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Driving Extremism

If one looks back at history, one of the primary drivers of the American Revolution was not taxes, it wasn’t Parliament, or a seething hatred of the crown.  Those were just manifestations of a deeper problem.  I think if you had to pick a fundamental, underlying reason why Americans separated from Great Britain, it would have to be that the colonies suffered from a deficit of dignity.  There was an impression, even among elites in the colonies, that the cream of British society looked down on them from on high, and did not consider them to be equals.  No matter how successful someone might have become in the colonies, to the folks back home, they would always be colonials — second class Englishmen.  Once elites felt the indignity along with the common man, the seeds of the separation had been sown.

I bring this up, because there is the beginnings of a dignity deficit beginning to appear in some segments of American culture.  I’m not suggesting we’re on the road to another revolution, though some seem to believe that, but I think we’re seeing symptoms of a problem that can lead to Very Bad ThingsTM if left to fester.  The American left, for all their pretensions of caring about the Bill of Rights, civil liberties and freedoms, and the plight of the common man, has largely given up on them in practice.  They care about civil liberties to the extent that they can use them as a political club to beat their opponents over the head with.  They care about every day people to the extent that it helps them cement their power.  Since the Civil Rights Movement in the 1960s, you haven’t really heard much philosophy coming from the left in terms of what our rights and freedoms ought to be.

This is important, because liberty and freedom are values we should all agree on as Americans.  Sure, we can argue over whether the general welfare clause allows Congress to establish “free” health care for everybody.  We can argue over what to do about Social Security’s looming insolvency.  We can argue over gay marriage, abortion, and all the other issues people love to bicker about.  But there are some things that as Americans, we should all find outrageous, but it’s a sad fact that we don’t.

The media is perhaps the worst of the bunch when it comes to standing up for justice and liberty, and holding the powerful accountable.  Sure, they are willing to do it when it involves topics the left disapproves of, but they tend to ignore a lot of Americans’ deeply established and held values.  If this wasn’t the case, no one would pay attention to Rush Limbaugh.  This is what contributes to a deficit of dignity — when the elite in politics and the media ignore and trivialize entire segments of society, those people start believing their concerns don’t matter.  That’s not just wrong, it’s dangerous if taken to extremes.

Where’s the outrage in the media about the fact that a man was sent to prison for clearing brush out of a temporary waterway?  We might all want clean water, but talk about unintended consequences.  Why don’t you see stuff like this in the New York Times and Washington Post, where, especially, people who make these policies and laws can see the consequences of them, taken to extremes.  Why is the left not outraged at repeated stories like this, and beginning to question why police are using more and more military style tactics when dealing with enforcing victimless crimes?  Why did it take the NRA and SAF, and not the ACLU, to hold Nagin and Riley’s feet to the fire after they unlawfully confiscated firearms from elderly women in the lawless aftermath of Katrina, leaving them utterly defenseless.  Hell, why isn’t the media and ACLU demanding that Nagin and Riley be thrown in jail?  Has there been outrage among elites that Fenty has openly defied the spirit of the Heller ruling?  Or is the sentiment more “Go Fenty!  Screw those gun nuts!”  Regardless of how you feel about Randy Weaver, or the Branch Davidians, can anyone on the left make a reasoned argument as to exactly why Lon Horiuchi should not be in prison right now?  Can they explain why no one went to jail for mudering dozens of children in Waco?

These aren’t merely concerns of madmen.  They are real questions that people have asked, but because their viewpoints aren’t represented among the elite, no one acts like they care.  It’s quite possible no one among the elite does care.  Having ones concerns and grievances marginalized is a great driver of political resentment, and while I don’t think too many people are ready to start a revolt over this, its what feeds a lot of the angry people who hurl invectives at those of us who suggest that they still have faith in the process.  Given that the popular attitude among elites is to mock and dismiss them, as the Brady Campaign suggested I should do yesterday, is it any wonder they are pissed off?  Something they ought to think about.

24 Responses to “Driving Extremism”

  1. Why, it almost sounds like a long train of abuses and usurpations or something.

    III

  2. PS: Twenty years ago I was an unreflective “sporting purposes” type. Ten years ago I didn’t give a flip either way, although I thought my Remington 510 was kind of fun. Today…

    III

  3. Andrew C says:

    I’m not sure this is an accurate description of the left’s reaction. I’ve seen a lot of outrage from the left over police using extreme tactics when they aren’t justified. The left is also the primary source of support for legalizing marijuana.

    In regards to the “clearing brush out of a waterway” article, the author is Bryan Fischer. He’s extremely biased and unreliable. Rumor says he’s good friends with the developer he’s defending. Reading the opinion from the appeals court, the case appeared reasonable. Waterways are federally owned. Access is allowed, dumping of waste is not allowed. Dredged material is waste. It is irrelevant that there is not water in the riverbed at the time he’s dumping, because when the water does come down, it carries the waste with it.

    I am deeply concerned about the interest of some on the left in eliminating “hate speech”. I think those who want to eliminate this are still a small minority.

  4. Mark Alger says:

    Can’t decide if the questions are rhetorical or naive.

    The new left in American does not and never has cared about civil rights.

    The ACLU is a Leninist front organization and should never be mistaken for comporting with the ideals expressed in its name.

    New leftists are not interested in American ideals for the simple reason they despise them. Their aim — singly and collectively — is the destruction of Western civilization and its replacement with a socialist utopia.

    And they imagine that they will be among the elect who rule that utopia.

    M

  5. Anthony says:

    Good lord, I read the news article about Mr. Moses going to prison for following the law. You asked why people were not outraged, I was not outraged because I did not even know about it, and that is telling of our media. Why was this not blasted across the airwaves of every 24 hour and local news stations in America? Now I have read the story and I am not only outraged, but I am horrified at how this innocent man, doing what he was contractually obligated by the government to do, was sent to prison. It horrifies me because it seems the justice system no longer serves the good, law-abiding citizens, but it is there to imprison us and to do the bidding of big government, I am horrified because I have visions of the police dragging innocent people from there homes and while some may think I am talking about Nazi Germany, I fear it will happen here.

    I will do whatever I can to draw attention to the plight of this innocent man. I will be writing some letters to senators and congressman, hoping that someone will have a spine and stand up for this man.

    Anthony

  6. Noops says:

    I’m not advocating wealth redistribution or socialized healthcare, but the Republicans have been just as guilty of the “cementing power” issue as the Democrats. In fact, one way that I’ve had success in convincing liberals in the Pacific Northwest that the Second Amendment should be broad is “if you need an example if tyrannical power, you need only look at the Bush administration.” I don’t know how you get all that about liberals when we’ve seen the same from conservatives.

    Aside from that, and this is one I DO care about: Trickle down/supply-side economics have proven so disastrously silly and unsuccessful more than once now. Why do Republicans keep pushing these canards. I’m not advocating welfare state, but trickle down just doesn’t work. I’m an economist. And (I think)even a pretty good one. I’ve had some success in starting 3 for-profit businesses and 1 non-profit business.

    The reason I bring this up is that it contributes to your elite-versus-everyone else issue. Even if the Laffer Curve holds true, Republicans have basically gone one step farther and now claim that basically any tax cuts increase revenue. The supply side economics have helped the wealthy (of which I probably qualify) get wealthier, while buying power is down in almost every other demographic from inflation and (more importantly), real-wages are down across middle and lower class sectors. People say we’re not in a real recession because GDP is still positive, but I’m not sure that that’s the correct view anymore. Even if GDP is up, with real buying power lapsing on two fronts, unemployment increasing, and the dollar devaluing, we’ve got some issues, and the “elite” gap is widening.

    Now, I do agree that incentives matter, high tax rates are bad. However, in government we have some kind of bizarre Keynes/Friedman mix that is: Cutting taxes is good, increasing spending while cutting taxes is good. And Bush has setup just as much us-v-them as any other president, and more than most.

    And talk about “dignity deficit.” During the War on Terror, people were castigated for questioning Bush as Treasonous. And millions bought stupid magnets for their cars as though they actually supported something other than the yellow magnetic ribbon industry. You here, state that questioning the government is not only good, but the obligation of sovereign citizenry, but we sure have traded a lot of our dignity and liberty over the last few years to the Republican fear mongering.

    P.S. I’m not a Democrat. I registered independent and have voted both ways, depending on locale and issues.

  7. Sebastian says:

    I’m not sure this is an accurate description of the left’s reaction. I’ve seen a lot of outrage from the left over police using extreme tactics when they aren’t justified. The left is also the primary source of support for legalizing marijuana.

    Well, in general, it’s a stereotype. You will find lefties who get it. I’m speaking of the left collectively. Individual mileage may vary.

  8. Sebastian says:

    In regards to the “clearing brush out of a waterway” article, the author is Bryan Fischer. He’s extremely biased and unreliable. Rumor says he’s good friends with the developer he’s defending. Reading the opinion from the appeals court, the case appeared reasonable. Waterways are federally owned. Access is allowed, dumping of waste is not allowed. Dredged material is waste. It is irrelevant that there is not water in the riverbed at the time he’s dumping, because when the water does come down, it carries the waste with it.

    I understood that did not cover temporary waterways. But this is useful information. Is there any link you can provide that would give a better account of what went on here?

  9. Sebastian says:

    I’m not advocating wealth redistribution or socialized healthcare, but the Republicans have been just as guilty of the “cementing power” issue as the Democrats.

    I don’t really disagree. The powers that be agree on far too much intrusion into people’s business than I think is acceptable. I’m using the left as the example here, because I think they are most guilty of missing the big picture. They were on board with civil rights for blacks. They’ve championed a lot of minority groups that have traditionally been denied rights. That’s a good thing. But I think they need to look beyond that. In the larger scheme, liberty, everyone’s liberty, needs just as much protecting. Now more than ever. In some ways, I’m making an appeal to those types that they can make common cause with a lot of disenfranchised people, but aren’t because of cultural biases. We can still argue about health care, and still argue about global warming, checking power of corporations, taxes, etc. But on a lot of things, there should be common outrage.

  10. George says:

    Excellent post, Sebastian.

  11. Sebastian says:

    And talk about “dignity deficit.” During the War on Terror, people were castigated for questioning Bush as Treasonous.

    I think a lot of the anti-Bush rhetoric is pretty over the top, but a lot of the actions of The Administration in prosecuting the War on Terror have been atrocious. Arguing that American Citizens, arrested on American soil, can be subject to military detention without recourse to the courts is outrageous. But I also think the issue of how to deal with prisoners of war isn’t a topic that’s as cut and dry as many folks would like to believe. That’s not to say that a place like Guantanamo is necessarily lawful, but I wouldn’t be so quick to suggest that it isn’t either. The extent of the president’s military power during war is certainly a topic of debate, but it’s a serious one, and there hasn’t been much serious debate about it, outside of blogs. And not much among left blogs that I’ve seen.

  12. >Why is the left not outraged at repeated stories like this, and beginning to
    >question why police are using more and more military style tactics when
    >dealing with enforcing victimless crimes?

    On the issue of police corruption and abuse of power, the right’s record is just as execrable as the left’s.

  13. Sebastian says:

    Stormy:

    I don’t deny that. But is corruption and abuse of power really something we want the left and right agreeing on?

  14. Joe says:

    First of all, expecting politicians of any stripe to solve the problem of too much government is silly, if there really understood that as the issue, they wouldn’t be there.

    You notion of dignity is a important one, you only need to look to the ghetto culture to realize how important “respect” is to man’s sense of self worth. People will kill and die for it even in a culture that broken that it is unable to impose any morality of it’s own.

    As to Mr. Moses, I am certain that the technicals details are murky. I am also fairly certain, that he had property, that he owned and controlled, and had for a long time. I see no indication that he changed what he was doing, a bureaucrat changed the interpretation of the rules on him and took from Mr Mose’s his right to own and use the property, that was previously his.

    The ownership of property and the consistent even application rules of society are the ways that man in modern society has to possess dignity. Bureaucrats attack both, independent of the party in “charge”.

  15. Andrew C says:

    Sebastian,

    I’m reading the appeals court opinion (pdf). The relevant section on whether the stream is considered a “waterway” is on pages 2-8.

    To roughly summarize, the question is if the waterway is part of the “waters of the United States.” Moses argues that it is not, since Rapanos v United States states that “waters of the United States” covers “relatively permanent,
    standing or continuously flowing bodies of water.” The court disagrees with this interpretation, since the Rapanos case specifically states that it does not exclude ““seasonal rivers, which contain continuous flow during
    some months of the year but no flow during dry
    months.”

    So on that basis, this seasonal river can be included under “waters of the United States”. It contains continuous flow during the spring thaw.

    The court did not charge Mr. Moses on any of his actions prior to 2002. Between 2002 and 2005, the court claims he was sent several notices to cease his actions, to which he did not respond.

    Bryan Fischer, the author of the article, is part of the “Idaho Values Alliance”. An organization with a name like that sets off the same mental alarms as the phrase “It’s for the children.” Truth and accuracy are irrelevant, if ignoring them helps the agenda.

  16. Sebastian says:

    Thanks for the info there. I still think the law he was punished under is relatively ridiculous, but that certainly changes the narrative a bit doesn’t it?

  17. georgeh says:

    Mr. Moses is a saint.
    His persecution is well past what it would take to make a violent terrorist of me.

  18. >But is corruption and abuse of power really something we want the left and
    >right agreeing on?

    No, but I wanted to refute your ‘if the liberal elites don’t start worrying about this, they’re going to face a revolt’. The disaffected people you mention by and large have no problem with police abuse itself, and indeed will cheer them on as tough on crime crusaders. The only time many of them bring it up is situationally if it becomes a convenient cudgel for bashing a liberal. As soon as the situation passes they forget about it, because they aren’t sincerely bothered by it.

    The left/right divide in the country is largely based not on any substantative policy differences, but purely out of tribalism. So a discussion of what the left should do is pointless: the right doesn’t hate the left for what they do, but because they’re The Other, and vice versa.

  19. Sebastian says:

    Stormy,

    I don’t think a lot of those disaffected people are as amiable to police misconduct as you might think. But keep in mind, I’m making generalizations here, to which there will be exceptions. I agree that the left/right divide has elements of tribalism, but would you go so far as to day the divide has no ideological component to it at all? Sure, there are some people who pick their political party based on family and community traditions, but if that were the only case, our political landscape would forever be static.

    Surely there’s an ideological component to divide between progressive Democrats and conservative/libertarian Republicans in this country, no? One of my big concern about Progressive Democrats is they don’t seem to have the same blanket concern for civil liberties that they once did.

  20. JJR says:

    Thought provoking post, and (mostly) good responses in the comments. As you know, I’m a a Lefty, and yes, I’m outraged at a lot of the same things you are in your post above.

    I’ve got my own reasons to dislike Obama and not vote for him. His gun controlling past for sure, but I’ve got plenty of solidly Lefty reasons not to vote for him either.

    As one of my favorite Lefty political blogs provocatively puts it: “They American Left May Not Be Much, But It Won’t Be Anything At All Until It Ditches The Democrats”.

  21. >Surely there’s an ideological component to divide between progressive
    >Democrats and conservative/libertarian Republicans

    Yes, if you mean actual progressives/convservatives/libertarians. But that’s only 10-15% of each party. Most people merely say progressive/convservative/libertarian things (usually without really understanding the meaning of what they’re saying) but act in an entirely different fashion.

    Take the recent thing with McCain accusing Obama of liking arugala. For someone who actually cares about public policy, this is completely irrelevant to anything I care about. Bringing it up is an insult to my intelligence. Yet I know a lot of ‘convservative’ Republican for whom that sort of crap is a big deal. And there’s a lot more of them than there are of me.

  22. oldblinddog says:

    Noops said:
    Trickle down/supply-side economics have proven so disastrously silly and unsuccessful more than once now.

    Besides the fact that that is a rediculous statement on it’s face, Reaganomics (as the left likes to call them) was first proposed by JFK. Of course that is where Reagan learned of it. He was a democrat back then.

    Stormy Dragon said:
    Bringing it up is an insult to my intelligence.

    No it’s not. It’s a joke. And that you and others on the left don’t get it is very telling.

  23. ATL says:

    “The media is perhaps the worst of the bunch when it comes to standing up for justice and liberty, and holding the powerful accountable. Sure, they are willing to do it when it involves topics the left disapproves of, but they tend to ignore a lot of Americans’ deeply established and held values.”

    These litany of abuses come from when we as citizens have not done our job. Little by little; bit by bit we have lost our freedoms because generations of Americans have believed that these other institutions would enforce our will. I hope the short amount of time has awoken Americans to what has been going on for well over a century!

    These things have happened because we have delegated our responsibilities to organizations such as the ACLU, NRA, and the Media. Whatever these organizations are we must understand that our freedoms and rights are our responsibility. When we don’t show up to vote, when we don’t call our representatives, when we don’t stay involved- what can you expect? The only reason things have gotten this bad is because we have allowed them to.

    This discontent is the wages of our sins which in this case was complacency and laziness. Why do it yourself when you can give money for someone else to do it for you? “It’s not my job to call my congressman, that’s why I give money to the NRA.” You wonder why things have gotten to where they are now? You want someone to blame? Look in the mirror!

    P.S. Sebastian thank you for running a great site. You know you are working hard and are effective when Helmke has to mention you in his satanic jihad against human rights.

  24. >No it’s not. It’s a joke. And that you and others on the left don’t get it is very
    >telling.

    Thank you for proving my point. You know nothing of my political beliefs. But if I criticized McCain, I must be from the left. Because the distinction has nothing to do with positions, only with whether I’m in your tribe or not.

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