The Pigrolet

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by David A. Woodbury
After stewing for years about the excesses of our federal government, I have come to the conclusion that the most contemptible unit of government is Congress.  This is the body which has given certain of its members super-powers out of proportion to the principle of equal representation, (raising the call for term limits).  Congress passes a bill only after it has been loaded with loathsome and unrelated riders.  With the complicity of the Executive Branch, Congress created the fourth, unelected Regulatory Branch of government, whose description is found nowhere in the Constitution.

Congress passes “enabling” legislation, and then devolves its own responsibility by turning the details over to “agency rule-making,” once a new agency has been conjured to create the new rules.  If a regulation, (which has the “power of law” as if our representatives wrote the regulation themselves), is promulgated that exceeds the intention of the enabling legislation, can Congress simply strike it down?  Oh, no.  To reverse a regulation, a new bill has to be sent through Congress — committees, party politics, House-Senate reconciliation, and all that — and must be attached as a rider to yet another unrelated bill.

I digress for a moment, but It’s a mystery to me why there has not been a Constitutional challenge to the existence of the Regulatory Branch, even more a wonder when the regulators, writing law, are under the oversight of the Executive Branch.  Maybe that’s because I’m the only American who is properly horrified by it, and I haven’t given up my family and all my personal goals and responsibility in order to devote the rest of my life to antagonizing that dragon.

As I have matured, which is to say, as I have become a hardened cynic, I have come to understand a key problem in the way Congress operates, and from that I realize how a simple change might benefit everyone involved, including the party in power, the party in the doghouse, and all us humble citizens as well.

See, the problem is compromise, which is assumed to be a virtue in politics.  The word, bipartisanship, is spoken with reverence by pontificating congresspeople.  It works like this: The Democrats think that every household needs a pig.  A pig takes care of your garbage, it’s companionable, unlike a Chevrolet, you can compost its waste, and in really hard times, you can eat it.  The Republicans think that every household needs a Chevrolet.  It gets you places, it’s economical to run, unlike a pig, it comes in attractive colors, and in a pinch you can sit inside it to get out of the rain.

When Congress compromises, what we get is a Pigrolet — a beast that can’t coordinate the feet on the front with the wheels on the back.  It belches foul fumes while rejecting its special gasoline/garbage blend, (concocted by scientists who reached a consensus), and it bites you when you poke around for the hood latch.  Never mind that the cost of a Pigrolet is orders of magnitude greater than that of a mere Chevrolet; Congress is puffed with pride in assuring that everyone has benefited by its new solution to a problem nobody had, and look how many jobs it has created!  Once everyone in America has a Pigrolet and realizes what a piece of shit it is, what do we do?  We send the same dolts back to Congress for another term and eagerly await the next product of bipartisan compromise.

Democrats and Republicans need to stop identifying our problems for us.  And — here is the simple change — I think they need to stop compromising.  I think the party in power in Congress — (never mind which party the President belongs to; most Presidents are mere catalysts for compromise) — should get everything it wants.  The people should get exactly what they voted for.  That’s the quickest, and probably the only, way the voters are going to realize what they’ve done by sending certain promise-makers to Washington.  Either everyone gets a pig, or everyone gets a Chevrolet, or everyone gets neither, (the best deal of all).

Am I suggesting, for instance, that the Democrats in the current Congressional mix just vote with the Republicans and pass their oponents’ entire agenda?  Yes!  Go on record to object to what strikes you as absurdities, and then vote to let it happen and get it over with.  It would be tough for a few years, but the culprits would not be able to complain that they were forced to compromise.  Either the country will go down the tubes really fast, or things will get wildly better really fast.

Doing so just might bury one party or the other for good.  Then, maybe, we could resume sending ordinary citizens to Washington who realize that you don’t need to be a lawyer in order to understand the Constitution.  (And who also might be cured of the temptation to create Pigrolets.)

My household doesn’t need a government pig or a government Chevrolet.  And especially we don’t need a Pigrolet, which is to say, we don’t need any of Congress’s cockamamie freedom-crushing compromise solutions to non-existent problems.

I am reminded of a couple of quotes from great Americans who have seen the same problem and described it with succinct eloquence:

This country has come to feel the same when Congress is in session as when the baby gets hold of a hammer. –Will Rogers

Giving money and power to government is like giving whiskey and car keys to teenage boys. –P. J. O’Rourke

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Artemus Ward

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Introduction to Selected Works of Artemus Ward
Albert Jay Nock — 1924

Charles Farrar Browne, known to the world as Artemus Ward, was born ninety years ago1 in Waterford, Maine.  He died at an age when most of us are only beginning to mature—thirty-three.  Little more can be told of him by way of formal biography.  Mr. Don C. Seitz2 lately employed himself upon a labour of love by seeking out and publishing all that is known, probably, of the externalities of Ward’s life.  Mr. Seitz has made the most of what was put before him, and in so doing he has done good service to the history of American letters; yet one closes his fine volume with a keen sense of how little he had to do with, a sense of the slightness and insignificance of his material.  All Ward’s years were Wanderjahre;3 he had no schooling, he left a poor rural home at sixteen to work in neighbouring printing-offices; he tramped West and South as a compositor and reporter; he wrote a little, lectured a little, gathered up odds and ends of his writings and dumped them in a woeful mess upon the desk of Carleton, the publisher, to be brought out in two or three slender volumes; he went to New York, then to London, saw as much of collective human life in those centres as he had energy to contemplate; he wrote a few pages for the old Vanity Fair and for Punch, gave a few lectures in Dodworth Hall on Broadway and Egyptian Hall on Piccadilly; and then he died.  Little enough of the pars magna fui4 is to be found here for the encouragement of a biographer; Mr. Seitz, I repeat, is to be congratulated on his intrepidity.  It is surely a remarkable thing that one whose experience was limited by the span of thirty-three years, whose literary output was correspondingly scanty, and whose predicable hold upon the future was as slight and hazardous as Mr. Seitz shows Ward’s to have been, should have managed to live nearly a century; and it is perhaps more remarkable that he should have done it in a civilization like ours, which is not over-careful with literary reputations and indeed does not concern itself deeply with spiritual achievement or spiritual activity of any kind.

Yet that is what Artemus Ward has somehow managed to do, and Mr. Seitz is on hand with a bibliography of eighteen pages, closely printed in small type, to prove it.  Some measure of proof, too, is probably to be found in the fact that a new issue of Ward’s complete works came out in London two years ago,5 and that an American firm has taken thought to publish this present volume.  How, then, has Ward contrived to live so long?  As a mere fun-maker, it is highly improbable that he could have done it.  Ward is officially listed as the first of the great American humorists; Mr. Albert Payson Terhune even commemorates him as the man “who taught Americans to laugh.”  This is great praise; and one gladly acknowledges that the humorists perform an immense public service and deserve the most handsome public recognition of its value.  In the case of Ward, it is all to Mr. Terhune’s credit that he perceives this.  Yet as one reads Ward’s own writings, one is reminded that time’s processes of sifting and shaking-down are inexorable, and one is led to wonder whether, after all, in the quality of sheer humorist, Artemus Ward can quite account for his own persistent longevity.  In point of the power sheerly to provoke laughter, the power sheerly to amuse, distract and entertain, one doubts that Ward can be said so far to transcend his predecessors, Shillaber and Derby.  In point of wit and homely wisdom, of the insight and shrewdness which give substance and momentum to fun-making, it would seem that Ward’s contemporary, Henry W. Shaw, perfectly stands comparison with him.  The disparity, at all events, is by no means so obvious as to enable one to say surely that the law of the survival of the fittest must take its course in Ward’s favour.  One is therefore led to suspect either that Ward’s longevity is due to some quality which he possessed apart from his quality as humorist, some quality which has not yet, perhaps, been singled out and remarked with sufficient definiteness, or else that it is due to the blind play of chance.

Several considerations tell against the hypothesis of accident.  It might be enough to say flatly that such accidents do not happen, that the passing stream of printed matter is too full and swift to permit any literary flotsam to escape being caught and swept on to oblivion by its searching current.  Two other considerations, however, may be remarked as significant.  First, that Ward very soon passed over — almost immediately passed over, the transition beginning even in the last few months of his life — passed over from being a popular property to become a special property of the intelligent and civilized minority; and he has remained their special property ever since.  In his quality of humorist he could hardly have done this.  Even had he really been the man who taught the Americans to laugh, disinterested gratitude could hardly be carried so far.  Artemus Ward himself declined to weep over the memory of Cotton Mather, saying simply that “he’s bin ded too lengthy”; and such, more or less, are we all, even the intelligent and civilized among us.  Ward was, in his time, a popular property in virtue of his singularly engaging personality, his fine and delicate art as a public speaker and his brilliant dealing with questions and affairs of current interest.  But his presence is no longer among us, and the affairs of profoundest public interest in his day are hardly as much as a memory in ours.  No power of humour in dealing with those affairs could serve to continue him as a cherished property of the intelligent, any more than it could serve to restore him as a popular property now that those affairs, and the interest that they evoked, have disappeared.  His continuance must be accounted for by another quality than those which he shared with his predecessors and contemporaries who have not taken on a like longevity.

The second consideration is that Ward has always been the object of a different and deeper regard in England, where his humour is alien, than in America where it is native.  It has long been difficult to get a copy of his complete works in this country, even at second hand; the last edition was published by Dillingham in 1898.  In London one buys them over the counter, and I think one has always been able to do so.  Since the Dillingham edition, Ward has been kept alive in America chiefly in edited issues like Mr. Clifton Johnson’s, of 1912, and this present volume; and also in anthologies and in essays by many hands.  These have, however, I think invariably, presented him as a humorist, and without taking account of the quality which has given his work the vitality that it seems to possess.  The English writers have done, on the whole, rather better; but even they did not strike straight through to this quality, disengage it from those that made up his strictly professional character, and hold it out in clear view; though there is evidence that they themselves had glimpses of it.  They were for the most part content, like Ward’s own countrymen, to accept him as a humorist and to assume that he kept his place in literature on the strength of his humour; and they were not aware, apparently, that this assumption left them with a considerable problem on their hands.  Mr. Seitz quotes Ward’s own view of the quality that gives power and permanence to his work — I too shall quote it presently, as it is admirably explicit — and oddly enough, without perceiving that it leaves him with a considerable problem on his hands; a problem which, if he had attended to it, might have caused him to change the direction of about three-fourths of his book.

No, clearly it is not by the power of his humour that Ward has earned his way in the world of letters, but by the power of his criticism.  Ward was a first-class critic of society; and he has lived for a century by precisely the same power that gave a more robust longevity to Cervantes and Rabelais.  He is no Rabelais or Cervantes, doubtless; no one would pretend that he is; but he is eminently of their glorious company.  Certainly Keats was no Shakespeare, but as Matthew Arnold excellently said of him, he is with Shakespeare; to his own degree he lives by grace of a classic quality which he shares with Shakespeare; and so also is Ward with Rabelais and Cervantes by grace of his power of criticism.

Let us look into this a little, for the sake of making clear the purpose for which this book is issued.  I have already said that Ward has become a special property, and that he can never again be a popular property, at least until the coming of that millennial time when most of our present dreams of human perfectability are realized.  I have no wish to discourage my publishers, but in fairness I have had to remind them that this delectable day seems still, for one reason or another, to be quite a long way off, and that meanwhile they should not put any very extravagant expectations upon the sale of this volume, but content themselves as best they may with the consciousness that they are serving a vital interest, really the ultimate interest, of the saving Remnant.  Ward is the property of an order of persons — for order is the proper word, rather than class or group, since they are found quite unassociated in any formal way, living singly or nearly so, and more or less as aliens, in all classes of our society — an order which I have characterized by using the term intelligence.  If I may substitute the German word Intelligenz, it will be seen at once that I have no idea of drawing any supercilious discrimination as between, say, the clever and the stupid, or the educated and the uneducated.  Intelligenz is the power invariably, in Plato’s phrase, to see things as they are, to survey them and one’s own relations to them with objective disinterestedness, and to apply one’s consciousness to them simply and directly, letting it take its own way over them uncharted by prepossession, unchanneled by prejudice, and above all uncontrolled by routine and formula.  Those who have this power are everywhere; everywhere they are not so much resisting as quietly eluding and disregarding all social pressure which tends to mechanize their processes of observation and thought.  Rabelais’s first words are words of jovial address, under a ribald figure, to just this order of persons to which he knew he would forever belong, an order characterized by Intelligenz; and it is to just this order that Ward belongs.

The critical function which spirits like Ward perform upon this unorganized and alien order of humanity is twofold; it is not only clearing and illuminating, but it is also strengthening, reassuring, even healing and consoling.  They have not only the ability but the temper which marks the true critic of the first order; for, as we all know, the failure which deforms and weakens so much of the able second-rate critic’s work is a failure in temper.  Take, for example, by way of a comparative study in social criticism, Rabelais’s description of the behaviour of Diogenes at the outbreak of the Corinthian War, and put beside it any piece of anti-militarist literature that you may choose; put beside it the very best that M. Rolland or Mr. Norman Angell or even Count Tolstoy himself can do.  How different the effect upon the spirit!  Or again, consider in the following pages the pictures which Ward draws of the village of Baldwinsville under stress of the Civil War.  Not one item is missing of all that afflicted the person of Intelligenz in every community at some time in the last ten years.  Ward puts his finger as firmly as Mr. Bertrand Russell and Mr. H. L. Mencken have put theirs, upon all the meanness, low-mindedness, greed, viciousness, bloodthirstiness and homicidal mania that were rife among us — and upon their exciting causes as well — but the person of Intelligenz turns to him, and instead of being further depressed, as Mr. Russell and Mr. Mencken depress him, instead of being further overpowered by a sense that the burdens put upon the spirit of man are greater than it can bear, he is lifted out of his temporary despondency and enervation by a sight of the long stretch of victorious humanity that so immeasureably transcends all these matters of the moment.  Such is the calming and persuasive influence of the true critical temper, that one immediately perceives Ward to be regarding all the untowardness of Baldwinsville sub specie aeternitatis,6 and one gratefully submits to his guidance towards a like view of one’s own circumstances.

The essential humanity of Abraham Lincoln may be largely determined in one’s own mind, I think, by the fact that he made just this use of Artemus Ward.  Mr. Seitz tells us how, in the darkest days of the Civil War, Lincoln read the draft of his Emancipation Proclamation at a special meeting of his Cabinet, and, to the immense scandal and disgust of his associates, prefaced it by reading several pages from Ward.  The incident is worth attention for the further establishment of the distinction drawn among men by the quality of Intelligenz.  Seward, Chase, Stanton, Blair, had ability, they had education; but they had not the free, disinterested play of consciousness upon their environment, they did not instinctively tend to see things as they are, they thought largely by routine and formula, they were pedantic, unintelligent — that is precisely the word that Goethe, the greatest of critics, would have applied to them at once. Upon them then, naturally, Lincoln’s performance made the impression of mere impudent levity; and thus one is directly led to see great force in Ward’s sly suggestion that Lincoln should fill up his Cabinet with showmen! Alas! how often the civilized spirit is moved to wish that the direction of public affairs might be taken out of the hands of those who in their modesty are fond of calling themselves “practical” men, and given over to the artists, to those who at least have some theoretical conception of a satisfying technique of living, even though actually they may have gone no great way in the mastery of its practice.

In another place Mr. Seitz tells us how the great and good John Bright, the Moses of British political liberalism, attended one of Ward’s lectures in London, sat gravely through it, and then observed that “its information was meagre, and presented in a desultory, disconnected manner”!  The moment I read that, I laid down the book, saying to myself, Behold the reason for liberalism’s colossal failure!  The primary failure of liberalism is just the failure in Intelligenz that we see so amusingly indicated in the case of Mr. Bright; its secondary failure, as we saw in the case of the late Mr. Wilson, for example, is a failure in the high and sound character that depends so largely upon Intelligenz for its development.  Can one imagine that Ward would be more intelligible to representative British liberals since Bright’s day, or that he would make a more serious and salutary impression upon the energumens who in this country are busily galvanizing some of Mr. Wilson’s political formulas into a ghastly simulacrum of life, and setting them up as the soul and essence of liberalism — upon ex-Justice Clarke, for example, or ex-Secretary Baker or Mr. George Foster Peabody?  One smiles at the thought of it.

Ward said of writers like himself that “they have always done the most toward helping virtue on its pilgrimage, and the truth has found more aid from them than from all the grave polemists and solid writers that have ever spoken or written…  They have helped the truth along without encumbering it with themselves.”  I venture to italicize these remarkable words. How many good causes there are, to be sure, that seem hopelessly condemned and nullified by the personality of those who profess them!  One can think of any number of reforms, both social and political, that one might willingly accept if only one need not accept their advocates too.  Bigotry, arrogance, intolerance, self-assurance, never ran higher over public affairs than in Ward’s day, yet he succeeded in putting upon all public questions the precise critical estimate that one puts upon them now in the perspective of fifty years; its correspondence with the verdict of history is extraordinarily complete.  It would be nothing remarkable if one should arrive now at a correct critical estimate of the Negro question, for example, or of the policy of abolition, or of the character and qualities of public men of the day, or of the stock phrases, the catchwords and claptrap that happened for the time being to be the stock-in-trade of demogoguery; but it is highly remarkable that a contemporary should have had a correct critical estimate of them, and that he should have given to it an expression so strong and so consistent, and yet so little encumbered with himself as to be wholly acceptable.

Really, there are very few of the characteristic and distinctive qualities of American life that Ward’s critical power left untouched.  I read somewhere lately — I think in one of Professor Stuart P. Sherman’s deliverances, though I am not quite sure — that Americans are just now very much in the mood of self-examination, and that their serious reading of novelists like Mr. Sinclair Lewis or Mr. Sherwood Anderson, and of essayists like Mr. Ludwig Lewisohn or Mr. Mencken, is proof that they are in that mood.  I have great doubts of all this; yet if it be true, I can but the more strongly urge them to re-examine the work of a first-rate critic, who fifty years ago drew a picture of our civilization that in all essential aspects is still accurate.  Ward represents the ideal of this civilization as falling in with one only of the several instincts that urge men onward in the quest of perfection, the instinct of expansion.  The claim of expansion is abundantly satisfied by Ward’s America; the civilization about him is cordial to the instinct of expansion, fosters it, and makes little of the obligation to scrupulousness or delicacy in its exercise.  Ward takes due pride in relating himself properly to the predominance of this instinct; he says that by strict attention to business he has “amarsed a handsum Pittance,” and that when he has enough to permit him to be pious in good style, like his wealthy neighbours, he intends to join the Baldwinsville church.  There is an ideal of civilized life for you, a conception of the progressive humanization of man in society!  For the claim of instincts other than the instinct of expansion, Ward’s America does nothing.  It does nothing for the claim of intellect and knowledge (aside from purely instrumental knowledge) nothing for the claim of beauty and poetry, the claim of morals and religion, the claim of social life and manners.

Our modern school of social critics might therefore conceivably get profit out of studying Ward’s view of American life, to see how regularly he represents it, as they do, as manifesting an extremely low type of beauty, a factitious type of morals, a grotesque and repulsive type of religion, a profoundly imperfect type of social life and manners. Baldwinsville is overspread with all the hideousness, the appalling tedium and enervation that afflict the sensitive soul of Mr. Sinclair Lewis.  The young showman’s courtship of Betsy Jane Peasley exhausts its resources of romance and poetry; its beau ideal of domesticity is completely fulfilled in their subsequent life together — a life fruitful indeed in certain wholesome satisfactions, but by no means such as a “well-formed mind would be disposed to relish.”  On the side of intellect and knowledge, Baldwinsville supports the editor of the Bugle as contentedly as New York supports Mr. Ochs and Mr. Munsey, and to quite as good purpose; it listens to the school-master’s views on public questions as uncritically as New York listens to Mr. Nicholas Murray Butler’s, and to quite as good purpose.  Baldwinsville’s dominant type of morals is as straitly legalistic, formal and superficial as our own; its dominant type of religion is easily recognizable as the hard, dogged, unintelligent fanaticism with which Zenith confronted Mr. Sinclair Lewis.  We easily recognize the “dissidence of Dissent and the protestantism of the Protestant religion,’; which now inspires the Anti-Saloon League, and which informs and animates the gentle ministrations of the Ku Klux Klan.

Thus Ward, in his own excellent phrase, powerfully helps along the truth about civilization in the United States; and all the more powerfully in that, unlike Mr. Lewis and Mr. Mencken, he does not so encumber it with himself, so overload it with the dragging weight of his own propensities, exasperations, repugnances, that his criticism, however accurate and interesting, is repellant and in the long run ineffectual.  Often, indeed, his most searching criticism is made by indirection, by the turn of some phrase that at first strikes one as quite insignificant, or at least as quite irrelevant to any critical purpose; yet when this phrase once enters the mind it becomes pervasive, and one finds presently that it has coloured all one’s cast of thought — and this is an effect which only criticism of the very first order can produce.  For instance, consider the first sentence that he writes in a letter to his wife from the Athens of America:

Dear Betsy: I write you this from Boston, ‘the Modern Atkins’ as it is denomyunated, altho I skurcely know what those air.

Nothing but that.  Yet somehow when that little piece of exquisite raillery sinks in, it at once begins to put one into just the frame of mind and temper to meet properly the gentle, self-contained provincialism at which it was directed.  Let the reader experiment for himself.  Let him first recall the fearfully hard sledding he had on his way through, say, Mr. Barrett Wendell’s History of American Literature, or the recent volume of Mrs. Field’s reminiscences; let him remember the groan of distress that now and then escaped him while reading Mr. Howells’s really excellent novel, The Rise of Silas Lapham.  Then with this sentence in mind, let him try reading any one of the three books again, and see how differently it will impress him.

After the same fashion one may make quite good headway with Mr. Villard’s biography of John Brown if one’s spirit is cleared and steadied by Ward’s inimitable critique of “Ossawatomie Brown, or, the Hero of Harper’s Ferry.”  Amidst the squalor of our popular plays and popular literature, one preserves a decent equanimity by perusing Ward’s reviews of East Side theatricals and of Forrest’s “Othello,” and his parodies of the cheap and lurid romances of his day.  Our popular magazines take on a less repellant aspect when one remembers how, after three drinks of New England rum, Ward “knockt a small boy down, pickt his pocket of a New York Ledger, and wildly commenced readin Sylvanus Kobb’s last Tail.”  No better criticism of our ludicrous and distressing perversion of the religious instinct can be found than in his account of his visit to the Shakers, the Free Lovers and the Spiritualists.  Never was the depth and quality of routine patriotism more accurately measured than by this, from the account of his visit to Richmond after the surrender:

I met a man today — I am not at liberty to tell his name, but he is an old and inflooential citizen of Richmond, and sez he, “Why! weve bin fightin agin the Old Flag!  Lor bless me, how sing’lar!”  He then borrer’d five dollars of me and bust into a flood of tears.

Again, how effective is Ward’s criticism of the mischievous and chlorotic sentimentalism to which Americans seem invariably to give their first allegiance!  During the Civil War the popular regard for motherhood was exploited as viciously as during the last war, or probably in all wars, and Ward’s occasional reflections upon this peculiarly contemptible routine-process of militarism are more effective than any indignant fulminations of outraged common sense; as when he suggests, for instance, that “the song writers air doin’ the Mother bisness rayther too muchly,” or as when in another place he remarks that it seems about time somebody began to be a little sorry for the old man.  He touches another fond topic of sentimentalism in his story, which I must quote, of leaving home as a boy to embark in the show business.  Where can better criticism than this be found?

You know, Betsy, that when I first commenced my career as a moral exhibitor with a six-legged cat and a Bass drum, I was only a simple peasant child — skurce 15 summers had flow’d over my yoothful hed.  But I had sum mind of my own.  My father understood this.  ‘Go,’ he said, ‘Go, my son, and hog the public!’ (he ment ‘knock em, but the old man was allus a little given to slang).  He put his withered han’ tremblingly onto my hed, and went sadly into the house I thought I saw tears tricklin down his venerable chin, but it might hav’ been tobacker juice.  He chaw’d.

But I must end these illustrations, which I have been tempted perhaps unduly to multiply and enlarge upon because their author has never yet, as far as I am aware, been brought to the attention of modern readers in the one capacity wherein he appears to me to maintain an open communication with the future — the capacity of critic.  In conclusion I cannot forbear remarking the spring, the abounding vitality and gusto, that pervades Ward’s work, and pointing out that here too he is with Rabelais and Cervantes.  The true critic is aware, with George Sand, that for life to be fruitful, life must be felt as a joy; that it is by the bond of joy, not of happiness or pleasure, not of duty or responsibility, that the called and chosen spirits are kept together in this world.  There was little enough of joy going in the society that surrounded Ward; the sky over his head was of iron and brass; and there is even perhaps less joy current in American society now.  But the true critic has his resources of joy within himself, and the motion of his joy is self-sprung.  There may be ever so little hope of the human race, but that is the moralist’s affair, not the critic’s.  The true critic takes no account of optimism or pessimism; they are both quite outside his purview, his affair is one only of joyful appraisal, assessment and representation.

Epitaphs are notably exuberant, but the simple line carved upon Ward’s tombstone presents with a most felicitous precision and completeness, I think, the final word upon him.  “His name will live as a sweet and unfading recollection.”  Yes, just that is his fate, and there is none other so desirable.  Mansueti possidebunt terram,7 said the Psalmist, the amiable shall possess the earth; and so, in the long run, they do. Insight and wisdom, shrewdness and penetration — for a critic these are great gifts, indispensable gifts, and the public has regard for their exercise, it gives gratitude for the benefits that they confer; but they are not enough of themselves to invest a critic’s name with the quality of a sweet and unfading recollection.  To do this they must communicate themselves through the medium of a temper, a prepossessing and persuasive amiability.  Wordsworth showed himself a great critic when he said of his own poems that “they will co-operate with the benign tendencies in human nature and society, and will in their degree be efficacious in making men wiser, better and happier”; and it is just because of their unvarying co-operation with the benign tendencies in human nature and society that Ward’s writings have made him in the deepest sense a possession, a cherished and ennobling possession, of those who know him.

Notes:

1 – 1834; 2 – Don Carlos Seitz; 3 – German: years of wandering; 4 – Latin: the great part; 5 – For a collection of works by Artemus Ward, see Project Gutenberg; 6 – Latin: literally, “under the aspect of eternity”, or that which is universally and eternally true; 7 – Latin: The gentle shall inherit the earth.

Dear Trump Nation: Guard Your Heart

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by Joey Clark
I made a promise to myself before the beginning of the 2016 Presidential cycle that I would not support anyone for President, and I am happy to report I have remained true to my promise.  Honestly, this has been easy to do because, in my heart of hearts, I forever hope no one will be President, and I have once again been greatly disappointed.

Dare I say, I would love to see America made great again!  Yet, my heart also prods me to remain part of the Great American conversation.  Consider me akin to those two old men from The Muppet Show, Statler and Waldorf, sitting in a theater box watching the American political arena.  I’m not happy with what I see, but I still show up day after day in my usual curmudgeonly way.  I am truly a disinterested party when it comes to supporting one president over another.

However, despite this aloof pose, I do love my fellow Americans and hope to see this dear nation of ours flourishing and prosperous once again.  I do have hope for the future of America — that she will serve as a beacon of liberty for all the world to emulate.

Dare I say, I would love to see America made great again!  

Yet, since I am not a supporter of Mr. Trump, consider me a neutral third party.  Consider me a wise fool here to serve you, “the people,” a fellow traveler ready to provide counsel come what may.  Thus, from this neutral place — with love for you and contempt for presidential ambitions — I feel obliged to advise those of you supporting Donald J. Trump.

Guard Your Heart

Yes, you and Donald may be having fun for now — the wining and dining, the guarantees of big walls and big hands, the appointments, the interviews, the speculation, the promise of a happier future together — but there are red flags galore.

So, please, guard your heart.

I do not expect many of you to follow my advice.  That’s the thing with being in love — it turns us absolutely dense and quick to play fast and loose with the truth and our well-being.  “When one is in love,” writes Oscar Wilde, “one always begins by deceiving one’s self, and one always ends by deceiving others,” and this is especially true of the love between the politician and the crowd.

Crowds of all stripes are notoriously more idiotic and immoral than the average person, but a crowd head-over-heels in love with a political leader?  Well, such a throng is usually downright dangerous, deceptive, and dimwitted, despite the intelligence and talents of the individuals who constitute it.  Crowds give us the cover we need to act like total imbeciles, and democracy gives us a pass to act like petty little tyrants.

One by one, the citizens fool themselves each election cycle that a certain politician will be a president representative of their interests, and then they proceed to fool their neighbors just the same.  Their tragedy is usually getting what they want.

Yet, the crowd’s collective responsibility under democracy is really no responsibility at all.  There is too much moral hazard built into the system whereby all claim to take the blame without ever personally doing so.  Therefore, I suspect you will not listen to my advice.  I fear, if you are to learn at all, you will have to learn the hard way.

A Tragic Love Story

So, allow me to provide the moral of your political love story with Mr. Trump before it ends.  I’ll do so by way of example.  It is the story of a young woman who fell in love with Obama in 2008.  The young woman’s name is Carey Wedler, and in March of 2014, she posted a video that went absolutely viral.  As of this writing, her video has been viewed 1,869,263 times.

From the outset, Carey appears on screen wearing an “Obama is my homeboy” t-shirt only to admit she was one of Obama’s most “hysterical supporters.”  She then displays a photo of her on the night Obama was elected, wearing the shirt and “shedding a tear of euphoria” because she thought “history had been made.”  Carey tells us that after a couple years and a little bit of research, she discovered Obama had “become exactly like the George Bush” she “used to so vitriolically hate.”  She then proceeds to indict Obama’s abysmal human rights record along with other failures.

The video then takes a dramatic turn.

After telling us she felt personally betrayed by Obama, Carey proceeds to strip off her Obama t-shirt, takes out a butane torch, and lights the shirt on fire!

 And now, I can’t help but ask: will Make America Great Again go up in flames just like Hope and Change?

How many of you will feel betrayed and heartbroken by Donald Trump a few years into his tenure just as Carey felt betrayed by Obama?  Will it be a few burning candles in the night, or a raging bonfire fueled by millions of hats, shirts, and signs?

“We’ll see,” says the Zen master.

But again, guard your heart.  I’m not asking you to stop supporting Mr. Trump, but to check your expectations.  Take the orange billionaire off the pedestal.

If you choose to not heed my advice, well, that is your liberty. But that brings us to the tragic moral of most political love affairs.

As Carey Wedler says at the end of her video:

Now Barack, I can admit that I probably hated you more than I needed to once I found out what a scam you were.  I hated you more than I hated George Bush because I felt personally betrayed by all the lies that you told.  But really, I should thank you now, because a few years out from realizing what a scam you were, I understand that it’s not just you… it’s the institution of government that is the problem.  It doesn’t matter what political party is in office.  It doesn’t matter if it’s a liberal or conservative or you or George Bush or anyone else who will run for President… it’s the institution of government that is violent and forceful and coercive and kills people and subjects them to will with a force… this government that you are currently at the head of (but really it doesn’t matter who is) is strictly violative… it only restricts the potential of humanity…

The Government Is the Problem

Put simply, the moral of the story is this: government is the problem.  You shouldn’t put your hopes and dreams in the State, else prepare for a broken heart.  It’s not about kicking the establishment bums out, and putting in new people.  No, the problem is the government itself.

The government is not “us.”  Each election season, we tend to stop seeing this truth.  We start seeing personalities.  We start seeing the other side who wants to take power over us, so we fight back, thinking we have found a new champion for our cause.  So, as you get caught up in the promises of power and your worry about the future of your nation, neighbors, and culture, just remember “we” are not the government.  The government is not “us.”

Government is something wholly separate from us, and as much we would like to think we can control this wild elephant by hopping on its back and tugging at its ears, this behemoth is much more prone to trample upon our livelihoods and liberties than ever protect us.

I suppose we must have a president, but I am not convinced this is actually fact.  So as you go forth supporting Donald J. Trump, just remember to guard your heart.

Joey Clark


Joey Clark

Joey Clark is a budding wordsmith and liberty lover.  He blogs under the heading “The Libertarian Fool” at joeyclark.liberty.me. Follow him on Facebook.

This article was originally published on FEE.org. Read the original article.

Urban Fashion Team

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by David A. Woodbury
The rest of the country hardly considers Portland, Maine, an urban center.  In Maine, it is, though, and especially so from where I live, in the northern half of the state.

One recent spring, I spent an April weekend in Portland, my first sojourn into a major city in almost a year.  (It was Portland the last time, too.)  We spent two nights this weekend in a stuffy motel room and departed from our neo-Paleolithic roadkill-and-foraging diet into the decadence of IHOP and Applebee’s.  I drank three bottles of Shipyard ale in one evening.

My daughter and son-in-law (conventionally-married couple, no children, alumni of an über-liberal Massachusetts college who nevertheless escaped with their minds intact) have lived in a second-floor apartment on a “residential” street in Portland for most of their ten years there.  She grew up in T1R9 in the Maine wilderness, population 16 per square mile, while he grew up in Manhattan in the miasma of New York, population 100,000 times as dense as T1R9, so Portland is a middle ground for each of them.  To my amusement, though, rather than consternation, they have been sucked into the pulse and flow of this city, as through a straw; they have hospitality jobs and now drive a Prius hybrid.  They blend; I applaud; they have more courage than I; cities frighten me.

As I stalked the sidewalks during this visit, alongside my daughter and the rest of the family, and drifted into a few narrow storefronts, clothed in my rip-stock all-purpose laborer pants, flannel shirt, barn jacket, purposeful work boots, and Registered Maine Guide cap, much of what bothers me about city life chilled me with a weakening hangover-like queasiness.

Each storefront is, perhaps, sixteen feet wide with an interior arranged as to fit a wide railroad car.  Who or what occupies the three or more floors directly above each one?  I doubt most city dwellers even ask themselves that question.  No store has a public restroom, not even Dunkin’ Donuts.  At home, I let ‘er go just about anywhere I’m standing when the urge strikes.  Where do all the city people go to pee when they’re out and around?  (We went to a harbor-side park — Bug Light — to fly kites, and it wasn’t long before I had to pee.  No polite way to do it, so I had to let it crystalize in the pipe, so to speak, while I pondered where it would be publicly tolerated, since the businesses which kindly provide such facilities in small towns don’t do so in cities any more.)

Two of the strangest stores I passed in downtown Portland — well, one of the two was in the Maine Mall — are made strange by what they sell.  One sells art made of glass.  That, apparently, is all they carry.  Another sells pillows up to sizes intended to replace major items of furniture and in mostly plain bold colors.  Who buys enough of that stuff to make careers for a cadre of shopkeepers?  Will either of these shopkeepers one day pass on the business to a daughter or son so that their children can boast “In Business Over 40 Years” or will they both be gone within six months?

I know my way around Portland very well.  I began learning the lay of the city in the early 1950s, having briefly lived with my grandmother at 234 State Street, one block below Longfellow Square, and then continuing to visit her regularly after that right through my teen years.  I have lived in other cities as well, what most would consider pleasant places, both in this country and abroad — Cincinnati, Monterey, Augsburg, Boston — and in each instance I have become ever more resolved that I will never voluntarily call such a place, or its urban sprawl, my permanent home.

I am an alien in such an environment.  I see as much moose poop where I often walk as city people see dog poop on their daily strolls.  I love spending a day picking wild blackberries and hoping that I’m out of the berry patch before a bear finds them too.  I enjoy sleeping in wood-heated cabins that the power lines will never reach, taking compass readings to make sure I’m still on the trail, listening carefully when I hear distant gunshots to decide whether someone is target shooting or signaling distress.  I teach firearms safety and hunter education.  As a Maine Guide, I get paid to go fishing.  When I’m home, which is more often than it used to be, old man that I am, I am continually doing some project that requires overalls and eye protection and, eventually, bandaids.

I can’t help but observe people, myself included.  What I wear from day to day is according to function.  What I do from day to day is not dependent on or influenced by what others are doing or by what I imagine others expect of me in order to assure my continuing acceptance in their world.  Have you noticed, for instance, that since the 1960s clothes designed for city people are intended to express non-conformity?  I don’t shop for clothes just so I can then wear them in front of others to show that I have conformed to the expected non-conformity.  No doubt I’m an embarrassment to my urban children.  I don’t choose a place to drink my morning coffee so that I will be noticed being in the right place.  Nor do I think all city people behave thus, but it is apparent that a great many do.

I am just not a joiner.  A city is like an enormous club — or a container of many jostling clubs.  People in cities make me think of schooling fish or herding caribou.  They crowd together and move together as an organism.  As an organism they abide predictably by rules of conduct — not that the rules are predictable, but the behavior is.  As an organism they accept noise, loss of privacy, cramped living spaces, bad-tasting tap water, street hazards, expensive everything, weirdos, keep-off-the-grass signs, and innumerable other impositions in exchange for proximity to airports and exotic restaurants and custom shops that sell glass art and giant pillows and events like a “musical” about marijuana.  It is the rejection of the individual as supreme and the view that people are part of an organism that is greater than the individual that sways urban behavior.  This is the view that subdues and subjects the individual to the whimsy of the amorphous masses.  I can see how it lures people, always has, always will.  (In my youth, I was going to be a concert pianist and spent my first college year at a conservatory of music, but then severed my right index finger in a work accident; my next ambition was to be a Russian-English translator; both of those, certainly, being urban careers.  Along the way to becoming a translator, meanderthral that I am, I dabbled in, and became drawn away by the biological sciences.)  And now I can see how wrong city life was for me.

City people are convinced that their city is the island-center of their universe and the surrounding metropolitan region is a ring of satellites, and the next city is like the next galaxy, to be reached by passing through the outer space of forests and fields where no one of consequence lives there except farmers, who are required to grow food for the city, and forest rangers, who will rescue them if their car gets stuck on a dirt road detour between cities.

I do not see myself even as a decorative whisker on the cheek of such an organism.  And that’s putting it politely, for if I were part of an urban organism I would not be permitted to choose my place; more likely, curmudgeon that I am, I’d get an assignment somewhere in the lower GI tract.

That Saturday, as I waited in front of the motel for other family members to emerge for the day’s activities, my wilderness-honed personal space (roughly 1/4 square mile) was invaded by a growing number of young men boisterously gathering in the taxi area.  Presently they grew to eight or ten in number, most with precisely-trimmed narrow beards, flat-billed baseball caps in assorted colors and marked conspicuously with various codes, clean new shoes of the kind we once called sneakers but now defined according to purposes other than sneaking: skateboarding now, or basketball perhaps.  They were not in uniform; no two of them were dressed quite alike.  They seemed to have in common some general ancestral origin — they were all dark-haired and of lightly-tanned complexion, all shorter than I, all of about the same age, all speaking English but I heard the timbre of ESL.  I observed them for a few minutes, guessing at what brought them together.  They might have been a visiting baseball team except that the Sea Dogs hadn’t taken to their muddy field yet.

One (but only one) of the bunch wore his jeans at that jaunty, gravity-defying level that advertised his bright yellow boxer shorts underneath.  (Why was he so modest as to wear boxers?  Why not good old white jockey shorts?  Why any underwear at all?)  Once my party had assembled at our cars, the motel’s airport shuttle arrived and those young fellows crowded into it.  That’s when I decided that they must be some other city’s visiting Men’s Urban Fashion Team, in town for a competition.  I can think of no other explanation.  If they had been strung out through the mall, jostling all the other competing teams, they would have pleased the judges no doubt, but I never would have noticed them as a separate squad.

I have since retreated to my refuge, remote from the scrutiny and direct influence of those swarming masses.  They are not on my doorstep, although their politics will forever threaten my independence.  And an annual visit to their mild chaos has once again provided me a year’s dose of metropolitan amusement and musings.

Off the Wall

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November 10, 2016 – note to Mike Rowe
Hey Mike. You’ve been very quiet.  Everything OK?  I just wanted you to know that I voted for you.  I was also hoping you might explain what the hell happened on Tuesday, and say something to make me feel better about my fellow man.  Thanks,
Carol Savoy

Hi Carol

Last Friday, my dog posted a video that featured a man licking a cat with the aid of a device that’s designed for the specific purpose of making it easier for people to lick their cats.  I’ve been silent ever since, because frankly, I couldn’t think of a better way — metaphorical or otherwise — to express my feelings about this election cycle.  The entire country it seems, has been preoccupied with finding a way to lick a cat without actually putting their tongue on it.

Too oblique?  Too weird?  Ok, how about this analysis:

Back in 2003, a very unusual TV pilot called Dirty Jobs, Forrest-Gumped its way onto The Discovery Channel and found an audience — a big one.  For Discovery, this was a problem.  You see, Dirty Jobs didn’t look like anything else on their channel.  It wasn’t pretty or careful.  It took place in sewers and septic tanks, and featured a subversive host in close contact with his 8-year old inner child who refused to do second takes.  Everyone agreed that Dirty Jobs was totally “off-brand” and completely inappropriate for Discovery.  Everyone but the viewers.  The ratings were just too big to ignore, so the pilot got a green-light, and yours truly finally got a steady gig.

But here’s the thing — Dirty Jobs didn’t resonate because the host was incredibly charming.  It wasn’t a hit because it was gross, or irreverent, or funny, or silly, or smart, or terribly clever.  Dirty Jobs succeeded because it was authentic.  It spoke directly and candidly to a big chunk of the country that non-fiction networks had been completely ignoring.  In a very simple way, Dirty Jobs said “Hey — we can see you,” to millions of regular people who had started to feel invisible.  Ultimately, that’s why Dirty Jobs ran for eight seasons.  And today, that’s also why Donald Trump is the President of the United States.

I know people are freaked out, Carol.  I get it.  I’m worried too.  But not because of who we elected.  We’ve survived 44 Presidents, and we’ll survive this one too.  I’m worried because millions of people now seem to believe that Trump supporters are racist, xenophobic, and uneducated misogynists.  I’m worried because despising our candidates publicly is very different than despising the people who vote for them.

Last week, three old friends — people I’ve known for years — each requested to be “unfriended” by anyone who planned on voting for Trump.  Honestly, that was disheartening.  Who tosses away a friendship over an election?  Are my friends turning into those mind-numbingly arrogant celebrities who threaten to move to another country if their candidate doesn’t win?  Are my friends now convinced that people they’ve known for years who happen to disagree with them politically are not merely mistaken — but evil, and no longer worthy of their friendship?

For what it’s worth, Carol, I don’t think Donald Trump won by tapping into America’s “racist underbelly,” and I don’t think Hillary lost because she’s a woman.  I think a majority of people who voted in this election did so in spite of their many misgivings about the character of both candidates.  That’s why it’s very dangerous to argue that Clinton supporters condone lying under oath and obstructing justice.  Just as it’s equally dangerous to suggest a Trump supporter condones gross generalizations about foreigners and women.

These two candidates were the choices we gave ourselves, and each came with a heaping helping of vulgarity and impropriety.  Yeah, it was dirty job for sure, but the winner was NOT decided by a racist and craven nation — it was decided by millions of disgusted Americans desperate for real change.  The people did not want a politician.  The people wanted to be seen.  Donald Trump convinced those people that he could see them.  Hillary Clinton did not.

As for me, I’m flattered by your support, but grateful that your vote was not enough to push me over the top.  However, when the dust settles, and The White House gets a new tenant, I’ll make the same offer to President Trump that I did to President Obama — to assist as best I can in any attempt to reinvigorate the skilled trades, and shine a light on millions of good jobs that no one seems excited about pursuing.   The first four years are the hardest.

Like those 3 million “shovel ready” jobs we heard so much about eight years ago, the kind of recovery that Donald Trump is promising will require a workforce that’s properly trained and sufficiently enthused about the opportunities at hand.  At the moment, we do not have that work force in place.  What we do have, are tens of millions of capable people who have simply stopped looking for work, and millions of available jobs that no one aspires to do.  That’s the skills gap, and it’s gotta close.  If mikeroweWORKS can help, we’re standing by.

If not, I suppose we’ll just have to find another way to lick the cat.

Mike


Reprinted without apologies but with the anticipation that lots of people will click on the links above and help support mikeroweWORKS Foundation.  Another viewpoint, written by a gay Muslim immigrant, can be found in this brief article.

To My LGBT+ Friends, etc.

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by David A. Woodbury
To my LGBT+ and Muslim friends, my friends whose skin is lighter or darker than mine, my friends whose preferred language is not English, my friends who are currently women, and my friends who have mental and physical challenges that don’t afflict me:

Greetings.  I have been tasked to explain to you, (all but the last category above, inadvertently overlooked, I suspect, by the challenger), why you don’t matter to me.  I could address this to numerous other groups as well, who also escaped mention in the task — Americans of aboriginal (or indigenous) heritage, for instance, low-wage earners, believers in anthropogenic global warming, people with allergies, and so on.  If you would like to, consider yourself included.  This gauntlet was thrown down today in a “meme” posted by a friend on Facebook, that addictive free-speech venue that currently rules the internet.  The meme, a form of cartoon popular on Facebook, came out on the morning after the 2016 election of our next President, plus all those other offices that take a back seat to it.

task

It just may be that I didn’t vote for Donald Trump; perhaps whimsically, I’m a registered Libertarian.  But my offense is more precisely that I did not vote for Hillary Clinton.  There is an assumption among those who rallied behind her and voted for her that she is a champion of the people included in the meme, that her party is also the champion of designated groups, and that no other candidate or party cares about those in the list.

Hillary Clinton shows she cares 1) by stating that she cares and has always averred that she cares, 2) by voting, during the brief period of her one and only elected legislative position, in favor of all proposed legislation that purports to confer favors on people in the list, and 3) by campaigning for President with promises to continue to promote legislation that would confer favors on people in the list.

The other candidates for President, by opposing her for that office, are presumed by the meme to oppose good things for people who are presumed to belong to favored groups.

First, grouping.  I am over 55.  OK, I’m older than 65.  Politicians have designated a group for me to belong to.  Calling me elderly might offend me, so they call me senior instead.  Politicians assume that seniors must share some problems in common, so they set out to identify those problems and then apply solutions to them.

They apply their solutions to me whether I want them to or not.  I may refuse to participate with the group, but I must participate in the solution.  Grouping begets “communities.” There is the boating community, the religious community, the environmental community — the list is endless.  Consider the environmental community as a start, comprised (not my definition but theirs) of individuals and private clubs who, with varying enthusiasm, applaud any act of Congress, and any resulting regulation, pledging to restrict uses of unpaved land and yet-unrestricted water, and assess penalties for use without permits.  Anyone who is a good steward of land but who is skeptical of regulation is excluded from the environmental community, because the community can include only people who approve of government intervention.

Grouping people this way gives us the contrived LGBT+ “community”.  (From the Urban Dictionary, the ‘+’ represents the innumerable other groups of sexual and gender minorities that would make the acronym too long for practical use.  It follows, then, that the symbol includes such well-established predilections as necrophilia and pedophilia but perhaps not outright bestiality.  The ‘+’ is in the meme, by the way — I didn’t add it, and so I’m only trying to address the task I’ve been given.)  Thus, an 11-year-old boy who confesses he isn’t sure yet whether he likes girls is presumed to have the same problems and be deserving of the same community solutions as a 28-year-old woman, born a boy, who demands government-paid cosmetic surgery to correct nature’s error.  The 11-year-old is pulled into counseling to help him express his differentness, when all he really needs is time for his hormones to kick in.  The 28-year-old woman has been counseled that she may be less self-conscious after the surgery, without the tell-tale bulge, but expects it to be covered by Medicaid rather than by personal funds.  Not by their own definition but by the need of government to lump offended people into manageable groups, these two are part of a “community” that also includes child pornography addicts.

I am not only tolerant of my good friends who prefer members of their own gender for companionship and sex, there are those within my immediate family circle who do as well, a choice that has been welcomed throughout our extended family without exception.  But I respect the visceral feelings of anyone else who is repulsed by homosexuality.  A long time ago I too had such a reaction.  It was incomprehensible when I first heard of it.  I didn’t need counseling or public school education in alternate lifestyles.  I just had to get used to it.  But, according to the meme, if I object to a constant barrage of laws requiring that our entire culture be turned inside out to outwardly “accommodate” innumerable variations of sexual expression, I need to explain myself.

OK, that’s what I’m doing.  Just as a sexual preference and the activity that goes with it is private, so also is someone’s personal rejection of another’s preference.  Not referring to myself personally, but rather in order to simplify the example: My personal rejection of your preference should not be turned into a law forbidding you to act on your preference.  And your different preference should not be turned into a law requiring that I do anything except refrain from interfering with you, as you must refrain from interfering with me in the exercise of my preference.  There are already laws aplenty assuring that we respect each other this way.  If I build custom clocks and I decline to make one for you depicting two men getting married, then shake the dust from your feet as you leave my shop and go find someone who will.  My refusal is not a national crisis.  And my ignorance is not yours to overcome, unless with love and prayer.  Isolate and illuminate my ignorance with the glow of your enlightenment.  Persuade me, don’t coerce me.  Coercion doesn’t change minds.  Enough coercion changes outward behavior; it also hardens resistance.

If you build custom guitars and you decline to make one for me that is reversed because I’m left-handed and play like Paul McCartney, then I will simply take my request to another builder.  I could go insist that the government designate a left-handers “community” in need of special favors because I and those who share my affliction are tired of living in a world designed to exclude and even ridicule us.  We even suffer discrimination in education.  (I hold my pen the way Barack Obama does, because my third-grade teacher, who taught cursive writing, when she looked down the rows of students from the front of the room, had to see each one’s paper canted in the same direction.)  Worse yet, my community could grow so influential as to require that everyone replace their scissors with left-handed scissors exclusively.  The message there would be, don’t just tolerate my left-handedness; suffer with me.  (End of example using me.)

A candidate for elected office opposed to coercion of the unwilling is safer for the country than one who promises to drag the unwilling to the altar of submission.  It is not within the scope of our government to dictate preferences and manage people’s feelings.  It is within the scope of our government to assure that we can each act on our preferences while we refrain from interfering — a big difference from participating — as others act on theirs.  If someone has a wedding cake depicting two women getting married, I am rightly enjoined from crashing the reception and destroying the cake.  I cannot be obliged to bake it for you.  (Me personally?  I’d actually consider accepting the assignment, although it would be better if you asked me to make the clock.)

People darker than I am most of the year, a euphemism to encompass all manner of genetically non-whitish people, are presumed to belong to a very inclusive “community”.  Those demanding government labeling, (self-appointed spokesmen wanting a group to form around them), excoriate qualified community members who don’t want to participate.  Is Condoleezza Rice black?  Thomas Stowell?  Allen West?  Clarence Thomas?  Ben Carson?  Not according to the gate-keepers of the black “community”.  Bona fide Americans who share a common post-African ancestry are not members of the black“ community” unless they bow at the altar of the party that pulls the puppet-strings of the community.  I grew up in a neighborhood populated more by Negroes, as many self-identified then, than by whitish people.  I knew them as individuals, not as a group, and none of our interactions required any acknowledgment of or adjusting behavior for race.  The neighborhood we lived in was a community within a larger town, and I was a member of that community.  Race didn’t matter.

Muslims who are not U.S. citizens are lumped loosely, by professional label-makers in government, into a “community” under the ambiguous heading of race, while their countries of origin are comprised chiefly of people whose race is the same as most other whitish people.  But to oppose open borders and to demand screening of immigrants, according to the meme that scolds me, (best I can tell), labels me a racist.  In the same vein, my insisting that existing law be followed for Mexicans wishing to come enjoy the freedom, opportunity, and hospitality of this country also makes me a racist.  I embrace diversity, not chaos.  A racist embraces no one but those he thinks look like him.

Which brings me to the debasement of the term, native American.  Here is an example of what happens when groupers, who are not members of the community they have labeled, become offended on behalf of the people they have lumped into the group, and then proceed to save the community from those who have innocently given offense.  I am a native American; I was born here.  That some of my indigenous ancestors — (I could capitalize that, out of respect, as we always capitalize“Indian”) — that some of my Indigenous ancestors mixed genes with some of my post-European ancestors gives me an interesting genealogy but does not confer on me membership in any particular pre-American aboriginal tribe, nor do I seek it.  Nor does it make me an invader of this land, because, after all, I’m an “Indian” too; I have Indigenous heritage through both my parents.  The meme, which scolds me for not helping elect Clinton, doesn’t mention Indigenous people, but I extend my explanation to them — well, to me too — too.

I’m not interested in grouping — indeed, I refuse to be grouped.  I’m not interested in participating in group behavior, demanding things from my government because of some group identity, or advocating for solutions on behalf of any other crowd of people whom I have lumped together as a community without their knowledge or approval.  I am an individual.  My age doesn’t matter.  My ancestors’ countries of origin don’t matter.  I have studied, for two years or more, five other languages and can still function well in two besides my own.  For those whom I might encounter who don’t speak English, I will meet you part-way in your own language if I can and, if there is time, help you learn mine.  If our government would stand aside and let us welcome immigrants without coercing them or us for our language differences, guess what — we would adapt to each other!

Women, without question, are regarded as lesser citizens by many men — indeed, by Donald Trump too.  To Hillary Clinton’s friends and bankrollers in the Arab world, women and homosexuals are treated deplorably.  This doesn’t bother her, in spite of her rhetoric.  It bothers me, and so does Trump’s behavior toward women.  So voting for either, in my opinion, is a toss-up for women.  Hillary was not defeated, though, because of her gender.  She was defeated because she represents old-style arrogance in government.

As for those with mental and physical challenges greater than my own — (the language has some precise, descriptive words to cover those conditions but people offended on behalf of others have driven those words from common use) — I have, for decades, been a parent to my own severely disabled son and, as a foster parent, for other people’s children who are seriously challenged physically and mentally.  I have also been and continue to be an unpaid caregiver for seniors with dementia.  Yeah, the meme didn’t mention them.  They’re always left out when it comes to government favors, perhaps because the shrill and indignant get all the attention.

While we’re here, I may as well address the acolytes for the faith in anthropogenic climate change.  What’s left out of their pseudo-scientific arguments to prove man-made global warming is consideration of the evidence that warming — and cooling — of the earth’s surface has happened in cycles ever since the earth was formed; furthermore, that within each epoch-long warming or cooling there have been long periods of seeming reversal.  We do not have the data to say whether we are in a temporary reversal in a cooling epoch or vice versa.  An increase in temperature precedes an increase in CO2, not the other way around.  COencourages plants to thrive and increase, with the release of more oxygen.  CO2 is not a poison that accumulates to toxic levels; it participates in life.  I do not flatter myself that I can influence cosmic pulses by buying a new wood stove with a catalytic converter.  God forbid that my reckless choice of fuel be responsible for forcing the inter-continental airliners flying over my house to compensate instead.  There is no way to demonstrate what would have happened during the past thirty thousand years if humans had never kindled a single fire, so there is no way to “settle” that human suppression of natural fires in exchange for controlled combustion has made a difference.  I think politicians are dangerous who share the conceit that by tweaking the tax law they can manage the climate for maximum human comfort.

If all this makes me non-“inclusive” and a bigot because I insist that immigrants should follow the law in order to get in, then I respond that our language is becoming useless.  There is no one who is not welcome by me in my country, my town, and in my home who has arrived on our country’s reasonable terms.  Let them followed the process, just as I must follow any other country’s process to become a resident there.  If they are desperately escaping the threat of death in their home countries, we have processes for them to enter as refugees and await processing.  And yes, perhaps we need a process for rapidly screening large numbers on short notice.  I too encourage Congress to get right on it.  I want to include people.  Let’s make it possible.

When you, whoever wrote the meme, decide that “inclusive” means“carelessly un-selective” or when a serious charge of “racist” is leveled at anyone who opposes ineffective or damaging legislation, or at whomever declines to coerce others — when the word is used where it truly doesn’t apply, it diminishes the word to meaninglessness.  When half of all Americans are racists, what word will you use if you need to describe a true racist?  When you try to narrow “native American” from its accurate meaning, describing everyone born in America, down to only those with (what percentage?) Indigenous heritage, then what term will you use for a true native American?  And are Indigenous Americans all that happy about being lumped into one group anyway?  They used to have individual tribal identities that they fiercely defended.  It’s convenient for the government to think they’re all the same.  I don’t think we are.

I’ve also noticed that places such as Chappaqua, New York, Hyannisport, Massachusetts, McLean, Virginia, and many other elite communities are not scrambling to resettle un-vetted refugees in their communities.  Makes me wonder why I must do so first.  And I don’t deny that we should accept refugees.  Emma Lazarus’s poem is often quoted as a justification for throwing open the gates (while continuing to restrain those already in the process of entering legally).  The poem still represents my sentiment, but my sentiment doesn’t override my caution.

So, let people freely associate, form and join — or not — groups of their own design: political parties, churches, garden clubs, parade committees, secret lodges.  Let them generate their own funds for their own internal or external objectives and keep their hands out of my pocket.  Instead of believing that politicians have your best interest in mind when they promise favors, let there be laws simply to assure that we all refrain from interfering with one another’s activities so long as those actiities don’t interfere with our own.  Instead of being offended on behalf of people who haven’t asked you to be offended, mind your own business.

I didn’t vote for Hillary Clinton.  I don’t believe I owe anyone an explanation.  But I also don’t want the author of the meme to believe that there is no explanation, so here it is.

David A. Woodbury


Want more explanation?  (I doubt it.)  Look at this: CNBC:sorry.  See my subsequent post, Off the Wall, quoting Mike Rowe.  And for one more viewpoint, written by a gay Muslim immigrant, here is this brief article.

Freedom

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The passage below, about freedom, a hard-won human condition, is taken from Memoirs of a Superfluous Man by Albert Jay Nock, published in 1943, beginning on page 313.

Like the general run of American children, I grew up under the impression that mankind have an innate and deep-seated love of liberty.  This was never taught me as an article of faith, but in one way and another, mostly from pseudo-patriotic books and songs, children picked up a vague notion that “the priceless boon of liberty” is really a very fine thing, that mankind love it and are jealous of it to the point of raising Cain if it be denied them; also that America makes a great specialty of liberty and is truly the land of the free.  I first became uncertain about these tenets through reading ancient accounts of the great libertarian wars of history, and discovering that there were other and more substantial causes behind those wars and that actually the innate love of liberty did not have much to do with them.  This caused me to carry on my observations upon matters nearer at hand, and my doubts were confirmed.  If mankind really have an unquenchable love for freedom, I thought it strange that I saw so little evidence of it; and as a matter of fact, from that day to this I have seen none worth noticing.  One is bound to wonder why it is, since people usually set some value on what they love, that among those who are presumed to be so fond of freedom the possession of it is so little appreciated.  Taking the great cardinal example lying nearest at hand, the American people once had their liberties; they had them all; but apparently they could not resist o’nights until they had turned them over to a prehensile crew of professional politicians.

So my belief in these tenets gradually slipped away from me.  I can not say just when I lost it, for the course of its disappearance was not marked by any events.  It vanished more than thirty years ago, however, for I have consciously kept an eye on the matter for that length of time.  What interested me especially is that during this period I have discovered scarcely a corporal’s guard of persons who had any conception whatever of liberty as a principle, let alone caring for any specific vindications of it as such.  On the other hand, I have met many who were very eloquent about liberty as affecting some matter of special interest to them, but who were authoritarian as the College of Cardinals on other matters.  Prohibition brought out myriads of such; so did the various agitations about censorship, free speech, minority-rights of Negroes, Jews, Indians; and among all whom I questioned I did not find a baker’s dozen who were capable of perceiving any inconsistency in their attitude.

According to my observations, mankind are among the most easily tamable and domesticable of all creatures in the animal world.  They are readily reducible to submission, so readily conditionable (to coin a word) as to exhibit an almost incredibly enduring patience under restraint and oppression of the most flagrant character.  So far are they from displaying any overweening love of freedom that they show a singular contentment with a condition of servitorship, often showing a curious canine pride in it, and again often simply unaware that the are existing in that condition.  Byron, one of the world’s greatest natural forces in poetry, had virtually no reflective power, but in the last lines of his poem on Bonnivard, who “regained his freedom with a sigh,” he displays a flash of insight almost worthy of Sophocles, into mankind’s easy susceptibility to conditioning.

I do not know the origin of this idea that mankind loves liberty above all things, but the American revolution of 1776 and the French revolution of 1789 apparently did most to give it currency.  Since then it has done yeoman’s service to an unbroken succession of knaves intent on exploiting the name and appearance of freedom before mankind, while depriving them of the reality.  Such is the immense irony of history.  The goddess of liberty, as she lay in the arms of de Noailles and Lafayette, was a beautiful and alluring figure; but after she had been passed on to the arms of Mirabeau, then handed on to the embraces of Danton, Robespierre, Saint-Just, Marat, Barras, Carrier, and finally Bonaparte, she was left in an extremely raddled and shopworn condition.  “Good old revolution!” said one of my friends in a meditative mood, during the stormy times of 1936 in Paris. “Liberté, Égalité, Defense d’uriner.  They still keep the fine old motto posted up, I see, but it doesn’t seem to mean much more now than it did when Robespierre was running things.”

I might have witnessed some of the revolutions which occurred in my time, but having a pretty clear notion of what they would come to, I paid little attention to them.  Like Ibsen and Henry George, I have little respect for political revolutions, for I never knew of one which in the long-run did not cost more than it came to.  Beheading a Louis XVI to make way for a Napoleon seems an unbusinesslike venture, to say the least of it.  Passing from the tyranny of Charles I to the tyranny of Cromwell is like taking a turn in a revolving door; the exertion merely puts you back where you started.  If every jobholder in Washington were driven into the Potomac tonight, their places would be taken tomorrow by others precisely like them.  Nor have I any more respect for what the Duke of Wellington called “a revolution by due course of law” than I have for one of the terrorist type.  In this country, for example, unseating predatory and scampish Republicans to give place to predatory and scampish Democrats, and vice versa, has long proved itself not worth the trouble of holding an election…