Step One in the Reformation: Change the Tone


There are a few important votes coming up soon. A little advice, which I’ve been harping about since 2007.

Change the tone. There really are some very important reasons why this should be done. This is not mere politics, no mere theatrics, not mere ear-and-eye-candy.

Let me explain my thesis.

One of the reasons I asked Bernie Chumm to join our group is that he has been carrying on an internet guerrilla war against left-wing bloggers for years, trying to re-instill a respect for the truth on the public highway.

His patrols swoop down upon scat-bloggers in the fashion of Rogers’ Rangers, leaving issues aside and challenging their self-created premises about the foundations of civilization. Things like Truth. His aim is to make these practitioners of “un-truth” a little uneasy and less secure on a highway they think they control.

But Bernie’s battles are instructive for us in the grander game as being played out in Washington right now. As in every war there are leaders and there is cannon fodder. I’m not sure about what the GOP leadership knows or believes anymore, but most of us instinctively know that the intentions of this new Left coalition is not mere politics as Disraeli and Gladstone might have waged it, or even Tip O’Neill and Ronald Reagan. There is a no-turning back absoluteness about where they want to go, and it is dressed in a barbarous sense of total control over intellectual and critical thinking not seen since the 1930s…in Germany.

Why our so-called political betters can’t see this is beyond me, but there is an insularity inside the Beltway we used to associate only with the ivied towers of academe, so perhaps they just can’t.

Chumm has shown us how the Left seduces and controls their minions at the bottom with alternating outcries of injustice and a chance to get even, while throwing in some free stuff along the way (Democrat Party playbook since 1964). Old Soviet recruitment practices among the public school boys in England in the 1930s and US universities in the 1960s, as well as Nazi peer-tactics in the 1930s, have provided us plenty of blueprints along the way. Still we sleep.

While showing us how to slap their hands, sting their vanities and wash their mouths out with soap, Bernie has also highlighted the symbiosis between the leadership ranks of the “middle class socialists” (an old Bolshevik term for fascists) and their soldier-armies. Combined with a middle-management league of Levitical legal wannabes and jurists, media darlings, prostituted scientists and tenured professors, they can recruit even greater legions of simple-minded brats. All this coalition needed was a von Schacht to bring the Krupps over for a fait accompli on behalf of global warming and the environmental movement, and they found that in Jeffery Immelt and GE. The Big private corporate sector is falling into line.

So, did the election of November do anything to slow this onslaught down?

America is in the middle of two wars, not one, or haven’t you been paying attention? God knows, we’ve been given fair warning. Just as Islamic terrorism has nothing to do with reforming America’s policies toward Israel, “the other side of the aisle” is not about advancing democracy, liberty, or the Constitution…but rather snuffing them all out… for the most puerile of purposes; a stealing of history’s largest golden goose and the looting of the largest treasury ever accumulated…anchored by a general feel-good dose of getting even.

Shakespeare was wrong. First we change the tone, then we shoot the lawyers.

But we don’t get angry. Politicians and bureaucracies, like lawyers, are fixed stars in the heaven. In their slots, they are less people than organisms, behaving according to fixed laws of nature. As Moses Sands said better, “You should never get mad at a dog for being a dog…but you do swat him across the nose with a newspaper from time to time…and you shoot the mad ones.”

Civility and the Public Highway

Most of us over fifty were raised in an era when civility ruled the public highway, so when we see or hear outrageous behavior, especially if laced with strong language, today we tend to turn and go the other way. This is a reflexive action, born of good manners, deeply bred, and a deep distaste for any public display that bears any sort of anger or mayhem. I was raised to believe that this is what the gentle man and lady should do.

But it wasn’t always this way. Even the English, who carried good manners almost to religion-like stature, had ways to quickly and efficiently deal with any flagrant abuses of the principles of honor, integrity and truth that underlay common good manners. Many of us old are enough to have watched that slowly being eroded since the late 1960s.

Good manners, intellectual curiosity, honor, integrity, the value of truth, the very ideal of Good, all worked their way onto the public highway over a long period. We are born with none of these things. The Church of the Middle Ages devised a general scheme, the Seven Deadly Vices and the Seven Virtues by way of teaching us how we are in nature, and how we must discipline ourselves to become. Goodness just wasn’t ceded to us by God. If we don’t pause and reflect, then exult from time to time about that hard trek upward of all the foundations of this society, then we are apt to forget how easy it is to toss those truths overboard.

We watched Bill Clinton “use” George H W Bush in 1992 and again Bob Dole in 1996, insulting them in ways he knew would never be defended due to their generation’s unwritten rules of good manners. I watched and seethed.

Since then, we’ve watched a string of leaders, from Dashiell to Reid, from O’Neill to Pelosi, Schumer, any Clinton (make your own roll call), and now Obama, push the envelop even further, with the complicity of the press, to utter the most infamous lies, tromp on the most hallowed of traditions and principles, directed at the Republican members of Congress, and worse, every icon of American freedom, including the People themselves, without so much as a “Tsk Tsk Tsk” from the peoples’ purported representatives. What gives? Even un-clever outrage would be nice.

This sort of callow behavior does not merit good manners.

It seems we have deluded ourselves into believing that our current brand of good manners in public discourse is an eternal flame, carried by each succeeding generation as a badge of the civilization in which we reside. I beg to differ. Civility, as we call it, is now practiced by the ones bending over and grabbing the ankles. Good manners, integrity, honor and decency, did not just spring up. They are not genetically transferred. They had to fight for that top spot on the highway. Robert Ardrey was right, only man’s ugliest nature, from murder to rudeness to bureaucratic indifference, is natural to him. Finding good within men, then bringing it forward, then making it prevail in human society and upon the public highway, is a never-ending struggle, as is every other fight against Evil.

What we are seeing now are vain repetitions, the dying gasps of flag-bearers who no longer are even on the main highway, let alone in control of it, yet pretend they are. The GOP wears civility like a “Kick me” sign tacked to the back of their jacket.

My generation was taught that public liars and criminals owned only the territory of barbarians, the sewers, and thereby should be avoided by decent God-fearing folk. Go the other way. But in doing so, what we have unwittingly done, of course, is retreat. We have abandoned the highway…and now, off down a side road we spend our time trying to either convince ourselves that this dark alley is really the main street, as the GOP seems to do, or pretend that this will all eventually go away and the high road will be handed back to us by some invisible hand.

This kind of deer-in-the-headlights civility no longer stands for upholding any set of virtues, but is rather a refuge for surrender. It is not a line in the sand, but an absence of any line at all. How can you defend your place on the highway when you have already turned and gone the other way?

Why this is important is that modern society seems to be regressing.  A “return to the primitive” as Ayn Rand called it. Peaceful discourse was carried out on a public road that had claimed and maintained by Good for over three centuries, gaining new territory with each generation. Anyone who yelled “sh**” or 2 + 2 = 5, for that matter, were quickly shoved to the side. While universities were open forums for debate and questions, and politics were open shooting galleries, there were still fundamental lines that could not be crossed. One was the uttering of a foul epithet, another, the uttering of a total falsehood. It didn’t matter that the speaker was misinformed, stupid, or a liar, he was removed. Our public highway was the playing field upon which everyone played. If he lied or cheated, he had to be clever and discreet. He had to sneak.  This was the playing field, those were the rules.

But now he boasts and brags and struts like a peacock.

So why is lying so public and blatant now?  How did they move out upon and gain control of the highway? Awhile back Bernard Chumm wrote at TownHall about the “don’t-give-a-damns” in our society and I followed that up with a piece about how they had become a protected religion in Washington.

With them all the historic norms for truth, fealty and loyalty have been cast aside for a circle of honor you can fit into a phone booth. This is the sort of raw-boned society socialists like to manage. It is also the kind of society that can smite the ideals of constitutional liberty.

Never in the history of this country has public lying, and in the most insulting contexts, been so pervasive, and gone so unchallenged. For almost sixteen years now, the only real game in town has been in trying to guess 1) how far the envelope can be pushed, and 2) just how far under the bed will our purported defenders of the Constitution will hide, in order not to have to provide a defending salvo.

For 10 years I’ve visited the same YMCA almost daily. At the same time there was always a group of older men, in their late 70s, who swam together. In the locker room, they’d swap wise cracks and barbs as they might have flipped wet towels 60 sixty years ago. Not long ago two young twenty-somethings were going through a spate of g-damn’s and m-f’er’s while primping in front of the locker room mirror. An uneasy hush fell over the room for a few seconds until one of the old gentlemen quietly spoke, “Fellas, do either of you know what that “C” stands for in YMCA? Well, all these naked men here are Christians. If you want to use that kind of talk, be polite and take it out to the parking lot.” We all held our breath, for when you draw a line in the sand there is always a crucible. But guess what? One of the boys, visibly embarrassed, even said, “Oops. I forgot,” and they left. Once again, Ardrey was right. When confronted with a resolute Good, Bad most often turns and goes the other way? There is an instinctive understanding between Good and Evil as to which rightfully owns the road.

But you have to press your case from time to time.

There’s another lesson here. No doubt the boys cursed as they walked down the sidewalk, “I shoulda said…” “I coulda said…” the same thing we all do just after the traffic cop has driven off, leaving us holding a ticket. But it’s like Chumm says of the potty-mouths he confronts on the internet. You can’t necessarily change their minds but you can alter their behavior. After being slapped in the chops, every time a certain oath works out to the tip of the tongue, they sort of flinch, then look around, before letting it spill out. Chumm calls that the “Sinner’s genuflect.”  Set a boundary, draw a simple line in the sand, and more often than not, it will not be crossed.

I keep looking for some sign that someone in conservative or Republican leadership understands this new reality.

Are we so naïve as to believe that all that separates Mitch McConnell from Harry Reid is a simple difference of viewpoints about government? Gladstone and Disraeli? Just two loyal subjects with a different bent on the Constitution?
This game of take-over is for real. I recall an old left-wing government attorney from the 1960s who told me, “Once we get power we will make it illegal to use the same tools we did to get power in the first place.” That was in 1969, and forty years later, they haven’t yet needed to bring out that big gun. With Obama the legal structure is now in place.

What has changed since I first wrote the above words in 2008, is that the People have said “enough is enough.” Who is lingering back are our elected representatives, not the People.

I’m not asking that we suddenly do an about-face and call a spade a f***ing shovel. I probably would, which is why I’m not in politics. But it would be nice to see a spade called a ‘damned shovel’ from time to time. There are lies, damned lies, and Democrats, as Mark Twain would’ve said were he alive today and we need to remind America that this is the case.

I’d even like to see a few eyes spat into…including the Devil’s, which even Jesus got around to doing in the Wilderness.

The American people want to see a little fire, and not just around election time. If we are going to see an eternal flame toted around, let’s also make sure the Left feels some of its heat.

The big story behind the big story of the budget battle, continuing resolutions and debt ceiling has been the total failure of the Democrats to 1) not have a budget already on the books for the current fiscal year, and 2) not explain why to the American people, and 3) most egregiously, not be made to explain why.

Outrage does not have to be pronounced “g-dam liar” or “you bastard” but the people who put you into office, ladies and gentlemen of Congress, will know it when they see it. We can fill in the blanks, if only we can see a little fire in eyes, a little edge to the tone of voice, a little stiffness in the neck and a little redness in the cheeks. Bared teeth also works.

Do this one thing and your stock will rise immeasurably.

Men and women of good will have a deep sense about Truth. As Chesterton noted about morality, the rich seem to be able to do without it, but for the common man, it’s a necessity. We will applaud, cheer, and moreover, vote, if we  see it returned to it rightful place.

But reclaiming that highway require a heavier hand than now currently being employed. And yes, we are looking for a tougher lot of engineers as we speak.

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April 1, 2011 10:21 am

Perhaps to your point – perhaps not: The case of Joe Wilson. We all know that he was quite accurate in calling out Obama as he did, but the forum in which he let his passion get the better of his awareness of the setting supposedly dictated he be admonished. I hated that, but they say it isn’t done, so he had to be scolded. Contrast with the case of Joe Barton, who famously told a private corporation, BP, employer of tens of thousands and purveyor of needed energy, that they were owed an apology for he way our goveernment… Read more »

April 1, 2011 10:23 am

Great writing and perspective, Vassar. You know that this topic is near and dear to me. Philosophically, if we can’t restore the concept that “good is good, and evil is evil” we’ve lost the war. The incremental moves of the Left for over 100 yrs (especially in the past 50), have allowed right and wrong to become defined by relativism.

As you’ve said, “When Good stands up to Evil, Evil blinks.”

April 1, 2011 4:16 pm

Vassar, I can only speak for myself here. There is simply a personal accountability issue that can exist when it comes to the usage of expletives. But there is one comment you made above that I would reiterate. You said that someone once told that once they got power they would make it illegal to use the tools they had used to get power. This is already happening, but in a far more subtle, insidious manner…through education. A simple example would be propaganda. For years, the word “propaganda” has had negative connotations, and rightfully so. Propaganda can stem from dishonest… Read more »