“We smoke pot and we like it a lot”

January 21, 2014

A belated Happy New Year to any reader who has found his way here before February! 

As a student back in the 1980s I remember seeing in Washington D.C. a demonstration by marijuana legalization activists, mostly long-haired young and middle-aged men, who were chanting, “We smoke pot and we like it a lot!” If I recall correctly, it was near the Willard Hotel and I was with my father, who was telling me something about the history of that distinguished facility. Seeing the demonstrators, my father merely shook his head in disgust – to him and to most of his generation, the demonstrators could only appear as ignorant, immature hedonists who lacked any real basis for their demand other than that they liked pot “a lot.” I myself was, at the time, philosophically in favor of drug legalization, but I was also instinctively ashamed by these demonstrators, their demeanor, and their childish chanting. How would the nation be improved by giving these people their drug?

Well, times have changed and now pot is on its way to becoming legal, with the Colorado “experiment” only one of many developments that we can expect. As with gay “marriage” there has been a burst of legal developments and a piling-on of public figures loudly declaring their approval of pot, some waxing poetically on their love for the weed, others declaring that while they don’t personally like it they don’t see any justification for banning it. Of course laws cannot be dismantled all at once and there remains, perhaps, a lingering feeling that smoking marijuana is not respectable, but it’s clear which way the wind is blowing. As with immigration, as with traditional marriage, the people actually running our society do not believe that laws or practices restricting use of marijuana deserve to be enforced.

With all the issues we face today, keeping pot illegal is hardly a priority issue for me. Frankly, I know people – lawyers, professors, professionals – who smoke it occasionally and don’t seem to suffer ill physical or mental harm. I would have trouble looking them in the face and saying they should be arrested for their practice. At the same time, the move for legalization is disturbing, if only because it represents the collapse of yet another set of restrictions on behavior that were enacted to protect the society as a whole and that seemed, a generation ago, incapable of being done away with. But now the post-1960s generation has taken charge, and ideas once held only by radical minorities are mainstream. Why keep fighting? Legalize pot completely! If you don’t like it, don’t smoke it!

Here I don’t wish to go through research on marijuana or the possible merits of “medical” marijuana, nor to assemble reports that chronicle the damage and dangers of the drug. This California group provides some of that sort of documentation. Rather, I’d like to cite this issue as another case of the complete collapse of reasoned discussion within the society as a whole. Quite simply, if you are a liberal intellectual, legalization of marijuana is the only reasonable, moral, and intelligent position to hold.

David Brooks, for instance, recently tried to argue in a gentle way for restrictions on marijuana use. To avoid seeming like a prude or moralist, he explained that he had used marijuana in his use and had had some fun with it, then gently suggested that it might still not be good for society as a whole for pot to be legalized, since marijuana use tends to undermine the qualities of “reason, temperance and self-control.” This is, frankly, about the same argument that I would make for keeping restrictions on the use of the drug. Imagine an America where people sit out on their porches smoking joints, completely free of any social or legal penalty. Is this a Western, civilized society? I believe there are neighborhoods throughout America where this is in fact the case, and I repeat the question. In a healthy, conservative society the burden of proof would be on those who want to do away with the restrictions, not those who want to keep them.

I understand where Brooks is coming from, although my own experience with marijuana was much more limited than his, consisting only of accepting it on the rare occasion that I was with friends who used it. I could also add, though, that the very friend who introduced me to pot and alcohol in middle or high school was seriously harmed, I might even say destroyed, by the regular use of both starting at about age 12 and continuing to the last time I saw him a few years ago. It definitely leads to lethargy and makes focused work difficult. I believe it is a favorite among black men; how much good is it doing them?

But no liberal is listening to David Brooks and his oh-so-reasonable discussion. In the reader comments on his article one person after another dismisses him in smug, self-assured fashion, portraying him as hypocritical or as wanting to impose his values on others. Indeed, I was directed to the Brooks article by Jon Stewart’s response, which was quintessential Stewart name-calling, a signaling to his audience that here is someone too ridiculous to take seriously. See here, for example. 

Likewise, none other than our President, continuing in his gratuitous sharing of his personal opinions on social issues with the American people (he is always sober and concerned but doctrinally liberal-left), starts from the same experience-based position as Brooks, saying that he used it and personally doesn’t approve of it. Ultimately, though, Obama supports legalization, mainly because more blacks and Hispanics than “middle-class (=white) kids” are being arrested for pot use. Correcting racial disparities is a cause our President can really get behind.

Well, I give up. Let’s let the liberals have this battle and legalize marijuana use throughout the nation. It can be regulated and taxed, just like alcohol use is today. And we can finally stop wasting our time and energy on the battle. Oh, no, wait…. More complications, another crisis! It seems that marijuana producers are not the most ethical people in the world. Time to create another bureaucracy. And move on to legalizing the next drug.


The Sadness of the Days, the Treasures that Remain

April 16, 2013

The most we can hope for is that the murderers and enemies of humanity who attacked in Boston today are, at least some of them, apprehended. Executed they will not be (unless perhaps they turn out to be “white supremacists”), nor will any lessons be drawn that might help prevent similar atrocities in the future. Jihad is the most likely motive but there are plenty of other possibilities. I am afraid that to me it feels only like the sort of event to be expected in an America that has been destroying moral restraint from within and admitting hordes of invaders from without for many decades. I am not shocked at all and I have little desire to know the details. One thing I always remember when something like this happens is the suffering that will be endured by the survivors. Through a mutual acquaintance, I once heard in some detail about the sufferings of someone injured in the Atlanta Olympics bombing. It goes on for years, really a lifetime of pain and often repeated surgeries.

I still feel a vestigial sense of obligation to follow the news – as one of the responsibilities of an informed citizen – but the ongoing decay of our society has become so egregious that I feel the need to limit my intake of information that is upsetting without being edifying. I would much rather read about English kings or the American Civil War. These narratives abound in human drama and teach us something about who we are and what is possible. What would be the point, though, of studying the Iraq or Afghanistan wars, except as a study in pre-ordained failure? I feel for our men fighting abroad, and I grieve for the sacrifice of their talent and lives in activities not remotely connected to their own interests, but I do not want to follow the process step by step.

Newspaper reportage, for instance, was a major component of the civil war. See this article, for instance, concerning the Confederate side. J. Cutler Andrews’ The South Reports the Civil War (University of Pittsburgh, 1985) presents a narrative of the war from the perspective of the Southern press. I enjoy the elegant, if melodramatic, writing style of the period, and the book reminds one of how complex and multifarious the war experience really was. Today, this complexity is lost, and it is not even just a matter of a pro-Northern bias; the entire meaning, reason, and legitimacy of the war is discussed only in terms of the interests of the black slaves.

As part of an ongoing project to read (and preferably see, in the BBC or other productions) all of Shakespeare’s English history plays, I found myself working on John Gillingham’s Richard the Lionheart (London: Book Club Associates, 1978). I always find it astonishing to contemplate the fact that large parts of France were, in theory, under English rule for long periods of time – at least in theory; Richard I was really “French.” In Shakespeare’s King John Richard is only a background figure, the Crusader who tore a lion’s heart from its body, and the father of the more or less ahistorical Philip the Bastard, who aligns with King John in hopes of moving up in the world. In any case according to Gillingham, Richard was one of the most capable kings in English history, distinguished not only for his courage and fighting prowess, but also for his skills as an administrator:

Richard won his wars not simply by deeds of prowess on the battlefield, but also by being able to transfer the economic resources of the Angevin Empire into military supplies and ensure that these supplies were in the right place at the right time – in other words by sheer administrative competence. The image or Richard as a night in armor, good at fighting but at nothing else, is an image based upon a romantic and unrealistic view of war. (287)

The blogger Cambria Will Not Yield, one of the most original writers I have ever encountered on the Web, has a fine introduction to the topic of Shakespeare’s histories here, in the form of a review of John Julius Norwich’s Shakespeare’s Kings. While I cannot accept some of CWNY’s broader assertions, his understanding of the old Europe surpasses that of any pointy-headed academic, for it comes from the heart, and grasps the essential fact that the white peoples of the world were changed forever by their acceptance of, and love for, Christ.

Lawrence Auster

April 5, 2013

I am deeply saddened by the death of Lawrence Auster. I would like to use this format to say something about what he has meant to me.

Quite simply, he completely changed my way of thinking, showing me alternate ways of thinking about the problems that beset our civilization. Indeed, I probably would not have used a phrase like “problems that beset our civilization” before encountering his writing. When the 9/11 attacks took place I was more or less a libertarian, “fiscally conservative and socially liberal”; I had no notion of the danger of Islam, or the problem of immigration, or the reality of racial differences, or the problem of sexual and homosexual liberation, or of the inadequacy of describing American or Western society as “secular.” Mr. Auster showed me the need and possibility of a holistic, traditionalist conservative approach, clearly identifying the false and evil principles that are driving the West to civilizational suicide. I believe, with others, that his contribution to the fight to save the West will one day be widely recognized.

An intellectual loner and self-described “misfit” and spiritual seeker, Mr. Auster fought a long, lonely battle to wake up a nation bent on national suicide. The unacceptability of the truths he told left him shunned by the mainstream conservative movement, which must have been harder to endure than the vicious personal attacks to which he was subjected. And yet, he somehow endured and prevailed.

I will be thinking for a long time about where, exactly, Mr. Auster’s genius lay. It might seem that the combination of Christian conservatism with “race realism” would lead many individuals to hold views similar to his, and there are a fair number of writers publishing at VDare, for example, who, without crediting him, express similar ideas. But no one came close to saying it as well as he did, and none applied the traditionalist approach to such a wide range of human experience. He cut the Gordian Knot of rationalization and evasion that permeates the discourse of liberal society, exposing the underlying truth and expressing traditional values in powerful statements that mesmerized the reader with their truth and righteousness.

His trick was to speak so frankly about the issues that even sympathetic conservatives would think that he was taking things too far. And yet the reader would return again and again to his blog until completely won over. The transformation sometimes resulted in a complete inversion of conventional values. When Mr. Auster wrote about the menace of “black savages,” for instance, he was making a moral statement about the need for whites to protect themselves, and was in no way motivated by hatred. But to someone still seeped in liberal assumptions, such statements represent the height of immorality. He had to train his own readers to appreciate his writing.

The format of his blog, though simple in concept, was highly unusual in practice: centered on his own postings, but selecting, editing, and posting reader comments to create what could be very extended dialogues. I see him as a Socratic figure, fleshing out a living philosophy through continuous dialogue with readers and fellow writers without ever sketching out a system. (The analogy to Socrates, who left no written works, is strained by the fact that nearly all of Mr. Auster’s “dialogues” took place in the printed, though fluid, format of the Internet. But a present-day Socrates would probably be a blogger.) This approach had its drawbacks, but clearly was perfect for him, and attracted and engaged many readers of high intellectual caliber.

An aspect of his thought that doubtless helped him to reach me was his patriotic American approach. I had not and still have not worked through some of the religious questions that might separate me from full-fledged Christian traditionalists, but I had inherited from my parents exactly the same love of America that was the starting point for Mr. Auster’s work. Though I had always appreciated American freedom, this patriotic feeling was submerged and forgotten for much of my adult life. Following the shock of 9/11, I was ready to wake up, and there was Mr. Auster’s site, View From the Right – amnation.com, the American Nation. The level of national identity was the right level for me to begin my journey to a return to traditional values. It is ironic and in some sense, perhaps, fitting that Auster ended his career with the conviction that the historic nation of the United States of America was gone and not coming back. I concur with him on this, but it leaves us with the question of what to do with the issue of national identity. America is dead, but there are still a couple hundred million Americans.

Some commenters have used words like “quarrelsome” and “irascible” to describe Mr. Auster’s personality. As far as I know, this reputation comes from the online persona, not the private person, who seems to have been soft-spoken, a respectful listener, and gentlemanly – if also utterly blunt and honest. (Perhaps someone versed in astrology can explain this unusual combination.) VFR thrived on conflict with the larger liberal society and its supporters, and Mr. Auster’s harsh criticisms of mainstream conservatives and “jihad critics” were necessary, even if they won him few friends. On the other hand, he was not blame-free in some of the disputes with friendly correspondents that ended badly. Extremely concerned with defending himself and his positions, he sometimes missed the effect his words might have on the other party.

These musings on Lawrence Auster still do not get at the tremendous vitality and passion that permeated his writing. His love of the West and righteous anger at its destruction, his intense interest in ideas and in the world – everything was personal to him and engaged the reader personally. During his final illness, he amazed me with deeply personal pieces of writing documenting his ordeals and revealing aspects of his life about which he had previously been silent, and shared messages of support from his readers which, for me, were comforting in showing how many others had had their lives changed by his writing. I am glad that he found a kind of happiness as he faced death surrounded by loved ones, and glad that he has left his legacy of work in the capable and faithful hands of Laura Wood. I still can’t believe that no new postings are forthcoming at View From the Right. An era has passed. A great hero has fallen. For the rest of us, our work continues.

The Great Storm is Coming, But the Tide has Turned

January 21, 2013

The New Year always brings with it a renewed sense of hope, maybe because of the change in the calendar, more likely because it has been preceded by Christmas, with all its promise of rebirth. My personal life has been especially hectic lately, but we have been amply blessed with good things. I hope the same is true for my readers.

The title is a quote from Gandalf in J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Two Towers. I wish I could say that the tide has turned in the struggle or struggles with which this weblog has been concerned. I can’t. We may be at a still earlier stage in the disaster faced by America and the other Western societies, and may need to come to terms with just how bad things are before we can figure out where exactly “hope” lies.

Politically and socially it is a bleak time. Obama’s re-election marks a new stage in the ascendance of liberalism in our society, and I expect to see the outrages and horrors continue this year at an elevated pitch. Hispanicization, amnesty by law or fiat, the growth of Islam, the decline of the traditional family, the promotion of homosexuality, the continued destruction of jobs and livelihood for traditional Americans – that these movements will continue is a certainty. For me, the consolation comes in knowing that the present liberal domination of society cannot last, being fundamentally untrue and unsustainable, and that resistance to it is growing, though as yet without taking effective form.

In my writing for this site, I have generally tried to keep a moderate and reasoned tone (I have certainly strayed from this policy at times!). The standard I set for myself was to write in such a way that, if one of my liberal friends or relatives happened upon it, they might be persuaded at least of my reasonableness and good intentions, if not of the truth of my positions. Mark Richardson of the Oz Conservative has been one of my models for this. At the same time, I have to admit that most liberals (meaning most of the people I know and most people in positions of power) are utterly impervious to any challenges to their liberal views. So for practical purposes I write primarily for those who are already predisposed to agree with me. What I and others like me are really doing is searching for like-minded people and for ways to give our beliefs practical or political expression.

The words of Gandalf express the idea of hope even in the face of worsening circumstances:

I have spoken words of hope. But only of hope. Hope is not victory. War is upon us and all our friends, a war in which only the use of the Ring could give us surety of victory. It fills me with great sorrow and great fear: for much shall be destroyed and all may be lost. I am Gandalf, Gandalf the White, but Black is mightier still.

My wish this year is to find new signs of hope, as Gandalf brought hope with his return from death.

On Thanksgiving

November 22, 2012

Like many of my readers I have become somewhat swept up in the feeling that the re-election of the current president of the United States signals the end of our historic nation. It is an arbitrary point in a way – we could as easily say that the initial election of someone with such a problematic association with anti-Americanism, leftism, and Islam, was just as strong a signal of the end. But that he would be re-elected after manifestly failing to improve the economy and after numerous acts and statements which in times past would have certainly led to his public castigation and probably impeachment – it does show that we’ve reached a new stage.

There is plenty of evidence that we can no longer continue as a politically unified nation. Look at how cartoonist Mike Thompson views Republicans and conservatives. I would imagine that a Chinese or Arab cartoonist would possibly be more fair and accurate than this “heritage American” is in his assessment. See the November 18 cartoon, for instance.

I do believe that for traditionalist conservatives, the idea of separating ourselves from the United States – first, in our imagination, and ultimately, in reality – is the correct approach, and probably the only approach. However, I have difficulty imagining a liberal America and a traditionalist America co-existing. Not because the former will necessarily destroy the latter, but because I think Westerners ultimately move in a kind of unity at the largest civilizational level. All white nations became Christian, and all are now mainly liberal (Russia and some parts of eastern Europe may be partial exceptions); if there is a true reversal of course, I believe it will involve everybody. Which is not to say that a separated-out traditionalist nation or community might not be the catalyst for the larger transformation.

I’ll be enjoying the usual dinner with family and relatives, which remains a favorite ritual. Thankfully, it will also be mostly TV-free. I have always felt that the idea of Thanksgiving is very American (and in the larger sense, Western and Christian) – that you ought to be thankful for the blessings you enjoy. Not that, say, Buddhists or Hindus don’t have the same sentiments, but it’s expressed in a uniquely Christian way here. It takes an effort and discipline to remember and appreciate one’s blessings, even while aspiring and hoping for even better things.

“Who cares what’s the matter with Kansas?”

November 13, 2012

Paul Krugman, very pleased with the re-election of Obama, wrote:

I have to say, the gnashing of teeth and rending of garments on the right comes as a surprise. We knew that they would be upset; but the extent to which they were really, truly unprepared for the obvious possibility that Obama would be reelected is remarkable. I suspect that it comes down to two things: self-definition in terms of always being the people with the power, and the right-wing bubble, which left them completely unaware of information they didn’t want to hear.

It’s true that the odds were always in favor of Obama, and it’s also true that many on the right (including myself) became excited when a Romney victory began to look possible, and felt devastated when he lost.

In some ways it’s analogous to what Democrats went through in the 2004 elections, working themselves into a frenzy with the belief that they could kick the hated George W. Bush out of office. I still remember the image of Bruce Springsteen triumphantly stepping off stage after a benefit concert right before the election. They really believed they would win, because they wanted so to win, and after all, they were right.

The next day they were all in shock, talking about wearing black in mourning and moving to Canada.

It is not fair to mock conservatives for their wishful thinking. Americans have always felt that elections matter and that their individual votes matter, and those on the right have, until the last decade at any rate, been able to count on a reserve of conservative white sentiment emerging at election time to confound the hopes and predictions of liberals. The reality that is only beginning to hit some of them now is that demographic change in America has largely neutralized this force.

But it is very noteworthy that Krugman, whose credibility hangs on his credentials as a world-class economist, sheds objectivity when he reveals his delight in the increasing marginalization of white middle America:

…one big thing that just happened was that the real America trumped the “real America”. And it’s also the election that lets us ask, finally, “Who cares what’s the matter with Kansas?”

For a long time, right-wingers — and some pundits — have peddled the notion that the “real America”, all that really counted, was the land of non-urban white people, to which both parties must abase themselves. Meanwhile, the actual electorate was getting racially and ethnically diverse, and increasingly tolerant too. The 2008 Obama coalition wasn’t a fluke; it was the country we are becoming.

And sure enough that more diverse and, if you ask me, better nation just won big.

Notice too that to the extent that social issues played in this election, they played in favor of Democrats. Gods, guns, and gays didn’t swing voters into supporting corporate interests; instead, human dignity for women swung votes the other way.

A huge night for truth, justice, and the real American way.

Krugman is right: the Obama coalition now represents the majority – though not a unified, coherent, or very large one. Republicans might be able to rally for another few elections, though it isn’t looking likely, considering their complete unwillingness to consider appealing to actual white – er, “Kansas” – interests. This writer disagrees, however, that the Obama coalition represents the “real America.” That is not a matter to be determined by numbers, especially not numbers inflated by the presence of foreigners like the so-called “Latinos.”

Like many I find it increasingly unlikely that our traditional institutions or the democratic process can ever again function to serve the interests of white Americans. But that only underscores the need for traditionalist conservatives to keep the flames of truth burning, and search for other ways to recover a decent way of life as a people. It’s not over by a long shot.

Signs of Life

November 4, 2012

A reporter secures a brief interview with the proprietor of this weblog, who has been out of the public eye in recent months, and asks a few frivolous questions.

Q: What have you been reading lately?

A: All kinds of things – but usually in 20-minute snippets after our toddler goes to sleep. I decided to take a stab at The Lord of the Rings recently, and love the world created by its author. More germane to The Heritage American’s themes is The Tragic Era, a history of Reconstruction in the United States by Claude Bowers, written in 1929. The book is a passionate denunciation of the Radicals in charge of reconstruction policy and the devastation they wreaked. The tone is hardly objective and one has to admit that Bowers shows no concern over the plight of the freed slaves, but it is so refreshing to hear the other side of the story, and the work is scrupulously documented. Shakespeare’s sonnets – not something I have ever learned to appreciate well. My word, some of them are amazingly complex and difficult! It’s hard to relate to sonnet after sonnet addressed to a young man, I’m afraid.

Q: How about music?

A: I seek out songs that I want my toddler to learn, naturally with an emphasis on Anglo-American music. It turns out that children’s songs really are best for children. “Horsie, Horsie,” which I found quoted on a handout from the library, turns out to be a real oldie:

We are enjoying “Bonnie Hielan’ Laddie” by the Kingston Trio. Here is commie Pete Seeger breaking it down for a not-very-responsive audience in Australia:

“Old MacDonald” really does appeal to children, but I don’t know of any version an adult would like to hear.

Q: When is the Heritage American coming back?

A: It’s never gone away. Posting has just slowed down to a ridiculous rate. I admit to getting fatigued by contemporary American culture, with its unending parade of outrages that we apparently are supposed to take as normal. I also find it harder, perhaps, then I did a few years ago, to dig back into American history and find continuities with our present culture. The American people still live here, but they have largely forgotten their heritage, and I don’t see how we can regain actual sovereignty as a people when we’ve lost so much. I agree with Lawrence Auster’s recent statement on the elections.

Can a movement that currently lives mostly in weblogs created by politically powerless people evolve into something with real power? Or can an equivalent movement arise somewhere within the current political and social system?

Q: Thoughts on the upcoming election?

A: I’m more inclined to vote for Virgil Goode than for Mitt Romney, even though I want Romney to win (more accurately, I want Obama to lose). If he had expressed the slightest intention to work on reducing legal and illegal immigration, I would have voted for him, but morally I can’t support someone who allowed “Administrative Amnesty” Obama to attack him on immigration.