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June 29, 2015

Three Essays on Post-America America

Charlie Martin: The Know-Betters Will Bring You Morlocks to Heel.

In the 1850s there was an active political movement that became known as the "Know-Nothings," because they considered themselves semi-secret, and members, when questioned about the group, were supposed to say "I know nothing." Of course, a secret political party doesn’t have much effect, and quickly the Know-Nothings were pretty overt about telling everyone around them that they knew nothing, over and over again.


It seems to me there’s a semi-secret political party at work in the U.S. now: the People Who Know Better.

...

[T]he Know-Betters would never come to the conclusion that conditions in places like Colorado simply aren’t suited for wide-scale mass transit.

Instead, the Know-Betters have decided that we should use government to impose greater population density, with utopian city plans that push people into small, "walkable" communities with mass transit hubs.

And if people prefer to live on half-acre lots with lawns and space between houses, well, they Know Better.

...

I keep finding myself coming back to a passage from Thomas Jefferson that I put up on Tatler a long while ago. Here’s Jefferson:

Men by their constitutions are naturally divided into two parties: 1. Those who fear and distrust the people, and wish to draw all powers from them into the hands of the higher classes. 2. Those who identify themselves with the people, have confidence in them, cherish and consider them as the most honest and safe, although not the most wise depositary of the public interests. In every country these two parties exist, and in every one where they are free to think, speak, and write, they will declare themselves. Call them, therefore, Liberals and Serviles, Jacobins and Ultras, Whigs and Tories, Republicans and Federalists, Aristocrats and Democrats, or by whatever name you please, they are the same parties still and pursue the same object. The last one of Aristocrats and Democrats is the true one expressing the essence of all.

– Thomas Jefferson (Letter to Henry Lee, 1824)


Rod Dreher writes of the need to now live as expatriots in our own country. Internal exiles, as the Soviets termed them.

It is hard to overstate the significance of the Obergefell decision-- and the seriousness of the challenges it presents to orthodox Christians and other social conservatives. Voting Republican and other failed culture war strategies are not going to save us now.

Discerning the meaning of the present moment requires sobriety, precisely because its radicalism requires of conservatives a realistic sense of how weak our position is in post-Christian America.

The alarm that the four dissenting justices sounded in their minority opinions is chilling. Chief Justice John Roberts and Justice Antonin Scalia were particularly scathing in pointing out the philosophical and historical groundlessness of the majority’s opinion. Justice Scalia even called the decision "a threat to democracy," and denounced it, shockingly, in the language of revolution.

...

The warning to conservatives from the four dissenters could hardly be clearer or stronger. So where does that leave us?

For one, we have to accept that we really are living in a culturally post-Christian nation. The fundamental norms Christians have long been able to depend on no longer exist. To be frank, the court majority may impose on the rest of the nation a view widely shared by elites, but it is also a view shared by a majority of Americans. There will be no widespread popular resistance to Obergefell. This is the new normal.

For another, LGBT activists and their fellow travelers really will be coming after social conservatives....


It is time for what I call the Benedict Option. In his 1982 book After Virtue, the eminent philosopher Alasdair MacIntyre likened the current age to the fall of ancient Rome. He pointed to Benedict of Nursia, a pious young Christian who left the chaos of Rome to go to the woods to pray, as an example for us. We who want to live by the traditional virtues, MacIntyre said, have to pioneer new ways of doing so in community. We await, he said "a new — and doubtless very different — St. Benedict."

Throughout the early Middle Ages, Benedict’s communities formed monasteries, and kept the light of faith burning through the surrounding cultural darkness. Eventually, the Benedictine monks helped refound civilization.

I believe that orthodox Christians today are called to be those new and very different St. Benedicts.

Tim Carney's piece is tangentially related, but it expresses a very important point.

Buzzfeed Ben was asked to reconcile his shitty listicle site's stated claim of being "neutral" with its all-in rainbow-color theming for the gay marriage ruling. He said that he was being perfectly neutral and objective -- it's just that there aren't two sides to the gay marriage question. There's only one.

This is a frightening thought, and LOLCats Ben isn't the only one pushing it. In order to claim the high road of being liberal and tolerant of ideas, while at the same time actually being as illiberal and intolerant as any zealot or hooded klansman, it is necessary to deem contrary positions unpositions, which therefore can only be held by unpeople.

By claiming an idea simply does not exist in civil society, one must, perforce, also claim that those holding that idea do not, or must not, themselves exist in civil society.

Something must be sacrificed in order to maintain these two contradictory claims -- and the thing most easily sacrificed is any acknowledgement of you as a human being and American citizen.

But Buzzfeed Ben is a nice, open-minded guy. Just ask him. He'll tell you so.


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