Everything Old is New Again

Via Instapundit, we delve into the wayback machine to April, 2002, back before Matthew Yglesias learned to hate George Bush.  Ol’ Matt tosses out for consideration a — I don’t think “time-honored” is really an apt expression — resolution of what we might call the “Palestinian Question.”

This is what Matt submits for consideration:

I think we have to start asking just how inhumane it would be for Israel to just expel the Palestinians from the occupied territories.   * * *  All forced population transfers are humanitarian disasters, of course, but so is the current situation. It’s not like there’s not any room in the whole Arab world for all these Palestinian Arabs to go live in, it’s just that the other Arab leaders don’t want to cooperate.

He’s right, of course; forced expulsions of mass population groups are humanitarian disasters.  It’s not by accident that I phrased it as “the Palestinian Question,” with its echoes of “the Jewish Question.”  It was, after all, on this day in 1941 that Hermann Goering instructed Heinrich Himmler to began preparations for the Final Solution.  That instruction resulted in the Wannsee Conference in January of 1942 and . . . well, world history knows the rest.

On the other hand, and this is a sobering Other Hand to contemplate:  Among the less fortunate consequences of Wilson’s, Lloyd George’s, and Clemenceau’s fiddling with the borders of Eastern Europe in 1919 was the existence of enormous groups of — shall we say — ethnically inconsistent groups in the new countries established by the treaties that ended the Great War.  The Sudeten Germans are only the most historically infamous.  In truth there were pockets of people all over that part of the world who were linguistically and culturally distinct from their surrounding populations.  Poland, which was re-created for the first time since 1795, was a mish-mash of Poles, Germans, Jews, Ukrainians (I did a will a number of years ago for a Polish-Ukrainian fellow), and sundry other groups.  Hungary was speckled with non-Magyar populations.  The Slovaks themselves were tack-welded together with the Czechs.  And those are just the examples I can think of sitting here at my computer.  Yugoslavia, the Kingdom of the South Slavs, had Bosnians, Serbs, Croats, and Albanians.

The result was pretty much as you might predict.  Politics, in addition to absorbing the poisonous brew of communism and class conflict unleashed by the war’s end, also broke very strongly on nationalistic and ethnic lines.  Not to be too blunt about it, but it hamstrung the new societies.  All the strife and mutual suspicion that had been — and not entirely successfully, either — bottled up by the crushing weight of centuries of Habsburg, Romanov, and Hohenzollern rule exploded over the land.  Precisely at the time when the world was radically changing beneath everyone’s feet, and by “everyone” I include the United States, and new and creative thinking became an even greater necessity, those countries were mired in bogs of ethnic conflict.

It is, I will suggest, a nearly universal phenomenon that conflict brings to the forefront the most extreme positions of all factions.  This is true of purely political conflict (witness what’s going on in the United States today); it’s true of military conflict (in conflicts as divergent as the Napoleonic Wars, the American Civil War, the Great War, and the communist take-over of China you can observe the steady rise, with the length and desperation of the struggle, of the most hard-boiled, ruthless, and unscrupulous commanders and factions); it’s true of class conflict (Hayek outlines the process in The Road to Serfdom).  And sure enough, it’s what we can observe unfolding across Eastern Europe during the inter-war period.

Not that any particular population group escaped a scorching in the Second World War, but, as is also depressingly typical, the ones across whom the storms lashed most fiercely were those perennial outsiders: the Jews and (to a much lesser extent because there were so many fewer of them) the Gypsies.

Americans, and even Western Europeans, tend to entertain the fond recollection that The War in Europe Ended May 8, 1945.  Well, the war may have ended, but the fighting and the suffering sure as hell didn’t.  The Poles turned on the few surviving Jews.  Pretty much everyone who wasn’t German turned on the pockets of Germans.  And the Soviets bestowed their ministrations on everyone.  And then it started.  Long lines of civilians, pushing prams, hand-carts, or wagons.  Or just carrying a battered suitcase, with everything they owned that wasn’t on their backs in it.  Young and old, off they marched, away from places where their ancestors had lived for centuries.  The Sudeten Germans had settled in Bohemia something like 800 years before.  The Poles in what became the western reaches of the Soviet Union had been there even longer.  The sundry ethnic groups spattered across the former Austro-Hungarian empire had been on their lands for similarly impressive periods.

No matter.  In 1982 I went to the Deutsches Museum in what was then still East Berlin.  I remember seeing one of the placards the Poles put up in Prussia.  Every German had 24 hours to leave town, taking only what could be hand-carried.  Just like that.  In fairness to the Poles, the exact same thing was happening to their east, as millions upon millions of them were kicked out to make room for the Soviets.  The numbers involved were prodigious.  Just among the Germans, somewhere between 12 and 14 million people were on the move in 1945-47.  Add to them millions of Poles, sundry Slavic groups, and of course the forced repatriations to the Soviet Union, and it’s easy to believe the figure I saw once (my memory is a bit fuzzy and I can’t recall where I saw it) that something like ten percent of the gross population of Europe was on the road, mostly on foot, and uniformly on a one-way trip.  In contemplating the physical reality of that process, we ought not forget that the winter of 1945-46 was one of the coldest in recorded European history (George Bush hadn’t invented global warming yet, after all), and the fighting had absolutely played hell with the planting and harvest for well over a year.

All in all, I think Yglesias’s point about it being a humanitarian disaster is fully justified.  In fact the only reason we don’t remember it more is because of what it immediately followed.  With the smoke — metaphorically — still rising from the ovens at Auschwitz, and the rubble still smoldering at Dresden, Warsaw, and dozens upon dozens of other Eastern European cities, what are the tribulations of a couple dozen million refugees?

But behold!  For all its post-war trauma, the one thing that Europe has not had to deal with since 1945 has been the ethnic strife that plagued it before the war.  All that civilian suffering at least produced largely homogenous populations which had the social cohesion to work through their challenges.  Just by way of example, it is no accident that it was the Poles who in the Solidarity movement set the first charges that exploded Soviet rule . . . nor should we underestimate the importance in that development of their adherence to their Roman Catholic faith, a church headed by (I’ll suggest this is one of the most fortunate coincidences in recent Western history) a Polish pope.  With one exception — the Velvet Divorce between the Czechs and the Slovaks — the lands that formerly relished nothing so much as a street fight between the Party of Ethnic Group A and the Party of Ethnic Group B, all to be followed by a quick pogrom through the Jewish Quarter, have been freed of at least the endless ructions and violence of ethnic strife.  And notice what’s now happening:  As Europe has been over-run with unassimilated adherents of the Religion of Peace, who periodically turn out to shoot at the police and burn cars and buildings, all the while sucking on the public tit of the European Welfare State, the ethnic strife is returning.

It’s almost as if there’s a pattern to what happens when you have significant populations of non-assimilated ethnic groups embedded in societies that uphold irreconcilable value systems.

The unassimilated Arabic populations of Israel’s territory (and I expressly include Gaza and the West Bank as Israeli territory; they conquered it from countries trying to destroy Israel: when you pick a fight and lose it, that’s what happens, viz. you lose territory and you’re entitled to zero sympathy) harbor for their chief ambition the physical destruction of Israel and the physical extermination of its Jewish population.  They are willing to stop exactly nowhere in the pursuit of this goal.  They put rocket launchers in schools and hospitals.  They use their own population as human shields.  And they will never give up.

So however awful it may be to ask the question, and whatever may be the implications for us all in contemplating the issues raised by that question, I think Yglesias’s question deserves a hard-boiled look:  Which humanitarian disaster is worse: the present one or one involving the forcible removal of these people?

[Updated (05 Aug 14)]:  In fairness I ought to observe that the former Yugoslavia in fact has experienced traumatic and bloody ethnic strife since 1945.  And the reason?  Well, after World War II it did not go through the “ethnic cleansing” process that Eastern Europe did.  So when communism collapsed and there was suddenly no longer a common boot on everyone’s neck, all the checkerboard population groups looked about and . . . got down to business.  All of which would suggest that what we’re witnessing in Israel is not unique to the peoples involved or the specifics of their conflict.  Depressing.

Mr. A’s Last Garden

In August, 1968, my parents moved with us to the little town that time forgot, that the decades cannot improve where I more or less grew up.  I was just shy of three years old.  My earliest memory is of the first night we spent in our new home.  My mother hadn’t even had time to put the beds together, so she just laid the mattresses out on the living room floor.  I remember looking up at the ceiling and thinking there were no lights in the room.  And in fact that’s the only room in their house (they still live there) that does not have an overhead light fixture.

We lived at the end of a dead-end street.  The street runs to the end of the subdivision and has lots of roughly one acre down either side of the street.  My parents bought the last three lots on our side of the street, the lot with their house and the lot on either side, both of which were heavily wooded.  Between us and our nearest neighbors on our side of the street there were another two lots, one of which was pretty well overgrown with scrub trees and blackberry bushes.  Across the street there was no one until you got to the lot right across from the blackberry patch (in other words, the last four lots on that side were all still woods).

The city (we were just barely inside the city limits back then) hadn’t black-topped the streets in our neighborhood just yet, so they were all chip-and-seal.  In the summer the tar would semi-liquefy and bubble.  I didn’t wear a whole lot of shoes back then, and so during the summer months I’d get the tar all over my feet, although by the time it was time to come inside for supper, I’d usually worn it right back off running through the woods.

There was all manner of neat stuff in the woods, from ancient tires someone had thrown out to huge tree stumps (the place had been logged, probably back before World War I, to judge by the size of the trees, the largest of which looked to be in the 40-60-year-old range) to the odd piece of lumber, or old barbed wire from fences.  Occasionally you could find something really unusual; I once found a Kennedy half-dollar in our back yard.  It must have been dropped by one of the men digging the septic system (based on where I found it, namely in the middle of the drain field).  You could vanish in those woods all day long.  Actually, I suppose one ought to say that you felt like you could vanish, because after all the total area was less than ten acres all told, and how invisible can you get in that little woods.  But for a four-year-old it felt like the far side of the moon when I’d step through the tree line.

The neighborhood was alive with kids and dogs.  In ages the kids ranged from several around my brother’s and my ages all the way up to high school.  I recall the high school boys seeming to be just unspeakably big, powerful, and sophisticated.  One kept one’s mouth closed in their presence.  I don’t recall a whole lot of girls about, or at least not many who ran with the larger group of others.  There was one I do recall, who was rougher than two miles of dirt road and who by the time she was in high school was not only smoking but chewing tobacco as well.  I never recall hearing anything untoward about her morals, but I guess she was what you’d describe as very much a tomboy.  No one gave her much of any grief that I recall.

In terms of behavioral standards I’d say we pretty much covered the waterfront, except for the extremes at either end.  By way of example, there were a brother and sister; the brother narrowly missed getting sent off to reform school on any number of occasions (zero leadership at home: his mother was an idiot and his father hadn’t drawn a sober breath that anyone in town could recall since sometime in the 1940s), and the sister had perfect attendance for all 12 years of school and now has her Pharm.D.  Go figure.  I don’t recall anyone being just downright mean or evil, though, and no one who was notoriously a goody-two-shoes either.

One street over there was a family that had a swimming pool.  You have to understand that no one, at that time and in places like that, had their own swimming pool.  There was a doctor who lived at the very far end of our street and who also had one.  The former fellow had his money from running an auto salvage operation and used car lot.  We always heard rumors about his hit-and-miss punctiliousness about car titles, but I’m not aware that anything was every pinned on him.  What made them interesting to me was the fact that the wrecked cars that he kept for salvage he staged on land below their house (they had quite a few acres adjoining the subdivision).  We used to go nosing around back there to see just how badly you could wad up a 1960s-vintage car.  I recall once seeing a car with an oval impression in the windshield, right above the steering wheel.  There was some sort of dried, dark something around it.

On the other side of the neighborhood, between our subdivision and the next one over, there was a tract of perhaps 50 or so acres (I’m just guessing) of really deep woods, criss-crossed by creeks and cut up by dark gulleys.  There were some huge trees back in there, too.  A good friend of mine and I, when we were sophomores in high school and both of us had arms well over 34 inches, could barely touch hands around the trunks of some of them.  That land’s long since been logged and cut up into building lots and built out.  I remember seeing some of the stumps after they’d logged it.  You could seat a family of four around them and fit a decent meal on the tops.

It was a perfect place to be a little boy, in other words.

In the summer I’d head up to those blackberry bushes and pick blackberries until I couldn’t stand the heat and mosquitoes any more.  As I recall I’d end up eating as much as I picked (why ever not?), and so my yield as a field hand wasn’t very impressive.  Sometimes I got more than blackberries; I still recall the infestation of chiggers around the groin that I got one year.  Man alive; anyone who wants to experience a genuinely exquisite torture may as well start there.

Our next-door neighbors on that side of the road were an older couple.  We’ll call them Mr. and Mrs. A.  When I say “older,” what I mean is that they were observably older than my parents (who at that time would have been in their late 30s), and their two children — daughters — were ten or so years older than my brother and I.  In fact Mr. and Mrs. A were between eight and twelve years older than my parents.  Mrs. A taught elementary school in the public school system, and was a principal reason why my mother sent my brother and me — two good little Protestant children — to the Catholic school in an even smaller town about 20 miles from us.  Lincoln once observed that after age 40 you have the face you deserve.  She did.  Mr. A as I recall worked for Purina or some other agricultural supplier.

Right next to the lot where their house stood was a lot they owned on which they kept a garden.  Every summer Mr. A would put out a magnificent garden.  It was roughly two-thirds of an acre, I suppose, at its greatest extent and he raised just about everything that would grow in this part of the country.  When I was tiny I’d wander up the street and tag along behind him as he went up and down the rows, spraying for bugs, pulling up Johnson grass (I thought he was just calling it that because their neighbors had that name), snipping off dead shoots and leaves, and so forth.  He’d always explain to me what he was doing and why.  When things got ready he was always good for an ear or several of corn, or acorn squash (which I adore to this day), or a watermelon, or some tomatoes.  His gardens always flourished, mightily, and you could always tell spring was on its way when he got out his plow and tiller and started laying out that year’s garden.

The folks who lived in the house facing Mr. and Mrs. A’s (on the cross street to ours) also kept a garden that regularly won awards of various kinds.  Those weren’t the only two vegetable gardens in the neighborhood but they were easily the biggest and most elaborate.

Because of the age spread between their daughters and us, and because they were daughters, after all (ick!!), and because we didn’t go to the local public schools, I never really got to know them terribly well.  They went to this particular beetle-brow church where it was official teaching that you were going to hell not only if you went to a different denomination from them, but if you went to any other church even of their same denomination.  I know that because there was a good number of families in town who went there and I did know a lot of kids who grew up in that church.  I still remember the time — it was fall of my first year in public school (6th grade) — and this one kid solemnly informed me that all Roman Catholics were going to hell.  Since I had two sets of R.C. cousins, of all of whom I thought and still think very highly, I had some difficulty wrapping my mind around that.  Additionally, since we went to the only Episcopal church for miles and miles around, and since the modal age of that congregation was about 148 or thereabouts (it wasn’t until I was in high school that they got electric lights, and not until I was out of college that they got running water), I just wasn’t used to religious teaching being pitched quite that strongly.

The As weren’t “bad” people, though.  Once Mrs. A called my mother, all a-twitter because she’d heard that “a Catholic family” was going to buy one of our lots and build a house.  My mother assured her that no, we weren’t going to be selling to anyone.  My father, an irreverent soul, told my mother afterwards, “You should have told her we were selling to a family of Jews with six children.”

Whatever the peculiarities of their religious beliefs, they were good neighbors.  I’m sure that if anything too far out of line had been observed going on, Mrs. A would have been on the horn to whichever set of parents needed to break out the strap and tune up their children.  Their yard was always orderly, their daughters grew up to be productive, decent people, and so far as I’ve ever heard they minded their own business, wherever they thought the rest of us were going to spend eternity.  The sort of people you want in your neighborhood, in other words.

And year in and year out, Mr. A would lay out that garden.  Over the decades (it’s been over 30 years since I left high school) a part of every return trip to my parents was observing Mr. A’s garden and how big it was this summer and how it was doing.  He got less ambitious over the years, and by these past four or five he’s had maybe ten or twelve rows, maybe 200 feet long each.  Can’t blame him; he was 91 his last birthday.  If I can still sling a hoe or dig potatoes when I’m 90, I am officially going to do a victory dance (right before I go out and get myself a fifth of scotch, a carton of cigarettes, and a 19-year-old; I’m going out with a smile).

Over the years I’ve wondered when he was ever going to stop.

This year we’ve had a cool summer so far.  It’s not been wet, but we’ve had a bit more rain than in some recent summers when everything burned to a crisp.  It’s been good weather for gardens, in other words.  Mr. A’s corn especially has been coming along well; it’s getting up for chest high.  His other stuff seems to be doing pretty well also.

Mr. A died last Saturday.  He’d been diagnosed with lung cancer a couple of months ago, inoperable and widely metastasized.  So far as I have any reason to suspect, he never touched tobacco.  Or liquor.  On the other hand, at age 91, what reason does your body need for cancer, I guess is the answer.  They gave him something like three to four months.  When driving down to my parents, I’d still see him out every so often, in his garden, but I couldn’t really tell if he was doing any work.  Maybe he was just saying good-bye to that patch of the world that was his to tend for 50 years (they bought their house in 1964), and from which he’d teased untold quantities of the Lord’s bounty.  Having worked, both literally and figuratively, in the Lord’s harvest all those years, he was about to become the harvest, and I do have reason to know that he was much preoccupied with where he was going to spend eternity.

I don’t know who’s going to take care of harvesting Mr. A’s last garden, but when everything’s gathered in and the remnants tilled into the soil — or even just left lying, this year — a fixture of life, for me at least, will have vanished.  As I mentioned, I never knew them terribly well, but I’ll miss him.  The world needs more to tend it, year in and year out, patiently, carefully, and lovingly.  Those who will work the tools God’s put in their hands.

From the Cultural Equivalence Brigade

We have this report, from today’s Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, about the Religion of Peace and its take-over of what was once Iraq.

Genital mutilation, mandatory, has been decreed for all females ages 11 to 46.

Want your War on Wymyn?  Here it is.

Just remember, it’s Western Civilization that is the most serious threat to humanity today.  Because racism! or something like that.

[Update (24 Jul 14, 1448 local)]:  Or perhaps not.  Several sources are expressing doubt on whether the document is genuine.  More, presumably, to come later.

[Update (25 Jul 14)]:  Now the UN is reporting that it “cannot confirm” the earlier reports.  Its coordinator for humanitarian relief in Iraq was “unfortunately” relying on local reports in announcing ISIS’s actions.  Well, if it’s not true, then good.  On the other hand, I’d like something a little more emphatic than that they “cannot confirm” the reports of the fatwa.  And further, what does it say for ISIS, a bunch so Out There that even al Qaeda renounces them, that the original reports were entirely believable in the first place?  Remember, this bunch has offered Iraq’s few Christians the choices (a) convert, (b) sign the dhimmi contract and pay money, or (c) be killed.

From the Department of Get a Damned Grip Already

This past June 20, a young woman — a girl, in fact, freshly minted as a high school graduate — from Alabama was on a trip to Europe.  On what seems to have been the last day of her trip, she visited Auschwitz-Birkenau, the notorious death camp (death by gas for those who didn’t make the screening, death by work for those who did).  And she took a “selfie,” which she posted to her Twitter account.

The picture shows her smiling, with an ear bud in her right ear.

Hoo boy.

For whatever reason (she apparently isn’t the only person to have taken a picture of herself at that place), her picture went viral.  And the political correctness police dropped on her like the hand of doom itself.  She got thousands upon thousands of negative re-tweets, some including threats.

The Washington Post has an article on the whole fiasco, here.  While the WaPo’s author excepts to the torrent of hate-mail washing over this teenager’s head, she still can’t let slip a chance to burnish her own PC street cred:  “That doesn’t make it ‘okay,’ to borrow an un-nuanced, Web-ready phrase. In truth, it’s hard to think of anything less sensitive, less appropriate or less self-aware than a ‘selfie in the Auschwitz Concentration Camp’ — smiley — as if the suffering of millions of people was somehow subsumed by Breanna’s own personal narrative. She was there, sure, but so were tens of thousands of others, and her willful minimization of that fact is, frankly, pretty gross.”

“Less sensitive.”  “Less appropriate.”  “Smiley.”  “Subsumed by Breanna’s own personal narrative.”  “Pretty gross.”

OK.  Let’s unpack exactly what happened, one element at a time, and examine which, if any, are insensitive, inappropriate, or imply that the horror of what happened there is somehow “subsumed in” her “own personal narrative.”  First, the elements:  Someone from eastern Alabama (kudos, I suppose, to our drenched-in-morality authoress for passing up the chance to take a swipe at Alabama as such; that must really have taken some effort) travels a good chunk of the way around the globe, to a place where 25 years ago it would have been nearly impossible for her to go.  I know people who travelled in Iron Curtain Poland, and getting there — unless you were part of a tour group — was made extremely difficult.  And she (i) takes a picture (ii) of herself (iii) wearing the clothes she was wearing that day, and (iv) smiling, which she then (v) posts on her Twitter feed so that her friends can see that she did something she’d undertaken to do for her dead father’s memory.

What, precisely, is objectionable about taking a picture with one’s own hands at Auschwitz?  Our propriety-sodden authoress might poke her damned head outside the Beltway and figure out that there are still a huge number of people in the world who, even if they aren’t actual Holocaust deniers, still just can’t get their minds around the notion that it actually happened.  In specific, identifiable places, to named people, and at the hands of identifiable people.  Slaughtering 6 million humans in the course of six or so years (the real large-scale killings didn’t start until the war, in 1939, even though the Nazis had been in power since 1933), just because, is not an easy concept to internalize, especially not in a country in which those sorts of things are not part of our own native history.  Europeans have been slaughtering Jews on an organized basis since the 1300s; ordinary people there can understand that it actually did happen because it was the endstation of a long and disgusting trip.  The potential of photoshopping notwithstanding, nothing quite says, “No shit; this was real,” like a photograph taken at the place where something happened, and one taken by the person who’s showing it to you.  I would submit that it’s especially important for everyone who visits a place like Auschwitz to take as many pictures as possible, and to show them around to everyone who’ll sit still long enough.

And is it inappropriate for a picture of oneself to be taken at Auschwitz?  “I was there.  I saw this.  This was — is — real.  I’m not making this up.”  I’m among the least photogenic people I know, so I generally avoid having my picture taken, anywhere, out of consideration for my fellow humans if no other reason.  But a picture of oneself is a reminder, of the person one was, that day, of the thoughts in one’s mind at that time.  We don’t keep diaries any more.  We’re insufficiently literate, for one thing, and for another we just have too much Stuff coming at us.  Life these days is like drinking from a fire hose.  So we take pictures, and we rely on these visual records to prompt the flow of memory.  One day this girl will be 60, barring accident, illness, or injury.  She may never have a chance to go back to Auschwitz.  By then it may be a broad-brush outline memory for her.  Until she sees a picture of herself, 18 years old, with all her mistakes still ahead of her, eager to take on the world on her terms, its own, or anyone else’s.  And then she’ll see a picture of herself, taken one year to the day after her father’s death (I want to ask Capt. Superiority at the WaPo if her own father is dead; is he, you dim bulb?).  And she’ll remember the sound of the wind blowing between the cell blocks, the crunch of her step on the gravel.  She’ll maybe remember how the place smells now — trees, grass, flowers outside, and that peculiar old-building scent inside, and how she tried to imagine all those scents overborne by the stench of death and burning human bodies.  The rooms full of luggage, shoes, hair, and so forth will come back to her, and she’ll recall what she was thinking that day.  Was she grieving for her father?  Was she thinking about the agony in all those children at the train platform, as they were separated from their own fathers for the last time?  Did she imagine that grief, that fear, multiplied 6 million times over?  No, if it would not be inappropriate to write a diary entry about one’s visit to Auschwitz, then it is not improper for a picture to be taken of oneself on that same visit.

Was it inappropriate that she took the picture herself?  Bullshit.  Except in the most unusual situations, the specific identity of a picture-taker is irrelevant.  Does it matter that Ansel Adams was the specific human being whose finger snapped the shutter on his photographs?  No.  Notice that this point is entirely distinct from the ambiguities of perspective, immersion, and distance which are implied in all significant photography.  But “the observer” is a conceptualized figure.  Whether the observer is male or female, old or young, a paragon of virtue or Joe Stalin himself just doesn’t matter.  We contemplate the suggestions and the messages of the picture completely independently of such inquiries.  So no, it cannot honestly be said to matter that she was the one who took her own picture.

Perhaps, on the other hand, there is in fact a significance to her having taken the picture.  It’s unlikely that this girl travelled all the way to Auschwitz on her own.  I’m just going to guess that she was with a bunch of other people, mostly of her own age.  Maybe she knew them before the trip, maybe not.  But look at the picture; there’s no one in the background.  We can’t see what’s in her own field of view (that’s one of those teasing ambiguities about photography; all we see is the camera’s perspective (there are, by the way, some incredibly challenging jigsaw puzzles where you’re given a picture and you have to put the puzzle together, not of that picture, but of what someone in that picture would be seeing, looking out)), but for all we can tell, she’s alone.  On the anniversary of her father’s death.  Gee, who could have seen that coming?  Maybe she slipped off, by herself, to take that picture to send back for the people who knew not only her, but her father as well.  This moment was her private moment of memory for the dead, a way station on her path of grieving (Did you call your father today, you puffed-up Correctness Tsarina? I bet you Breanna wishes she could.).  Remind me again what about Auschwitz makes it morally objectionable as a place for private grief?  For a sense of loss in contemplating those taken from this life too early?  Again, we cannot stand in the shoes of those victims as they were hustled out of the train cars, stumbling over those who’d died on the trip.  We cannot know what was in their hearts as they were ripped from each other’s arms.  The most we can do is cast about for such pale simulacra as we can of that pain, that fear (You reckon a 17-year-old is afraid as she watches her father die, you mouth-breathing, booger-eating, drunk-on-your-own-sensitivity imbecile?), that grief, and think:  I know what my own feels like; how much more terrible must theirs have been?  But that would have required someone who can’t do better for a job than working for the WaPo to think herself into someone else’s shoes.  Someone from Alabama (eeeewwwww!!!).  How much easier is it to punch the PC card at the door, sally up to the bar, and order up a tall, cool drink of I’m Better Than You.

With an ear-bud in her ear.  Notice it’s a single ear bud.  I realize that the Empress of All Seemliness may not be hep to the most recent technology, but entertainment ear buds come in pairs.  You know, stereo?  Been around a while, that audio technique.  But Breanna’s got a single ear bud in her ear.  Now, I further realize that our WaPo authoress probably doesn’t get outside the Beltway much if she can help it, and if she does, it’s to some self-absorbed place like New York, but I’ll just go ahead and give you a clue, you moron:  Auschwitz is in Poland.  They don’t speak English in Poland.  If you don’t have the money to pop for a tour guide, what you do is you rent a little machine with an English-speaking voice that walks you through the place, and tells you what you’re looking at, and why it’s significant.  You know, so you can understand it.  Sort of like might seem a good idea to a girl from Alabama who’d actually studied on the Holocaust to the extent of seeking out a real honest-Injun survivor to interview.  But why the ear-bud?  Well, again, our WaPo-staffer might not understand this, but there are a lot of different places in this world, and in most of those places they speak, you know, different languages.  So that if you had a little sound-stick (like I rented at the Dresden Festung in 2011 — although I rented mine in German), with the sound coming out of a speaker, (a) the visitor has only one hand free, and (b) you have an absolute Babel of tour-guide voices.  In a place like Auschwitz, where silence would be the ticket, one would think.

So I’d be extraordinarily surprised if that ear-bud is not connected at its other end to a small electronic tour guide.  If I’m wrong (I could be) I’ll buy our WaPo authoress a beer.  My choice.

Breanna’s smiling.  I don’t know how many different ways she might smile in ordinary life, but this appears to be a posed smile, such as you’d expect to find in any posed photograph.  At the risk of returning again to a theme, and on the assumption that our WaPo drone hasn’t yet had a plexiotomy (that’s a Marine Corps term, honey; look it up and go get you one, because you obviously are desperately in need of it) and so can’t see around her with any clarity, Breanna’s from Alabama.  I guarantee you that she was brought up that young ladies do not scowl at cameras.  She was taught by her mother, and her grandmother, and her aunts, and her older sisters (if she has them), and the ladies at her church, and her schoolteachers, that young ladies when addressed in public or when appearing in photographs present themselves in a cheerful mien.  Now, maybe I’m wrong.  Maybe this is not Breanna’s I’m-in-a-photograph-now-everyone-look-pretty smile.  Maybe this is her I’m-smiling-for-daddy-’cause-I-told-him-I-was-going-to-come-here-and-now-I-have smile.  Maybe this is her I’m-smiling-so-I-don’t-cry-about-my-daddy-he’s-been-gone-a-year-and-God-I-miss-him-and-here-I-am-surrounded-by-all-this-apparatus-of-death-and-why-do-people-do-each-other-this-way-and-why-can’t-I-have-my-daddy-back-I-miss-him-so-much-and-I’m-only-18-and-there’s-so-much-I-never-got-to-say-to-him smile.  Maybe she took this picture, which she obviously took to send back to her friends and family thousands of miles away, to say, “I love you all and thank you for letting me go on this trip.”  Someone explain to me why any or all of those reasons for smiling into a camera, at Birkenau or anywhere else, are objectionable.

And so Breanna posted her photograph on her Twitter feed.  She might have sent it via text, but then we have no idea of the number of people she needed to send it to, and texting requires using the telephone, and not the data service (when travelling abroad, that can make a huge difference in what you’re charged).  E-mail?  She might not have an e-mail with sufficient buffer size to send the photograph.  Maybe she had people whose e-mail addresses she didn’t keep in her phone, and who needed to get it.  Maybe a teacher, or her preacher.  “Just follow me on Twitter while I’m on my trip; that way you can see my pictures right away.”  Gosh what an awful thing to do.  I’m just going to pose a couple of questions to the Goddess of Grief (she’s obviously not very inquisitive but I’m going to ask her to fake it for a moment):  How many high school girls of your acquaintance set out to go to a place like Auschwitz?  How many even want to think that a place like Auschwitz exists, or what happened there?  How many go so far as to hunt up and interview (not just shake hands with, so you can say you did it, but actually sit down and talk) a Holocaust survivor?  So what’s the likelihood that this particular high school girl, who did all of that, and a full year before she graduated (remember she was studying on the Holocaust with her father before he died, and he’s been dead a year now), entered upon this particular part of her trip in a spirit of frivolity or pornographic interest in massive death?  Huh?  Riddle me that, Batdoofus.

So, now having explained things to the WaPo at much greater length and in much greater depth than they’re used around there, let’s examine precisely what reason there is to think that this girl from Alabama’s taking a picture of herself at Auschwitz and sending it back to people she cares about and who care about her was some attempt to “subsume” the horrors of the Holocaust in “her own personal narrative.”  <sound of crickets>

In a place in which so many families were destroyed — families which had somehow, miraculously, hung together through years of persecution, hunger, beatings, expropriations, fear, suspicion (remember that Auschwitz as specifically a death camp didn’t really get cranking until the last months of the war; by the time Auschwitz-Birkenau opened three-quarters of all Jews who would be slaughtered had already died, mostly in the Operation Reinhard facilities like Treblinka, Sobibor, Belzec, and Majdanek, which fewer than 100 are known to have survived, in comparison to the 100,000 Auschwitz survivors) — is it really inappropriate for someone to think of her own family?  Especially when that family is now missing so important a member (Call your father, you snot-faced troll of a reporter, and rejoice that you can.)?

You see, places like Birkenau, Babi Yar, the Katyn Forest, the Lubyanka, Sukhanovka, and other places where humans have ripped off the mask over the centuries are of more than historical interest only to the extent that they awaken within us moving forces to take with us into the world.  The dead are gone and we cannot recall them.  It would be idle to speak of somehow “redeeming” their deaths; you can’t do that.  Dying packed in a swarming, screaming, defecating, sweating, choking mass of people in a gas chamber cannot be redeemed.  The most we can do is salvage something of humanity from the wreckage of what happened there.  What is there of humanity to be salvaged from the contemplation of such places?  Well, we can be reminded of our common humanity and the bonds that tie us each to all others.  We can look at those railroad tracks, that ominous iron gate, the crematoria, the death chambers themselves, and we can understand that real people — people alarmingly just like us — did this, and they did this to people who were — are — our brothers and sisters.  And we can appreciate, perhaps, our living brothers and sister all the more.  And we can have awakened our awareness of the forces of evil, hatred, callousness, and detachment that lurk in every last damned one of us — that means you too, scrivener — and we can promise the dead of Auschwitz that we shall learn from them, and we shall act on our lessons.  Where do those lessons first express themselves?  In the closest circle of our acquaintance: our friends, families, and the people in our communities.  For an 18-year-old that’s still going to be a pretty small circle (among other details not paid attention to in this article is what it means to be 18 years old).

We preserve places like Auschwitz-Birkenau precisely so that as many people as possible can come there and learn those lessons, that they may then go forth into the world, carrying those lessons with them.  The answer to a place like Birkenau is love.  If it is anything else then we have missed the mark; we are merely rubber-neckers to others’ suffering.  If the horrors of Auschwitz prompt an expression of love, you’re just going to have to do a much better job of explaining to me why that is cause to shoot out my lips and shake my head, saying, “This girl stepped over the line,” than ol’ Ms. Pickle-Nipple from the WaPo has done.  I’m hanged if I can see how that’s “pretty gross.”

Go spit on your hands, lady, and get a goddam grip on reality.

And What Color is the Sun on Your Planet?

Via Victor Davis Hanson, we have news that Dear Leader’s team is taking credit for (warning:  swallow all liquids and solid foods before reading onward) the increased tranquility prevailing in the world.


You can’t make this up.  Red China is sending combat patrols to sea to claim lands and surrounding seas to which it has no right.  Libya, Egypt, Syria, and Iraq have degenerated into levels of chaos not seen since their original conquests . . . 1,300 years or so ago.  Russia has invaded a sovereign country and simply annexed a large chunk of its territory, is now sending its military covertly onto that country’s remaining territory to masquerade as native separatists, and has just recently shot from the sky a civilian airliner not posing a threat to anyone.  Iran is about to miss the most recent deadline in our serial wet-noodle slaps on its wrist, as it grimly progresses towards possession of an atomic weapon.  Pakistan has been all but taken over by Al Qaeda; the French are fire-bombing synagogues; and someone (who is paying the freight on that? who has an incentive to pay the freight?) is trucking thousands of unaccompanied, illegal immigrant children to invade our southern borders.  Turkey, which after near civil war 100 years ago seemed to have turned away from its Islamist roots, is now deliberately embracing a sectarian re-make of its society.  Hamas is launching rockets into Israel from its launchers which it has hidden in hospitals and schools.  Scotland is set to vote in September on whether to un-do 300 years of union with England.

I suppose things do look pretty tranquil from Martha’s Vineyard, of course.  The only problem is so few of us get to hang out there.


Social(ist) Corrosion

A little over three years ago, for the first time since 1986, I returned to the area of Germany that had been the Sowjetische Besatzungszone (the Soviet Occupation Zone), more tongue-in-cheek identified for just over 40 years as the German Democratic Republic.  Back then I’d visited Leipzig, Dresden, and of course East Berlin.  I still remember being struck by the evidence, everywhere visible to someone with his eyes open, of decay and degeneration.  Just for example, I recall a railroad bridge over a street in Leipzig.  It wasn’t a very wide street, and the bridge was one of your basic-model beam girder bridges with tracks over the top.  It had obviously not been painted in decades.  Huge areas of advanced rust, scrolls of peeling paint.  Everywhere you looked there was filth, ancient, undisturbed filth.  Oh sure, in the designated public places things were more or less clean.  East Berlin was always a show-place, but even there once you got away from the main drags, the places where tourists were expected, it was the same old story: neglect and decay.

Back in 2010 I learned that they’d re-built the Frauenkirche in Dresden, and since the last time I’d seen it the church was a thirty-plus foot tall pile of rubble I decided I had to go.  So I rode the train over.  I like riding on trains.  Trains go past people’s back yards.  Driving past the front door, you see the polished door knob, the carefully-groomed plantings, the nice lace curtains.  Around back you get to see what they do with their garbage, broken tools and toys, and derelict equipment.

They’ve long since ripped out the border fences, mine fields, watchtowers, and so forth.  You can still quite distinctly tell, though, when you’ve crossed from what used to be West Germany over into the former SBZ.  You see, over in the western part of the country, when they’ve got to leave something outside, they stack it neatly, stretch a tarpaulin over it, and lash it down.  You won’t see equipment just left out in the elements.  If a building is running down, they’ll either fix it just as good as it was, or they’ll tear it down and build something new.  You’ll never see a boarded-over window, or a sagging roof line, or a sheet of metal tacked over a hole in the roof.  Weed-overgrown places are foreign to the scenery.  You see all that and more in the old East Germany.

Dresden is the capital city of Saxony.  Saxony was one of the four kingdoms which existed under the old Kaiserreich, the others being Prussia, Bavaria, and Württemberg.  They had their own army (subordinated to the Kaiser’s command in wartime, to be sure, but very much with its own culture and command structure).  The capital city was famous the world over for its art, its music, and its architecture.  The Frauenkirche was just one of a large number of breathtakingly beautiful public structures.  It was, in short, not just some provincial burgh.  It’s actually large enough that it had, and has, not one but two market places.  The Altmarkt, or Old Market, is just that, the original market area within the old walls.  It was and remains the main market.  The Neumarkt, or New Market, was outside the original city walls, and it’s where they built the “new” Frauenkirche from 1726-43.  Large areas of it are still construction site, 70 years after the war (you can see in the open excavations the foundations of the old buildings in the neighborhood; after the firestorm there wasn’t much to do but bury them, cobble over, and go on with life).

So I was struck when walking past the Altmarkt at about 7:45 a.m. on a weekday morning.  At that hour the markets in just about every other German town of any size at all will be absolute beehives of activity.  Vendors will be setting up, the early shoppers will be nosing about, and there will be a steady stream of new arrivals to buy and sell.  This, for example, is the south side of the market square in Freiburg, a small university town, at about 6:45 a.m. on a weekday morning:

20110324 Freiburg, Market on Cathedral Square (south side).jpg

By 8:00 a.m. all you’ll be able to see beyond the cars in the foreground is a sea of canopies of vendors, and swarms and swarms of people.

This, in contrast, is the Dresden Altmarkt at about 7:45 a.m:

20110329 Dresden Altmarkt

That’s it.  That’s all.  This is what private enterprise looks like, 21 years after reunification.  Stunted.

We have two nearly perfect laboratories to compare the corrosive effects of socialism on the peoples it is inflicted upon.  One is the two Koreas.  Both were a unitary society for centuries.  Both experienced the tender ministrations of Imperial Japan.  Both experienced the scourge of war from 1950-53.  For 60+ years now, the north has been communistic, and the south has not.  Mind you, until the last generation or so, even the south was ruled by authoritarian governments.  So really any difference in how they live has had maybe 30 or so years to manifest itself.

The other laboratory was Germany.  For 45 years you had two societies that had been one for centuries.  They’d both experienced the 30 Years War, the Napoleonic conquests, the wars of unification, the First World War, hyperinflation and the terrors of the Weimar fiasco, the heady days of Nazi triumphalism, and the devastation of the war to eradicate it.  The only difference, for 45 years, was that one people lived under capitalism, however watered down, and the other under socialism.

It appears, now, that their physical world isn’t the only thing that corroded, that it isn’t only their entrepreneurial spirit that is stunted.  Their morality seems to have taken a hit, too.  Here at The Economist we have a report of a study done on several hundred Berliners.  What they found was a pretty clear correlation between not just whether someone had lived in the old East Germany and how willing they were to lie for pecuniary gain, but between the degree of that willingness and how long they’d been exposed to it.  Very briefly, the longer someone had lived under that system, the more readily they lied for money.

The next time someone starts yapping about supposedly immoral capitalism, trot that study out.  These results back up what I have long said:  The central wickedness of socialism — of all collectivist systems, in fact — is that it destroys humans’ moral agency.  If every aspect of your life is the subject of direct compulsion by the state, then you can be neither virtuous nor iniquitous.  And if you can be neither, you rapidly lose the ability to distinguish between the two.  In fact, you rapidly lose the sensibility that they are two different things.  Capitalism permits immorality; that much has to be conceded.  But it is only because you may be wicked under capitalism that you are capable of virtue, at all.

Remember: He’s Alleged to be Eloquent

Among the many lies we were told about Dear Leader back in 2008 was that he was this incredibly eloquent speaker, who just had the knack of using the language to heal a broken society.  And so forth.

As things have turned out, this is a clown who quite literally is not comfortable appearing in front of a sixth-grade class without his Telepromptr.  He’s so clumsy away from his script that he makes Joe Biden look polished and erudite in comparison.

He shoots his mouth off when he ought to seize the chance to be quiet, and he buries his thoughts in argle-bargle when plain Saxon is called for.  When jihadisti slaughtered four Americans, including our ambassador to that specific country, he . . . stood in front of the cameras in the Rose Garden, mumbled something about “condemning terrorism,” and then hopped a flight out to Las Vegas for a fundraiser.  That would be comparable to Chicago’s mayor standing at the garage on February 14, 1929, and condemning bootlegging.  When a famous race-monger lost his key in Cambridge, Massachusetts and got into a confrontation with the local police when someone saw him breaking into his own house, Dear Leader got on national television to go blabbering on about race and hatred.  Whatever happened to staying the hell out of a local law-enforcement snafu?

In the past few days, the Russians shot down another civilian jetliner, this time over the Ukraine (remember KAL 700?).  The plane was carrying 295 or so passengers and crew.  Reports are that just over 20 of them were Americans.  The airplane was at cruising altitude, in a commercial air corridor, and obviously posing no threat to anyone.  And the Russians shot it down.  Don’t hand me this business about the “rebels” having done it.  For starts, surface-to-air missiles capable of intercepting a target at 38,000 feet or so and travelling at over 500 knots are not the sort of thing that a bunch of half-trained, semi-drunken rebels will be able to operate.  Secondly, the “rebels” are generally being lead by Russian regular troops in fake uniforms.  The “rebel” unit which shot down this airliner, for example, is headed by a man who is on video identifying himself as a Russian lieutenant colonel.  This was Putin, pure and simple, laying down another marker for an emasculated Europe to swallow.

So what does our Great Orator have to say?

From the Daily Mail (a newspaper in Britain, to the reporting from which you need to go if you want any shot at coming across news that’s other-than-fawning over Dear Leader), we have —

“Before I begin, obviously the world is watching reports of a downed passenger jet near the Russia-Ukraine border. And it looks like it may be a terrible tragedy. Right now we’re working to determine whether there were American citizens on board. That is our first priority.”
 “And I’ve directed my national security team to stay in close contact with the Ukrainian government. The United States will offer any assistance we can to help determine what happened and why. And as a country, our thoughts and prayers are with all the families and passengers, wherever they call home.”
Obama then jarringly quickly returned to his prepared remarks.

Oh dear.  Let’s un-pack that a bit.  “It looks like it may be a terrible tragedy.”  May be.  Subjunctive.  Which is to say that there are apparently circumstances under which a jetliner with over 290 people on board crashing — whether shot down or otherwise — might not be a tragedy.  Not only may it be — have to get back with you on that one, folks — a tragedy, but it might be a “terrible” tragedy, as opposed to a fairly run-of-the-mill or even a desirable tragedy.

What is America’s first priority?  Was it determining whether this was an unprovoked attack — as was already being reported at the time — on civilians by forces known to be an operating front for the U.S.’s most aggressive major power enemy?  Was it to figure out what actions our allies — or at least those allies we’ve not completely alienated — in Europe were going to take, what they knew about what happened?  No matter who pickled off that missile, shooting down other nations’ civilian aircraft represents a major heightening of the stakes in an alarmingly disturbed part of the world.  No.  We’re first concerned with whether there were Americans on that plane.  Notice that I’m not busting on Dear Leader for expending effort to find out whether that was the case (although a telephone call to the Netherlands, where the flight originated, would have sufficed in a matter of minutes to produce a flight manifest, complete with country shown on the passports).  My objection is that, in a situation so fraught with implications for the geopolitical stability in one of the most strategically important areas of the world just now, he identifies his No. 1 Job as doing the Red Cross’ work.

It is as if, when the first reports of the bombardment of Ft. Sumter arrived in Washington, Lincoln had allowed that the “first priority” was to make sure that all federal installations in the area had properly accounted for their heavy artillery pieces.  What would have been objectionable with a statement along the lines of, “While our information at the moment is not complete — and we’re still receiving updates and analyzing them thoroughly as they come in — there is every reason to believe that this airliner, this civilian airliner, flying in peace and presently a threat to no one, was cravenly shot from the sky by intentional act.  It is too soon to say we known who it was, but the list of possible perpetrators is very short.  To those guilty of this crime, I say this: We will discover you.  By your crime you have shown yourselves to be the enemies of common humanity, no more and no less than the pirates of old.  Do not imagine that there will be no consequences for your actions, or that you will not suffer those consequences on the skin of your own backs.  This appears to have been an act of war.  As such it falls squarely within the provisions of the North Atlantic Treaty, and in consequence I have given appropriate orders to the commanders of our armed forces.  We are in communication with our NATO allies.  You will understand that at the moment I am unable to answer questions any further than I have already stated.  Thank you.”

My final point of irritation is all that crap about “my national security team.”  I have news for you, hoss:  The armed forces do not wear your monogram.  Our national security apparatus does not march under the flag of the president, but rather that of the country.

All 57 states of it.

Of Dialectics and Rights

Some days ago I put up a post on a recent article in which libertarians were explicitly equated with communists.  We were promised, if them Awful Libertarians took over, catastrophes of like kind to those visited on the world by communism in the last century.  Seriously.  You have to read that article to believe it.  It’s as if the authors, whose biographical statements on the article would suggest average or better intelligence and thus information processing ability, have no clue that without exception the greatest monsters and destroyers not just of human liberty but of human life and human culture over the past 100 years have been without exception socialists.  And that socialism is both (i) leftist, and (ii) necessarily collectivist, which means (iii) it cannot be squared with libertarianism.  Not even a little.

Quite apart from the substance of libertarianism, relative to left-extremism (and all leftism is inherently extremist, since it recognizes no sphere of human existence which is not appropriate for government control: “The personal is political,” anyone?), are some distinctions in thought processes.  Libertarianism is principled, you see; leftism is not.  In fact, leftism even has a word (a euphemism, as to be expected) for its practice of insisting that X and only and always before and ever after X, until Y, after which point only Y and ’twas always thus and always thus ’twill be.  Until Z.  The left-extremists call it “dialectics.”  You and I, Gentle Reader, recognize it as the claim of entitlement to make the rules up as I go along, contingent upon what my momentary objectives may be.  It’s how the Soviet Union could go from war communism to the New Economic Policy to forced collectivization and de-kulakization in the space of a bit more than a decade.  It’s how today’s Hero of the Soviet Union could in a matter of days end up being labeled a counter-revolutionary Trotskyite and tool of the British, dragged from his bed and ground up in the Lubyanka, eventually to be shot in some execution cellar.

For an American illustration of dialectics in action, observe the left-extremists’ approach to rights protected by the constitution.  Exhibit A is abortion, a right to which appears nowhere in the U.S. Constitution.  At all.  In fact, there nowhere appears a “right to privacy” in the U.S. Constitution.  It’s just not there.  You can — and must, I think — allow that the entire structure of the document, and not just the Bill of Rights, recognizes that — puts the lie to the contrary assertion, in fact — that the personal is most definitely not political.  Brandeis, who  launched the “right to privacy” movement in the modern leftist legal canon, called it the “privacy interest” (it’s been a long time since I read that article of his, but that’s how he phrased it, I seem to recall).  To recognize that something is an “interest” is not quite necessarily to concede that it is legitimate and worthy of some degree of respect, but it’s pretty nearly such.  What it is not is a “right.”  To say that something is a “right” is to peg it to a particular position in a hierarchical order of interests.

So a libertarian can recognize that there is a privacy interest, and that part of that privacy interest would normally include the management of human fertility.  But a libertarian will also recognize that a woman’s “right to choose” is but one interest among many on that issue.  For starts, the men who are those children’s fathers have an interest that is not illegitimate.  The child him/herself most definitely has an interest that cannot be disregarded.  Society at large has an interest in what it recognizes as human life, and how it is to be protected.  The structure of the American republic is an interest to the extent that how and at what level those other interests butt heads is resolved.  I once heard someone point out, in support of the argument that abortion necessarily implicates the 14th Amendment, that either those unborn children are “persons” within the 14th Amendment or they are not.  And if they are, then as “persons” they are entitled to due process and the equal protections of the law.  What that due process and equal protection might entail then has to be addressed.  I don’t think there’s a clear answer to that question.  This is just my personal philosophy, but I’ve always thought that if something is not plainly and unambiguously a subject addressed by the U.S. Constitution, then it’s not properly a subject for federal-level action.

Which means that I don’t think the federal government has either the power or the duty to control abortion.  On the other hand I think the states do, and I think how they handle it is largely up to them.  What my personal thoughts on the subject may be is not material, at least not outside the state where I live.

But the leftists disagree.  Because one constellation of nine be-robed boobs back in the 1970s took a deep breath of airplane glue and went off on emanations and penumbrae and found a “right” to abortion on demand (on the woman’s demand, by the way; for some reason the “equal protection” of not wanting to be a parent does not extend to the father who’s about to spend 18 years paying for a child he did not want, and for the raising of which he may be wholly unsuited) where one does not exist, that right is graven in stone for all time.  Even a private person’s unwillingness to pay for it for someone else is taken to be an “assault” on that right.  Any diminishment at all of a woman’s right to kill her unborn child, all the way up to the moment of full gestation and nearly-complete birth (to be graphic about it, the procedure involves creating a breach birth, then stopping the baby’s head from exiting, and then, while the rest of the baby is out in the open air, sucking his brain out through a hole bored in the base of his skull for that purpose), is regarded as a War on Wymyn, and creeping totalitarianism.

Now, not all left-extremists will go so far as to support in plain language “partial birth abortion,” but the true leftists will generally back anything short of that.  And they’ll picket in front of the courthouse every time a law prohibiting such practices is being challenged.

So that’s how the left-extremists treat a “right” that was invented from whole cloth and has no textual support.  How about a right that is actually spelled out in the text of the document?  The Second Amendment’s full text reads:  “A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.”  That’s a single sentence, the subject of which is “the right of the people to keep and bear arms” and the predicate of which is “shall not be infringed.”  The left-extremists point out to the introductory clause, the bit about a “well-regulated militia,” as somehow limiting the scope of the grammatical core of the sentence.  Of course, they ascribe no such limiting function to the preamble of the Constitution, which sets out that the purpose of the document includes “promoting the general welfare,” as opposed to robbing Peter to pay Paul.  Nope.  Can’t have that; if all the federal government had authority to do was promote the general welfare, then most of their beloved welfare state would be manifestly unconstitutional.

But the most salient point is that the right to keep and bear arms is actually right there in the document, in contrast to the “right” to kill your unborn child.  You don’t have to get to the right to keep and bear arms by emanation or penumbra.  You can argue in good faith whether it ought to be there, but you cannot honestly deny it exists.  And how do the left-extremists think about encroachments on that black-and-white right?

Why, they’re all for “reasonable restrictions” on a right the “infringement” of which is explicitly prohibited.  And they’re all for allowing each and every state to deal with it as they please.  Laboratories of democracy and whatnot, dontcha know.

Either a right that is spelled out in the Constitution is protected, or it is not protected.  If you don’t like the 2nd Amendment, get it repealed.  If gun control is so self-evidently something all reasonable people agree on, and it’s only the NRA that’s holding it up, then amend the Constitution.  It’s been done before; we got rid of the 18th Amendment because it turned out to be a Bad Idea.

The left-extremists also are pretty hep to “reasonable restrictions” on the freedom of speech.  This is the full text of the 1st Amendment:  “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”  That’s also a single sentence, the subject of which is “Congress” and the verb of which is “shall make.”  The verb’s direct object — that to which the verb pertains and upon which is acts, directly — is “no law.”  There then follow a number of clauses.  The one which interests us here is “the freedom of speech.”

Whose freedom of speech?  It doesn’t say.  It most specifically doesn’t say “except commercial speech,” or “except for speech in connection with election campaigns,” or “except for speech which offends some groups of people,” or “except for the speech of aliens resident.”  There is apparently only one freedom of speech, by the way, viz. “the” freedom of speech.  Thus if there is freedom of speech at all, then everyone has the same freedom of speech.

But what’s prohibited?  Congress “mak[ing] a law . . . abridging the freedom of speech.”  Congress is the only operator who is prohibited from acting by that amendment.  Contrast the 2nd Amendment or the 4th Amendment, which are not confined in their operation to a specified actor.  The people’s right to keep and bear arms “shall not be infringed.”  Period.  No matter by whom.  From the 4th Amendment, we have, “The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated[.]”  The right “shall not be violated.”  By whom?  By anyone.  But notice that when the Framers put that right together they explicitly shoved in a “reasonable” standard, which is wholly missing from the 2nd Amendment.  Let’s look at the 5th Amendment’s just compensation clause.  “[N]or shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation.”  By whom?  There is no limitation in the text; the answer is thus, “By anyone.”

The men who wrote, who debated, and submitted to the states the original twelve amendments (ten of which were ratified) may have been many things, but they were not careless in their language.  Those who want to argue that the 2nd Amendment applies only to permit the states, as states, to maintain militias, have to explain why the expression “of the people” is used repeatedly in the Bill of Rights, and in each case it applies to something that cannot with a straight face be read to be an attribute of a state’s geopolitical existence.  A state cannot have a “person or house” to be protected from unreasonable searches, can it?

Most destructive of the left-extremist position on 2nd Amendment interpretation is the 10th Amendment, which reads, in full, “The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.”  How about that?  When the Framers wanted to mean individual humans, they knew to differentiate them from the states, and when they meant to say a right belonged to “states,” why, they just came right on out and said, “states,” instead of some code word, like, for example, “people.”  Lord love a duck!  These amendments were written by the same people, at the same time, and debated together, and voted on together.  There is simply no intellectually honest way to argue that the expression “people” means “states” in one amendment, but does not in another.

Why is it important that rights which are spelled out are enforced as written?  Because if they’re not, you get results like this one, reported in today’s Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung.  “Front National Politician Sentenced to Prison.”  Nine months.  For what?  For comparing another French politician to an ape.  The aggrieved politician is the justice minister, and she happens to be black.  France is not without its own racial baggage in respect of African slavery, but like Britain it was smart enough to confine it pretty much to its colonies.  It never existed to any meaningful extent in Metropolitan France.  Even so, what has been said, and done on the floor of the National Assembly, so far transcends the bounds of decency that it has to count as indefensible . . . morally.

We’re not talking about morally indefensible words, however.  We’re talking about putting someone in prison for nine months for calling a public personage an ape.  Think this is something new?  Think this is just something cooked up by the Koch Brothers, or the Klan, or the Front National?  Let’s see if we can’t find something in the Wayback Machine.  Something from . . . oh hell, the 1860s, for example.  Something like this:

Lincoln as a monkey

This attitude of hostility towards the freedom of speech is not unique to France.  It’s not even unique to people who want to keep the Koch Brothers (but not George Soros) from participation in the electoral process.  It extends all the way to people who simply want to shut up those who annoy them, those with whom they disagree.  And like all left-extremists, they will stop at nothing, because for the left, the ends very much justify the means, in all situations.

If rights are what you call them, so that we may have a constitutional right to kill unborn children upon a single person’s whim, then rights are what we call them, and you get nine months for calling someone — a sufficiently powerful someone — an ape.  With one comes the other; they are twins and cannot be separated.

One-Card Poker

When all you have in your hand is a single card, that’s the card you’re going to play.  Every time.

The saddest part of this?  Because these slime buckets have so cynically cheapened the accusation of racism and racist behavior, the rest of us are now de-sensitized to any future genuine manifestation of it.

[Update (18 Jul 14)]  Since I couldn’t have said it any better, here’s this open letter to Comrade Holder.  By the way, Holder was my law skool graduation speaker as well, and the only thing I can recall about him is looking at his biographical blurb in the program and asking myself if this was the best a law skool so proud of itself as the one I attended could do for a graduation speaker.  If how much suck you have can be best gauged by who returns your calls, my dear ol’ alma mater was firmly on the hind tit.

From the Department of No Kidding

Well.  Fancy this.  Children (especially boys, by the way) need to move more.  In all dimensions.  Failure to move leads to physically weakened bodies and sensory systems, which prevents them from . . . you know . . . learning.

Forty-five years ago we put men on the moon.  The men (and most of them were men, back then) who did this pulled it off with access to less computing power than is now available on-board in a previous-generation iPhone.  They were working with slide rules.  They had gone to schools where they had to go without “diversity” sensitivity training.  Where they’d never had to prepare a video presentation on “environmental problems” in their neighborhood which just cried out for them to join ranks and march for the Cause.  Where they’d never had to learn about however-the-hell-many “pillars” exist in the Religion of Peace.  The literature books they read somehow managed to do without “transgressive” pieces designed to rub the authors’ perversions and hang-ups in the readers’ faces.  The folks who sent the Apollo missions out (and back) managed their accomplishments utterly ignorant of how wonderful a thing it is to be homosexual.  When they were young, boys got to settle things on the playground among themselves.  If they got caught there was a quick trip to the hallway with a teacher, a paddle or strap, and hands-around-the-ankles-young-man.  They’d not had “travel ball”; they’d played dodge ball at recess.  They’d not been dragged around to all manner of “enrichment” programs.  They’d never been herded into auditoriums there to be terrorized that unless they hectored their parents into disgorging all their money in taxes and subsidies for politicians’ friends’ businesses, the world would come to an end amid crashing waves of vastly larger oceans.  Every morning before school they’d pledged allegiance to the United States flag (or at least such of them as hadn’t sung the “Horst Wessel Lied” where they’d grown up).  When a foreign country had attacked us on our territory, they’d turned out in millions for the express purpose of so adjusting that country’s attitude that it would be a very long time indeed before they contemplated that shit again.  And they’d gone and done it.

Those, it seems, were the dark ages.

The rot that is now America’s schooling system isn’t peculiar to America.  I’ve written before about Germany’s blowing up a primary education system that was the envy of most of the rest of the world.  And doing so intentionally.  One thing we know for sure:  Those countries which mean us — and by “us” I mean Western Civilization, with its acceptance of precisely that “diversity” so relentlessly preached by the “education” mavens — no good at all are specifically not bringing up their children the way we do.  Red China, Russia, and the Middle Eastern klepto-theocrats are teaching their children to ride hard and shoot straight.  Whatever detracts from those abilities gets short shrift.

The prevalence of Western cultural values — even in parts of the world where its political values have no purchase — is not inevitable.  In terms of survivability there is nothing at all inherently superior about Western Civilization.  I’ll point out that twice in the last century it made a fair attempt to commit suicide, and was at least on the second occasion only saved from itself by virtue of some very fortunate circumstances.

The development of civic systems capable of expressing those Western civilizational values occurred overwhelmingly in the Anglosphere, and have only imperfectly been transplanted onto other soils.  I do not that think that a coincidence.  The ability to survive of a polis in which a central organizing principle is minding one’s own business, and the powers of coercion allowing that to occur, is a luxury to be enjoyed only in those societies who by and large need not spend the bulk of their energies defending themselves from attack from outside.  Defense of tribe and territory requires brutal subjugation of individuality to the life-and-death demands of combat.  Is it really an accident that those societies which have the sorriest records of crushing human aspirations and even existence are precisely those whose history over the course of centuries has been that of repeated invasion, conquest, bitter defense, and exploitation?  I’m thinking the Balkans, Hungary, Russia, Spain, and Germany.  Vienna — beautiful, artful, lyrical Vienna — was a fortress against the Turks until Franz Joseph ordered the destruction of the works.  In contrast, it was only in the Anglosphere, first in England and then in its overseas off-shoots, that society was able to erect political structures that successfully balanced the needs of government to protect with the citizens’ need to flourish.  I suggest this would never have been possible without the geographic accident of the English Channel, and the colonies’ separation by thousands of miles of deep water from those who would prey on them.

These days, the existence of those oceans, to say nothing of a mere 26 miles of shallow sea, is of nearly no consequence.  Churchill, in the introduction to his History of the English-Speaking Peoples, addresses his home island:  You came into existence by an accident of sea power.  You will die by an accident of air power.

In short, by inviting into our schools these forces of degeneration — and I’ll just go ahead, step right on out and say it:  American “education” is degenerate — we are replicating the behavior of the late Roman Empire.  Unwilling to defend itself, it invited the barbarians in and gave them land.  Yeah; that’s right:  The barbarians will protect us.  Remind me again how that worked out.  If Gentle Reader thinks Gibbon a bit too hard going, modern historical methods have produced some more digestible material.  Just by way of example, the latter-linked book contains some interesting ice-core analysis.  During the heyday of the Roman Empire, traces of chemicals produced by copper smelting are discernible in ice cores from Greenland.  Within the space of a few generations after The Fall, that evidence vanishes.

Am I hyperventilating?  I sure hope so.  But it is a failure of human perception to accept one’s surroundings as being both inevitable and permanent.  ‘Twas always thus, and always thus ’twill be.  We forget how quickly we can forget.  After the Fall of Rome, stone building vanished from the European continent for a matter of centuries.  Literacy vanished from England.  Whole ranges of useful arts were extinguished and had to be re-learned in later centuries.  In our day and in this country, there are enormous swathes of large societal groups — specifically, American blacks — which in the course of 50 years have lost the socio-cultural skills to maintain themselves.  A number of years ago I knew someone who was a social worker in a large Northeastern city.  She observed that there were families in her office’s case load in which it had been four generations since anyone in the extended family had held a job.  What is the likelihood of any member of those families re-learning the skills to get a job, hold onto it, and advance to something better?  Modern social research is reminding us how critical for children’s learning and socialization is the presence in the household of both biological parents.  When 80% of your children are born out of wedlock, and not infrequently to multiple and in many cases unknown fathers, what does that mean for those children’s chances to acquire those skills?  Moynihan was a Cassandra.

What happened to American blacks can happen to any group and can happen to the entire country. Vignettes like the blog post linked are canaries in the coal mine.