Kind of a good news, bad news situation here. But maybe not in the way you think.
A teachers union president in Washington State refers to reopening schools as a “white supremacist” initiative.
The good – or “good” – news: this is an example of the type of rhetorical, social and policy overreach one can expect when “progressives” – in this case invariably white, middle-class, and visibly “progressive” – find themselves in power. This statement – literally, “wanting your kids back in schools, and wanting some sense of stability and normalcy for their mental health, at a time when teenage suicide is exploding all over the country, is racist” is the very definition of “2+2=5” – mental health is mental illness, concern for kids is a pathology, truth is lies. (And the ability to say it without having ones own peers pelt one with rocks and garbage is Urban Progressive Privilege).
ut another way, evil – no scare quotes. Inverting moral truth and moral falsehood is as textbook a definition of venial evil as exists.
That’s the “good” news.
The bad news? About half the country, as this is written, doesn’t know any better, or just doesn’t want to think about it that hard.
I spent a lot of time thinking about this scene last week:
I first started paying serious attention to politics in about 1980. Like a lot of high school kids, then and now, I was somewhere out on what would be called “the left”; I wrote a platform for North Dakota Boys State (a statewide mock government program put on by the decidedly conservative American Legion) that called for systematic redistribution of wealth, abolishing nuclear energy and nuclear disarmament, and a whole bunch of stuff that would be pretty mainstream among the Bernie Bros today.
Three years later, due to the good graces of my English professor, Dr. Jim Blake, I had re-evaluated most of my assumptions. I voted for Ronald Reagan in 1984, and never really looked back.
And I had no reason to. None of us did. Although the history books, all being written from the perspective of the Left, will never admit it, the two decades from 1980 to 2000 were, objectively, the last American Golden Age. I’ll squeak out an optimistic coda and add “so far”, but I’ll be honest – I haven’t been feeling it, but I’m a firm believer in acting like you want to feel, and so there is is. “So far”.
I’ll come back to that.
There’s no denying it was one of the high points of American history. We led an economic surge that brought more wealth to more people than any in history. We, as a nation, led a political surge that led to the collapse of one of the most evil regimes in history (although not the other one – so far).
Maybe it’s just the perspective of one guy’s lifetime – but I suspect you’d have to look long and hard to find a place and time when it was generally better to be a human.
Not just in material terms, but in terms of the tension between freedom and order, one of the hardest things about running a self-governing society, being in relative balance – and, more importantly, the general commitment to the system and process that kept all those moving parts in balance.
And it’s been downhill from there.
The arc from Morning in America in 1980 to last week’s skirmish at the Capitol – which, loathe as I am to come even close to Democrat chanting points, was a form of coup, not against President-Elect Biden, but against the states’ constitutional power to select electors – peaked…somewhere in the late ’90s – when one of the glories of the American system, gridlocked government, combined with a Peace Dividend brought about by the end of the Cold War (thanks, President Reagan), led to an outburst of technological, entrepreneurial and market power that brought so much wealth, and security, and general well-being, to so many people that it may have been as close to a uptopia, in some ways, as humanity can get. Because of the gridlock in government.
Somewhere between 1998 and 2005, things started to turn back south again. It’d be easy to point to the polarization of American politics, starting with the various Clinton scandals, through the fiasco of the 2000 election, the near-decade of squabbling over the War on Terror and the 2008 government-caused financial meltdown, as the cause – but it went in parallel with a lot of other changes in our nation’s political, moral and social lives that have led to their…
…I was going to say “culmination” last week at the Capitol. But of course, that’s not true. Last week’s sorry episode was, like last summer’s riots, and the social back and forth that gave us Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton, Trump himself, and the movements that supported them all in a way that was increasingly “un-American” (I’m still claiming a meaning for that term), and if you think that was the peak, or trough, or any sort of ending to the story, you just haven’t paid attention to 20,000 years of human nature.
So let’s not call it a culmination. Let’s call it a checkpoint, on a path that may be going up, or down, but control over which We The People need to take before the phrase “We The People” is forever relegated to the museum.
How have we gotten from the peak of Western Civilization to…this, in my adult lifetime?
SCENE: Mitch BERG is standing, socially distanced, in line at the Q-Fanatic Barbeque in South Minneapolis. Focused on the smell of the delicious brisket, he’s caught by surprise as Avery LIBRELLE walks in behind him.
LIBRELLE: You wingnuts are paranoid. [Switches to that condescending coo-ing voice that “progressives” use as they parrot this particular chanting point] Nobody is coming for your guns.
BERG: Why do you say that?
LIBRELLE: You said the same scare tactic of Obama, and he never came for your guns.
BERG: Obama had some blue seats in red states to defend – had he let slip his inner id on guns, he’d have extincted them. Well, extincted them faster, because in a lot of America a “blue state Democrat” is a little like a “dodo bird driving an AMC Gremlin”.
LIBRELLE: So – he didn’t come for guns!
BERG: He was a lot of things, but not politically stupid.
LIBRELLE: Biden is even more centrist on the issue than Obama was. So no [switches back to the condescending coo-ing voice] Nobody’s coming for your guns.
BERG: Either you’re lying and he is coming for our guns, or he’s lying on his campaign website.
LIBRELLE: Well, of course he’s coming for…those guns.
BERG: So in one line, you’ve gone from [mocks the cooing tone] “nobody’s coming for your guns” to “we’re coming for the guns a bunch of people who don’t know the difference between a firing pin and a crochet needle think you don’t really need to have“. That was fast.
LIBRELLE: [Mocking tone] All right, you got me. Joe Biden’s gonna break into your house and take your guns.
BERG: So in two lines, we’ve gone from “Nobody’s taking your guns” to trying to mock me for catching in covering, badly, for your own lie.
LIBRELLE: Trump banned bump stocks.
BERG: Bad Trump. Don’t change the subject.
LIBRELLE: Hey, can you lend me ten bucks?
LIBRELLE: I need to run over and buy some spray paint to paint to paint “Meat is Murder” all over this place.
BERG: Ask them [BERG points a thumb toward unamused counter guy]
I grew up descended from people from an inhospitable place that nobody wanted to conquer and that nobody managed to enslave (or who managed to kill everyone that tried). My dominant culture has no experience of being enslaved – indeed, it abolished slavery hundreds of years before the rest of the world. It’s a “privilege” that every human in the world should have, and that I’m more than happy to share.
I grew up in a family where the parents stayed together (until we were all adults, anyway), and worked their butts off to give us a stable, loving upbringing where we were expected to grow up into productive, self-sufficient adults. My parents themselves were “privileged” with the same basic family structure, notwithstanding the Depression and World War 2.
Those are privileges I’m more than happy to spread to the whole world, and have nothing to do with my skin color.
I went to a public school system that was more concerned with teaching me to read, write, calculate, present myself, and reason than indoctrinating me in a view of society. It’s a “privilege” afford to very few these days.
I got a post-secondary education (thanks to my Mom working at the local college, with the commensurate tuition break) that focused on reason, logic and critical thought, rather than post-structural twaddle – not merely a “privilege”, but a decisive advantage in so many areas of my life.
Somewhere, I got a work ethic. I was blessed with ways to exercise it – for which I’m thankful. I’m more than happy to do my bit, and more, to make sure you get the same privilege.
I am a free person, with all the rights God endowed me, and all the responsibilities that position gives me. Freedom and responsibility are “privileges” I’ll fight to provide anyone who wants them, and against anyone who’ll deprive either of us of them.
In no case are those “privileges” zero-sum. My freedom takes nothing away from your freedom (that you’re not willing to give up, or at least pretend you’ve given up). And taking freedom away from others gives you no more; Germans, the Klan and Red Guards gained no freedom, no prosperity, no happiness from oppressing Jews, Afro-Americans or “counterrevolutionaries”; quite the opposite, in fact.
Freedom is the ultimate “privilege”. And it’s contagious, if you let it be. Try it, Sparky.
“If You’re Not Part Of The Solution, You’re Part Of The Problem”
People who use this statement always use it incompletely. I’ll do it again, filling in and emphasiing the words that are unstated but that actually define the statement.
“If you’re not part of the solution I’m demanding, you’re part of the problem that’s in my way“.
It’s incumbent on you to convince me – everyone – that your solution isn’t worse than the problem. If you are a socialist, if your “solution” can be shown via a rational argument based in fact to be worse than the problem you see, then you’re going to have a tough time of it.
And if you use statements like “If you’re not part of the solution…”, it’s going to be even tougher, because if you knew all that rational, factual, “convincing people” stuff, you wouldn’t have to resort to such twaddle.
Silence – if you catch me silent at all – is me keeping my mouth shut while I figure out what I think, to say nothing of what I’m going to say. Your freedom of speech doesn’t give you the right to tell me what I’m going to say.
If your response to that is “there is only one thing to say”, and that’s to agree with your point of view – then most likely you’re trying to logroll and shame people into knocking off all that pesky thinking, and just acquiescing. If your position is worthy, I may eventually agree with you. Not doing so, in and of itself, doesn’t make me the immoral one.
Logically, it’s Orwellian – silence is the opposite of violence. Morally, it’s worse than Orwellian.
If your response is “that’s how Germans reacted when Jews were getting hauled off” – well, there’s your opportunity to convince me that the issue we face is, actually, that clear-cut.
If it’s not? If there are some facets to the issue at hand over which reasonable people may debate?
If you were to tell a spouse or a significant other “if you’re not verbally acquiescing with my point of view, you are party to evil”, a therapist would call you an emotional abuser.
And they’d be right.
Logrolling is no substitute for a convincing argument.
Unfortunately, people using this form of logrolling, gaslighting chanting point aren’t trying to “convince”, and they’re not trying to provoke thought.