Here’s a crazy idea: Treat your family members as people you love and appreciate — or at least tolerate — instead of targets for political conversion. You only get one or two families in this life — the one you’re born into, and the one you marry into. Maybe if you’re lucky, you become “like a son” or “like a sister” to another. There’s a lot to talk about in this world beyond politics, and chances are you’re not going to persuade disagreeing relatives, anyway.
A healthy society does not feature a leader who sends messages to his followers, asking them to make a pledge to have a conversation with their families about his agenda at Thanksgiving. This is cult-like.
Our friend Jonah gets a lot of grief over Liberal Fascism, usually from people who have never read the book, and who usually go on to insist they don’t need to in order to criticize it. But there is a creepy quasi-fascist vibe in this effort to turn families’ holiday gatherings into an opportunity to dissuade critics of the president’s policies. This is not normal behavior for an American president. (Although FDR did try moving Thanksgiving a week earlier in an effort to help pre-Christmas sales. It didn’t work out.)
When you say the word ‘fascist,’ people usually picture Mussolini speaking from a balcony and his high-booted goons marching around in public squares. Because we don’t see those images in American society today, a lot of people recoil from labeling anyone in our modern politics with the term “fascist.”
But Mussolini wrote, “for the fascist, everything is in the state, and no human or spiritual thing exists, or has any sort of value, outside the state.” Among the Organizing for Action crew, there seems to be some irresistible compulsion to take something outside the state — Thanksgiving dinner — and co-opt it for the purposes of the state — or its leader, or its agenda.
Ace notes, “It truly is insidious, I think, this devotion to cause such that one would seriously — earnestly! — urge others to fight with family in order to advance a political goal. It’s not just about the casual denigration of the family in favor of the Real Family, which is of course like-minded socialists in the Progressive Cult. It is that, but it’s not just that. It’s also this idea that a person’s highest aspiration is to be… A telemarketer. Or, as there’s nothing “tele-” about picking fights with your family in face-to-face meetings, an epimarketer, then. There is a terribly strange notion affecting the country, chiefly on the left but sometimes on the right, that man’s highest calling is to be a Public Relations Account Manager.”
Deep Thoughts for the Holiday Weekend
From Pascal-Emmanuel Gobry, writing over at The Federalist:
A lot of conservatives claim that while the Left believes equality means equality of outcome, the Right is for equality of opportunity — but that’s a load of hooey. Everyone agrees with equality of opportunity, and all non-communists agree equality of outcomes is not desirable. The question is whether too much inequality of outcome leads to a greater inequality of opportunity. It’s a stubborn fact that, as a matter of dollars and cents, American society has gotten more unequal over the past 30 years. Does it mean that it has also become unequal in other ways? And if so, should we do anything about it? And what? Does Tocqueville show us a way?
The answer is yes, when we realize a few things. First, that while what Tocqueville is really talking here is equality of conditions and not merely formal, legal equality. Tocqueville, after all, was no socialist. He was a classical liberal who admired Adam Smith and viewed redistributive taxation with deep skepticism. And Tocqueville notes that the US, even in the 18th century, had some pretty significant extremes of wealth (even in non-slave states). So while he’s not pointing to socialism, he is pointing to something else, and that something might be this: any collective endeavor, including self-government but also functioning free-market capitalism, cannot be successful for long if some significant number of the people involved in the enterprise feel that they’re getting screwed. Even if you see no value in equality as such and you are a total capitalist red-in-tooth-and-claw you must realize that if too many people feel that capitalism destroys them, at some point they will use the levers of political power to destroy capitalism.
At National Review’s event in Boston, Jay Nordlinger asked why the Northeastern states had become so blue — so reliably Democratic, certainly in presidential races and in most but not all senatorial and gubernatorial races. Mark Steyn had just mentioned that his home state of New Hampshire was less reliably conservative than it used to be, and that until the 1970s, Vermont was one of the most reliably Republican states in the union.
My answer rambled a bit, but I think I hit the important points: There are fewer jobs, or at least fewer paths to a stable job without an expensive college education. There are fewer marriages and stable families. And there has been an erosion in the Burkean platoons that keep a community going — the neighbors watching out for each other, the church and synagogue groups, the bowling leagues, volunteer groups, and so on. Why are fewer people in the Northeast conservative? Because fewer of them have something to conserve.
In way too many communities in this country, the foundations of those strong, thriving, safe communities have eroded over the past generation. In that other conservative magazine, The Weekly Standard, Geoffrey Norman offered a fascinating story about the explosion of heroin addiction in small towns in Vermont.
The mills and manufacturing jobs are gone. If you only have a high-school education, you have little or no chance for a stable or thriving career. If you don’t have a stable or thriving career, you are less likely to get married and raise a family. Since men and women will always be interested in each other, courtship and long-term commitment is replaced by the hookup culture. Kids start getting raised without a father around, young men with no role models to teach them how to be a man, young women with no fathers showing them how a man should treat them.
This horrid set of circumstances in poorer America is light-years away from equality of opportunity, never mind remotely comparable outcomes. Unfortunately, those aren’t the sorts of problems easily solved by passing a bill.
All societies have winners and losers, but modern America’s winners are separating from the rest of us rather rapidly.
Obama has talked in the past about a “culture of irresponsibility,” but he’s mostly used that phrase in the context of Wall Street, and in fact pledged to “protect consumers from bad mortgages and greedy credit-card companies.” In his world, it’s always the big powerful corporations making trouble for the person in debt, not the person who actually ran up that debt.
Quite a few Americans want to hear that we ourselves are most responsible for the quality of our own lives. If we could overcome that, the rest of the problems would fall like dominoes.
– JIM GERAGHTY
National Review Online