“There is a loss of spirit in the west; where we don’t believe in ourselves; where our history is flawed; where we teach our kids all of the sins of the American republic and none of the glories. When you do that for a long enough time, you end up with a generation that doesn’t know why they should be proud to be Americans; why they should be defending America.”
— Charles Krauthammer, on Tucker Carlson Tonight, June 5, 2017
Tom McClintock on the June 2018 ballot propositions.
From Charles C.W. Cooke:
This morning, at 8 a.m., I did something I’ve wanted to do for as long as I can remember: I became an American.
I first applied for a visa in early 2011, and since then I have slowly worked my way through the system — first as a visa-holder, then as a permanent resident (green card), and, finally, as a citizen. It feels odd finally to be at this point. I decided that I wanted to be an American on my first visit here at age three. Sure, at that point it wasn’t quite clear to me whether there was an America outside of Walt Disney World. But on subsequent visits, of which there were many, I discovered that there really was, and that it was a giant, rambunctious, beautiful place. Since then, I’ve never wavered in my ambition to be of it.
Why? Well, how long have you got? I’ve been sharing my view that this is the last great hope for mankind for almost seven years now. It ebbs and flows as all experiments do, but America continues to serve as the last surviving incubator of the great classically liberal values. If you believe in human freedom, this is your huckleberry. But there’s something more than that to this — something ineffable. I tried to capture this in a cover story back in 2014:
Being asked to explain why I love America is sometimes like being asked to explain why I love my fiancée. There are all the tangible things that you can rattle off so as not to look clueless and sentimental and irrational. But then there is the fact that you just do, and you ultimately can say little more than that.
I don’t know why I love the open spaces in the Southwest or Grand Central Terminal or the fading Atomic Age Googie architecture you see sometimes when driving. I don’t know why merely glimpsing the Statue of Liberty brings tears to my eyes, or why a single phrase on an Etta James or Patsy Cline record does what it does to me. It just does. I have spoken to other immigrants about this, and I have noticed that there is generally a satisfactory explanation — religious freedom, the chance at self-expression, the country’s size — and then there is the wistful stuff that moistens the eyes. Show me a picture of two canyons, and the fact that one of them is American will make all the difference. Just because it is American. Is this so peculiar? Perhaps.
“My fellow Americans.” How sweet that sounds.
With poor education, a budget deficit, and crumbling infrastructure, Californians shouldn’t be focused on idealistic social programs.
Corporate profits at California-based transnational corporations such as Apple, Facebook, and Google are hitting record highs.
California housing prices from La Jolla to Berkeley along the Pacific Coast can top $1,000 a square foot.
It seems as if all of China is willing to pay premium prices to get their children degreed at Caltech, Berkeley, Stanford, UCLA, or USC.
Yet California — after raising its top income tax rate to 13.3 percent and receiving record revenues — is still facing a budget deficit of more than $1 billion. There is a much more foreboding state crisis of unfunded liabilities and pension obligations of nearly $1 trillion.
Soon, new gas tax hikes, on top of green mandates, might make California gas the most expensive in the nation, despite the state’s huge reserves of untapped oil.
Where does the money go, given that the state’s schools and infrastructure rank among America’s worst in national surveys?
Illegal immigration over the last 30 years, the exodus of millions of middle-class Californians, and huge wealth concentrated in the L.A. basin and Silicon Valley have turned the state into a medieval manor of knights and peasants, with ever fewer in between.
The strapped middle class continues to flee bad schools, high taxes, rampant crime, and poor state services. About one-third of the nation’s welfare recipients reside in California. Approximately one-fifth of the state lives below the poverty line. More than a quarter of Californians were not born in the United States.
Many of the state’s wealthiest residents support high taxes, no-growth green policies, and subsidies for the poor. They do so because they reside in apartheid neighborhoods and have the material and political wherewithal to become exempt from the consequences of their own utopian bromides.
Blue California has no two-party politics anymore. Its campuses, from Berkeley to Claremont, have proven among the most hostile to free speech in the nation.
A few things keep California going. Its natural bounty, beauty, and weather draw in people eager to play California roulette. The state is naturally rich in minerals, oil and natural gas, timber, and farmland. The world pays dearly for whatever techies based in California’s universities can dream up.
That said, the status quo is failing.
The skeletons of half-built bridges and overpasses for a $100 billion high-speed-rail dinosaur remind residents of the ongoing boondoggle. Meantime, outdated roads and highways — mostly unchanged from the 1960s — make driving for 40 million both slow and dangerous. Each mile of track for high-speed rail represents millions of dollars that were not spent on repairing and expanding stretches of the state’s decrepit freeways — and hundreds of lives needlessly lost each year.
The future of state transportation is not updated versions of 19th-century ideas of railways and locomotives, but instead will include electric-powered and automatically piloted cars — all impossible without good roads.
Less than 40 percent of California residents identify themselves as conservative. But red-county California represents some 75 percent of California’s geographical area. It’s as if large, rural Mississippi and tiny urban Massachusetts were one combined state — all ruled by liberal Boston.
Now, a third of the state thinks it can pull off a “Calexit” and leave the United States. Calexit’s unhinged proponents have no idea that they are mimicking the right-wing arguments of the Confederate states that prompted the Civil War. Like South Carolina residents in 1861, Calexit advocates seem to assume that federal law should apply everywhere else except in California. Many of these California residents also believe that the federal Environmental Protection Agency should always override local ordinances, but not so with another federal bureau, Immigration and Customs Enforcement.
South Carolina started the Civil War by shelling and capturing federal property at Fort Sumter in Charleston Bay. Calexit wannabe secessionists similarly assume that thousands of square miles of federal property — from California federal courtrooms and post offices to national parks such as Yosemite to huge military bases such as Camp Pendleton — belong to the state and could simply be confiscated from the federal government.
Calexit proponents assume California can leave the union without an authorizing amendment to the Constitution, ratified by three-fourths of all the states. And they fail to see that should California ever secede, it would immediately split in two. The coastal strip would go the way of secessionist Virginia. The other three-quarters of the state’s geography would remain loyal to the union and become a new version of loyalist West Virginia.
Buying a home on the California coast is nearly impossible. The state budget can only be balanced through constant tax hikes. Finding a good, safe public school is difficult. Building a single new dam during the California drought to capture record runoff water in subsequent wet years proved politically impossible.
No matter. Many Californians consider those existential problems to be a premodern drag, while they dream of postmodern trains, the legalization of pot-growing — and seceding from the United States of America.
From Dennis Prager:
It is time for our society to acknowledge a sad truth: America is currently fighting its second Civil War.
In fact, with the obvious and enormous exception of attitudes toward slavery, Americans are more divided morally, ideologically and politically today than they were during the Civil War. For that reason, just as the Great War came to be known as World War I once there was World War II, the Civil War will become known as the First Civil War when more Americans come to regard the current battle as the Second Civil War.
This Second Civil War, fortunately, differs in another critically important way: It has thus far been largely nonviolent. But given increasing left-wing violence, such as riots, the taking over of college presidents’ offices and the illegal occupation of state capitols, nonviolence is not guaranteed to be a permanent characteristic of the Second Civil War.
There are those on both the left and right who call for American unity. But these calls are either naive or disingenuous. Unity was possible between the right and liberals, but not between the right and the left.
Liberalism — which was anti-left, pro-American and deeply committed to the Judeo-Christian foundations of America; and which regarded the melting pot as the American ideal, fought for free speech for its opponents, regarded Western civilization as the greatest moral and artistic human achievement and viewed the celebration of racial identity as racism — is now affirmed almost exclusively on the right and among a handful of people who don’t call themselves conservative.
The left, however, is opposed to every one of those core principles of liberalism.
Like the left in every other country, the left in America essentially sees America as a racist, xenophobic, colonialist, imperialist, warmongering, money-worshipping, moronically religious nation.
Just as in Western Europe, the left in America seeks to erase America’s Judeo-Christian foundations. The melting pot is regarded as nothing more than an anti-black, anti-Muslim, anti-Hispanic meme. The left suppresses free speech wherever possible for those who oppose it, labeling all non-left speech “hate speech.” To cite only one example, if you think Shakespeare is the greatest playwright or Bach is the greatest composer, you are a proponent of dead white European males and therefore racist.
Without any important value held in common, how can there be unity between left and non-left? Obviously, there cannot.
There will be unity only when the left vanquishes the right or the right vanquishes the left. Using the First Civil War analogy, American unity was achieved only after the South was vanquished and slavery was abolished.
How are those of us who oppose left-wing nihilism — there is no other word for an ideology that holds Western civilization and America’s core values in contempt — supposed to unite with “educators” who instruct elementary school teachers to cease calling their students “boys” and “girls” because that implies gender identity? With English departments that don’t require reading Shakespeare in order to receive a degree in English? With those who regard virtually every war America has fought as imperialist and immoral? With those who regard the free market as a form of oppression? With those who want the state to control as much of American life as possible? With those who repeatedly tell America and its black minority that the greatest problems afflicting black Americans are caused by white racism, “white privilege” and “systemic racism”? With those who think that the nuclear family ideal is inherently misogynistic and homophobic? With those who hold that Israel is the villain in the Middle East? With those who claim that the term “Islamic terrorist” is an expression of religious bigotry?
The third significant difference between the First and Second Civil Wars is that in the Second Civil war, one side has been doing nearly all the fighting. That is how it has been able to take over schools — from elementary schools, to high schools, to universities — and indoctrinate America’s young people; how it has taken over nearly all the news media; and how it has taken over entertainment media.
The conservative side has lost on every one of these fronts because it has rarely fought back with anything near the ferocity with which the left fights. Name a Republican politician who has run against the left as opposed to running solely against his or her Democratic opponent. And nearly all American conservatives, people who are proud of America and affirm its basic tenets, readily send their children to schools that indoctrinate their children against everything the parents hold precious. A mere handful protest when their child’s teacher ceases calling their son a boy or their daughter a girl, or makes “slave owner” the defining characteristic of the Founding Fathers.
With the defeat of the left in the last presidential election, the defeat of the left in two-thirds of the gubernatorial elections and the defeat of the left in a majority of House and Senate elections, this is likely the last chance liberals, conservatives and the right have to defeat the American left. But it will not happen until these groups understand that we are fighting for the survival of America no less than the Union troops were in the First Civil War.
Tom McClintock on the California ballot propositions for 2016.
From Thomas Sowell:
What Are We Celebrating?
There was a time when the Fourth of July meant something more than a three-day weekend. Speeches, writings and commemorative ceremonies reminded us of the origins and greatness of America. No matter where in the world our ancestors came from, we today are almost invariably better off because they came to America.
Independence Day signified much more than one country announcing its independence from another on July 4, 1776. It represented a new form of government — freer and more accountable to its own people than the monarchies common around the world for centuries.
What happened in America did not stay in America. The example of freedom inspired other peoples in other lands. As a famous poem put it, it was America’s “embattled farmers,” fighting for their own freedom and independence, who “fired the shot heard round the world.”
There was no question then that the United States was “exceptional,” however much the smug elites of today — including our President — try to dismiss the idea. Because self-government on such a large scale was a unique experiment, the founders of the American republic were very much aware that it had its dangers. Thomas Jefferson warned that “eternal vigilance” was the price of liberty. Even generations later, Abraham Lincoln expressed his fervent hope that “government of the people, by the people and for the people shall not perish from the earth.” The survival of freedom was not something he took for granted.
Today, too many Americans take freedom for granted, as just another entitlement, something that does not require them to take any personal responsibility.
It is painful to watch people on the streets — or on college campuses — being interviewed by TV reporters who ask them elementary questions about the people and institutions that run the country, and see how uninformed they are. And how unconcerned about their own gross ignorance.
People like that are the natural prey of political demagogues, of which there has never been a shortage. We see the consequences in ever expanding arbitrary powers of government. Just last week, a U.S. Attorney threatened prosecution of anyone who made “inflammatory” statements about Muslim boys accused of raping a 5-year-old girl.
Surely that Justice Department official knew that the courts were not likely to violate people’s right to free speech. But the real threat was to drag people through expensive and time-consuming legal processes that could disrupt their lives completely.
Such high-handed use of government powers has become increasingly common during the Obama administration. But an apathetic and uninformed public voted him a second term.
That is not the “eternal vigilance” required to preserve freedom. It is the widespread apathy and gullibility which accepts the coming of tyranny on the instalment plan.
Earlier generations of Americans fought and died to preserve freedom. Today’s generation cannot spare time from their selfies and twitters to think about such things. Neither the past nor the future seems to weigh on their minds.
A generation that owes so much to the past acts as if they owe nothing to anybody. Their idea of freedom is exemption from laws or obligations.
What many conceive of as freedom today is much more like anarchy: Who are the police to tell them what they cannot do?
But anarchy does not mean freedom. It means that people “become the slaves of ruffians.” What was said in 19th century Britain remains painfully true in too many crime-ridden neighborhoods in 21st century America.
The orgy of anti-police rhetoric in the wake of riots in Ferguson, Missouri and in Baltimore has already been followed by a sudden surge in violence, including murders, as police pull back or get pulled back. Innocent people have paid with their lives for such self-indulgences by demagogues and the media.
Freedom is not free. It requires, at a minimum, maturity and a sense of the realities of life. No society of human beings has ever been perfect. But we need only think of whatever person we love most and ask: Is that person perfect?
Is a country that is not perfect nevertheless deserving of our respect, our gratitude or our love? The Fourth of July is a good day to ponder that question.
From Charles C.W. Cooke:
Today is my son’s first Independence Day.
He doesn’t know that, of course, because he’s only three-and-a-half months old. But my wife and I do, and we’ve attempted to mark the occasion nevertheless — in loco filius, if you will. As such, Jack will be dressed today in a special onesie (stylized picture of a milk bottle, “Come and Take It” tagline); he will wear his Old Glory sun hat; and he will be involved in all the festivities that the family has to offer. Naturally, none of this will make even the slightest bit of sense to him; as a matter of fact, today will be the same as is any other day in the life of a baby, just with more people around and a surfeit of BBQ. But you have to start somewhere, right?
Because Jack is three months old, it is acceptable for his parents to treat July Fourth as an excuse for the purchase of kitsch. But what about after that? What about when he is five? Or twelve? Or nineteen? As a native Brit, I am accustomed to the self-deprecating instincts that are the hallmark of British society, and I am acquainted, too, with the reflexive aversion to patriotism that is all-too customary in the birthplace of Western liberty. In consequence, I know that if I were to leave my son befuddled by America’s Independence Day proceedings, he would probably stay that way in perpetuity. And that would be a tremendous, unconscionable shame — a shame that, frankly, would reflect poorly on me.
Once they reach a certain age, we expect our children to know what is what. As soon as they start speaking, we begin to teach them right and wrong; once they are old enough to be trusted with responsibility, we monitor closely how it is being used; and, in a process that is hopefully never-ending, we make sure that they know as much about the world around them as they are capable of taking in. It is in pursuit of this lattermost goal that we designate national holidays. In May, we celebrate Memorial Day, lest we forget what we owe our ancestors. In January, we observe Martin Luther King Day, that we might bring to mind the most uncomfortable parts of our nation’s past. And on July Fourth we arrange an ostentatious display of patriotism, in resounding commemoration of the moment that a ragtag bunch of philosopher-king rebels set their revolutionary ideals before a candid world, and changed human history forever.
In certain quarters it is fashionable to disdain these occasions, and, in so doing, to treat the past as if it were wholly disconnected from the present. Indeed, staunch defenders of the American Founding are often told that to embrace modernity it is necessarily to jettison the antique. “Why,” it is asked, “do we celebrate these flawed men and their pieces of parchment? After all, John Adams couldn’t even have imagined Tinder.”
Though narrow, this critique is indisputably correct. John Adams could not have imagined Tinder, and I daresay that he had no conception of high-frequency trading, of synthetic fibers, or of advanced robots either. But, ultimately, that is irrelevant. The beauty of the American Founding was not that it provided a detailed roadmap that could predict the minutiae of the future in glorious perpetuity, but that it laid out for all people a set of timeless and universal ideals, the veracity and applicability of which are contingent upon neither the transient mood of the mob nor the present state of technology. Among those ideals are that “all men are created equal,” and that they “are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights”; that “Governments are instituted among Men” in order to “secure” their “rights”; that legitimate power derives “from the consent of the governed”; and that if any such government is seized or corrupted by tyrants, “it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it.” At times, the United States has failed disastrously to live up to these principles, and, on at least one occasion, significant forces within the union have rejected them outright. But that an ideal has been violated in no way undermines its value, and it seems patently obvious to me that the country has been blessed by having had an eloquent North star to which its downtrodden could point from their moments of need.
If July Fourth is to represent anything concrete, it should serve as a golden opportunity to ensure that that star does not wither or implode or disappear from public view. In Britain — a less propositional nation in which the constitution is uncodified, in which there are no indisputably “foundational” documents, and in which there are no widely celebrated national days of meaning — it can be difficult to convey the importance of core national values, whatever those may be. Americans, by contrast, have fallen heir to an embarrassment of riches. If I cannot explain to my son how lucky he is to have been born here — and if I cannot demonstrate what a heavy responsibility it is to keep the candle burning — I do not deserve to be called “Dad.”
In a 1788 letter to Thomas Jefferson, James Madison outlined the didactic justification for the construction of the Bill of Rights. “Political truths declared in that solemn manner,” Madison proposed, tend to “acquire by degrees the character of fundamental maxims of free Government, and as they become incorporated with the national sentiment, counteract the impulses of interest and passion.” Such benefits are not limited to the Bill of Rights. Just as Americans will proudly cite the first ten Amendments in the course of defending the ordered liberty that is the birthright of all free men, so they are prone to cite the most explosive literature of the revolutionary era. If internalized and cherished, Abraham Lincoln argued, the Declaration of Independence would have the salutary effect of acting as “a rebuke and a stumbling-block to the very harbingers of re-appearing tyranny and oppression,” for Jefferson’s work was not “a merely revolutionary document” but the embalming of “an abstract truth, applicable to all men and all times.”
Yes, even to three-month-olds. Come and take it.