I recently watched an interview of Barack Obama in which he discussed the parallel views of reality in American politics. It was undated, so I don’t know if it was made during his term in office or part of his post-presidency schtik. The topic: regarding the upheaval we’re seeing unfold in America now that Donald Trump has forced those separate realities into bolder relief.
In doing a little research on this single subject “Obama and separate realities in America” I found that this had been a common thread in many of his canned remarks, especially when acting professorial in a one-on-one sit-down.
It dawned on me that Barack Obama is exactly right.
America is divided almost down the middle by two entirely separate realities as to what comprise fundamental fact and truth. Even the most common human equation is determined by who is asserting it, them, or us. And this is no longer restricted to the low-end Twitter troll, it has entered the language of scholarship, especially in the soft sciences, but also hard ones, such as climate science, where, no matter which way you lean about the bottom line, the evidentiary road to those conclusions are a minefield, not of misinformation mind you, but of separate realities, where only one can be true in a sane world, but two are clung to, the deciding factor—politics, not science.
This trend only appears recent in hard science, but it is not. What makes it appear new is the cacophony, the rising decibel level, and the curious notion that somehow high school juniors and college freshmen are entitled to equal time in venting their spleens about what “teacher” said. Now in my 70’s I have the advantage of being able to watch what was garage banter over whiskey out of a bottle in the 60s elevated to serious papers presented in symposia in the post-Clinton era, so can suggest we may be in the middle of a “quickening” where everything is about to come to a head, simply because it has to come to a head.
Frederick Hayek, in his 1963 Capitalism and the Historians, which he edited, gave some gravity to the notion that this “two-reality” phenomena has been around a longer time. The essays presented were from the late 1800s, and about the rise of the factory system in Britain. From distinguished economic historians of the era, they showed the highly distorted accounts of the social consequences of that system from Marxist historians, and the inability of the academy or political establishment to ever force a head-to-head confrontation, putting factual cards on the table side-by-side with non-facts.
That is now the norm, and carries with it a giant risk to civilization in that truth has been made captive to the political process, something the Modern Left declared to be their ultimate goal at the time of the Carter election in 1976. “Modern liberalism stands for the proposition that all human behavior shall be subject to the political process.”- Mary McGrory, via an “Arizona Republic” op-ed. (I remember that day well, for that day was the day I ceased calling myself “liberal”.)
This is why Dick Durbin can say with a straight face that African-Americans hate that term “chain migration” because it reminds them of being forcibly “migrated” into America in chains.
I’ll come back to the “civil war” later, but it does seem we’ve come to that point, to paraphrase Richard Pryor, where “Who are you going to believe, me or your own damned lying eyes?” is fully at play in virtually every piece of political journalism out there. Everyone is preaching to their own particular choir, no longer making a point.
But if you think I’m only talking about the travails of the political Right, pro- or anti- Trump and that ragtag army of citizens long thought dead by the political class, being brought back into the political mix, I’m not.
Barack Obama spoke a truth about “two realities” that is as ancient as the Pyramids. What most Americans don’t know, even as we are pulling Ol’ Betsy from over the fireplace, is that Obama’s view is by far the more ancient, and the more prevalent among the governments that have ruled over Mankind since the invention of writing—which no doubt was invented just so itinerate fabulists telling tales around a campfire could give themselves a new name (Historian) and earn a free meal around the tribal chief’s table by giving him a new name, “King”, “the Great” or somesuch, so as to glorify his exploits and name for all history. (I sometimes wonder if historians don’t even predate prostitutes as the world’s oldest profession. I’ll have to check to see which came first, writing or money.)
Americans have no idea how rare and unique we are, or how hated we have been – because of it – literally from the day we were born in 1787. And who it was that hated us were those same ruling classes; the kings and their systems that Barack Obama now identifies with as representing his side of that separate reality.
Freedom-loving Americans are the other side.
The simply ugly truth, self-evident to many, is that in the 5000 years of written history, from around the time of the rising of the great ancient civilizations, all the way up to 1787, that kind of top-down government had been the sole proprietors of this earth. All of it, save a few tribal enclaves in the Americas and Africa. Mark Twain. speaking of the Devil as a sentient being, said that he is the “political head of the whole world” – which was meant as a wry bit of sarcasm about how America had fared politically it’s first century or so in existence.
Indeed, what we like to refer to as “American Exceptionalism” is really “American Freakism” to the political elites of the rest of the world. Never forget that, for that sets the stakes in our survival. That’s their skin in the game, seeing us ended and history turned back to its proper course, and to insure nothing like America every happens again.
The Liberty seed, How it Got Here, How it has Been Passed On
In order to achieve that they must break America and what I call its “liberty seed” apart into constituent elements. I have only a theory here, but we know that America, the ideal, was passed along for generations, without the help of school curricula. From family? Church? By casual contact? By reciprocal participation in a “joint venture” with others? (My friend, Moses Sands’ belief.) By the political process itself?
There are several elements that need to be investigated, but as an amateur cultural anthropologist, I believe this seed exists in all men, as we are seeing expressed in many of the eastern European states, where I spent a good deal of time the past 23 years, and more amazingly, Iran, where 20 -year olds are now fighting to recover an ersatz democracy lost 20 years before they were born, In a totalitarian, the “walls have ears” state, how did that happen?
In the end I cannot believe America is a scientific fluke, an aberration, for in nature, those quickly die out, and are unable to replicate themselves. As animal biologists say, “certain laws apply.” Like many great minds who believed that the universe (and earth) cannot be an accident, but a part of some intelligent Design, the argument can be made that neither was America a mere fluke. So there is a philosophical element, and a notion of “transcendence” known in certain religions, at play as well.
For how else can expressing Man’s natural right to pursue Life, Liberty and Happiness—“without permission of state” cause grown Soviet professors cry, if it is also a freak of nature? Still, most of the regular people of the world, simply by knowing such a place as America exists on the face of the world, long for it, or something like it in their own back yard.
That is the “Liberty seed” they have to dissect and contain.
This is an inquiry that can’t be told in a thousand words, or even ten thousand words. But it has to begin with a unified theory, and the theory of America has be proved or not proved by the existence of a “freedom” or ‘”liberty seed” in Man, not just the men and women who settled this nation 1607-1787, and going forward, but before the ages of kings.
I won’t attempt to do that here, it’s still a work in progress. Several years ago I began a book,“The Devil’s History of the United States”, based on Twain’s Devil, which purported to tell the story of America’s “finding” and subsequent “founding” in terms of Satan’s political management plan for the world—which had been working out pretty well, until, by a series of freakish events, each explainable as mere chance, yet cumulatively, producing a real “freak of nature” this new a system of bottom-up government arrived to challenge the Devil’s set piece of 5000 years.
My problem going forward has been that if a “liberty seed” exists in Man, then it had to have been a trait prior to written history, pre-Bronze Age, when Man organized himself in smaller social units, tribally. The rise of kings was side by side with writing, metalworking, and commerce, what we call “civilizations” which enabled them to establish sophisticated religions, and royal houses. But there is no direct evidence that they “invented” any of these things, only organized them better.
Something is missing in all this except that the people suddenly turned into a serf class, in that their lives were directed by others. And slaves, lots of slaves.
We have no idea what life was like for those 90%. What were the limits of their choices? How much did the long arm of force and coercion guide and command their lives? We have other periods of history, the European Middle Ages, the Roman Empire. Alexandrian Middle East, to have some idea, namely that life was good for a few and wearisome for the rest. I recall, after the fall of the USSR, a young dark-skinned man, probably Caucasian, about to set up a kiosk, said “I hope I get a good mafia.” Recalling what I just wrote about the genesis of the “historian”, there was no one there to tell the peoples’ tale until the English, and later Americans, began that practice of writing on behalf of people who could not afford to buy their books. Another example of freakism.
So, if Man carried the “liberty gene” in pre-history, it stood latent for thousands of years. And no one is now able to prove it ever existed. Well, almost. Some version of it existed in England, which may explain why they came here first, instead of the French. Runnymede may have had something to do with that 300 years earlier, giving England the edge. Or maybe Wat Tyler.
Richard Brookhiser, an old Buckley alum I liked from the 80s, has written a string of biographies of the Founders. I haven’t read them all, but recommend them all. Unlike so many histories and biographies, his give insights into how those men were molded by their environment and events in their lives, beyond their formal educations. In 2014 Brookhiser connected Abraham Lincoln, in Founder’s Son to his earlier (1996) George Washington, Founding Father, by laying out how the life of Washington impacted Lincoln’s world view, beginning as a young man, when he borrowed a copy of Parson Mason Weem’s Life of George Washington (1809), which was the first biography published about the great man after he died.
Lincoln was barely a teenager when he borrowed that book to read, and in keeping with stories I was taught in 5th grade in the 1950’s, Abe actually did read that book by the light of the fireplace in the family cabin. (I can still see the illustration in my mind.) Lesson? One of the enduring questions which patriot and Marxist alike have sought to answer, (for entirely different reasons), is how the seeds of liberty and “love of country” were passed before American History and civics were a part of public school curricula. The leftists seem to have gotten a stranglehold on public education in this regards, but much like children who are first taught at a parent’s or grandparent’s knee, or in a Sunday school, especially at that most impressionable age, 8-12, those seeds are also passed by other means, sometimes entirely by chance.
Even Karl Marx’s best efforts could not have prevented an Abraham Lincoln.
There it was, writ large, in a speech the newly elected president made in 1861 to an assembly in New Jersey commemorating the Battle of Trenton, Pastor Weems attributed that battle’s victory to an “an invisible being, the Weeping Genius of Liberty”. It stayed with Abe for forty years.
There has to be more to the success of America’s liberty seed than a random picking up of a book, but it’s more of a key element than most people imagine. Time and again in America such unknown events have been outcome determinative, and trust me, sinister forces of Evil, old Clootie, as Burns called him, are looking for them probably more than historians on our side. Elsewhere, even in Europe, such great thoughts are left to die on the vine. I wrote some years ago about George William Curtis’ “Doctrine of Liberty” speech to the Harvard Phi Beta Kappa in 1863. It was remarkable for several reasons, high among them distinguishing the role the American common classes had in educating their children, while America’s educated and political elites more or less dismissed Curtis’ sentiments about “Liberty” quickly. The Doctrine was a part of popular education for nearly a century, when local citizens more or less ran their schools, until finally, in the 1960s, the federal government was able to buy its way into our schools and our 4th Grade heroes disappeared entirely from America’s classrooms.
And as just mentioned, thanks to the fall of the Soviet Empire, we’ve learned that the Liberty seed is not exclusive to America. I found it all over the Balkans, but Poland and Hungary are first in grafting it into their national legislatures. (You may even note the role of religion in these transformations.) There will be more. And even Iran, of all places.
Just remember, we are the original Freak of Nature and as long as we survive, hale and hearty, so the rest of the world won’t have to be orphans. There is a genuine campaign to erase us. All of us.
Publications: Famous Common People I Have Known and Other Essays
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