Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Everything has a why

(part one is above)

Harry Truman once wrote that America likes to take political vacations: after vigorous presidents or great national challenges, the nation decides to take a break from the heavy lifting. So, after the Revolution and Washington and Jefferson, they treat themselves to Madison and Monroe. After the Civil War they treat themselves to Grant and Hayes. After Teddy Roosevelt they treat themselves to Woodrow Wilson and Warren Harding. It’s fitting that Harding himself coined the word “normalcy.” That’s what the country is after.

Only one problem – normalcy, for the race of man, is not peace, security, and freedom. We are a fallen people. Normalcy is people exploiting each other, seeking dominion over each other, and an obsession with personal gain and status. Seek and ye shall find, and if you seek normalcy, well, you’ll get it.

Additionally, the 20th century saw the rise of socialism in practice, and America got their fair share: Woodrow Wilson, FDR, and the Great Society. Socialism is an excellent system for exploiting normalcy to the ends of a few powerful people: it’s amoral because the State supplants church, and it destroys personal responsibility because the State replaces all private organizations and personal choices. Along with material ownership, the State assumes ownership of a person’s human rights; if they can take what you earn, why not what you say and think? It is no accident that the evil power in “1984” was Ingsoc – English Socialism – nor that the book was written by an English Socialist, George Orwell. He was smart and honest enough to know what could happen.

In the last century (and especially the last fifty years), one of the main protections against tyranny of all kinds has eroded. Simply put, many have lost the faith. It’s more complicated that God simply dealing out punishments to those who’ve turned against Him – it’s a perfectly rational process, in fact. Faith is what warns us of the damaged nature of man, and provides the solution to it in the person of Jesus Christ. Lose it and it’s no surprise that people would thus lose the sense of sin, and the natural mistrust of anyone who promises Utopia on Earth. Lose the Son of Man, and you get the Son of Government.

Moreover, once the faith is emptied of meaning, one necessarily invests in whatever promises to fill the void. It can be a radicalized religion like Islam or a radicalized secular faith in all things Government; in the end both turn tyrannical, equally hostile to those who wish to live differently or believe otherwise. Statism is nothing more than Islamism without Allah.

QED. Replace virtue and personal responsibility with Statism, and it’s not really surprising that one would wind up with a Statist as one’s leader. It’s the natural result of looking to government to solve problems because the other societal means have atrophied. Instead of forming a neighborhood committee or joining the Kiwanis, we’ve grown to rely on government services. And as those services take root (both socially and economically) it becomes difficult to dismantle them. It’s hard, and people don’t like to do hard things, and especially after seven years of hard things. Many cities in America are already little cominterns with petty bureaucratic despots. People are used to it. Having a Panjandrum in Chief doesn’t seem so bad. He’ll do what one wants to see done to other people.

The difficulty, of course, is that this is never enough. Inevitably things are done to everyone else too. If we want the rich punished for their success, we hand over the tools to be punished ourselves for our own modest gains. If we fail to protect the most vulnerable, we place more and more heads on the chopping block. As the Left is fond of quoting, injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere… but their solution is usually to spread the injustice.

(Speaking of Leftist tropes, I look forward to four years of indulging in their highest form of patriotism. Truth be told, the blog may not survive. We run a small outfit but that doesn’t mean that some local who’s loyal to the One wouldn’t serve the Master by flagging it as inappropriate. And Blogger could, as is their right, decide to decline to host us, and force me to start paying for private hosting, or scrap it altogether. Spider and I will be lucky in that regard, in that it would cost little to lose our outlet here. But others won’t be so lucky, and that’s the point. It’s really not about a small blog in the backwater of the internet, but about an entire generation of the unborn who will find legal protection far more scarce, and millions who will be forced to live on less than they need, and people who will pay a real toll for speaking their mind and exercising their rights.)

A few nights ago, while I was muttering darkly about all of this, I was asked if it could really get that bad. Honestly, I don’t think so… but I don’t know. “It couldn’t happen in America” is really not a conclusive argument. It could. People all around the world die every day for their faith, and for their freedom. People are driven from their homes and made refugees by servants of cruel governments; less than 100 miles from the coast of Florida, they are sent to jail for opening libraries; they are fined and removed from their jobs for preaching the gospel just over the northern border. Rome fell. England is stupidly lying down to avoid falling – but of course that leaves them prone all the same, ready for the boot to step where it wills.

To stand against such things requires an equally-strong faith in freedom and virtue. Too many people have decided to go all Squishy Marshmallow about their faith in such things, because they somehow think that it makes us “just like them” to believe strongly. That we believe strongly in diametrically opposed things – that our faith cause us to love and fight for freedom rather than dominion – doesn’t seem to matter to some people. Either they prefer dominion (either exercising it or suffering it) or they don’t bother to really think much about it.

They do neither themselves nor anyone else any favors. Slouching won’t save them, and it won’t convince others to spare them. Why would anyone abandon something they believe in for the Kingdom of Nice? And especially those who adore cruelty and fear – how can they be saved from themselves and become decent people? They don’t have any respect for modern faith, because it has surrendered its principles, going along to get along. It is impossible to respect such a milquetoast pastiche of straw and tinsel. It inspires nobody and therefore transforms nobody. It is true that the cruel are only half-men, but so are many modern believers - only they got the soft half, and thus come in a poor second in any contest against the hard half. Real faith requires both halves to make us complete people. Real faith forgives from strength, loves from courage, and has both compassion and good judgment. The soft virtues, by necessity, lead us into dangerous situations that we can only stick out by practicing the hard virtues as well.

It is love that makes the strong protect the weak rather than lord over them. Love makes people marry, knowing that one will be left behind, either in lonely old age or far too soon. We love pets though they soil the carpet and scratch the furniture, and children though they break our hearts a hundred ways, and we love favorite foods and hockey teams and art and chess and race cars and beer and gardening. The one thing we have in our favor is that nobody can really love socialism in that way… because love is, of necessity, a two-way process, and socialism has no love to give. Even a mere hobby can be rewarding and repay one’s interest because it enriches the mind, body, and spirit, but doing evil coarsens and deadens one’s faculties.

Those who love can also be joyful under any circumstance. Our hope is elsewhere, and is always renewed. “In this world ye shall have tribulation, but be of good cheer! I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33) We will confound those with a low opinion of the simple faith of the commoner. That faith helped free Eastern Europe; it made the fight worthwhile. I do not plan to bitterly cling to anything. It does no good - neither to me, nor to anyone who begins to seek an alternative to “normalcy.” Cheerful defiance is the watchword now. If we must go down fighting, let it be that we fought for love and not merely for ourselves. No matter who runs the government, it can’t endure unless those in the larger society live in such a way as to renew the world. Put the heart right and the head will follow.

No comments: