Thinking about the Coming Election and Other Stuff …

October 14th, 2012

By Dan Miller

… put me in mind of some of my favorite old songs and of their persistent relevance.

Scots ballads

Based on a poem by Robert Burns (1759 – 1796), this ballad labeled Ode to Humanity seeks equal rights for all as opposed to special preferences for the favored. While listening, thoughts came to me about how our expanding welfare system destroys the dignity and desire for self-sufficiency of those perpetually dependent upon it.

Crony capitalism, a highly pertinent welfare system, is too big a subject to cover here; it may also be “too big to fail.” Beyond that, the United States’ quest for equal rights has devolved into a quest for “more equal” rights for various protected classes and “less equal” rights for others. This quest has produced a redistributionist Handicapper General system to make “equality of opportunity” yield artificially equal results for all while also elevating the less able to the exalted status of victim. For example, Florida (h/t The Last Refuge) now has a plan for racially based academic goals.

The Florida State Board of Education passed a plan that sets goals for students in math and reading based upon their race.

On Tuesday, the board passed a revised strategic plan that says that by 2018, it wants 90 percent of Asian students, 88 percent of white students, 81 percent of Hispanics and 74 percent of black students to be reading at or above grade level. For math, the goals are 92 percent of Asian kids to be proficient, whites at 86 percent, Hispanics at 80 percent and blacks at 74 percent. It also measures by other groupings, such as poverty and disabilities, reported the Palm Beach Post.

The plan has infuriated many community activists in Palm Beach County and across the state.

“To expect less from one demographic and more from another is just a little off-base,” Juan Lopez, magnet coordinator at John F. Kennedy Middle School in Riviera Beach, told the Palm Beach Post.

JFK Middle has a black student population of about 88 percent.

It was explained that

setting goals for different subgroups was needed to comply with terms of a waiver that Florida and 32 other states have from some provisions of the federal No Child Left Behind Act. These waivers were used to make the states independent from some federal regulations.

This parallels the Obama Administration’s efforts to make school disciplinary results racially based. Handicapper General at work? Are favored groups the causes or the victims of this nonsense? They, along with everyone else, are victims; that does not make it better.

Handicapping may make golf and polo more enjoyable but it has been — and should it persist will continue to be — harmful for society at large.

Here’s another song, about the need to defend right against evil.

Do the song’s expressions of the critical need to prevent evil from prevailing over right still resonate vigorously? I am concerned that they no longer do. Nullification of our constitutional rights is a grievous evil, yet many are willing or even anxious to have that happen. Without free speech most other rights would become meaningless. Yet freedom of speech is

dying in the Western world. While most people still enjoy considerable freedom of expression, this right, once a near-absolute, has become less defined and less dependable for those espousing controversial social, political or religious views. The decline of free speech has come not from any single blow but rather from thousands of paper cuts of well-intentioned exceptions designed to maintain social harmony. …

Even the Obama administration supported the passage of a resolution in the U.N. Human Rights Council to create an international standard restricting some anti-religious speech. …

At a Washington conference last year to implement the resolution, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton declared that it would protect both “the right to practice one’s religion freely and the right to express one’s opinion without fear.” But it isn’t clear how speech can be protected if the yardstick is how people react to speech — particularly in countries where people riot over a single cartoon. Clinton suggested that free speech resulting in “sectarian clashes” or “the destruction or the defacement or the vandalization of religious sites” was not, as she put it, “fair game.” Many winced when she invited countries to work on the implementation of the standard “to build those muscles” needed “to avoid a return to the old patterns of division.” …

The very right that laid the foundation for Western civilization is increasingly viewed as a nuisance, if not a threat. Whether speech is deemed inflammatory or hateful or discriminatory or simply false, society is denying speech rights in the name of tolerance, enforcing mutual respect through categorical censorship.

As in a troubled marriage, the West seems to be falling out of love with free speech. Unable to divorce ourselves from this defining right, we take refuge instead in an awkward and forced silence.

How far down on the list of important rights will freedom of speech and the other rights guaranteed by our Bill of Rights (the first ten Amendments to the Constitution) descend? At what point will the descent become irreversible?

Songs of Irish rebellions

Here are some songs by the Clancy Brothers and Tommy Makem about what my English ancestors referred to as “the Irish problem.” For years, the Irish were denied freedoms which, as British subjects, they should have had. Only after years of bloodshed did the Irish cease to be treated as inferior subjects.

Were the Irish given their freedoms, or did they have to take them? Were the colonies in what became the United States given their freedoms, or did they have to take them? Were history better taught, some would find it less necessary to look up the answers.

Songs of the Civil War in the United States

Here are some of my favorites from the Civil War period of the Confederacy, for which many of my ancestors — some of Scots, some of Irish, some of English and some of German heritage — fought and died. I have previously argued that the Southern States valued highly, and were interested principally in preserving, States’ rights and that not until at least 1862 did the Northern States widely view the Civil War as an effort to eliminate slavery rather than to keep together or to restore what was left of the Union.

lincolnOn April 17, 1859, Abraham Lincoln said,

I think Slavery is wrong, morally, and politically. I desire that it should be no further spread in these United States, and I should not object if it should gradually terminate in the whole Union.

I say that we must not interfere with the institution of slavery in the states where it exists, because the constitution forbids it, and the general welfare does not require us to do so. (emphasis added.)

According to the National Endowment for the Humanities,

While the Civil War began as a war to restore the Union, not to end slavery, by 1862 President Abraham Lincoln came to believe that he could save the Union only by broadening the goals of the war. The Emancipation Proclamation [of 1863] is generally regarded as marking this sharp change in the goals of Lincoln’s war policy. (Insert added.)

The decline of States’ Rights has continued. Sometimes the rights of the States are stolen by subverting the Constitution, sometimes they are bought with Federal funds — much as a fisherman would catch a fish by placing a yummy worm on a hook. Once a fish grabs the worm, the hook becomes embedded in its mouth and it cannot easily escape.

I also wrote about the Civil War here. It is one of the most important parts of our history and should we no longer learn from it we may be doomed to repeat it. As I contended in both of my articles linked above, having another civil war would be a very bad thing. However, we may eventually reach an unfortunate point at which that may be better than any alternatives. Has the teaching of history turned lessons about the Civil War (and many other matters) into pablum, spoon-fed to present politically correct talking points rather than facts and the historical circumstances surrounding and explaining them?

I remember my great aunt Mabel, in Stuart, Virginia, playing Dixie on her piano when she was in her eighties. That was back in the 1950′s and she was still quite sharp; she had vivid recollections of what the aftermath of the Civil War had wrought during her early childhood and later in Southwestern Virginia. I wonder what she might think of the United States now. Are we in another period of radical reconstruction?


Does it mean anything that these songs are all in our common English language? Here is an article suggesting that it may.

The Anglosphere isn’t fanciful or romantic or passé. Across the Anglophone democracies, there is a continuity of values that is immediately palpable to anyone who has travelled elsewhere: common law, representative government, private property, control of the executive by the legislature, equality before the courts, free enterprise, habeas corpus, residual rights, trial by jury, limited government. It’s especially moving to see how easily these values are embraced by people with non-British backgrounds.

Obviously, not everyone feels the same way. British Europhiles have their exact counterparts among those Australians who see their country as Asian, those Americans who insist that the Founding Fathers are no more significant in their nation’s story than so many Honduran immigrants, those Canadians who hanker after multi-culti Trudeaupia.

But, whatever the preoccupations of their elites, most English-speaking peoples know, almost without thinking about it, what they share. Anglosphere values are why Bermuda isn’t Haiti, why Hong Kong isn’t China, why Singapore isn’t Indonesia.

We may be about to experience a one-off alignment across the zone. If Tony Abbott wins in Australia (how I hope he does) and Mitt Romney in the United States (a bigger ‘if’, but it’s what the opinion polls currently suggest) then, for the first time, every core Anglosphere government would be headed by a conservative committed to the concept. It’s too good an opportunity to miss.

No one is proposing a political union or a common currency: God knows we’ve had enough of those. But surely it’s worth working towards a free trade accord, a free movement zone and a formalized military alliance. It won’t happen tomorrow. It won’t happen while Britain is trapped in the EU. But that doesn’t mean it won’t happen. (Emphasis added.)

The author, Daniel Hannan, “has been Conservative MEP for South East England since 1999.” I wonder what he might think of our compulsion to print ballots and other official documents in multiple foreign languages, so that the documents themselves can be understood, votes can be cast and other official actions taken — all without understanding underlying realities, historic and current, in the United States.

Over the centuries, many battles have been fought and much blood and treasure have been lost to gain and keep our freedoms. We still enjoy many of the fruits of those efforts, but they are much easier to lose than they were to get. As they slip away do we even notice? The article by Jonathan Turley quoted above observes,

The Supreme Court struck it [the Stolen Valor Act] down this year, but at least two liberal justices, Stephen Breyer and Elena Kagan, proposed that such laws should have less of a burden to be upheld as constitutional. The House responded with new legislation that would criminalize lies told with the intent to obtain any undefined “tangible benefit.”

The dangers are obvious. Government officials have long labeled whistleblowers, reporters and critics as “liars” who distort their actions or words. If the government can define what is a lie, it can define what is the truth.

Just a little bite here and then just another little bite elsewhere can eventually consume an entire cake. As our national elections approach, it would be useful to reflect on how much of the cake remains for us and which candidates are most likely to preserve what we still have — and maybe even to start bringing back the parts previously taken away.

(This article was also posted at Dan Miller’s Blog.)

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