John Mulaney hit the nail on the head with his description of Donald Trump as being like a "Horse loose in a hospital". The real question is, now that we know the dumb beast is out causing havoc, how to we get him out of the hospital and back out to pasture?
A lot of people have asked me how I feel about the recent protests involving NFL players kneeling during the national anthem. Anyone who knows me knows that I do not take kindly to people disrespecting the flag. However, if you know me, or have noticed the URL of my website, you also know that I am passionate about liberty. So you might think that I am torn on this. I am not.
Most people seem to think that you must support something if you support people's right to do it, or that you must support what is being said if you support people's right to say it. That simply isn't true. Just as I support the right of people to peacefully make hateful or even racist speech, I also support the right of people to burn and or disrespect our flag. However, I also think people who make racist/hateful speech are certified asshats, and I feel similarly about those who disrespect the flag.
I have seen people like Trevor Noah try to race bait the argument saying that minorities aren't supposed to protest in the streets, and they aren't supposed to protest on the field, so it's simply impossible to protest if you are black. This is the sort of race-baiting hate-filled nonsense that got us to where we are today. Protesting in the streets is fine. Rioting is not. Protesting on the field is fine, even during the anthem it is fine. But it does, in my mind, make you a jerk, and make you lose credibility to those you are trying to sway. Here's why...
I am not going to make the argument that your disrespect of the flag demeans or belittles my military service, because the fact is, there is nothing you can do that will tarnish what I or my brothers & sisters in arms have done for this country. But I do presume that if you are protesting, that you are trying to make a change. And if you are trying to make a change, then that means you have to sway people and show them you are right. It's easy to get those on the same side of the argument to agree with you. It's harder to change people's minds. In some cases, you cannot change their minds, and the best you can hope for is to create indifference. Disrespecting a flag ceremony, especially one ostensibly intended to salute veterans, is a decidedly divisive act of virtue signaling. Yes, like all protests, it is an action intended to be provocative, but it is not followed with any action to bring the other side into the fold. Ideally, if you are going to bring attention to yourself or your cause, it should either be positive attention or be followed with a strong positive action or message.
Many black people in this country get a raw deal. There is no denying that. It is also completely unacceptable that black men are incarcerated at nearly 5 times the rate of white people. That is a real problem and it must be addressed. We have a problem in our policing, and a problem in our justice system. A great deal of the problems stems from unjust laws like drug prohibitions that disproportionately impact the black community. There is no way to make that seem any nicer than it is. Black men have been killed on the street because they were selling loose cigarettes, which is at best a tax evasion crime, certainly not a violent crime. It is unacceptable for any person to be killed on the street because they are accused of a crime. This is the worst side of our great country, and it will take time to fix. It will take time and effort from us all to get it right. We have come a long way but still, have far to go.
However, the dark side of our country is not all that the flag stands for. Some will say that the protest is about the "secret racist third verse of the national anthem". This is an argument born out of ignorance because there is no third verse to the U.S. National Anthem. The anthem was based on a poem, which did have a controversial third stanza. Controversial enough that it was not included when they set the poem to music and made it the anthem. The actual anthem, as it exists, has little to no controversial content at all, and certainly none that could be called racist.
Some will say that the current round of protests is to show solidarity with Colin Kaepernick. They will say that the only reason he was shut out of the NFL this year is because of his protests in the last season. This may be true. But that is at worst, a Human Resources issue within the NFL, not a national issue deserving of protest. It also seems to me, that if your goal is to show solidarity with a player who isn't allowed to play, the best way to do that is to not play either. Of course, that would likely mean you won't get paid. If you disagree with the policies of your employer, you should either take it up with them, or choose not to work for them anymore.
If the goal of those kneeling is to improve race relations in the U.S. you will not achieve it by being divisive or by taking actions that make about half the country look down on you. You will never improve race relations by perpetuating an "us versus them" message. You cannot achieve unity by dividing. NFL players have bags of money and the ability to get the attention of the media easily. If they want to make real change in our country they can do so by getting out into the community, speaking publicly and meeting with their local police officials to discuss the need for better policing and more community-oriented policing. I am certain that there are tons of other ways that they could take actions that would be seen as building-up and improving our communities and bridging what remains of the racial divide, rather than an action which draws the vitriol of so many. If they want to protest during the game, they could interrupt the game, where an item on their jersey to signify the protest, or countless other actions that do not disrespect, cheapen or belittle a symbol that so many feel so strongly about.
The reason I feel strongly about the flag is because of what I believe the flag actually represents. To me, it represents us, we the people, e Pluribus Unum (out of many, one). Yes, the flag represents where we came from, and our history and all the dark parts of that history, but it also (and more importantly) represents who we are today, and where we are going. Just as our nation has changed over the centuries, so too has our flag. When you use the flag to represent only those things that are wrong with our country, you are playing the worst form of identity politics. You are basically saying that the entire country is wrong and undeserving of respect. I cannot accept that our entire country deserves public degradation because of the contemptible actions of a very small few. They may be a small few with a great deal of power, but they do not represent us as a whole. The call to action needs to be against those that enable the militarization of our police force and create unjust laws, not against the entirety of our nation. Our nation is a rich tapestry of people, cultures, languages, and beliefs. For all its flaws, I believe the United States remains the best example of what humanity has to offer and what we can achieve when we work together. We are far from perfect. Indeed, we have a very long way to go. But I believe that if we focus on what we have in common, we will make far more progress than we will by focusing on what divides us.
So yes, if you are a civilian who wants to kneel during the anthem, by all means, do so. I will defend your right to do it with my life, just as I would defend your right to speak hateful things. But I will not agree with your actions. I will tell you that I think you are misguided, and we can find a better way, if you are willing to stand-up and get to work.
We are not yet even a full month into the new president's term and it is abundantly clear that he intends to use the powers afforded to him by the office to the fullest extent possible. As someone firmly in the political middle, it is quite interesting to watch current events unfold. Some of Trump's political appointments strike me as sensible and sound. I approve of his selection for Secretary of Defense, Education Secretary, and his choice to replace Supreme Court Justice Antonine Scalia. Some of his other appointments are far more disturbing, his inclusion of Steve Bannon not only on his staff, but also on the National Security Council should give everyone pause, and the choice of Jeff Sessions as the next U.S. Attorney General clearly was not intended to build any bridges.
Trump's supporters applaud him being a "successful" businessman (though one could question the veracity of his success) and point out that the country will benefit from having such a person at the helm. While I would normally agree that a political outsider with business experience would be a welcome new face to the office of the president, Trump seems to lack some basic understanding of the office that is a prerequisite to his (and our country's) success. The reason a libertarian, such as myself, would normally welcome a businessman to the White House is to introduce fiscal responsibility. However, Trump campaigned on the promise of a number of wildly expensive projects with little to no return on investment (think the wall). What's more, most truly successful business people surround themselves with sage counsel and top-notch professionals. But Trump has already refused to receive regular National Security Briefings, he has removed the head of the Joint Chiefs of Staff from his National Security Council and he has no actual economists on his staff at all. This is all clearly because he is far more interested in advancing his own agenda, and his own best interests more than the best interests of the country.
But how did this happen? How could a man with such an obviously self-centered agenda have won the the candidacy? How could a man who ran on policies based in fear, nationalism and xenophobia have won the presidency?
Simply put, the political left in the United States is woefully out of touch with nearly half of the United States voting public. American voters can generally be split into two groups, the highly educated left who have good intentions, want to care for and educate people, and believe that a paternalistic government is the best way to achieve that goal. The left tends to believe in the innate goodness of people and believe that most people will choose greater education and better opportunity if it is offered (by the government). The voting base on the right tends to have less formal education. Their lack of formal education and their propensity for religious belief tends to make them more apt to view their loyalty to their political party almost as a religious experience. They tend to be tribalist and nationalist in their views. In the minds of the uneducated right, their country is ALWAYS on the right side of history and "Made in America" is always better. The educated right are more than willing to take advantage of the less educated voting base to stay in power. For decades, this system has worked well enough for both sides, as the left got voted into office by giving away more entitlements to the masses, and the right got voted in by appealing to the fears of their base. Until recently, the educated members of the right were able to ensure they were the ones who remained in power, and kept the ignorance of their base in check by ignoring their most heinous promises once elected. The left, seemed to never truly believe that the ignorance spouted in the world was shared by anything more than an overly vocal minority.
No one expected that a living caricature of the worst traits of human ignorance would ever actually be elected. Because the left believed the fearful, xenophobia of the uneducated voting base of the right was a meaningless minority. The leadership on the right never thought they would lose control of that very same base. Since at least the 1980's the American right has been growing ever more anti-intellectual. And as always happens with all anti-intellectual movements, they became more and more religious. In the absence of reason, they sought meaning in superstition and nationalism. This all happened as the American left became ever more intellectual, artistic and cerebral, making them more and more an anathema to the American right.
The inability of the American left to understand or even acknowledge the beliefs and fears of the voting base of the American right left them in a position unable to adequately respond to those fears. The left was unable to empathize, and show a road forward in a meaningful way; where those on the right, with more traditional beliefs still have a role to play. Rather, the political right was left to believe that they had been abandoned by the "elites." All while while they elected a rich, Ivy League educated billionaire to office simply because he has the vocabulary of an ill educated sixth grader and is willing to feed their fears.
The question that remains is, what must be done to move ALL Americans more toward the political center, to vote-in consensus building candidates before too much damage can be done to our great republic?
There are many people who said they were going to vote for a third party, but at the last minute opted to vote for Donald Trump. Most of these people will tell you that they didn't want to throw their vote away. My message to them is what follows.
It's not okay that you cared more about casting a winning vote than voting your conscious. It's not okay that in your attempt to stop a "liar and a crook" you chose to vote for a sexist, homophobic bigot. All politicians are liars and crooks, but not all of them have publicly cast aspersions upon entire groups of people, many of whom you likely have close relationships with (women, Latinos, gays, veterans, etc.). It is NOT okay that you voted for a man who will make people feel okay with showing their previously hidden bigotry, which makes life harder for my wife and my kids (my wife is Hispanic). It is not okay that you were so interested in "winning" that you violated the trust of so many people. You had other options. You talked a big game about voting third party. But when the time came... You took the path of least resistance.
Your choice is indefensible, other than to apologize for having been completely thoughtless. Perhaps you thought your vote didn't matter? It is now perfectly obvious that every vote for Trump mattered. Trump received just as much support as he needed to win the electoral college, despite having lost the popular vote. If your reason for voting for Trump was to stop Clinton, then you could have been just as effective by voting for a third party. The advantage of the third party vote is that it also serves to send a message to the establishment.
The real problem with Trump is not that he is somehow going to introduce some terrible changes that makes life harder for women and minorities. He won't, and even if he wanted to making sweeping changes in the U.S. system of government is difficult by design. The real issue is that his victory has sent a message to those who espouse these despicable beliefs that it is okay to do so publicly. Starting on the very first day after the election we saw a drastic increase in the number of racially charged events happening across the country. I hope this dies down, but if it does not, it is because the people who hold these beliefs have been sent the message that it is okay to act on these beliefs in the worst ways. And if you voted for Trump, then you helped make that change a reality.
I don't think this picture needs a lot of explanation... but it strikes me as both funny and very sad that the same people who go about calling themselves "Pro-Life" are all too often the same ones who are so eager to go to war and kill others by the thousands. And somehow, they don't see the hypocrisy in this. It is just more evidence of the failure of American schools, particularly those in Texas. Perhaps Ted should have stayed in Canada. He may have gotten a better education.
If you follow politics, you are probably aware of the emergence of people who claim to be “progressives”. These people aren’t referring to the American Progressive Era of the 1890’s to the 1920’s they're referring to neo-progressivism, a political movement that isn't new but has only recently found itself at the forefront of Western politics. This ideology is often conflated with liberalism, especially by people who consider the left to be a monolithic political position. This has not been discouraged by neo-progressives themselves. As this allows them to use people’s positive predisposition to liberalism as a sort of Trojan Horse by which to inject illiberal neo-progressive ideas into circumstances in which they would otherwise be rejected.
I would like to examine neo-progressivism in detail, from a liberal perspective. This will be done to ensure a distinction between the two, distinctive, competing political philosophies of the political left.
There is an excellent and concise description of neo-progressivism on the website of the conservative think-tank, The Heritage Foundation. It states, “Beginning in the 1950s, a more radical form of liberalism emerged in the academy that sowed the seeds for the sexual revolution and multiculturalism. Neo-progressivism mobilized the New Left of the 1960s, transformed American politics, and continues to dominate the cultural and political conversation today. It combines what neo-progressives call personal politics (the idea that American citizens have a right to all forms of self-expression) and cultural politics (the idea that cultural groups are entitled to special status) together as the twin pillars of a new identity politics. As a result, citizens today have more, not less, freedom from government in the realm of sexual expression, and the American electorate has been fractured into various groups.”
Later in the article, there is an excellent synopsis of one of the primary identifiers of neo-progressive thought, “The new progressivism divides Americans into categories of race, class, and gender. It renews the specter of race conflict by rejecting the goal of civil rights, in which individuals achieve equality under the law; instead, the goal is political racial solidarity against what is viewed as an inherently racist American system.” This is an excellent description that is unfortunately, not limited to the United States. The author is describing what is commonly referred to as “Identity Politics”. Identity Politics is the first of the three pillars of neo-progressivism.
The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy’s definition of Identity Politics is as follows, “The laden phrase “identity politics” has come to signify a wide range of political activity and theorizing founded in the shared experiences of injustice of members of certain social groups. Rather than organizing solely around belief systems, programmatic manifestos, or party affiliation, identity political formations typically aim to secure the political freedom of a specific constituency marginalized within its larger context. Members of that constituency assert or reclaim ways of understanding their distinctiveness that challenge dominant oppressive characterizations, with the goal of greater self-determination.” Identity Politics is the rallying cry by which neo-progressivism attempts to gain mass appeal, through recruitment by association. It is not through fine argumentation, clear-headed empiricism or accurate reason that people are persuaded to join the neo-progressive cause. It is rather by playing a game of Snap with people’s physical characteristics.
The purpose of Identity Politics is, ironically, to remove the individual from the equation when calculating the experience of the individual. No longer is the question, “What is Bob’s experience?” the question is now, “What is the experience of Black men?”, as if this is somehow a universal constant. The appeal to the collective is intended to give issues more weight, more urgency and more legitimacy. To appeal to a collective, is to magnify the problem. Thus maximizing the attention drawn to it. It relies on the individual not to examine to the pretext of this approach too carefully. There is no attempt to use any form of intellectual engagement, instead the attempt is to gather appeal on the most base level by asserting the claim, “we look alike, therefore we must think alike”.
It is this appeal to demography that ties in most potently with the second pillar of neo-progressivism. If Identity Politics is the clarion call to action, then Political Correctness is the sword they use to strike down their opponents. The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines politically correct as “agreeing with the idea that people should be careful to not use language or behave in a way that could offend a particular group of people”. Surely, anyone who has read the book “1984” can recognize thought terminating rhetoric when they see it. Thought termination, and the notion of “wrong think” are precisely the point of political correctness. It is the appeal to avoid the potential collective offense of people who can be defined, but not identified and who are left deliberately intangible, in order to enable claims of “offense” without anyone actually raising a complaint. Thus, any comment or action taken against a member of a given demographic which is protected by identity politics can be obfuscated and “astroturfed” by counter claims made against that person’s demographic identification.
The most striking example of political correctness in action may have been the case of the “Rotherham Rape Gangs”. These gangs, comprised entirely of immigrant muslims, were able to plague the UK for over a decade because the police were afraid to take action, knowing that any action they took would be colored by the lens of political correctness. The authorities knew that any action they took, no matter how legitimate, would be condemned as “racist”.
This is the danger of political correctness, although probably not originally designed for such a job, it has been repurposed as a weapon to be used against dissenting viewpoints and actions taken by individuals who were born into non-protected demographics. The very act of doing this is a demonstration of the third and final pillar of neo-progressivism, “Postmodernism”.
Postmodernism is a slippery concept, which the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy describes as “That postmodernism is indefinable is a truism. However, it can be described as a set of critical, strategic and rhetorical practices employing concepts such as difference, repetition, the trace, the simulacrum, and hyperreality to destabilize other concepts such as presence, identity, historical progress, epistemic certainty, and the univocity of meaning.”
To the uninitiated, this is a very complex definition. Described more clearly, postmodernism is a style of debate used to disrupt the foundations upon which an argument rests rather than addressing the argument itself. This is achieved through constant questioning of the certainty of the argument’s presupposition in an effort to undermine the unambiguity of the concepts from which it is formed. The postmodernist will start big and gradually reduce their line of questioning to the very granules upon which an argument it made, until such time that the target is unable to provide adequate detail or is simply exhausted from explaining the minutiae of each and every stage of their argument.
Put more simply, postmodernism is deliberately designed to win a debate without actually having the debate. It should be self-evident that this is intellectually dishonest. It is the shield by which neo-progressivism prevents, diverts or deflects any legitimate criticism of its precepts.
Postmodernism is the result of “critical theory” a description of which can be found in college courses across the western world. The narrow sense of “critical theory was coined by a group of german philosophers and social theorists known as “The Frankfurt School”. It began with Horkheimer and Adorno and stretched to Marcuse and Habermas. They distinguished “critical” from “traditional” theory by saying that a theory is critical to the extent that it seeks human emancipation, to “liberate” human beings from those circumstances which enslave them. More broadly, critical theories seek to explain all the circumstances which enslave humans.
The “circumstances that enslave humans” is called “the Totality”, which is modern society. People like Horkheimer and Adorno saw a system of enlightenment that had become tighter in its organization, more global in reach and more powerful in its ability to control people. They saw modernity and enlightenment joining hands to create a universal myth that entrapped all people with its appeal whilst controlling us and limiting our freedom at every step. Although other members of the Frankfurt School thought differently about enlightenment, they also saw a growth in the global accumulation of power from which it was becoming increasingly difficult to escape.
The theme of these philosophers is that, ironically, attempts at liberation ultimately wind up being steps towards oppression. Postmodernism is adopted by neo-progressivism for a number of reasons. The foremost is that neo-progressivism seeks to outright reverse and destroy that which could be broadly categorized as “traditionalism”. This can most effectively be achieved by applying postmodernist ideas. Often, this is done by petitioning for the rights of individuals, which is a perfectly laudable goal.
For example, take the gay rights movement, While politicians such as Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton opposed gay marriage only a decade ago, they are now on the forefront of neo-progressive politics and helped to get gay marriage passed. In reality, this change is most likely just politicians being politicians, but it demonstrates the rapid rise of neo-progressivism and the good it can achieve.
However, the flip-side is the primacy of the collective above the individual. This can be seen in the example of Diane Smith-Gander, the chairman of Transfield Services. Ms. Smith-Gander, who is also the president of the Chief-Executive Women Group said that to reach their target of 50-50 representation of women on business boards and in senior roles, capable men would have to make way for capable women. She said, at an Australian Institute of Company Directors luncheon, “If we’re going to get six and six it means that four of those ten men who are inevitably qualified and well-intentioned are going to have to lose their gig.” She continued by saying “They are not going to want to lose their gig and that’s a sad and sorry thing, but that’s just the way it is. This is the problem we are actually dealing with. Some men are going to have to give up their hard-won roles to allow equality.”
In this example, it is axiomatic that in the pursuit of advancing women as a demographic there will be many individual men who will be subject to injustices simply because of the way that they were born. This is how the system that neo-progressivism is creating works. The injustices to individuals are irrelevant, so long as the collective goals remain intact. Furthermore, any system designed to perpetuate injustices will, naturally, be taken advantage of by opportunistic people who will lie and manipulate the system for their own purposes.
To a liberal, like myself, the definitions of the principles of neo-progressivism are in and of themselves transgressive. In order to understand neo-progressivism, one must focus on the collectivist nature of the ideology, putting it in direct odds with the individualist ideals of classical liberalism. Everything about neo-progressivism, political correctness, postmodernism and identity politics hinges on taking advantage of the good-will of the subject. Each pillar of neo-progressivism relies on the willing cooperation and participation of the individual. If no good-will is extended to neo-progressivism then there is no method by which to operate.
“A single death is a tragedy; a million deaths is a statistic.” This quote is often mis-attributed to Joseph Stalin, but it remains memorable because it contains within it, an essential truth. It is impossible to truly care about a large group of people, because it is impossible to conceive of them as individual human beings. Individuals who we may choose to like or dislike based on their own unique attributes, the very basis of empathy. In future writings, I will demonstrate that these fallacious appeals to collectivism are the primary means of propagation for activists of neo-progressivism. These activists are most commonly known by their colloquial name… “Social Justice Warriors”.
A brief explanation of my motivation for re-entering into the world of online writing.Read More