Never forget September 11, 2001

Sixteen years.  That’s how long it’s been since the worst terrorist attack in American history.  A total of 2,996 people dead or never accounted for.  Symbols of American power struck without warning: both World Trade center towers and the Pentagon.  The actions of informed passengers on a fourth plane likely averted a strike on the White House or Congress.

An entire generation had horrifying visions of previously unimaginable events happening in their own nation, with memories firmly etched into their minds.

They say time heals all wounds. And for the families of those lost that day I hope there is some measure of truth in it. But there is a flip side: such events fade in the public consciousness, such that they no longer inform or shape how the nation acts. To quote the opening of the movie “The Fellowship of the Ring,”

“…some things that should not have been forgotten were lost. History became legend, legend became myth…” (click “continue reading” below to continue)

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Stealing inheritances

I know of someone whose parents, while he was just a wee lad, broke into several antique stores, amassing a tidy little sum fencing the artifacts before retiring from such activity.  Then the family settled into the quiet life of the “Nouveau riche.”  There was just one problem: eventually the authorities broke the case and discovered who was responsible for the string of thefts.  By this time, my acquaintance was just entering a fairly respectable college, fully expecting to afford the tuition with ease.

That is, until his parents were exposed and all their assets seized.  But since it would be unfair to deny him such a great educational opportunity just because his parents had broken the law, the court ruled the family could keep the money and send him to school. The various antique store owners and their families were astonished.

Outrageous, no?

OK – confession time.  The above is made up, and I don’t actually know of such a case. But there are apparently a lot of people who would agree with the fictional court ruling above.  These are the people who want to allow the children of illegal immigrants to stay in the United States, despite their parents breaking the law to get them here.

“But a child shouldn’t have to suffer for their parents’ actions!”  It’s an easy statement to agree with, emotionally.  And yet children do suffer the consequences of their parents’ actions every day.   Children are fatherless because of “no-fault” divorces.  Children live in poverty because their parents failed to acquire skills or motivation to work a decent paying job. Children are beaten when parents abuse alcohol or drugs and fly into rages. On and on the list could go.

Our nation is being played emotionally yet again to allow people to stay here who never had any right to be here in the first place.  I understand sending away people who’ve lived here their whole life seems cruel.  But is it compassion to allow wave after wave of invaders to break into America, depressing wages and driving up social spending for those already legally here?  Does it serve justice to have an immigration policy that, in effect says, “you have to follow this specific process… unless you can successfully hide out illegally in the U.S. long enough to become a sob story when you’re discovered?” Does it build confidence in the integrity of our institutions when those charged with enforcing the law go out of their way to obstruct it:

The NYPD says the (DACA) protesters arrested outside Trump Tower (Tuesday) won’t have to be fingerprinted if they provide their information willingly — no fingerprints means no arrest information transmitted to Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

After all, we wouldn’t want to deport any of these people who are now so bold as to say “yeah, we broke the law to get here, but we deserve to stay anyway!”

The other heartstring being pulled is “if you enforce the law it will break up families!” This is only because the United States is one of the few nations left in the world where geography of birth confers citizenship (via a grossly expanded reading of the 14th Amendment*, which was dealing with the end of slavery, not immigration in general).  The Founders talked about “securing the blessings of liberty to our posterity.” That means the descendants of Americans.  One should not receive automatic citizenship unless at least one of your biological parents is already an American (even if they themselves are a naturalized citizen).  Our current process created an “anchor baby” loophole through which hundreds of thousands of migrants have put down dubious roots in our land.

And it is our land.  Not just anybody’s.  To state otherwise is to void any semblance of a nation-state or international borders.  It’s understandable that parents want to provide the best life they can for their children.  But they must do so legally.  Allowing the children of illegal immigrants to remain in the U.S. is the moral equivalent of allowing my fictional acquaintance to keep the ill-gotten gains his parents arranged.

So no, enforcement doesn’t mean breaking up families.  It means they should all go back.  Thirty years ago Ronald Reagan was played a fool by agreeing to a deal for amnesty in return for better border security and stricter immigration.  As we all know, only the first half of that deal occurred.  I guarantee Congress will try the same thing again, now the Trump has (properly) put this issue back to the legislature instead of trying to rule by Executive Order as his predecessor did.  We cannot allow our Congresscritters to hold stricter immigration and border security hostage to the demands of people who literally have no legal standing to be in the United States in the first place.  We must communicate to them clearly and loudly that we won’t consent to a second sucker’s deal.  On a tangential note, isn’t it interesting the GOP couldn’t fulfill its promise of repealing Obamacare, but within hours of the Administration’s DACA announcement there is already bipartisan support building to let the “Dreamers” (a propaganda term if there ever was one) remain in the U.S.?  Who, exactly, do these “representatives” represent?

Build the Wall.  Deport the lawbreaking illegal immigrants — all of them.  

This is not a race issue.  It is not a “realizing the American dream” issue.  It is an issue of whether we are a nation of laws, and one that is willing to defend the inheritance intended to be handed down to future generations.  If we fail this test we may as well erase the borders from all maps, because they will have become meaningless.

And our children will watch helplessly as invaders finish squandering the legacy of their ancestors.  

Let’s remember that when anti-American globalists try to play the emotion card.

(*) – The 14th Amendment is by far the single longest amendment to the Constitution, and the various broad judicial readings of its provisions have dramatically changed the way in which our system of governance operates.  But that’s a post for another time…

Attempting to be an art critic

I’ve been seeing this image pop up here and there across the Internet.  It’s by the same painter who did one of Obama a few years back in response to the passage of Obamacare.  The two form something of a bookend set.

jmYouAreNotForgotten 002

I think the original Obama painting was spot on, depicting as it did an aloof and arrogant president trampling the Constitution while all his predecessors (except a few to Obama’s right, or the “left” side of the crowd) looked on with expressions of “what the hell, man?”  The message of the original painting was clear.

As for the one above, I can appreciate that it’s not Trump who is center stage.  We don’t need blind hero worship or the man-on-the-white-horse syndrome here.  Trump’s depicted standing on a snake, which may be more Biblical allegory than I’m willing to extend to him.  That said, D.C. Mordor is definitely snake-infested in our day, and much of the hissing against Trump comes from that serpentine choir.  But the center of the action is a young family watering a plant (perhaps the Tree of Liberty?) in what is very parched soil.  The message could well be interpreted as Trump trying to buy time for the next generation to refresh our nation.  Changing who’s in office won’t matter until the culture itself has been changed.  Politics, it is said, flows downstream from culture.

I’m sure in this era of professional grievance-mongering, others will count faces and point out there are only a few non-white characters in the crowd.  But look who they are: Sheriff David Clarke, an outspoken patriot; an unnamed World War II veteran in a wheelchair who clearly gave to his country; an unnamed black lady and a minority man holding folded U.S. flags, signifying loss of loved ones in service to the nation.

The fault lines in this country today are not so much Republican-Democrat than they are traditionalist/progressive.  As the many “RINO” Republicans demonstrate, the parties don’t cleanly align with the other dichotomy (Sheriff Clarke, by the way, is a registered Democrat).  There are simply those who believe the “bourgeoisie” values that made this nation successful are worth preserving (perhaps “restoring” would be more accurate by this point), and the inaptly named “progressives” who would continue to tear down those values in a vague utopian quest that has ended in tragedy time and again throughout human history.

The takeaways?

  • Don’t expect Trump to solve every problem.
  • Those who love this land and the values that made it must be active in restoring them.
  • Teach your children well.  One generation — the Boomers — left a huge wake of cultural destruction.  This shows how a single generation can change a nation.  Make sure those who are our heirs are prepared to change it again by valuing and defending their inheritance.

One final thought about watering the “tree of liberty” — the artist is optimistic in his portrayal.  Thomas Jefferson warned that nourishing that fragile plant sometimes takes more than water (though his quote is often used without context).  Hope/pray for the best; prepare for the worst.

Sauce for the goose…

Glenn Reynolds of Instapundit has some sage advice for those on the Left who both want to have a “living Constitution” and block the Supreme Court nomination of Judge Neil Gorsuch: “Be careful what you ask for, because you won’t like it if you get it.”

He has a point.  One reason for Leftism’s steady march to ascendancy is that they play fast and loose in the courts with the meaning of the Constitution (even its most clear sections), whereas Conservatives (so far…) are loathe to use the judiciary as activists for change.  Reynold’s point is that Gorsuch is an ‘originalist’ when it comes to the Constitution, not a proponent of a “living document” that changes over time, and the Left should be glad for that.

Otherwise, they potentially would face a swift judicial rollback of their most cherished victories over the Framers’ original intent during the past 50 years:

During the New Deal era, the Supreme Court — after being threatened with “court packing” by FDR — endorsed a massive expansion of governmental power on the ground that it would lead to greater efficiency in the economy. Instead, we got a bloated bureaucracy with serious accountability problems, and a disastrous expansion in spending, regulation and federal debt. Based on this experience, I can imagine a conservative justice who sees the Constitution as a “living breathing organism” that must be kept in tune with the needs of the day deciding that the New Deal Court’s decisions were mistakes that violate the Constitution, and must now be rolled back.

To be honest, there is one point about this with which I disagree with the Instapundit.  A truly “originalist” court would indeed roll back much of the New Deal, because it was recognized even at the time as a fundamental transformation of the relationship of the Federal Government to the States and the People… one that clearly violated the Constitution on several grounds.  Rather than fight activist legislating from the bench with more of the same, however, it would be far better to undo these poor decisions via Congress, so long as the judiciary would let stand changes clearly rooted in the original meaning of the Constitution.

Reynolds’ main point is sound, though: the Supreme Court needs to get back to a strict constructionist view of our charter, rather than blow hot and cold (or Left and Right) with the prevailing political winds.  If Gorsuch is confirmed and succeeds in tacking the court that direction, it will bode well for the future.

Testing… testing…

Tom Tancredo returns to an idea I’ve long supported:

Shouldn’t all voters possess that same rudimentary knowledge of the Constitution and our federal system of government as naturalized citizens? Why not require all citizens to pass the same civics exam as immigrants have to pass if they want to join the voter rolls?

  • Our naturalization laws require all legal immigrants seeking to become citizens to pass a civics exam before joining the ranks of two hundred million other voters— and the exam is administered in English. They can remain legal immigrants forever without becoming naturalized citizens, and many do, but if they want to vote they have to pass a civics exam as part of the naturalization process.

  • So, in a similar vein, we should say to natural-born citizens, you can be a citizen forever and enjoy all the rights and privileges of citizenship, but if you want to be a voter, if you want to choose the officials who make laws and decide on war and peace, you have to pass a simple civics exam.

 

Unlike the Jacobins in France, the Founders were realists, not radical egalitarians. They believed that while God endowed everyone with the right to Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, that if you wanted a larger role in society it had to be earned. They are roundly condemned today for not creating a universal franchise. And yet, the ignorance of so many modern voters would seem to imply there was wisdom in that approach.

As I’ve said before, we do not assume people have an inherent right to drive a car without being tested on their ability to do so in a way that doesn’t imperil others. Why, then, do we turn people loose with ballots without examining whether they even understand the system in which they seek to participate? And while we’re at it, let’s note that the original requirement to be a property owner to vote at least meant you had a stake in the outcome, and were thus more likely to pay attention to the effects of proposed legislation. In a similar vein, those who live long-term on public assistance today should have to forfeit their ability to vote until such time as they show the ability to provide for themselves. In one stroke this eliminates the self-serving welfare voter, and the ‘low-information voter’ shock troops for those who seek ever-larger government that comes at the expense of someone else.  For those who think expanding the franchise is always a good idea, consider the path Rome took from a patrician society that eventually ruled the known world of its day, to a plebian mob that was only satisfied with ever-larger bread and circuses.  Sound familiar?  It should.(*)

We hand out privileges such as immigration or the ability to vote far too cheaply in our land today.  People are allowed to jump across our borders in flagrant disregard of our laws, and too many of our own people believe doing so then entitles them to a drivers license and a voice in our public policyThat’s ridiculous.  “What we obtain too cheap, we esteem too lightly: it is dearness only that gives every thing its value. Heaven knows how to put a proper price upon its goods; and it would be strange indeed if so celestial an article as freedom should not be highly rated.”  While Thomas Paine was referring to the price of the struggle in the winter of 1776, I submit we are no less in an “American Crisis” today, in large part because we no longer see these privileges as precious gifts to be treasured and guarded from those who have no appreciation for them.

We live today in the mobocracy the Founders feared.  It’s well past time we did something about that.

(*) Keep in mind, too, that the French Revolution of “Liberty, Fraternity, EQUALITY” ended up in the overwhelming ‘election’ of Napoleon as “First Consul for Life.”  After dropping the pretense and declaring himself Emperor, he waged a decade of constant war against the rest of Europe.  Still think an enlarged electorate is always a wise electorate?

Separate ways, worlds apart

Scripture asks what fellowship light can have with darkness.

Abraham Lincoln paraphrased Christ when he noted that a house divided against itself cannot stand.

So where are we headed as a nation?

If a family disagreed as broadly as we Americans do on issues so fundamental as right and wrong, good and evil, the family would fall apart, the couple would divorce, and the children would go their separate ways.

Something like that is happening in the country.

A secession of the heart has already taken place in America, and a secession, not of states, but of people from one another, caused by divisions on social, moral, cultural, and political views and values, is taking place.

Covenants and nations require some common ground.  What we find today is inherently incompatible worldviews vying for affection.  How far we’ve come from the founding generation!  As John Jay noted in Federalist #2:

Providence has been pleased to give this one connected country to one united people—a people descended from the same ancestors, speaking the same language, professing the same religion, attached to the same principles of government, very similar in their manners and customs, and who, by their joint counsels, arms, and efforts, fighting side by side throughout a long and bloody war, have nobly established general liberty and independence.

 

Let’s hope it doesn’t take another “long and bloody war” to reset a basic common frame of reference.

Are we smarter than a medieval baron?

I fear we are losing the rule of law in the United States and in the West — the idea that all are equally accountable to external standards and that even the State must respect certain boundaries.  Eight centuries ago today, one of the great expressions of these concepts was signed: Magna Carta.  The nobles who forced King John to concede these principles knew something of human nature.  For all our pretenses at modern superiority, we seem to have forgotten many of the things they knew, and upon which succeeding generations built.

Those barons who pressured a king to give his seal to a document in an English field 800 years ago could not have imagined the extraordinary impact it would have on human affairs, reshaping not just England but also America and France and even inspiring activists as far afield as Africa and China. This shows that once it had been expressed, the fundamental idea contained with Magna Carta — that restraints are required to limit officialdom’s power — could not be suppressed; the genie could not be forced back in the bottle. More importantly, it shows that freedom must be fought for over and over again. Magna Carta on its own guarantees nothing. How could it? It is merely a piece of paper. Rather, it was the human urge for more liberty, the desire to enjoy choice and freedom and a private life away from the prying eyes and barging elbows of authority, that encouraged future generations to act on Magna Carta, to demand that it be respected and expanded and made into a living, breathing, constitutional reality.

The problem we face today is profound. Firstly, respect for legal rights is in short supply, as evidenced in everything from British governments’ assaults on the right to silence and the ‘double jeopardy’ rule to America’s undermining of the Fourth Amendment through its spying on citizens. And secondly, even worse, the spirit of freedom, the urge within citizens for greater liberty and autonomy, seems weak, too. In short, the two things that guaranteed Magna Carta’s historic, humanity-changing impact — first, the rights it articulated on paper, and second, successive generations’ determination to make those rights real— are waning. And so we are seeing the gains of the Magna Carta era, of the past 800 years of pretty much non-stop struggling for greater liberty, being slowly undermined.

We need a new and serious debate on freedom, on why it’s important and why we need more of it.

To survive, freedom must be valued more than many other things, such as government largesse (which always comes with strings), baldly seeking partisan advantage or an obsession with safety (which brings fearfulness that is exploited by those who would control). Freedom is not obtained merely by the risk of soldiers’ blood. It is secured by the willingness of citizens to assume responsibility for themselves, to adhere to a set of rules that transcend our momentary whims, and to challenge anyone who would dare direct their lives for them.