Friday, July 04, 2014

Happy Birthday, Us!

Despite all our warts we live in the best country ever designed by mankind.   America is a good and noble country, and yes, exceptional in history.   And there should be no confusion over the intent of our Founding Fathers.  Our continued survival and prosperity depends simply on sticking to those basic principles, which any human being is capable of doing no matter their race, creed or ethnicity.    

Happy Birthday to the land of the free and home of the brave.

MORE  7/5/14

To some the above must seem overly simplistic.   Yes, there are serious problems in America but the above statements are unambiguously true.  Americans of any color and background can change America for the better, or revert us to our roots, because we still have the ability to revise and correct.

Still, some of the smarter amongst us prefer verbosity in making a point.  Or maybe it's just that some of us dumber folks don't appreciate their exteneded prose.  For instance, one can weed their way through this piece from Jim Sleeper on Salon on how much America sucks in 2014, beginning with a reference to mass shooters, reaching the end without really knowing exactly what he wants to do to correct anything.

Such fogginess requires picking out a few fragments in the story to get a sense of the writer's sense, considering this is a story that includes the phrase 'we are violent and filled with rage' and mentions 'public derangement'.  In other words, America is sick.   So let's peruse.

On guns and mass shootings (bold added):
We haven’t yet understood the shots fired and heard ’round the world from 74 American schools, colleges and military bases since the Sandy Hook School massacre of December 2012. These shots haven’t been fired by embattled farmers at invading armies. They haven’t been fired by terrorists who’ve penetrated our surveillance and security systems.
With few exceptions, they haven’t been fired by aggrieved non-white Americans. They’ve been fired mostly by young, white American citizens at other white citizens, and by American soldiers at other American soldiers, inside the very institutions where republican virtues and beliefs are nurtured and defended.
First, the over 70 number was inflated but he used it anyway.  Second, Salon showed the pictures of eight mass killers to accompany the story then Sleeper said "with few exceptions" they are mostly white. Of the pictures shown, only 4 are "white".  They ignored the Navy Yard shooter, the new Fort Hood shooter and several other recent shooters of color (yes some people consider Hispanics as white when it comes to shootings), which is odd and should be a red flag about the coming narrative.

On the formation of our government, bold added again:
The creation of the United States really was a Novus ordo seclorum, a New Order of the Ages, a society’s first self-aware, if fumbling and compromised, effort to live by the liberal expectation that autonomous individuals could govern themselves together without having to impose religious doctrines or mystical narratives of tribal blood or soil.
With barely a decorous nod to The Creator, the founders of the American republic conferred on one another the right to have rights, a distinguished group of them constituting the others as “We, the people.”
This is probably the most flawed premise of his entire article and will be addressed more at the end.  But in general he diminishes the role of religion and belief in a Creator in conferring those very rights of freedom to the men who were forming the new republic, pretending they conferred to themselves.  That 'nod' to the Creator was one of the most powerful statements in the Declaration, because they were acknowledging that man DOES NOT confer such rights to one another--they come from above--which is why they were setting up their new republican experiment to protect such rights, which naturally protected against one or more groups becoming all-powerful.

By the way, all through the piece Sleeper refers to 'republican' to explain away the horrors of 2014 America, as if maybe he wanted people to confuse the small-r with the big R for effect.

On terrorism:
Abroad, meanwhile, thousands more shots, fiendish and celebratory, are being fired into the corpses of American national-security and nation-building projects by terrorists and fanatics we were told had been decimated. These projects cost trillions of dollars and hundreds of thousands of lives, limbs, homes and hopes, including those of American soldiers, contractors and idealists. Their sacrifices can’t justify retroactively what shouldn’t have been undertaken in the first place.
That's a pretty good jab at both Bush and Obama. It's also very popular now to say America should have done pretty much nothing after 9/11, mainly because these fanatics blinded by a certain religion (which he doesn't mention) have never given up on their barbaric causes and America doesn't like long wars. He doesn't say it, but maybe he thinks we had 9/11 coming due to our failed experiment. That would certainly justify the line of thought.

On economics:
A liberal capitalist republic has to rely on its citizens to uphold voluntarily certain public virtues and beliefs that neither the liberal state nor markets can nourish or defend. The liberal state isn’t supposed to judge between one way of life and another, after all; and markets reward you as a self-interested consumer and investor, not as a citizen who might put such interests aside at times to advance a greater good that self-interest alone can’t achieve.
This was picked out because it's true--Adams made the point over two hundred years ago that our republic was made for a moral and religious people--at least ethical--because that's the only kind of citizen that would protect us from eventual despotism.  And Sleeper does make a point later that religious Puritanism, although considered extreme, led to a restraint on unbridled capitalism that kept things together.  In other words, maybe there was more to this religion thing in the founding principles than he originally gave credit.

He goes on to point out our big foreign and domestic failures before sneaking into his final solution, again, bold added:
The question should prompt a quest for a political culture that isn’t too commercial and vapid and that isn’t held together only by demagoguery and delusion. No reconfiguration of today’s capitalism will be possible without something better than that. Yet no think tank, legislature or foundation can carry that quest or that reconfiguration to a just conclusion. Nor can an Occupy Wall Street that isn’t grounded in something deeper than its own noble effort to be the change it wants us all to make.
Nor can our “illness” be cured by champions of a new foreign-policy “realism” such as Robert Kagan, who urge us to face the inevitable challenges of a world where only willpower and force can sustain the liberal order that many Americans take for granted. That’s right as far as it goes, but it begs the question of where willpower comes from and what, within the liberal order itself, is sapping that willpower.
Well, it comes from the 'wellspring' of man himself, being divinely guided (whether he knows it or not) to live his individual life in such a way that upholds the republic.  Sleeper is looking only at men. 

He ends thusly (yes, bold added again):
In 2008, Barack Obama seemed to incarnate so brilliantly the promise of weaving our diversity into a new republican discipline — he even invoked Puritan and biblical wellsprings in some of his speeches — that many people ’round the world considered him a prophet who would satisfy their hunger for new narratives. Probably no national political leader ever can do that.
The narratives the world needs now will have to come from other prophets and leaders yet unsung. I do think that Americans will be strong among them, if only because we’ve had so much experience generating that hunger by generating the civic-republican-capitalist effort that has failed.
Congrats if you're read this far, or read Sleeper's essay. It was a chore, requiring two readings, yet wading through it all and boiling it down leaves this blogger with the same short summary posted up top initially. There's nothing wrong with the principles of America's founding or our founding documents--it's our ability to 'keep them' that is the problem.  Quite a bit of the problem with keeping them is rooted in a lack of faith, basic ethics and morality--as Adams so adeptly put it over 200 years ago.  Take all the shooters pictured in the article--and the ones not pictured--and ask yourself: how many were religious?   How many were dying for Jesus?  

As to the bold in the first paragraph above, "probably no national political leader ever can do that" after the mention of Barack Obama (and other men/women unknown) as 'prophets', this illustrates the disconnect for Sleeper.  No, Jim, there is no one man or woman on Earth that can lead us out of temptation or deliver us from evil.  And even the moral and religious can be sinful and tempted by power, if left to run things on their own.  That was sorta the point of building a republic in the first place.  They deliberately set it up to divide power and promote gridlock to prevent these Earthy "prophets" from leading us down a path to destruction.   Here we are today, 2014, with people criticizing the capital R-epublicans for saying no and preventing the prophet from saving us, but that's exactly as the founders intended.

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