February 10, 2019
MY CORNER by Boyd Cathey
RACISM, SEXISM, and the Idea of Equality: What Is America All About?
Plus, Two Superb Essays by Christopher De Groot
I return to a topic that I have addressed previously on various occasions. Given what is occurring in our society and culture, the ever increasing frenzy and hysteria associated with what is called “the women’s movement” and the ever-changing, always-elevating “racism test,” a review of the basics, a return to and familiarity with our history, is incumbent on us if we are to survive as a nation.
The real problem is that American history, that is, American history that is not completely warped by a predetermined progressivist ideology, hardly exists today as a subject taught in most US colleges and universities. And on the high school level, one is fortunate these days to find a teacher who is not convinced that “race” and “sex” are the only factors that actually shaped our nation, or who is not so cowed by political correctness that he or she doesn’t fear to deviate from the new ironclad template.
This disastrous situation in education should be self-evident to most observers of academia, but it is not…and apparently not for many conservatives and Republicans.
Wonder why and how so many millions of Millenials now ardently believe extreme socialism is the way of the future? Or, why an innocent college prank from forty years ago brands you as a “racist” or “sexist” for life? Or, why most students now believe the United States at its founding was dominated by “white racists” who imposed a “toxic [white] masculinity” on these shores?
Look to our schools and colleges.
Just this past week I attended a legislative reception for North Carolina legislators hosted by the North Carolina Sons of Confederate Veterans. Outside, surrounding the host facility were shouting and screaming demonstrators, mostly Millenials, from several radical leftist groups located in central North Carolina, including the Workers’ World Party [https://www.hptaction.org/], and Antifa of North Carolina [ ].
Their praxis is to attempt to shut down opponents of their world-view. On an increasing number of college campuses the concept of “free speech” for those who dissent from the far Leftist viewpoint is no longer acceptable. The Yale [University] Daily News [February 8, 2019] now advocates spying on “white boys” so that when these “privileged” males reach fame, the silly words or pranks they committed in college decades before can be used against them: “I’m watching you white boy. And this time, I’m taking the screenshot!” wrote the editorialist [“should white boys still be allowed to share their ‘opinions’? Should we be forced to listen? In honor of Black History Month, I’m gonna go with a hell no.”
At the reception as legislators and their wives got out of their cars, the screaming Leftists would approach them, hurling epithets and demanding to know why they “supported racism and the KKK.” Additionally, they had cameras filming each and every guest, shouting “we know who you are and where you live, and we are coming for you!”
This, then, is what your college dollars—the tuition you pay—have produced. And this is the result of the bounty and largesse of such globalist financiers as George Soros and those like him, who bankroll these folks and their mob demonstrations.
This is the result of an educational narrative that dominates our educational system. And it is a fundamental template that is now shared not only by the frenzied revolutionary Left who get up in the faces of conservative legislators and attempt to shame them or scare them into silence or compliance, and who will follow them to their homes, but also, in effect, ironically by nearly all of the major conservative voices we hear on Fox or read in such publications as National Review.
You read that correctly….
That narrative is that America was founded on an “idea,” and that idea was “equality for all.” America, according to both the Progressivist Left and the Neoconservatives who dominate the “conservative movement,” is a “propositional nation,” based on the nebulous idea of “equality.” But, according to this version of our history, from the beginning that “idea” was perverted by evil white men and even more, evil slaveholders who prevented America from living up to its ideals.
That is not only inculcated into the minds of our children and students, but also is propagated as fact by the near-totality of our political class, whether in Congress or via the media.
Of course, Mainstream Conservatism attempts in its own way to rescue the idea by prattling on about “equality of opportunity” and that the Left has taken the concept “too far.” Yet, by accepting this as our original foundational principle, they inevitably fall to those who carry it to its logical extreme, and, thus, end up enabling them and, in a way, normalizing their narrative.
As history this nation founded on the idea of equality is false, and as policy it means the end of this country, the death of the republic, and the triumph of the far Left, enabled by a faux conservative opposition that accepts the fundamental precepts of the Left.
Among the voices who have demurred and who have demonstrated historically the falsity of this view and its eventually fatal results for what remains of our republic have been such historians and authors as George Carey, Mel Bradford, and Barry Alan Shain. Bradford back in 1976 warned presciently in a long essay in the pages of the Modern Age quarterly (Winter issue, 1976) of the incompatibility of the Neoconservative “propositional nation” vision with the inherited traditions and republican constitutionalism of the Founders and Framers. In that stand-alone essay, “,” Bradford laid bare the clear intentions of those who came together to form the American nation, while giving the lie to the Neocon narrative that the republic was founded on universalized propositions—“ideas”—of equality and liberal democracy. Those notions, he pointed out perceptively, were a hangover from their days and immersion in the globalist universalism that owed its origin to Marx and Trotsky, and to the Rationalist “philosophes” of the 18th century, rather than to the legacy of kinship and blood, an attachment to community and to the land, and a central religious core that annealed this tradition and continued to make it viable.
What Bradford revealed in his research about our original Constitution was ultimately distilled in his superb volume, Original Intentions: On the Making and Ratification of the American Constitution (Athens, GA, 1993). It remains a primary source for anyone interested in how we got our Constitution and what it means.
Along with Bradford, Colgate University historian Barry Alan Shain has confirmed in his well-documented The Declaration of Independence in Historical Context: American State Papers, Petitions, Proclamations, and Letters of the Delegates to the First National Congresses (2014) that our old republic was not founded on abstractions about “equality” or “democracy,” or some fanatical zeal to “impose our democracy and equality” on the rest of the world, or that we were “the model for the rest of the world,” to paraphrase the neoconservative writer Allan Bloom. We were a country founded by those who had left the old world in family and community, from England and Scotland, from Germany and France, and eventually from other countries, in search of better lands for them and for more opportunity for them and their children.
Historian David Hackett Fisher’s impressive study, Albion’s Seed: British Folkways in America (1989), details and traces that quest, a quest that carried with it the beliefs, the blood, and the culture of those immigrants from the old world to the new. Unlike the Puritans of Massachusetts, most of the new Americans did not come to these shores to establish some “new City of God,” some new “Shining City on a Hill.” Their goal was not to establish an egalitarian Utopia, from which then they would go forth to impose equality and democracy on the rest of the world. They brought with them their customs, their folklore, their music and arts, and their religion from the old world. And as they moved West across the Appalachians and across the Great Plains to the Rocky Mountains they carried that culture with them.
My father’s own family originally came to Philadelphia in 1716, having passed a few decades in County Monaghan in what is now Northern Ireland, and before that from Ayrshire, Scotland. Coming down the Great Wagon Road they made their way to old Rowan and Mecklenburg counties in North Carolina by the 1740s, from which they spread out, a few finally reaching the California gold fields in 1848, some founding a town that continues to exist even today, Catheys Valley, close to Yosemite National Park.
And what is fascinating is to scan a phone book from 1950 for Catheys Valley and compare it with the parish registries from old Ayrshire and Monaghan counties from three centuries before: the family surnames in large part remain the same. Those people who departed Scotland in the early 1600s left in family, and they remained together when they came to America.
Robert W. Ramsey’s study, Carolina Cradle: Settlement of the Northwest Carolina Frontier, 1747-1762 (1964), maps the “Scotch-Irish Settlement” in Rowan County, North Carolina, in the 1740s. And those recorded surnames are in the main the same as a century before and as two centuries after in places like Catheys Valley. Like other immigrants my ancestors came as part of a community. The concept that they were somehow possessed of a mission to “remake” and democratize the world and that they were in the vanguard of a globalized and Utopian egalitarianism, would have struck them as the antithesis of their shared beliefs.
But that is what we are told is the mission of America, that is what our schools and colleges teach, and that is what we have failed to accomplish. And it is the door ajar that has permitted the growing extremist Left to seize the initiative and apply these “propositions” in such a way as to facilitate their success on the road to converting the republic into what will be an authoritarian state that will make present-day Venezuela look desirable. For “equality” is a chimerical goal. In the hands of ideologues it becomes the cudgel to enslave those who disagree, the triumph of the savage pigs of Orwell’s Animal Farm, who accomplish their evil under the rubric of equality: “All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others!” Inherently, the Leftist revolutionaries recognize this: Power is the ultimate goal, complete power over us and power to transform what is left of this nation into something that even Orwell’s pigs might find unimaginable.
Two recent essays by my friend, Christopher De Groot, examine some of these questions, adding valuable detail and acute observations. Christopher’s new Web site, The Agonist [www.theagonist.org], I recommend highly for its superb articles and commentary. Here are his fine pieces:
January 18, 2019
America was founded by British Protestant men. The Constitution, as we read in its Preamble, was meant to “secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity.” And yet, today ethnic traditionalism—a concept that includes religion—is off the table as a political good for white Americans. Indeed, anyone who, like Rep. Steve King, even dares to ask, in short, “What’s so bad about white traditions?” is sure to be condemned as a racist, and as happened to King, punishment may swiftly follow.
Any nationalism that wants to be acceptable in polite company—including Congress—must now be founded on certain Enlightenment abstractions: equality, liberty, and the like lofty notions. For the state itself exists, according to the enthusiastic believers, to realize these goods.
There are, however, a number of problems with this conception of the state. To begin with, most people really aren’t all that serious about America the propositional nation. Of course, they’re happy to sing the praises of equality and liberty, as they are of free markets and limited government, but in practice, such language mainly functions as a means for realizing individual interests and group interests, not any good.
Our affections being, for the most part, local and rather limited in their applications, we find that talk about supposedly universal abstract goods is usually meaningless outside of its rhetorical (and often merely manipulative) purpose. Man, moreover, is essentially irrational; therefore, as motivating forces, and as justifications for the state itself, equality, liberty, and the rest pale in comparison with religion and the notion of “our people.”
To be sure, traditional blood-and-soil nationalism is hardly an unmixed good. It can make, and has made, for some immoral and crude attitudes and behaviors. Yet it’s strange that, while many people recognize the problems associated with such ethnic traditionalism, few of us seem to have a proper skepticism regarding the abstractions that, we’re to believe, are now the purpose of and justification for the state itself. Few people seem to know, or at least take seriously, the truth that the Enlightenment values which so many cherish, or appear to cherish, are themselves the fruits of organic, local, context-specific traditions.
One notable exception is the Israeli philosopher Yoram Hazony. “The Dark Side of the Enlightenment,” Hazony’s April 6, 2018, in , is a wise corrective for our naive rationalists, so I will quote it at length:
Consider the claim that the U.S. Constitution was a product of Enlightenment thought, derived by throwing out the political traditions of the past and applying unfettered human reason. Disproving this idea requires only reading earlier writers on the English constitution. The widely circulated 15th-century treatise “In Praise of the Laws of England,” written by the jurist John Fortescue, clearly explains due process and the theory now called “checks and balances.” The English constitution, Fortescue wrote, establishes personal liberty and economic prosperity by shielding the individual and his property from the government. The protections that appear in the U.S. Bill of Rights were mostly set down in the 1600s by those drafting England’s constitutional documents—men such as John Selden, Edward Hyde and Matthew Hale.
These statesmen and philosophers articulated the principles of modern Anglo-American constitutionalism centuries before the U.S. was created. Yet they were not Enlightenment men. They were religious, English nationalists and political conservatives. They were familiar with the claim that unfettered reason should remake society, but they rejected it in favor of developing a traditional constitution that had proved itself. When Washington, Jay, Hamilton and Madison initiated a national government for the U.S., they primarily turned to this conservative tradition, adapting it to local conditions.
Nor is there much truth in the assertion that we owe modern science and medicine to Enlightenment thought. A more serious claim of origin can be made by the Renaissance, the period between the 15th and 17th centuries, particularly in Italy, Holland and England. Tradition-bound English kings, for example, sponsored path breaking scientific institutions such as the Royal College of Physicians, founded in 1518. One of its members, William Harvey, discovered the circulation of the blood in the early 17th century. The Royal Society of London for Improving Natural Knowledge, founded in 1660, was led by such men as Robert Boyle and Isaac Newton, decisive figures in physics and chemistry. Again, these were politically and religiously conservative figures. They knew the arguments, later associated with the Enlightenment, for overthrowing political, moral and religious tradition, but mostly they rejected them.
In short, the principal advances that today’s Enlightenment enthusiasts want to claim were “set in motion” much earlier. And it isn’t at all clear how helpful the Enlightenment was once it arrived.
Needless to say, the figures Hazony references weren’t beset by our decadent, self-destructive aversion to the national interest and our own heritage. They took such values for granted, and working within their traditions, they were able to accomplish the marvelous things that they did. The fertility rate in Hazony’s Israel is 3.1 births per woman. Here in the U.S. it’s 1.7 births per woman. That figure, like those found throughout Europe (Iceland alone excepted), is below population replacement level, a reality that presents many long-term economic challenges. Meanwhile, if current trends continue, fiercely nationalistic China will surpass the U.S. as the world’s dominant power in the near future.
In view of all this, it seems clear that the propositional nation isn’t as valuable as the neocons, the , and other ardent levelers would have us believe. It’s often said, for example, that open borders are necessary to maintain population growth. But this assumes that immigrants, on the whole, are adequate for a 21st-century cognitive economy, even though the vast majority lack the requisite skill sets. Open-borders advocates also overlook issues of cultural compatibility and the need to put America’s own working class first. Indeed, the trouble with the propositional nation is that it raises the question of why there should be a nation at all: If the lofty abstractions are what America is for, and how it justifies itself, then why should only “our people” enjoy them? Is such exclusivity not, at bottom, a blood-and-soil thing? Yes, it is.
Many people today seem to think that government works rather like computer programming: Simply implement the right policies, and people can thrive anywhere. But men and women are not software, and besides, this Enlightenment dream ignores the actual character of the Enlightenment itself. Finally, we should know by now that such blind rationalism easily lends itself to foolish and destructive endeavors, such as democratic nation building in the Middle East.
Do the limitations of the propositional nation mean we should embrace ethnic traditionalism? I must confess my perplexity here, which I think many people in our uncertain time will share. I’m an atheist who doesn’t identify with white people (or any other group) in a deep sense. Still, I remain a reactionary for several reasons, one of them being my opposition to the technocratic, homogenizing world order that men like call for with great fervor. Writing in , happily that “The demographic sectors that are the hottest hotbeds of populism are all in decline: rural, less educated, older, and ethnic majorities.” Nevertheless, such Deplorables have given and his ilk a lot of pains:
For believers in Enlightenment and progress, the second year of Donald Trump’s presidency felt like being strapped to a table and getting a series of unpredictable electric shocks. They include his kissing up to autocratic thugs, undermining a free press and judiciary, demonizing foreigners, gutting environmental protections, blowing off climate science, renouncing international cooperation, and threatening to renew a nuclear arms race.
Of course, however, the is never without good news. “But before we imagine the future as a boot stamping on a human face forever,” he continues (alluding to George Orwell’s ),
…we need to put authoritarian populism in perspective. Despite its recent swelling, populism appears to have . A majority of Americans consistently Trump, and in Europe, nationalist parties in 2018 elections…. The travails of Trump and Brexit in 2018 are a reminder to supporters that populism works better in theory than in practice. Lined up against it are democratic checks and balances within a country and pressures toward global cooperation outside it, the only effective means to deal with trade, migration, pollution, pandemics, cybercrime, terrorism, piracy, rogue states, and war.
And though Trump and other reactionary leaders can do real damage, and will have to be opposed and contained for some time to come, they are not the only actors in the world. The forces of modernity, including connectivity, mobility, science, and the ideals of human rights and human welfare, are distributed among a wide array of governments and private-sector and civil-society organizations, and they have gained too much momentum to be shifted into reverse overnight.
While they contain some truth, on the whole, these passages are quite glib and cheap, complex issues being simplified into progressive boilerplate. I don’t have the space for analysis, however, so let me simply observe here that this sort of thinking is just what should be expected from the rather neocon-like crowd. Indeed, recently had a party in Toronto, where and themselves were in attendance. Like those two warmongering hysterics, and like himself, it is the function of the crowd, in politics, to lend a naive rationalist faith to the technocratic globalist agenda. National sovereignty, and the desire of ordinary people to govern themselves, are to be subordinated to the calculations of large , many of them transnational. And all this while Europe is gradually dying off, with America perhaps not far behind.
Like the neocons, the crowd says all the right things about equality, universal human rights, humanism, and the like moral clichés, for as intellectuals know very well, there is ever a good living in such pretense. The crowd is led by the magazine’s founding editor, Claire Lehmann. Although she is celebrated as a steward of “free thought,” precisely the opposite is true; as I explain in my “The Intellectual Dark Web’s Unwise Center,” Lehmann is a fraud. In this respect, she is of course akin to neocons like and . The two groups are ideological bedfellows, and the independent right should regard the crowd with the same suspicion and distrust as it does the neocons.
During the State of the Union address on Tuesday, a group of female Democrats, dressed in all white (in tribute to the suffragettes of the early 20th century), sat looking quite unimpressed by the president’s rhetoric. Seeing their faces, which ranged from sullen to sour, I felt profound sympathy, and looking back on the young beauties I used to date, I hoped our poor elected representatives would give yoga classes and Instagram a try, for they were bitter and in need of a diversion.
For some, the female Democrats represent the growing gender divide in politics, and the trouble Donald Trump would likely have getting enough female votes in order to be reelected in 2020. Others are optimistic about the spectacle. For instance, at , Sebastian Gorka :
The party that has built its image as the party for the oppressed, for minorities, for the working class, sat scowling as the president regaled everyone else with the news of how his policies have brought employment, security, and prosperity to our nation, the likes of which the world has never seen, and especially to exactly those groups. Freshman diva Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) couldn’t even bring herself to applaud the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agent President Trump recognized for rescuing more than 300 girls and women from human-traffickers. Ah, yes, the “party of women.”
But the masterstroke was the president’s decision to celebrate women—even those scowling women. He celebrated especially the historic number of women gainfully employed, including within the halls of Congress. Suddenly at that mention, the self-declared suffragettes looked at each other, decided to stand up, high-five the air and cheer. For themselves. And they had no idea what he had just done.
This was rhetorical jujitsu the likes of which I thought I would never see again since Trump’s “I’m with you!” moment in New York. In one deft joyous flourish of heartfelt celebration for the fairer sex, Donald Trump the master orator showed the “New Wave” Democrats for who they truly are: a selfish, mean-spirited, parochial, clique that only care for themselves and not for real Americans. No number of policy papers or campaign ads could do that. Pure genius.
Gorka, who is hardly an unbiased observer, may be attributing “pure genius” to the president where he simply enjoyed good luck. It was surely decided in advance that Trump would “celebrate women,” and the female Democrats being so averse to him, it was only that celebration which prompted them to “stand up, high-five the air and cheer.” And only “,” of course.
But while that reaction certainly “showed the ‘New Wave’ Democrats for who they truly are,” whether it will significantly increase Trump’s appeal to women voters is an open question. If anything, the reaction confirmed that the female Democrats can’t stand him. What’s more, polls since Trump was elected in 2016 suggest that his support among women, already pretty low, has decreased. Gorka and other Trump partisans are thrilled to see the true colors of the new identity-politics Democrats, but those true colors aren’t news, and it’s unlikely that Trump will gain many female voters on the left after Tuesday’s display—they won’t support him in any event—though it’s possible that he’ll gain some right-leaning women who had been on the fence.
The view that “the historic number of women gainfully employed, including within the halls of Congress” is something to celebrate is very revealing. Greater group equality (read: ideally, sameness of outcome) is supposedly a good in itself, irrespective of how people are living their lives, what they believe, and the effects of their ideas and policies on the nation as a whole. Motivated by status envy, feminists have taught women that the way to receive recognition is through success in the workplace, which is apparently superior in value to women’s traditional domestic roles. Yet while women are bent on achieving “gender parity” in every field, the American family is in a bad way. I described this in my Aug. 31, 2018, , “Junk Science and the Feminist Manipulation Agenda”:
In 1950, married couples represented 78 percent of households in the United States. In 2011, the US Census Bureau reported, that percentage had dropped to 48 percent…. [In 2014], for the first time, the number of unmarried American adults outnumbered those who were married…. Meanwhile, only 30 percent of Millennials say that having a successful marriage is “one of the most important things” in life, according to the Pew Research Center, down from even the 47 percent of Generation X who said the same thing in 1997. Four in 10 Americans went ever further, telling Pew researchers in 2010 that marriage was becoming obsolete.
Nor is that all of the grim statistics. Between 40 and 45 percent of marriages end in divorce, a figure that does not account for the proportion, now larger than ever, of people who cohabitate without marrying, or for the number of cohabitating couples having children, which has increased tenfold in the past decade. Four out of ten children are illegitimate. Among blacks, the proportion is nearly three-quarters. The birth rate has fallen to a record low, and is…short of the population replacement level.
To this I would add an observation by the sociologist Mark Regnerus, from his “The Future of American Sexuality and Family: Five Key Trends,” published on Oct. 17, 2018, in :
Marriage is…in the throes of “.” It is no longer a shelter to be ducked into, a way for two to construct something together out of nothing but love. And it’s no longer expected. Instead, it’s a symbol, an unnecessary but nice luxury item, a capstone of a successful young adulthood. Americans now hold out for picket fences, figuratively speaking. Why? Because they can, because they have been taught to, and—at least for men—because sex is cheap.
Unfortunately, not everyone can afford this new type of marriage. Although the benefits of marriage are still—in theory—available to all, marriage is increasingly a middle- and upper-middle-class thing. As a result, income inequality—a social phenomenon often aided by getting married—is getting worse.
The core of Trump’s voting base is white men, but if current trends in marriage and immigration continue, eventually the support of white men won’t be sufficient for Republican president to get elected. Even in 2016 Trump wouldn’t have won the presidency without the support he got from women on the right. Single women are overwhelmingly liberal, and a lesser proportion of married women in the future means a lesser proportion of conservative female votes.
Having children out of wedlock is no longer taboo, and many women don’t believe children need fathers. Plus, as Regnerus notes, marriage is becoming unobtainable for many working-class people. All this means that, provided we can still fund them, social welfare programs in the future are likely to make a greater proportion of mothers dependent on the government; that is, fellow taxpayers. But though Uncle Sam can keep your children alive, he can’t give them a father, a sad reality that the condition of the black family, with its 74 percent illegitimacy rate, makes abundantly clear. There is a huge literature showing that children who have both parents do better in every area of life than children raised by one parent. Of course, however, nobody can make women change their minds who regard fathers as dispensable.
It is important to understand that when it comes to gender equality, we are very much in uncharted waters. We hear a lot these days about women in the workplace, yet the state of the family, and of children, doesn’t get remotely comparable media attention. Still, we don’t know whether a culture in which most mothers and fathers have to work full-time, while their children are effectively raised by other people, can last, let alone flourish. Both Europe and America have been seriously altered by the professionalization of women, while the U.S. does not have a replacement-level birth rate, and of European countries only Iceland does. The time is not far off, perhaps, when people realize that, like the loss of religion, the loss of traditional gender roles entails the death of peoples.
Besides the poor state of the family, another reason to doubt the value of equality is its tendency to debase and even obliterate higher values. When Thomas Jefferson wrote in the Declaration of Independence that “all men are created equal,” he meant that no man had a justification for ruling over another. Moral concepts are not static, however, so that legal sense of equality has morphed into the vague belief that all people are equal in some ultimate sense. It is this that makes equality so pernicious. “He who seeks equality between unequals seeks an absurdity,” said Spinoza. It was not for nothing that men as different as Samuel Johnson, Thomas Carlyle, and Friedrich Nietzsche all had contempt for democracy and equal rights. For they knew these things function to level everyone down to a base, common plane. In time, historical memory suffers: People forget, or never learn, why a man such as George Washington or Robert E. Lee merits reverence. They see no one and nothing to revere. So they do not know what reverence is, and they do not revere at all. Quite a price to pay for equality.