Thursday, January 19, 2023

                                       January 19, 2023


 

MY CORNER by Boyd Cathey

 

Robert E. Lee, MLK, and Russell Kirk: No “House United



Friends,

January 19 is the anniversary of the birth of General Robert E. Lee, perhaps the greatest military commander the United States (or the Confederate States) has ever produced, and certainly one of finest Christian gentleman in the two millennia history of our Western civilization. I was intending to write a piece commemorating that signal event—and the general’s continuing importance, despite the insanely ignorant, frenzied and vicious attacks on him in recent years.

But I have written on Lee previously, and others have done so expertly on his anniversary. And thinking about how far as a people we have descended, how we have allowed our history and traditions to be wrenched away from us, how we have allowed in a real sense actual traitors to our culture and our inheritance to poison and infect that heritage and denounce it as racist and bigoted, akin to the worse features of Naziism…thinking about that, I returned to the essay I published on January 13 of this year, titled “MLK, Russell Kirk, and the Ignominy of Modern Conservatism.” That column, part of the MY CORNER by Boyd Cathey series, has already had substantial exposure. It was picked up by THE UNZ REVIEW, THE ABBEVILLE INSTITUTE, VDare Twitter, Ilana Mercer’s “Barely-a-Blog,” and several other outlets, including several overseas. So, it’s not like readers need to read it once again.

But thinking about Lee, taken down now so criminally from atop his well-deserved monuments, while Martin Luther King is hoisted over and over again onto his pedestal of foul feculence, and how we are commanded to bow down to him like slaves to the god Baal, I could not help but recall that latest barbarity, the latest fanatical assault on the central core of our “permanent things.” For King represents in nearly every way not only the antithesis of Robert E. Lee, but also of Russell Kirk, and of those heroes we once held high as exemplars of the finest men of our history.

I recall a conversation I had with Kirk back when I was his assistant in Mecosta, Michigan, in the fall of 1971. Russell compared Lee to the noble “Chevalier sans peur et sans reproche” [“the knight without fear and without reproach”], the Knight Pierre de Bayard of the late 15th century. I had never heard of Bayard, but reading up a bit I came to see what Kirk was saying. Those noble characteristics that Bayard exhibited went far beyond knightly routine; they were, in a way, almost supernatural in quality. And Robert E. Lee, in Russell Kirk’s estimation, had filled a similar role in the difficult history of the American nation.

Now it is Kirk’s turn to have his legacy, his life, and his essential views emulsified into a smelly porridge, unrecognizable, undigestible, but oh-so-politically-correct, and thus, just maybe acceptable to some on the Left and to the self-congratulatory “modern conservative movement": “Look, everyone, we aren’t racists! And old Russell who said all those nasty things back in the 1950s, ‘60s, ‘70s, and ‘80s, well, look at him now! We’ve tidied him up!”

That purification process has not yet been attempted on Lee, for he may well be outside the realm of “trans” possibilities. But for Lee admirers like Russell Kirk, by all means, due to his relative position in the history of American Conservatism, something had to be done.

Thus, in this column I discuss in particular and in a bit more detail the flagrant abuse of the legacy and beliefs of Dr. Kirk. Just recently (January 16) the Russell Kirk Center for Cultural Renewal—the organization established in his name to supposedly perpetuate his ideas and vision for Western civilization—forcibly conjoined “the Sage of Mecosta” with black activist, John Woods Jr. in a special Martin Luther King Day event co-sponsored by the Acton Institute of Grand Rapids. The object? To somehow combine “Kingian nonviolence with Kirkian Conservatism,” to somehow forge a “communitarian” consensus and bring “right and left” together.

Of course, and let’s sit down with Rachel Maddow and Al Sharpton over a couple of beers and just compromise our “differences” away. My advice is not to invite partisans of Lucifer over to lunch (or visit them in their caves) and attempt to find consensus with them: you lose every time and end up their prisoner.

I recall a quote that Russell sometimes cited. It is by the 17th century writer Sir Thomas Browne, from his volume, Religio Medici. Although I do not have the exact citation, it goes something like this: “Not every man is a fit champion of Truth. Many there are who, reckless without wisdom and prudence, charge the enemies of Truth, but remain prisoners thereof.”

A mesalliance between Kirk and King is not just inconceivable, but is rather a direct and especially gross insult to both the memory and the philosophy of my former mentor and friend for twenty-seven years, for whom I spent a fruitful year as his assistant (1971-1972) in the wilds of central Michigan.

King is not worth the spittle spewed from the mouth of Kirk…or of Lee.

Here is my slightly revised essay:

*****

The latest ideological outrage perpetrated within the “conservative movement” has been the “cleansing” inflicted on Russell Kirk, who is credited with founding the movement back in the early 1950s. And it arrives with the sponsorship and imprimatur of the institution heralding his name, The Russell Kirk Center for Cultural Renewal, which hosted a joint conference with the Acton Center in Grand Rapids, on Monday, January 16, featuring black activist John Woods, Jr.  Woods’ Web site, Braver Angels, declares that his own organization is dedicated to “healing the wounds between left and right…. At Braver Angels, our work is about building a house united. (A photo of glassy-eyed Clinton and Trump supporters from 2016 decorates his site.)

 

Here is a portion of the invitation from the Kirk Center (signed by Jeff Nelson, the CEO of the Center):

Without King and Kirk, modern American Social Justice liberalism and modern American conservatism as we know them would not exist. And yet, for all of their differences, our modern politics suffer because contemporary liberalism and conservatism often lack the grounding in virtues, communitarian values and faith in an ordered universe to which both Kingian Nonviolence and Kirkian Conservatism held fast. Is it possible that by reacquainting ourselves with these lost traditions we could summon the better angels of left and right and restore a politics of virtue for the modern age?

This inanity is built on blatant intellectual legerdemain. How can my old friend Jeff write such words with a straight face and without blushing embarrassment?

Once individuals such as Kirk were thought too philosophically unwieldy to be incorporated into the budding pantheon of conservative political correctness. Although usual pro forma tributes regularly praised his earlier achievements, his unfavorable views of King, his opposition to civil rights legislation, his consistent arguments against egalitarianism, his opposition to the rabid anti-colonialism of the 1950s and 1960s, and his anger directed at George H. W. Bush (he was Pat Buchanan’s campaign chairman in Michigan in 1992 at the same time I headed the Buchanan effort in North Carolina) are significant markers which must be catalogued.

From fall 1967 for twenty-six years, I corresponded with Russell. As chairman of the Visiting Lecture Program at Pfeiffer University I managed to bring him down for a weekend. Then, after completing an MA in 1971 as a Thomas Jefferson Fellow at the University of Virginia, Kirk requested that I travel to Mecosta to serve as his assistant for 1971-1972. Editing Kirk’s little educational quarterly, The University Bookman, was one of my major responsibilities. In its pages he insisted on open debate on such topics as cognitive disparities between the races (he published a review of Dr. Audrey M. Shuey’s study, The Testing of Negro Intelligence, and other politically-incorrect volumes).

In the spring of 1972 one night we sat in his library as the results of the Michigan Democratic presidential primary came in. I had a radio, and at Russell’s urging I brought it down from my room on the second floor of the library building. Kirk applauded George Wallace’s upset victory, although I don’t think he desired that his wife find out!

While at the University of Virginia I completed a semester paper titled, “Robert Lewis Dabney and the New South Creed.” Russell knew little of Dabney, save for what he had read in Richard Weaver’s The Southern Tradition at Bay. But he read my essay, liked it very much, and suggested I send it to David Collier, then editor at Modern Age. I did just that, and Collier responded, tentatively accepting it for publication, but with a couple of minor editing suggestions.

Unfortunately, I never got around to those edits. Yet, since then I have gone back to work on the paper, and it has found outlets in several publications.

One particular passage that caught Kirk’s attention and interest was Dabney’s acute and prophetic description of American conservatism. Written as part of Dabney’s response against efforts to enact women’s suffrage, Kirk wrote to me in the early 1990s—the George Bush years—that he was especially delighted in this passage, marveling that Dabney could have been so prescient a full century earlier (1875):

This is a party which never conserves anything. 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. What was the resisted novelty of yesterday is to-day one of the accepted principles of conservatism; it is now conservative only in affecting to resist the next innovation, which will to-morrow be forced upon its timidity, and will be succeeded by some third revolution, to be denounced and then adopted in its turn.

American conservatism is merely the shadow that follows Radicalism as it moves forward towards perdition. It remains behind it, but never retards it, and always advances near its leader. This pretended salt hath utterly lost its savor: wherewith shall it he salted? Its impotency is not hard, indeed, to explain. It is worthless because it is the conservatism of expediency only, and not of sturdy principle. It intends to risk nothing serious, for the sake of the truth, and has no idea of being guilty of the folly of martyrdom. It always—when about to enter a protest—very blandly informs the wild beast whose path it essays to stop, that its ‘bark is worse than its bite,’ and that it only means to save its manners by enacting its decent r├┤le of resistance.

The only practical purpose which it now subserves in American politics is to give enough exercise to Radicalism to keep it ‘in wind,’ and to prevent its becoming pursy and lazy from having nothing to whip. No doubt, after a few years, when women's suffrage shall have become an accomplished fact, conservatism will tacitly admit it into its creed, and thenceforward plume itself upon its wise firmness in opposing with similar weapons the extreme of baby suffrage; and when that too shall have been won, it will be heard declaring that the integrity of the American Constitution requires at least the refusal of suffrage to asses. There it will assume, with great dignity, its final position. [Dabney, “Women’s Rights Women,” The Southern Magazine, 1871.]

The present nugatory “conservative movement” has no room for the real Russell Kirk. His fundamental beliefs and views are now discreetly ignored, or simply redacted, and he emerges fully purified of his earlier inequities and stains of racism.

Friday, January 13, 2023

                                        January 13, 2023

 

 

MY CORNER by Boyd Cathey

 

MLK, Russell Kirk, and the Ignominy of Modern Conservatism

         
                                                    

For the past forty years (officially since 1986) the third Monday in January has been celebrated as a federal holiday, Martin Luther King Day. Federal and state offices and many businesses either close or go on limited schedules. We are awash with public observances, parades, prayer breakfasts, stepped-up school projects for our unwary and intellectually-abused children, and gobs and gobs of over-the-top television “specials” and movies, all geared to tell us—to shout it in our faces, if we don’t pay strict attention—that King was some sort of superhuman, semi-divine civil rights leader who brought the promise of equality to millions of Americans, a kind of modern St. John the Baptist ushering in the Millennium. And that he stands just below Jesus Christ in the pantheon of revered and adored historical personages…and in some ways, perhaps above Jesus Christ in the minds of many of his present-day devotees and epigones.

It seems to do no good to issue a demurrer to this veritable religious “cult of Dr. King.” There are, indeed, numerous “Christian” churches that now “celebrate” this day just as if it were a major feast in the Christian calendar. In short, Martin Luther King has received de facto canonization religiously and in the public mind as no other person in American history.

And the King cult has taken hold in the “conservative movement” with an especial tsunami-like effect.

The latest outrage of this revolutionary “cleansing” of traditional conservatism has been what has been inflicted on Russell Kirk, the “Sage of Mecosta,” the generally acknowledged founder of the American conservative movement back in the early 1950s. And it comes at the behest and invitation of the very institution bearing his name, The Russell Kirk Center for Cultural Renewal, which plans to host a joint conference with the Acton Center, on Monday, January 16, with black activist John Woods, Jr., doing the honours. Under the looming visage of Abe Lincoln, Woods’ Web site, Braver Angels, defines his own organization as dedicated “to depolarization…bridging the partisan divide….” (A photo of a gaggle of brainless, lovey-dovey, googly-eyed Clinton and Trump supporters decorate the site.)

Here is part of the blurb from the Kirk Center:

Without King and Kirk, modern American Social Justice liberalism and modern American conservatism as we know them would not exist. And yet, for all of their differences, our modern politics suffer because contemporary liberalism and conservatism often lack the grounding in virtues, communitarian values and faith in an ordered universe to which both Kingian Nonviolence and Kirkian Conservatism held fast. Is it possible that by reacquainting ourselves with these lost traditions we could summon the better angels of left and right and restore a politics of virtue for the modern age?

Outrage is too mild a term to use to describe this inane barbarity. It is built on lies and blatant falsehood.

At one time figures such as Kirk were considered too unwieldly, too untouchable to be incorporated into the swirling vortex of crazed conservative political correctness. Very simply, although the standard encomia were regularly paid to his earlier accomplishments and role, his essential (negative) views on King, his opposition to the civil rights movement (and legislation), his staunch arguments against egalitarianism, his opposition to the frenzied anti-colonialism of the 1950s and 1960s (cf., his adventure novel, A Creature of the Twilight, set in late colonialist Africa), and his virulent disgust directed at George H. W. Bush (which led him to become chairman of Pat Buchanan’s campaign in Michigan in 1992, just as I chaired the North Carolina Buchanan effort) are significant mileposts which Kirk biographer, Bradley Birzer, must acknowledge (see generally, Birzer, Russell Kirk: American Conservative;  University of Kentucky Press, 2015).

From 1967, when I was a college freshman, until shortly before his death in 1994, I corresponded frequently with Russell. As chairman of the Pfeiffer University Visiting Lecture Program—that would never happen today!—I brought him to my school. And, then, after a year as a Thomas Jefferson Fellow at the University of Virginia (where I finished my MA in 1971), Kirk asked me to come to Mecosta to serve as his assistant for 1971-1972. There I was privileged to learn from the Master.  Not only did I delve deeply into roots of traditional Anglo-American conservatism (I assisted RK on Eliot and His Age and The Roots of American Order), but one responsibility I had was to edit Kirk’s little educational quarterly, The University Bookman. There he demonstrated his willingness, among other difficult topics, to debate cognitive disparities between the races (publishing, for example, reviews of Dr. Audrey M. Shuey’s study, The Testing of Negro Intelligence, and other politically-incorrect volumes).

And then, I recall sitting in his library with him as the results of the Michigan Democratic presidential primary filtered in in the spring of 1972. Although television sets and radios were not permitted in the old house, “Piety Hill,” up the street, I had a radio, and at Russell’s urging I brought it down from my room (the second floor of the library building). Kirk delighted in George Wallace’s upset victory, although I don’t think he wished his wife Annette to find out!

Such examples of his thinking and actions are now all swept under the carpet, carefully ignored, or simply rewritten, and the “Sage of Mecosta” emerges with new raiment, diminished and stuffed in a Procrustean bed, fully “trans-ed” and purified of his earlier inequities and sins of racism and against “human rights.”

Let us recall a little history, and this I essentially repeat from my earlier essays on this subject to which I refer the reader.

Mention the fact that King may have plagiarized as much as 40 % of his Boston University Ph.D. dissertation [cf. Theodore Pappas, Plagiarism and the Culture War: The Writings of Martin Luther King, Jr, and Other Prominent Americans, 1998, and Martin Luther King Jr Plagiarism Story, 1994, if they are have not been scrubbed from circulation], or that he worked closely with known Communists throughout his life, or that he advocated American defeat in Vietnam while praising Ho Chi Minh, or that he implicitly countenanced violence and Marxism, especially later in his life [cf., Congressional Record, 129, no. 130 (October 3, 1983): S13452-S13461]—mention any of these accusations confirmed begrudgingly by his establishment biographers David Garrow and Taylor Branch, or mention his even-by-current-standards violent “rough sex” escapades (which apparently involved even under-agers) [cf., Cooper Sterling, January 13, 2018, VDare] and you immediately get labeled a “racist” and condemned  by not just the zealous King flame-keepers on the Left, but by such “racially acceptable” conservatives like Rich Lowry and Dinesh D’Souza who supposedly are on the Right.

Indeed, in some ways Establishment “conservatives” such as Lowry (National Review), D’Souza, Glenn Beck, the talking heads on Fox and the furious scribblers at nearly all major “conservative” journals, and many others, not only eagerly buy into this narrative, they now have converted King into a full-fledged, card-carrying member of “conservatism inc.”—a “plaster saint” iconized as literally no one else in our history. Thus, this latest attempt to “scrub” clean Russell Kirk so that he, too, can join the new holy pantheon…finally, it simply had to happen.

Celebrating King becomes a means for the modern “conservative” movement to demonstrate its “civil rights” and “egalitarian” bona fides. When the Neoconservatives made their pilgrimage from the Trotskyite Left into the ranks of conservatism in the 1960s and 1970s, they brought with them a fervent believe in a globalist New World Order egalitarianism that characterized their Trotskyite ideology, and the determination to redefine and re-orient the traditional American Rightwing, and to re-write, as well, American history.

Thus, the purges of the old conservative movement in the 1980s and 1990s—there was no room for Southern conservatives like Mel Bradford, no room for traditionalist Catholics like Frederick Wilhelmsen or Brent Bozell Sr., no room for paleo-libertarians like Murray Rothbard, no room for Old Right anti-egalitarians like Paul Gottfried, and no room for “America Firsters” like Pat Buchanan…. These figures did not believe in King’s (and Lincoln’s) “promise of equality,” and thus were no doubt scarred by latent or real racism.

King Day becomes, then, for the modern Conservative Movement an opportunity for it to beat its chest, brag about its commitment to civil rights and “the American dream, the unrealized idea of equality” (that is, to distort and re-write the history of the American Founding), and to protect its left flank against the ever increasing charges that it could be, just might be, maybe is —“racist.” 

The heavily-documented literature detailing the real Martin Luther King is abundant and remains uncontroverted. During the debates over establishing a national “King Day” in the mid-1980s, Senators Jesse Helms and John East (both North Carolinians) led the opposition, supplying the Congress and the nation, and anyone with eyes to read, full accounts of the “King legacy,” from his close association and collaboration with the Communist Party USA to his advocacy of violence and support for the Communists in Vietnam, to implicit support for Marxist revolution domestically. Ironically, it was Robert Woodson, a noted black Republican, who highlighted in a lecture given to honor the “conservative virtues of Dr. Martin Luther King” at the Heritage Foundation on November 5, 1993, the difficulties in getting black advocates of the older generation to respect King’s role as a Civil Rights leader. According to Woodson, as quoted in an excellent essay by Paul Gottfried,

…when Dr. King tried to bring the Civil Rights movement together with the [Marxist] peace movement, it was Carl Rowan who characterized King as a Communist, not Ronald Reagan. I remember being on the dais of the NAACP banquet in Darby, Pennsylvania when Roy Wilkins soundly castigated King for this position. [Paul Gottfried, “The Cult of St. Martin Luther King – A Loyalty Test for Careerist Conservatives?” January 16, 2012].

But not only that, behind the scenes there were voluminous secretly-made FBI recordings and accounts of King’s violent sexual escapades, often times with more than two or three others involved in such “rough sex” trysts; and of his near total hypocrisy when discussing civil rights and other prominent civil rights leaders. It is, to put it mildly, a sorry record, scandalous even by today’s standards…Indeed, King makes Harvey Weinstein look like a meek choirboy in comparison.

But you won’t hear any of that mentioned by the falling-all-over-itself media mavens at “Conservatism Inc.” or on Fox. In fact, such comments will get you exiled to the far reaches of the Gobi Desert and labeled a “racist,” quicker that my cocker spaniel gobbles down his kibble.

Almost all the material is now available and accessible online, including material from the Congressional Record. And I have listed it in previous forays into this topic. Much of what we really have come to know is thanks to the excellent work and dedicated research of the late Dr. Sam Francis, who served on the staff of Senator East. Francis’s work is critical, and originally was written to preface the publication of voluminous testimony and documentation placed in the Congressional Record by Senator Helms.

Francis’s essay and the Helms’ dossier were eventually published in book form (I have a published copy, but I’m unsure if you can still find it on Amazon). A few years back Dr. Francis’s introduction [“The King Holiday and Its Meaning,” February 26, 2015] and the lengthy Congressional Record material, which he prepared for Helms [“Remarks of Senator Jesse Helms. Congressional Quarterly,” February 26, 2005] were put online. For a very complete understanding of King’s association and cooperation with American Communists and his endorsement of Vietnamese Communism, as well as his putative endorsement of Marxism here in the United States while condemning the free enterprise system, these two items are essential reading.

But, say the scribblers at the “establishment conservative media,” wasn’t King really a conservative at heart, an old-fashioned black Baptist who believed in the tenets of traditional Christianity? Shouldn’t we simply overlook these all-too-human failings? And, like John Woods, Jr., shouldn’t we search diligently for those points of “consensus” and “shared communitarian values”?

The answer is a resounding NO.

I can think of no better summation of the real meaning of King Day and its bare-knuckled ideological use to deconstruct, dissolve and obliterate American traditions and heritage than to cite, again, Sam Francis:

“[T]he true meaning of the holiday is that it serves to legitimize the radical social and political agenda that King himself favored and to delegitimize traditional American social and cultural institutions—not simply those that supported racial segregation but also those that support a free market economy, an anti-communist foreign policy, and a constitutional system that restrains the power of the state rather than one that centralizes and expands power for the reconstruction of society and the redistribution of wealth. In this sense, the campaign to enact the legal public holiday in honor of Martin Luther King was a small first step on the long march to revolution, a charter by which that revolution is justified as the true and ultimate meaning of the American identity. In this sense, and also in King’s own sense, as he defined it in his speech at the Lincoln Memorial in 1963, the Declaration of Independence becomes a “promissory note” by which the state is authorized to pursue social and economic egalitarianism as its mission, and all institutions and values that fail to reflect the dominance of equality—racial, cultural, national, economic, political, and social—must be overcome and discarded.

“By placing King—and therefore his own radical ideology of social transformation and reconstruction—into the central pantheon of American history, the King holiday provides a green light by which the revolutionary process of transformation and reconstruction can charge full speed ahead. Moreover, by placing King at the center of the American national pantheon, the holiday also serves to undermine any argument against the revolutionary political agenda that it has come to symbolize. Having promoted or accepted the symbol of the new dogma as a defining—perhaps the defining—icon of the American political order, those who oppose the revolutionary agenda the symbol represents have little ground to resist that agenda.” 

I will not be celebrating this day; rather, it is for me a mournful reminder of what has happened and is happening to this country…and what has happened to the once-fearless and vibrant “conservative movement” and now to the revered Dr. Russell Kirk.

  June 10, 2024   MY CORNER by Boyd Cathey   North Carolina’s Mark Robinson and the Uncontrolled Rage of the Left ...