SubscribeStar Saturday: Asserting Conservativism

As I’ve been developing my History of Conservative Thought course, one of my goals is to define “conservatism” positively; that is, on it’s own terms, and not merely as a reaction to progressivism.  Too often—including on this blog—we conservatives define our movement as what we’re against, rather than what we support.

That’s understandable, in part, for two reasons:  the Left’s vicious tactics are hard to ignore, and what we think of as “conservatism” is often the other side of a liberal coin.

On that second point:  conservatives often struggle to hold truly distinct positions because we’ve embraced the underlying assumptions of liberalism.  This explains the much-derided tendency of National Review to write headlines such as “The Conservative Case for [Deranged Leftist Policy Here].”  Conservatism, Inc., is also obsessed with policing our side, punching to the right as frequently as the left (take for instance, Kevin Williamson’s piece on the Crowder demonetizing situation; Williamson can barely wait to insult Crowder as “stupid” and childish, even as he feigns to defend the YouTube star).

We also tend to see compromise as part of the hurly-burly of electoral politics, so in a practical sense, we do so out of a good-faith understanding that our political opponents will do the same.  The Kavanaugh hearings largely dispelled that myth once and for all, as Lindsey Graham’s powerful reaction to that witch-hunt demonstrated.

Such is the theme of Angelo Codevilla’s latest piece, “A Conservative Resistance?”  Thanks to photog at Orion’s Cold Fire for linking to it.  Readers will recall that I wrote some months ago about Codevilla’s excellent essay on secession.

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TBT: Reality Breeds Conservatism

Yesterday’s post, “Conservative Inheritance,” explored the deep grounding of conservatism in hard-won experience.  Rather than existing as an ideology–a framework built upon abstract principles derived in a rationalistic vacuum—per se, conservatism is the product of concrete, empirical observation.

As I’m teaching my summer course, The History of Conservative Thought, I’m delving deeper into this understanding of conservatism.  Last week I wrote about the Russell Kirk’s six characteristics of conservatism, which my students and I discussed (and which they’re writing about for today).  While preparing that lesson, I was struck by the assertion that conservatism is not an ideology.

For so long, I’d been conditioned to think of it that way—and to think of our cultural and political battles as fundamentally ideological.  I still think there is a great deal of truth to that, as the modern Right battles against a progressivism imbued with a Cultural Marxist teleology (apologies, philosophy majors, if I’m misusing that word).  But conservatives must be aware that, by playing by the Left’s rules, we’re implicitly accepting the Left’s frame.

Regardless, all of these ideas and debates were circulating in my mind as I considered this week’s #TBT feature.  I landed, finally, on a piece entitled “Reality Breeds Conservatism” from last June.  The piece is not so much about ideological battles, but about a study (linked below) that argued that fewer risks made people more “liberal”—more willing to take risks—while greater risks made people more “conservative”—less willing to take risks.

Great insights there, Washington Post.  Yeesh.

Anyway, here is June 2018’s “Reality Breeds Conservatism“:

There’s a piece in the Washington Post about how progressives (“liberals,” as the article puts it) and conservatives think differently.  Like many such pieces, it essentially reduces conservatives to being more fearful, and touts that, in the absence of fear, conservatives become liberal.

I don’t entirely disagree with the basic findings of the Yale researchers; beloved Canadian psychologist Jordan Peterson makes similar claims.  Peterson argues that progressives are risk-takers, the ones who explore over the mountain or innovate new businesses, while conservatives are the managers (and conservators) of the new institutions that arise from innovation.

Obviously, this basic analysis is a generalization, a reduction that makes it a little easier to understand the world around us.  As such, there are broad exceptions:  we all know conservatives who fight hard in the culture wars, who build new businesses, and who support new ideas or techniques—many at great personal, financial, and political risk.

Meanwhile, progressives politically are still clinging to the same failed ideas that have motivated their policy proscriptions for decades—increasing the minimum wage, expanding the welfare state, pushing identity politics.

That said, the article linked above—which chillingly says “we conducted an experiment to turn conservatives into liberals” in the title—points to the fear factor as the key to determining conservative vs. progressive viewpoints.  In doing so, it points to said experiment, which is deeply flawed at its core.

To wit:  researchers conducted an online poll (a bit iffy) of 300 U.S. residents, only 30% of whom were Republicans.  Two-thirds of the survey-takers were women, and 75% were white, with an average age of 35.  This collection isn’t exactly heavy on conservatives to begin with, and it’s unclear who was offered the opportunity to take the survey, which itself has a verysmall sample size.  I’m picturing a group of undergraduate psychology chicks posting a link to a SurveyMonkey survey on Facebook, which is about the amount of rigor I would expect from the “academic” social sciences these days.

Besides the small sample size and lack of diversity, the core flaw is the methodology.  Those surveyed were asked to imagine a scenario in which they were given one of two superpowers:  half were granted the power to fly, the other half granted the power “to be completely safe, invulnerable to any harm.”  The participants then completed the aforementioned survey.

What they found was not all that surprising, although the researchers feign as such:  it turns out that, in the absence of physical harm, conservatives become much more progressive, which—in the context of this study—basically means that they’re more open to people or situations that are different from them, and therefore inherently riskier.

Well, duh—in the absence of objective reality—to be free of any risk of physical harm, broadly-defined—I would partake in all sorts of risky activities that I would be reluctant to attempt when the threat is real.  That’s because I wouldn’t bear the costs of any of those risky actions (and as someone who broke a wrist falling from a ladder last fall, I can say that those costs are very high).

The late Kenneth Minogue wrote an essay in 2001 entitled “The New Epicureans,” in which he pointed out that, historically, only the very wealthy—the aristocratic elites of society—could afford to partake in risky behaviors, things like casual sex, drug abuse, and the like—while the rest of us plebes had to adopt a more Stoical approach to life—avoiding undue risk, living life cleanly and simply, dutifully serving our families and communities.

With broadly-spread wealth and widely-available contraceptives, however, modern chumps can mitigate the risks of a “live fast, die young” lifestyle in the same way ancient elites could—to an extent. What used to be the self-indulgent indolence of a very small group (the hated 1%!) has now become the self-destruction of a majority of modern Westerners.  And, of course, it doesn’t work out well, as most folks don’t have the means to pay for their immoral-but-convenient choices.

While we might be able to avoid more of the consequences of our actions—and, therefore, participate more eagerly in the temptations of a hedonic existence—there are still consequences, often dire ones.  I’ll write about some of these in my upcoming eBook, Values Have Consequences:  Why the West Needs Social Conservatism, but take one lethal example:  abortion.

What could more self-destructive, for more selfish ends, than to snuff out a human life?  Looking at this in the most dispassionately, economic way possible, it boils down to a calculation:  do I buckle down and adopt the Stoic lifestyle necessary to provide for this new life, thereby sacrificing my own personal enjoyment, or do I get rid of this “clump of cells” and avoid the huge costs and time-commitments of childrearing?  The major legal hurdles being removed via the disastrous Roe v. Wade ruling—and in the absence of a deep-rooted moral framework—many women, sadly, have opted for the latter option (which many, sadly, come to regret).

So, yes, if you strip away external costs and the threat of pain, people of any political or temperamental persuasion will indulge in more risk-tasking, for good and for ill, and might be more welcoming of strangers or alternative lifestyles.

But a healthy dose of Stoic skepticism about life is not detrimental.  We should not live our lives in fear, but we should govern sensibly—for example, by enforcing our national borders.  In short, conservatism is rooted profoundly in reality—it responds to real threats, prepares for real dangers, and seeks to build a life that, rather than relying on vague abstractions, grows organically from the nature of things as they are.

***

One final note:  the study found that, when witnessing acts of physical violence or hearing about one group or another causing trouble, liberals will become more conservative, even if temporarily.  This was true of the original “neocons” in the 1960s and 1970s, who were “mugged by reality.”

I believe it also holds true for those soft-liberals and centrists who saw the electoral chicanery, cultural division, racialized politics, and violent tactics of the Left in the 2016 election; having been “mugged” once again, they voted for a safety and reform.

Thank God Trump is a risk-taker.

SubscribeStar Saturday: The Portly Politico Summer Reading List 2019

Today’s post is the first in my SubscribeStar Saturday series.  To read the full post, subscribe to my SubscribeStar page.  For the first installment of SSS, ALL subscriber levels, including the $1 tier, will have access to this list.

Three years ago, I released my popular “The Portly Politico Summer Reading List 2016.”  It featured three must-read books for your summer, including a fourth “Honorable Mention.”  The same criteria from 2016 will apply to this year’s list.  To quote myself:

The books listed here are among some of my favorites.  I’m not necessarily reading them at the moment, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t!  These books have shaped my thinking about the many issues I’ve covered over the past two months.  I highly encourage you to check them out.

In that spirit, here is the definitive Summer Reading List 2019:

1.) Patrick J. BuchananThe Greatest Comeback: How Richard Nixon Rose from Defeat to Create the New Majority (2014) – I have to be honest—I’ve been reading this book off-and-on for nearly two years, and am about 75% through it.  That pace is not because it’s a bad book.

Quite the contrary, The Greatest Comeback is a must-read for any political history junkies.  After twin defeats in the 1960 presidential and 1962 California gubernatorial elections, Nixon was a national loser.  Buchanan, who worked for and traveled with Nixon during the long decade of the 1960s as a researcher and writer, gives a first-hand account, culled from what must be a filing cabinet’s worth of handwritten notes and newspaper clippings, of Nixon’s historic, unlikely rise to the presidency.

Nixon’s reputation now suffers from the railroading that was the Watergate scandal.  Lost in the Left’s never-ending victory lap is how shrewd Nixon’s political instincts were.  Nixon’s tireless support for Republican congressional candidates in 1966 led to historic gains in those midterm elections, likely hastening Lyndon Johnson’s political demise and restoring Republicans’ spot as a viable alternative to Democrats.  That loyalty paid off for Nixon in spades.

Consider, too, the challenges that faced Nixon going into the 1968 presidential election:  he had to defeat liberal Republicans within his own party (Buchanan expends a great deal of ink explaining the odious treachery of George Romney and Nelson Rockefeller), while also fending off potential challengers to his right, namely California Governor Ronald Reagan.  An increasingly-unhinged anti-war (and all-too-often pro-Communist) Left reviled the old “Red Hunter,” and their dominance of the press continued to hound Nixon’s every move.

And through it all, Nixon persevered, engineering the titular “greatest comeback.”  He would go on to win a forty-nine-State landslide in 1972, losing only deep-blue Massachusetts and the District of Columbia.  For that story, check out Buchanan’s sequel, Nixon’s White House Wars:  The Battle that Made and Broke a President and Divided America Forever (2017), which I will probably finishing sometime during Nikki Haley’s second presidential term.

To read the rest of The Portly Politico Summer Reading List 2019subscribe now for $1/month or more on SubscribeStar!

Lazy Sunday XIII: Immigration

I’ve really been beating the drum about immigration lately, so today’s Lazy Sunday should come as no surprise.  Illegal immigration is a major crisis facing the United States and Europe, and it’s one we ignore at our peril.

Indeed, even legal immigration presents a problem if left unregulated.  Massive amounts of immigration leads easily to ethnic cloistering; if left unchecked, entire neighborhoods or cities can become unrecognizable.

An essential component of conservative nationalism is that a nation is made up of a people.  In the old European conception, that manifests itself as the nation-state:  a group of people sharing a common lineage or shared blood.  Sometimes that identity is self-consciously constructed, but it still stems from the notion that a certain people and a certain land make up the nation.

The American conception of nationalism is only slightly different:  the American people don’t have to share the same patrimony, but they do have to share similar values.  Those values are Anglo-Saxon in origin, but they can (and must) be adopted by anyone.

As such, ethnic cloistering subverts the assimilation process, placing fundamentally alien populations in the midst of natives.  That’s a recipe for conflict, as it undermines social and national cohesion.

“Nationalism” doesn’t have to be a dirty word.  There’s nothing inherently wrong with a group of people wanting to have their own nation.  No America should feel like a thoughtcriminal because he wants to protect his country from unregulated foreign invasion.

Some food for thought for your Sunday morning.

  • Open Borders is the Real Moral Crisis” – One of my first posts on immigration (and last week’s TBT feature), the context for this piece was the child separation policy and the faux outrage about it (notice how you never hear about this anymore?).  When I wrote this piece, this issue was red-hot, and I anticipated all sorts of social justice whinging.  Now that the political usefulness of child props is waning, it’s interesting to read it with fresh eyes.  My basic argument is unchanged, though:  we wouldn’t be dealing with child separation and the like if it we simply enforced the law.
  • The Facts on the Border Crisis” – This piece looked at the history of Texas Republic and the oft-forgotten Mexican War.  Texas was a major province of Mexico.  After gaining independence from Spain, the young Mexican government invited white American yanquis to settle the territory if they converted to Catholicism.  When the Mexican government attempted to abolish slavery, the American settlers—many of whom came from the Deep South with their slaves in tow—balked, demanding to keep their slaves.  When General Santa Anna attempted to enforce the Mexican constitution, the Texans rebelled.

    The point:  large, marginally-assimilated foreigners dominant in one geographic area is a recipe for disaster.  Now, Mexico is doing to the Southwest what Americans did to Texas in the nineteenth century—they even call it the Reconquista.

  • Somali Shenanigans” – Case in point:  the resettlement of Somali refugees and immigrants into Minneapolis has completely transformed the demographic makeup of a large neighborhood in the city.  That’s also changed the politics of the State’s Democrat-Farm-Labor Party, which now caters to this largely unassimilable contingent.  Indeed, they’ve now elected Ilhan Omar to Congress, a woman who allegedly married her brotherallegedly married her brother to commit immigration fraud.
  • Immigration by the Numbers” – This post details the costs, social and economic, of immigration, focusing primarily on the huge amount of American dollars sent to foreign nations as “remittances.”  Remittances are funds earned in the United States and wired back to family members in an immigrant’s home country.  It’s a massive business, accounting for $148 billion in total, with $30.02 billion going to Mexico (China also gets a pretty penny).  That’s American wealth draining off to support other countries.
  • Deportemal” – Rounding out this week’s Lazy Sunday is a little post about the lawlessness that stems from illegal immigration.  The attitude of illegals is excessively cavalier:  in addition to existing in a state of persistent illegality, they leverage their “shadow” status to avoid real penalties for petty crimes.  The frustration for legal citizens is palpable:  we’re held to a rigid legal standard, while authorities turn a blind or helpless eye to illegal activity from illegal aliens who feel entitled to breaking the law because their home countries suck.

Illegal immigration is a frustrating assault on the lives of American citizens and the rule of law.  Rather than indulge such wide-scale lawlessness, we should robustly and aggressively prosecute and deport illegals upon apprehension for any offense, from the smallest jaywalking misdemeanor to child rape and murder.  If you’re caught and you’re illegal, you’re going back!

Other Lazy Sunday Installments:

Memorial Day 2019

It’s Memorial Day here in the United States, which marks the unofficial start of summer.  More importantly, Memorial Day is a federal holiday set aside to remember veterans who have fallen in combat.  The United States observes two other days dedicated to veterans:  Armed Services Day, which honors those men and women currently serving in the armed services; and Veterans’ Day, which honors all American servicemen and women, living, dead, retired, active, etc.

We often hear encomiums this time of year about the numbers of men and women who have died to preserve our freedoms.  These tributes are, of course, true (and, one hopes, heartfelt), and are worth reiterating.

I end every year of my American history courses urging my students to remember how precious their patrimony is, and that liberty is a fragile thing that must be preserved.  I, too, mention the “men and women who gave their lives so that we might be free.”  I then follow that up with noting that, while they hear that sentiment expressed often, they now know (having completed a year of American history) how true it is.

Nevertheless, it’s easy to forget the magnitude of that sacrifice.  In an age where wars are so distant and remote they barely register for us anymore (remember:  we’re still fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan), it’s easy to take our soldiers for granted.  It’s easier, still, to forget the sheer number of combat deaths—750,000 in the American Civil War alone.

To that end, I’ve elected to spare you any further pontificating, and present instead this Wikipedia entry on “United States military casualties of war,” which breaks down the numbers succinctly.  Yet even dry statistics and bar charts speak volumes.

God Bless America!

–TPP

Immigration by the Numbers

Yesterday I wrote about the dangers of inviting in large numbers of immigrants from a fundamentally alien culture into Western societies.  The Somali population of Minneapolis has created a veritable “Little Mogadishu” (consider paying homage to such a blighted place) in the heart of the Twin Cities, a neighborhood riddled with crime and terrorist recruitment.

Most immigration to the United States is not nearly so pernicious—unlike Europeans, Americans generally don’t have to worry about waves of unassimilable Muslims conquering entire swaths of our major cities—but while our immigrants are more assimilable than Europe’s, the sheer number of immigrants makes that assimilation more difficult.

As I wrote yesterday, the old friction of immigration is no longer there.  Families can instantly contact one another across oceans and time zones, and travel back home—or, more likely, travel to the new home in the West—is more affordable than ever.

Couple that ease of travel with our ludicrous interpretation of the Fourteenth Amendment, which allows foreign nationals to spit out “American” citizens if they can just cross the border when the contractions begin, and you have a recipe for invasion.

The family situation goes beyond the “anchor babies” phenomenon and the child migrant crisis.  Our immigration system prioritizes family members over skilled, English-speaking immigrants.  As Scott Rasmussen notes, nearly 750,000 immigrants annually enter the United States legally simply because they’re related to someone already here.  Immigrants can send for their spouses, children, and parents under this system—who then can bring over their spouses, children, and parents, creating the “chain migration” President Trump has decried.

The president is not alone.  According to Rasmussen, 75% of voters believe our immigration system should prioritize skilled immigrants, not family members.  That cuts across partisan lines (suggesting that immigration reform is a winning issue for electoral candidates).  And that 750,000 number reflects 66% of legal permanent residents admitted to the United States.

Remember, another key source of friction in immigration is that, in the old days, it could be years before an immigrant could bring his family over.  Indeed, some immigrants might never see them again.  It’s probably humane to allow Pedro to bring his wife and eighteen kids.  But his doddering parents?  His alcoholic uncle?  His son’s wife and kids? Where do we draw the line?

A further issue is that, with the ease of wire transfers, more and more wealth produced in the United States is sent back home.  Rasmussen reports that immigrants send a whopping $148 billion home.  That’s wealth produced working in the United States.

$30.02 billion of that $148 billion goes to Mexico.  When President Trump campaigned on Mexico paying for the wall, he didn’t mean the Mexican government would cut us a check.  Instead, he argued that the United States could tax these remittance payments to fund the border wall.

It’s an idea brilliant in its simplicity, and it shifts the costs of illegal immigration to the immigrants.  Want to pick our tomatoes at slave labor wages and send the money back home?  Fine, but you’re going to pay for the means by which we’ll prevent your mountain village from crossing over, too.

Immigration policy should benefit America and its citizens first.  I often hear the specious argument that “Americans won’t do certain jobs.”  Hogwash.  Big corporate farmers and Silicon Valley billionaires just want cheap fruit-pickers, coders, and nannies.  There are millions of working poor Americans who, for a living wage, could fill those jobs.  Alternatively, mechanization and automation could complete many of those roles.

The South went through the same issue with slavery:  wealthy Southern planters wanted cheap labor to grow cotton, and Northern textile mills were happy to pay a reduced rate for slave-produced cotton.  The losers were poor working folks and farmers.

Similarly, elites profit financially (and socially—they get to feel virtuous for employing Consuela to raise their kids) while wages for working men stagnate.

President Trump and Republicans in Congress should push again for the taxing of remittances, and a major push should begin to rid ourselves of “birthright citizenship,” a ludicrous misreading of the Fourteenth Amendment (which was intended to naturalize the former slaves and their progeny, not the children of foreign visitors who happened to give birth on American soil).

More importantly and immediately, we need to build the wall and deport any and all illegal immigrants.

Somali Shenanigans

Mass immigration and open borders are huge problems, but their costs are sometimes difficult to see.  Generally, Americans take a rosy view of immigration, as it conjures up images of plucky Irishmen crammed onto ships, chuffing past Ellis Island.  We’re the melting pot—people of different creeds and races come here, each contributing some distinct spices to the stew, but ultimately subsuming into the larger cultural heritage and mores of the host country.  Learn English, learn the Constitution, follow the rules, and you’re golden.

Of course, that all assumes the assimilability of the immigrants.  Back in those rose-tinted Ellis Island days, waves of Irish, Italian, and Eastern European immigrants (not to mention Chinese and Japanese migrants to California) caused great consternation, as each ethnic tribe and nationality stuck to its own.  With the National Origins Act of 1924, that great wave of migration trimmed to a trickle, with quotas favoring immigration from Western Europe.  Combined with the national struggles of the Great Depression and the Second World War, those migrants had time to get “baked in” to the national pie, and emerged full Americans.

Consider, too, that these immigrants came to the United States at a time when there was significant friction by doing so.  Many of them would never return to their home countries, or would do so only many decades later.  Lacking the access to mass, global communications networks, many of them never saw or heard from their relatives and families again.

Today, immigrants are able to communicate seamlessly with their relatives back home—a wonderful marvel of our modern-age.  They can also hop a jet plane and be back in hours (or get here quickly).  That same friction is no longer present to the same extent as it was 100 years ago.

Couple that with massive legal and illegal immigration, and the push to assimilate begins to vanish rapidly.  That push becomes more of a gentle nudge, if that.  Why learn English and the local customs when you can be surrounded by your hombres from back home?

Let’s go a step further:  what if your host culture no longer promotes or defends the rightness of its own beliefs and values?  Instead, it promotes multiculturalism and diversity as self-evident goods.  The official and cultural messages are no longer “assimilate” and “respect our laws, values, and God,” but instead become, “do your own thing” and “we’re nothing special—we don’t even really believe this stuff.”  Suddenly, there’s no compelling reason to assimilate into a culture that lacks confidence in itself.

Take all of that and add in a culture that does have some conviction in the rightness—and righteousness—of itself, and you’ve got the makings of a cloistered, insular community of unassimilable immigrants in your midsts.

Such is the situation in Minnesota with the Somali “refugees” living there.  They are, almost universally, devout Muslims.  They are also what the cool kids call “visible minorities”—they’re black—which serves as a further impediment to assimilation.  Islam in its most fundamental form is, essentially, at odds with Western civilization.  The very existence of Sharia law conflicts directly with the Constitution.  It’s all a recipe for disaster.

Indeed, the situation in “Little Mogadishu“—the Somalian neighborhood in the Minneapolis-St. Paul area—is a miniature form of the Islamic migrant crisis Europe has endured for years now.  Like the banlieues of France and Belgium, Somalian Muslims have created their own ethnic enclave in the heart of a State once dominated by Swedes and Germans.

Little Mogadishu is, sadly, following the pattern of other Muslim-dominated areas in the West.  It’s crime rate is through the roof, growing 56% in 2018.  Most of that increase is due to gang violence between competing Somali street gangs.

Minnesota—in a suicidal display of “Upper Midwestern Nice”—has encouraged the accumulation of Somalis into its State, creating a powerful ethnic voting bloc that holds increasing sway over the Democratic-Farm-Labor Party (the technical appellation for the Democratic Party in Minnesota).  Freshman Congresswoman Ilhan Omar, who can barely speak English without an anti-Semitic accent, is a troubling figure to have walking the highest corridors of power.  She’s a political figure ripped straight out of sub-Saharan

That’s had lethal consequences, too, such as Somali police officer Mohammed Noor’s fatal shooting of Australian Justine Damond.  That killing drew attention to what was likely an unfortunate diversity-hire.  The Minneapolis Police Department is, apparently, attempting to hire more Somali officers to improve community outreach in Little Mogadishu, but why did the city allow such an alien enclave to develop in the first place?

That incident at least received coverage from the mainstream media.  What didn’t was this piece from InfoWars, which details (with police documents) the antics of a group of eight or ten Somali teens.  It seems these precocious, vibrant youngsters were spreading diversity with hammers and pipes in an attempt to rob elderly white people.

Some of these attacks are, no doubt, the result of typical inner-city gang violence.  But the insidious influence of radical Islamism is alive in well in the environs of this Minneapolis banlieue.  Fox News calls it “the terrorist recruitment capital of the US.”  Ami Horowitz, in a jaw-dropping YouTube video, demonstrates that Somali Americans believe Sharia law is preferable to (and, by implication, should replace) America’s constitutional law.

So, how does the United States avoid replicating the errors of Europe and Minnesota?  Tighter immigration restrictions would be a key first step.

Another would be more drastic, and unlikely politically.  Indeed, were it to succeed, the precedent it established could be destructive in the long-run to religious liberty.  I’ll elaborate:

Article VI of the Constitution states that “no religious Test shall ever be required as a Qualification to any Office or public Trust.”  That is a beautiful statement in favor of religious liberty.

That said, Islam may very well be the grand exception.  It is a faith that is fundamentally incompatible with the faith, culture, and laws of the West.  It has no desire to reform (indeed, it may lack the ability to do so), and it contains within it no separation of church and state.  The faith of Islam is the law code.

As such, one could argue it may be necessary to amend the Constitution to ban Muslims from serving in higher office.  That is a bold step, and one that I shrink away from even as I ponder it.  But can there be any guarantee of loyalty from followers of a religion that is so hostile to American and Western values?

Of course, the flaw in this approach is that individual Muslims are, like lapsed Catholics and Protestants, sometimes easygoing about their faith.  At the same time, even lax Muslims have a tendency to radicalize quickly.  Just look at the Boston Marathon bomber, who went from being a pot-smoking loser to killing innocent people in the blink of an eye.

Regardless, the West has to wake itself up to the real, existential threat Islam represents.  We’ve spent nearly 1400 years fighting against its aggressive expansion—the Battle of Tours, the defense at the gates of Vienna, the Reconquista—only now to invite the invaders in with open arms?

A few hundred Muslim immigrants a year is no big shakes.  But if we adopt Europe’s “come one, come all” approach, we’ll lose everything that makes our country great, and free.

They Live: Analysis and Review

Last night I watched John Carpenter’s 1988 cult smash They Live, which explains (along with a couple of hours of Civilization VI) why today’s post is late.  I’ve been eager to catch this flick for awhile, and a fortuitous chain-combo of RedBox coupons and special promotions had me streaming it digitally.  What a glorious age for instant gratification.

The basic plot of the film is as follows:  out-of-work drifter Nada (played by wrestler “Rowdy” Roddy Piper; the character is named only in the film’s credits) arrives in Los Angeles looking for work.  After landing a job on a construction site (the site manager says it’s a “union job,” but Nada lands the gig after asking if the Spanish-speaking crew is in the union, too), Nada meets Frank Armitage (Carpenter veteran Keith David), a black construction worker from Detroit, trying to earn a living for his wife and children back home.  Frank takes Nada under his wing, and they head to a soup kitchen shanty town.

While at the town, Nada notices suspicious activity in a nearby church; upon further investigation, he stumbles upon a box of sunglasses that allow him to see the world for how it really is:  a black-and-white world filled with subliminal messages like “OBEY” and “MARRY AND REPRODUCE,” as well as constant messages to “BUY” and “CONSUME.”  Money reads simply “THIS IS YOUR GOD.”

More shockingly, some humans appear to be fleshless, bulging-eyed aliens, akin to zombies.  Piper figures out quickly that the horrifying creatures are not friendly, and he embarks on a shooting spree—which, of course, appears like a random shooting to everyone else.

It unfolds from there:  Nada convinces Frank—after a nearly-six-minute alleyway brawl—to try the glasses on for himself.  Seeing the world for what it is, the two join up with the small resistance, which is quickly smashed by the fleshless invaders and their human collaborators (which enjoy support from the media and law enforcement).  The film ends with the disruption of the device that keeps everyone “asleep” regarding reality, with terrifying (and humorous) consequences.

Much has been written about this film, as its not-so-subtle message of anti-commercialism is low-hanging fruit.  No less a scholar than Slovene philosopher Slavoj Žižek cites They Live as an influence on his understanding of ideology.  The film inspired street artist Shepard Fairey‘s famous “OBEY” stickers (another fascinating bit of pop culture detritus).

As such, there’s not much I can add, but I have some general reflections.  In the age of attempted Deep State coups and a political and media establishment at odds with the common man, They Live contains a certain relevance to culture in 2019 (if there really are subliminal messages in advertising, I wish there were some encouraging people to “MARRY AND REPRODUCE”; the message today is exactly the opposite).

The alien invaders manage to take control because they cut a deal with America’s elites:  give us access to your resources and cheap labor, and we’ll make you fabulously wealthy.  At a swanky dinner near the end of the film, aliens and humans toast their 39% return-on-investment.  Frank Armitage, disgusted, tells one human collaborator that he “sold out his own kind”; the collaborator says, “What’s the threat? It’s just business.”

That scene seems particularly relevant to 2016:  globalist elites were eager to serve up a deeply corrupt Hillary Clinton to continue to advance their goals of cheap labor and monochromatic global conformity.

Piper’s character, on the other hand, states his optimism early in the film:  “I believe in America.”  Even as a homeless drifter, Piper believes he can succeed if he just keeps working hard.  But he’s a man of principle—once he realizes the rigged game that’s afoot, he decides to beat them rather than join them.

Consider:  the latter option would be so much easier.  Betray your own people—humans, or, in the context of the 2016 election, Americans—for a distant, indifferent, self-aggrandizing elite, and reap the rewards.  But Piper—a loud-mouthed wrestler—fights back.  He wants a fair shake for himself and his countrymen, not a rigged system at the expense of his fellow humans.

His methods are comedic and clumsy (a hallmark of another Carpenter classic, Big Trouble in Little China), but he manages—against all odds—to make it to the top of the alien-collaborator hierarchy, ultimately bringing the whole thing down.  One can be forgiven for seeing in Nada President Trump’s historic, unlikely rise to the presidency in 2016.

That said, I shouldn’t take that metaphor too far.  Carpenter had no inkling in 1988 that Donald Trump would become president amid the crushing dominance of a politically-correct, Davos Man elite (although Trump discussed the possibility of a run at the time).  Carpenter’s message is a more heavy-handed cautionary tale about excessive consumerism and materialism.

There, however, some compelling fruits that have come from ignoring those warnings.  While globalization and capitalism have reaped huge financial rewards, they’ve come at the expense of Americans.  Frank’s line about betraying “your own kind” resonated heavily with me:  just as the human collaborators sold out their people to the aliens, our elites have sold out their countrymen and culture for cheap labor and cheap plastic crap from China.

We will always engage with art and culture in terms of our own experiences, though I would caution against excessive “current year” interpretations.  The film is a product of the 1980s.  That its message still seems so fresh is, perhaps, an indication of our culture’s stagnation since that glorious decade.

Nevertheless, They Live presents a timeless warning against sacrificing our patrimony for wealth.  Judas betrayed Christ for thirty pieces of silver; was that “just business”?

***

So, is They Live worth watching?  Absolutely.  I had a blast even before Nada discovered the glasses (which is nearly half-an-hour into the film, or so it felt—it spends a lot of time showing his struggles to find a job).  The film contains the iconic line, “I came here to chew bubblegum and kick ass—and I’ll all out of bubblegum.”

Roddy Piper acts the way wrestlers in 1980s films act, which is badly, but it’s perfect for his character, a man who is principled but driven by his id (and libido, with lethal consequences).  Keith David’s performance as Frank Armitage steals the show—he just wants to make money to support his family without any hassle, but is drawn into a fight he never wanted.

You’ll see some of the plot twists coming from a mile away, but the film is fun and thought-provoking.  I highly recommend you check it out.  Of course, I’m a big fan of John Carpenter (Big Trouble in Little China is one of my favorite movies), so your mileage may very.  For $2.99, though, it’s worth the rental.

Lazy Sunday XI: Walls

Today’s post marks twenty weeks of consecutive daily posts—140 days in a row.  I’ve written so many posts, I’m beginning to forget that I ever wrote some of them.  If you’d to support my daily scribbling, consider subscribing to my page on SubscribeStar.

Walls work.  We understand this fact on a visceral level—humans have been building walls around their cities and kingdoms since the dawn of civilization, and continue building them today.  The Israelites rebuilt the Jerusalem’s walls as a form of national and spiritual renewal.

The only legitimate question regarding a border wall along the US-Mexican border is technical in nature:  how do you build an effective barrier along thousands of miles of varied terrain?  Technical questions are difficult to solve, but that doesn’t invalidate the effectiveness of a wall once it’s completed.  Further, even tricky engineering problems are solvable.

Indeed, many of the questions that plague our nation are not difficult to answer—it’s just that the answers are unpleasant, or politically inconvenient.  When a Democrat argues that the construction of a border wall is not feasible from engineering standpoint, it’s a smokescreen.  The progressives are only concerned about expanding their voting base on the cheap, while supplying their techno-elite masters with cheap, quasi-slave labor.

With that in mind, this week’s Lazy Sunday looks back at my posts on all things wall-related.  It’s a sign of our times that anyone has had to write even this much about walls:

  • Walls Work” – the title says it all.  This piece looked at a piece from American Thinker that pointed out dramatically how effective border barriers are.  When Israel constructed a wall along its border with Egypt, “it cut illegal immigration to zero.”  I emphasize that part of the quotation in the original blog post just to make sure no one misses it.  In cast the Israeli example isn’t convincing enough, consider that the…
  • Hungarian Border Wall is 100% Effective” – yep, Hungary built a fence along its border with Serbia in the second half of 2015.  The number of immigrants entering Hungary fell from 138,396 to fifteen.  Look at those figures again, numerically and side-by-side:  138,396 -> 15.  My knowledge of scientific notation has eroded too much to write out the exact percentage of that drop, but let’s call it 100% – 15.

    Granted, Israel and Hungary both enjoy relatively short borders compared to the southern border of the United States.  But the results speak for themselves.  The billions saved in medicating, educating, housing, and detaining illegal immigrants would be worth the one-time, up-front investment.  Aren’t progressives always lecturing us about government “investments”?  Further, the upward force on wages—no longer flooded with cheap labor from abroad—would create an additional return on this crucial national security investment.

  • Buchanan on the National Emergency” – in order to fund construction of the border wall, President Trump controversially declared a national emergency in February, which then allowed him to shift around existing national security funds to build a section of the wall.  Conservatives were, understandably, dubious and concerned about this executive action, which they feared constituted executive overreach in the vein of President Obama’s “phone and a pen” rule by fiat.

    Pat Buchanan—ever the lucid, original thinker—takes Congress, not President Trump, to task.  As I point out in this piece, Buchanan argues that the president was merely using authority Congress granted him in the National Emergencies Act of 1976.

    And as I argued in the first essay on this list, President Trump has a constitutional duty to protect national security under his Article II powers.

  • Nehemiah and National Renewal” – this essay was the first of a two-part analysis of the Book of Nehemiah, and has been featured on Lazy Sunday lists before.  In this essay, I argue that, just as rebuilding Jerusalem’s walls was an act of national renewal for the Israelites, so building a border wall would be a firm sign of America’s renewed commitment to its values and sovereignty.  Of all the essays on this list, it’s the one I most recommend you read.
  • Walls Work, Part II: Sailer on Walls” – this post covered a book review by Steve Sailer, a recent feature of my “Dissident Write II” list of great writers.  Sailer reviewed Walls: A History of Civilization in Blood and Brick, by David Frye, which makes a compelling case that walls protect civilization, allow for civilization, and create stable societies.

    America enjoyed the luxury of two moats—the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans—for 150 years, before naval and aerial technology took those natural barriers away.  Now, we face a sinister, because subtle, existential threat in the form of mass illegal immigration.  A border barrier is one key step in stemming the flow—and of preserving our civilization.

    I’m hoping to pick up Frye’s book soon, and plan to write a detailed review of my own.  That review will likely be a SubscribeStar exclusive.

Enjoy your Sunday, and remember that “good fences make good neighbors.”

–TPP

Other Lazy Sunday Installments: