Monday, February 13, 2012

What is America about?

After getting into two highly acrimonious debates with individuals who are more interested in promoting political correctness than to listen to reasoned dissent, I have to ask myself what Americans think their country is about. 

The political division that currently exists suggests that there are three possible answers. The liberal would argue for economic, or redistributive “justice,” the neo-conservative would argue for power, and the libertarian for individual freedom. 

I have come to realize that constitutional and libertarian arguments will only make sense to those who value personal freedom – and it appears that for many Americans, that value is expendable. Those who see America in terms of economic equality or military power will support the notion that Ron Paul is an old crank who is off the rocker they think he should be seated on.  

"From each according to his gullibility,
to each according to his greed!"
The economic redistributionist rejects free enterprise, because it entails risk. Risk is unacceptable to the poor because they cannot, of course, accept financial loss; and is unacceptable for the rich because it creates wealth that (in their view) is not earned. Without risk, there is no opportunity, but for them that is a small price to pay. The end game, though, is to replace an elite based on wealth with one based on political correctness. For them, the goal is not really justice -- it is power for those who toe the party line. Their means is to write more extensive and tighter regulations to discourage anyone from taking any initiative that has not been blessed by their government.  

For such people, the charge of racism is a handy way to bully those who disagree with them. If you want to replace the welfare state, you are a racist. If you want an educational system that teaches young people how to find the truth, you are a racist. If you believe in the Anglo-American heritage of rule by law and would insist on using the English language so that everyone can fully understand that heritage, you are a racist. 

Those who see America’s purpose as being a military power see personal freedom as expendable to protect our “national security.” They cannot be persuaded by reasonable arguments that trade, diplomacy, and taking the moral high road can be effective levers to promote our national interest. They think applying the Golden Rule to international relations is ridiculous and perhaps even dangerous, and then they wonder why the Iraqis and the Afghans are intent on getting us out of their countries – after all, we came on a mission to build free and fair societies – according to our customs and standards. Ask the neocons about how they would feel if, for example, the Chinese invaded this country on the same basis, and they will mutter something about “American exceptionalism.” 

To a reasonable person, “American exceptionalism” is nothing more than arrogance, pure and simple. 

As I was recently reminded, those who see America in terms of power cannot understand any argument that undermines their almost religious belief that Abraham Lincoln was the greatest (or maybe second greatest) of Presidents. Yes, he preserved the Union, but was it really worth the cost: 660,000 battlefield casualties, the mass murder of Georgia’s civilians during Sherman’s March to the Sea, his blatant hypocrisy on slavery? The surrender at Appomattox began a process of consolidation into an all-powerful federal government that continues to this day. We had a Constitution to protect our rights. Why did he find it necessary to destroy it in order to save the Union? If the issue was slavery, he could have followed the lead of Britain and France (which Brazil later followed) and simply bought out the slaveowners, which would have been cheaper than going to war. If he valued freedom, he could have shown good faith to the Southerners who were willing to negotiate a settlement to prevent their secession.

When looking at mysteries of this kind, some wise people have said, “Follow the money.” Prior to the Civil War, wealth was fairly evenly spread across the land – North and South. Lincoln was backed heavily by New York bankers, who greatly benefitted from his rule. In the 1870s, wealth heavily concentrated in New York City, while the South was reduced to abject poverty, and would remain so for nearly a century.

Fergit, hell!
The evidence for each of my statements is easy enough to find in any standard history of the Civil War or Reconstruction; but of course, my bringing it up is “revisionist.” And, of course, the neocons join the liberals in promoting the notion that any white male whose family has resided in the South more than a generation or two is the absolute scum of the earth. That notion is completely contrary to reason if you believe that people are individuals who deserve to be judged by the content of their character and not the color of their skin or the accent of their voice; but Lord, don’t let Martin Luther King, Jr.’s beliefs stand in the way of those who loudly sing his praises! And Christians should keep their religion to themselves if they aren’t willing to idolize the state, support foreign wars, and promote social conservatism!

Just before I wrote this, I asked myself how anyone could believe in personal freedom and not let those who feel they have been wronged to form their own nation; especially when they respected law enough to follow due process as it was understood prior to 1865.

I thought I didn’t get it. Unfortunately, I do now. The way the Republican Presidential primary is shaping up, it is becoming clear that America is not about personal freedom. If President Obama is defeated in November, we will establish that America probably is not about redistribution of wealth, at least not the way the Democratic and Socialist idealists look at it. So I guess it's about power. We will continue to be ruled by those who have the most to gain from holding power.
It’s enough to make a grown man cry.

I’m finished ranting now. Please return to your regularly-scheduled programming.

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