There’s a reason everything the left hears is a Rorschach about President Donald Trump. There’s a reason why they appear so clownishly ridiculous fawning over a speech by former President George W. Bush when less than a decade ago they were portraying Bush as a satanic chimpanzee who personally ordered every one of our Iraq and Afghanistan dead into a hail of killing bullets.
There’s a reason why Jonah Goldberg, after many hundreds of weeks penning “Dear Reader” gags for his G-File missives, finally ran dry writing about the Bush speech. See, Bush spoke of values born of a moored, externally-referenced world view, where the terms “rights,” and “civil” and “freedom” are imbued with transcendent meaning to all human culture.
The great unmoored
The progressive left pretends to buy into those meanings, but they have long unmoored the words from any external references. In Bush’s speech, the word “God” was only mentioned twice, and both times in the same general context.
We have seen our discourse degraded by casual cruelty. At times, it can seem like the forces pulling us apart are stronger than the forces binding us together. Argument turns too easily into animosity. Disagreement escalates into dehumanization. Too often, we judge other groups by their worst examples while judging ourselves by our best intentions – forgetting the image of God we should see in each other.
Two political groups, both of whom have unmoored their value sets from an external reference point, saw that paragraph as a repudiation of Donald Trump, for good or for ill, depending on which group. But as Goldberg suggested, it in fact was a repudiation of both groups themselves. It was a form of the old phrase “if the shoe fits…”
The “American ideal” to which Bush referred is one he learned from the Eisenhower and Kennedy era, of the Cold War and the post World War II world order. It was one of order imposed by freedom-seeking people opposing the forces of tyranny and communism. But the schism is no longer defined that way.
It’s now in terms of President Trump’s “Western Civilization” speech given in Warsaw. The great foe is very similar to the one that preceded World War II, when communism was discussed favorably at dinner parties,. It was a period when Ayn Rand and Margaret Sanger and the value of Fascism to promote order and progress in savage humanity’s bosom were popular ideas on campuses and in many boardrooms (and newsrooms).
That was a time when “Western Civilization” was presumed to be white and Christian, and when intellectuals began to question the assumptions of the values of colonialism. When Swami Vivekananda arrived in Chicago in 1893, his opening remarks at the World Parliament of Religions swooned the crowd of 5,000, quoting from the Bhagavad Gita, with messages of faith and tolerance.
He called the world’s faithful to fight “sectarianism, bigotry, and its horrible descendant, fanaticism.” He may as well have been standing on the platform with George W. Bush.
India’s Hindus are not without blood on their hands, of course. And in India, as in much of the world outside of “Western Civilization,” criticism of their religion, history, or social order is today met with stern opposition, if not prison and violence. Only in the West are travesties like “Piss Christ” tolerated, while the foundations of faith are mercilessly attacked as the cause, not the cure, for our ails.
It’s not like this century-long trend (interrupted by a few wars, but those only slowed it) of Western rebellion, skepticism and self-bashing has gone unnoticed. Alexander Solzhenitsyn, rugged in his intellectual honesty, and afraid of no man, defined it very well in his 1978 Harvard commencement address. (Please, read the whole speech.)
Anguish about our divided world gave birth to the theory of convergence between leading Western countries and the Soviet Union. It is a soothing theory, which overlooks the fact that these worlds are not at all developing into similarity; neither one can be transformed into the other without the use of violence. Besides, convergence inevitably means acceptance of the other side’s defects, too, and this is hardly desirable.
I imagine that Solzhenitsyn would not be comfortable sharing the platform with Mr. Bush. However, he would agree with some of the basic foundations that drive Bush’s antiquated and disproven curatives.
I have spent all my life under a Communist regime, and I will tell you that a society without any objective legal scale is a terrible one indeed. But a society with no other scale but the legal one is not quite worthy of man either. A society that is based on the letter of the law and never reaches any higher is taking very small advantage of the high level of human possibilities. The letter of the law is too cold and formal to have a beneficial influence on society. Whenever the issue of life is woven of legalistic relations, there is an atmosphere of moral medicrity, paralyzing man’s noblest impulses.
Then the dissident moved along this line into some topics which became very uncomfortable for the Harvard progressives in the audience. They’d be very uncomfortable to progressives today.
To be candid, they’d also be very uncomfortable for many Trump supporters. If the shoe fits…
A current paradox of sin
To bring this full-circle and out of the realm of heady intellectualism, look at California. Specifically look at the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, which just ruled that a challenge to the state’s 145-year-old law against prostitution (which as of 2017 isn’t really enforced anyway) may proceed.
The suit, brought by three ex-sex workers, a client, and the Erotic Service Providers Legal, Educational and Research Project, says California’s current laws violate the rights of people to engage in consensual sex. The Supreme Court backed up those laws 14 years ago when it revoked criminal laws against gay sex acts.
“Why should it be illegal to sell something that it’s legal to give away?” said Judge Carlos Bea, a conservative.
So in California, it may be okay to pay money for consensual sex with someone who may or may not be engaging in that transaction completely of their own free will. But it’s not okay to engage in consensual sex with a movie producer who may or may not end a woman’s career if she doesn’t.
Because women must be empowered to do whatever they must to do advance their careers, including selling their bodies, except when men expect them to sell their bodies in order to advance their careers. Except when their career is actually selling their bodies, for the benefit of men who call themselves pimps (or movie producers in the most lucrative branch of filmmaking, hard-core pornography).
In any logical world or mind, that’s total nonsense. It goes back to the old joke about would the woman have sex with the man for $1 million? Yes? Then what about $10? Upon her objection, “What kind of a woman do you think I am?” he replied, “We’ve already established that, now we’re just haggling over the price.”
California is a shining example of the progressive ideal gone exactly where it was meant to go. The solution is always just past the next fence, which must be knocked down for the sake of obtaining the solution.
It always leads to intellectual poverty, ideological tyranny, and eventually, actual poverty and tyranny, if left to fester unabated.
G.K. Chesterton wrote in “Orthodoxy,” 109 years ago, his very astute observations of rebellion against everything except pure skepticism. In every topic from law to ethics, to politics, to journalism, the progressive left rejects the foundations that support its own conclusions.
They are as unmoored as a ship at sea in a storm, rudderless and without charts or any reference to position. I leave you with Chesterton’s words, why the progressive leftist can laud Bush when they perceive his words to attack Trump, with whom he very well may agree more on many issues than they do.
But the new rebel is a skeptic, and will not entirely trust anything. He has no loyalty; therefore he can never be really a revolutionist. And the fact that he doubts everything really gets in his way when he wants to denounce anything. For all denunciation implies a moral doctrine of some kind; and the modern revolutionist doubts not only the institution he denounces, but the doctrine by which he denounces it. . . . As a politician, he will cry out that war is a waste of life, and then, as a philosopher, that all life is waste of time.
A Russian pessimist will denounce a policeman for killing a peasant, and then prove by the highest philosophical principles that the peasant ought to have killed himself. . . . The man of this school goes first to a political meeting, where he complains that savages are treated as if they were beasts; then he takes his hat and umbrella and goes on to a scientific meeting, where he proves that they practically are beasts. In short, the modern revolutionist, being an infinite skeptic, is always engaged in undermining his own mines. In his book on politics he attacks men for trampling on morality; in his book on ethics he attacks morality for trampling on men. Therefore the modern man in revolt has become practically useless for all purposes of revolt. By rebelling against everything he has lost his right to rebel against anything.