Wednesday, April 18, 2012


The ‘New York Times’ yesterday published an Opinion piece by one Kwasi Kwarteng entitled “Echoes of the End of the Raj”. [L1]

The gist of it is that the US is entering a period of the decline of its ‘imperial’ reach, of its “raj” – the old British term for the vast swath of the world over which its direct influence extended, including India and all the lands of Asia and Africa and the Caribbean and so on and so forth.

Yes, but mostly No.

When the British “Raj” declined – a long process beginning immediately after WW2 that really didn’t end until in 1967 the Brits couldn’t afford to keep garrisons “east of Suez” and left Aden, that great Yemeni port on the Red Sea and the Gulf of Aden – the Brits had a ‘successor raj’ already in place and running: the US, embarking cockily on ‘the American century’.

Thus A) the Brits could vacate their throne-seat presiding over ‘the world order’ without actually condemning that order to the previous reign of Great Power politics as they existed before WW1.

And B) the Brits could continue tastefully to present themselves as one of the remaining Great Powers, financed and militarily ‘allied’ to the new Greatest Power. US money and partnership (not of equals) continued to provide the coat-tails upon which Great Britain could ride.

Things proceeded much as they had gone on for in the past, and only the flag and the color of the uniforms changed.

That was then.

It is not so now. While the US has now stunningly lost its pre-eminence and the throne of the Raj, there is no successor state ready to take its place.

So A) there will indeed be a return (arguably a regression or arguably not) to some new Great Power variant (or – arguably – mutation). The powers of the world now – including strong regional hegemons like China and Russia – and perhaps even Iran (with its vital geostrategic location athwart the great Eurasian land-routes of yore) are going to be moving to fill in that vacuum, especially since that vacuum exists in their own backyards and in their own regions of the world.

Of course, the now highly-developed role of commerce planet-wide makes it even more complex. The Brits had a world-wide commercial matrix as well, but the movement of capital as well as products is now so instantaneous that everything is ratcheted up to hair-trigger levels of immediacy.

And that means that the US – with whatever power it retains (and let nobody forget that while some Bubbles are now deflating, the two remaining Bubbles are the most lethal: US sovereign solvency and the Dollar as the world’s reserve currency) will perversely be required to exercise even more influence.

That will mean diplomacy, but the skills of operating diplomatically in a Great-Power setting are not well-preserved in the State Department’s (or the Beltway’s) institutional memory, to the extent that the US was ever tempermentally predisposed to exercise such skills. And a country without a lot of money isn’t going to really come to the table with a lot of clout.

Thus enter the Military. This, I think, was behind Bush’s 2002 assertion that the US would henceforth consider just about every place on the planet as within the purview of its national-interest. And nowadays such brassy blowhards as one finds especially among neocon armchair hawks insist that as long as We control the world’s most pre-eminent military, then We will always have a seat at the Table.

But such a military is going to be, perversely, expensive. It can’t simply be nuclear because you can’t credibly insist or imply that if you don’t get what you want there will be a mushroom cloud forthwith.

Boots on the ground isn’t going to be the answer (nor even the entire remaining force of the Marine Corps stationed in Australia, for example) because We can’t win land-wars anywhere on the Eurasian landmass, especially deep within it, far removed from sea-lines of communication and supply.

That leaves the Navy. But We can’t afford the type and number of ships required to perform the tasks that the Royal Navy performed in the age of fighting sail. Nor can it be forgotten that i) the US won the war in the Pacific in 1942-45 because the Japanese provided no air threat (after a while) and no major submarine threat – US fleets could operate unhindered and with increasing levels of (legitimate)impunity. See here , for example.*

And that ii) ‘the natives’ are now equipped with the latest weaponry (nor are all those ‘natives’ sovereign governments). Amphibious ships even more than ‘shooters’ (warships with offensive weapons capability) are lethally vulnerable precisely in those close inshore (20-30 miles) venues where they must operate.

Nor is it enough to claim that while We don’t have a whole lot of ships, the ones We have are really technological doozies. Barring the development of a Galaxy-class battle-cruiser like Picard’s starship ‘Enterprise’ in low-planetary orbit there is simply no way of getting around the fact that a modern Naval vessel can’t be in two places on the planet at once and that to maintain Naval supremacy or even operational efficacy you are going to need more than one in any contested area. And We are going to have trouble replacing these technical marvels quickly enough when (not 'if') they are sunk or damaged. (For an astute discussion of the lethal fiscal dynamics now gripping the Military-Industrial-Congressional Complex see Franklin Spinney’s excellent discussion here.

Nor dare We adopt the German solution of WW1 and WW2: hit very hard very quickly (preventively, even) and use terror to make sure you aren’t resisted by civilian populations and maquisards or ‘freedom-fighters’ (who – pace Bush and Cheney – may very well not be ‘terrorists’ but patriots like the guys at Concord and Lexington).

In any setting now, We are not going occupy the moral high-ground that ‘London’ and the Western Allies occupied in WW2; We will be seen as invaders and occupiers and - alas - grabbers.

And this is especially so because there is an increasing (and hardly unpredictable) scarcity of vital resources on the planet. Great Powers who don’t already own a lot of them are going to have to Go Out And Grab (GOAG) them or perhaps claim to Go Out And Liberate And Grab them (GOALAG). If anybody in the Beltway thinks We can pull that off while still appearing to be the nation of the Framers and of Washington and Adams and Lincoln, then the Kool-Aid has become not merely intoxicating in there but lethally poisonous. **

But the pressure to do so will now be great. We will now be caught up in the maelstrom so acutely and pithily appreciated by the Romans: sera venientibus ossa – the latecomers will only get the bones. Which would probably be the shoulder-patch motto of hyenas everywhere, if they had patch-capable shoulders.

Nor will Teddy Roosevelt or Wilson save Us. TR was profoundly deranged by a) his generation’s abiding sense of being inferior in adult efficacy to the immediately preceding adult generation that had fought the Civil War and b) by sitting on top of a powerful US industrial and economic potential that was largely untapped in those days before it was gleefully ‘deconstructed’. Wilson tried to assume that Good Intentions and Ultimate Goodness would suffice to lard-over the inevitable and ineluctable darknesses of trying to make History and the rest of the world do what you wanted them to do.***

Nor – it is now almost a truism to say it – will the Bush/Cheney approach save Us.

Nor, lastly, is there any established Great-Power successor-state upon whose coat-tails We might tastefully and politely be allowed to continue something of Our old existence. We were the New World. And We blew it.

In a savage irony, Our lifestyle and even Our civilization as well as Our polity is going the way of the buffalo. Yes, many have heard it from the mouths of this and that celluloid Indian chief looking out over the marvelous landscape, now dotted with the smoke-columns of settlements and the dust-clouds of cavalry columns.

But – as was so marvelously said in Lawrence Olivier’s narrative script of the 1970s Brit WW2 documentary series ‘The World at War’: “To the Japanese, bombing was something that happened to other people” (about Jimmy Doolittle’s April ’42 raid on Tokyo).

Our buffalo-world is going now. And We are the chiefs, watching the clouds and columns reach into the skies that were once Ours.

Nearer, my God, to Thee. And let Us brace Ourselves to Our duties and so bear Ourselves … that We might still, in albeit reduced circumstances, do all in Our power to effect “a just and a lasting peace, among ourselves and with all nations”.

History is here. We have this rendezvous with it.****


*Presuming that the past decades of ‘de-masculinizing’ the military and the Navy, haven’t wound up yielding officers and crews unable to face the awesome dangers of combat ships damaged and hit at sea (start interviewing great-grandpa chop-chop about his days in the Pacific). And presuming that US naval vessels haven’t been built to ‘commercial specs’ rather than the more robust and rigorous ‘military specs’ (meaning that in the latter case you build a ship specifically to withstand hits by offensive weapons and that in the former case you merely build them to withstand the usual rigors of sailing the sea and encountering the occasional storms and big waves).

**And – as I always do – I will not refrain from pointing out the fatal fatuity of the Beltway embracing the Far Left insistence (bolstered by the importation of Marxist-Leninist principles and ‘philosophy’) that the Framing Vision is merely a compact with Dominance-Oppression-and-Hegemony and has to be rejected forthwith. What was purchased (with so much treasure) as a slyly strategized gambit to achieve dominance of Correctness in domestic political affairs has migrated toxically to foreign affairs and to the most profound levels of the nation’s integrity and civic competence.

***Who can forget the cri-de-coeur of Porfirio Diaz, one of those Mexican leaders who was intervened-against by Wilson: ‘My poor Mexico – so far from God, so near to the United States!’?

****In the closing sequence of the 1975 Universal Pictures film “The Hindenburg”, a lifelike model of the airship approaches you (ostensibly behind the camera lens) out of a clear blue sky, glides by majestically, and then continues on, followed by the lingering camera shot, and is swallowed up slowly but surely by clouds and mist until she finally disappears. Strange to think that even back then there might have been some preconscious sense of what was happening.
For that matter, from the year before, there was "The Towering Inferno", in which the world's tallest building, constructed in San Francisco, is done in by the hubris and callow lack of integrity of its well-heeled and well-connected and well-funded builders.

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Saturday, April 14, 2012


There is a stream of thought currently that worries about the Christian Right’s efforts to get adherents appointed to local school boards. I came across this piece in particular.

The concern is valid, but the efficacy of possible responses to it will depend on the amount of accuracy in identifying the causes that have prompted this gambit.

And in that regard, as so often, a purely ideological, Left-vs-Right, Progressive-vs-Fundamentalist template is not really sufficient to do the job and yield sufficient clarity and accuracy.

The radical and fundamentalist mindset is a problem to begin with. It indulges in all manner of lunacies: cartoonish thought-processes, ‘feelings’ rather than ‘objectivity’, demonization to create the Necessary Enemy (eerily mirroring  Soviet agitprop as well as Soviet ‘science’), emotional involvement rather than detachment, and the ‘dishonest  sleaze of knowing beforehand what the Correct conclusion is at which you will ‘logically and scientifically’ arrive  … these are all elements of that approach.

But as I have said in prior Posts, this radical and fundamentalist mindset can be (and around here is) equally characteristic of ‘secular’ radical thought as it is of ‘religious’ fundamentalistic thought (nor am I here suggesting that all religious thought is fundamentalistic).

Indeed, religiously-fundamentalist thought mirrors Soviet agitprop and ‘revolutionary science’. Think of Lysenko, for example: Correct science supports the revolution because the only truth is that which serves the revolution and all other ‘truth’ and ‘knowledge’ is specious and – to use Gramsci’s idea – merely serves the status-quo of dominance ,oppression, hegemony, and marginalization.

But if religiously-fundamentalist thought mirrors Soviet and revolutionary ‘science’, radical Left vanguard-elite, Correct thought deliberately and consciously adopts it. (Noted and greatly influential radical-feminist thinker Catharine MacKinnon spelled it all out in her 1989 book “Toward A Feminist Theory of the State” – about which see recent Posts on this site.)

And this has been so for several decades now, approaching almost half a century.

And while such whackulent and frakkulent ‘thinking’ has always been around, hiding behind the potted palms at the far end of the faculty dining room or brayed brassily at backwoods tent meetings, yet the Beltway pols – Democrat and Republican for their various purposes – ‘valorized’ such daffy thought-process and injected it into the national political discourse like poison into a bloodstream.

The Democrats were looking desperately for demographics to replace the New Deal coalition after 1965; their storied embrace of radical advocacies of Race and Gender (there were more moderate voices for Race and Gender, Dr. King for Race, less radical feminist voices than such as MacKinnon – but moderates were kicked to the curb in both Race and Gender for the more sassy radicals) has now served to indenture them to those ‘bases’. Those bases – especially once the radical-feminists took Marxist-Leninist thought, channeled through Gramsci and Eurocommunism – were deeply soused in the radical and revolutionary fundamentalist (though secularist and anti-religious) mindset of their roots in the alien political Universe of Soviet revolutionary thought.

This generated a counter-move, equally soused in fundamentalistic (though religiously expressed) thought-process, by the now radicalized far Right, empowered and ignited and drawn into the center of the national consciousness by the Democrats’ embrace of the far Left.

Both far radical Left and Right share the simplistic analysis, selective embrace of convenient fact and rejection of inconvenient fact, and cocksure confidence that they have the true knowledge – all of which are indicative of an ‘ideological’ frame of mind that is by its very nature intolerant of ‘deliberative democratic discourse’ that is the very core mechanism of sustaining the American Framing Vision.

This is not to say that ‘deliberative democratic discourse’ must be ‘tolerant’ of everything; there are first principles that are essential to maintaining the Republic according to the Framing Vision. But the Framers wisely and shrewdly saw that The People must be the ultimate arbiters of what shape the national life will assume.

Whereas in the fundamentlistic mindset there resides at its very core an inherent and necessary authoritarianism: if you have the knowledge, then why waste time arguing with folks who ‘just don’t get it’? Better to grasp political power and impose your true knowledge, and everybody will thank you for it later and you will be greeted as a liberator. Or not.

But if there are those who just don’t (or – ominously – won’t) get it, then they are simply obstructionist trash destined for the dustbin of history. Thus such counter-revolutionary obstructers are – truly, in this vision – trash.

Whether their punishment is the dustbin of history or an avenging God is merely a matter of modality.

This is the cartoonish, Manichean, either-or, good-or-evil fundamentalist approach to things, whether modulated through a secularist or a religious narrative frame.

I have been saying in recent Posts that I think the key issue is not the Separation of Church and State but rather should be the Separation of Ideology and State. The fundamentalist, ideological mindset - religious or secular - is by its very nature necessarily antithetical to a competent Citizenry in the American political Universe.

And if that American Framing Universe is to be rejected for another one, then that subject should be the decision of The People.

What has been happening, however, is a Long March Through the Institutions of American culture and society by the secularist far Left revolutionary radical elements. Which has prompted the aforementioned counter-fundamentalism of the far Right.

The move to the schools is Revolution 101 (second semester): get the young and indoctrinate them in your ideological mindset and the content of your agenda as if it were the only right and natural way to do things. Students thus ‘taught’ will not be competent to exercise their responsibilities as Citizens in this American political Universe.

The path to be followed here, it seems to me, is to allow the national discourse to return to its moderate and balanced center.

This path is rejected by radical revolutionary thought since everything prior to ‘the revolution’ is to be considered tainted with – to use Gramsci’s terms here – dominance, oppression, hegemony, hierarchy, and the hated ‘status quo’ as supported by tradition and culture (and the more mainstream forms of religion).

But that rejection cannot be allowed to stand as the new American normal.

Neither the far Left nor the far Right – both radical in a profoundly un-American, even anti-American way – can be allowed to dominate the schools, let alone the national discourse and consciousness.

The Framing Vision must be reclaimed. Otherwise We shall lose not only the present, but the future for the schoolchildren. Our children.

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Wednesday, April 04, 2012


Just in time for Easter – or, more Correctly, the Day of the Spring Egg Hunt – Andrew Sullivan has a piece on The Daily Beast site.

I’d like to comment on that article here. (The Post I promised on Theodore Lowi’s 1967 article on ‘interest group liberalism’ will follow shortly.)

Sullivan goes for the Thomas-Jefferson gambit: take the New Testament, snip out all the “supernatural” stuff, and then what you have left over will be a handy ‘moral guide’ for the Enlightenment mind.

There are at least two problems with that approach.

First, Jefferson lived in a time when Western culture still lived off the ‘interest’ from the investment of Christendom’s integral and coherent and well-Grounded moral and spiritual heritage bequeathed (and achieved) by the Medieval Synthesis of Thomas Aquinas. Aquinas took the best of Plato and Aristotle and the Stoics, combined them with the Fathers of the Patristic Age and placed the whole under the guidance of the Judeo-Christian revelation … and thus effected the planet’s most comprehensive and integral and well-Grounded moral synthesis, which yielded what might be characterized as an Owners Manual for human life and for human be-ing.

The Enlightenment, teetering on the edge of oncoming night – if I may – could still carry on as if it were daylight, because the late 18th century was the first moment of dusk, after ‘sunset’, when there was still more than enough light to play around with carefree abandon.

Thus Jefferson’s confidence.*

Second, the Jefferson approach is actually a variant of a strategy most vividly deployed by Shylock in “The Merchant of Venice”: it presumes that there is no deep and integral and visceral interconnection between the various elements of a living organism; thus – in Shylock’s grossly inadequate analysis – you could chop out a pound of flesh with no thought as to consequences to the other vitally interconnected and interacting systems within the living organism.  (And many thanks to Portia for belling that witless though potentially lethal cat.)

A culture, based in a comprehensive belief system, is not something that can be chopped up without dire consequence. Nor can the belief system itself, if it is complexly and integrally constructed (like, say, a modern large aircraft or spacecraft).  And Aquinas accomplished as much conceptually – more, I would submit – than Leonardo did with his sketching of flying machines.

So then when Sullivan wants to introduce his affinity with Jefferson’s principle of the Separation of Church and State, he is not quite anchoring himself on the mark. The key Question in all of this is the Relation of Religion and Culture, and not the Separation of Church and State.

Perhaps Sullivan is deflected and confused by the very visible efforts of the government to expunge religion from culture that We have seen going on for the past 40 Biblical years around here. But even if so, this is a vital and lethal confusion.

But this confusion – presuming it is not a carefully worked-out strategy – works toward his general purpose: to combine ‘religion’ with “power and politics”. This opens up the vast poppy fields of claims that the Catholic Church (which he takes under direct fire in the piece) is nothing more than merely another power-politics organization and establishment that seeks to impose its will, justified on the putative basis of some ‘supernatural’ warrant.

And which, he immediately continues, has given rise to nothing more than “war, pogroms, reformations and counter-reformations”. That the Church had played a constitutive role in the development of Western Culture after the Fall of the Roman Empire, seeking to establish and maintain some basic level of coherent decency in the face of warring  chieftains and barons and lords, nascent and then rampant monarchies, and all this on top of the perennial deformations and derangements generated by humanity’s innate tendency to betray its own best possibilities … none of this apparently counts for much in Sullivan’s assessment.

Nor does it give him pause that the foundations of Western Culture laid down by the Church in the age of  Christendom constituted – not to put too fine a point on it – a well-grounded foundation.  And you don’t need an engineering degree from MIT to realize that once you have a rather large structure, chock full of human souls toiling and living, you don’t want to simply go screwing around with the foundations with gay abandon. What homeowner can’t figure that out?

Sullivan will save his situation by focusing on “Jesus”, for Whom he evinces a large admiration.

After all, Jesus came up with all those neatly “radical” ideas (can you hear a certain drumroll starting up here?).

He’s especially enamored of Jesus’ insistence that His followers had to “give up power over others” because power inevitably requires “the threat of violence” and “violence is incompatible with the total acceptance and love of all other human beings that is at the sacred heart of Jesus’ teaching”.

Supporting his statement, Sullivan notes that Jesus “never defended his innocence at trial”. Just how defending one’s innocence in a trial is a form of violence, I can’t grasp. Surely – if Sullivan is going to be reducing his advice to Us to his conclusions about Jesus and violence – then this is rum advice indeed. Especially nowadays, when folks faced with an engorged and rampant government have few defenses left except defending themselves in trials – to the extent even that right is still operative.

But it does sound eerily and ominously familiar: defending yourself in a trial simply ‘proves’ you’re guilty. We’ve seen this poisonous serpentine ‘reasoning’ deployed against all sorts of designated-targets of the Left as well as the Right in the past few decades.

It was the Church that worked out the careful reasoning that in the light of Original Sinfulness and the violence that inevitably flows from it, there are legitimate grounds for self-defense in certain carefully determined circumstances. Humans must not only live with the human capacity for love, but the human capacity for violence (unless Sullivan – channeling Rousseau – wants to assert that only ‘institutions’ and ‘organizations’ create violence and humans, left to themselves, will simply live in love and mutual respect until the Second Coming).

But Sullivan is not going to let you think that he is some secular type of guy. He fully believes in Jesus’ “divinity and resurrection”.

But that’s not going to mean for him that there was anything to all that “supernatural” stuff. Nope, Jefferson was right about all that mumbo-jumbo. (I can’t help thinking of Francois Mitterand’s marvelously sly bit from 1965: “I was born a Christian and shall doubtless die in that condition. But meanwhile …”)
Rather, the “divinity” of Jesus simply goes to ‘prove’ what Sullivan sees as the take-away of His entire ministry: “What’s the use of preaching doctrines if you don’t live as these doctrines demand?”

This – if it sounds somewhat familiar – is the Question the Church has been posing to humanity for two millennia . Nor has the Church ever proclaimed itself or its agents divine, rather than being participants in humanity, constructed of the same crooked timber, although blessed with the guidance of the Holy Spirit that – or rather Who – is an integral part of Jesus’ “divinity”.

But that’s not where Sullivan is going with it.

“What is politics if not a dangerous temptation toward controlling others rather than reforming oneself?”

I don’t know how this fits in with the Framing Vision or that “deliberative democratic politics” that is the lynchpin of that Vision. I don’t know if Sullivan knows either – or cares.

Surely he doesn’t see Identity Politics as perpetrating – as a matter of Plan – ‘violence’ upon the body politic and the common-weal through its rejection of “deliberative democratic politics” and the manipulation of public law and policy through assorted agitprop tactics and strategies of manipulation and misinformation and the sidestepping of “deliberative democratic politics” through – as Obama noted in ‘The Audacity of Hope’ – an “overreliance” on courts, where – as Catharine MacKinnon acutely observed – the vanguard elites can avoid “messy” democratic political process neatly and effectively.

What, for that matter, is human life except an ongoing temptation to sidestep the dignity and rights of others in order to have it your way? That’s why there is a Constitution and – I submit – why there is a Church.

Which brings me to my next point: the Church evolved – and Jesus rather forthrightly intended to build it (at least if you take the Gospel text literally; if not then read on) or the generations succeeding Him realized that they somehow needed to preserve His teachings and structure their lives around those teachings.

You can go up, down, and all around as to whether Jesus imagined that with the Fall of Rome and the imperial government the Bishop of Rome would find himself and his Church in the unenviable position of being the only source of order left in the West.

But to propose that the Church as she is represents nothing more than an evil contraption constructed with malice aforethought for the purposes of a violent conspiracy of – to use the familiar recipe – “dominance, hegemony, marginalization and oppression”?  Sullivan, actually, uses the same thinking that gave Us ‘patriarchy’: that other phantasm of a deliberate conspiracy-to-oppress that somehow was put together a day or two after the beginning of recorded history and has been chewing away gaily ever since with the agreement of both the (putative) oppressors and oppressees.

Jesus, Sullivan insists, wants everybody to live as He said to live and as He Himself lived.

But what does that mean? If Sullivan has a decent house and a nice steady job and took the time to get an education, if indeed he is tapping away on a computer instead of wandering the streets of towns and cities and living under the stars … is he living that life?

What does it mean to live as Jesus lived when it becomes clear that He is not coming back right away? This is the Question that Christians faced from a moment not very long after the Ascension. Sullivan’s own well-established and well-furnished life is his answer and that’s fair enough.

But does he really think that the Church is not an answer to that Question? Does he think he can reasonably demonstrate why that should be so?

Jefferson – says Sullivan – had a vision of a “purer, simpler, apolitical Christianity”. That’s nice.

It was also a Ground-less vision, one that relied merely upon the Afterglow of Christendom illuminating the lives of Western Culture, but without any solid support structure underneath it. And as the Afterglow wears off, or wore off, or was ‘deconstructed’ – then there’s nothing to hold it all together.

Unless you want to rely on ‘the government’, that will replace the Church with whatever laws and regulations it feels it would like to impose. I see this option as neither progress nor conformable to the Framing Vision, nor conducive to the continuance of the Republic.

He then – conveniently – blames the Republicans and the Right for creating “a polity now saturated in religion”. Neat.

But if one changes the axial term from ‘religion’ to ‘ideology’ then who is responsible for American society and politics having become ‘saturated’ in ideology? I’d say you can make an excellent case for that being the handiwork of the Dems, who embraced radical-feminism’s Marxist-Leninist-Gramsican analysis (with ‘women’ substituted neatly for ‘proletariat’ and ‘the masses’ and ‘the marginalized’ wherever those terms appear in the original texts).

And for all practical purposes regarding Sullivan’s plaint, ‘religion’ and ‘ideology’ are the same: a pre-existing matrix of assumptions, presumptions, and beliefs about the validity of which their adherents entertain no doubt.

But that’s not where he wants to go with all this.

“Organized religion” is “in decline” he crows. His prime example in regard to Catholicism is the clerical abuse crisis, although that mania-stampede is now starting, finally, to run down as it is exposed for the hyper-inflated and oh-so-selective hatchet job it has always been.

The Protestant polities, he observes, have been declining ever more steeply in the past 50 years (thus since about the time post-1965 ‘liberalism’ got rolling) because they sought to embrace “religious moderation” (meaning: because they tried to appease the tide of secularism by abandoning their insistence that their faith and belief were Grounded in any Beyond and then gave themselves over to providing benefit-of-clergy to secularism and its demands and its agendas and all its pomps and all its works – seeking to ride the back of the tiger, they have wound up as a hot lunch for a beast that should have been recognized at the outset as being viscerally committed to consuming them). In the old tale of the scorpion and the horse – where the scorpion asked the horse for a lift across the raging river, then stung the horse halfway across, and when the dying horse asked Why since now they would both drown, the scorpion merely replied “I’m a scorpion and it’s what I do” – radical-feminism with its repellent Marxist-Leninist roots should have been recognized all along by the Beltway elites as being the scorpion it truly is.

The politicized saturation of religion “would also, one imagines, baffle Jesus of Nazareth”.  After all, “the issues that Christianity obsesses over today” – homosexuality, abortion, marriage – were not matters that occupied Jesus’ attention. And in regard to adultery, he merely preached “forgiveness” (although that ‘forgiveness’ presumes it is indeed something sinful that needs to be forgiven – a breach of trust and commitment, one would think … though those virtues are not high on the liberal and secularist agenda these days).

But Jesus didn’t “obsess” over nuclear weapons either – so where do Sullivan’s exegetical games really lead Us?  For that matter, Jesus did not ‘obsess’ over most of the issues currently defined as social-justice. That does not at all mean that ‘social justice issues’ cannot be derived legitimately from the principles Jesus enunciated. But clearly you have to derive your practical conclusions from His principles, and thus the necessity of the Church. Jesus was primarily concerned with the individual human heart and soul, whose Stance under Grace would lead to actions more in conformity with the responsibilities of being created in God’s Image. But He was not primarily concerned with ‘reforming’ (or deconstructing) the political and cultural institutions of that time and that place in which He found Himself. First things first.

But Sullivan  presses on. “The family? [Jesus] disowned his parents in public as a teen, and told his followers to abandon theirs if they wanted to follow him.”

Here you see the gaping error in his entire approach. How distinguish between what Jesus as the man situated in his mission in life in that time and that place recommended to those who would join his little peripatetic missionary band … from what core principles Jesus was propounding for any and all human beings who would in present and future times follow Him?

Or are We to presume that Jesus never wanted anybody to live in (or start up, or remain faithful to) a family ever again?

These are precisely the type of Questions for which later generations of Christians needed to find guidance. And from that need – obvious as hell even to the Christians of the earliest era – the Church’s role as focal matrix for careful and prayerful deliberation on the genuine import of Jesus’ sayings developed. And how else to carry on?

Ditto as Sullivan notes that Jesus “was a celibate” and that Jesus and his “followers” actually “anticipated an imminent End of the World where reproduction was completely irrelevant”.

Well, then, so … if on top of the practicalities of having his immediate band of disciples leave their families so they could live on the road with Him, Jesus really didn’t imagine in His human capacity that the world as they knew it was going to be around much longer … then what the frak to do when later generations of Christians quickly realized that somehow that ‘End of the World’ didn’t mean exactly what it seemed to mean? How then to figure out what He did mean?

Hence, again, the need for the Church. Much later, the Protestant solution was to let every believer work out whatever the hell Jesus meant for him/herself. But that was simply to let each player in the orchestra play whatever s/he thought would be a nice melody – and who would pay to sit through a symphony like that?

But if I infer correctly, Sullivan wants Our take-away to be simply (and simplistically) that Jesus didn’t worry about questions of family and sex so why should anybody claim to oppose recent cultural agendas from the Left on merely religious grounds? Verrrrry eeeenterestink … but unfortunately, incoherent. (With attributional nod to Arte Johnson’s German soldier on ‘Rowan and Martin’s Laugh-In’ show.)

Sullivan uses the example of Francis of Assisi, who embraced poverty and eschewed violence and the conventionality of the 13th century Italian world around him. But then even Sullivan notes that before long Francis found himself in an organizational quandary: so many wanted to follow him that he had to – not to put too fine a point on it – organize his followers so that they would keep to his vision and principles and not simply go off into all sorts of stuff claiming to be following his path.

Precisely the problem that gave rise to the answer called the Church in the earliest Christian times.

But this is not where Sullivan wants to go, or wants Us to go, with it.

It appears that – humans being humans – even a good idea about getting beyond conventionality and organization requires that you somehow preserve said good idea by organizing some normative (and in a sense conventional) praxis in order to sustain the genuine idea. Who knew?

If you have a great piece of rich and complex music, then you need an orchestra to play it. But you also need a score, and you also need some sort of Conductor to keep everybody at the same place on the same sheet of your music. Surely Alinsky saw the same thing when he insisted that folks had to Organize.

Otherwise you will surely wind up lamenting in the accents of the Songstress**: ‘What have they done to my song, Ma?’

Jesus left behind a ‘rich and complex and textured’ heritage of sayings, and it would take and still takes a whole lotta careful and informed and prayerful work to figure out a) just what the core content of His principles and guidance actually is and b) how to apply that in one’s contemporary world and one’s own life.  You can simply leave all that up to the occasional illuminations and excitements of this or that individual, or perhaps leave it up to a government that insists nothing can stand outside of it, nor against it, nor above it … but you can’t intelligently expect that if you just toss the sayings out there you are going to sustain a coherent conceptual grasp of the heart of the matter.

Jesus “was without politics”. Phooey. Phooey and baloney. His timing, His confrontation with the authorities, His shrewd rhetorical but ironclad logical one-liners always delivered in front of a useful audience … this guy was shrewd to the very max. Even His death was expertly crafted for maximum impact on public opinion (though, unlike so many, He most surely put His money where His mouth was and backed up His teachings with His own blood, and did so with an iron intensity of purpose and careful arranging that must seem ‘obsessive’ to the modern and postmodern, secular mind).

After what can only charitably be construed as some gay (he is most publicly and avowedly ‘out’) Irish sentimentalism about his dear granny, Sullivan insists that he is not advocating some sort of Irish-granny type of “privatization of faith, or its relegation to a subordinate sphere”. Because “there are times when great injustices – slavery, imperialism, totalitarianism, segregation – require spiritual mobilization and public witness”.

Ummm – and not ‘sin’? But of course, ‘sin’ is something that is taboo in secularist and – alas – post-1972 ‘liberal’ circles nowadays. You won’t stay on many A-lists by talking about (let alone preaching – or ‘obsessing’ – about) ‘sin’.

But Sullivan reduces here the entire content of Christian spirituality and religion to – by remarkable coincidence – the assorted agendas of his favorite politics. Which is the gambit that so utterly deranged the mainstream Protestant polities in this country and seduced them to self-deconstruction.

Is there no venue for exercising ‘spirituality’ except in some form of social action (but not if you are acting against ‘sin’, of course)?

And then he asserts that King and Gandhi did indeed “renounce power”. Well yes, but really no.

Both Gandhi and King were immensely shrewd in developing the power (and political power, at that) of non-violence. Neither of them simply quietly lived out his life in a private renunciation of ‘violence’; they both wielded the power they craftily evoked and managed in order to realize their agendas. (And in King’s case, certainly, We are the better for it – although he was kicked to the curb in 1966 by black-power proponents, almost immediately after his greatest achievements – yet even then he kept fighting for his vision.)

Sullivan wants to support “mystery”, but apparently not the profound and lethal mystery of ‘sin’. And he assumes blithely that every believer can be sent forth to sail him/herself across the Seas of Mystery with no compass and no charts and no navigational skills and that somehow it will all work out nicely enough, precisely as Jefferson could blithely assume that folks could just make up their minds to ‘be moral’ and everything else would work out well enough.

They both want to have their cake and eat it too: they can presume the sublimely effected Shaping afforded by Christianity, while simultaneously pooh-poohing it formally and playing to the peanut-gallery, urging everybody to just ‘getcha’sef free’ (a nod to Simon and Garfunkel, of course).

This can only end in a spring egg-hunt that will never discover the eggs.***


*Let me say right here that I strongly support the constitutional principle of Separation of Church and State. But what has been happening around here most recently is not really an instance of that particular matter but rather something else: the government-abetted imposition of a secularist culture that acknowledges no Beyond (and thus, alas, no sufficient Ground for any morality and any wide and deep cultural consensus).

John Rawls gave this gambit the ‘benefit of philosophy’ by coming up with the neat claim that ‘comprehensive meaning systems’ cannot be admitted into public discourse and deliberation. This neatly eliminated ‘religion’ or religious belief as a legitimate obstruction to the various elements of the secularist agenda that required cultural, conceptual, and moral ‘space’ that the Christian moral tradition (as comprehensively formulated by Aquinas) would not permit.

Neatly, his own matrix of post-1972 ‘liberal’ presumptions, assumptions, and beliefs were not – he insisted blithely – to be considered as a ‘comprehensive meaning system’ but rather constituted merely a collection of insights and illuminations that ‘any reasonable person’ would come up with on his/her own.


**Melanie Safka, if memory serves from 40 Biblical years ago.

***One thinks too of a recent book by Alain de Botton (‘Religion for Everyone’), urging that Yes, we secularists can develop sufficient substitutes for such fuddy-duddy old stuff as ‘sacraments’: so, he urges for example, when you sit down to eat, stop for a minute and think of those who have gone before and whom we love. This, apparently, will cover Correctly and sufficiently all of the bases covered by the Catholic Eucharist, the Mass.

We can “create shared meaning” all by ourselves. No need for any Beyond nor for any external supports to sustaining genuine belief. We can just sort of ‘will’ ourselves to do it, whenever we feel like it or whenever we remember to do so and have the time.

This is the brave new world that the secularists figure will more than adequately replace – will indeed hugely surpass – the world Shaped by sustained communal belief in Christ (or anybody/thing else). A vacuum constructed over an abyssal void. Oy.

Cue the Bhagwan. And prepare to be adrift.


What would the Framing Vision – and hence America itself – have looked like if there had been no Afterglow of Christendom that Shaped the culture and spirit of the Citizenry even before the country itself was formally established?

How could Slavery have seemed repugnant? For that matter, how could Lincoln have formulated his opposition to it in the debates with Douglas, counting upon the moral sentiments of the Citizenry? Plato and Aristotle both accepted it; St. Paul himself – focused so intently on the primacy of the individual Christian’s spiritual Stance toward life in Christ – didn’t devote much ink to the worldly station of believers. How could Abolitionists – those among them who gave thought to the theological – anchored their concerns morally?

And among the Framers themselves, that ‘universality’ of Jefferson’s in the Declaration of Independence – that all human beings are created equal (a theological concept before it was a political concept) – is derived from the universality that derives from God’s creation of each human soul.

As Jefferson tried to have Jesus without the supernatual, Sullivan wants to have Jesus without the Church. Just what will precipitate out of such alchemical distilling is food for serious thought.

My concern is not so much for the ‘religious’ mindset as for the 'ideological' and 'authoritarian' mindset, because it is a more basic and dangerous problem. It is one that is shared by both Left and Right, but we can't ignore it just because it doesn't conform to conventional political framing.

Related mindsets are the 'fundamentalist' (although you can be a of fundamentalist secularist mindset as easily as you can be of a fundamentalist religious mindset) and the ‘primitive’ mindset (stereotyping, either-or thinking, self-servingly selective, refusal to accept contradictory facts). They all share basic dynamics and they all degrade the competence and effectiveness of public discourse.

There is a thus revealed a clear authoritarian streak on the current Left as well as on the Right. After all, if most of the citizens 'just don't get it' (however you define that 'it'), then the danger is instantly created that you will want to sidestep deliberative democratic politics because it's not worth the time or effort to debate or deliberate with so many people who 'don't get it'. Down that road - think of MacKinnon and Chantal Mouffe, among others - lies authoritarianism just as surely as down the corporatist and neocon Rightist road that seeks to make everybody cannon-fodder. The touted Knowledge and Service Economy (as dark a cartoon phantasm as any Night On Bald Mountain) will reduce the country to Correct college-educated elites or coffee-pouring, leaf-blowing helots, bereft of status as both Citizens and as Images of God and existing simply as creatures of the State.

Mussolini's assertion "Nothing outside the state, nothing against the state, nothing above the state" can - ironically - support the demands of an ideologically-controlled government of the Left as well as  of the Right. Funny how the conceptual night moves.

The issue is not so much 'Separation of Church and State' (a constitutional principle I fully support) as it is the Relationship of Religion and Culture. The Framers and especially Jefferson could erect the Separation Principle because they lived at a moment in Western History where the burning sun of a culture controlled by a single authority had set, but there was still enough daylight in the early dusk.

Thus the Framers lived in the Afterglow of the comprehensive cultural and social shaping of the old Medieval Christendom: they could quietly presume that common structuring and shaping of society that had already been achieved, while formally erecting the Separation between Church and State in the new American order.

The universal equality of all human beings that Jefferson pronounces in the Declaration of Independence is taken over from Judeo-Christian theology as synthesized by Aquinas - that idea is grounded solidly and immovably in the rock-solid belief that all human beings are created in the Image of God;  the idea of some Higher Law that judges and boundaries the actions of the government and forbids  it from creating laws that interfere with the genuine fulfillment of those human beings is also derived from that theological synthesis; the idea that since people are so marvelously created in the Image of God that they deserve and must be given some voice in their own government is also derived from that theological synthesis.

In fact, the Question might well be asked, as I have asked it before: what would the American Framing Vision have looked like without that heritage from the Medieval Synthesis?

Lastly, and coming around to current political eventsthat Sulllivan mentions: the Tea Party is in some ways a counter-burst of ideology generated by the sustained ideological suppression by Political Correctness from the Left. But both Tea Party and the Left-Correct agendas and justifications are instances of ideological and authoritarian thinking and it is that type of thinking - beneath the conventional framing of 'religious-or-secular', conservative-or-liberal, that is the great and lethal  danger.

In fact, I would go so far as to propose that what should be an unwritten principle of the American Vision is: the Separation of Ideology and State ... because an ideologically-driven government, by the very  dynamics of its presumptions, is going to have no use for deliberative democratic politics. And that will be true whether it is a government of the Left or of the Right.

Hence, the reality that now confounds the conventionally framed national political narrative: Bush 2 is continued and intensified by Obama who should - in the conventional and Correct framing - be the marquis paragon of all that post-1972 'liberalism' has been trying to do.

And, I would conclude, perhaps he is.


I recall also the Italian Maoist radical students’ slogan of the late 1960s: “Only violence helps where violence reigns”.

This sentiment quickly, I would say, found its way into radical-feminism here: since the ‘patriarchy’ is based on sexual violence, then any violence done (to truth, reality, objectivity, and to the patriarchally dominant, oppressive, hegemonic and marginalizing American Culture and Tradition and Framing Vision and Polity and Common-weal is all to the Good and is also Necessary.

Again, you wonder how any government could swallow this and take  it on board in a democratic polity based on deliberative democratic politics.

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Monday, April 02, 2012


In the latest, April 5, issue of the  ‘The New York Review of Books’ Michael Ignatieff reviews  a new book entitled “All the Missing Souls” by David Scheffer, a human rights expert who among other things  worked with Madeleine Albright during the Clinton years.  

I haven’t read Scheffer’s book, but Ignatieff’s review itself is instructive; I’m focusing my comments on the review itself.

Ignatieff rightly notes that “affirming belief that America is an exceptional nation has become a test of patriotism in American politics”.

He’s got a solid point there.

America is and has always been a unique phenomenon in world and human history. A nation that arose on a piece of large and remarkably endowed property that, compared to other countries, had sprung into the midst of the planet’s political affairs ‘fresh’, comparatively unencumbered by prior claims since it was, in a very real political sense, a ‘New World’.

The whole of this New World was the home of tribes of ‘natives’ who had gotten to the place long before the Europeans, who were themselves emerging from the awful forge of the millennium that followed the final fall of the Roman Empire. During that time, when the Europeans were enmeshed in myriad struggles among themselves and subjected (as late as 1683, less than a century before Lexington and Concord, the Ottomans were again before the gates of Vienna) to lethal and bloody power struggles among themselves and with other, still robust, civilizations (the aforesaid Ottomans).

But that millennium had not been one of simple ‘victimization’ for the West. Throughout the genuinely Dark Ages, Europe forged itself under the aegis of a Christendom that had managed to combine and re-combine the gifts and genius of various tribal and nascent evolving national identities and – later – monarchical polities; anchored in the perhaps under-appreciated (then, as well as now) synthesis of Greek and Roman insights into law and government combined with the Hebrew and Christian theological affirmations of the primacy of God’s reality in the affairs of humans who were simultaneously His creations, made in His Image and endowed with an immutable dignity as well as carrying an innate predilection to fail that Image.

In that regard, even the Protestant Reformation and the Scientific Revolution – which contributed mightily to the formal break-up of the Medieval synthesis of Christendom intellectually and politically – did not so much create anew from nothing, but rather continued to work variations on those great Themes, resulting in a stunning (and often confusing) profusion of thought as to how the various national cultures and polities might preserve the space and the freedom for humans to develop and sustain the deployment of their gifts.

In a vital sense what the Framers then inscribed on this political tabula rasa (granted fully that in other very real senses this New World was not a blank slate but the home and habitation of other human groups and tribes) was indeed a novus ordo seclorum, a new order for the ages.

Because the Framing Vision – especially as expressed in the first two paragraphs of the Declaration of Independence in 1776 and then given sustaining shape in the machinery emplaced by the Constitution – produced through their efforts the first large-scale polity that was grounded in and upon that idea of the equality of all human beings that extended in this and that conceptual form back to the Greeks and the Stoics, Aquinas and the post-Medieval political thoughts of Protestantism and English Constitutionalism and up into the Enlightenment. (You may well add the example of the Iroquois Confederacy, though I would then also add the communal voting-for-leaders of Aquinas’ own Order of Preachers.)

(Yes, in the crooked paths of human history that are consequent upon the crooked timber of humanity, the foundation of the United States, at its moment of construction, had to take into account the even-then odious reality of Southern race-Slavery. The Southerners, as I have said in prior Posts, made the Framers an ‘offer they couldn’t refuse’ in the darkest and most coercive sense of that phrase: a country with race-Slavery or no country at all.

It took a further 75 years for that hellish reality to be finally expunged through – under Lincoln’s torturous and subtle but profoundly noble efforts – “a great civil war”, testing both whether a democratic republic can “long endure” in human history and whether the ancient concept of the universal equality of all human beings is sufficient to ground a large polity over the long haul.

I would add two brief observations about that.

First, the universal equality of all human beings was conceived most immediately as a political equality, of the right to participate constructively in the governing of the government and as an equality before the laws thus erected.

Second, that equality was based in an observed ideal given expression in Aristotle, who based it in the observed commonality underlying the panoply of diverse human cultures, societies and civilizations encountered by the Greeks even in his time, whose commonality indicated, to him, a nature and essence and purpose common to all humans.

That equality was then merged with Christian-Catholic theology by Aquinas, who anchored it solidly (and uniquely) in the Christian-Catholic Vision, informed by revelation, of that omnipotent but benevolent Creator God in whose Image all humans were called into existence in this life (while on their way to final fulfillment in the Next).

Protestant Reformation thought further emphasized the liberty of conscience of the individual and the visceral caution towards if not also suspicion of organizational power (the Church figuring large in their experience – but that spilled inevitably into a certain stance toward political organization as well).

English Constitutional thought added that tradition’s ever-evolving and expanding definition of political rights against the intrusive power of the Crown and the intricacies of elaborating a legitimate parliamentary power and the complexities of extending the utterly vital political franchise even to those who had no property whose experience of ownership and stewardship would impart some lived experience of sober and responsible and prudent stewardship and ‘governance’.

The French Revolution demonstrated the hellish potentials of a purely ideal-driven (thus ‘ideological’) insistence not only upon Liberty, Equality, and Fraternity but also on the demand for a pure and immediate imposition of those three worthy but general goals.

And Lenin’s October Revolution (as opposed to the actual Russian Revolution of February, 1917) further exemplified that lethal potential, especially when the regime thus erected was assisted in its impositions not only by a highly-developed (if – relative to the genuine Western tradition – whackulent) ideological justification but also by all the technical machinery available to a modern state and lubricated by the post-Medieval eras’  inevitable weakening of any constraints by a Higher Law upon the actions of a putatively well-intentioned and Politically Correct regime.)

And following that further 75 years that culminated in the political refinements consequent upon that “great civil war”, it took a further century until, finally arising under the profoundly unitive as well as reformative vision given its most elaborate and elegant expression by Martin Luther King, the barriers of the Jim Crow regime – that network of state laws that supported the Southern sub-culture that sought to somehow continue the ethos of Southern race-Slavery (without the formal Slavery bit) – were rightly removed by the authority and action of the Federal government.

(The further engorgement of Federal authority and action since 1965, influenced – in the crooked dynamics of human history – by the attempted blending of Soviet and Leninist thought and dynamics with the Framing Vision and its consequent dynamics … is an actual historical development whose ultimate wisdom or folly I have addressed in recent Posts and which for the purposes of this Post shall remain bracketed.)

The efforts of Jefferson and Lincoln and King, supported by the efforts of many others not so eloquently gifted, have bequeathed to Us a very truly ‘exceptional’ Vision, and in the Constitution a machinery best conceived – by an even more exceptional Framing cohort – to sustain it on what was never considered to be anything but a long voyage through History, with all the dangers and challenges attendant thereupon.

To the extent that We as individual Citizens and as The People embrace and remain faithful to that Vision, then We too are truly ‘exceptional’ in human history.

Although, as Washington and Adams observed – and they were not the first in that long tradition – such ‘exceptionalism’, while it must instill a genuine pride and consequent sense of responsibility, does not and cannot be construed as some sort of existential (or divine) Warrant to go forth and terraform the planet, culturally and politically and – oy – militarily. We were to be a ‘beacon’ and a ‘citty upon a hill’, but not ever a benevolent Leviathan (that awful species of non-divine idol-god is of its very nature incapable of sustaining benevolence).  

And there ever remains the profoundly awful possibility – to which the crooked timber of the human psych is always prone – of a) assuming unthinkingly some misplaced and unjustifiable pride in the mere fact of Our existence as ‘exceptional’ and to then b) assuming with a lethal blitheness or callow self-assurance that We therefore are somehow exempt from not only the crookedness but also the perverse and torturous complexities of human history.

A genuine ‘patriotism’ – love of country – is and must include a mature and competent love of the Framing Vision (hard to achieve when the experience and definition of ‘love’ has undergone so many deformative and immature distortions over the years). ‘Love’ includes an element of active and deliberate and constantly-willed ‘respect’ (as it once was held, ideally but not phantasmically, to be the case in marriage and all deep human commitments).

Genuine patriotism, then, involves – before anything else – a habit of ‘respect’ which, by the by, cannot but then assume a transformative role in shaping the ‘character’ of each Citizen and of The People as a whole and – from The People – thus also of that government of which The People remain the ultimate and final governors.

To assert, as some in positions of influence do today, that America is exceptional because “it still has an unmatched military” betrays – aside from the functional accuracy (or otherwise) of that assertion – a lethally shallow and thin and indeed toxic under-appreciation and a profound misunderstanding of the nature of this country’s actual and genuine ‘exceptional’ nature.

Of course, and ominously, Correct ‘patriotism’ as it is now evolving cannot really dare to delve more deeply and genuinely into the matter. Because to do so runs the risk of involving ‘comprehensive’ systems of explanation – to use Rawls’s Correct and toxic burbling – that have been kicked to the curb in the past 40 biblical years’ worth of ‘creating space’ for rich and fresh and transgressive and groovy and world-historical diversities of culture and praxis, and – not to put too fine a point on it – to involve some thought about and reference to a Beyond, a Higher Law which the increasingly engorged Leviathan/Leviatha of government refuses to acknowledge as a boundary to its actions. Or as a standard by which those actions might be judged (or Judged).

If We, The People, are losing control of Our government, it is because We are losing control of ourselves.

Should this sort of thing happen with a carnival ride – a Ferris wheel at a local fair, say – and the operators allowed the machine to become loosened in its connections to its restraining struts, and then on top of that to allow it to pick up speed and revolve at increasingly higher speed, while loaded with passengers and in the midst of a crowded fairground … wouldn’t those operators be held responsible for the consequences? You see where this sort of thing can go.

So, yes, ‘American exceptionalism’ is no mere rhetorical sugar-rose on the cake-frosting, to be squeezed out in a pleasing shape to the oohs and aahs and the delectation of the assembled lip-smacking party-goers. It is one of the most awfully and awesomely real elements of ‘being’ if you are genuinely and fully an American and a Citizen. It is most surely not kid-stuff.

Nor is it merely a come-on phrase to be deployed seductively and manipulatively by carnival hawkers for the purposes of the stereotypical used-car salesman or world-changer. Which would include far too many of the national elites and those souls – in barrooms or consciousness-raising sessions – who find meaning and purpose in merely mouthing repetitively those same phrases, with whatever boozy and brassy embellishments or conceptually whacky assertions that might come to mind, to the amazement of the crowd and the amusement of the children.

Ignatieff is spot-on when he asserts that “law, after all, constrains power”. Although, as I mentioned in the immediately prior Post, the “rule of law” has been sorely bethump’t around here in the past 40 Biblical years, not only from the neocon and corporatist Right but from the radical-feminist and Correct Left – law for those types being merely an oppressive embodiment of patriarchy and the status-quo.  

(It was Obama himself who observed in ‘The Audacity of Hope’ that the Left had made a serious error when it “over-used” the courts to “avoid political fights”, thus seeking – I would say – to subordinate the law and the courts to becoming mere agents of their agendas and their ‘revolution’, much as Lenin referred to “our revolutionary courts”.

Although this was precisely what Catharine MacKinnon had recommended when she put forth her essentially Gramscian-Leninist legal and political agenda for radical-feminism: since The People ‘just don’t get it’, then go around them and – with charming conceptual incoherence but acute revolutionary cynicism – take it to the courts, thus avoiding “messy” politics altogether and getting the judges, inspired especially by the sublime legal stylings of Justice Brennan, to impose the revolution for them. As I said in the immediately prior Post, the true nature of this profoundly anti-American and anti-Framing Vision approach seemed and seems to have escaped the effective notice of the commentariat and the Correct elites and the sworn upholders of that Framing Vision in the Beltway.)

But of course, if there is no ‘Law’ and there are only laws passed by a government that acknowledges no Higher constraints upon it, then ‘law’ simply becomes the football in the general scrum that Identity Politics envisions as the primary reality of such ‘democracy’ and ‘democratic politics’ as it considers legitimate and useful. As Chantal Mouffe, noted Eurocommunist of the 1970s and 1980s put it, her fresh and rich “radical democracy” had no use whatsoever for a “deliberative democratic politics”.

And as I have often said, between radical-feminism’s blanket presumption that most of The People ‘just don’t get it’ and Mouffe’s logical Marxist-Leninist presumption that there is no need for a “deliberative democratic politics” when most of the Citizens are either patriarchal or self-cooperating oppressed lumps who essentially are too politically ungulant to want to free themselves from the status-quo of their various oppressions and need to be herded (or stampeded) by the vanguard elites who do ‘get it’ … then there is a fundamental authoritarianism built into both of their resulting political agendas.

Long live the revolution, then. Trangsression uber alles.  But you aren’t going to keep faith with the Framing Vision at the same time. America is not – pace the old saw – a Hollywood movie where in the end you can get the girl (or guy), the gold watch, and everything and live happily ever after and/or ride into the sunset towards California. (Or, in that early 1990s chick-flick’s equally whackulent ending, hold hands and drive over the cliff into an iconic Western canyon-gorge. An abyss is an abyss, no matter how tastefully arranged by local geology and photographed by the camera crew.)

Surely, now, neither heading to California nor driving over a cliff should be considered a good idea; although who knows, in the current desperation, how many are considering the possibilities.

The Hebrews considered the Law as holy not simply (and perhaps simplistically, to the secular mind) because it was given to them by God, but because the effect of that Law was to create social and cultural and political order out of the chaos that existed before. And that order was thus considered to be the most marvelous gift of God to a chosen people mired, as was all of humanity, in the abyssal swamps of living-together without reliably grounded and life-enabling Law.

In the general scrum of the past 40 Biblical years, that bit of rather vital insight has been lost. But the reality that it describes remains. Shutting off the fire-alarm – who knew? – doesn’t extinguish the fire.

Ignatieff notes that Scheffer reports his becoming increasingly aware of the truly shocking fact that during his tenure in Madeleine Albright’s patch of the Clinton Administration, the US was now coming to see itself as above the very law (and Law) that it had sought to strengthen through the erection of the UN in FDR’s last Administration and in the Nuremberg trials in Truman’s Administration.

Albright herself is relevant here. A woman, and older, she was also possessed of assorted memories and some personal experiences of the Holocaust and of World War Two’s epic struggle against Fascism and Nazisim and Imperial Japanese military hegemonism. So in her own personal history she covered a number of useful ‘bases’: a woman, tied to the Holocaust (and thus now to the Israeli government’s agendas), and a revenant from that last Moment when America had both the chops and the high purpose of saving the world from militant hegemony.

But she was also soused with the more recent radical-feminist authoritarianistic presumptions which not only came from that alien political Universe of Marxism-Leninism (imported here when the radical-feminists filched Gramsci and adapted him to their purposes, with Beltway collaboration) but also served as a marvelous cover for the neocon Right’s own dampdream of American world-hegemony (which has proved as dependent on the military for the fulfillment and imposition  of its purposes as the radical Left has proven dependent on the courts).

Nor have things gotten any better now that several of the most ‘successful’ women in the current Administration have embraced ‘R2P’, the Responsibility to Protect doctrine. Based on the radical-feminist legal and political theory first deployed here domestically – that since ‘the personal is political’ and since patriarchy is most fundamentally furthered by the patriarchal dominance of the sexually aggressive and violent male ‘within the family’ then no ‘old ideas’ about the government being boundaried against interfering in that most intimate private sphere can be considered legitimate – the R2P ‘doctrine’ insists that no ‘old ideas’ about Westphalian ‘sovereignty’ can be allowed to interfere in the US government’s ‘right’ to step in (militarily, of course) wherever it deems it necessary to ‘protect’ against ‘victimization’.

Queasily but revealingly, this doctrine seems only to be deployed now against nations that either don’t have the military strength to defend themselves against such intervention, or have somehow become an obstruction to this or that US foreign-policy objective. Sending the peerless military against China or Russia, for example, is probably not going to happen, no matter how much ‘protection’ those citizenries (especially their ‘women’ and – of course – ‘children’ might need). And, of course, if there is any ‘sexual violence’ and ‘patriarchy’ in, say, Israel, well – even if it does exist, no doubt the Israelis can handle it themselves and don’t need any intervention. Neat.

We are “exceptional” and – to add Albright’s own spin – “indispensable”.

We are not “chosen” (or – in Lincoln’s fine phrase – “almost-chosen”) any longer. To assert that would upset the Israelis' Jewish religious sensibilities and, more importantly, would upset the secularist sensibilities over here who most surely aren’t interested, from either Left or Right, in suggesting that there is anyone (or any One) who might have the authority to do the Choosing. (George Bush the Lesser may have been the Deciderer, but there will be no Chooser with a capital ‘C’ in the brave new secular world order).

For a while the Republican-abetted embrace and valorization of the whackjob Fundamentalists provided benefit of clergy – as it were – for the Gott-Mit-Uns trope. But that was then. Now, as the new coinage indicates, America doesn’t trust in God. Or, more cogently, doesn’t trust God to approve of what it’s up to.

The Left will now try to plaster over the lethal divisions in American society induced and even required by the past 40 Biblical years of cultural and political destruction (or rich transgression, if you wish) by insisting that all types of ‘oppression’ – racial, gender,and class – are bad and evil.

Like Stalin suddenly faced with the (somewhat self-induced) catastrophe of the rampant calamity of Hitler’s invasion in June, 1941, all previously demonized classes will now suddenly become honored participants in (and cannon fodder for) the regime’s Great Patriotic War.

Were you a kulak or other oppressive parasite life form? Don’t give it another thought - you are now a Russian, even if you are not a member of the Party, and – but of course – we are all Russians together. Da! And wheeeeeeeeeeee! So pick up a shovel or rifle and head for the front (which, helpfully, will shorten your journey by coming straight at you at high speed). Don’t vorry – be hapski!

The Left – still clinging to command on the Titanic-bridge of the Democratic Party – will now embrace the formerly lumpen-oppressor ‘males’ and the small-businessfolk and their lumpen-culture of Productivity and Family, even as the Correct elites whose ultimate conceptual objective is to eradicate them and all their pomps and all their works continue to double-down on the agenda that ran everything and everybody into the berg (and over the cliff).

Why, even Archie Bunker may be ‘rehabilitated’. He too may receive the type of leaden encomia  of the type most recently reserved for Correct and elite thinkers: Tireless Implementer of the Five-Year Oil Plan! Stakhanovite Toiler for the Ten Year Solvency Plan! Courageous Dreamer of the Twenty-Year Impossible Dream Plan!

Obama has now had to lunch in the White House the neocon huffer-and-puffer Robert Kagan, who has feathered his nest richly by insisting that as long as the US has its military, it will never be out of business as hegemon or at least as world-class Macher and Player. And as Madeleine Albright said to the feckless Colin Powell – channeling, marvelously, Hitler himself: What’s the use of this great military if we aren’t going to use it?

Funny how the world-historical night moves.

It is on currents as powerful but lethally convoluted as this that this increasingly ‘almost-chosen’ People is adrift, bereft of compass or pole-star and, oy, fuel and even watertight integrity.

We do indeed have a rendezvous with a world-historical destiny now.

But perhaps it’s time to take stock of just what Citizenship means. It may be time for The People, as a feisty pitcher, to save the game lost by the elite ‘team’ that has been calling the shots for so long.


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