabney, and ‘is merely the shadow that follows Radicalism as it moves toward perdition’ – have literally written the South out of American history in an attempt to make a separate peace for themselves, so should Southerners write them out and let them see what happens to their ‘GOP’ without us. ‘Its history has been that it demurs to each aggression of the progressive party, and aims to save its credit by a respectable amount of growling, but always acquiesces at last in the innovation,’ Dabney continued against conservatism. ‘What was the resisted novelty of yesterday is today one of the accepted principles of conservatism; it is now conservative only in affecting to resist the next innovation, which will tomorrow be forced upon its timidity, and will be succeeded by some third revolution, to be denounced and then adopted in turn.’
The ignorance, indifference, and intolerance of these people are simply insufferable. They are barbarians and fanatics who will not stop until they are out of symbols to destroy – and what comes after that? What has, historically speaking, always come after that? We have been warning for years that this is a revolution which wants for us to be exterminated and for all evidence of our existence to be erased – and events are accelerating at an alarming rate without any apparent restraint. ‘Haiti Did It In 1804,’ read one sign from a ‘Black Lives Matter’ mob on the Boston Common. ‘This Is Just Round 2.’ What did Haiti do in 1804? 23 years after the slave insurrection in the colony in which most of the French (white) and Creole (mixed-race) population was massacred, the remaining white and mixed-race population was systematically exterminated. To the protesters and rioters, our monuments are voodoo dolls of us.
This piece was previously published at the Abbeville Institute on August 3, 2020.
 The Southern Poverty Law Center, which once fought the good fight bankrupting the Ku Klux Klan through ‘lawfare,’ has since morally bankrupted itself by ‘blacklisting’ mainstream groups with which it disagrees for whatever reason as ‘hate groups’ akin to the KKK. Mark Krikorian of the centrist and non-partisan Center for Immigration Studies confronted the SPLC in ‘How Labeling My Organization a Hate Group Shuts Down Public Debate’ (cf. ‘Will No One Rid Me of These Turbulent Immigration Restrictionists?’ and ‘Nobody Expects the SPLC Inquisition!’)
 One wonders what Winston Churchill would make of Communists from Turkey trying to start a Communist revolution in London.
 Even Tucker Carlson (who is usually the only person worth watching on the otherwise Boomer- and Republican-geared FOX News) lamely slurred/smeared Confederate history on his show. ‘To be clear: This isn’t a matter of defending the Southern Confederacy,’ he commented. ‘Few Americans would do that. We certainly wouldn’t.’ Mr. Carlson (who is as critical of Republicans for their stupidity as he is of Democrats for their evil) should know better. Appeasement only cedes higher ground to your enemy. It is a shame that he was this petty, because right now Mr. Carlson is one of the only American journalists defying the mob and ‘Don’t Destroy America’s History And Shared Heritage’ is an otherwise excellent show (as are ‘The Real Reason Mobs Across The Country Are Tearing Down American Monuments’ and ‘The Angry Children Toppling Statues Nationwide Are Not Protestors – And Are Utterly Stupid’
 ‘Historians have been debating for decades about the character of American slavery,’ the historian Thaddeus Russell commented after watching the ‘Roots’ remake in 2016. ‘Please do me a favor and read them.’ Indeed, the popular assumption (as exemplified by both versions of the melodramatic and sentimentalist ‘Roots’) is that American slavery was defined solely by physical and psychological terror against blacks by whites. This anachronistic moralism, or ‘presentism,’ is a projection of black self-pity and white-self-hatred onto their past. As Mr. Russell put it, ‘Remarkable how many people, with scant historical knowledge, think the more brutal the depiction of slavery the more accurate it is.’ The truth is that while there was surely physical and psychological terror against blacks by whites (motivated by fear of a Haitian-esque racial insurrection, not racial hatred), economic incentives and ethical imperatives made slavery a far more humane system than anyone who gets his/her history from ‘Roots’ would ever believe. (Mr. Russell’s book, A Renegade History of the United States, has an informative chapter on slavery which is rooted in evidence instead of ideology.) So while the macabre fetishes of Kara Walker are promoted to the public and pronounced ‘genius,’ the ‘Uncle Remus’ folklore collected by Joel Chandler Harris has been purged from the public and pronounced ‘racist’ (e.g. the literal memory-holing of Disney’s ‘Song of the South’ movie and now ride). The end result is that authentic African-American experiences have been replaced with an inauthentic dialectic which may correspond to ‘politically correct’ opinions but which is nevertheless historically inaccurate. ‘The 1619 Project’ by The New York Times is an attempt to make this presentist moment permanent.
How long will you torment my soul, and break me in pieces with words? These ten times you have reproached me; you are not ashamed that you have wronged me. And if indeed I have erred, my error remains with me. If indeed you exalt yourselves against me, and plead my disgrace against me, know then that God has wronged me, and has surrounded me with His net…Have pity on me, have pity on me, O you my friends, for the hand of God has struck me! Why do you persecute me as God does, and are not satisfied with my flesh? Oh, that my words were written! Oh, that they were inscribed in a book! That they were engraved on a rock with an iron pen and lead, forever! For I know that my Redeemer lives, and He shall stand at last on the earth; and after my skin is destroyed, this I know, that in my flesh I shall see God, whom I shall see for myself, and my eyes shall behold, and not another. How my heart yearns within me! If you should say, ‘How shall we persecute him?’ – since the root of the matter is found in me, be afraid of the sword for yourselves; for wrath brings the punishment of the sword, that you may know there is a judgment. – Job 19:2-6, 21-29
Are You not from everlasting, O Lord my God, my Holy One? We shall not die. O Lord, You have appointed them for judgment; O Rock, You have marked them for correction. You are of purer eyes than to behold evil, and cannot look on wickedness. Why do you look on those who deal treacherously and hold Your tongue when the wicked devours a person more righteous than he? Why do You make men like fish of the sea, like creeping things that have no ruler over them? They take up all of them with a hook, they catch them in their net, and gather them in their dragnet. Therefore they rejoice and are glad. Therefore they sacrifice to their net, and burn incense to their dragnet; because by them their share is sumptuous and their food is plentiful. Shall they therefore empty their net, and continue to slay nations without pity? – Habakkuk 1:12-1
The joy of our heart has ceased; our dance has turned into mourning. The crown has fallen from our head. Woe to us, for we have sinned! Because of this our heart is faint; because of these things our eyes grow dim; because of Mount Zion which is desolate, with foxes walking about on it. You, O Lord, remain forever; Your throne from generation to generation. Why do You forget us forever, and forsake us for so long a time? Turn us back to You, O Lord, and we will be restored; renew our days as of old, unless you have utterly rejected us, and are very angry with us! – Lamentations 5:15-22
The protests and riots over ‘blue’-on-black violence which have swept across this country, shaken many of its cities, and taken on a revolutionary life of their own, are, I fear, the tipping point which will wipe out our monuments once and for all. Even worse, the destruction of these symbols shows that the memory of the men and mettle which they symbolise will be wiped out as well.
Although the public has consistently opposed the removal of Confederate statues by 2-1 margins or more – where I live in Florida, it was 58% to 27% in the summer of 2017 – the mob has always overruled democracy. (Indeed, although the county commissioners initially voted to keep our 106 year-old monument but supplement it with a mural to diversity, after the rioting of ‘Black Trans Lives Matter’ and the ‘Tampa Maoist Collective,’ the lobbying of ‘Woke Capital,’ and the opinionating of journalists-cum-activists, they re-voted to remove it.) Even worse, now that the mob has a taste of ‘anarcho-tyranny’ – having seen that the authorities will neither prevent nor punish them for vandalising and even overthrowing these monuments themselves – there is nothing stopping them. ‘Heritage defense’ groups such as the Sons of Confederate Veterans and United Daughters of the Confederacy must disabuse ourselves of the notion that legislation or litigation can keep these monuments safe in public spaces – that cause is lost – and rescue these irreplaceable works of art while we still have the freedom to do so.
When it comes to blue-on-black violence, all I shall say is that without any intention of mine to marginalise real victims, the extent, causes, and solutions to the problem are far more complicated than the protesters and the rioters believe. An anonymous open letter, purportedly authored by a black person within the History Department of UC Berkeley, puts this mass-movement in perspective. ‘It’s really worth reading, in a time of widespread panic,’ commented Wilfred Reilly (a black professor of political science at Kentucky State University). UC Berkeley has, ironically, denounced the letter and denied that it originated from its History Department, but even if the provenance of the letter was faked for publicity’s sake, that is less important than the content of the letter itself. Indeed, there is nothing in the letter which preeminent black intellectuals like Thomas Sowell and Shelby Steele (who are senior fellows at Stanford University’s Hoover Institution), Glenn C. Loury and Jason L. Riley (experts at the Manhattan Institute who contribute to City Journal and The Wall Street Journal), or Walter E. Williams (who is an economics professor at George Mason University) have not been arguing throughout their careers. Many of these black intellectuals and more have united at ‘The 1776 Project’ (in opposition to ‘The 1619 Project’), which however conventionally conservative is at least a sign of life somewhere.
As part of the inquisition against ‘systemic racism’ in this country, ‘Black Lives Matter’ and ‘Antifa’ mobs have defaced and even destroyed classic works of public art around the country, such as those which have stood on Richmond’s Monument Avenue Historic District for well over a hundred years. These great and good men – Robert E. Lee, Thomas J. Jackson, J.E.B. Stuart, and Jefferson Davis – have always been my heroes since I learned from my grandfather who my people are, where we come from, and what we have done. I confess that while a part of me hates those protesters and rioters who dishonour their memory, another part of me pities those same people who have been so poisoned by racial resentment and suspicion that they cannot see that they were so much more than just ‘some racists,’ as someone whom I know crudely phrased it. To paraphrase the British historian Edward Gibbon, ‘their imperfections flowed from the contagion of the times; their virtues were their own.’
Richmond’s Confederate monuments were defaced with ‘Black Lives Matter’ and ‘Antifa’ graffiti/propaganda – ‘AmeriKKKa,’ ‘ACAB’ (gang slang for ‘all cops are bastards’), ‘Blood On Your Hands,’ ‘‘Cops Are Creepy,’ ‘Cops Are Simps’, ‘Defund The Police,’ ‘Die,’ ‘End Wage Slavery,’ ‘End White Supremacy,’ ‘F—k 12’ (gang slang for ‘f—k the police’), ‘F—k Racism,’ ‘F—k You,’ ‘FTP’ (gang slang for ‘f—k the police’), ‘F—k Pigs’ (gang slang for ‘police’), ‘F—k This Statue,’ ‘Freedom,’ ‘Hold Cops Accountable,’ ‘How Much More Blood?’, ‘Justice For Floyd,’ ‘Love,’ ‘Love Not War,’ ‘Lynch Trump,’ ‘No Cops,’ ‘No KKKops,’ ‘No Más,’ ‘No More White Supremacy,’ ‘No Justice, No Peace,’ ‘One Love,’ ‘Racist,’ ‘Racist AmeriKKKa,’ ‘Solidarity,’ ‘Stop Being Racist,’ ‘Stop Killing Us,’ ‘Stop White Supremacy,’ ‘Suck A D—k,’ ‘War,’ anarchist, communist (the Soviet hammer and sickle), and peace signs, and even more that was illegible/illiterate. A mob too impatient for the formal removal of the art and architecture which put those city blocks on the ‘National Register of Historic Places’ and one of the ‘Ten Great Streets in the Country’ tore down the statue of Jefferson Davis, tied a noose around its neck, and dragged it through the street while the police stood by and waited to pick up the pieces. The statues of Stonewall Jackson and J.E.B. Stuart have been formally removed, and now only Robert E. Lee is the last statue standing. It is not just Lee, Jackson, Stuart, and Davis who are facing the figurative gibbet or guillotine, of course. The Confederates may have been targeted first, but they will not be the last. To borrow a phrase, they will come for whomever is left when there is no one left to speak for them.
It is Christopher Columbus, too. Monuments to Columbus in Boston, St. Paul, and Richmond have been mobbed, vandalised, and demolished. One was actually burned and beheaded in effigy. Why? It is not just because Columbus conquered the aboriginal/indigenous tribes of the Caribbean. (The pre-Colombian empires were, after all, conquered by the Spanish in collaboration with other aborigines/indigenes whom had been treated as fodder for cannibalism and sacrifice, yet the descendants of those victims now perversely identify with the Aztecs, Mayans, and Incans who victimised their ancestors.) It is because, as Pres. Franklin D. Roosevelt stated in his ‘Columbus Day’ speech from 1940, he inaugurated ‘the early movement of European people to America.’ According to FDR, ‘Out of the fusion of all these national strains was created the America to which the Old World contributed so magnificently.’ (He might have added that the profound issues raised by the Old World’s encounter with the New World caused a philosophical and theological debate among Spanish Catholics from which the Western ideals of international law and universal human rights originated – ideals which have existed nowhere else in the world and which those Lilliputians destroying the monuments of Western Civilisation now take for granted.) Columbus is so offensive to the protesters and the rioters because he is a symbol of Western colonisation and civilisation in the Americas, which to them was and is a crime against humanity. Mobs of ‘indigenous activists’ in Los Angeles and San Francisco have also torn down monuments of Saint Junipero Serra, the Franciscan friar who established the California mission system (hence why so many Californian cities have Spanish and Catholic names).
It is the Alamo and the Texas Rangers, too. The Alamo’s Cenotaph (erected in 1936 on the centennial anniversary of the legendary battle) has been defaced with ‘Black Lives Matter’ and ‘Antifa’ graffiti/propaganda (‘Down With White Supremacy,’ ‘Down With Profit Over People,’ and ‘Down With The ALAMO’) and at the Dallas Love Field Airport, a statue of a Texas Ranger was removed. Why? It is not just because they are protesting the Texas Revolution and the Mexican-American War, although there is also an irredentist/revanchist and ethno-nationalistic movement among Mexicans north and south of the border. Just like Columbus, the Alamo and the Texas Rangers are symbols of Western colonisation and civilisation in the Americas (specifically of the American frontiersman and pioneer), which to the protesters and rioters was and is a crime against humanity. They attack the Alamo and the Texas Rangers to attack our very right to live here on this continent – or, according to their slogan, ‘stolen land’ built by ‘stolen labour.’ To them, ‘Manifest Destiny’ is equivalent to ‘Lebensraum.’
It is the National Mall, too: The Lincoln Memorial, the World War II Memorial, and other monuments have all been the victims of petty ‘Black Lives Matter’ and ‘Antifa’ vandalism. Are they protesting the fact that, as Joe Sobran put it, Abraham Lincoln’s dual goal was ‘to prevent the political separation of North and South while promoting the racial separation of black and white’? Or the fact that in order to defeat the Axis Powers the U.S.A. had to ally with the Communists under Stalin, whose evil was so terrible that H.L. Mencken quipped that ‘Hitler is hardly more than a common Ku Kluxer and Mussolini almost a philanthropist’? No, what they are protesting is the very existence of the U.S.A. – or what they now label ‘AmeriKKKa’ – as symbolised in our monuments in the heart of Washington, D.C.
It is the Union, too. Outside Colorado’s capitol building in Denver, a monument to Union soldiers was defaced with ‘Down With DPD’ (Denver Police Department) and a Nazi swastika. In Colorado Springs, a monument of the city’s founder, William Jackson Palmer (a Union general who won the Medal of Honour and a major philanthropist to black causes) was vandalised with ‘Black Lives Matter’ graffiti/propaganda. Are they protesting the imposition of martial law in Maryland and Missouri? The disease, starvation, and torture of POWs in Camp Douglas and Elmira Prison? The sacking and razing of Atlanta and Columbia? The besieging and bombing of Charleston and Richmond? The looting, raping, and killing of black and white Southern civilians? The damage that destroying the Southern economy and society did to the black people living there whom they were supposedly liberating? No, they are protesting any and all American symbols, which to them symbolise ‘400 years of racism.’
Underscoring the idiotic iconoclasm of whatever this movement is, during the riot at the state capitol building in Denver a monument to the victims of the Armenian Genocide (a traditional memorial stele known as a khachkar, or ‘cross-stone’) was defaced with ‘Black Lives Matter’ and ‘Antifa’ graffiti/propaganda such as ‘Cops Are The Evil’ ‘F—k 12,’ a smiley face, and even just the words ‘Sample Text.’ The intricate stonework on the face of the memorial stele was also covered in red spray-paint.
It is the National Anthem, too. In San Francisco, California, a mob defaced a monument of Francis Scott Key (the Marylander whose poem, ‘The Defence of Fort McHenry,’ which he wrote after witnessing the bombardment of Baltimore as a prisoner aboard a British ship, was adapted into ‘The Star-Spangled Banner’) with ‘Black Lives Matter’ and ‘Antifa’ graffiti/propaganda – ‘ACAB,’ ‘F—k 12,’ ’Kill All Colonizers,’ ‘Kill Whitey,’ ‘Slave Owner,’ ‘Slaveowning Pig,’ ‘Stolen People, Stolen Land,’ and more that was illegible/illiterate. When they had spray-painted all they had to say on the statue, they tore it down and stomped on it. The American national anthem offends the protesters and rioters because the American nation offends them.
It is ‘The Great Triumvirate,’ too – three out of the ‘Famous Five’ Senators. In Charleston, South Carolina, a mob defaced a monument to John C. Calhoun (by any historical standard, not just one of the greatest Southerners ever but one of the greatest Americans ever) with ‘Black Lives Matter’ and ‘Antifa’ graffiti/propaganda – ‘1312’ (gang slang for ‘All Cops Are Bastards’), ‘Abolish CPD’ (Charleston Police Department), ‘Abolish NCPD’ (North Charleston Police Department), ‘Defund The Police,’ ‘Enough Is Enough,’ ‘F—k 12,’ ‘F—k Racist AmeriKKKa,’ ‘F—k Calhoun,’ ‘F—k The Police,’ ‘F—k Racism,’ ‘F—k Relocation,’ ‘F—k White Supremacy,’ ‘It’s Time To Atone For Injustice, Take The Slaver Down,’ ‘No Justice, No Peace, No Racist Police,’ ‘No Monuments To Hate,’ ‘Racist Statues Are Not Tourist Attractions,’ ‘Rip It Down,’ ‘Say All Lives Matter If You Have A Small D—k,’ ‘Socialist States Have No Racism,’ ‘Suck Our C—ks,’ ‘Take It Down, Melt It Down,’ ‘Take This S—t Down,’ ‘Throw It In The River,’ ‘White Silence Is Violence,’ and even more that was illegible/illiterate. To appease the mob, the Charleston City Council voted unanimously to remove the monument, thus sending the message that rioting is effective. After 124 years standing in Marion Square, the statue and plaques have been stripped from the pedestal, leaving nothing behind but a barren obelisk – idiotic iconoclasm that passes for progress today. In New Orleans, Louisiana, ‘Take Em Down NOLA’ (an activist group which lobbied successfully over public opposition for the removal of historic Confederate monuments in 2017) is demanding the removal of a monument to Henry Clay of Kentucky. (They also threw a bust of educational philanthropist – but ‘racist’! – John McDonough in the river.) In Manhattan’s Central Park, a monument to Daniel Webster was defaced with ‘Black Lives Matter’ and ‘Antifa’ graffiti/propaganda – ‘ACAB,’ ‘F—k 12,’ ‘F—k NYPD,’ ‘F—k Racism,’ ‘Racist!!!’ and ‘Racist B—h.’ Clay and Webster were once revered by Americans for making compromises between the North and the South over the issue of slavery and saving the Union for their time, but now that very statesmanship is their crime.
It is the Presidents, too. NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio has announced that the monument of Theodore Roosevelt (the great conservationist and progressive of his time) outside the Museum of Natural History in Manhattan will be removed. In San Francisco, California, a mob defaced a monument of Ulysses S. Grant (who defeated the Confederacy as a general and defeated the Ku Klux Klan as a president) and then demolished it. In Washington, D.C., a mob spray-painted the words ‘Killer’ all over a monument of Andrew Jackson (the great populist of his time and founder of the Democratic Party), but for once the police intervened and stopped them before they could demolish it.
It is the Founding Fathers, too. In Portland, Oregon, mobs defaced monuments of George Washington and Thomas Jefferson with ‘Black Lives Matter’ and ‘Antifa’ graffiti/propaganda –‘Big Floyd,’ ‘Damn White Men,’ ‘Defund White Men,’ ‘F—k Cops,’ ‘George Floyd 846’ (a reference to the amount of time that he had a knee on his neck), ‘Murder,’ ‘Slave Owner,’ ‘White Fragility,’ ‘You’re On Native Land,’ and ‘1619’ (a reference to The New York Times’ racial agitprop) – and then demolished them. For good measure, they draped Washington in a burning American flag as they tore down his statue. The symbolism is right in our faces and needs no further explanation. Three years ago, when the monuments of Robert E. Lee and Stonewall Jackson were targeted in Charlottesville, Virginia, Pres. Trump was uncharacteristically articulate and intelligent – downright Socratic, in fact. ‘I wonder: Is it George Washington next week, and is it Thomas Jefferson the week after?’ he asked at a press conference. ‘You know, you really have to ask yourself – where does it stop?’ When journalists complained about the comparison of Washington and Jefferson to Lee and Jackson, the President asked them some questions they could not answer. ‘Was George Washington a slave owner?’ he asked. ‘Yes,’ answered the press. ‘So will George Washington now lose his status? Are we going to take down statues of him?’ he asked. ‘How about Thomas Jefferson? What do you think of Thomas Jefferson? You like him?’ he asked. ‘I do love Thomas Jefferson,’ answered the press. ‘Okay, good, are we going to take down his statue, because he was a major slave owner?’ Nevertheless, the media class collectively denounced the President for the comparison and assured the public that there was cause for concern. Late-nite comedians Jimmy Fallon and Seth Myers appeared on ‘Saturday Night Live’ as Washington and Jefferson to joke about slavery and mock Lee and Jackson. Where are these ‘smugnorant’ celebrities now?
One wonders what the fate will be of Alexander Hamilton, whom despite Lin-Manuel Miranda’s enthusiastic attempt to modernise for younger generations, was actually one of the most capitalistic, elitist, militaristic, and nationalistic (one might even shudder to say ‘Republican’) of all the Founding Fathers.
It is even other African-Americans, too. In Boston, Massachusetts, a monument to the 54th Massachusetts Infantry Regiment (the first African-American volunteer regiment in the Civil War famous for its doomed assault on Battery Wagner) was defaced with ‘Black Lives Matter’ and ‘Antifa’ graffiti/propaganda – ‘ACAB,’ ‘F—k 12,’ ‘No Justice, No Peace,’ ‘Police Are Pigs,’ ‘R.I.P. George Floyd,’ and even more that was illegible/illiterate. The ‘Emancipation Memorial’ in Washington, D.C., (funded by freedmen and dedicated by the abolitionist Frederick Douglass) has been targeted for destruction because it depicts Abraham Lincoln as a paternalistic figure. ‘We’re tearing this motherf—r down!’ a ringleader bellowed to a roaring mob. This is all beneath our comprehension and our contempt.
Who will be next? Shaun King (a prominent ‘Black Lives Matter’ activist) has made some disturbing demands:
Yes, I think the statues of the white European they claim is Jesus should also come down. They are a form of white supremacy. Always have been. In the Bible, when the family of Jesus wanted to hide, and blend in, guess where they went EGYPT! Not Denmark. Tear them down.
Yes, all murals and stained-glass windows of white Jesus, and his European mother, and their white friends should also come down. They are a gross form of white supremacy. Created as tools of oppression. Racist propaganda. They should all come down.
I apologise for the repetitive obscenities and profanities, but it is crucial that we have no illusions about what this vocal (and increasingly violent) minority thinks of us and what they want to do to us. We have been urgently warning our fellow Americans about this militant movement’s onward march for over five years. Rest assured, not one of us takes any satisfaction whatsoever in our manifest vindication.
The list of monuments that have been spray-painted, smashed, and sentenced for removal over the past couple months is lengthy and is lengthening. ‘Call Them The 1619 Riots’ quipped The New York Post. ‘It would be an honor,’ retorted the editor of The 1619 Project, ‘Thank you.’ They are just the most prominent examples of countless acts of erasure, however, ranging from the petty (taking down flags and statues, renaming streets, etc.) to the absurd (e.g. rebranding ‘Uncle Ben’ and ‘Aunt Jemima’ or renaming the bands ‘Lady Antebellum’ and ‘The Dixie Chicks’). These ‘identity politics’ of pandering and preening may make white liberals feel better about being white, but how will they improve black lives?
If it were not already undeniable, these ‘politically correct’ hate crimes have nothing to do with the historical legacy of this or that historical individual or this or that historical event. The protesters and the rioters neither know nor care; they are as indifferent as they are ignorant. Judging from their gibberish and graffiti, many of them probably could not distinguish between George Washington (the Father of His Country) and George Washington Carver (the Father of Peanut Butter). They are targeting our monuments as a form of domestic terrorism and cultural genocide meant to dishearten and threaten us.
America is more than just an abstract ‘proposition’ to us; she is an organic ‘given’ of which we are a part. America is more than just a ‘creed’ to us; she is in our blood. America is more than just an ‘idea’ to us; she is our identity and our inheritance. America is not just our birthplace and our homeland, but the birthplace and homeland of our progenitors and what we hope shall be the birthplace and homeland of our progeny. James Johnston Pettigrew (a North-Carolinian scholar and Confederate officer who was killed in the retreat from Gettysburg), in his philosophical travelogue of Spain and Sardinia, expressed exactly what ‘patriotism’ means to us. ‘Local attachments are pronounced, by the modern school of social philosophers, to be relics of barbarism, ignorance, and prejudice, forgetting that prejudices are given us by the all-wise Deity, as well as reasoning faculties, and equally for some beneficent purpose,’ explained Pettigrew. ‘Patriotism, an attachment to, a preference for one’s own home, is still a virtue prolific of measureless good, and for its foundation rests upon enlightened prejudice.’ We Southerners identify with Edmund Burke’s definition of a society as ‘a partnership not only between those who are living, but between those who are living, those who are dead, and those who are to be born,’ more than other individualistic Americans. Indeed, we Southerners identify more with Alexis de Tocqueville’s description of older feudal societies (where ‘all generations become as it were contemporaneous’) than with newer democratic societies (where ‘the woof of time is every instant broken and the track of generations effaced’). Like de Tocqueville, the Southerner ‘knows his forefathers and respects them,’ ‘sees his remote descendants and loves them,’ and ‘willingly imposes duties on himself toward the former and the latter, and will frequently sacrifice his personal gratifications to those who went before and to those who will come after him.’ All of the above is why the destruction of our monuments is so demoralising and even traumatising to us: It is the destruction of that mystic link between the past, present, and future.
Our one consolation is that the ‘Cabaret’-style ‘Weimerika’ into which America has degenerated does not deserve to have monuments to such heroes as Robert E. Lee, Thomas J. Jackson, J.E.B. Stuart, and Jefferson Davis anyway, but that is a very bitter consolation. That may be an argument for giving monuments due process, but it is not an argument for tearing them down, trying to set them on fire, beheading them, and then urinating on the ruins. They do not deserve that cruel and unusual punishment.
The purging of Confederate monuments is the harbinger of the broader and deeper demographic reconstruction of the American South. Diversification and suburbanisation have been a form of ‘gentrification,’ turning many Southern cities (like Richmond) and even a few Southern states (like Virginia) into the ‘nü-South’ – a Southern-flavoured knockoff of hipster meccas like Brooklyn, Hollywood, and Portland, or bourgeois enclaves like North Caldwell, Scottsdale, and the San Fernando Valley. As Fred Hobson observed, the assimilation of the South into the American mass replaced the historic qualities which had made her unique (for better or for worse) with generic American materialism. ‘The South in 1981 feels it has the best of both worlds: Pleasant and comfortable, but possessing at least a mild sense of its traditions and heritage,’ he explained. ‘But is it,’ he asked, ‘a South to which one can really be committed, which one can regard as distinctly different from the rest of America, which one can love or hate?’ The nü-South is, as Hobson predicted, merely a ‘Southern chic’ version of any other American metropolitan area, but what Hobson could not have predicted is that the ‘love-hate relationship’ would not die so much as be perverted into pathological self-hatred.
The nü-South is an effect of ‘The Great Replacement’ (a term for the population trends in North America and Western Europe which has been poisoned as a meme on alt-right Internet subcultures) and ‘The Great Awokening’ (a term for white liberals’ shift so far to the left on ‘social justice’ issues that they alone now exhibit a pro-outgroup rather than pro-ingroup bias). When Virginia went blue in the state elections late last year (Virginia had been blue before, of course, but today’s identity-politics Democrats are nothing like the civic-nationalist Democrats before 1993), the media class openly exulted in the outcome with headlines like ‘The Demo-craphic Tide Washes Over Virginia’ and ‘Tuesday’s Election Paints Picture of Changing Demographics.’ In ‘How Voters Turned Virginia From Deep Red to Solid Blue,’ The New York Times explained how the demographic changes from diversification and suburbanisation have reconstructed the state:
South Riding, Va. – Not long ago, this rolling green stretch of Northern Virginia was farmland. Most people who could vote had grown up here. And when they did, they usually chose Republican.
The fields of Loudon County are disappearing. In their place is row upon row of cookie-cutter townhouses, clipped lawns, and cul-de-sacs – a suburban landscape as far as the eye can see. Unlike three decades ago, the residents are often from other places, like India and Korea. And when they vote, it is usually for Democrats…
Once the heart of the Confederacy, Virginia is now the land of Indian grocery stores, Korean churches, and Diwali festivals.
It never seems to occur to those at the Times that replacing the American South’s unique Tidewater culture (not just in Virginia but in Delaware and Maryland as well) with mass-culture and multi-culturalism is actually the opposite of diversity. There are plenty of places for people to celebrate Diwali in the world, but there is only one Delaware, one Maryland, and one Virginia (though not for very much longer).
‘Virginia now stands as a fearful avatar for Republicans of what the nation’s unrelenting demographic and cultural changes mean for the party, as the moderate-to-liberal urban and suburban areas grow and more conservative areas lose ground,’ reported The Washington Post. ‘Similar shifts are starting to hit states such as North Carolina, Arizona, Georgia, and Texas, as minority populations increase and white college-educated voters continue to turn away from the Republican brand.’ (The death of the ‘Stupid Party’ would be cause for good cheer if it were not leaving the country in the hands of the ‘Evil Party.’) In one of the many other celebratory/self-congratulatory articles and op-eds published by the Post, ‘A Bright Blue Virginia Leaves the Confederacy Behind,’ a ‘community organiser’ explained that ‘with the Democratic sweep in Richmond, protecting Civil War monuments won’t be high on the agenda in the town that was once the seat of the Lost Cause.’ As he triumphantly proclaimed, ‘The Confederacy is dead…That page of our history is about to turn.’ Simply put, Richmond, Virginia, and the rest of the nü-South are not purging their heritage because their people have been reconstructed, but because their people have been replaced. It is not their heritage.
Almost a century ago, the ‘Fugitive Agrarians’ warned that the Northern ‘Industrialism’ which promised to increase the Southern standard of living also threatened the Southern way of life in ways that markets could not measure. ‘It may be confidently said that the physical operations of agriculture will continue in the South, just as certain processes of industry are expected to continue in the South, but the human civilization now based on Southern agriculture is in no little peril, and industrial civilization under the capitalistic system does not offer a satisfying substitute in human values,’ argued Herman Clarence Nixon. ‘The South is no longer conquered territory, not quite conquered, but a protest, articulate and constructive, is needed against another conquest, a conquest of the spirit.’ Industrialism is no longer the imminent threat that it was in 1930, as there is little agrarian left for industry to destroy (and the country has since ‘de-industrialised’ what it industrialised by outsourcing industry to the Third World). Yet the nü-South is not much different from Industrialism in that it invokes the same ideology of ‘Progress’ as it deconstructs and reconstructs the South (though more thoroughly and permanently than mere machines did). Indeed, even though capitalism is no longer ‘industrial,’ the effects of Industrialism identified by Lyle H. Lanier – the consolidation of economic capital and political authority, the pathologisation of individuality, and the dissolution of community and family life – are worse today than they were back then. ‘It is not the machine, however, but the theory of the machine to which I object,’ remarked Lanier, ‘and if this theory, which we may call Industrialism, is a valid hypothesis of the course of Western civilization, all discussion of “progress” would do well to cease.’ Even as industrial capitalism undermined the American South’s traditional agrarian life, John Crowe Ransom admitted that liberal and progressive Americans were still sentimental about sympathetic toward the American South. Today we have the opposite of sentimentality and sympathy – something like self-righteous indignation – as gentrification finishes what industrialisation started. In the nü-South, an ‘unreconstructed Southerner’ like Ransom, ‘who persists in his regard for a certain terrain, a certain history, and a certain inherited way of living,’ will no longer be an eccentric and romantic ‘anachronism’ who is indulged but not taken seriously: We are ‘racists’ who shall be purged, just like our ‘racist monuments.’
 ‘You don’t believe that black lives matter? You’re not against anti-fascism? It’s literally in their names!’ Of course I believe that black lives matter (who really believes that they do not?) and am against fascism (who is really for it?), but any group can name itself after any truism that it wants. For example, so many of the worst oppressors of their own people have called themselves ‘people’s republics’ or ‘people’s democracies’ that it is now a joke. ‘Black Lives Matter’ and ‘Antifa’ are to black lives and anti-fascism what the Democratic Republic of the Congo and the People’s Republic of Cambodia are to Congolese democracy and the Cambodian people. Are the Ku Klax Klan really ‘Christian Knights’ because that is what they call themselves? This is a sandbox-style argument.
 Catholic scholar Robert Royal’s book, 1492 And All That: Political Manipulations of History (as well as articles for the Catholic magazine First Things, such as “1492 And All That,” “Consequences of Columbus,” “Since Long Before 1492,” and “Columbus and the Beginning of the World”) are exemplars of what history should and must be.
 In 1957, when John C. Calhoun was voted one of the five greatest Senators of all time (along with his fellow ‘triumvirs,’ Henry Clay and Daniel Webster), Sen. John F. Kennedy summarised his character and contributions:
Senator John C. Calhoun, of South Carolina, who served in the Senate 1832-43, 1845-50. Forceful logician of state sovereignty, masterful defender of the rights of a political minority against the dangers of an unchecked majority, his profoundly penetrating and original understanding of the social bases of government has significantly influenced American political theory and practice. Sincerely devoted to the public good as he saw it, the ultimate tragedy of his final cause neither detracts from the greatness of his leadership nor tarnishes his efforts to avert bloodshed. Outspoken yet respected, intellectual yet beloved, his leadership on every major issue in that critical era of transition significantly shaped the role of the Senate and the destiny of the nation.
 Sen. John F. Kennedy, who chaired the special committee tasked with selecting the ‘Famous Five,’ summarised the character and contributions of Henry Clay and Daniel Webster:
Senator Henry Clay, of Kentucky, who served in the Senate 1806-7, 1810-11, 1831-42, 1849-52. Resourceful expert in the art of the possible, his fertile mind, persuasive voice, skillful politics, and tireless energies were courageously devoted to the reconciliation of conflict between North and South, East and West, capitalism and agrarianism. A political leader who put the national good above party, a spokesman for the West whose love for the Union outweighed sectional pressures, he acquired more influence and respect as a responsible leader of the loyal but ardent opposition than many who occupied the White House. His adroit statesmanship and political finesse in times of national crisis demonstrated the values of intelligent compromise in a federal democracy, without impairing either his convictions or his courage to stand by them.
Senator Daniel Webster, of Massachusetts, who served in the Senate 1827-41, 1845-50. Eloquent and articulate champion of ‘Liberty and Union, now and forever, one and inseparable,’ he grasped in an age of divided loyalties the full meaning of the American Constitution and of the supremacy and indissolubility of the national government. Molding the symbols of the Union he cherished so strongly so that neither secession nor war could break them, his steadfast courage and powerful leadership in two of the Senate’s most historic and critical debates were brilliantly portrayed in orations attentively heard and eagerly read. Influential spokesman for industrial expansion, his dedication to the Union above all personal and partisan considerations overshadowed the petty moral insensitivities which never compromised his national principles; and his splendid dignity and decorum elevated the status and prestige of the Senate.
JFK – that notorious apologist for white-supremacist racists!
 Everyone knows that Jesus was Jewish and so would have looked Semitic (even more ‘Middle Eastern’ than modern-day Ashkenazi or Sephardic Jews, many of whom have acquired European admixture since the first century A.D.). No one believes in ‘Aryan Jesus’ any more than they believe in ‘Black Jesus.’ Christianity is an evangelical and universalist religion, yet the human race is ethno-centric and tribalist, hence people of all colours imagine Jesus looking like them. It is as historically inaccurate as it is also innocent and irrelevant. Indeed, what does any of this have to with ‘systemic racism in policing’? Why is Shaun King endorsing violent vigilantism against churches instead of endorsing the police-reform bill of Sen. Tim Scott (the African-American Republican from South Carolina)?
 Many ‘neo-abolitionist’ historians (e.g. Allen C. Guelzo, James M. McPherson, James Oakes, Sean Wilentz, and Gordon Wood), who have spent their entire careers falsely arguing that everything that made the American South exceptional came from slavery are now protesting as The New York Times makes the same false accusation about all of America herself in its ‘1619 Project.’ It is too late for them.
 One of many examples of the media class’ hypocritical coverage of and commentary of the issues around ‘The Great Replacement’ is an interview which CNN news anchor Anderson Cooper did with Univision news anchor (and Hispanic/Latino spokesman) Jorge Ramos. Mr. Cooper explained that while he personally finds ‘the idea that whites will not be the majority’ to be ‘an exciting transformation of the country’ representing ‘evolution’ and ‘progress,’ he added that ‘among white supremacists, white nationalists that is viewed as a horrific event.’ Mr. Ramos interrupted, ‘I do understand, but there’s nothing really they can do against this demographic revolution – and in 2044 everyone is going to be a minority.’ In those few sentences, Messrs. Cooper and Ramos unwittingly admitted to what CNN, Univision, and the rest of the press has collectively denounced as a ‘racist conspiracy theory’ – namely, that white people are becoming minorities in the countries where they live. Enough straw-man arguments: The migration of over one million people per year to the U.S.A. – and the obvious challenges which this poses to our cultural identity, economic prosperity, political unity, and social stability as a nation and a state – is a policy which deserves to be democratically debated, and not everyone who disagrees with Messrs. Cooper and Ramos is a ‘white supremacist’ or ‘white nationalist,’ as the political scientist Eric Kaufmann has argued in Whiteshift: Populism, Immigration, and the Future of White Majorities.
This piece previously appeared at the Abbeville Institute website on July 27, 2020.
On February 23rd, Travis McMichael shot and killed Ahmaud Arbery in a neighborhood in Santilla Shores, a seaside community in the southeastern corner of Georgia outside of Brunswick. The police questioned Travis, his father Greg (who was present when the shooting occurred), and other witnesses on the scene and at the station, but did not make any arrests until 3 different prosecutors and 74 days after the shooting. A picture of Ahmaud which went viral on social media included the following caption: “I was murdered by an armed father and son who hunted me down and shot me as I jogged in a Georgia neighborhood. Neither of my killers have been charged. My name is Ahmaud Arbery.” Another picture of the McMichaels read, “The two thugs that murdered Ahmaud Arbery.” The NAACP issued an action alert announcing, “Ahmaud Arbery was running in his neighborhood when he was chased and murdered by two white supremacists.”
At least, that is how the media class has been breathlessly reporting the news. “Who Gets to be Afraid in America?” asked Ibram X. Kendi (Director of the Antiracist Research and Policy Center at American University) in The Atlantic. “Americans don’t see me, or Ahmaud Arbery, running down the road – they see their fear.” Adam Serwer, a staff writer for The Atlantic, claimed that “America’s Racial Contract is Showing.” According to Mr. Serwer, “If the social contract is the implicit agreement among members of a society to follow the rules – for example, acting lawfully, adhering to the results of elections, and contesting the agreed-upon rules by non-violent means – then the racial contract is a codicil rendered in invisible ink, one stating that the rules as written do not apply to non-white people in the same way.” In Charles M. Blow’s New York Times column, “The Killing of Ahmaud Arbery,” his summary of the case was simply “another black man falsely assumed to be a criminal is dead.” The media class used obviously prejudicial tactics of circulating professional photography of Ahmaud’s to represent him – his outdated prom/graduation photos instead of his most recent mug shot – while circulating the current mug shots of the McMichaels to represent them.
Not to be racist or anything…but this story has all the telltale signs of another “Black Lives Matter” narrative collapse. The NAACP, SPLC, and ACLU are even comparing Ahmaud to the narrative collapse that started them all, Trayvon Martin. “Ahmaud was killed three days before the anniversary of the 2012 killing of Trayvon Martin,” according to a statement by the executive director of the ACLU in Georgia. “Both incidents are a reminder that white supremacy has been a foundation for our country and leads repeatedly to the targeting and harming of people of color, particularly African-Americans.” They are right but for the wrong reason: Trayvon was assumed by the media class to have been an innocent black boy who was racially profiled, hunted down, and shot to death by a white man simply for walking through a neighborhood at night, but when the facts came out it turned out that he got himself killed because he attacked an armed Hispanic/Latino man.
On February 27th, four days after the shooting, Jackie Johnson (the District Attorney of the Brunswick Judicial Circuit) recused herself over a potential conflict of interest, as Greg had previously worked in her office as an investigator. The NAACP called on her to resign from her position for not charging the McMichaels anyway. Ms. Johnson was replaced by George Barnhill (District Attorney of the Waycross Judicial Circuit). After reviewing the evidence, Mr. Barnhill concluded that there was not sufficient probable cause to charge the McMichaels and that Ahmaud’s death was “justifiable homicide.” Ahmaud’s family, represented by professional Black Lives Matter activists Benjamin Crump and S. Lee Merritt, protested Mr. Barnhill’s involvement in the case, claiming that he had a conflict of interest because his son had worked in the same office as Greg (investigating Ahmaud for violating his parole, in fact). Mr. Barnhill recused himself as well, though he did not believe it was necessary. “A local ‘rabble rouser’ has taken up this cause and begun publishing wild and factually and legally incorrect accusations on Facebook and other social-media formats calling for marches and physical affronts to be made against the McMichaels at their homes, my son’s home in Brunswick, etc.,” Mr. Barnhill explained in his letter of recusal. “To date I have seen no direct connection between the rabble rouser and the family other than their increased calls for my office to be removed, that I must be biased.” The NAACP also called on Mr. Barnhill to resign from his position for not charging the McMichaels, as well as Glynn County Police Chief to resign for not arresting the McMichaels. “Justice for Ahmaud means more than just the arrests of his killers,” demanded the president of the Brunswick NAACP. “Justice is saying that we’ve got to clean up the house of Glynn County.”
On April 13th, Tom Durden (District Attorney of the Atlantic Judicial Circuit) took over the case. On May 5th, when cellphone footage of the shooting leaked on social media and went viral, Mr. Durden responded to the outrage by announcing that a grand jury would be convened in order to determine whether the McMichaels should be indicted. Days after Mr. Durden’s statement, the Georgia Bureau of Investigation arrested the McMichaels for felony murder and aggravated assault in the shooting of Ahmaud. The grand jury will be convened when pandemic-related restrictions on the courts are lifted. Georgia’s Attorney General replaced Mr. Denton with Joyette M. Holmes (District Attorney of the Cobb Judicial Circuit and the first black woman to hold that office) and has requested that the U.S. Department of Justice investigate Glynn County’s conduct in the case. The DOJ is also considering “hate crime” charges against the McMichaels.
A local criminal-defense attorney released the cellphone footage of the shooting to a local radio station, WGIG, which posted it on its website. “There had been very little information provided by the police department or the district attorney’s office, but there was entirely too much speculation, rumor, false narratives, and outright lies surrounding this event,” Mr. Tucker told Georgia Public Radio. “My sole purpose in releasing this video was absolute transparency because my community was being ripped apart by erroneous accusations and assumptions.” Although the video was removed from WGIG’s website for its graphic content, Ahmaud’s family’s attorneys began circulating it online. “The series of events captured in this video confirm what all the evidence indicated prior to its release,” they stated. “Mr. Arbery was pursued by three white men that targeted him solely because of his race and murdered him without justification.” Despite Mr. Tucker’s good intentions – “I didn’t want the neighborhood to become a Ferguson” – his actions had the opposite effect and have turned a local crime into another black-and-white battle of good and evil between blacks and whites.
On May 5th, when the footage of the shooting was leaked, a “Justice for Ahmaud” protest marched to the Glynn County Courthouse. “I didn’t need the video to know that Ahmaud was brutally murdered and shot down and gunned like a dog,” claimed the state president of the NAACP, James Major Woodall, “but the video showed the world what we already knew – that black life still needs to be valued and protected.” Mr. Woodall called the shooting “white supremacy full on” and warned that “until this country can truly acknowledge the ills of its system, we will continue to see black blood drain our streets.”
On May 8th, which would have been Ahmaud’s birthday, another “Justice for Ahmaud” protest marched to the county courthouse. “We are here today for one reason and one reason only: Ahmaud Arbery was killed in cold blood,” announced Major Woodall. “Because of that, we are standing together with this community, with this family, to demand not only justice be served, but his life be honored.” Another “Justice for Ahmaud” protest marched to the Duvall County Courthouse, which is just across state lines in Jacksonville, Florida. Around the country, protestors jogged 2.23 miles – the date of Ahmaud’s death, February 23rd – and proclaimed “I Run With Maud.” In an article for Outside, “Ahmaud Arbery and Whiteness in the Running World,” Alison Mariella Désir argued, “The response to Arbery’s murder highlighted what I already knew: The running world is deeply divided by race, and we must address it.” According to Ms. Désir, runners are too white and thus have created a white-supremacist community which must be “dismantled,” along with the white-supremacist country that is the U.S.A. “‘Why is This Black Guy Running?’” Eric Ortiz reported for NBC News. “After Ahmaud Arbery’s Killing, African-Americans Reconsider Fitness Routines.” A man in Vero Beach, Florida, live-streamed himself jogging through his neighborhood carrying a television set in order to demonstrate his “white privilege.”
“Lynching” has become the watchword of what happened to Ahmaud. “My son was lynched, lynched by a racist mob,” cried Ahmaud’s father, Marcus. “These men were vigilantes,” Ahmaud’s family’s attorney, S. Lee Merritt, stated. “They were a posse and they performed a modern lynching in the middle of the day.” Major Woodall warned that “the modern-day lynching of Mr. Arbery is yet another reminder of the vile and wicked racism that persists in parts of our country” and condemned “the blatant white racial privileges that permeates throughout our country and our institutions.” In an interview on CNN, Atlanta mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms, when asked about the footage of the shooting, answered, “It’s heartbreaking that it’s 2020 and this was a lynching of an African-American man.” A local reverend, Mack Knight, compared Ahmaud to Emmett Till (a black man who was lynched in 1955 for whistling at a white woman) since he “died because he was black like the rest of them did, for no reason.” Rev. Knight declares, “I came to tell America that Ahmaud’s blood cries…Emmett Till’s blood cries.”
Just as, for many Jewish neo-conservatives, any concession to Israel’s enemies is tantamount to the infamous appeasement of Nazi Germany all over again, so for the Black Lives Matter movement, any incident of white-on-black crime is tantamount to the infamous lynching of Emmett Till all over again – what Steve Sailer terms “the Emmett Till Effect.” (And not unlike the Nazis, appeasing the Black Lives Matter movement only appears to make it more aggressive.)
Where I live in Florida, there was an actual lynching 106 years ago. A real-estate developer had his head blown off by a shotgun while he was asleep and his wife, who was beaten and raped when she responded to the gunshot, identified two black men as the perpetrators. The authorities tried to keep the crime from the public in order to prevent vigilantism, but the public heard the news and posses began terrorizing the local black population. A mob of 1,500 men, women, and children (half of the city’s population) broke into the jail and lynched one of the suspects, a black man named John Evans who was new to the area. He was dragged through the street, hanged from a light post, and riddled with bullets. His body was left hanging from the light post for days afterward as a warning to the black community. The lynch mob threatened to raze the black part of town and many black people fled as refugees. This November, on the 106th anniversary of the lynching, the Community Remembrance Project Coalition hopes to place a memorial at the site of the lynching – now the intersection of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Boulevard and 2nd Avenue South. Labeling any white-on-black crime as a “lynching” –a horrific atrocity which claimed the lives of 3,446 black people – is unbelievably ignorant and irreverent. “Ahmaud Arbery was killed in the street by white men,” Sean Collins pontificated at Vox. “That’s how lynchings work.” No, that is not how lynchings work, and while exploiting the horror of lynching may be effective at influencing public opinion in the short run, in the long run it will cheapen the horror of lynching.
Shaun King, a professional Black Lives Matter activist who leaked the cellphone footage on social media, called the shooting “a modern-day lynching” and “one of the worst things I’ve seen in my entire life,” adding that “I’m seething in anger…I’m trembling with anger.” Michelle Malkin has theorized that S. Lee Merritt (a Black Lives Matter activist and one of the attorneys for Ahmaud’s parents) colluded with Mr. King to circulate the footage. Mr. Merritt and Mr. King, who are not only colleagues but also friends from college, have colluded together on “hate hoaxes” involving Sherita Dixon-Cole, Jazmine Barnes, and Atatiana Jefferson. Shortly before the McMichaels were arrested, Mr. King publicly threatened them with vigilante justice of his own. “I need you to know that I know where you live and where you are hiding out,” he warned. “Right now I’m the only thing keeping about 150 different people from killing you.” Then Mr. King threatened the state with his vigilante justice. “Hold these men accountable for the lynching of Ahmaud Arbery,” he warned. “I assure you it’s in your best interest.”
Another attorney representing Ahmaud’s parents is Benjamin Crump, who also represented the families of Black Lives Matter cause célébres Trayvon Martin, Michael Brown, and Tamir Rice. In an op-ed in USA Today, Mr. Crump accused the McMichaels of appointing themselves “judge, jury, and executioner” of Ahmaud and argued that their motives were “so reminiscent of the motives for lynchings.” In an interview on NPR, Mr. Crump declared that Ahmaud was “executed in broad daylight” and called his death a “modern-day lynching.”
Democrats were eager to play the parts of judge, jury, and executioner themselves. Joe Biden, Democratic presidential nominee, declared “The video is clear: Ahmaud was killed in cold blood.” Two of Mr. Biden’s potential vice-presidential nominees, the Georgian gubernatorial candidate from 2018 Stacey Abrams and Sen. Kamala Harris of California, stated that “it was murder” and said that “exercising while black shouldn’t be a death sentence,” respectively. “The men who murdered Ahmaud Arbery must be held accountable and there must be justice for Ahmaud’s family,” demanded Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont. “There is no doubt in my mind that Ahmaud would be alive today if he were white.” Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York (a Puerto-Rican version of “Britta Perry”) called the shooting a “lynching” and added that Ahmaud was “murdered for being black.” Rep. Ilhan Omar (a Somalian refugee who has made headlines for her hatred of her family’s host country) declared that Ahmaud was “lynched…killed in cold blood simply for being a black man in America.” Rep. Ayanna Pressley of Massachusetts (the first black woman elected to represent her state), claimed that “lynching” was the punishment for being “black while walking, black while eating, black while jogging.” Rep. Rashida Tlaib of Michigan (a second-generation Palestinian immigrant who has also made headlines for her hatred of her family’s host country), claimed that Ahmaud was “shot down, murdered, just because he was a black man jogging.” According to Rep. Tlaib, “The fact that we are still trying to make lynching illegal at the federal law is telling of where we are in our country.” Former U.S. President Barack Obama, in a Covid-era virtual commencement for black graduates, referred to the “underlying inequities and extra burdens” that they face. “We see it when a black man goes for a jog and some folks feel like they can stop and question and shoot him if he doesn’t submit to their questioning.”
“Conservatives” dishonored themselves – as usual – with emotional overreactions. Daily Wire staff writer Matt Walsh described the shooting as “outrageous” and called for the execution of the McMichaels. Mr. Walsh’s boss at The Daily Wire, Ben Shapiro, agreed with him, sharing three articles by other conservative pundits – David French, David Harsanyi, and “Allahpundit.” In Mr. French’s article for The Dispatch, “A Vigilante Killing in Georgia,” he argued that regardless of the McMichaels’ motives, “When white men grab guns and mount up to pursue and seize an unarmed black man in the street, they stand in the shoes of lynch mobs past.” In Mr. Harsanyi’s article for National Review, “The Murder of Ahmaud Arbery,” he described the video as a “gut-wrenching” depiction of “flat-out murder.” According to HotAir staff writer Allahpundit, “If they can get away with this, then the ‘citizen’s arrest’ statute is license for legalized vigilantism.” New York Post editor Sohrab Ahmari announced, “In Georgia, a blatant ‘citizen’s arrest’ homicide of Ahmaud Arberty.” According to Mr. Ahmari, the shooting “harks back to the some of America’s oldest and ugliest racial traditions” and “resembles a scene from the 19th century, when sadly, it’s 2020: a pair of white men on a white pickup truck harassing a black jogger on a deserted Georgia road.” In “Ahmaud Arbery, Just A Runner,” American Conservative editor Rod Dreher wailed, “This is insane, and unjust. But this is life for a lot of black people in America. We should not forget that.” Mr. Dreher added that he heard of “a middle-class, Christian African-American woman” who feared moving her family to the South after news of this shooting “because her husband and older sons might have to worry about being shot by angry white men.” Doug Stafford, Sen. Rand Paul’s chief strategist, shared Mr. Dreher’s article and commented that “it’s as bad as they’re saying…you’re looking at a lynching.” Saagar Enjeti, co-host of The Hill’s web show, “Rising,” concluded that the shooting was “a clear-cut case of murder in broad daylight.” Michael Brendan Dougherty, another National Review staff writer, agreed with Mr. Enjeti, “Yeah my stomach was turning all afternoon yesterday after watching this.” The Drudge Report’s headline read, “Father, Son Charged With Hunting Black Man in Georgia.” Why is it that conservatives such as these fools will fall all over themselves to condemn white-on-black crime (which always makes national news despite its under-representation in national crime), yet not one of them will ever utter a word against black-on-white crime (which never makes national news despite its over-representation in national crime)? How many of these cowardly conservatives are going to say anything about the murder of Paul and Lidia Marino, an octogenarian husband and wife who were, as they visited their son’s grave at a veteran’s cemetery, hunted and killed by a black man as racial revenge for Ahmaud’s death? Even if everything that the Black Lives Matter movement says about what happened to Ahmaud is true, what happened to the Marinos is still worse, so why is the former national news and the latter an easilyoverlooked local news story? (To be fair, Mr. Dreher did eventually say something about the Marinos, even if it was not nearly as strong of a statement as what he said about Ahmaud.)
Yet there are at least six lies that have been told about the context of Ahmaud Arbery’s death in order to force the incident to fit the Black Lives Matter movement’s origin story – and original sin. These repetitive pseudo-martyrdoms become downright ridiculous as the facts of the case are established in court – the Obama Administration’s own Justice Department had to admit that Michael Brown was killed in reasonable self-defense! – though not before inciting protests and even riots, irreversibly polarizing the country by race.
First, Ahmaud was not “out for a jog” when he was shot and killed, unless that includes “jogging” away from a crime scene. Security footage from across the street has been released which shows Ahmaud walking, not jogging, up to Larry English’s property and standing around outside before entering it illegally. Security footage from inside the English property has been released which shows Ahmaud walking around inside the property apparently doing nothing. A neighbor called 911 to report an unidentified black male youth inside the English property whom he claimed had “been caught on camera a bunch before tonight…kind of an ongoing thing out here.” At the same time, Greg (who was outside on his front lawn while the other neighbor called 911) saw Ahmaud as he fled the English property and thought that he matched the description of an unidentified black male whom he had seen from Mr. English’s security footage (which had been shared within the neighborhood).
In sum, the media class is omitting that Ahmaud was fleeing from a construction site where he had been seen trespassing, not “jogging through the neighborhood.”
Second, Greg and Travis McMichael did not pursue Ahmaud because they racially profiled him. They were not looking for just any black male youth who happened to be “jogging” through the neighborhood. The McMichaels had been directly pursuing Ahmaud because Greg saw him fleeing from the property of their neighbor, Larry English, which they knew had been broken into multiple times (Travis himself reported one such incident to the police two weeks earlier) and because Ahmaud matched the description of the unidentified black male youth who had been seen on the property (including the person whom Travis reported to the police). Ahmaud began “running down the street,” as another neighbor put it on a 911 call, when he saw that neighbor looking at him while on the phone. “He’s running right now,” the neighbor told the 911 dispatcher. “There he goes right now.”
In sum, the media class is omitting that the McMichaels did not “racially profile” Ahmaud, but pursued him because he was fleeing from the site of a trespass and matched the description of the trespass suspect.
Third, the English property on which Ahmaud trespassed (if he had entered with criminal intent, then it would be “burglary”) had been trespassed on so often that the absentee-owner, Mr. English, had installed motion-activated security cameras and asked Mr. Perez to notify him if they saw anyone there. Almost two months earlier, Travis reported that a 9mm pistol had been stolen from his truck, and less than two weeks earlier, Travis called 911 to report an unidentified black male youth whom he suspected may be armed (because he had his hand stuck down his bands) running into the property at night. When the police arrived, they searched the area with Travis, Greg, and Mr. Perez (who notified Mr. English). Mr. English’s security footage from inside his property, which has been released, shows multiple incidents of trespassing by an unidentified black male youth at night. When Mr. English first notified the authorities of the trespassing, he was put in touch with his neighbor, Greg. “Greg is retired law enforcement and also a retired investigator from the DA’s office,” a police officer text-messaged Mr. English. “He said please call him day or not when you get action on your camera.”
In sum, the media class is omitting that the property into which Ahmaud was seen trespassing and from which he fled had been repeatedly trespassed by an unidentified black male youth.
Fourth, when Ahmaud began “jogging” away from the English property, Greg went inside and told his son, Travis, that he just saw someone who matched the description of the trespassing suspect “hauling ass” away from that property. “Travis, the guy is running down the street,” shouted Greg. “Let’s go.” They both armed themselves – Gregory with a .357 Magnum and Travis with a shotgun – because they “didn’t know if the male was armed or not.” They pursued Ahmaud in their truck and attempted to carry out a citizen’s arrest, shouting, “Stop, stop, we want to talk to you,” but Ahmaud did not stop. Under Georgia law, it is legal to call the police on a suspected criminal, to attempt to detain that suspect until the police arrive, and to open-carry firearms while doing so – and that is all that happened prior to the shooting.
In sum, the media class is omitting that based on what the McMichaels had seen – not just on that day but days, weeks, and months before – they had a reasonable suspicion that Ahmaud had committed a crime and attempted to carry out a legal citizen’s arrest while legally open-carrying firearms.
Fifth, Greg and Travis headed off Ahmaud at an intersection, where they parked and got out of their truck to stop him. At this point, Ahmaud “jogged” into Travis, punching him repeatedly and trying to wrestle the shotgun out of his hands. As Ahmaud grappled with Travis and grabbed his shotgun, three shots were fired and Ahmaud staggered away before falling down dead on the street. Greg called 911 while they were parked at the intersection and in the footage of the shooting Greg can be seen putting down the phone as Ahmaud turns and attacks Travis. “Stop that, damn it, stop!” shouted Greg.
In sum, the media class is omitting that Ahmaud was not shot and killed as an “unarmed black jogger,” but in a struggle over a shotgun.
Sixth, Ahmaud and Greg had a history prior to the shooting. Greg worked as an officer in the Glynn County Police Department and an investigator in the Glynn County District Attorney until he retired in 2019. Ahmaud was a former football player from Brunswick High School and a dropout from South Georgia Technical College. In 2013, Ahmaud brought a firearm to a high-school basketball game and fled from the police when they attempted to arrest him. He was convicted of weapons possession and obstructing an officer, but was sentenced to five-year probation instead of imprisonment. In November, 2017, Ahmaud had an encounter with the police in which he became physically and verbally aggressive with an officer as he checked his license (which was suspended). Ahmaud, who had parked his car on a field in a park, claimed that he was “rapping to instrumentals,” but the police suspected him of drug use given his location. The next month, Ahmaud stole a TV from a Walmart, violating his probation in the process. Greg was a part of the investigation of Ahmaud which resulted in the revocation of his probation. Neither Greg nor his son, Travis, had a criminal record.
In sum, the media class is omitting that Greg had investigated Ahmaud in 2018 when he was still working for the Glynn County District Attorney.
Officer Brandenberry’s incident report and District Attorney Barnhill’s “evaluation for prosecution” to Cpt. Tom Jump are worth reading in full, as is the cellphone footage of the shooting worth watching in full. There is information in those primary sources which journalists and pundits, acting as if they are Ahmaud’s family’s attorneys, have unacceptably omitted from their coverage and commentary. Perhaps the McMichaels overreacted by pursuing Ahmaud themselves (though what they did was not illegal) and perhaps Travis blundered in getting out of the car with his shotgun when Ahmaud was “jogging” right at them (thought that was not illegal either), but charging them with “murder” and even “hate crimes” is unjustifiable given the evidence. What sort of “lynch mob” calls the police in the midst of its crime? At worst, this was a badly botched citizen’s arrest.
There is also a partisan motive to why this relatively rare incident of white-on-black crime has been exaggerated into a “lynching.” Georgia is a state which, due to suburbanization and diversification, is at the tipping point of turning blue. As Mark Niesse reported for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, “Rise of Young and Diverse Georgia Voters May Influence 2020 Elections.” The Georgian politician Stacey Abrams (who ran to be Governor in 2018, delivered the Democrats’ “response” to the State of the Union in 2019, and is now lobbying to be Joe Biden’s nominee for Vice President) argues in her “Abrams Playbook” that Georgia is indeed in play politically and that the key to flipping Georgia is to boost voter turnout among non-white racial/ethnic minorities (especially black people, who near-monolithically bloc-vote for the Democrats). Although she lost when she tried this strategy herself, Ms. Abrams explains that since that election (which she alleges was stolen by voter suppression anyway) the demographics of Georgia have continued bluing. According to the Abrams Playbook, while it is true that the non-white racial/ethnic minorities moving to Georgia are all likely to vote Democrat (especially black people), it is also true that everyone who moves to Georgia is almost twice as likely to vote Democrat regardless of race (meaning white liberals). In order to take advantage of these demographic changes, Ms. Abrams has started the “New Georgia Project,” a voter-registration, voter-education, and voter-advocacy group for non-white racial/ethnic minorities (especially black people). Nothing will mobilize/organize black voters in Georgia better than inciting a panic over a “lynching” where they live. If Joe Biden goes even further and nominates Ms. Abrams as his Vice President, as he is likely to do now, then he will be able to nationalize this issue and mobilize/organize black voters nationwide. In the 2016 election, black voter turnout – which is essential for the Democrats – fell by 7%, so boosting those numbers must be a priority for Mr. Biden.
The death of Ahmaud was a senseless tragedy which could have been avoided if everyone involved had behaved more sensibly – if Ahmaud had not been trespassing and acting suspiciously, if the McMichaels had not overreacted to a property crime by chasing after the suspect, and if Ahmaud had not attacked Travis – but the Black Lives Matter movement’s narrative of “an unarmed black jogger hunted down by two rednecks” is hysteria at best and deceit at worst.
Joe Biden’s campaign had collapsed. He came in fourth place in Iowa’s caucus and fifth place in New Hampshire’s primary, but was always predicted to win in South Carolina because black voters will bloc-vote for him. The media class, which favored Mr. Biden from the beginning (cf. “FAIR: Comcast-Owned MSNBC in the Tank for Joe Biden’s Presidential Run” and “FAIR: Only One View at The View, Biden Not So Bad”) but had distanced itself from him because of his obvious un-electability, turned his entirely unremarkable primary victory in South Carolina into “Joe-mentum.” Reacting to the breathless coverage of Joe-mentum, every other Democrat remaining in the race except for Bernie Sanders withdrew and endorsed Mr. Biden. Barack Obama and a number of members of his administration apparently did not just endorse their former Vice President, but pressured other Democrats to withdraw and endorse him as well. Even Kamala Harris, who earlier in the primary had made Mr. Biden’s opposition to “busing” personal, endorsed him. Mr. Biden swept two rounds of primary elections since then, winning in states where he did not even campaign and where Mr. Sanders had won just a few years earlier. In a matter of days, the established elites of the Democratic Party set aside their personal differences and united around Mr. Biden, who is now the presumptive Democratic nominee.
There is just one problem, however: Joe Biden would be a steward of the consensus in Washington, D.C. – “invade the world, invite the world, in hock to the world,” or “imperialism, immigration, insolvency” – with cornpone affectations disguising an ideology and identity of the “managerial elite.” He would, in other words, be the Dubya of the Democratic Party.
The Iraq War: “To say something different today is just a bald-faced lie"
Mr. Biden claims that he was tricked into the Iraq War by Pres. Bush and opposed the war as soon as the truth became clear. “I did make a bad judgment, trusting the president saying he was only doing this to get inspectors in and get the U.N. to agree to put inspectors in,” Mr. Biden falsely admitted in a Democratic debate on NBC. “From the moment ‘shock and awe’ started, from that moment, I was opposed to the effort, and I was outspoken as much as anyone at all in the Congress and the administration.” Because he literally voted for the 2002 AUMF (unlike Bernie Sanders), Mr. Biden cannot pretend that he was against the war altogether, but he is saying everything he can to obfuscate his actual actions at the time. “President George W. Bush ‘got them in,’ and before we know it, we had a ‘shock and awe,’” Mr. Biden falsely admitted in an interview on NPR. “Immediately, the moment it started, I came out against the war at that moment.” Yet Mr. Biden is lying about why he voted for the Iraq War, lying about for how long he supported the Iraq War, and lying about what his eventual opposition to the war constituted. The fact is that whatever lies he tells, Mr. Biden was a staunch leader of pro-war Democratic Senators and a fierce critic of anti-war Democrats.
At a speech at The Brookings Institution in July, 2003 (well after the “shock and awe” bombing of Baghdad), Joe Biden avowed his support for Bush the Lesser’s invasion of Iraq and defended it from Democratic opponents, despite his differences with the neoconservatives:
Some of my own party have said that it was a mistake to go into Iraq in the first place and believe that it’s not worth the cost, whatever benefit may flow from our engagement in Iraq. But the cost of not acting against Saddam I think would have been much greater, and so is the cost, and so will be the cost of not finishing this job.
A few months later, in an interview with Fareed Zakaria on CNN, Joe Biden criticized how Pres. Bush’s neoconservatives had managed the war yet still defended it from Democratic opponents:
Most recently, in an interview with Lawrence O’Donnell on MSNBC, Joe Biden further entangled himself in his pathetic lies: “The reason I voted the way I did was to try to prevent a war from happening.” (Unbelievably, Mr. O’Donnell merely nodded along and did not push back on this preposterous contradiction – some “free press”!) According to Mr. Biden, he did not believe the neoconservative propaganda that the Hussein regime possessed WMDs and so voted to authorize military force against Iraq in order to force the UN inspectors back into the country so that they could disprove that propaganda. In fact, as early as 1998 Mr. Biden was pushing for war on Iraq because of suspected WMDs, which was a line that he continued to take up to and after his vote for the Iraq War in 2003.
On February 5th, 2003, after Colin Powell’s appearance before the UN Security Council – in which the Secretary State presented neoconservative propaganda as official intelligence – Joe Biden, in an address on C-SPAN, called on Bush the Lesser to make the case for a long, hard war and occupation in Iraq:
There are two issues. One, informing the American public, the Security Council, and the world, about the evidence – the evidence to allow us to make the conclusion – that Saddam Hussein remains a danger because he is not cooperating, he is still harboring, and he is still seeking the accumulation of weapons of mass-destruction. That case, I believe, has been made. I hope, now, that the American people will have this regurgitated in a number of venues and fora over the next weeks, that they will be as convinced as I am.
In his C-SPAN address, Joe Biden dismissed Pres. Bush’s neoconservative doctrine of “preemption” for muddling the message and insisted that it would not be “preemptive” to attack Iraq because Saddam Hussein was a “bad guy”:
This is not - is not - preemption. There’s nothing preemptive about it. If you turned on now and the television showed aircraft striking Baghdad, it would not be a preemptive attack. There is nothing preemptive about it. It’s an enforcement. One of the problems I have found is – I have spoken in the last week or so with world leaders, heads of state, foreign ministers, and their counterparts, and I had the opportunity to do that extensively for five days in Davos – one of the things that confuses and allows those who don’t want to step up to the ball and meet their obligation, is when some in the administration have said we have a new doctrine of “preemption.” It allows those who want to drag their feet in doing what they know must be done to say, “Whoa, we’re not going to be involved in preemption. That’s a new doctrine that changes the Treaty of Westphalia” – of I think 1648 or whatever the year was. We get into all of that. It obfuscates the central point. Is this a bad guy, who’s violated the terms of an agreement he made to do away with weapons with the capacity to do great harm to his people, the region, and – and, possibly – the United States of America? The answer is yes, this is a bad guy - this is a guy who’s violated the terms of a peace agreement, this is a guy who continues to do it, this guy has a record of demonstrating he will use those weapons, and there is an emerging pattern that convenience may throw him into the arms of who our most central and most serious enemy is now, non-state actor called Al Qaeda. So he must be dealt with. He must be dealt with.
On May 29, 2004, in a commencement speech for the University of Delaware, Joe Biden claimed that even though there was no evidence for what he had earlier claimed there was evidence for – the evidence which he used to justify the Iraq War – but still supported the war anyway:
Let me tell you what I see with Iraq. We had to go into Iraq, not because Saddam was part of Al Qaeda, there was no evidence of that, not because he possessed nuclear weapons or because he posed an imminent threat to the United States, there was no evidence of that. The legitimate reason for going into Iraq, was he violated every single commitment he made and warranted being taken down. And the international community and us had a right to respond.
(Imagine being such a conceited politician that you believe that college students want to hear you make excuses for your votes on their day of graduation.)
From his own words at the time, then, Joe Biden believed that the Hussein regime had violated the UN resolutions against WMDs and was harboring the perpetrators of 9/11, and that as a result of these threats, the U.S.A. would not only have to invade Iraq and destroy the Hussein regime, but also occupy the country indefinitely in order to reconstruct it.
As Joe Biden explained on CNN the very day before the war began, “There’s a lot of us who voted for giving the President the authority to take down Saddam Hussein if he didn’t disarm, and there are those who believe, at the end of the day, even though it wasn’t handled all that well, we still have to take him down.” Mr. Biden is now twisting the fact that he was critical of how Pres. Bush “handled” the war to pretend that he was actually against the war itself, which he never was at any point in time. In fact, there is a whole documentary on this subject, “Worth the Price? Joe Biden and the Launch of the Iraq War.” Journalists must start confronting Mr. Biden’s lies by quoting his own words back to him.
Aaron Maté of the independent investigative-journalism website, The Grayzone, recently interviewed Maj. Scott Ritter, the Marine Corps intelligence officer and UN weapons inspector whom Joe Biden berated when he appeared before the Senate. “That’s what Biden needs to be honest about,” argues Maj. Ritter. “He never supported the weapons-inspection process, he always supported regime change, and to say something different today is just a bald-faced lie.” Indeed, in the course of questioning Maj. Ritter, Mr. Biden frankly stated what would be the position of Pres. Bush’s neoconservatives a few years later – that the Hussein regime had WMDs and that unilateral military intervention by the U.S.A. was the only option:
I think that you and I believe, and many of us believe here, as long as Saddam’s at the helm, there is no reasonable prospect that you or any other inspector is going to be able to guarantee that we have rooted out, root and branch, the entirety of Saddam’s program relative to weapons of mass-destruction. You and I both know, and all of us here really know, and it’s the thing we have to face, that the only way that we’re gonna get rid of Saddam Hussein is we’re gonna end up having to start it alone, and it’s gonna require guys like you in uniform to be back on foot in the desert taking this son of a, uh, taking Saddam down. You know it and I know it. I think we should not kid ourselves here. There’s stark, stark choices.
There were many politicians who initially fell for the neoconservative war propaganda and struggled to redeem themselves afterward, like Rep. Walter Jones (R-NC), but Mr. Biden is too small of a man with too big of an ego to display such honor and humility. Worst of all, because he never learned any lesson from the Iraq War, he will likely make the same mistakes again! Indeed, as Reese Erlich (an award-winning foreign correspondent for CBS News and NPR) argues in “Biden vs. Bernie - A Foreign Policy Face-Off,” Mr. Biden is the most chicken-hawkish (I refuse to use the conventional political lingo for militaristic, “hawkish,” as birds of prey only kill to eat, not out of malice) candidate in the Democratic primary, and arguably even more chicken-hawkish than Donald Trump. In response to Pres. Trump’s idea of “America First” (however much his own ignorant instincts and his advisers’ evil agenda have bastardized that patriotic creed), Mr. Biden has promoted his idea of “American Leadership” (which means more of the same, cf. Libya, Syria, Ukraine, Yemen, etc.). Should the President put the interests of the American people first as he leads the nation or should he put them last as he leads the world?
Medea Benjamin (one of the founders of CODEPINK: Women for Peace) and Nicolas J.S. Davies (author of Blood On Our Hands: The American Invasion and Destruction of Iraq) graded all of the Democrats on the issue of “war and peace.” Joe Biden got some of the lowest marks. According to Ms. Benjamin and Mr. Davies, “Like many other corporate Democrats, Biden champions a misleadingly benign view of the dangerous and destructive role the U.S. has played in the world over the past 20 years, under the Democratic administration in which he served as Vice-President as well as under Republican ones.”
There is a reason that Joe Biden is a serial liar when it comes to his decisive role in the Iraq War. It was a geopolitical catastrophe – the most catastrophic event in the Middle East since the destruction of the Ottoman Empire in World War I. It was an act of rank arrogance and raw aggression which plunged an entire region of the world into chaos and incited more terrorism. It was a demoralizing blow to the soldiers who were ordered to risk their lives for a lie, as well as the civilians who could not justify the sacrifice of their friends and family. It was a holocaust to the Iraqi people, leveling entire cities like Fallujah and wiping out the lives of at least 180,000 civilians. It was a wound which continues to fester, as a new generation of Iraqi insurgents rises against the apparently endless American occupation (now a base of operations for drone strikes and special operations throughout the wider region). It was not unforeseeable, either, despite what Mr. Biden pretends today: Many on the right (such as Pat Buchanan, Bob Novak, Ron Paul, and Justin Raimondo) and on the left (such as Noam Chomsky, Phil Donahue, Dennis Kucinich, and Gore Vidal) warned the Bidens of the day, yet they were not only ignored, but also – in the crudest nationalistic manner – vilified by the Bidens of the day as unpatriotic and even disloyal. Mr. Biden is one of the many American politicians who have gotten away with murder, so to speak – no, not of Saddam Hussein’s dictatorial state, but of the Iraqi nation and the literal “cradle of civilization,” not to mention Christian communities dating back to the Apostles themselves. That is why he lies about it. It is bad enough that he will not tell the truth, of course, but it is even worse that the media class will not, either (cf. “FAIR: Turning Biden’s Support for the Iraq War into Foreign-Policy ‘Experience’”
Civil Rights: “The white liberal...is more deceitful than the conservative."
Mr. Biden often claims that he was involved in the Civil-Rights Revolution. Shaun King (a “Black Lives Matter” activist and supporter of Bernie Sanders’ presidential campaign) has, in “2 Truths and 31 Lies,” comprehensively documented Mr. Biden’s history of lying about his involvement in the Civil-Rights Revolution, which began in the 1970s but nearly ended his in the 1988 presidential election, but which has reemerged in the ongoing election. “Current and former elected officials in Delaware told me that it is an open secret among them that Joe Biden is a serial pathological liar when it comes to his ‘work’ in the Civil Rights Movement,” explains Mr. King, “and that he has told such lies, for so long, so many times, that it is an unwritten rule in Delaware that one must hold their nose and go along with them or risk being ostracized in such a small, close-knit political community.” This is a particularly malignant instance of the Baby Boomers’ bad habit of taking credit for the legacy of their parents and grandparents: Mr. Biden is, as Mr. King puts it, “creating entire fictional story lines to impress white liberals & connect w/ black voters.” Yet Mr. Biden’s blatant lies have apparently worked with black voters, who comprise one of his staunchest Democratic blocs and carried him through the Southern primaries. The only explanations that I can come up with for this unearned black loyalty are too condescending and insulting for me to say aloud.
I will let Malcolm X do the talking:
In this deceitful American game of power politics, the Negroes (i.e., the race problem, the integration and civil-rights issues) are nothing but tools, used by one group of whites called Liberals against another group of whites called Conservatives, either to get into power or to remain in power. Among whites here in America, the political teams are no longer divided into Democrats and Republicans. The whites who are now struggling for control of the American political throne are divided into “liberal” and “conservative” camps. The white liberals from both parties cross party lines to work together toward the same goal, and white conservatives from both parties do likewise.
The only rational explanation for black support of Joe Biden is that they are betting that he is another Ralph Northam – a foolish Baby Boomer afflicted with “white guilt” who will do whatever they tell him to do in exchange for political survival and social approval. This is the vicious cycle of identity politics, in particular the bottomless pit that is black self-pity and white self-hatred.
The Generation Gap: “I have no empathy!"
Speaking of the Baby Boomers, Joe Biden is the personification of the most narcissistic (and, as one author recently put it, “sociopathic”) aspects of that generation. On that critical issue of student debt, Mr. Biden (a former senator from Delaware, which is the second-smallest state and is the home to over 50% of publicly traded corporations and even more of Fortune 500) authored legislation deregulating the financial industry so that students could take out loans as well as to reform bankruptcy laws so that students could never discharge those loans. “Joe Biden’s Role in Creating the Student Debt Crisis Stretches Back to the 1970s,” Aida Chavez reports for The Intercept. As part of his career of deregulating the banking sector, Mr. Biden also voted to repeal the Glass-Steagall Act from the New Deal, which was one of the main causes of the last financial crisis. When the markets crashed in 2007 and 2008, Mr. Biden voted to bail out the banks which had speculated – or “gambled” – and lost. What did so-called “Middle Class” Joe do to help keep the middle class in their homes after the housing bubble burst? Nothing. Because of the severe recession which resulted from that financial crisis, Millennials are now the first generation in modern economic history worse off than their parents, the Baby-Boomers.
The Wall Street Journal is hardly a Millennial-oriented company like Vice or Vox, but “Playing Catch-Up in the Game of Life” reports that Millennials are “in worse financial shape than every preceding living generation and may never recover”:
American Millennials are approaching middle age in worse financial shape than every living generation ahead of them, lagging behind Baby Boomers and Generation X despite a decade of economic growth and falling unemployment.
“The younger generation tells me how tough things are, give me a break,” complains the quintessential Boomer Joe Biden. “No, no, no...I have no empathy!” Is that your campaign slogan, Mr. Biden?
Joe Biden, as a neo-liberal Democrat, has supported “free trade” agreements such as NAFTA and the TPP, as well as permanent normal trade relations (PNTR) with China and admitting China to the World Trade Organization. “Biden’s NAFTA vote is a liability in the Rust Belt,” Joshua Green reports for Bloomberg. “His record on trade could make him a target for both the Left and the Right.” Although “growing the economies” of all the trading partners (at least in terms of GDP), these free-trade agreements also “de-industrialized” the American economy, in the process killing middle-class/small-town America as the jobs upon which that culture and society were built were outsourced across the border or overseas. GDP may have grown, but as Mr. Biden once noted in a speech plagiarized from Robert F. Kennedy, “The gross national product does not allow for the health of our children, the quality of their education, or the joy of their play.” Mr. Biden argues that his free-trade deals have created more jobs than they have destroyed – this is a standard free-market talking point – but even if that were true, that job growth is not necessarily replacing that job loss: People who lose their jobs in a Rust-Belt factory town are not always willing or able to relocate their lives to a Sun-Belt suburb. Furthermore, while jobs are shipped abroad, many of the newly created jobs here at home are filled not by the people who lost their jobs, but by immigrants who are willing to move wherever there is work and are willing to work for less, too. In sum, the result of free trade has been the outflow of capital from the higher-wage American economy to the lower-wage Chinese and Mexican economies, as well as the inflow of labor from the lower-wage Chinese and Mexican economies to the higher-wage American economy. As a policy of dispossession, it could not be more complete. (Decadent “conservatives” like Kevin D. Williamson of National Review, who jeer that people whom fail to compete in this globalized economy “deserve to die,” are missing the point and undermining the very communities, institutions, and traditions they pretend to want to conserve.) Mr. Biden likes to tell a story about how China’s leader, Xi Jinping, asked him to define America in one word and he answered “possibilities.” Instead of platitudes about “possibilities,” Mr. Biden should consider policies to help the people whom he purports to represent.
The Border Crisis: “The crisis is directly tied to U.S. foreign policy"
Immigration is driven by “pull” and “push” factors: That is, positive factors in one country (say, the U.S.A.) “pulling” people there and negative factors in one country (say, Mexico) “pushing” people out of there. Joe Biden, in cooperation with the Clinton Administration when he was a Senator and in the Obama Administration when he was Vice President, has been “pushing” people out of Central America through “shock therapy” policies that slashed public services, ravaged the environment, and militarized police forces. On the independent investigative-journalism website The Grayzone, Max Blumenthal, in “How Joe Biden’s Privatization Plans Helped Doom Latin America and Fuel the Migration Crisis,” reports that despite Mr. Biden’s claim that his plans relieved “push factors” in countries like Colombia and Honduras, they actually worsened those factors. “All the U.S. media was talking about the crisis on the border without speaking about the fact that the crisis is directly tied to U.S. foreign policy,” Anya Parampil from The Grayzone explained on FOX News, “specifically U.S. regime-change policy, which has resulted of the doubling of poverty in Honduras.” It is a shame, too, because the policy of a developed country investing in undeveloped neighboring countries in order to prevent mass-migration from those countries – as Mr. Biden once put it, “You do the following things to make your country better so people don’t leave, and we will help you do that” – has the potential to be mutually beneficial, but that is not what actually happened. What Mr. Biden is claiming credit for was a classic case of what Naomi Klein termed “disaster capitalism.”
UkraineGate: “I have never spoken to my son about his various business dealings"
While the Bidens are not nearly as notorious grifters as, say, the Clintons, even some of the most corrupt politicians in Washington, D.C., can get away with saying that. The most notable example of the family’s corruption comes from Ukraine, where Joe Biden was put in charge of “anti-corruption.” After the Obama Administration interfered in Ukraine’s democracy and made his Vice President a Roman-style proconsul over Ukraine, his son, Hunter Biden (a cocaine-snorting, crack-smoking, alcohol-swilling degenerate who married/divorced his dead brother’s wife, and fathered a child with a stripper) was named to the board of Ukraine’s largest natural-gas company for a six-figure salary. Hunter has also held sinecures at a credit-card conglomerate that was his father’s top donor, a lobbying firm co-founded by his father’s top fundraiser, a hedge fund co-founded with his uncle, and Amtrak (which his father publicly championed – and funded to the tune of billions). “It was February when Yanukovych was overthrown, and just a few months later, Joe Biden’s son and a close friend of John Kerry’s stepson, they both join the board of this Ukrainian gas company,” Joe Lauria (editor of Consortium News and former Wall Street Journal reporter) explains in an interview with The National Interest. “So just after an American-backed coup, you have Joe Biden’s son Hunter Biden and this John Kerry family friend [then the Secretary of State] joining the board of probably the largest private gas producer in Ukraine.” Max Blumenthal goes into deeper detail on this scandal at The Grayzone, exposing how Burisma (the Ukrainian gas company which put Mr. Biden’s son on its board) is funding The Atlantic Council (“NATO’s semi-official think tank in Washington, D.C.”), which is an advocate of military confrontation of Russia in Ukraine and a supporter of Mr. Biden (who is also an advocate of such a policy). Obviously, this arrangement meets the textbook definition of a “conflict of interest,” which was why other officials in the Obama Administration questioned Mr. Biden about it, but were rebuffed. An honest man would have recused himself from his role in Ukraine just to avoid any appearance of corruption, but not Mr. Biden. Even when this scandal came to light in the course of the impeachment of Donald Trump, did Mr. Biden admit that his son received this lucrative sinecure for access to the Obama Administration and apologize for this abuse of power? No, he lamely denied that he was even aware that his son was on the board of a Ukrainian gas company (even though he, Hunter, and a Ukrainian gas executive played golf together) and then lamely insisted that his son must have gotten the job on the merits (despite neither speaking Ukrainian nor having any experience in the energy industry). “Even Hunter Biden admits his work in Ukraine was a mistake,” Robert Mackey reports for The Intercept. “Why can’t his father say that?” Mr. Biden is insulting the intelligence of the people – or perhaps exposing his own unintelligence – by saying things that everyone knows are not true.
“Stop Calling Them ‘Gaffes’"
oe Biden has always been infamous for “gaffes,” but as independent journalist Michael Tracey argues in “Joe Biden isn’t ‘Gaffe-Prone,’ He’s Losing His Mind,” this is a term only ever used by pundits to explain away the offensive statements of politicians as something embarrassing yet also somehow endearing. And truth be told, it is only ever used to refer to the repeated blunders and errors of Mr. Biden. How many times is the media class going to help Mr. Biden get away with his “gaffes”?
Take, for instance, this article in The Washington Post on a story which Joe Biden has been telling about himself for years. “Almost every detail in the story appears to be incorrect,” according to the Post. “In the space of three minutes, Biden got the time period, the location, the heroic act, the type of medal, the military branch and the rank of the recipient wrong, as well as his own role in the ceremony.” If this came from any other politician, it would be a called what it is – a lie told by a chickenhawk trying to trade on the troops for political gain – but because it comes from Mr. Biden, it is just another “gaffe.”
The traditional definition of a “gaffe,” at least in a political context, comes from the journalist Michael Kinsley. “A gaffe is when a politician tells the truth,” quipped Mr. Kinsey, “some obvious truth he isn’t supposed to say.” Joe Biden’s “gaffes” do not come anywhere close to meeting that definition, however. A gaffe is not saying something that is not true; that is the opposite of a gaffe. As Michael Tracey says, it’s time to “stop calling them ‘gaffes.’”
When it comes to Joe Biden, his supposed “gaffe-proneness” has effectively obscured his history of “lie-proneness,” which is extraordinary even for a politician. Yet Joe Biden’s stammering, stuttering word salads are starting to sound more like dementia than the usual “gaffes.” Joe Biden has always been inarticulate when he was not plagiarizing the material of other politicians like Hubert Humphrey, John F. Kennedy, and Robert F. Kennedy (see Shaun King’s tweet thread on his history of plagiarism), but contrasting videos of him from just four years ago with videos of him today reveals a severe loss of verbal intelligence even for someone already as dim as him. Mr. Biden is no longer the pseudo-avuncular figure from his cameo on the NBC sitcom “Parks and Rec” (which also yukked it up with the egotistical, fanatical, and hateful John McCain).
At a campaign rally in Texas, Joe Biden tried and failed a hackneyed recitation of the Declaration of Independence. “We hold these truths to be self-evident,” he began, before forgetting the words. “All men and women are created by...you know, you know...the thing.” Obviously, on the most superficial level, this is yet another example of Mr. Biden’s increasingly evident mental incapacity, but on a more “meta” level, it is evidence of the increasingly evident political incapacity of the so-called “American idea.” Over 150 years ago, Abraham Lincoln, in his campaign to appropriate “the Fathers” as anti-slavery Republicans and defeat Stephen Douglas’ Northern Democrats, took the line “all men are created equal” from the Declaration of Independence out of context and twisted it to mean something which none of those fathers then intended or could have ever imagined. Lincoln ultimately succeeded in turning Thomas Jefferson’s manifesto against British tyranny into a mystical “Proposition,” but even as those Yankee revolutionaries who first sang “The Battle Hymn of the Republic” a-mouldered in the grave, their souls have marched on through Lincoln’s Proposition. According to the great “Agrarian Aquinas” M.E. Bradford, Lincoln’s Proposition “set us forever to ‘trampling out the grapes of wrath.’” Mr. Biden himself announced his presidential campaign by invoking Lincoln’s Proposition and a number of other American clichés and slogans, like “America is an idea.” Lincoln’s Proposition has been cited so many times in so many ways – as a mandate for everything, from counter-culturalism and multi-culturalism at home to colonialism and imperialism abroad – that it now means anything, and thus, in effect, means nothing. Mr. Biden’s garbled attempt to quote the words “all men are created equal” is a fitting symbol of how Democrats and Republicans like him have garbled the meaning of “all men are created equal.”
If Joe Biden’s slurred speech, incoherent tangents, and lack of self-awareness was not troubling enough, the way that he lashes out at Democratic voters is even more shocking evidence of his dementia. “You’re a damn liar!” Mr. Biden told an Iowan farmer when asked about his son’s business in Ukraine. “Look, fat...here’s the deal,” mumbled Mr. Biden, challenging the farmer to a push-up contest and IQ test for good measure. When a South-Carolinian immigrant asked about the record number of deportations by the Obama Administration, Mr. Biden answered “go vote for Trump.” When Iowan state representative Ed Fallon asked about Mr. Biden’s energy policy, he poked him in the chest, got in his face, and said, “You oughta go vote for someone else!” Mr. Fallon told Mr. Biden that he was voting for Tom Steyer in the primary but would still vote for him in the general “if you treat me right,” to which Mr. Biden replied, “Well, I’m not.” When a CBS reporter asked Mr. Biden about Bernie Sanders’ criticism of his record on federal entitlements (cf. “FAIR: 23 Headlines Obscure Biden’s Lies About Cutting Social Security” and “FAIR: As Biden Invokes Dead Family Members Against Medicare For All, Media Play Along”), he turned around, waved his hands in the reporter’s face, and yelled, “Why why why why why why why?” When a Georgian student asked about Biden’s poor performance in the caucus, he called her a “lying dog-faced pony soldier.” When a Californian veteran of the Iraq War told Mr. Biden that “we actually fought in your damn wars” and “my friends are dead because of your policies,” Mr. Biden snapped, “So is my son!” (his son, Beau, died from cancer in 2015, not from his less than a year of service as an Army attorney). “I’m not going after your son,” replied the veteran, to which Mr. Biden snarled, “You better not.” When a Detroit union worker asked Mr. Biden about his attacks on the Second Amendment, he blurted out, “You’re full of s**t,” called him a “horse’s ass,” and threatened to “slap your face.” The union worker tried to remind Mr. Biden that “you’re working for me,” but Mr. Biden retorted, “I’m not working for you.” This is not even getting into Mr. Biden’s strange penchant for smelling and touching women and children (cf. “FAIR: Ignoring Lessons of #MeToo, Media Scrutinize Biden’s Accusers”).
It may be unseemly to call attention to a near-octogenarian’s mental decline, but it is even more unseemly for an aging man with an ailing brain to run for office in the first place. Is the American political class so decrepit that we are not even to be spared a semi-senile commander-in-chief?
Joe Biden may struggle to make sense and speak in complete sentences, as was widely acknowledged earlier in the primary, but since he has become the presumptive Democratic nominee, any discussion of his mental stamina has now been branded a “coordinated” campaign of “disinformation” involving Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump (which will, before the end, somehow implicate Vladimir Putin, too, cf. “FAIR: For NYT, Inconvenient Facts Equal ‘Russian-Style Disinformation’”). As Glenn Greenwald reports for The Intercept, “Democrats and Their Media Allies Impugned Biden’s Cognitive Fitness, Now They Claim Outrage.”
The Enemy of My Enemy is (not always) My Friend
Branko Marcetic authored a six-part article series on Joe Biden for the socialist website Jacobin and a forthcoming book against Joe Biden, Yesterday’s Man (which given the non-stop pace of the news is already “yesterday’s book”).
I disagree with the arguments in half of Mr. Marcetic’s articles, of course. For one, Mr. Marcetic damns Joe Biden for opposing busing, as if that was an extreme neo-segregationist position at the time. Yet as The Washington Post reported when Kamala Harris attacked Mr. Biden over busing, his position was fairly mainstream: Most Americans, while for racial desegregation, were against busing their children to outside school districts in order to achieve racial integration (and this included blacks as well as whites).
For another, Mr. Marcetic damns Joe Biden for opposing “partial-birth abortions” (technically known as “dilation and extraction”), which he consistently voted to ban. When dismembering a fetus risks damaging a woman’s cervix, a partial-birth abortion can be performed instead: The fetus, usually in the second trimester, is extracted feet first until only the head is inside, at which point scissors are used to puncture the head and crush the skull. (Don’t believe me: Believe the NPR story to which Mr. Marcetic links from which my description is copied.) Mr. Marcetic argues that Mr. Biden’s votes, along with other votes restricting federal funding of abortion, violated “a woman’s right to choose.” I retort that framing the abortion in terms of “choice” has always been facile at best and deceptive at worst, and that no woman has the right to “choose” to do whatever she wants to a fetus in utero. Sorry, but a baby is not your body.
Last, but not least, Mr. Marcetic damns Joe Biden for opposing illegal immigration and voting for some (but not all) law-enforcement measures. At the same time, however, Mr. Biden has consistently favored legal immigration and voted to expand its numbers, regardless of public opinion or its costs to the host country. In other words, even the most minimalist definition of a state – that is, defining where its borders are and who its citizens are – is too far to “the right” for Mr. Marcetic.
“The Anti-Busing Democrat,” “The Unreliable Pro-Choice Advocate,” and “The Anti-Immigrant Enabler” represent the pitfalls of “The Great Awokening.” Does Mr. Marcetic believe that a modern socialist movement can be built around busing, partial-birth abortions, and open borders? Joe Biden’s fairly moderate positions on these controversial issues have been attempts to prevent culturally/socially conservative Democrats who feel alienated from an increasingly counter-cultural/anti-social party from becoming Republicans, as many did in the Nixon, Reagan, and Trump elections. Of course, Mr. Biden is not to be commended as a populist hero, because as the other half of Mr. Marcetic’s articles demonstrates – “The Hawk,” “The Neoliberal,” and “The Mass-Incarceration Zealot” – he has also taken positions on war/peace, welfare/trade, and crime/surveillance which have been just as alienating to many of those same people.
Schmaltzy Rhetoric & Status Quo Politics
All of the above is about what Joe Biden has done as a U.S. Senator and Vice President, but what is he proposing to do now as U.S. President?
Joe Biden’s announcement of his campaign was a scripted and prerecorded video with black-and-white footage of immigrants waving at the Statue of Liberty, Marines hoisting the flag at Iwo Jima, protestors marching, and Martin Luther King speaking:
The core values of this nation, our standing in the world, our very democracy, everything that has made America America, is at stake...America is an idea, an idea stronger than any army, bigger than any ocean, more powerful than any dictator or tyrant. It gives hope to the most desperate people on earth. It guarantees that everyone is treated with dignity and gives hate no safe harbor. It instills in every person in this country the belief that no matter where you start in life, there’s nothing you can’t achieve if you work at it. That’s what we believe, and above all else, that’s what at stake in this election...We have to remember who we are. This is America!
This is nothing more than Yankee self-centeredness and self-righteousness, which is as old as the first Puritans in New England proclaiming their colony to be “a city upon a hill.” Americans have no idea about – much less interest in – what the rest of the world really thinks of them. In a global survey by Gallup from 2013 (when the Obama Administration was “liberating” Honduras, Libya, Syria, Ukraine, Yemen and more), the U.S.A. was voted the single greatest threat to world peace. In 2017, these results were repeated in another global survey by Pew Research. Regardless, Democrats and Republicans like Joe Biden will continue to bloviate about how “exceptional” and “indispensable” they – er, the U.S.A. – is in the world.
Joe Biden also announced his campaign by “waving the bloody shirt” over the white-nationalist riot in Charlottesville, Virginia:
Charlottesville, Virginia, is home to the author of one of the great documents in human history. We know it by heart: “We hold these truths to be self-evident...All men are created equal, endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights.” We’ve heard it so often that it’s almost a cliché, but it’s who we are. We don’t always live up to these ideals – Jefferson himself didn’t – but we have never before walked away from them.
This is nothing more than hysteria. For one, the white nationalists who rioted in Charlottesville represented no one (especially not those truly “very fine people” defending Confederate monuments from destruction) and their attempted rally actually rallied public opinion against them. An event which was supposed to “unite” the alt-right ended up further dividing it and driving it further underground. For another, Donald Trump did not call the Klansmen and neo-Nazis at Charlottesville “very fine people,” as anyone with a half a clue could probably reckon. He condemned the white nationalists who were there in clear language, but noted that not everyone who was there to protest the destruction of the monuments to Confederate heroes was necessarily a white nationalist – a quote which hacks in the media class promulgated out of context. Last, but not least, if the alt-right self-destructed as a result of Charlottesville and the President’s “very fine people” quote was a base lie, then there is no “battle for the soul of this nation.” If there is such a battle, then it is between the goblins, orcs, and trolls who want to destroy the works of art and historical symbols of this nation, and the “very fine people” who have resisted.
Joe Biden’s campaign announcement is equal parts kvelling and schvitzing. In a recent article for Foreign Affairs, “Why America Must Lead Again,” he makes some actual promises amid the usual platitudes. Much of this material is covered in an interview which he did with the Council of Foreign Affairs (which publishes Foreign Affairs) at the end of the Obama Administration, “The Future of U.S. Foreign Policy.”
Joe Biden has nothing critical to say about a foreign policy in the Middle East which has destabilized the entire region for generations, only that Donald Trump has not been a moralistic enough leader of the American empire. Mr. Biden promises to end “the forever war” in Afghanistan, just like Pres. Trump promised when he was campaigning, but unlike then-candidate Trump, Mr. Biden insists on continuing to occupy Iraq and Syria against the will of both countries, in order to have a base of operations for carrying out the sort of drone strikes and special operations which the Obama Administration pioneered. Mr. Biden does promise to end the U.S.A.’s sponsorship of Saudi Arabia’s war on Yemen, an atrocity which was initiated by the Obama Administration and intensified by the Trump Administration. Hopefully Mr. Biden is more honorable than Pres. Trump, who was critical of Saudi Arabia for funding terror-insurrectionism (and Hillary Clinton’s foundation) when he was campaigning, but who has been abjectly defensive of Saudi Arabia’s barbarity since becoming President. (Pres. Trump’s daughter and son in-law, Ivanka and Jared Kushner, who are enormously influential over him, are infatuated with the House of Saud.) Other than promising “to sustain our ironclad commitment to Israel’s security,” Mr. Biden makes no mention of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict which the Trump Administration has (through his Kushner in-laws and their family-friend Netanyahus) drastically aggravated. He does not say whether he would, for instance, reverse the recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital or the defunding of the UN’s humanitarian program for Palestinian refugees. Just like he did with Pres. Bush on Iraq, Mr. Biden criticizes Pres. Trump’s management of the conflict with Iran but never questions whether there should even be a conflict with Iran. (It is just what you would expect from a politician who never learned any lessons from the Iraq War.) Mr. Biden promises to return to the denuclearization deal with Iran negotiated by the Obama Administration and broken by Pres. Trump, but at the same time he promises to exploit the opportunity to demand further concessions from Iran and to continue undermining Iran’s national security, just as the Obama Administration did by intervening in the Syrian civil war and trying to overthrow the Syrian government. Mr. Biden is so committed to American imperialism in the Middle East that he cannot even muster up a categorical condemnation of Pres. Trump’s unprecedented assassination of Gen. Qassim Soleimani – a military leader from a country with which we are not war and who was on a major diplomatic mission between Tehran and Riyadh. Mr. Biden is not concerned with reforming U.S. foreign policy, but merely putting the U.S.A. – and himself – “back at the head of the table.”
Joe Biden has nothing critical to say about the post-”Cold War” policy toward Russia which has squandered a historic opportunity for global peace, only that Donald Trump has not been a moralistic enough leader of the “American-run protection racket” that is NATO. For Mr. Biden, NATO is not just a mutual-defensive alliance from the Cold War which since the dissolution of the USSR has had to invent new enemies in order to justify its existence (with the help of think tanks, like Mr. Biden’s friends at The Atlantic Council, funded by Mr. Biden’s friends at Lockheed Martin and Raytheon), but is “an alliance of values” and thus “sacred.” (Mr. Biden is using the same sort of mystical rhetoric about NATO that Abraham Lincoln used about the Union, but what “mystic chords of memory” do Americans share with Turkey?) Mr. Biden promises to keep escalating “The New Cold War,” just like the Obama Administration did by intervening in a Ukrainian revolution in order to overthrow a Russian-aligned government and install a Western-aligned one. Mr. Biden promises to “impose real costs on Russia” for its “aggression” (i.e. intervening in wars on its border) and to “stand with Russian civil society” (i.e. interfering in its elections). Mr. Biden cites the Obama Administration’s “Nuclear Security Summit” as an example of the sort of diplomacy that he would conduct as President, but on the question of nuclear security, he makes no promise to return to the INF treaty which the Trump Administration killed or the New START treaty which the Trump Administration is going to let die. However undiplomatic it was to destroy those arms-control treaties essential to ending the Cold War, Mr. Biden probably sees it as an unwitting windfall for the U.S.A. in the New Cold War. Mr. Biden’s idea for a summit, however, is not one which would be about nuclear disarmament or diplomatic engagement with Russia, but a self-righteous “Summit for Democracy” to signify the New Cold War. Despite the fact that the Trump Administration is on the opposite side of Russia in virtually every world conflict (such as attempting to overthrow Russia-aligned governments in Syria and Venezuela) and has taken actions against Russia which the Obama Administration deemed to be too aggressive (such as sending Ukraine anti-tank missiles and sniper rifles to use against Russia), Mr. Biden still accuses the President of kowtowing to Vladimir Putin. Indeed, in the New Cold War, suggesting that you would like “to get along with Russia,” as Pres. Trump did when he was campaigning – the germ of the RussiaGate conspiracy theory which dominated the news for over three years – is nothing short of treasonous.
As much as Joe Biden is offended by what the white-nationalist rioters in Charlottesville said about race, he is just as offended by what Vladimir Putin said about Western liberalism in an interview with The Financial Times:
Putin wants to tell himself, and anyone else he can dupe into believing him, that the liberal idea is “obsolete.” But he does so because he is afraid of its power. No army on earth can match the way the electric idea of liberty passes freely from person to person, jumps borders, transcends languages and cultures, and supercharges communities of ordinary citizens into activists and organizers and change agents.
This is, in insufferable Yankee form, chauvinism cloaked in idealistic-sounding language, with some Russophobia for good measure. It never occurs to bigoted, ignorant, prejudiced Yankees like Joe Biden that other peoples in the world might have other ideas different from what they believe is right. “Liberalism” (not American center-leftism, but the modern combination of a capitalist economy, a democratic government, and a pluralist/secularist culture) which emerged as an idea in the 18th-century West and became a reality in the 19th-century West, is, according to Yankee chauvinists like Mr. Biden, objectively superior to the less egalitarian and less individualist traditions of uncivilized and uncultured peoples like the Chinese and the Russians (or even Europeans for that matter). Yankee chauvinists like Mr. Biden have no respect for the heritages of nations and states thousands of years older than theirs, such as China and Russia, only a desire to degrade them in the name of “democracy.” Yankee chauvinists are not just ignorant of foreign political and spiritual philosophies which have nothing to do with “liberalism,” but are ignorant of their own pre-”liberal” heritage as well: Classic Western political and spiritual philosophers (Plato and Aristotle, Saint Augustine and Saint Aquinas, and John Adams and James Madison) condemned “democracy” as one of the worst forms of government, as just one example. There are modern Western intellectuals on the Left and the Right alike who are critical of the contradictions and decadence of “liberalism,” but to Mr. Biden (for whom reconsidering anything that he learned in Social Studies must be how the Communists brainwash you) these are all just “dupes.”
Joe Biden has nothing critical to say about a trade policy that has hollowed out the economy of his country, only that Donald Trump has not been a moralistic enough champion of world-flattening globalization. Instead of fighting a “trade war” with China in order to force that country to trade freely and fairly – not to practice its policies of dumping/flooding, discriminatory non-tariff barriers, industrial subsidies, forced technology transfers, and currency manipulation – Mr. Biden promises that he would “invest” in “education” and “infrastructure” instead, which is just treating the symptoms of the disease that is economic dependence on China. Mr. Biden’s promise to support a “clean-energy economy” with “net-zero emissions,” as the Obama Administration did (along those lines, he also promises to rejoin the Paris Climate Accords), is not necessarily a bad idea, but such an economic transition must be supported by a protective trade policy. Mr. Biden promises to pressure China on issues such as reducing its emissions but at the same time promises not to use the one policy that has effectively pressured China – namely, trade policy. The Trump Administration – as personally loathsome as The Donald may be – has fought hard to force China to end its abusive trade practices and has won back some of the economic ground that Mr. Biden and others lazily ceded to China. That is the “trade war” which Mr. Biden promises to surrender. The Trump Administration also successfully renegotiated NAFTA on fairer terms to the U.S.A. and is trying to renegotiate outdated and asymmetric trade deals with the European Union (deals originally intended to rebuild their economies after World War II). Although he does not say it outright, when Mr. Biden talks about trade agreements as a way “to build a united front of U.S. allies and partners to confront China’s abusive behaviors and human rights violations,” what he is talking about is the Trans-Pacific Partnership, which the Obama Administration negotiated with other Pacific-Rim countries to reduce their economic dependence on China. Though the TPP was repudiated by the Trump Administration – and not supported by any other presidential candidate from 2016 – Mr. Biden would almost certainly rejoin it. To Mr. Biden, who condemns “protectionism” as an expression of “America First” nationalism, the imperial policy of economically isolating China takes precedence to protecting the American economy.
Mr. Biden has nothing critical to say about an immigration policy that has made a mockery of the laws of his country – not to mention fostered a humanitarian crisis on its border – only that Donald Trump has not been as moralistic as “The Mother of Exiles” commands. As with trade, the Trump Administration – as personally loathsome as The Donald may be – has made progress on the persistent crisis of illegal immigration, mainly by realizing that enforcing the law is a much more effective deterrent than “building a wall.” Mr. Biden promises to end the Trump Administration’s policy of “tearing apart families” – the media class’ hysteric distortion of the routine administrative procedure of holding adults and minors separately and temporarily while they are processed through the legal system, if for no other reason than to protect minors from the notorious sexual abuse that occurs at the border. (Perhaps as a sign of moderation, Mr. Biden did not recite the familiar litany of “children in cages” and “concentration camps,” which is what the media class calls chain-link fences.) The only alternative to family separation, which Mr. Biden does not admit but cannot avoid, would be to return to the Obama Administration’s policy of “catch and release,” or catching illegal immigrants at the border then releasing them into the interior of the country where they can live for years until their trial (assuming they even show up on their day in court). Mr. Biden calls family separation “senseless,” but does “catch and release” make any more sense? Mr. Biden promises that he would also end the Trump Administration’s “Migrant Protection Protocols” (i.e. asylees who illegally enter the U.S.A. from Mexico are required to “remain in Mexico” while their cases are pending), “Third-Country-Transit Bar,” (i.e. asylees who pass through other countries without applying for asylum in them first are ineligible for asylum in the U.S.A.), and “Asylum Cooperative Agreements” (i.e. asylees who pass through other countries before illegally entering the U.S.A. are returned to one of those “safe third countries” while their cases are pending), three previously unenforced laws which helped to end the disastrous “border crisis” of 2018 and 2019. Mr. Biden argues that these “detrimental” policies violate the “dignity” of immigrants and deny them their “right” to claim asylum, but the truth is that these policies were only a detriment to immigrants’ undignified abuse of the right of asylum. Mr. Biden promises to end the Trump Administration’s policy of “targeting” illegal immigrants (vibrant “communities” such as drug-dealing gangs and dog-fighting rings) and the businesses which exploit illegal immigrants as quasi-slave labor. In other words, Mr. Biden promises to return to the Obama Administration’s policy of not enforcing the law on the border or in the interior. While Mr. Biden promises to put an end to “the travel ban” (a thoroughly lawful executive power which the Trump Administration has, shamefully, abused to insult and injure people from other countries like Iran), he should not reject a “travel ban” altogether, a power which even the Obama Administration used in the appropriate circumstances. Another promise of Mr. Biden’s is to multiply refugees by nearly 700%, a quota he will have no trouble filling so long as he continues to destabilize the Middle East as the Obama Administration did. Mr. Biden’s immigration system would exemplify what the great Sam Francis termed “anarcho-tyranny,” or when the government refuses to carry out its legitimate powers (i.e. to protect the innocent and punish the wicked) and instead makes up illegitimate powers (i.e. to protect the wicked and punish the innocent).
From his Foreign Affairs article, Joe Biden defines himself as a conventional establishmentarian and institutionalist who “has learned nothing and forgotten nothing,” so to speak. For Mr. Biden, “restoring the soul of this nation” – his moralistic campaign slogan – apparently means just going back a few years to what he is now calling “the Obama-Biden Administration,” that is a restoration of the status quo ante Donaldus Trumpus. It is as if all of the Americans who rejected that status quo by voting for a right-wing populist like Donald Trump and a left-wing populist like Bernie Sanders do not even matter to Mr. Biden.
How the Scarecrow with No Brain Beat the Lion with No Hear
Enough about Joe Biden, who is the doddering figurehead of a shambling order. What Bernie Sanders represents – or, perhaps, represented – is much more interesting. There are a number of reasons that Mr. Sanders, after giving Hillary Clinton a run for her money in 2016 and galvanizing the “progressive” movement of a generation, failed so miserably in 2020. Two of the most obvious are that Ms. Clinton was a far more repellent opponent than Mr. Biden and that the Democratic race in 2020 was far more crowded than in 2016, but in the end, Mr. Sanders has nobody to blame for his failure but himself.
First is that Bernie Sanders himself is an incompetent leader who missed key opportunities and undermined his own progress. In 2016, after journalists were caught colluding with Democratic officials on Hillary Clinton’s behalf in the primary election, Sen. Sanders did not cry out that he had been cheated or call out RussiaGate as a distraction from that terrible scandal, but groveled to the Democratic nominee and embraced RussiaGate. So far, in 2020 Sen. Sanders has bent the knee again and again. Criticizing someone for their low character or poor record is not “getting personal” or “going negative,” but Sen. Sanders has steadily refused to criticize his biggest opponents – notably Joe Biden – and instead lamely echoed Democratic talking points about unity against Donald Trump. Sen. Sanders is under the impression that he can win by making the same speech that he has been making for years without talking about any of the other candidates, but politics is as much about personality as policy. Indeed, when one of his campaign surrogates made headlines with an op-ed in The Guardian, “‘Middle Class’ Joe Biden Has A Corruption Problem – It Makes Him A Weak Candidate,” Sen. Sanders denied that Mr. Biden was corrupt (without disputing any of the facts in the article) and disavowed his own supporter! When another one of his campaign surrogates made headlines with an op-ed in a South Carolina newspaper, “While Bernie Sanders Has Always Stood Up For African-Americans, Joe Biden Has Repeatedly Let Us Down,” Sen. Sanders backed off that accusation in a debate. When accusations of “Russian interference” in his favor were reported in the news, Sen. Sanders did not reject RussiaGate as a discredited conspiracy theory and condemn such anti-democratic tactics, but rather accepted the overstated reports at face value and made a show of threatening Vladimir Putin on TV, thus propping up the paranoia and xenophobia used to criminalize left- and right-wing criticism of American empire. Speaking of critics of American empire, Tulsi Gabbard is an American-Samoan woman who represents Hawaii in the Congress and is a major in the National Guard which she has served since 2003 (including two tours of duty in Iraq). In 2016 Rep. Gabbard resigned as Vice-Chair of the Democratic National Committee in order to nominate Mr. Sanders for President and has defended him throughout his presidential campaign, including the latest McCarthyite attack. Since Rep. Gabbard announced her own presidential candidacy – hers was the only voice for peace in the Democratic primary – she has been collectively denounced in terms even more bilious and venomous than those used against Sen. Sanders. While Sen. Sanders has often hastened to assure Democratic voters that “I respect Joe Biden” and “Joe Biden is a friend of mine,” he has hardly raised his voice in Rep. Gabbard’s defense. As Tucker Carlson put it on his FOX News show, “Bernie Sanders may be the lamest revolutionary ever.”
Second is that Bernie Sanders is vain. Instead of identifying as a “democratic socialist” and then debating about the meaning of that rather contrived term, Sen. Sanders should have just identified as what he actually is - a “social democrat.” Even the Scandinavian countries which Sen. Sanders cites as examples of “democratic socialism” have pointedly disavowed that label in favor of “social democracy,” that is a free-market economy which supports a welfare state. Sen. Sanders wanted to sound special, however, and so called himself something controversial that he ended up wasting his breath having to defend ad nauseam. At the same time, by identifying as a socialist, Sen. Sanders attracted “antifa” types to his campaign who, as the undercover journalists at Project Veritas revealed (cf. part 1, part 2, part 3, and part 4 of their investigation) actually are totalitarians who believe in a planned economy, a one-party dictatorship, and state terror. Were wannabe Communists such as these punks the best “field organizers” for Iowa and South Carolina?
Third is that Bernie Sanders is unpatriotic. Instead of looking abroad for examples and inspiration – how many Americans are familiar with what life is like in Denmark or Norway? – Sen. Sanders should have rooted his vision in American heritage, laying claim to the legacy of progressive leaders already admired by Americans such as Theodore Roosevelt, Woodrow Wilson, and Franklin D. Roosevelt. There is nothing in Sen. Sanders’ policies inconsistent with the Progressive Era and the New Deal, and in fact, Sen. Sanders could have made a persuasive case that he was trying to finish what they had started but what the Cold War had interrupted. One of the reasons which Sen. Sanders might have avoided drawing such historical connections is because of the “political incorrectness” of those original progressives (Teddy Roosevelt was a “colonialist,” Wilson was a “segregationist,” and FDR was an “anti-Semite”) but more on that later.
Fourth is that Bernie Sanders was – and is – a “fellow traveler” of Communism. In the 1980s, Sen. Sanders visited Third-World Communist states in Latin America, such as Fidel Castro’s Cuba and Daniel Ortega’s Nicaragua, and compared them favorably to the U.S.A. When journalists and other candidates pressed him on his past comments, Sen. Sanders doubled down, praising Cuba’s “literacy program” for instance. (The Nazis had an excellent engineering program, too, but no one is so obtuse as to insist on giving Adolf Hitler his due credit for the Autobahn!) Has Sen. Sanders ever even spoken to a Cuban-American immigrant? If a trip to Florida was too much, then in Sen. Sanders own state lived the great Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn - an exile from the Soviet Union, a Nobel-winning author, and the most famous anti-Communist figure in the world.
Fifth and finally is that Bernie Sanders embraced identity politics and political correctness. For example, at one point Sen. Sanders understood basic economics: Mass-immigration drives up the labor supply and thus drives down wages, especially for the working class, which was why in an interview with Ezra Klein of Vox he shocked liberals by dismissing “open borders” as “a Koch-Bros. proposal.” Indeed, as early as 1974, when Mr. Sanders was running to be Vermont governor in the Labor Union Party, he opposed orchards bringing in Jamaican guest-workers to pick apples instead of locals. “With the Vermont unemployment rate one of the highest in the nation,” protested Mr. Sanders, “I could never support importing foreign workers when our own people are out of work.” Nowadays, however, Sen. Sanders mouths all of the same clichés and slogans of that “Koch-Bros. proposal.” Today, Sen. Sanders himself would condemn the expression “our own people” as “nativist,” “xenophobic,” and even “white supremacist.” For campaign surrogates, Sen. Sanders turned to Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (so woke that she is against growing cauliflower in “communities of color” because it is a “colonial” vegetable), Ilhan Omar (so woke that she voted “present” on the historic resolution recognizing the Armenian Genocide because that resolution did not also recognize every other unrecognized genocide ever), and Rashida Tlaib (so woke that she called the Detroit Police Department’s facial-recognition technology “bulls**t” because it is racist and told the black Detroit Police Chief that only black people should work in the facial-recognition lab). Other campaign surrogates include the radical black activist Jesse Jackson and the radical black intellectual Cornel West, as well as outspoken Hollywood actresses like Susan Sarandon and Cynthia Nixon. Are these hyper-polarizing figures the best choice to reach out to older voters afraid that a Pres. Sanders would be too far to the left? Sen. Sanders traded populism for “intersectionality,” or numbers for diversity.
Neither the grouchy leftist Bernie Sanders nor the sleepy centrist Joe Biden are worthy of a vote.
Is Donald Trump worthy of a vote? That is another question for another time which will come soon enough, though suffice it say that on the vital issues on which Pres. Trump campaigned, he has been quite good on trade (the Wuhan coronavirus underscores the danger of economic dependence on China), fairly decent on immigration (the Wuhan coronavirus also underscores the danger of open borders), but utterly horrendous on foreign policy (he has not stopped bombing Iraq and blockading Iran even as they both struggle with massive Wuhan-coronavirus outbreaks). Yet the Wuhan-coronavirus outbreak in the U.S.A. has exposed many of Pres. Trump’s worst qualities – his arrogance, belligerence, and incompetence.
In the coming presidential election, the media class is going to play defense for Joe Biden as strongly as it plays offense against Donald Trump. It is important to know the truth about Mr. Biden, then, and be able to translate his pretentious platitudes and self-righteous references into real policies. There are legitimate reasons to not vote for Pres. Trump, of course. I have many Democratic and even Republican friends who find “The Donald” so repulsive – chauvinistic, demagogic, kleptocratic, misogynistic, xenophobic, etc. – that they are already determined to vote for whomever runs against him. I am not sure that I shall dishonor myself once again by voting for someone as fat-headed and foul-mouthed as Pres. Trump if he continues to be disloyal to his “America First” voters whenever Zionist billionaire Sheldon Adelson makes a donation. Yet the only power that we, the people, have over politicians is our vote. Once we give away our vote, politicians lose all interest in and respect for us, and move on to the more lucrative business of servicing the financial and ideological interests of their donors. (Many mothers have had a similar talk with their daughters when they start dating.) Voting for a narcissistic Boomer, a corporate cronyist, military interventionist, and serial liar just because he is more “civil” than his opponent and speaks in all of the bipartisan clichés, is, in effect, a vote for all of the above, as much as it is against Pres. Trump.
It has often been observed that populism rises when elites fail. Populism is not perfect, of course (as the above discussions of Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders make painfully clear), but whatever its faults, what populism is reacting against is far worse than populism itself. Populism is a modern expression of the “Country-Court” conflict – that is, “the country,” or local and regional communities, resisting the tyranny of “the court,” or the central state – which is a key to Anglo-American politics. “The spirit of resistance to government is so valuable on certain occasions, that I wish it to be always kept alive,” Thomas Jefferson wrote to Abigail Adams. “It will often be exercised when wrong, but better so than not to be exercised at all.” In a letter to James Madison, Jefferson wrote that rebellion “prevents the degeneracy of government, and nourishes a general attention to the public affairs.” Jefferson was talking to Adams and Madison about outright rebellion, of course – the Shays Rebellion of 1787, which was neither the first nor the last domestic rebellion – but the same could be said of populism, which is a sort of “civil” rebellion. Indeed, to paraphrase Jefferson, rebellion – or populism – is “as necessary in the political world as storms in the physical” and “a medicine necessary for the sound health of government.” A victory for Joe Biden (who has an altogether sentimentalized memory of his 40 years in Washington, D.C.) would be a victory for failed elites whose response to populist discontent has not been to reflect on themselves, but rather to refuse any reform and repress the people. As Jefferson wrote to Madison, “Unsuccessful rebellions indeed generally establish the encroachments on the rights of the people which have produced them.” That is what a Biden presidency would be – a consolidation of the institutional powers and individual personalities which caused the problem in the first place.
In August, 2019, The New York Times introduced an essay symposium on the legacy of slavery:
In August of 1619, a ship appeared on this horizon, near Point Comfort, a coastal port in the English colony of Virginia. It carried more than 20 enslaved Africans, who were sold to the colonists. No aspect of the country that would be formed here has been untouched by the years of slavery that followed. On the 400th anniversary of this fateful moment, it is finally time to tell our story truthfully
Titled “The 1619 Project,” the symposium will be an ambitious attempt by The New York Times to “retcon” American history according to the seemingly bottomless pit that is black self-pity and white self-hatred:
The 1619 Project is a major initiative from The New York Times observing the 400th anniversary of the beginning of American slavery. It aims to reframe the country’s history, understanding 1619 as our true founding, and placing the consequences of slavery and the contributions of black Americans at the very center of the story we tell ourselves about who we are.
“In the days and weeks to come,” announced New York Times editorial board member Mara Gay, “we will publish essays demonstrating that nearly everything that has made America exceptional grew out of slavery.”
Americans should learn about the real history of race in their country: The enslavement of Africans, the extermination of Indians, and the exclusion of Asians – and that such brutality is entirely unexceptional in world history, as grim as that may be.
Slavery? Prof. David Brion Davis (a historian of slavery from Yale University and the founder of Yale’s Gilder Lehrman Center for the Study of Slavery, Resistance, and Abolition) began Inhuman Bondage: The Rise and Fall of Slavery in the New World with “The Ancient Origins of Modern Slavery,” a chapter which showed that slavery has been a part of human civilization for thousands of years – not since 1787 in the U.S. Constitution, but since the 2nd millennium B.C. in the Code of Hammurabi.
Genocide? In War Before Civilization: The Myth of the Peaceful Savage, Prof. Lawrence H. Keeley (an archaeologist from the University of Illinois) showed just how savage – yes, literally “savage” – the aboriginal and indigenous peoples of the Americas were toward each other before European colonization.
Xenophobia? In The Unguarded Gates, Prof. Otis L. Graham (a historian from the California State University and University of California systems) showed that as soon as immigration became a worldwide phenomenon, the “Neo-Europes” (new countries colonized by Europeans, like the U.S.A. and Canada in North America, Argentina and Brazil in South America, and Australia and New Zealand in Oceania) all adopted protective, restrictive, selective policies during the “Great Wave” of human migration from the 1890s to the 1920s in order to determine their own demographics.
The 1619 Project, however, is not real history. It is, quite uselessly, replacing a self-serving history which appeased “white guilt” (call it “Sunday School” history) with another self-serving history which appeases black grudges (call it “Spray Paint” history). The New York Times is further mainstreaming the anti-white identity politics which are already polarizing and radicalizing the country.
If other events are any indication (Ta-Nehisi Coates’ “Juneteenth” Congressional testimony and the 2020 Democrat presidential primary), the ultimate objective of The 1619 Project is reparations – not merely a racialized redistribution of wealth, but a comprehensive racialized reconstruction of culture, economics, politics, and society.
Ta-Nehisi Coates’ groundbreaking cover story for The Atlantic, “The Case for Reparations,” illustrated in disturbing detail how systems of white supremacy have harmed black people in the past and continue to harm them in the present. (Not the way that “pumpkin spice lattes” are “white supremacist,” but the way that slavery and segregation were “white supremacist.”) The sort of “conservatives” who read The Federalist love to lie to themselves (by religiously quoting “The Gettysburg Address,” for instance) about just how large the question of race has loomed in American history and just how long of a shadow it casts to this day. While the revolutions of “Reconstruction” and “Civil Rights” were significant victories for establishing equal rights for black people – as well as significant defeats for the rights of the states – when one party has injured another, it is not enough for the offending party to just stop and say sorry. “Reparations” (or “compensation” or “restitution”) for whatever damage was done is a well-established principle of justice.
Because of the damage that racism – institutional as well as individual – has done to black people, some form of reparations is not necessarily an unreasonable idea. Reparations would have to be limited to actual descendants to American slaves, of course, and not open to any aggrieved African alien like Barack Obama, Ilhan Omar, and Colin Kaepernick’s girlfriend. What happened to affirmative action – a policy put in place to help African-Americans which other non-white minorities with no history of discrimination in this country ended up mooching – could not be allowed to happen to reparations. Imagine how the many diverse tribal groups which have contributed to “The Browning of America” (their non-colorblind term, not mine) over the last 50 years would scramble to get a bigger piece of the pie for themselves!
“Reparations” in the interest of righting past wrongs once and for all could be a cathartic and constructive experience. Yet The 1619 Project is not about righting past wrongs. It is meant to be destructive rather than constructive, traumatic rather than cathartic, malicious rather than empathetic, and divisive rather than unifying. It is a “great leap forward” in the anti-white identity politics which are pulling many further left while pushing others further right.
If, as The New York Times has pronounced, everything that defines American civilization is the result of evil, then American civilization itself – our communities, institutions, and traditions – is evil. There is no other way to interpret such a statement.
Indeed, in a leaked transcript of a New York Times staff meeting, an anonymous activist – excuse me, “journalist” – made such a complaint:
I have another question about racism. I’m wondering to what extent you think that the fact of racism and white supremacy being sort of the foundation of this country should play into our reporting. Just because it feels to me like it should be a starting point, you know? Like these conversations about what is racist, what isn’t racist. I just feel like racism is in everything. It should be considered in our science reporting, in our culture reporting, in our national reporting. And so, to me, it’s less about the individual instances of racism, and sort of how we’re thinking about racism and white supremacy as the foundation of all the systems in the country. And I think particularly as we are launching a 1619 Project, I feel like that’s going to open us up to even more criticism from people who are like, “Okay, well you’re saying this, and you’re producing this big project about this, but are you guys actually considering this in your daily reporting?”
New York Times editor Dean Baquet did not respond by reminding that journalist that none of them should be so ideological in their reporting, but by assuring that journalist that the newspaper would indeed be so ideological:
You know, it’s interesting, the argument you just made, to go back to the use of the word “racist.” I didn’t agree with all of this from Keith Woods, who I know from New Orleans and who’s the ombudsman for NPR. He wrote a piece about why he wouldn’t have used the word “racist,” and his argument, which is pretty provocative, boils down to this: Pretty much everything is racist. His view is that a huge percentage of American conversation is racist, so why isolate this one comment from Donald Trump? His argument is that he could cite things that people say in their everyday lives that we don’t characterize that way, which is always interesting. You know, I don’t know how to answer that, other than I do think that race has always played a huge part in the American history.
In Mr. Baquet’s opening statement to his reporters, the editor announced that The New York Times would be switching from “Russia” to “race” to explain how and why Donald Trump was elected:
If we’re going to be a transparent newsroom that debates these issues among ourselves and not on Twitter, I figured I should talk to the whole newsroom, and hear from the whole newsroom. We had a couple of significant missteps, and I know you’re concerned about them, and I am, too. But there’s something larger at play here. This is a really hard story, newsrooms haven’t confronted one like this since the 1960s. It got trickier after [inaudible] went from being a story about whether the Trump campaign had colluded with Russia and obstructed justice to being a more head-on story about the President’s character. We built our newsroom to cover one story, and we did it truly well. Now we have to regroup, and shift resources and emphasis to take on a different story. I’d love your help with that. As Audra Burch said when I talked to her this weekend, this one is a story about what it means to be an American in 2019. It is a story that requires deep investigation into people who peddle hatred, but it is also a story that requires imaginative use of all our muscles to write about race and class in a deeper way than we have in years. In the coming weeks, we’ll be assigning some new people to politics who can offer different ways of looking at the world. We’ll also ask reporters to write more deeply about the country, race, and other divisions. I really want your help in navigating this story.
“The forces that led to the election of Donald Trump” are obvious to everyone except the sort of journalists and pundits who work for The New York Times. They would rather be fed conspiracy theories by rogue soldiers and spies with militarist agendas (aka “RussiaGate”) than appreciate why the American people voted for an “isolationist,” “nativist,” and “protectionist” campaigning like a demagogue over a “cosmopolitan,” “globalist” and “internationalist” campaigning on the status quo. If they were not still in denial about what happened in the 2016 election, they could be covering how Pres. Trump has betrayed or at least failed his base on every one of the issues that got him elected, but instead they will be covering how “racist” (and thus ultimately a manifestation of “the legacy of slavery”) it is for the American people to vote for their own interests. Ironically, the media class, with its insufferable elitist ideology, is so biased and prejudiced that it still does not seem to realize how its own bias and prejudice helped get Pres. Trump elected.
The 1619 Project is not merely a surrender of professional journalistic standards, then, but a declaration of war against the American people. Anti-American propaganda like The 1619 Project represents a more explicit and overt phase of the ongoing iconoclasm and ressentiment against symbols of American heritage and identity, the ulterior motive and ultimate objective of which has always been the delegitimization of the American nation-state. However buffoonish he may be, never has Pres. Trump’s label for the media class – “Enemy of the People” – been truer.
Matthew Yglesias of Vox describes the sharp leftward shifts on racial questions which have occurred among white liberals over the past five years as “The Great Awokening.” Amusingly, white liberals are actually to the left of African-Americans on affirmative action and discrimination, as well as to the left of Latino-Americans on immigration and diversity – and unlike African-Americans, Latino-Americans, and every other American ethnic group, actually report a pro-outgroup (as opposed to pro-ingroup) bias. In an article on the Jewish website Tablet, “America’s White Saviors,” Georgia State Ph.D student Zachary Goldberg documents how “The Great Awokening” has been driven by the sharp leftward shift in the media class’ coverage of racial issues (specifically The New York Times, the racial content of which has spiked) as well as by social media’s exposure of people to more of such news (specifically white liberals, who use it far more than other whites). Dr. David Rozado, using his website “Media Analytics,” has tracked the increasing frequency of “woke” jargon from The New York Times. Given the influence of elite media like The New York Times on white liberals, then, The 1619 Project will probably make rational discussion of race impossible and anything – any idea, individual, and institution – even tangentially associated with racism utterly anathema.
In the face of this evil, what do the staunch “conservatives” at The Federalist do? Refute the crackpot history that slavery built the American economy and reject the money grab exploiting that crackpot history? No, practicing Republican pundit Dinesh D’Souza’s “P.C. Judo” (a debating martial art which tries to turn identity politics against the Left), they claim that “the Democrats are the real racists.”
In “The Ghost of John C. Calhoun Haunts Today’s American Left,” John Daniel Davidson argues, “The irony of the New York Times’ 1619 Project is that it embraces the critique of the American Founding espoused by the leading defender of Southern slavery, Sen. John C. Calhoun.” To get more of an idea of who the Political Editor of The Federalist is and what he believes, consider his praise of Ben Shapiro’s The Right Side of History (the ludicrous neo-conservative lie that “Western Civilization” is a Judeo-Christian ideology that begins and ends with “The Enlightenment,” even though the latter was in many ways a rejection of the former) for the Jaffite Claremont Review of Books.
Mr. Davidson describes Calhoun as “a figure the Left desperately wants to associate with Republicans but whose legacy is alive today nowhere so much as in the far-left wing of the Democratic Party” and claims that Calhoun “had to construct an entirely new political philosophy, based on junk science and metaphysical determinism, of American government.” Mr. Davidson links to another article of his no less execrable and risible, “The Confederacy Still Lingers Within the Progressivism That Birthed It.”
According to Mr. Davidson, Calhoun was determined “to undermine the philosophical basis for American constitutionalism and replace it with a theory based on the faddish ‘science’ of Darwinism and race theory.” Given that Charles Darwin did even begin to write about the theory of evolution until eight years after Calhoun’s death, it is unclear just what Mr. Davidson what means here. As far as “race theory” is concerned, while Calhoun’s views on slavery were peculiar to the American South, he held the same “white supremacist” beliefs as most other white people in the 18th and 19th centuries, whether “pro-slavery” like Stephen Douglas or “anti-slavery” like Abraham Lincoln. In fact, Calhoun’s “junk science” about race was not much different from Thomas Jefferson’s own “junk science” about race in Notes on the State of Virginia. What makes the “P.C. Judo” that Mr. Davidson is attempting here so self-destructive is that it concedes “presentist” moral premises to the Left and strengthens the name-calling tactics (“ist” this, “phobe” that, and so on) which the Left uses to intimidate the Right.
Like most “conservatives,” Mr. Davidson still clings to the aforementioned “Sunday School” history, derived from Republican Party’s civic religion and made to seem scholarly by the sophistry of Prof. Harry V. Jaffa of Claremont McKenna College and the Claremont Institute:
As early as the 1820s, Calhoun was trying to correct what he saw as a monumental error by the Founders. To Calhoun, it was folly to base the republic on universal ideals like “all men are created equal,” or to suppose that something like the Bill of Rights could protect the rights of a minority from the “tyranny” of the majority.
Mr. Davidson is correct that Calhoun has nothing in common with the GOP – “the Stupid Party” – but wrong to assume that Calhoun would want anything to do with corrupt and cowardly careerists like Mark Sanford, Joe Walsh, and Bill Weld, not to mention crude demagogues like Donald Trump.
In support of his Sunday-School history, Mr. Davidson borrows yet another argument from Abraham Lincoln: The Northwest Ordinance put into practice what had been promised in the Declaration of Independence, proving that the Founding Fathers always intended to abolish slavery gradually. Lincoln accused Democrats like Sen. Stephen Douglas and his Kansas-Nebraska Act – which departed from the Northwest Ordinance – of betraying the anti-slavery legacy of the Founders. It is true that in 1781 the slaveholding state of Virginia ceded her territorial claims north of the Ohio River to the Confederation, and that in 1787 the Congress established an ordinance governing that northwestern territory (the future states of Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Michigan, Wisconsin, and Minnesota) which included the exclusion of slavery. Yet it is also true that Virginia retained her territorial claims south of the Ohio River, from which the slaveholding state of Kentucky was formed in 1792. Other slaveholding states followed suit. In 1789, slaveholding North Carolina ceded territory to the Union which became slaveholding Tennessee in 1796. In 1787 and 1802, respectively, slaveholding South Carolina and slaveholding Georgia ceded territory to the Union which became slaveholding Alabama in 1819 and slaveholding Mississippi in 1817. In other words, four of the old slaveholding states which had agreed to keep slavery out of the territory ceded by Virginia also kept slavery in the other territories which they ceded. Furthermore, two more slaveholding states – Louisiana in 1812 and Arkansas in 1836 – were formed from the territory which Pres. Thomas Jefferson (the author of the so-called “promissory note” to abolish slavery) purchased from France, not to mention Missouri in 1821. If Mr. Davidson tried reading something besides Harry Jaffa’s long-winded commentaries on Lincoln’s speeches – D.L. Robinson’s Slavery in the Structure of American Politics, 1765-1820? Glover Moore’s The Missouri Controversy, 1819-1821? Michael Holt’s The Political Crisis of the 1850s? – then perhaps he would understand why Virginia ceded so much of her territory and why she and other slaveholding states agreed to exclude slavery from that territory: Not to sow the seeds of their own destruction, but as a beneficent gesture to their non-slaveholding confederates. Virginia’s sacrifice may have earned her slaveholding confederates some goodwill for a generation, but Lincoln’s generation seized upon that act of good faith in bad faith.
What is it that Calhoun believed about equality which Mr. Davidson finds so offensive? Well, in Calhoun’s opinion, the phrase “all men are created equal,” even in its proper historical context, was a sentimentalist statement that neither could nor should be taken literally without undermining the progress of civilization.
Calhoun’s most comprehensive thoughts on this controversial question come from a speech on the admission of Oregon to the Union in 1848:
If he should possess a philosophical turn of mind, and be disposed to look to more remote and recondite causes, he will trace it to a proposition which originated in a hypothetical truism, but which, as now expressed and now understood, is the most false and dangerous of all political errors. The proposition to which I allude, has become an axiom in the minds of a vast majority on both sides of the Atlantic, and is repeated daily from tongue to tongue, as an established and incontrovertible truth; it is, that “all men are born free and equal.” I am not afraid to attack error, however deeply it may be entrenched, or however widely extended, whenever it becomes my duty to do so, as I believe it to be on this subject and occasion.
How, exactly does Calhoun’s criticism of equalitarianism deny man’s nature as a free and reasonable being, as Harry Jaffa so outrageously put it? The contradiction between liberty and equality – and that either in extreme will end in tyranny – has been a recurring problem in Western philosophy since Plato. American “conservatives” should be aware of Alexis de Tocqueville’s observations on liberty and equality in the classic Democracy in America, at the very least. Of course, if Mr. Davidson’s definition of Western Civilization is Ben Shapiro’s “reason and moral purpose,” then it is no surprise that he finds Calhoun’s argument so offensive.
What was the original meaning of the phrase “all men are created equal”? Was the Declaration of Independence really a “promissory note” to abolish slavery? During the “Missouri Crisis” of 1819-1821, when Northerners and Southerners clashed over slavery for the first time since their unification under the Constitution, the latter answered with common sense. “The meaning of this sentence is defined in its application,” argued Sen. Richard Mentor Johnson of Kentucky. “That all communities stand upon an equality; that Americans are equal with Englishmen, and have the right to organize such government for themselves as they shall choose, whenever it is their pleasure to dissolve the bonds which unite them to another people.” According to Sen. Nicholas Van Dyke of Delaware, “the recital of abstract theoretical principles, in a national manifesto” was “correct, and intelligible in the political sense in which they were used by the men who signed that manifesto,” which was to justify the right of the colonies to govern themselves as free and independent states. “The distinguished statesmen who pledged to each other ‘their lives, their fortunes, and their sacred honor,’ in support of that declaration, were not visionary theorists,” explained Sen. Van Dyke. “They were men of sound, practical, common sense, and, from the premises assumed, arrived at sound practical conclusions.” Sen. William Pinkney of Maryland was brutally honest: “The self-evident truths announced in the Declaration of Independence are not truths at all, if taken literally; and the practical conclusions contained in the same passage of that declaration prove that they were never to be so received.”
Why did the Founding Fathers not abolish slavery if that was what they really wanted? Once again, Southerners spoke plainly during Missouri Crisis. “Is it not wonderful that, if the Declaration of Independence gave authority to emancipate, that the patriots who made it never proposed any plan to carry it into execution?” Sen. Nathaniel Macon of North Carolina wondered sarcastically. “And is it not equally wonderful, that, if the Constitution gives the authority, this is the first attempt ever made, under either, by the federal government, to exercise it?” (Sen. Macon was using the word “wonderful” in its most literal and neutral sense, of course.) “Who were the parties – the slaves? No,” Sen. James Barbour of Virginia asked rhetorically about the Declaration. “Did slavery not exist in every State of the Union at the moment of its promulgation? Did it enter into any human mind that it had the least reference to this species of population? Is there not at the present moment slaves in the very States from which we hear these novel doctrines?” Sen. Macon and Sen. Barbour were correct: No one at the time (not even anti-slavery Founders) comprehended that the phrase “all men are created equal” was anything like a promissory note to abolish slavery. On the contrary, as the Continental Congress was debating the adoption of the Declaration, slave-owning Southerners and slave-trading New Englanders objected so vehemently to language critical of the slave trade that it was removed from the final draft. “The clause, too, reprobating the enslaving of the inhabitants of Africa, was struck out in complaisance to South Carolina and Georgia, who had never attempted to restrain the importation of slaves, and who on the contrary still wished to continue it,” Thomas Jefferson recalled in his memoirs. “Our Northern brethren also I believe felt a little tender under those censures; for though their people have very few slaves themselves yet they had been pretty considerable carriers of them to others.” As Nikole Hannah-Jones argues in her contribution to The 1619 Project, “they struck the passage” because “in the end…neither Jefferson nor most of the Founders intended to abolish slavery.” Ms. Hannah-Jones may be oversimplifying the past and overstating her case at times (e.g. British efforts to incite slave revolts in the colonies ignited revolutionary action, but the American Revolution itself was not about protecting slavery from the British), but she is telling Sunday-School history a hard truth that it needs to hear: There was never a “promissory note.” Indeed, one of the fatal flaws in the Sunday-School history that Mr. Davidson has learned from Harry Jaffa is that it is so indefensible that it is actually susceptible to the criticisms of otherwise illiterate Spray-Paint history.
What was the position of living authors/signers of the Declaration, like Thomas Jefferson and John Adams, during the Missouri Crisis? Did they announce to the public, “Rufus King is right: We have defaulted on our obligations under the ‘promissory note.’”? No, Jefferson abhorred King and other anti-slavery Federalists for what he perceived as political ambition and ideological fanaticism. “King is ready to risk the Union for any chance of restoring his party to power and wriggling himself to the head of it, nor is Clinton without his hopes nor scrupulous as to the means of fulfilling them,” Jefferson told Pres. James Monroe. “I hope I shall be spared the pain of witnessing it either by the good sense of the people, or by the more certain reliance, the hand of death.” Adams simply deferred to Southerners like Jefferson. “I have been so terrified with this phenomenon that I constantly said in former times to the Southern gentlemen, I must leave it to you,” Adams told Jefferson. “I will vote for no measure against your judgements.”
When Benjamin Banneker (a freedman and self-educated scientist from Maryland) confronted Thomas Jefferson with the apparent hypocrisy of owning slaves while writing the words “all men are created equal,” did Jefferson respond, “You’re right: I have defaulted on my obligations under the ‘promissory note.’”? No, he politely implied that he did not believe that black people were equal – yet – to white people:
Nobody wishes more than I do to see such proofs as you exhibit, that nature has given to our black brethren, talents equal to those of the other colours of men, and that the appearance of a want of them is owing merely to the degraded condition of their existence both in Africa and America. I can add with truth that nobody wishes more ardently to see a good system commenced for raising the condition both of their body and mind to what it ought to be, as fast as the imbecility of their present existence, and other circumstances which cannot be neglected, will admit.
What about the “universal ideals” contained in that “promissory note,” Mr. Davidson?
It is not that the “universal ideals” in the Declaration of Independence do not apply to black people because Thomas Jefferson and other Founding Fathers did not believe that they were equal to white people. Obviously not! It is that, contrary to Harry Jaffa, Jefferson and other Founders did not believe that the “universal ideals” of the Declaration constituted a “promissory note” at all. In context, the Declaration meant no more was what its immediate antecedent, the Lee Resolution – adopted July 2nd – stated much more succinctly: “Resolved, that these United Colonies are, and of right ought to be, free and independent States, and that they are absolved from all allegiance to the British Crown, and all political connection between them and the State of Great Britain is, and ought to be, totally dissolved.” The Declaration was not meant to proclaim the reconstruction of the Thirteen Colonies, but to protect the Thirteen Colonies from destruction (and the same goes for the Constitution, mutatis mutandis).
The 1619 Project, in contrast to Calhoun, affirms that “all men are created equal” (denying even the most undeniable differences in human population groups is another project of The New York Times’ intersectional-science reporter Amy Harmon), but argues that all men have not been treated as if they were created equal, or rather that white people have not treated black people as equals. In other words, while Calhoun argued that “all men are created equal” was a lie because it is literally untrue, The 1619 Project argues that “all men are created equal” is literally true but that white people were lying about believing it.
Here is the passage from The 1619 Project – Nikole Hannah-Jones’ “America Wasn’t a Democracy Until Black Americans Made It One,” to be specific – which Mr. Davidson believes is something of a séance with Calhoun himself:
The United States is a nation founded on both an ideal and a lie. Our Declaration of Independence, approved on July 4, 1776, proclaims that “all men are created equal” and “endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights.” But the white men who drafted those words did not believe them to be true for the hundreds of thousands of black people in their midst. “Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness” did not apply to fully one-fifth of the country. Yet despite being violently denied the freedom and justice promised to all, black Americans believed fervently in the American creed. Through centuries of black resistance and protest, we have helped the country live up to its founding ideals. And not only for ourselves – black rights struggles paved the way for every other rights struggle, including women’s and gay rights, immigrant and disability rights.
According to Ms. Hannah-Jones, regardless of whatever the Founding Fathers intended – in fact, in spite of what she herself admits they intended – the Declaration of Independence nevertheless “proclaimed” an equalitarian “creed” which black people, as well as feminists, homosexuals, immigrants, and other alienist blocs have forced the U.S.A. “to live up to” throughout its history, by leveling whatever communities, institutions, and traditions interfered with their “rights.”
Far from embracing Calhoun’s legacy, then, The 1619 Project is yet another example of the sort of radicalism that Calhoun saw coming if “all men are created equal” continued to be taken literally:
Such being the case, it follows that any, the worst form of government, is better than anarchy; and that individual liberty, or freedom, must be subordinate to whatever power may be necessary to protect society against anarchy within or destruction from without; for the safety and well-being of society is as paramount to individual liberty, as the safety and wellbeing of the race is to that of individuals; and in the same proportion, the power necessary for the safety of society is paramount to individual liberty. On the contrary, government has no right to control individual liberty beyond what is necessary to the safety and wellbeing of society. Such is the boundary which separates the power of government and the liberty of the citizen or subject in the political state, which, as I have shown, is the natural state of man – the only one in which his race can exist, and the one in which he is born, lives, and dies.
Indeed, for better or for worse, every radical intellectual and activist movement in American history – including the emotionally and intellectually infantile “Great Awokening” – has, just as Calhoun predicted over 150 years ago, turned America’s so-called “universal ideals” against America herself. (Even worse, these falsified “Founding ideals” have radicalized American foreign policy into a Manichean, Messianic, Millenarian militarism which the Founding Fathers themselves would have abhorred but never could have anticipated.) Yet in the face of the angry, ugly anti-American revolution that is The 1619 Project, Mr. Davidson’s feckless response is to shoot the messenger.
Just as bad as Mr. Davidson’s conflation of Calhoun’s “all men are not created equal” with The 1619 Project’s “all men are created equal but have not been treated equal” (at least Harry Jaffa, however much of a sophist he was, would have been intelligent enough to tell the difference) is his misrepresentation of Calhoun’s constitutionalism.
Calhoun, from his “South Carolina Exposition” and “Fort Hill Address” to his Disquisition on Government and Discourse on the Constitution and Government of the United States, (all of which can be read here, in this Liberty Fund collection of his greatest works) desired to preserve the American federal republic. Calhoun avowed this purpose again and again, up to the very last speech of his life. In fact, Calhoun’s conservative legalism frustrated the “Fire-Eaters,” such as the Bluffton Boys in 1844, whom had already made up their minds that secession was the only way to preserve Southern rights.
The number of reforms which Calhoun proposed (especially his theory of “interposition” and “nullification”) were drawn directly from Jeffersonian-Madisonian constitutionalism and were intended to strengthen, not weaken, the Constitution and the Union. Unlike Harry Jaffa, who taught “conservatives” like Mr. Davidson to interpret the legacy of the Founding Fathers in the same terms as Abraham Lincoln – as if his partisan speeches are authoritative sources on anything other than Yankee nationalism – Calhoun studied the actual records of the framing and ratifying of the Constitution.
Responding to an inquiry from the English Whig John Cartwright, Thomas Jefferson explained the process for resolving disputed powers between the state and federal governments:
With respect to our State and Federal governments, I do not think their relations correctly understood by foreigners. They generally suppose the former subordinate to the latter, but this is not the case. They are co-ordinate departments of one simple, and integral whole. To the State governments are reserved all legislation and administration in affairs which concern their own citizens only, and to the Federal government is given whatever concerns foreigners, or the citizens of other states; these functions alone being made Federal. The one is the domestic the other the foreign branch of the same government; neither having controul over the other, but within its own department. There are one or two exceptions only to this partition of power. But, you may ask, if the two departments should claim each the same subject of power, where is the common umpire to decide ultimately between them? In cases of little importance or urgency, the prudence of both parties will keep them aloof from the questionable ground. But if it can neither be avoided nor compromised, a convention of the States must be called to ascribe the doubtful power to that department which they may think best.
In a nutshell, this was Calhoun’s theory of interposition/nullification – hardly the obstructionist and even seditious conspiracy described by Mr. Davidson. What Harry Jaffa told Mr. Davidson was so subversive of the Constitution and the Union was, to Thomas Jefferson, the fairest and safest way to resolve the conflicts over constitutional authority which would inevitably occur within a federal union formed by sovereign states.
Calhoun, quoting the above passage from Thomas Jefferson, elaborated on how such a process would operate and why it was so important:
It is thus that our Constitution, by authorizing amendments, and by prescribing the authority and mode of making them, has, by a simple contrivance, with its characteristic wisdom, provided a power which, in the last resort, supersedes effectually the necessity, and even the pretext for force. A power to which none can fairly object; with which the interests of all are safe; which can definitively close all controversies in the only effectual mode, by freeing the compact of every defect and uncertainty, by an amendment of the instrument itself. It is impossible for human wisdom, in a system like ours, to devise another mode which shall be safe and effectual, and, at the same time, consistent with what are the relations and acknowledged powers of the two great departments of our government. It gives a beauty and security peculiar to our system, which, if duly appreciated, will transmit its blessings to the remotest generations; but, if not, our splendid anticipations of the future will prove but an empty dream. Stripped of all its covering, the naked question is, whether ours is a federal or a consolidated government; a constitutional or absolute one; a government resting ultimately on the solid basis of the sovereignty of the States, or on the unrestrained will of a majority; a form of government, as in all other unlimited ones, in which injustice, and violence, and force must finally prevail. Let it never be forgotten that, where the majority rules, the minority is the subject; and that, if we should absurdly attribute to the former, the exclusive right of construing the Constitution, there would be, in fact, between the sovereign and subject, under such a government, no Constitution; or, at least, nothing deserving the name, or serving the legitimate interest of so sacred an instrument.
Calhoun described the process outlined by Thomas Jefferson – the states convening and amending the Constitution in order to affirm or deny an act of interposition/nullification – as “the vis medicatrix of the system” and its “great conservative principle.”
Calhoun’s theory of “the concurrent majority” was not an undemocratic conspiracy to undermine the Constitution and the Union, either, but was intended to make the government even more democratic by requiring that it be based on a broader consensus rather than narrow majoritarianism:
I am not ignorant, that those opposed to the doctrine have always, now and formerly, regarded it in a very different light, as anarchical and revolutionary. Could I believe such, in fact, to be its tendency, to me it would be no recommendation. I yield to none, I trust, in a deep and sincere attachment to our political institutions and the union of these States. I never breathed an opposite sentiment; but, on the contrary, I have ever considered them the great institutions of preserving our liberty, and promoting the happiness of ourselves and our posterity; and next to these I have ever held them most dear. Nearly half my life has been passed in the service of the Union, and whatever public reputation I have acquired is indissolubly identified with it. To be too national has, indeed, been considered by many, even of my friends, to be my greatest political fault. With these strong feelings of attachment, I have examined, with the utmost care, the bearing of the doctrine in question; and, so far from anarchical or revolutionary, I solemnly believe it to be the only solid foundation of our system, and of the Union itself; and that the opposite doctrine, which denies to the States the right of protecting their reserved powers, and which would vest in the general government (it matters not through what department) the right of determining, exclusively and finally, the powers delegated to it, is incompatible with the sovereignty of the States, and of the Constitution itself, considered as the basis of a Federal Union. As strong as this language is, it is not stronger than that used by the illustrious Jefferson, who said to give to the general government the final and exclusive right to judge of its powers, is to make “its discretion, and not the Constitution, the measure of its powers,” and that, “in all cases of compact between parties having no common judge, each party has an equal right to judge for itself, as well of the infraction as of the mode and measure of redress.” Language cannot be more explicit; nor can higher authority be adduced…
Calhoun’s intentions were to make the Constitution and the Union more durable by making them both more flexible – a willow as opposed to an oak.
Calhoun, who had been a national-unionist with presidential ambitions before the sectional conflict challenged his priorities, was more interested in finding a practical method of preserving the Union than in idly praising the Union:
As the disease will not, then, heal itself, we are brought to the question, Can a remedy be applied? And if so, what ought it to be?
According to Calhoun, “Unionists” who hailed “the Union! the Union! the glorious Union!” while voting for sectionalist policies which divided that supposedly “indissoluble Union” against itself were hypocrites. It is not unlike an unfaithful husband lecturing his faithful wife that they cannot get divorced – or even go to marital counseling – because of “the sanctity of marriage.”
What Mr. Davidson misses about Calhoun – because Harry Jaffa loathed him as a sort of evil genius – is that however convoluted his “concurrent majority” seems at times, it was intended to be a constitutional method of preventing the consolidation or dissolution of the Union, both of which the Founding Fathers had dreaded as equally catastrophic events. Interposition/nullification was not even used by Southern states to prevent Northern interference with slavery, but rather by Northern states – many of which quoted Jefferson, Madison, and Calhoun’s words – to prevent Southern interference with anti-slavery. In the end, Calhoun’s concurrent majority presented a much more civilized and democratic resolution of the sectional conflict than the mystical “more perfect unionism” of Abraham Lincoln, which amounted to nothing more than brute force in the end.
When Pres. Andrew Jackson threatened to invade South Carolina during the “Nullification Crisis” of 1828-1833, Calhoun (who had resigned the Vice Presidency to serve South Carolina in the Senate) furiously denounced the threat of force:
It has been said…to be a measure of peace! Yes, such peace as the wolf gives to the lamb – the kite to the dove! Such peace as Russia gives to Poland, or death to its victim! A peace, by extinguishing the political existence of the State, by awing her into an abandonment of every exercise of power which constitutes her a sovereign community. It is to South Carolina a question of self-preservation; and I proclaim it, that, should this bill pass, and an attempt be made to enforce it, it will be resisted, at every hazard – even that of death itself. Death is not the greatest calamity; there are others still more terrible to the free and the brave, and among them may be placed the loss of liberty and honor. There are thousands of her brave sons who, if need be, are prepared cheerfully to lay down their lives in defence of the State, and the great principles of constitutional liberty for which she is contending. God forbid, that this should become necessary! It never can be, unless this government is resolved to bring the question to extremity, when her gallant sons will stand prepared to perform the last duty – to die nobly…
According to Calhoun, it was preserving the Union by force, not defending the rights reserved by the states in the compact which the states ratified, which was the true treachery. “Caesarist,” “Cromwellian,” and “Bonapartist” were words which the Founding Fathers might have used to describe a President who resorted to force to settle personal scores.
How can someone identify as a conservative –a “federalist,” even! – yet be so ignorant of and bigoted toward one of America’s greatest philosophical statesmen? Indeed, Mr. Davidson’s article is one of the worst “conservative” – that is, “Straussian” – butcheries of Calhoun’s thought that I have ever read. Even Harry Jaffa, one of the Dr. Strangeloves of the American Right, was never so malicious, mendacious, and misinformed. Mr. Davidson mocks Jamelle Bouie’s pitiable contribution to The 1619 Project, “What the Reactionary Politics of 2019 Owe to the Politics of Slavery,” yet his own understanding of American history is just as stupid for different reasons.
Mr. Davidson summarizes “the central tenets of Calhounian thought” as “the American Founding was a monstrous lie,” “natural law is pure folly,” and “the promissory note is worthless.” Obviously, Mr. Davidson is using as poisonous of language as possible, but his own words can be turned against him.
First of all, Mr. Davidson’s conception of “the American Founding” is indeed a “monstrous lie.” The Founders were not so ideological as Mr. Davidson that they based their government on “universal principles” – like the Jacobins and the Bolsheviks – but were Whiggish conservatives who based their government on historical experience: An idealized/mythical Teutonic constitution which the Saxon conquerors brought to England and codified in the “The Great Charter of the Liberties of England” (1215), as well as the Charter of the Forest (1217), the Provisions of Oxford (1258) the Petition of Right (1628), the Declaration of Rights (1688), the Bill of Rights (1689), the Act of Settlement (1701), and more. “Has not every restitution of the ancient Saxon laws had happy effects?” Thomas Jefferson asked Edmund Pendleton. “Is it not better now that we return at once into that happy system of our ancestors, the wisest and most perfect ever yet devised by the wit of man, as it stood before the eighth century?” Indeed, when Jefferson was tasked with commissioning an official seal for the newfound government, he recommended “Hengist and Horsa, the Saxon chiefs from whom we claim the honor of being descended, and whose political principles and form of government we have assumed.” During the framing and ratifying of the Constitution, the Founders did not base their government on abstract “universal principles,” but on actual examples from the past (e.g. the Graeco-Roman historian Polybius) and the present (e.g. the Dutch Republic). Nor were the Founders so naïve as Mr. Davidson that they believed that signing a piece of paper was all that it took to limit government: Written constitutions stated what the people’s rights were and what the government’s powers were, but it was still up to the people to enforce those limitations on power and protect their rights. “Will it be sufficient to mark, with precision, the boundaries of these departments, in the constitution of the government, and to trust to these parchment barriers against the encroaching spirit of power?” asked James Madison at the beginning of The Federalist #48. “The conclusion which I am warranted in drawing from these observations,” Madison answered, “is, that a mere demarcation on parchment of the constitutional limits of the several departments, is not a sufficient guard against those encroachments which lead to a tyrannical concentration of all the powers of government in the same hands.” Calhoun took what Madison suggested seriously and formulated a strategy for enforcing those “parchment barriers,” yet ever since has been denounced by Jaffite “conservatives” like Mr. Davidson whose results speak for themselves – so much so that Prof. Angelo M. Codevilla (a political scientist from Boston University as well as a senior fellow at the Jaffite Claremont Institute) has actually recommended “federalism” as a forgotten form of “statesmanship” which would neutralize “the cold civil war.”
Second of all, Mr. Davidson’s perverted version of the Western philosophy of “natural law” is indeed “pure folly.” Natural law, whether by the ancient Aristotle, the medieval Saint Thomas Aquinas, or the modern Sir Isaac Newton, is a quintessentially human endeavor to understand our own nature, the nature of the rest of God’s creation, and even the nature of God himself through the rational faculties with which God has endowed us, thereby glorifying him in the process. John Locke, a seventeenth-century English liberal reacting against absolutist monarchists like Robert Filmer and Thomas Hobbes, used deductive reasoning to understand the “nature” of governments – that is, what they should be if they could be designed according to pure reason. Of course, Locke’s conclusions are deduced from a premise which, as Calhoun argued, not only is altogether hypothetical, but also is altogether inimical to human nature. Mr. Davidson may ignore Calhoun’s argument because he was “racist” (which makes him little better than The 1619 Project), but he cannot as easily ignore the contemporaneous arguments of European philosophers uncorrupted by slavery, such as Jeremy Bentham, de Bonald, de Maistre, von Savigny, and von Ranke. In any event, in the eighteenth century, it was the “Commonwealthmen” or “Country Party” (e.g. the author of the republican play Cato, a Tragedy and the authors of the republican pamphlets Cato’s Letters), and not Lockean liberals, who were the most influential on their American brethren – and, in fact, even more influential in the colonies than in their own country. These Commonwealthmen advocated for their constitutional rights “as Englishmen,” which could be found in the British constitution, not for the “natural rights of man,” which could not be found anywhere. Not to imply that Locke had no influence on the American Revolution, of course (Thomas Jefferson told Benjamin Rush that Locke, Francis Bacon, and Isaac Newton were “my trinity of the three greatest men the world had ever produced”), but to the extent that he was influential, it was for his impressive apologia of the Glorious Revolution in Two Treatises of Government – a peaceful removal and replacement of a government which natural law did indeed rationalize after the fact but which positive law actually achieved in the moment. Mr. Davidson dismisses “the faddish ‘science’ of Darwinism,” yet Lockean natural law – with its grandiose pronouncements about the present based on unfalsifiable hypotheses about the past – is the Darwinism of political philosophy.
Last, but not least, Mr. Davidson’s faith in the Declaration of Independence as a “promissory note” is indeed “worthless.” Mr. Davidson is clearly captivated by this expression (which he accurately attributes to Frederick Douglass and Martin Luther King, at least), yet notably no Founding Father ever used such language. The language of the abolitionist and civil-rights movements, which appropriated the language of the Declaration for the appearance of political legitimacy, has been read back into the language of the American Revolution so thoroughly that Mr. Davidson now takes the Founders as something which they never were and never even could have been. Needless to say, such an anachronistic interpretation not only takes the phrase “all men are created equal” out of context, but also takes the rest of the document itself out of context. The Declaration should be read in its entirety (not overlooked in favor of a lone nebulous phrase) and should also be read as one of many primary sources (not as a summa of the American Revolution). When read in this way, it is clear that the Declaration is consistent with as well as complementary to the fundamentally conservative colonial argument for their established, inherited rights, and has nothing to do with “all men are created equal” as a universalist ideology. Thomas Jefferson’s other works, such as A Summary View of the Rights of British America and A Declaration of the Causes and Necessity of Taking Up Arms, contain no “promissory notes” whatsoever. Even in Notes on the State of Virginia, which has always been selectively quoted for its foreboding denunciations of slavery, Jefferson concluded that however degrading slavery was to blacks and whites alike, differences between the races meant that they neither could nor should live together equally and freely.
Mr. Davidson is correct that The 1619 Project is “sweeping historical revisionism in the service of contemporary left-wing politics,” yet he himself has fallen for Harry Jaffa’s sweeping historical revisionism in the service of neoconservative politics. Unfortunately, Mr. Davidson’s response is fairly representative of conservative criticism of The 1619 Project, most of which has also been along Jaffite lines: The Founding Fathers were proto-abolitionists who added coded anti-slavery language into the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution for a Lincolnian figure to one day bring to fruition. The problem with this “conservative” defense is not just that it is historically untrue, but that if Americans believe it to be true, then neoconservatives will use that belief – that is, the belief that their country’s mission is to revolutionize the world – to justify “invading the world” to bring their native institutions to aliens and “inviting the world” to bring aliens to their native institutions.
At a conference for “Building the Zionist Dream” in Jerusalem, Israel, Charlie Kirk of Turning Point USA (one of the latest “Conservatism, Inc.” youth groups) unwittingly demonstrated the implications of having an entirely ideological identity:
I reject this idea of dual-loyalty. I have loyalty to ideas. And of course I love the Grand Canyon and I love the Rocky Mountains. And I love Boston, and I love Chicago. But if all that disappeared and all I had was ideas, and we were on an island, that’s America…America is just a placeholder for timeless ideas, and if you fall too in love with the specific place, that’s not what it is. Israel would be the exception because there is a holy connection to this land.
The neo-conservative belief that “America is more than a nation; it is an idea” reduces the actual parts of a nation – a particular people living in a particular place during a particular period – to meaninglessness. The truth is, as “Old Right” paleo-conservatives like M.E. Bradford and Paul E. Gottfried have always argued against neo-conservatives like Harry Jaffa, “America is more than an idea; it is a nation.” While The 1619 Project is an overt attempt to degrade both the American idea and the American nation (i.e. “nearly everything that has made America exceptional grew out of slavery”), the “conservative” response, exemplified by Mr. Davidson, represents a more insidious attempt to replace the solid rock of the American nation with the sinking sand of the American idea.
What do we celebrate on the Fourth of July?
Our national independence! (As we subvert the national independence of Iran, North Korea, and Venezuela, as well as assist in the brutal occupation of Palestine and Yemen – none of which threaten us with any harm?)
Our national sovereignty! (As unregulated legal immigration reaches new highs, unstoppable illegal immigration overwhelms the border, while the apolitical “Jarvanka” shills for the cheap-labor lobby and the bipartisan Durbin-Graham “DREAMer Team” shill for the amnesty lobby?)
Our military supremacy! (As our military grows more impotent as its $1.25-trillion-and-counting budget grows more exorbitant, the “War on Terror” – with its staggering cost of nearly $6 trillion and about a half-million lives – has nothing to show for itself, and our “superpower” status is overstretched?)
Our political unity! (As partisan polarization gets so severe that the government is constantly breaking down in gridlock and shutdowns – occasionally interrupted by tribalistic crises like the Kavanaugh confirmation – while fake news like the “Covington Kids” and “Jussie Smollett” scandals are insta-politicized by radicalized techno-mobs lynching each other online?)
Our liberal democracy! (As political scientists conclude that “economic elites and organized groups representing business interests have substantial independent impacts on U.S. government policy, while average citizens and mass-based interest groups have little or no independent influence” – in other words, that the government is an “oligarchy,” not a “democracy”?)
Our constitutional liberty! (As economic and social terrorism by “the Fourth Estate” and “Silicon Valley” repress our freedoms of expression far more pervasively than old-fashioned state propaganda and surveillance ever could?)
Our free press! (As the media becomes less informative and more provocative – from a public institution essential to self-government to a consumer product targeting various demographics with fake news appealing to their prejudices – while journalists defend Jim Acosta’s grandstanding as an expression of First-Amendment freedoms and condemn Julian Assange as a spy for reporting on war crimes?)
Our “Judeo-Christian” morality! (As our corrupt, decadent, “Weimerikan” culture embodies each and every one of the Seven Deadly Sins while “progressive occultism” and literal “devil worship” are the fastest-growing religions?)
Our economic prosperity! (As 78% of our workers live paycheck to paycheck, real wages have not risen since the 1970s, two-thirds of bankruptcy cases are tied to medical bills, the (under-)employment rate is over 7%, job growth is absorbed by immigrants, another financial bubble is inflating, and 40%, and 20% of wealth belongs to 10%, 1%, and 0.01% of the people?
Our historical identity! (As “antifa”-iconoclasm creeps from Confederate history to all of American history, even overthrowing figures as harmless as the songwriter Stephen Foster and the singer Kate Smith?)
Our racial diversity! (As minority groups become so triumphalist about demographic trends toward a “majority-minority” population – with skeptics pathologized as paranoid, prejudiced, and psychopathic – that “diversity is our strength” becomes “diversity is your punishment”?)
Our rule of law! (As “anarcho-tyranny” victimizes the lawful and peaceful while empowering the lawless and brutal, the “RussiaGate” conspiracy theory risks a soft-coup at home and a hard-war abroad, and a partisan judiciary interferes with the authority of other branches of government?)
What have the conservatives conserved? What have the progressives progressed? Nothing. (The less said about the libertarians, the better.)
National holidays such as “Independence Day” presuppose the existence of a sovereign nation-state – a coherent, distinct nation, for one, and a state which is the political expression of a nation, for another. What “Weimerika” is, however, is a nation against itself and a state against the nation – that is, a people who all hate one another and a government which hates its own people.
On July 5th, 1852, the freedman-abolitionist Frederick Douglass gave a speech to the Ladies’ Anti-Slavery Society of Rochester, New York, titled “What to the Slave is the Fourth of July?” In his speech, which has since gone down in history, Douglass opened with a conventional tribute to the American Revolution but ended with a bitter twist:
What, to the American slave, is your Fourth of July? I answer: a day that reveals to him, more than all other days in the year, the gross injustice and cruelty to which he is the constant victim. To him, your celebration is a sham; your boasted liberty, an unholy license; your national greatness, swelling vanity; your sounds of rejoicing are empty and heartless; your denunciations of tyrants, brass-fronted impudence; your shouts of liberty and equality, hollow mockery; your prayers and hymns, your sermons and thanksgivings, with all your religious parade and solemnity, are, to him, mere bombast, fraud, deception, impiety, and hypocrisy – a thin veil to cover up crimes which would disgrace a nation of savages. There is not a nation on earth guilty of practices, more shocking and bloody, than are the people of these United States, at this very hour.
As rhetoric, Douglass’ speech is sublime; as history, it is dreadful. Douglass’ speech was one of the earliest ideological revisions of the Declaration of Independence from an act of secession which had more to do with self-interest than human rights into a veritable human-rights manifesto. According to Douglass, the American Revolution was not a colonial reaction against a faraway and meddlesome government, but an enlightened, universal expression of “the rights of man.” Thus, slavery, which denied that “all men are created equal,” was a “contradiction” to and “inconsistency” with the “principles” on which American independence was founded.
Douglass did not conceive of this literalist interpretation of the Declaration of Independence on his own, although his speech was one of the most eloquent and impassioned articulations of it. Such interpretations of the phrase “all men are created equal” had existed as soon as those words were written (though notably not from Thomas Jefferson, John Adams, or any of the other authors or signatories of the Declaration), but it was not until Abraham Lincoln incorporated this idea into his chiliastic and gnostic rhetoric that “all men are created equal” fundamentalism was canonized.
On July 4th of last year, leading “Black Lives Matter” agitprop-activist Shaun King shared Douglass’ speech. “Frederick Douglass was a prophet. Every single word of this is as true today as it was over 150 years ago. Read it all. The Fourth of July was always a sham.” In response, mewling “conservatives” over at Breitbart (and even at American Greatness) recited their “proposition nation” catechism. (They did not even challenge the big lie at the heart of the “Black Lives Matter” protest movement: The reason that blacks are arrested and even shot by police in disproportionate numbers is, sadly, because blacks commit crime in disproportionate numbers.)
Instead of continuing to cling to a corny, saccharine civic religion which offers them nothing, Americans should do as Douglass did and ask themselves the hard question, “What, to me, is the Fourth of July?”
What is the point of celebrating the independence of your country when your country has been reduced to lines on a map with nothing holding it together but the money and power of a central government? (Indeed, even “secession,” a question which for over 150 years has supposedly been “settled” by the so-called “Civil War – the same way that the Indians’ titles and treaties were “settled” by the Indian Removal Act? – is now making a comeback!)
What is the point of celebrating the independence of your country when everything for which your country stands at home and abroad disgusts you? (Check out publicly funded NPR reporting on the U.S. State Department promoting feminism in Iran and the U.S. government’s Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty criticizing Russia for censoring homosexual content in American media!)
What is the point of celebrating the independence of your country when your country is so unrepresentative of the people that it might as well be occupied by aliens? (And I, for one, would be interested in hearing what any prospective extraterrestrial overlords had to say!)
As painful as it is to doubt something about which you have always been certain, it is foolish and even dangerous to continue to cling to a belief that is clearly based on a falsehood. False knowledge is worse than mere ignorance.
As the country as a whole unravels – that is, as the bourgeois, “neo-liberal” institutions of capitalism and democracy lose their legitimacy in the face of economic stagnation, environmental degradation, and mass-migration, not to mention anomie – what does the ruling class of this country do? Instead of listening to their fellow citizens and doing anything differently, the elite continues to tug on the threads of the cultural, economic, political, and social fabric while vilifying those who realize that the status quo is neither normal nor moral as “Communists” (if they are on the left) or “Nazis” (if they are on the right). On issue after issue – playing nice with other countries rather than bullying them or reducing immigration numbers rather than boosting them, not to mention the bogeyman of “democratic socialism” – the people are ignored and their will is rendered irrelevant. The U.S.A. does not belong to “us”; it belongs to “them.”
The whole point of national independence is that a country’s interests are supposed to be more accurately and effectively represented by its own people – “self-government” – but independence is worthless if no one actually represents the people. The lobbyists to whom politicians listen closely and whom they understand very well have good reason to celebrate independence, perhaps, but not the people whom are overruled whenever they try to take back their country and are otherwise ignored.
Thomas Jefferson, for example, did not support independence for independence’s sake alone, but supported it as a small step towards the larger goal of self-government. In fact, independence was so beside the point to Jefferson that he would have rather been back home in Virginia framing her new government than in Philadelphia drafting the Declaration of Independence! “It is a work of the most interesting nature and such as every individual would wish to have his voice in,” Jefferson wrote to a friend about the constitutional convention in Virginia. “In truth it is the whole object of the present controversy; for should a bad government be instituted for us, in future it had been as well to have accepted at first the bad one offered us from beyond the water without the risk and expense of contest.” As Jefferson’s biographer Dumas Malone explains, “He regarded political independence not as an end but as a means, and was more deeply concerned about what should follow the formal separation than about the action itself.”
The philosophical statesman Edmund Burke once observed, “To make us love our country, our country ought to be lovely.” Well, lately, our country – if it can even be called “ours” – has been anything but lovely. Indeed, whether it is bombing, looting, or polluting the rest of the world, Weimerika has warped into a downright demonic force for chaos and evil.
The Iranians call the U.S.A. “the Great Satan.” (Americans would do well to check their kneejerk-jingoism and remember that to Iranians, the U.S.A. is a country which in 1953 deposed their progressive government in order to install a subservient dictatorship, since 1979 has isolated them diplomatically and economically, from 1980 to 1988 backed Saddam Hussein as Iraq invaded their country and unleashed chemical weapons on them, since 2002 has vilified them as a “martyr state” and “state sponsor of terrorism” for helping neighboring countries quell rebellions and repel invasions, since 1948 has been allied with a “Zionist regime” which menaces the Middle East, and just recently broke their denuclearization deal on false pretenses, legitimized a criminal group which was exiled from their country, labeled a branch of their armed forces a terrorist group, and is now threatening – in all-caps – to “end” their country.) Given the U.S.A.’s utter mendacity and malevolence toward Iran – which it has never forgiven for “declaring independence” itself – it is no more of a wonder that the Iranians chant “Death to America!” and burn American flags than it was a wonder that the Americans of 1776 chanted “Death to King George!” and burned the British in effigy.
In a sermon against the “Great Satan” and “Zionism,” the Islamic scholar Yahya Jafari described the nature of these Western beasts:
They do not understand the language of reason. They do not follow international law, nor do they follow moral and humane laws. They have no religion and do not accept God. They are a bunch of profane people, but seemingly, some are called Christians and some are called Jews. If the prophet Jesus were among us, would he justify the criminal measures America takes today in the name of promoting democracy and freedom?
As insulting as such an epithet is, what makes it even worse is that it is all too true. The utter stupidity and savagery of Weimerika is shameful – and Donald Trump is merely a symptom, not the disease.
Does Weimerika listen to reason? No, it rejects any information which seems to limit its belief in its own “exceptionalism,” “indispensability,” and other chauvinistic conceits.
That imperial arrogance is why it broke the denuclearization deal with Iran despite ample documentation of compliance which it had even certified itself.
That imperial arrogance is why it broke the Paris Agreement despite the dire ecological consequences of climate change.
Weimerika is, then, irrational and unreasonable.
Does Amerika follow international law? No, because of its chauvinistic belief in its own “exceptionalism” and “indispensability,” it pursues a unilateral foreign policy which not only defies its own allies and treaties, but also defies reality itself.
That imperial arrogance is why it not only broke the denuclearization deal with Iran in bad faith, but also punished Iran and its former P5+1 partners for continuing to abide by the deal that they all negotiated in good faith.
That imperial arrogance is why it broke the Paris Agreement, not only setting an example of bad faith in an agreement based on good faith, but also undoing environmental regulations and undermining climate science at home.
Weimerika is, then, lawless and reckless.
Does Weimerika follow human-rights laws? No, it perversely weaponizes human rights, calling out abuses in so-called “rogue states” (e.g. Iran and Syria), covering up abuses in its client states (e.g. Israel and Saudi Arabia), and carrying out its own abuses whenever and wherever it wants (which is allowed because of its “exceptionalism” and “indispensability”).
Israel can snipe Palestinian children, journalists, and medics at their border or proclaim itself a “Jewish supremacist” ethno-state and Weimerika will respond by blithely reaffirming the Israeli-American unholy alliance. But if someone attacks a Japanese ship in the Persian Gulf (during a diplomatic mission to Iran from Japan) or Iran shoots down an American drone (encroaching on Iranian airspace), Weimerika will immediately play the victim and threaten violence.
Saudi Arabia can attack Yemeni marketplaces and weddings or strangle and dismember a Saudi dissident working for The Washington Post, and Weimerika will respond by blithely reaffirming the Saudi-American unholy alliance. But if poison gas supposedly goes off somewhere in Syria, Weimerika will immediately launch airstrikes on Syria before figuring out what really happened and then lie about it once it does.
Weimerika is, then, unfair and untrustworthy.
Does Weimerika follow religion? No, its traditional Christian religion having been purged from public spaces and private hearts, if it has any gods at all, they are profane "gods" of consumerism, egalitarianism, hedonism, individualism, materialism, narcissism, permissiveness, selfishness, and transgressiveness. (Overweening delusions of “exceptionalism” and “indispensability” are chauvinistic expressions of this underlying narcissism.)
Prestigious cultural and social events like the “Met Gala” and “Time 100” epitomize this godlessness. Supposedly held in honor of influential public figures (artists, entrepreneurs, intellectuals, philanthropists, statesmen, and the like), these events have instead degenerated into platforms for moronic and narcissistic pop-stars to exhibit – and in some cases literally expose – themselves for attention.
Weimerika’s only gods, then, are false gods.
Would Jesus promote “democracy” and “freedom” in other poorer countries as Weimerika does – by isolating them from the global economy and dropping bombs on them until the crisis reaches a breaking point, then exploiting the crisis to impose unpopular and predatory economic policies? Would Jesus even approve of the nature of “democracy” and “freedom” here in the so-called “exceptional and indispensable” Weimerika, where abortion and pornography are protected as quasi-sacred constitutional rights, where corporate greed and governmental corruption sustain an opioid epidemic, and where sporting events glorify militaristic propaganda?
Weimerika, then – its cesspool of a culture, its house-of-cards economy, its gangster-style government, and the insanity of its society, all of which it also exports around the world – is indeed “the Great Satan.” Indeed, in Islam and the other Abrahamic faiths, Satan is, above all else, “the Deceiver.” What better word, then, for a country whose current chief representative to the rest of the world in one moment jokes, “We lied, we cheated, we stole,” and in the next moment preaches, “It reminds you of the glory of the American experiment” – all to the applause of his audience of college students?
What better word for a country whose chief representative to the rest of the world, in the midst of overthrowing another secularist “regime” with more jihadist “rebels” in Libya, blathered about “humanitarian intervention” and “smart power,” only to burst out cackling “we came, we saw, he died!” upon learning that the Libyan head of state had been lynched?
What better word for a country whose chief representative to the rest of the world, despite invading Iraq under false pretenses, still boasted, “Our record of living our values and letting our values be an inspiration to others I think is clear, and I don’t think I have anything to be ashamed of or apologize for with respect to what America has done for the world”?
What better word for a country whose chief representative to the rest of the world, when asked about the human cost of economic sanctions against Iraq (that is, a half-million dead children), retorted, “We think the price is worth it,” yet when later asked to justify military force against Iraq, rhapsodized, “We are America…we stand taller and we see further than other countries into the future”?
What better word for a country whose chief representative to the rest of the world, in order to reassure the Soviet Union, promised, “If you remove your troops and allow unification of Germany in NATO, NATO will not expand one inch to the east,” but after the dissolution of the USSR, expanded NATO so far to the east that it is now massing forces on Russia’s very border (all the while calling Vladimir Putin “the next Hitler” or “the next Stalin”)?
Remember when Ron Paul was booed at “GOP” debate hosted by FOX News and The Wall Street Journal for suggesting that our foreign policy should be based on the “Golden Rule”? (By contrast, Newt Gingrich received a roar of approval from the audience for responding, “Andrew Jackson had a pretty clear-cut idea about America’s enemies: Kill them.”) Needless to say, booing the Golden Rule is, quite literally, “Satanic.”
The only other word for Weimerika besides “Deceiver” that comes to mind is yet another anti-American Iranian epithet: “The Capital of Global Arrogance.” As Weimerika’s current chief representative to the rest of the world just declared, “What’s good for the United States is good for the world,” and “America’s aggressiveness” is justified by “America’s essential rightness.” The pseudo-idealistic language with which Weimerika traditionally cloaks its imperial arrogance is simply insufferable, and thus such “swagger” – in this jingoist-turned-diplomat’s words – is at least somewhat refreshing for its lack of pretense.
Yet as a certain ex-President (who, just like a “deceiver,” followed up winning the Nobel Peace Prize with setting records for drone-strikes and prosecuting journalists) would say, “Let me be clear.” So let me be clear: As much as I hate all that is chaotic and evil about “Weimerika,” I love all that is lawful and good about “America.” Just as there cannot be light without darkness, there cannot be love without hatred. Thus, I hate the plastic, toxic Weimerika that has supplanted the organic America that I love and to which I am loyal. Weimerika is to America what McDonald’s is to Bern’s.
“What to the American is the Fourth of July?” Good question. I answer: A day that reveals to us, more than all other days in the year, the gross injustice and cruelty to which we – and the rest of the world – are the constant victim.
To us, our so-called national independence is a sham.
Our much-ballyhooed “values,” an unholy license.
Our self-assurances about ruling a “unipolar world,” swelling vanity.
Our redefined identity and retconned history as a “nation of immigrants,” empty and heartless (to native citizens at least!)
Our self-proclaimed status as “a city upon a hill” and “a light unto the nations,” brass-fronted impudence.
Our self-righteous shouts of “fighting terrorism” and “spreading freedom,” hollow mockery.
Our platitudes about “the character of this nation,” “the core values of this nation,” “the soul of this nation,” “our standing in the world,” “our very democracy,” and “who we are,” are, to us, mere bombast, fraud, deception, impiety, and hypocrisy – a thin veil to cover up crimes which would disgrace a nation of savages.
There is not a nation on earth less independent – as Eugene J. McCarthy put it, “a colony of the world” where businesses control economic policy, foreign states control foreign policy, and immigrants control immigration policy, all in their own self-interest at public expense – than are we the people of these United States, at this very hour.
Watchmen, 2009. What if superheroes were real – I mean really real?
Directed by Zack Snyder.
Starring Jackie Earle Haley, Patrick Wilson, Malin Akerman, Billy Crudup, Matthew Goode, and Jeffrey Dean Morgan.
Written by David Hayter and Alex Tse.
Scored by Tyler Bates.
If Christopher Nolan’s “Batman” movies are the best supervillain movies (meaning that the supervillains challenge the superhero not just physically, but mentally and morally as well), then Zack Snyder’s “Watchmen” is the best superhero movie (meaning that the superheroes actually act like Ubermenschen would, and do not just echo the humanistic pieties of the Untermenschen who hate and fear them). In fact, the one superhero in the movie who does echo those pieties turns out to be a supervillain. The superheroes themselves, however, are “watchmen” fighting the law-breaking and defending the law-abiding, which is actually quite subversive in today’s “anarcho-tyranny.”
The most important thing about “Watchmen” is its characters – who, however fantastic, have interesting and realistic personalities. As Alan Moore, the author of the graphic novel on which the movie is based (but who refused any involvement in the movie), explained of his characters, “We tried to set up four or five radically opposing ways of seeing the world and let the readers figure it out for themselves; let them make a moral decision for once in their miserable lives! Too many writers go for that ‘baby-bird’ moralizing, where your audience just sits there with their beaks open and you just cram regurgitated morals down their throat…What we wanted to do was show all of these people, warts and all. Show that even the worst of them had something going for them, and even the best of them had their flaws.”
One character, the Comedian (played by Jeffrey Dean Morgan), is a deep-state agent who carries out assassinations, coups, and other black-ops activities that would warm Elliott Abrams’ heart. He acts cynical and irreverent out of increasing disillusionment, which peaks when he finally realizes that the liberal decadence which he has fought for all of his life is not a deviation from American ideals, but rather those ideals come to fruition. “Whatever happened to the American Dream?” one character asks the Comedian, in the midst of nationwide riots. “It came true,” the Comedian replies, sadly.
Another character, Rorschach (played by Jackie Earle Haley), is a vigilante who is absolutely uncompromising in his pursuit of justice. He wears a mask that looks like a Rorschach test – and much like those inkblot tests, how viewers respond to the black-and-white Rorschach says something about who they are and what they value. Where are they on the x-axis from “lawful” to “neutral” to “chaotic,” and on the y-axis from “good” to “neutral” to “evil”?
Dr. Manhattan (played by Billy Crudup), a physicist who was destroyed in an experiment but who returned, miraculously, as a godlike figure. He grows increasingly detached from, if not disgusted with, humanity, and it is his lover, “Silk Spectre” (played by Malin Akerman), who must remind him of the value of life.
Adrian Veidt (played by Matthew Goode) is a capitalist and philanthropist who, before superheroes were outlawed, was “Ozymandias,” named after Percy Bysshe Shelley’s poem about the megalomaniacal Egyptian pharaoh. Veidt is a materialist (who believes that unlimited resources will bring universal peace) as well as a utilitarian (who thinks in terms of the greatest good for the greatest number, not right and wrong).
Silence, 2016. The story of two Jesuit priests who travel to Japan to discover the fate of their mentor, who is rumored to have renounced his faith and gone native.
Directed by Martin Scorsese.
Starring Andrew Garfield, Adam Driver, and Liam Neeson.
Written by Martin Scorsese.
Scored by Kim and Kathryn Kluge.
Like “Gangs of New York,” this movie was a passion project of Martin Scorsese’s which he had wanted to make for decades. It is an intensely religious story about faith and doubt – God’s apparent “silence” as his followers suffer. When two Jesuit priests in Portugal, Sebastio Rodrigues (played by Andrew Garfield) and Francisco Garupe (played by Adam Driver), hear that their mentor, Father Cristovao Ferreira (played by Liam Neeson), has become an apostate, they embark on a mission to redeem him, even though Japan has closed itself off to foreigners. When Rodrigues and Garupe arrive in Japan, they are horrified to by the official inquisition against Christian converts, (who, if exposed, must either apostatize or be tortured to death).
The Japanese point of view is similar to that of the Greek philosopher Celsus and the Roman Emperor Julian, both of whom opposed the Christianization of their peoples. According to Celsus and Julian, religion is not a matter of individual choice or free will, but is linked to particular peoples as expressions of their organic uniqueness. To the Japanese authorities in the movie, the Christian missionaries are a threat to the identity of their nation and the sovereignty of their state. Although the Japanese inquisition is portrayed, unflinchingly, as brutal (indeed, even diabolical, as the Japanese understand the Christians better than the Christians understand the Japanese, and are able to trick them into renouncing Christianity out of Christian motives), it is hard not to sympathize with the Japanese, who are simply trying to resist Western colonialism. Yet the Jesuit priests are not portrayed as chauvinists, either, but as earnest believers who are trying to save souls and are conflicted over the persecution that their presence causes. Indeed, to prepare for their roles, Garfield and Driver immersed themselves in the Jesuit lifestyle, and with the help of practicing Jesuits, even underwent the Jesuit rite of a seven-day silent prayer vigil.
True to its name, “Silence” is a quiet movie without much in the way of music. Instead of a score, there are the sounds of nature – of waves crashing on a rocky shore, of a nighttime forest buzzing with life, and so on. It is an utterly immersive experience.
Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, 1993-1999. The breakup of Yugoslavia and the Yugoslav wars – in space!
Of all the Star-Trek series, “Deep Space Nine” is the most mature. “Next Generation” perfected the adventure format of the original series (uneven in quality and dated by sci-fi kitsch) and is enhanced by the acclaimed performance of Patrick Stewart. “Voyager” had Seven of Nine and “Enterprise” had Porthos. Yet “Deep Space Nine,” according to cast member Rene Auberjonois, “is the one that is almost like a Russian novel.” Indeed, as the show follows a well-sized cast of well-developed characters through war and peace, it is Tolstoyesque. While other Star-Trek series can be highly episodic, “Deep Space Nine” explored overarching themes of ethics, faith, identity, and more. While other Star-Trek series prioritized world-building over character-building, “Deep Space Nine” did both, building its own history and mythology as well as a highly individualized cast of heroes and villains. Speaking of villains, “the Dominion” is one of the most sinister villains in fiction: a galactic empire overseen by the “Vorta” (a genetically engineered managerial class) and “Jem’Hadar” (a genetically engineered warrior class), though ruled in secret by “the Founders” (a cabal of shapeshifters with a persecution complex who infiltrate and undermine other states which they have targeted for subjugation).
The Sopranos, 1999-2007. An Italian mob boss in New Jersey struggles to balance his two “families” – his fellow gangsters in the city with his wife and children in the suburbs.
This show blends thrilling criminal intrigue, moving relationship drama, dark comedy, and a skillfully deployed classic-rock soundtrack. It pioneered the often-imitated, rarely duplicated concept of making the protagonist an otherwise unsympathetic individual whom gives the audience a transgressive thrill. Mafia movies, along with Westerns, are a unique American art form, and “The Sopranos” is a Mafia story for this age of rootlessness, meaninglessness, and hopelessness. As Tony Soprano states at the very beginning of the show, “It’s good to be in something from the ground floor. I came too late for that, I know. But lately, I’m getting the feeling that I came in at the end. The best is over…Take my father. He never reached the heights like me. But in ways he had it better. He had his people. They had their standards. They had pride. Today, what do we got?”
Firefly, 2002-2003. “Space Opera” meets “Wild West.”
After reading The Killer Angels (Michael Shaara’s Pulitzer-winning novel on the Battle of Gettysburg), Joss Whedon was inspired to tell a story about people who had fought on the losing side of a war and were seeking freedom on the frontier, like many ex-Confederates did in the American West after the Civil War. The result was “Firefly.” In the future, after Earth’s resources are depleted, the human race colonizes another star system. When the central planets (“The Sino-American Alliance”) try to take control of the outer planets (“The Independent Faction,” which is distinctly Wild West), war breaks out, and in the end, the Independents are badly beaten. Captain Malcom Reynolds, an Independents veteran, lives outside the law on the edge of civilization (known as “the black”), though he live by his own code of honor. The rest of Reynolds’ crew are all seeking their own forms of freedom, too: a city-slicker doctor, a high-class prostitute, a doe-eyed mechanic, a dim-witted mercenary, a fast-talking pilot, a kind-hearted preacher, and more. “Firefly” does what Whedon does best: tells a story filled with light humor around real depth of feeling. The cast is a salad bowl of different personalities and yet also a melting pot of one family. Just when the show seems not to be taking itself too seriously, it subverts expectations with a dose of sincerity, and when things are getting too serious, it subverts expectations with a dose of irony. Even the music stands out, which is rare for anything on television. Unfortunately, Americans would rather have a smorgasbord of never-ending sitcoms and procedurals, and thus “Firefly” was canceled midway through its first season. The show has a loyal fan-base, however (known as “Browncoats,” the unofficial name for Independents soldiers, and reminiscent of Confederate “Graybacks” and Union “Bluebellies”), and the show was continued as a movie, “Serenity,” which I also highly recommend.
The Wire, 2002-2008: The story of modern-day Baltimore told from the perspective of different municipal institutions (the schools, the press, the ports, the politicians, etc.), particularly through their relation to law-enforcement.
“The Wire” is the product of David Simon (a reporter for The Baltimore Sun) and Ed Burns (a Baltimore police officer and schoolteacher), who had collaborated on a book about inner-city life in Baltimore. They prided themselves on the realism of their storylines and characters, drawing from their own experiences in the city and often using non-professional actors from the city. “The Wire,” while cynical about the effect that institutions (whether bureaucracies or gangs) have on individuals, is optimistic about the humanity of individuals themselves (whether police officers or drug dealers). “The Wire” is, perhaps most popularly, a vehicle for virtue-signaling politically correct opinions, such as “the need for criminal-justice reform.” While such liberal platitudes were, without a doubt, the intention of Simon and Burns (and they are not wrong that the “War on Drugs” does more harm than good), because of his integrity as an artist and a journalist, that was not the only message that was conveyed. In fact, “The Wire” was a spectacular “Kinsey Gaffe” in that unsparingly portrayed the downright feral behavior – sorry, but is there any other word for this? or this? or this? – of Baltimore’s “black community.” The transformation of Baltimore from “Charm City” and “Monumental City” to “The City That Bleeds” parallels what has happened to many American cities in the wake of the civil-rights revolution. In just a few generations Baltimore transformed from a thriving metropolis to a blighted slum. The city’s demographics went from 63% white in 1950 to 76% black in 2010. Like most urban areas that have undergone similar demographic transformation, the city is also depopulating – by 35% between 1950 and 2010, with a 75% drop in the white population. The result is the world of “The Wire.” As someone whose family is from Maryland (my father’s side is from Baltimore and my mother’s side is from Annapolis) “The Wire” bleakly illustrates what my family – and our nation and civilization as a whole – has lost.
Battlestar Galactica, 2004-2009: After an apocalyptic event on Earth, what is left of the human race must preserve not only its very existence, but its ideals – what makes them human.
The 2000s “Battlestar Galactica” is a remake of an earlier series from the 1970s, and is a rare example of a remake that is actually an improvement on the original. While the original is pure sci-fi kitsch, the remake is an intelligent show. Unlike the futuristic world of “Star Trek,” the world of “Battlestar Galactica” feels real. It is not just the aesthetics which feel real, however, but the issues faced by the remnant of the human race. Whether election fraud, martial law, acts of terrorism, vigilante justice, collective punishment, and show trials, the question that is asked again and again is, “Can the ends ever justify the means?” (Anyone with a categorical answer to that question is someone who either believes in nothing at all or in only one thing, both equally dangerous.) “Battlestar Galactica,” which took place in the midst of the “War on Terror,” is clearly influenced by the debate between “national security” and “individual privacy,” what is “necessary” versus what is “legal,” and whether perceived threats are real or fake. Unfortunately, as the show ends, it takes a self-indulgent dive, dropping its complex politics for an over-the-top mysticism that is head-scratching and eye-rolling.
The Tudors, 2007-2010. The story of the life and times of King Henry VIII, with particular emphasis on his six different wives.
The appearance of this show is deceiving. On the surface, it may seem like a mass-market historical romance, where everyone is gorgeous and eager to rip off each other’s clothes. For instance, Henry VIII, rather than the husky man that we know from his portraiture, is played by a svelte Jonathan Rhys Meyers, who looks like he belongs in a cologne advertisement. It is a bit of a bodice-ripper, to be sure, but it is much more than that. It is also a compelling portrayal of English Reformation. While many historical liberties are taken, it is always necessary to cut and condense material when adapting a story – especially a true one. Catholics, in particular, will appreciate the unflinching portrayal of the Protestant revolution. “Idols,” such as art in churches or relics in shrines, were vandalized. Customs and traditions, such as festivals for saints, were outlawed as “idol-worship.” Homes were ransacked in search of “idols” (such as an image of a saint) and visiting a family graveyard to offer prayers for the departed was suspected as “idolatry.” Monasteries were abolished and their property confiscated. Rebellions by peasants who wanted to worship in their old ways were double crossed and stamped out. Catholic dissidents were executed. The Reformation, in short, was a period of hyper-fundamentalist repression. If the purpose of a historical adaptation is to create awareness of and interest in a particular event or period (even if every detail is not exactly right), then “The Tudors” succeeds marvelously.
True Detective (Season 1), 2014. Weird horror, cosmic terror, philosophical interludes, dark comedy, tempting women, and more.
In this Southern mystery, two detectives, Woody Harrelson’s Marty (an outwardly respectable family man, though inwardly a liar and a cheater) and Matthew McConaughey’s Rust (outwardly, a misanthrope, but inwardly, an honorable, lawful man), to solve a murder mystery which has haunted them for years. The show is set in Louisiana, because that is what the showrunner, Nic Pizzolatto (born in New Orleans, raised in rural Louisiana, and graduated from LSU) knows. It is no modern-day Southern gothic horror, however, like “True Blood,” but spends most of its time out in the sticks or deep in the underworld. In literature, the only place better for a horror story than New England (with its hyper-repressive hatred and fear of the unknown) is the South (with its grim resignation to the existence of evil). Southern writers, influenced by an older Christianity which has nothing to do with the fanatical Hebraic-Puritanism of New England, know that there is an innate evil in humanity which no social systems or progressive reforms, however well-intentioned and well-administered, can ever fully repress. “Whenever I’m asked why Southern writers particularly have a penchant for writing about freaks,” quipped Flannery O’Conner, “I say it is because we are still able to recognize one.” As their suspenseful investigation uncovers darker and darker secrets, the detectives’ notions of morality and even reality are shaken their core.
And now, for American history. I feel the same way about American history and movies that the late Tom Wolfe did about modern American life and novels: with so much potential material out there, how is it that historical movies are so scarce (and when they exist at all, they are usually meant to make us feel bad about ourselves?). Why is there no historical adventure movie featuring John Smith, who was a real-life swashbuckling hero? Why is there a historical romance about the fictional romance between Thomas Jefferson and Sally Hemings, but not one about the real-life romance between Thomas and his wife, Martha? The list of wasted opportunities is endless.
The Patriot, 2000. The story of the American Revolution in South Carolina, following a yeoman farmer trying to escape his reputation as a legendary Indian fighter and keep his family safe.
Directed by Roland Emmerich.
Starring Mel Gibson and Heath Ledger.
Written by Robert Rodat.
Composed by John Williams.
A brilliant but flawed movie which has become near and dear to my heart due to the fanatical, malicious criticism to which it has been subjected. Yes, the movie is, at times, melodramatic, and, at times, historically inaccurate, but other movies which grossly falsify history in order to be politically correct are not nearly as criticized as “The Patriot” was for its harmless fictional liberties here and there. For instance, 2016’s much-applauded “Birth of a Nation” rewrote the history of Nat Turner’s slave revolt: instead of a short-lived killing spree of white families in their sleep which was summarily crushed by the local militia, it was a heroic rebellion against white supremacy which held out until it was crushed by overwhelming numbers. In fact, criticism of “The Patriot” was one of my earliest encounters with the Cultural-Marxist Left: a young, teenaged me, “surfing the web” as we said back then, came across Salon’s hate-laced review, in which a neurotic, paranoid Jewish critic compared this conventionally patriotic movie to Nazi propaganda.
The protagonist, Benjamin Martin (played by a typically heroic Mel Gibson), is a composite-character of the real-life South Carolinians Francis Marion, Andrew Pickens, and Thomas Sumter, and the antagonist, Col. William Tavington (played by a typically villainous Jason Isaacs), is based on the Briton Banastre Tarleton. The movie accurately depicts the internecine warfare between American revolutionaries and loyalists which took place in South Carolina, the backwoods “guerrilla” warfare which superseded pitched battles, and the decisive importance of French intervention. The Battle of Camden is briefly depicted, and the final battle is based loosely on the battles of Cowpens and Guilford Courthouse. John Williams’ martial score is full of bugles, drums, and fifes, sounding a lot like what the painting, “The Spirit of ’76,” looks like, and makes me long for the true sound of “The Star-Spangled Banner” – not a stylized R&B cover, but a poetic anthem which should be backed by the full force of an orchestra.
The movie has been justly criticized for falsely depicting the British as vicious war criminals and minimizing the presence of slavery. Indeed, British tyranny is almost entirely a figment of the American imagination, even back in 1776. Prior to the American Revolution, the colonists were already the freest people in the world, and it was that freedom which gave them the self-consciousness and self-confidence to break away from their mother country and central government. When it comes to slavery, while I object to the morbid obsession with it which masquerades as “historical accuracy,” I also object to cowering from it in the name of “political correctness.” Slavery existed in the Americas, because the Americas were colonized by Europe, and slavery existed in European colonies, as well as everywhere else in the world at the time and for all time. In fact, slavery’s roots in human history are so wide and deep that, technically speaking, it is arguably the natural state of humanity, and the idea that every individual is equal and has rights the profoundly irregular, unnatural state. I refuse to live in fear of slavery – that is, of being called “racist” for refusing to erase my history, deny my existence, and abort my future – and encourage all other Americans to emancipate themselves.
Gangs of New York, 2002. The story of tribal politics in New York City, riven by mass-immigration and the Civil War, following one man’s quest to kill the man who killed his father.
Directed by Martin Scorsese.
Starring Leonardo DiCaprio and Daniel Day-Lewis.
Written by Jay Cocks, Steven Zaillian, and Kenneth Lorgan.
Composed by Howard Shore.
“Gangs of New York” is a superb movie, with the great director Martin Scorsese, the great actors Daniel Day-Lewis and Leonardo DiCaprio, and the great composer Howard Shore all at the top of their game. It is a Shakespearean tragedy set in New York City, 1863, with themes of honor, loyalty, and revenge. Portraying this period of American history (which is, in this case, based on Gangs of New York, a book from 1928 about the immigrant-versus-native gang warfare) was a passion project of Scorsese’s for decades.
The nominal antagonist, Day-Lewis’ Bill “the Butcher” Cutting, is, in my opinion, the real protagonist of the movie. At the very least, the nominal protagonist, DiCaprio’s Amsterdam Vallon, has little to no redeeming qualities, while the antagonist has many. In the interest of not spoiling anything, all that can be said is that brutal as Bill is, he fights for his people and lives by a code of honor (just like his legendary enemy, “Priest Vallon,” and unlike Priest’s son, Amsterdam, driven by the low motive of revenge and willing to dishonor himself to have it). To borrow some lines from Bill himself, in a world of “base defilers,” it is only Bill who rises above the mob to be “a great man.” It helps, of course, that Day-Lewis is absolutely captivating as Bill, striding across the screen with charisma and machismo, unlike the skulking Amsterdam.
Unfortunately, most critics seem to have drawn the wrong conclusion from “Gangs of New York,” believing that it is merely another ethno-religious pageant of good immigrants versus bad nativists, in which democracy and diversity win out in the end. (Even contributors at VDare.com have criticized the movie along these lines, though not everyone agrees.) This is incorrect and unfair. The movie’s portrait of democracy is one of corruption and cynicism. Everyone is for democracy because everyone is cheating the system. Its portrait of diversity, likewise, is not one of vibrancy, but of squalor and despair. Immigrants are tearing down and burning the society of their host country, both figuratively and literally. Its portrait of the Civil War, even, is not one of the usual Yankee triumphalism: all of the main characters, protagonists and antagonists alike, are either uninterested or outright opposed to the war. Scorsese, justly famous for his visual spectacles, pulls off a long tracking shot which follows Irish immigrants as they disembark from a ship, are conscripted into the Union army, then put back on a ship heading to the war front – which is, at the same time, unloading coffins of Union soldiers. Far from an empty-headed applauding for the shlock and schmaltz, “Gangs of New York,” much like Scorsese’s “Taxi Driver,” has a deeply subversive message.
Gods and Generals, 2003. The story of the first two years of the Civil War, focused on Gen. Stonewall Jackson, Gen. Robert E. Lee, and Col. Joshua Chamberlin.
Directed by Ron Maxwell.
Starring: Stephen Lang, Robert Duvall, and Jeff Daniels.
Written by Ron Maxwell.
Composed by John Frizzell.
This movie is brilliant but flawed; it reminds me of a diamond with excellent color and cut, but poor carat and clarity. It is full of cumbersome and didactic writing, but it is also full of spectacular battle sequences (particularly Fredericksburg and Chancellorsville), as well as well-written, well-acted, and well-scored scenes which capture the pathos of the Civil War.
The critics do not hate it for its flaws, however, but for its virtues: it commits the thought-crime of humanizing the Southern people. In this fanatical “Battle Hymn of the Republic” school of history, there is no pathos to the Civil War: it was the smiting of evil incarnate, and the only tragedy is that the smiting was not bloodier and fierier. According to the historian Steven E. Woodworth, for instance, “Gods and Generals” is “the most pro-Confederate film since Birth of a Nation, a veritable celluloid celebration of slavery and treason.” To Woodworth, anything which presents the Confederacy in a positive light must, by definition, be “Lost-Cause mythology,” because, in his mind, there was literally nothing positive about the Confederacy – even depicting Confederate soldiers as a fearsome fighting force, a historical fact to which Union soldiers amply attested, is suspect.
All of this, of course, is quite insane. Granted, there is plenty of SCV-influenced historical revisionism in the movie (yes, slavery did play a role, and the sooner we understand how and why, the sooner we can more effectively defend our heritage and identity from anti-historical presentism and iconoclasm), but that is not the only reason critics like Woodworth hate it. They hate it because of Robert E. Lee’s reflection on what it means to fight for your homeland, the love and loyalty shown for one another by the white and black members of a Fredericksburg family, for the performance of “The Bonnie Blue Flag,” and other such humanizing moments. Its predecessor, “Gettysburg” (which takes place after the events of this movie, yet was made in first in 1993) has all the same strengths and weaknesses as “Gods and Generals,” and our own Clyde Wilson, quite controversially, prefers Martin Sheen’s Lee to Robert Duvall’s.
The Alamo, 2004. The story of American folk-heroes Davy Crockett, Jim Bowie, and William Barret Travis in their last stand at the Battle of the Alamo.
Directed by John Lee Hancock.
Starring Dennis Quaid, Billy Bob Thornton, Jason Patric, and Patrick Wilson.
Written by John Lee Hancock.
Composed by Carter Burwell.
“The Alamo” is a big-budget battle movie. Prior to the battle itself, which is the movie’s set piece, there is a lot of expository dialogue on the historical background as well as the characters’ backstories, though it does not lay it on as thick as “Gods and Generals” and “Gettysburg.” Patrick Wilson, playing William Barrett Travis, movingly portrays an idealistic but inexperienced young man struggling for the respect of older, harder men. Jason Patric, playing James Bowie, acts with the intensity of a rattlesnake about to strike, just like his character. Last, but not least, Billy Bob Thornton is perfect as the hard-bitten, wise-cracking Davy Crockett.
The Texan Revolution is one of many events of American history which cannot be squared with the cuckservatives’ Sunday-School lessons about American history. Where does a quasi-racial war between “Hispanic” Mexicans and “Anglo” Americans fit in with the bromide that “America” has no ethno-cultural identity or heritage, but is a “proposition nation”? Does anyone believe that Americans fought at the Alamo to “dedicate themselves to the proposition that all men are created equal”? David French, Jim Geraghty, and Kevin Williamson probably do, but imagine the laughter that such a notion would have elicited from Bowie, Crockett, and Travis!
Speaking of the Alamo and cuckservatives, an incident involving the two had a decisive impact on my then-young mind. In 2010, National Review, in an obituary for the actor Fess Parker, described Crockett (his most famous role) as a “gaudy self-promoter.” In response, “Carol L. Crockett” wrote a letter defending the memory of her ancestor from this completely uncalled for dishonor. Ms. Crockett quoted from Jay Winik’s review of A Line in the Sand: The Alamo in Blood and Memory, which had been published in National Review nine years earlier. In that review, Winik quoted the founder of and editor of National Review himself, William F. Buckley, who dismissed the revisionist history around Crockett as a “traditional debunking campaign” by “liberal publicists.” According to Buckley, “He’ll survive the carpers.” In reply to Ms. Crockett, the editors reiterated that while Crockett “died a hero’s death,” he was, in life, a “gaudy self-promoter.” “History is as simple as humanity,” they intoned, whatever that is supposed to mean. After that embarrassing exchange (there was no need to respond to her letter, and certainly not in such an arrogant and petulant manner), I promptly canceled my subscription. For years, I had read National Review with increasing dissatisfaction – mainly with its ideological neo-conservatism, but I had also come to hate the editors’ obnoxious habit of putting down well-meaning readers. They came off as schoolboys with more wit than wisdom (and not much of either, at that) who always had to get the last word. Read Chronicles and The American Conservative instead!
Like most movies about American history (at least those that are not guilt-fests over racism), “The Alamo” was critically panned, and, sadly, was a spectacular “box-office bomb.” In 2004, apparently, Americans would rather have watched yet another “Shrek” movie, yet another “Spider-Man” movie, yet another “Harry Potter” movie, and worse (mindless, tasteless garbage such as “Dodgeball,” “Starsky and Hutch,” and “Anchorman”), than a patriotic action movie about a true story so dramatic that it seems legendary – an American “Thermopylae.”
Sadly, mass-immigration – legal and illegal – has given away what was won in 1836 and 1848. Texas recently crossed the majority-minority demographic event horizon, which has already brought and will continue to bring cultural, political, and social changes. San Antonio itself, the site of the Alamo, is now a “sanctuary city” (and the kritarchy has, running interference for the Left as usual, prevented anyone from doing anything to stop that).
For what it is worth, the “Deguello de Crockett” scene is, in my opinion, one of the best portrayals of the spirit of the South. You’ll have to watch it to find out for yourself!
The New World, 2005. The founding of Jamestown, inspired by the legendary romance of John Smith and Pocahontas.
Directed by Terrence Malick.
Starring Colin Farrell, Q’orianka Kilcher, Christopher Plummer, and Christian Bale.
Written by Terrence Malick.
Composed by James Horner.
Terrence Malick, who directed and wrote “The New World,” was, refreshingly, not out to “deconstruct” the story of John Smith and Pocahontas, as many historians are eager to do these days. Just look at how “Pocahontas,” a charming children’s cartoon, is still sneered at for “neo-colonialism” and “cultural appropriation.” Whether literally true (in that their romance did indeed happen) or mythically true (in that their romance, like the Thanksgiving fable, is a metaphorical memory), Malick could not care less. To him, the story is a vehicle to illustrate how the American-Indian natives and the European colonists both discovered a “new world” at the same time. To the natives, “Europe” was as much a “new world” as “America” was to the colonists.
Speaking of “myths,” one of the most annoying and undying “myths” of American history is that the American-Indians were peaceful people before and after the arrival of Europeans. As John Smith puts in the movie (in an adaptation of a passage written by an earlier English explorer, Arthur Barlowe), “They are gentle, loving, faithful, lacking in all guile and trickery. The words denoting lying, deceit, greed, envy, slander, and forgiveness have never been heard. They have no jealousy, no sense of possession.” This belief in the “noble savage” is a form of the “romantic primitivism” which can come over civilized people when they first encounter an uncivilized “Other.” The Romans viewed the Germanic barbarians in the forests as noble savages. The English viewed the Scottish barbarians in the highlands as noble savages. When Europeans encountered the Indians, they viewed them as noble savages, too. The idea has always been that “soft” civilized life corrupts people, while “hard” savage life ennobles people. Many Indians, probably unknowingly, have absorbed this sentimental fantasy into their own identity. (Nowadays, the “noble savage” myth is not based on philosophical beliefs about the innate virtue of humanity and the innate depravity of civilization, but is based rather on the innate virtue of non-white people and the innate depravity of white people.) The reality is that the Indians were anything but “noble savages.” Reviewing “The New World,” Dr. Cathy Schultz, a professor at the University of St. Francis, objected that Powhatan and his people “were far from the innocent, childlike creatures we see in the film,” but that they “ruled by conquest over the surrounding tribes.” Indeed, in 1622, the Powhatan Chiefdom, in a coordinated surprise attack across several English settlements in Virginia, massacred one-third of the white population – assuming, incorrectly, that the English would act as other Indians would after defeat in battle and simply leave. Long before Europeans arrived, Indians fought wars of enslavement and extermination amongst themselves which, if most people knew about, would drain their blood and chill their bones. The cause of these inter-tribal genocides? Land! In fact, most of what people think that they know about Indians comes from the “New Age” movement, which – to borrow a term – culturally appropriates them as symbols of its nebulous spirituality. Of course, none of this is to excuse the U.S. government’s own savagery and treachery in its relations with the Indians. When more than one civilization comes to occupy the same space, coexistence is impossible and conflict is inevitable, yet even so, the U.S. government often dishonored itself in that conflict.
“The New World” is a movie of little dialogue but with lush visuals. According to one reviewer, the movie – a spellbinding spectacle of unspoiled sights and sounds – reflects Mallick’s obsession with “Eden.” Malick has probably not read Louis B. Wright’s Colonial Search for a Southern Eden, but his portrayal of Virginia as an “Eden” is exactly how the “Cavaliers” who colonized Virginia perceived it, in stark contrast to “Puritan” colonists up north, who feared the “howling wilderness.” Early in the movie (in a voiceover adapted from John Smith’s own words) John Smith expresses his high hopes for the New World: “A world equal to our hopes, a land where one might wash one’s soul pure, rise to one’s true stature. We shall make a new start. A fresh beginning. Here all the blessings of the earth are bestowed upon all. None need grow poor. Here there is good ground for all and no cost but one’s labor. We shall build a true commonwealth, hard work and self-reliance our virtues. We shall have no landlords to rack us with high rents or extort the fruit of our labor. No man shall stand above any other, but all live under the same law.” While the Virginians were clearly optimistic – perhaps somewhat “utopian” – about what life would be like in the New World, they still identified as Englishmen and Christians and intended on maintaining historical continuity with their country and church. Once again, it was the Puritans who were the real “utopians,” cutting themselves off from the world while also setting themselves above the world, in order to found a “City Upon A Hill,” or a “Christian Israel” and “Hebrew Republic.”
Lincoln, 2012. The story of the passage of the Thirteenth Amendment by the Congress near the end of Abraham Lincoln’s life.
Directed by Steven Spielberg.
Starring Daniel Day-Lewis.
Written by Tony Kushner.
Composed by John Williams.
Hear me out! The portrayal of Lincoln in the movie, which might seem hagiographic at first, is actually deceivingly historically accurate. For one, the movie clearly portrays Lincoln bribing and lying (not just to politicians, but to the public) in order to get the Thirteenth Amendment through the Congress. He offers patronage to politicians in exchange for their votes. “I am the President of the United States of America, clothed in immense power!” Lincoln shouts. “You will procure me those votes!” He covers up negotiations with Confederate peace envoys (offering to restore the Union but leave slavery intact – a compromise which Northerners would have eagerly accepted), and when news of such a peace offer leaks, he lies and denies it. David Brooks, one of the “house conservatives” at The New York Times, wrote a whole column about how he hoped that Lincoln would not only inspire Millennials to believe in “the high vision” of politics again, but also teach them to accept the “low cunning” that politics requires. “It shows that you can do more good in politics than any other sphere,” gushes Brooks, “but you can achieve these things only if you are willing to bamboozle, trim, compromise, and be slippery and hypocritical.” I can think of few better tableaus of the corrupted, degenerated state of Conservatism, Inc. than this column on “Lincoln” by Brooks.
For another, the movie shows Lincoln’s signature rhetorical style of twisting the meaning of questions he is asked and avoiding straight answers to even the simplest of questions. There were many moments when the script could have had Lincoln deliver a presentist pontification about how race is nothing more than skin color, or something, but in which he dodges the issue with a facile, folksy tale instead. This can easily be misunderstood as homespun wisdom, but it is not hard to point out that Lincoln is simply talking about of both sides of his mouth, which is annoying once it is noticed. In one scene, for example, a freedwoman who is friends with Lincoln’s wife, states, “White people don’t want us here” (to which Lincoln replies “many don’t”), and then asks him, “What about you?” Lincoln replies, “I don’t know you, Mrs. Keckley. Any of you. You’re familiar to me, as all people are. Unaccommodated, poor, bare, forked creatures such as we all are. You have a right to expect what I expect, and likely our expectations are not incomprehensible to each other. I assume I’ll get used to you. But what you are to the nation, what’ll become of you once slavery’s day is done, I don’t know.” That is another way of saying, “No, I don’t want you here, either. I’m one of those white people to whom you just referred. But I can’t just come out and tell you that.” In another scene, Lincoln lectures his Cabinet on presidential war powers, using lawyerly sophistry to deconstruct the Constitution. Afterwards, his own Secretary of the Interior comments, “You’re describing precisely the sort of dictator the Democrats have been howling about,” and asks the rest of the Cabinet, “What reins him in?” Last of all, in a fine example of Lincoln’s rhetoric, he invokes Euclidean geometry in support of his fundamentalist “all men are created equal” interpretation of the Declaration of Independence. “Euclid’s first common notion is this: ‘Things which are equal to the same thing are equal to each other’…That’s a rule of mathematical reasoning. It’s true because it works; has done and always will do. In his book, Euclid says this is ‘self-evident.’ D’you see? There it is, even in that two-thousand year-old book of mechanical law: it is a self-evident truth that things which are equal to the same thing are equal to each other. We begin with equality. That’s the origin, isn’t it? That’s balance, that’s fairness, that’s justice.” So if A and B are both equal to C, then, logically, A is equal to and B is equal to A…therefore, “all men are created equal”?
To the movie’s credit, the primary antagonists (the opponents of the amendment, represented by George H. Pendleton and Fernando Wood) and secondary antagonists (the Confederate envoys Alexander Stephens, R.M.T. Hunter, and John Campbell) are not characterized as intellectually, physically, and spiritually defective, as if it were a medieval morality play, and are allowed to speak for themselves in key moments. The movie’s secondary protagonists (Republicans like William Seward, Thaddeus Stevens, and Francis Preston Blair, Sr.) are hardly lionized, either, but are characterized realistically, as a querulous politician, a fanatical ideologue, and a reluctant conservative, respectively. Daniel Day-Lewis, famously selective about his roles as well as renowned for his intense “method-acting,” transforms himself into character and delivers a definitive Lincoln performance – not supreme, stentorian, and statuesque, but sensitive, soft-spoken, and stooped (not to mention slippery). For John Williams, however, the score is surprisingly unmemorable, though this is not a movie that really needs much of a score. All things considered, “Lincoln” is a historically accurate movie about a historically important event, whether or not we are happy with the way that everything happened.
The Witch, 2015. A New-England family, banished from their colony and living on the outskirts of civilization, is terrorized by a witch lurking in the woods.
Directed by Robert Eggers.
Starring Anya Taylor-Joy, Ralph Ineson, and Kate Dickie.
Written by Robert Eggers.
Composed by Mark Korven.
“The Witch” is an “atmospheric horror” movie that is as much about the psychological as it is the supernatural. The eponymous character does not merely prey on the family’s livestock and children, but on their fears as well, turning them against each other one by one.
The director and writer, Robert Eggers, grew up in New England. “Witches were a part of all my earliest nightmares,” he explains. “The 17th-century witch, the Puritan witch – she’s a lot more primal and a lot scarier than we ever would have imagined.” In order to make the audience really believe in the witch the way that the characters would believe in her, Eggers demanded absolute realism. The dialogue is written in an archaic style of English and spoken with heavy English accents. (Some of the actual lines are adapted from 17th-century documents, including passages from the writings of Cotton Mather and John Winthrop.) For authenticity, costumes, props, and sets were hand-constructed with period-appropriate tools. (For reference, museums were visited, archaeologists were consulted, and some of the more detailed work was outsourced to master craftsmen.) The movie was filmed out in the woods, not in a studio, and on a location so remote that cell-phone service was dead. The characters are not disdainfully “pathologized” à la Arthur Miller, either: they are not portrayed as dumb bumpkins or creepy fanatics, as religious folk are usually portrayed in entertainment media, but as the common folk of their time and place. The result was an immersive experience for the crew, the actors, and of course, for the audience.
What makes “The Witch” so frightening is not cheap jump-scares or gore-porn (there is, fortunately, neither in the movie), but the atmosphere of gloom and doom, which only grows more ominous as the story unfolds. The family lives in fear of the dark woods which surround their homestead, in fear of an evil devil preying on their weaknesses, in fear of a lawful god punishing them for their sins, and in fear of one another for betraying them. “Fear itself” is not the only thing that this family has to fear, however. “The Witch” is, as Eve Tushnet comments at The American Conservative, “a powerful brew of family tragedy, religious drama, and horror show.”
I would like to name some of my favorite movies and shows, with a little bit of basic information and personal commentary (without much in the way of spoilers, of course). After that, I would like to do the same for what I think are a few of the best movies about American history – a woefully underserved genre, to say the least!
The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance, 1962. “‘Cause the point of a gun was the only law that Liberty understood…From out of the East a stranger came, a law book in his hand, the kind of a man the West would need to tame a troubled land…When the final showdown came at last, a law book was no good…The man who shot Liberty Valance, he was the bravest of them all.”
Directed by John Ford.
Starring John Wayne, James Stewart, Vera Miles, and Lee Marvin.
Written by James Warner Bellah and Willis Goldbeck.
Scored by Cyril J. Mockridge.
“The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance” has all of the features of a great Western, particularly the conflict between love and duty and the challenge of standing up for what is right even if it means standing alone. What makes this movie unique, however, is the philosophical question that it asks: on the frontier of civilization, where law has not yet been established, how is chaotic evil to be stopped – by lawful good or by chaotic good? The two protagonists, Ransom Stoddard (played by James Stewart) and Tom Doniphon (played by John Wayne), are philosophically opposed on how to deal with Liberty Valance (played by Lee Marvin), the ringleader of a gang terrorizing a frontier town. Stoddard is adamant that the establishment of law and order will put an end to Liberty’s reign of terror (and more importantly, that it is crucial to the establishment of law and order that men like Liberty not be dealt with extra-legally). Doniphon insists, however, that only brute force is capable of stopping Liberty (and that law and order cannot be established until men like Liberty have been dispatched). How does the movie answer the question? Watch and find out!
A Man For All Seasons, 1966. The story of Sir Thomas More’s refusal to accede to the English Reformation.
Directed by Fred Zinneman.
Starring Paul Scofield, Leo McKern, Orson Welles, and Robert Shaw.
Written by Robert Bolt.
Scored by Georges Delerue.
Sir Thomas More was a philosopher, and although not a king himself, a philosopher to the king, so to speak. More was an advisor to King Henry VIII and helped him write public polemics against Martin Luther. For refuting Luther, Pope Leo X titled Henry “Defender of the Faith.” When the Catholic Church would not grant Henry the divorce he desired, this erstwhile “Defender of the Faith” broke with Rome and set himself at the head of his own church. More, however, who was serving as Lord Chancellor of England at the time, refused to endorse Henry’s divorce or acknowledge Henry’s supremacy, for which he was accused of heresy and treason.
Nowadays, there is a so-called “Resistance” against Pres. Donald Trump, which despite its insufferable self-regard is, in reality, merely the system mustering all of its money and power to destroy any real resistance. The Resistance is a corporatist, elitist, globalist counter-revolution to the nationalist, populist, traditionalist revolution which Trump unwittingly incited in 2015. No member of the Resistance is risking anything. Indeed, everyone from public figures to private individuals is free to defame the President in the vilest terms without any fear of consequences whatsoever. Even illegal aliens parade around in public, complaining about oppression as they flaunt their crimes and trumpet their rising numbers. At the same time, those loyal citizens who agree with the President’s “isolationist,” “nativist,” and “protectionist” agenda are subject to life-destroying harassment by alt-left goon squads, which often results in getting fired from their jobs, doxed on social media, and physically assaulted in the streets. What sort of “fascist regime” is this? On the contrary, it is unvarnished “anarcho-tyranny.”
More, in his day and age, was a part of a real “Resistance.” He and a few other Catholic individuals (who have all been sainted since) took conscientious, principled stands against a tyrannical king and religious fanaticism. “A Man For All Seasons” does this inspiring story justice. The script is essentially one long debate on conscience, ethics, and law, with enough wisdom to have been written by More himself. It is one of the few movies out there that is truly educational, edifying, and uplifting – intellectually, morally, and spiritually – to watch.
The Star Wars Trilogy, 1977-1983. A space opera drawn from world mythology.
Directed by George Lucas.
Starring Mark Hamill, Harrison Ford, and Carrie Fisher.
Written by George Lucas.
Scored by John Williams.
“Star Wars,” though a space opera, is not really of the science-fiction genre, but more of the fantasy. Science fiction is about exploring the consequences of scientific innovation, which is why it is alternatively known as “speculative fiction,” yet “Star Wars,” though outwardly futuristic, is not about the future, but the past. Specifically, “Star Wars” is modeled on what Joseph Campbell, a scholar of comparative mythology and religion, terms the “Hero’s Journey,” which is a story – or “monomyth” – that can be identified in all world cultures. George Lucas was heavily influenced by Campbell’s theories, and drew on the Hero’s Journey to tell his own story. As Lucas explained to Campbell’s biographers, “What’s valuable for me is to set standards, not to show people the world the way it is. Around the period of this realization, it came to me that there really was no modern use of mythology. The Western was possibly the last generically American fairy tale, telling us about our values. And once the Western disappeared, nothing has ever taken its place. In literature we were going off into science fiction, so that’s when I started doing more strenuous research on fairy tales, folklore, and mythology, and I started reading Joe’s books. Before that I hadn’t read any of Joe’s books. It was very eerie because in reading The Hero with a Thousand Faces, I began to realize that my first draft of ‘Star Wars’ was following classic motifs. I modified my next draft of ‘Star Wars’ according to what I’d been learning about classic motifs and made it a little bit more consistent.” So although “Star Wars” may take place “in a galaxy far, far away,” it also takes place “a long time ago.”
John Williams’ score, simply put, makes “Star Wars.” Without it, the movies would have been unable to overcome the sci-fi kitsch. It is hard to take some of the special effects of the movies seriously, but it is impossible not to take the score seriously. The music is present throughout most of the movie – each movie opens with a magnificent overture – and explains much of what is actually happening at that moment. Indeed, Williams’ scores are so iconic that they often come to define whole movies themselves.
The original “Star Wars” trilogy, from 1977 to 1983, was lightning in a bottle. Its archetypes, patterns, and themes of the story touch our “mythic imagination,” which is why they resonate so deeply. The writing and scoring of the movie is memorable, full of quotable lines and hummable tunes. The casting is perfect (could there be a wiser mentor than Alec Guinness, a darker-sounding adversary than the voice of James Earl Jones, or a more heroic-looking hero than Mark Hamill?), and the acting only gets better with each movie. The prequels that Lucas made from 1999 to 2005 were poorly written and acted, but were at least earnest in trying to tell a new – far more modern and less mythic – story. The ongoing sequels that Disney is making, however, do not seem to understand anything about what made “Star Wars” great, and feel like cash-ins and rip-offs.
Excalibur, 1981. The Legend of King Arthur.
Directed by John Boorman.
Starring Nigel Terry.
Written by John Boorman.
Scored by Trevor Jones.
“King Arthur,” unfortunately, is one of those stories which is endlessly adapted in bad faith, like Robin Hood (who has recently been turned into an antifa punk) and Sherlock Holmes (who has recently been turned into a man-child). “Excalibur,” however, is a faithful adaptation which actually wants to retell the story to a modern audience, not trade on its name to tell a different story altogether. Specifically, it is based on Thomas Malory’s Le Morte d’Arthur, which was first published in the 15th century.
“Excalibur” features a big cast of British actors before they became famous in the movies, including Gabriel Bryne (as King Uther Pendragon), Helen Mirren (as Morgana Le Fay), Liam Neeson (as Sir Gawain), Patrick Stewart (as King Leodegrance), Nicol Williamson (as Merlin), and more. In order to make the movie feel more mythic and less realistic, there is little in the way of characterization or dialogue, and much in the way of music and imagery.
Speaking of music, the score to “Excalibur” is fantastic. Richard Wagner and Carl Orff: who better for a score to one of the greatest myths of all time than the composers of “Siegfried’s Funeral March” and “Fortuna Imperatrix Mundi” (both of which feature prominently in the movie)?
American History X, 1998. A story of redemption and damnation, as an older brother recently released from prison struggles to save his younger brother following in his footsteps.
Directed by Tony Kaye.
Starring Edward Norton and Edward Furlong.
Written by David McKenna.
Scored by Anne Dudley.
“American History X,” set in Venice, Los Angeles, is the story of Derek Vinyard (played by Edward Norton) from the point of view of his younger brother, Danny (played by Edward Furlong). Derek is meant to be a sympathetic figure. He is a bright young man with a frightful temper who turns to the neo-Nazi movement after his father, a firefighter, is murdered by a drug dealer while putting out a fire at a drug den. Even after he becomes a neo-Nazi, however (complete with a shaved head and tattoos!) his bravery, charisma, and intelligence remain irresistible, in stark contrast to every other skinhead depicted in the movie, who are indeed mere bigots and cowards.
“American History X” can be, and often is, interpreted as a mere homily against racism, but it is much more than that. It is a tragedy. What happens to Derek is tragic. What happens to Derek’s family as a result of what happens to him – no spoilers! – is tragic. Yes, the message of the movie – “hate is baggage” – is somewhat moralistic and simplistic, yet rather than demonized, “haters” like Derek are humanized, which is what makes the movie a tragedy and not a medieval morality play. Incredibly, the black gangs of the movie are not portrayed as blameless, helpless victims, but just as thuggish as the white gangs. “American History X” is a refreshingly sensitive and thoughtful criticism of racism.
The Believer, 2001. The story of a prodigious and prodigal yeshiva student who hates his own people as a perverse act of love.
Directed by Henry Bean.
Starring Ryan Gosling.
Written by Henry Bean.
Scored by Joel Diamond.
“The Believer” is similar to “American History X” in that it is a story about a neo-Nazi (Danny Balint) who finds redemption with an absolutely captivating performance by that actor (Ryan Gosling). By day, Danny is a thug getting into trouble with his gang. By night, he is a Jewish boy living at home with his father. Danny’s identity crisis began in yeshiva, where he was expelled for blasphemy: he hated God for his cruelty and hated the Jews for their passivity, both exemplified in the infamous story of the Binding of Isaac.
Danny is not a paranoid anti-Semite, afraid of and angry at Jews merely because they happen to be different from him. On the contrary, as a Jew and an educated Jew at that, he has a sophisticated understanding of what it means to be Jewish, which informs his esoteric, intricate theories of anti-Semitism. (Much of what Danny says about Jews, in fact, is much of what Jews have said about themselves – for example, Yuri Slezkine’s The Jewish Century, which won the National Jewish Book Award in 2005.) Danny is articulate and intelligent (Gosling’s portrayal of his intensity and insecurity is irresistible), but he lacks self-awareness and self-control, and has a tendency to push his arguments too far. When he finally has a chance to take action, however, he is conflicted, and realizes that his hatred of his own people is, strangely, rooted in his love for them.
Alas, the compelling-yet-disturbing character of Danny was too much for the Simon Wiesenthal Center’s Rabbi Abraham Cooper, who accused the movie of anti-Semitism. As a result, “The Believer,” despite winning the Sundance Festival’s Grand Jury Prize, was dropped by Paramount Pictures. When the director (who was Jewish) complained about “Jewish paranoia” making it impossible for him to find another distributor, the SWC’s Rabbi Marvin Hier accused him of implying that Jews control the media. Incidents like this remind me of one of Norm MacDonald’s old jokes back when SNL was funny. “Marlon Brando said on ‘Larry King Live’ that Hollywood is ‘run by Jews,’” quipped MacDonald. “Brando met with Jewish leaders to apologize for his comments. They have accepted his apology and announced that he is now free to work again.”
The Lord of the Rings, 2001-2003. An adaptation of J.R.R. Tolkien’s monumental masterpiece, which was influenced heavily by his lifelong study of Germanic mythology and singlehandedly invented the genre of fantasy.
Directed by Peter Jackson.
Starring Elijah Wood, Viggo Mortenson, and Ian McKellen.
Written by Fran Walsh, Philippa Boyens, and Peter Jackson.
Composed by Howard Shore.
“The Lord of the Rings” movie trilogy is a remarkably faithful adaption: the script is full of Tolkien’s own lyrical prose, follows the plotlines as closely as possible, and includes an unbelievable degree of attention to detail when it comes to lore. I recently learned, for example, that the choral singing in “The Revelation of the Ringwraiths” (the theme that plays in dramatic moments featuring the Ringwraiths, ancient kings of men corrupted by their rings of power) is a poem written by one of the screenwriters, Philippa Boyens, which she translated into Adunaic (an archaic human language which Tolkien invented) and which the composer, Howard Shore, gave a choral and orchestral setting.
Speaking of the music, the trilogy’s score is suitably epic (not epic as in modern sense, e.g. “This pizza is epic,” but epic in the literal sense, e.g. worthy of a heroic saga). Although lots of Hollywood-style action was added to make the movie exciting to mass-audiences, many of the action sequences are entertaining. Furthermore, live actors, location shooting, and physical effects are preferred to CGI, which is used only when appropriate. The casting is uniformly perfect, launching (Viggo Mortensen as Aragorn), revitalizing (Elijah Wood as Frodo), and crowning (Ian McKellen as Gandalf) careers across the board. Last, but not least, “The Lord of the Rings” contains no degenerate or subversive content (not even feminist tropes, e.g. the woman who is better than the men at everything, or token diversity, e.g. casting black actors in white roles), all of which would have pleased the traditionalist Roman-Catholic Tolkien.
Peter Jackson’s majestic “The Lord of the Rings” is the perfect alternative to HBO’s gory porno “Game of Thrones.” It is incredible that such a movie trilogy was even made, so savor it, because it will not happen again any time soon. Jackson’s recent adaptation of Tolkien’s “The Hobbit” (complete with oversaturated CGI, cartoonish action, feminist tropes, non-white tokens, and even a recycled score) is proof of that.
Alexander, 2004. The story of the man who united most of the known world under his rule.
Directed by Oliver Stone.
Starring Colin Farrell.
Written by Oliver Stone.
Scored by Vangelis.
“Alexander” is a strange departure for Oliver Stone, who is famous for counter-cultural movies like “Platoon,” “Wall Street,” and “JFK” (all good, by the way). There is nothing counter-cultural about “Alexander,” however; it is downright hagiographic. The movie is narrated by Ptolemy (who gained control of Egypt in the civil war that broke out among Alexander’s generals after his death) as he narrates the memoirs that would be lost to history in the burning of the Great Library of Alexandria. Colin Farrell, who plays Alexander, is a fine actor who is often savaged by critics for no apparent reason. Vangelis’ one-man electronic score is amazing, as usual, somehow managing to sound as if he is conducting the heavens themselves.
When I was a young, dumb, ugly libertarian, I hated Oliver Stone for what seemed like warmed-over “socialism” to me, though I loved his exposures of U.S. foreign policy (see especially his “Putin Interviews” and “Ukraine on Fire”). As I grew up, however, the “cultural contradictions of capitalism” became apparent to me (how the so-called “creative destruction” of capitalism actually undermines everything which conservatives supposedly wish to conserve), and I became far more tolerant of anti-capitalists, even if they have problems of their own. Likewise, I used to hate Alexander, a megalomaniacal warlord who burned and bled the world for no reason other than his own glory, yet became too much of a degenerate to rule effectively and left his generals to fight over his empire after he died. I distinctly remember walking back to my dormitory after a lecture on Alexander, troubled by how he could have destroyed a city like Persepolis. Nevertheless, Alexander was one of the most important figures in all of history. He was brave (fought alongside his men) and intelligent (tutored by Aristotle), as well as charismatic and eloquent (pushed on his men and shut down mutinies). Where he destroyed, he also built: he was a founder of cities as well as a patron of the arts and sciences. By uniting the world, however briefly, the West began “Hellenizing” the East, and the East began “Orientalizing” the West, creating a new “Hellenistic Civilization.” All of this is why Alexander is known as “the Great,” not “the Good.” A movie about someone like that cannot be anything other than interesting.
The Dark Knight Trilogy, 2005-2012.
Directed by Christopher Nolan.
Starring Christian Bale, Michael Caine, Gary Oldman, and Morgan Freeman.
Written by Christopher Nolan.
Scored by Hans Zimmer.
The “Dark-Knight” trilogy, which includes “Batman Begins,” “The Dark Knight,” and “The Dark Knight Rises,” are the greatest supervillain movies. Each movie features a supervillain who presents a radical critique of modern society and its secular-humanist beliefs, written so compellingly by Christopher Nolan that they cannot just be rejected as “psycho.” In “Batman Begins,” the supervillain is Ra’s al Ghul, the head of a shadowy cult which, throughout history, pushes decadent civilizations on the brink of collapse over the edge, in order to end the Dark Age and begin a new Golden Age. This pessimistic theory that history is essentially cyclical (“hard times make strong men – strong men make good times – good times make weak men – weak men make hard times”) is in stark opposition to the optimistic theory that history is essentially progressive (i.e. things are always getting better). In “The Dark Knight,” the supervillain is the Joker, who traps Batman in twisted experiments designed to challenge his faith in mankind. The Joker, pessimistically, believes that people are basically evil, not basically good, and tries to prove that by showing what happens when chaos disrupts the law. In “The Dark Knight Rises,” the supervillain is Bane, who combines the League of Shadows’ pessimistic theory of history with the Joker’s pessimistic view of humanity. To make an example of Gotham City – and the optimistic faith in historical progress and human goodness – Bane incites the worst of the underclass against the worst of the ruling class, pitting anarchy against tyranny, then stands back and lets the world watch as the revolution consumes itself.
Apparently, David Boreanaz (“Angel” from “Buffy the Vampire Slayer”) was originally cast as Batman, but Christian Bale edged him out in the end. The hunky Boreanaz more looks the part than the leaner Bale, but Bale is such a good actor that it is hard to complain. Hans Zimmer, who has a team of composers working for him at a studio, produced a score for the trilogy, which has its moments, but is mainly there to punch up the trailers. Zimmer’s team has done much better work on other favorites of mine, such as “The Last Samurai” and “Inception.”
300, 2006. Elite Spartan warriors, led by their king, defend a mountain pass against the invading Persian army – a sacrifice which rallies all of Greece to resistance.
Directed by Zack Snyder.
Starring Gerard Butler.
Written by Zack Snyder.
Scored by Tyler Bates.
“300” is the story of the most famous last stand in history – perhaps the last stand that inspired them all. King Leonidas and his bodyguard were willing to give up their individual lives for the sake of their people’s continued existence. Their story is considerably “sexed up,” in this case, but it still pays tribute to their very real sacrifice and exemplifies their very real virtues.
As with “Watchmen,” Zack Snyder pulled off the rare feat of improving on his source material. Frank Miller’s graphic novel is full of ugly art (all the characters, even the Spartans, look downright simian) and neo-conservative propaganda (trying to equate the modern War on Terror with the ancient Graeco-Persian wars). Snyder’s movie, by contrast, has a beautiful cast (Gerard Butler, Lena Headey, and other heroes literally look like Greek statues), and makes it clear that the Spartans are fighting for their own people on their own land (not neocon abstractions like “reason” over “mysticism”). Tyler Bates’ score is a veritable wall of booming percussion, soaring choruses, and roaring brass worthy of such a legendary battle.
I matriculated at Bucknell University in 2006 (the year that “300” was released), already intending to major in Classics. Naturally, the movie was often the subject of heated discussion among the students and teachers alike, mostly having to do with its historical inaccuracy and fantastical style. I, however, was one of the few who defended the movie. For one, I thought that the historical accuracy of the movie was overlooked and underrated. For another, I thought that the movie’s fantastical style gave it a sort of “meta” historical accuracy. No, the Spartans were not godlike heroes who fought in the nude, but they were remembered as godlike heroes by the Greeks, who depicted their heroes as nude. The Spartans were, of course, a highly effective fighting force and the only Greeks who could have held out at Thermopylae. No, the Persians were not subhuman or even inhuman monsters, but they were remembered as such monsters – “barbarians” – by the Greeks. The Persians did, of course, have a very different civilization from the Greeks (who had never encountered so many different cultures before could not conceive of a single centralized state ruling multiple nations). When it comes to mythic memory (and much of the history of the Battle of Thermopylae is mythic), therefore, “300” is historically accurate. In fact, the most quotable lines from “300” are ripped right from the pages of Herodotus.
Flags of Our Fathers, 2006. A companion movie to “Letters from Iwo Jima” – the story of the Battle of Iwo Jima told through the soldiers from the famous flag-raising photograph.
Directed by Clint Eastwood.
Starring Ryan Philippe, Jesse Bradford, and Adam Beach.
Written by Paul Haggis.
Scored by Clint Eastwood.
The protagonists of this movie need no lionization: they are the subjects of one of the most iconic images of World War II. What this movie does is tell the story of who they were, what happened to them, and how their overnight celebrity changed them.
Letters From Iwo Jima, 2006. A companion movie to “Flags of Our Fathers” – the story of the Battle of Iwo Jima told through the letters that the Japanese soldiers have written home.
Directed by Clint Eastwood.
Starring Ken Watanbe.
Written by Paul Haggis and Iris Yamasita.
Scored by Kyle Eastwood.
In World War II, the principal Axis Powers were Germany, Italy, and Japan – three of the most beautiful civilizations in world history. Whatever threat Hitler’s Nazis, Mussolini’s Fascists, and Tojo’s Imperialists posed to world peace (one which, I suspect, was trumped up by their geopolitical rivals, the Soviets, British, and Americans, cf. Pat Buchanan and Peter Hitchens, or Charles Beard and Herbert Hoover), I simply refuse to believe that the highly cultured Germans, Italians, and Japanese were such barbaric enemies. Certainly the rank-and-file soldiers themselves were not fire-breathing, blood-thirsty warmongers, but like men in all wars, just doing their duty when their country called. “Letters From Iwo Jima” is a significant step towards humanizing one of the most-demonized American enemies, about whom crude war propaganda is still widely believed. (Every August 6th, for instance, neo-conservative chickenhawks and other fat-headed jingoists ritually remake the case for vaporizing the city of Hiroshima.)
The score has an authentic Japanese sound – sensitive and minimalistic – and is absolutely haunting, befitting a story about a garrison which was practically killed to the last man. There were parts of the movie where it, literally, moved me to tears.
Apocalypto, 2006. The story of one family’s struggle for survival amid the beginning of the end of Mayan civilization.
Directed by Mel Gibson.
Starring Rudy Youngblood and Dalia Hernandez.
Written by Mel Gibson and Farhad Safinia.
Scored by James Horner.
Mel Gibson and Farhad Safinia, who met while the latter was working as an assistant during the post-production of “The Passion of the Christ,” had a mutual love of the action-chase genre. “We wanted to update the chase genre by, in fact, not updating it with technology or machinery,” explained Safinia, “but stripping it down to its most intense form, which is a man running for his life, and at the same time getting back to something that matters to him.” At the same time, they wanted to tell a larger story about the fall of civilization set in Mesoamerica prior to the arrival of Europeans. They believed that the same forces that undermined the Maya – environmental degradation, overpopulation, internecine warfare, political corruption, and socioeconomic inequality – remained as relevant as ever, and wanted to use an ancient culture like the Maya to illustrate, starkly and shockingly, those parallels. As Gibson put it, the 15th-century setting is “merely the backdrop” for “civilizations and what undermines them.” They did not want the movie to be entirely pessimistic, however, and explained that the title (which does not make sense until the final scene) literally means “a new beginning or an unveiling – a revelation.” According to Gibson, “Everything has a beginning and an end, and all civilizations have operated like that.”
“Apocalypto” is remarkable for its authenticity. First, there is a complete absence of CGI effects and sets. The movie was shot entirely on location in the jungles of Veracruz, as well as on a set modeled after the sites of ancient Mayan cities which Gibson and Safinia had visited in the Mirador Basin. The effort that went into creating that cityscape, from the attention to detail in the various domestic and economic structures and materials, to the reconstruction of a plaza with a step-pyramid (modeled after that of Tikal), was monumental. In addition, a team of artists based all of the movie’s costumes, hairstyles, makeup (such as piercings and tattoos), and props on archaeological sources, such as ceramics and murals. Second, the cast is entirely comprised of Indian actors and actresses, almost none of whom had any prior acting experience and relied heavily on Gibson’s skillful directing. Third, just as “The Passion of the Christ” was written in Aramaic, “Apocalypto” is written in Yucatec-Mayan, an obscure indigenous language which is the closest possible approximation of what language the characters would have spoken.
“Apocalypto” is also remarkable for its historical accuracy. Of course, a few historical liberties are taken here and there for dramatic effect, but nothing which misrepresents who the Mayans were and what their world was like. Nevertheless, as is the case for any movie that is not pornography about American slavery or the Holocaust (whoever fact-checked “Roots” or “Schindler’s List”?), the movie was nitpicked to death. Richard Hansen (a professor of Mesoamerican Studies and the historical adviser for “Apocalypto”) defended the movie from criticism, and in a published article argued that while there were a few anachronisms in the movie, the criticisms in question were rooted in “relativism,” “revisionism,” and “aboriginalism” among academics-turned-activists. For instance, while many of these critics claimed that the Maya did not practice ritual sacrifice, Hansen demonstrated that the archaeological and documentary evidence is to the contrary (and that the movie was inaccurate only insofar as it omitted even worse details, such as flaying the corpses for human decoration or butchering the corpses for human consumption). “Apocalypto will be judged in time as a cinema masterpiece, not only in its superb execution of film production, but also as an allegorical reference to the present,” argued Hansen. “The criticisms, which were both accurate and fallacious, will continue to surround this film due to its unique story, the extraordinary setting, the allegorical and metaphorical references, and the various levels of awareness that are inherent in the film regarding the human saga.”
“Apocalypto” begins with a quote by the historian William Durant: “A great civilization is not conquered from without until it has destroyed itself from within.” Likewise, a great man is not conquered from without until he has destroyed himself from within. The summer before “Apocalypto” was released, Gibson was arrested for speeding along the Pacific Coast Highway with an open bottle of tequila in his car. Gibson’s profane, obscene, and above all drunken tirade had been recorded by the police, and when it was leaked to the media it was so humiliating that Hollywood blacklisted him and his wife divorced him. (To learn more about what happened that night, watch his interview with Diane Sawyer.) A few years later, Gibson’s partner claimed that he had been physically and verbally abusive, leaking recordings of the latter that worsened his already ruined reputation. Only recently, after a decade of alcohol-recovery and anger-management therapy, has this immensely talented actor and director begun to make a comeback, with the critically acclaimed and award-winning movie “Hacksaw Ridge.” Unfortunately, Gibson’s public self-destruction simultaneously overshadowed and tainted “Apocalypto,” which did not win many awards and is now out of production – a travesty against this artistic masterpiece.
No Country for Old Men, 2007. A suspenseful tale of hunter and hunted and good and evil, across the ghostly landscape of West Texas.
Directed by Joel and Ethan Coen.
Starring Josh Brolin, Javier Bardem, Tommy Lee Jones, Woody Harrelson, and Kelly Macdonald.
Written by Joel and Ethan Coen.
Scored by Carter Burwell.
“No Country for Old Men” is the Coen Bros.’ adaptation of a book of the same name by Cormac McCarthy, thus uniting two of our best modern directors with one of our best modern authors. The movie is also a combination of two distinctive American genres, noir and Western – a Noir-Western. The antagonist, Anton Chigurh (played chillingly by Javier Bardem) is a personification of “Unstoppable Evil” and a demonic “Angel of Death.” He shows no human empathy to those whose lives are in his hands and appears apathetic about the lives that he takes – accordingly, there is nothing sympathetic about him. The protagonist, Llewellyn Moss (played by Josh Brolin) is a morally gray man who, by chance, comes into conflict with very evil men. At first, Moss tries to run from the relentless Chigurh, but chance or fate seems to keep bringing them together, and Moss decides that his only hope of survival is if he hunts the hunter. As Sheriff Bell (played by Tommy Lee Jones) tracks the trail of blood that they leave, trying to help Moss and stop Chigurh, he becomes increasingly disillusioned along the way. “No Country for Old Men” is an engrossing thriller.
James Rutledge Roesch lives in Florida. He is a member of the Sons of the American Revolution, the Sons of Confederate Veterans, and the Military Order of the Stars and Bars, as well as the author of From Founding Fathers to Fire-Eaters: The Constitutional Doctrine of States' Rights in the Old South.