Non-Discrimination, Private and Public

February 28, 2012

In The House of the Seven Gables (1851), Nathaniel Hawthorne wrote that “the wrong-doing of one generation lives into the successive ones, and, divesting itself of every temporary advantage, becomes a pure and uncontrollable mischief.” Are we Americans paying for the crimes of our ancestors with the decline and imminent ruin of our beloved country? Maybe, but if so, what exactly was the crime? Taking the land from the Indians? Slavery? These are the obvious answers, but I cannot think that the evils we suffer today represent any kind of just punishment or karmic retribution for those events. We have long since done what we could to remedy the inequalities that they supposedly caused.

Perhaps the true answer is the opposite of what we conventionally think: our crime – or, at least, our profound error – is not discrimination, but non-discrimination. We started out feeling that it was not decent, or moral, to “discriminate” against minorities, meaning, mainly, black people; and the principle of non-discrimination gradually took over every functional institution of our society, until these institutions became actively harmful to the interests of the very people they were supposed to serve.

I certainly believed in non-discrimination for most of my life. For a personal example, which is almost amusing to me now, I once went on some dates through the classified ads (this was back when they were commonly printed in the free “alternative” weekly city papers, something I imagine has been supplanted by eHarmony). The ads would often specify the race of the person desired, e.g., SWF seeking SWM. I am a white man, but it offended me that so many white women were specifically seeking white men. I didn’t want to go out with someone who would say that! Also in the spirit of non-discrimination, I went out with a black woman or two. One lady was quite nice – clearly interested in white men (she was a lover of books and culture, and apparently couldn’t find many black men with compatible interests), but the instant I saw her I knew that I could not be attracted to her. It didn’t occur to me that preferring one’s own race might be a natural and healthy thing, or that, at least, people have the right to discriminate in the most personal of relationships, even if they believe in equal treatment in the public sphere. (It didn’t occur to me, either, that a white woman with an interest in black men might not be the best potential partner for me!) To give another example, I remember commenting to a female friend about a certain female acquaintance, that I didn’t think I could date her because she belonged to the Baha’i religion. The friend told me that she knew lots of wonderful Baha’i followers and that my comment made her “angry.” Here, at least, I stuck to my guns, insisting that religious differences were real, not something that could be overcome by niceness and kindness.

Non-discrimination is thought by its practitioners to be a virtue – perhaps the highest and most essential one of all. Yet it seems to be the code of non-discrimination that allows the worst evils to enter and flourish in our society, especially as a foundation for legal processes and decisions. The most egregious examples are probably immigration-related. (In a way, this entire blog is a reaction to mass non-Western immigration, though I usually approach the issue indirectly, by thinking about who we – the non-immigrants – are.) Outrage after outrage takes place, and nothing ever changes. Genetic testing reveals that the vast majority of Somalis brought here for family unification are actually not related to the people bringing them in. Investigations show that the vast majority of Chinese students in the United States faked their transcripts and essays. Vast numbers of Hispanics use stolen Social Security numbers. Is a commonsense decision ever made to put an end to the fraud by simply stopping taking in so many people from the particular countries involved? No, it is not. (The Somali reunification was halted, but apparently is slated to be resumed.) Somehow, the system itself cannot accept a sensible act of discrimination in that most personal – and most publicly important! – of choices, that of who to admit into one’s national family. We end up with a sick perversion of the American Dream, where lying and greed are rewarded and become the foundation of new citizenship. Is this moral? Is this virtue?

Ayn Rand, whose works I admire only very selectively, said that one must never fail to pronounce moral judgment. Laura Wood says that we must not fail to discriminate – in this article, she is referring to “economic discrimination in favor of men” in the workplace, but the statement applies to every aspect of society. Failure to judge and discriminate unleashes evil and mayhem. Even worse is the aggressive, coercive enforcement of non-discrimination through grievances and lawsuits. The great challenge for traditionalists and conservatives is to find a way to rebuild a society that judges and discriminates as it should.

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Aid or Comfort?

February 13, 2012

Nearly four years ago now, I started experimenting with creating my own blog, which I inaugurated on July 4, 2008, after a couple of earlier “test” postings. I did so after a long period of reading and commenting at others’ blogs, some of which have since become defunct, others of which you see on the blogroll on the right. During the past year, my output has been low, mainly due to personal commitments which took away my time to write, but also, I suppose, because I ran into a certain feeling that it was getting harder to say something new, and hard to meet my assignment to myself to produce high-quality weekly essays backed by reading and research. Still, the Heritage American lives! As one of my blogging colleagues wrote quite some time ago, “I Will Never Stop Blogging.” (He appears not to have posted anything since then – but I hope he keeps his promise to return!) Or as I once put it: if I ever stop blogging, it will be because I’ve found a better gig than this space here – and I don’t intend to leave my readers uninformed of the fact.

This blog (I still hate the word, but I’ve resigned myself to the fact that what I have here is, indeed, a blog) was based on a fairly specific, clear concept: rather than writing about current events and politics directly, I would delve into the American past through literature and history, and try to apply something I found (or imagined I found) to some aspect of the current situation. On one level, I take a stance of traditional, pre-1960s American patriotism, and I often try to read works published before our 1960s Cultural Revolution for my research, since they narrate our past so much more clearly and with a goodwill absent in many contemporary sources. You might glance at my subjects and conclude I’m just an old-fashioned “history buff.” It’s almost the opposite, in fact; I’m relatively ignorant of American history, and my writings represent an effort to learn the basics. What I do have more than most younger Americans (and I myself am well into middle age) is a sense of traditional patriotism, which I picked up in childhood through family and other influences.

But this blog was never really about going back to the past – the past America gave birth to the present America, so merely going back would mean repeating our terrible errors. Nor, in fact, was it meant to be exclusively about America or for Americans, much less to trumpet American superiority or exceptionalism. In the larger sense, what must be defended is the West as a whole, and though America represents in some ways the high point of Western civilization, in other ways we never quite reached European levels of cultural achievement, and our greatest achievement – in spreading and promoting liberalism throughout the world – may turn out to be our greatest sin. No, the main reason I visit America’s past is to find better answers to the question of who we are. The nation is not the totality of personal identity; we belong to families and smaller communities first, and at the highest level answer to God, not to country. Still, the nation is indispensible; where can we ever be at home if we have no nation? I’m convinced that most of us have truly lost that instinctive sense of identity that separates us from other nationalities. And in the end, isn’t it this loss that makes it possible for us to accept the catastrophic non-Western mass immigration that threatens now to destroy everything we have and are?

One area of tension in writing these pieces has been between two possible purposes: that of changing someone’s mind, and that of speaking to those who already share my core beliefs. If I could reach people like my liberal relatives and colleagues, and convince them that their belief in equality, tolerance, and diversity is exactly what’s leading to the destruction of our society, that would be a wonderful thing. (Not that I pretend to have the wisdom or eloquence to do this, when so many truly great writers and thinkers have been able to.) On the other hand, the reality might be that most of my readers are already convinced of the same general truths that motivate my writing. In this case, blogging becomes more a form of comfort and inspiration – sharing ideas with like-minded people, offering thoughts that might be of small but real value, and receiving the same.

I’ve come to think that for the most part blogs like this one are really doing the second thing most of the time. The cultural divide is truly enormous, and no one in our society turns easily to traditionalism, race realism, or other anti-liberal positions. In this case, it follows that conservative or traditionalist blogging is done primarily for friendship, comfort, and personal satisfaction, rather than to argue with and win over others to one’s cause. And I suppose that’s fine. These are precious things in themselves.

I can say that in the past few months I’ve received a handful of hostile comments by people claiming to be offended by things I’ve said about “Davy” Crockett or George Armstrong Custer. How these individuals came upon this blog I have no idea, but I am flattered by their responses, in a way. They make me feel I’ve reached the mainstream. To friends of this blog, old and new, I encourage you to visit (or resume visiting) once a week or so. The normal date of posting will be Mondays. And comments are most welcome!