Strong words rooted in history

But meaningless unless backed by equally strong action:

The morning after the Trump administration sued California over its immigration policies, U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions Wednesday appeared in downtown Sacramento to say states cannot defy the federal government when it comes to immigration

“A refusal to apprehend and deport those, especially the criminal element, effectively rejects all immigration law and creates an open borders system,” Sessions declared. “Open borders is a radical, irrational idea that cannot be accepted.

“There is no nullification. There is no secession,” Sessions said. “Federal law is ‘the supreme law of the land.’ I would invite any doubters to Gettysburg, and to the graves of John C. Calhoun and Abraham Lincoln.”

The invocation of John C. Calhoun and nullification is particularly appropriate.  Calhoun’s South Carolina in 1832 claimed the power to “nullify” a hated Federal tariff by simply refusing to collect it within the State’s borders.  The president at the time, Andrew Jackson, was emphatic about Federal supremacy within its Constitutional sphere.  At his behest, Congress passed the Force Act, essentially giving Jackson the power to use military force if necessary to compel compliance and collection of duties.  It never reached that point, in no small part because of Henry Clay’s gifted statesmanship in Congress.  But the situation emphasized the power struggle over Federal versus State prerogatives nearly two decades before Southerners fired on Ft. Sumter.

One interesting aspect of the “Nullification Crisis” was that it pitted a sitting president (Jackson) against his own vice-president (Calhoun).  Two years prior to the crisis this conflict had been made apparent at the 1830 Jefferson Day dinner.  The president, aiming a barb at Calhoun and signaling his waning support for Southern arguments about States’ rights, toasted “Our Union; it must be preserved.”

Calhoun shot back: “The Union, next to our liberty most dear.  May we all remember that it can only be preserved by respecting the rights of the States, and distributing equally the benefits and burdens of the Union.”

What, you thought today’s political divisions were unprecedented?  Hardly.

Here’s the point of the history brief: the immigration confrontation flips the usual situation where “conservatives” advocate the 10th Amendment’s reservation of power to the States while “liberals” seek to use Federal supremacy in everything — the better to force change they likely could not through the electoral process.  As recently as the Obama administration Arizona attempted to strengthen border security, only to be sued by the Feds for stepping into an area of Federal supremacy.

Now the shoe’s on the other foot, with the parties in power reversed.  Arizona allegedly couldn’t strengthen its border security beyond the Federal level of enforcement, but California can loosen it?  While both sides are guilty of putting power over principle, it’s both more obvious and dangerous with the sudden liberal embrace of claiming exceptions to Federal power.  The same leftist groups who argued before Federal judges in 2016 that North Carolina couldn’t ban confused men from women’s restrooms is now arguing California can have its own foreign policy in the area of immigration.  Okay…

Here’s what California and Calhoun have in common (besides both being Democrats, but I digress…): both were/are Constitutionally wrong.  Some readers may be surprised to see me write that, because Constitutionally I am a strict constructionist who interprets (in keeping with the 10th Amendment) the document as a constraint on Federal power, and am generally sympathetic to defending States’ rights.  That said, if the document expressly gives the Feds a particular power, there’s no arguing it.  In the case of Calhoun’s fight against tariffs, Article 1, Section 8 (*) of the Constitution clearly grants Congress the power to levy taxes, duties, imposts and excises, provided they are uniform throughout all States.

The Constitution does not contain the word “immigration,” but in the same section cited above grants Congress the power to establish a uniform rule of naturalization.  This means States and cities have no authority to establish “sanctuaries” where illegal immigrants are given the same privileges as citizens.  Those local authorities who do so are in defiance of the Constitution, and have abrogated any oath they took to support and uphold it.  They should be held appropriately accountable for that.

Because the “sanctuary” concept has become so trendy in Leftist circles, the Trump administration now faces widespread defiance of Federal authority.  Trump is sometimes compared to Jackson (faulty personality and all).  One wonders whether he will rely solely on the courts, where your mileage varies considerably concerning Constitutional interpretation, or whether he will follow Jackson’s more direct approach.  Or, for that matter, President Lincoln’s:

WHEREAS the laws of the United States have been, for some time past, and now are opposed, and the execution thereof obstructed, in the States of South Carolina, Georgia, Alabama, Florida, Mississippi, Louisiana, and Texas, by combinations too powerful to be suppressed by the ordinary course of judicial proceedings, or by the powers vested in the marshals by law. (emphasis added)

Now, therefore, I, ABRAHAM LINCOLN, President of the United States, in virtue of the power in me vested by the Constitution and the laws, have thought fit to call forth, and hereby do call forth, the militia of the several States of the Union, to the aggregate number of seventy-five thousand, in order to suppress said combinations, and to cause the laws to be duly executed…

It’s a simple thing to substitute  California, Colorado, Illinois, New Mexico, Oregon and Vermont for the list of States in the first quoted paragraph above, and have the declaration apply to the issue of whether or not the United States can control its borders without local interference.

Given how divided we are as a nation, I have no doubt such a declaration would precede the same kind of national tragedy that Lincoln’s did.  It’s not the outcome I’d want, but reality has a way of disregarding our personal desires.   More than at any time since 1865, Americans need to rediscover how easy it is to read their own Constitution, and understand what policies are and are not acceptable under it.  That document used to be a unifying force in our national fabric.  Our current collective ignorance of it is a significant contributor to the political climate in which we find ourselves.

The tinder is very dry, and matches abound.  Pray for the best but prepare accordingly.

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(*) on a lighter note, I should point out I’ve long thought it funny that Article 1, Section 8 spells out the powers of Congress, while fans of the TV show M*A*S*H will recall the Army’s version of “section 8” refers to discharges due to mental unfitness.  Make of that what you will.

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History is rarely black and white

One of the most obvious targets of multiculturalism over the past 40 years has been a reinterpretation of Columbus’ voyage to the New World.  Where Americans in the early history of our nation learned the rhyme “In the year of our Lord 1492, Columbus sailed the ocean blue,” today’s progressives take issue with every part of that statement.  Their reinterpretation might run something like “In 1492 of the Common Era, Columbus unleashed all the New World’s terror.”

Columbus was neither saint nor monster.  It’s a symptom of the culture wars we live in that people expect to subscribe solely to one of the two views above.  Perhaps only a descendant of both Christopher Columbus and Montezuma II can truly appreciate the mixed bag of results from that fateful voyage of discovery:

History has some truly evil people. Columbus is certainly not one of them. Most often, history is not made up of perfect people and evil ones, but of complex people who must be understood in context.

What is happening at the hands of Columbus’ detractors is political, not historical. As his direct descendant and namesake, I should know.

Two cultures meeting for the first time in 1492 was no easy thing, but blaming Columbus for everything that went wrong hides the truth about him and about those who followed him. It also obscures the great things that the countries of the American hemisphere have accomplished.

What is lacking in the anti-Columbus narrative is any sense of history or of nuance…

Those who now question Columbus conveniently ignore the fact that slavery, cannibalism, warfare and even human sacrifice all existed in the Americas before he even sailed.

The modern Columbus points out that today’s generation has a difficult time understanding how religious faith permeated European society in the early 1500s.  Thus it is difficult for the modern “don’t judge” generation to understand the reaction of Europeans to seeing towers of skulls adorning Aztec architecture, or the bloody sacrifice of scores of natives by Aztec priests.  There was no sense of moral relativism at that time — or for centuries afterwards.  What the natives were doing was simply wrong by the most basic understanding of the Spaniards’ moral foundations.  So “civilizing” natives became a driving force in colonialization — as well as a rationalization for cruel behavior on the part of some Europeans, who took it as a license to abuse the “savages.”

This rationalization for abuses is rightly criticized today.  But it leads frequently to another error: assuming that the abuse of the natives means that their culture was somehow more noble than that of their sometime European tormentors.  This overreaction leads some today to whitewash the history of the precolumbian Americas. It’s not hard to detect this at work in the arts, when a prominent Hollywood production can be entitled “1492: Conquest of Paradise.”

Despite Disney’s Pocahontas singing about painting with “the colors of the wind” or the obvious parallels to the native experince in blockbusters like Avatar, the New World of 1492 was not some sort of New Age pantheistic utopia.  Such things simply don’t exist on earth.  Only the rejection of the Christian worldview (which sees all of creation as fallen and flawed — even the Western Civilization that was once known as Christendom) can lead to such a romanticization of indigenous life.  Yes, the arrival of the Europeans meant much of that way of life was lost.  But unless we’re arguing for a return of human sacrifice to one-up the current revival of tattoos, it’s hard to see that as a bad thing.

The truly sad thing is that so many of those today who focus on what was lost take little to no time to think about what was gained as well.  Representative government was unknown in the Americas before the Europeans arrived —  and it further developed and prospered in the incubator of the New World.  Even the poorest in the hemisphere today largely enjoy a standard of living higher than that of their ancestors (though you wouldn’t know that by the rhetoric of the Marxist-inspired Bolivarists who have wrecked Venezuela without any help from Columbus). By focusing on the admitted excesses of the post-1492 story, the tale of the very progress the progressives claim to seek is lost. Instead, grievances are nursed and divisions maintained.

Who benefits from that?

Idiots everywhere

I’m looking forward to seeing the movie “Dunkirk.”  Fewer and fewer Americans are aware of just how close Hitler came to dealing a fatal blow to the Allied cause well before America formally entered the war.

But when some people wonder why the corporate media have no credibility, they need look no further than USA Today’s review of the movie:

The movie captures the real-life heroism of the Dunkirk evacuation in 1940, when nearly 400,000 Allied soldiers were pulled out after the Germans trapped them on a beach in Nazi-occupied France. Nolan’s ambitious story revolves around three tales unfolding at different times over land, sea and air, only coming together at the end…

Dunkirk is also one of the best-scored films in recent memory, and Hans Zimmer’s music plays as important a role as any character. With shades of Edward Elgar’s Enigma Variations, the melodies are glorious, yet Zimmer also creates an instrumental ticking-clock soundtrack that’s a propulsive force in the action scenes.

So far, so good.  But then:

The trio of timelines can be jarring as you figure out how they all fit, and the fact that there are only a couple of women and no lead actors of color may rub some the wrong way.

(Cue scratching needle record here.)

The ONLY people who could be rubbed the wrong way by the casting of this film are those who are so historically and factually ignorant they should not be allowed within 100 miles of a voting booth or anywhere else that requires an informed decision.  For the record:

  • Nazi Germany was a nation of whites led by rabid Aryan supremacists
  • The United Kingdom in 1940 had not yet been overrun by the backwash from its imperial expansion, and so was just as white.  Admittedly, there were a handful of Indian troops among the British Expeditionary Force, but they hardly played a “lead” role.
  • The evacuation of Dunkirk occurred in France.  And while that country has long been in the vanguard of multiculturalism, only the Foreign Legion in 1940 would have had many “people of color” — and they weren’t at Dunkirk.

I suspect the reviewer was aware of most, if not all of the above. The fact he felt it necessary to insert that tripe into what was otherwise a very informative review just shows where we are as a society today.

Who knows… maybe in 25 years the role of Winston Churchill will be played by a transgendered black actress. Because diversity.

Knowing the heritage

While it’s not wrong to celebrate the Fourth with fireworks and hamburgers, a “holiday” isn’t really a holiday unless one takes at least a moment to remember the significance of what is being celebrated.  Today we celebrate one of the most radical statements in history, the signers of whom literally pledges their lives, fortunes and sacred honor to bring into reality.

Would YOU be willing to put everything on the line for these words today?

In Congress, July 4, 1776.

The unanimous Declaration of the thirteen united States of America,

When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.–That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, —

That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.

Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn, that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security.

Such has been the patient sufferance of these Colonies; and such is now the necessity which constrains them to alter their former Systems of Government. The history of the present King of Great Britain is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations, all having in direct object the establishment of an absolute Tyranny over these States. To prove this, let Facts be submitted to a candid world:  Continue reading

Communism’s record

Although I’m a day late this year, I think the trend of using May 1st as a day to remember the victims of communism is a good development.  Given the annual parades and pageants on the Left to celebrate “workers’ solidarity” every May 1st, the effort to remember where Marxism leads is a useful corrective.

A more full record of communism’s cost can be found here.

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Sad, but true

Many students from other nations come to study in the United States — a robust tradition that helps bridge cultural divides.  One would hope that coming here would leave a good impression.  Sadly, that’s far from the case.  When comparing their experience here to the expectations they face back home, the U.S. frequently comes up short:

Students from abroad are even more likely today to describe U.S. classes as easier than they were in 2001. The combined “much easier” and “a little easier” responses grew from 85.2% in 2001 to 90.0% in 2016. The change in the “much easier” rating, increasing from 55.9% to 66.4%, is statistically significant.

I currently teach in a private high school.  This year, I have two Vietnamese exchange students (one male, one female).  Not only are they consistently at or near the top of their class standings, they sometimes visibly react to their fellow students’ occasional whine (my words, not theirs) about things being “too hard.”  Frankly, it’s embarrassing. Whereas these guests don’t hesitate to ask well-thought questions or double-check their understanding, my local students’ questions are often a variation of “is this something we have to know for the test?”  (My standard answer is to ask them: “is it in the reading?”  After they respond “yes,” I remind them any such material is fair game.  No, I’m not the most popular teacher among the seniors.)

Surprisingly, as my US History class recently began the Vietnam War era, the exchange student in that class seemed reluctant when I approached him privately to encourage him to share his nation’s perspective on that time.   Only after communicating with his host family did I learn that not much at all is taught about that period in Vietnam.  Perhaps they’re consciously putting it behind them.  Regardless, it’s somewhat interesting to know my exchange student is learning about that era for the first time, alongside his American classmates.

That said, I have no doubt he’ll ace the exam, or come close to it.

The main difference I can see between public and private schools is that discipline is much better maintained in the latter.  But while there are some standout exceptions, most students aren’t interested in doing any more than the bare minimum, the same as their public school counterparts.  Like many teachers, I try to use gimmicks and games to increase interest, but the sad fact is that we simply don’t expect as much of ourselves as we once did.  When I look at what was expected of eighth graders just over a century ago, I marvel at how far we, as a nation, have fallen.

And I wonder sometimes if our current public educational systems are designed to produce historically illiterate, logically challenged graduates who’ll take the word of “experts” at face value because they don’t know any better.

“If a nation expects to be ignorant and free, in a state of civilization, it expects what never was and never will be.” – Thomas Jefferson

The war on history & a heritage of liberty

The was never any doubt in my mind that the cultural cleansing of Confederate flags and symbols would be expanded into something much broader:

The EEOC has already ruled that coworkers’ wearing Confederate flag T-shirts can be punishable harassment (a decision that I think is incorrect); and, unsurprisingly, this is extending to other political speech as well.

On January 8, 2014, Complainant filed a formal complaint in which he alleged that the Agency subjected him to discrimination on the basis of race (African American) and in reprisal for prior EEO activity when, starting in the fall of 2013, a coworker (C1) repeatedly wore a cap to work with an insignia of the Gadsden Flag, which depicts a coiled rattlesnake and the phrase “Don’t Tread on Me.”

Complainant stated that he found the cap to be racially offensive to African Americans because the flag was designed by Christopher Gadsden, a “slave trader & owner of slaves.”  (emphasis added)

Stop and think about the criteria emphasized above.  If anything associated with a “slave trader” or “owner of slaves” is now tainted and subject to removal from the public square, then we have lost the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, the Bill of Rights, and pretty much the entire foundation of our heritage.  It takes discernment to make distinctions between attitudes and actions we now recognize as wrong (i.e. enslavement and racism), and legitimate contributions by human beings every bit as flawed and imperfect as we are today.  Regrettably, discernment is sorely lacking in our society today.

The EEOC acknowledges (then ignores) the context of the creation of the Gadsden flag, which was an early symbol of the rebellion that became known as the American Revolution.  While the Southern Cross or the Stars and Bars (not the same flag!) can be legitimately criticized for their association with a breakaway region explicitly devoted to the preservation of slavery and racial hierarchy during the War Between the States, the Gadsden Flag has NO such historical connotation, despite a few modern groups’ attempts to appropriate it for such causes.

I believe this storied yellow flag is being targeted because of its association with the Tea Party protests of a few years ago against Obamacare and other examples of ineffective, inefficient, wasteful and unresponsive government. It remains a symbol of defiance and independence, which runs contrary to the increasing demands for compliance and conformity in our land.  Thus, symbols that inspire and remind Americans about their heritage must be controlled or eliminated. (Prediction: they’ll go after this symbol next.)

People like myself with genuine concerns about the direction of our country tried a few years ago to demonstrate and appropriately ‘petition for the redress of grievances,’ and the Gadsden Flag quickly became a symbol of that segment of the citizenry — which should have been a warning to any leader with a sense of history.  But at the time the professional punditry and not a few of our national leaders smeared the whole movement as some sort of racist enterprise and ignored them. Then they were surprised at the sudden surge of support for a deeply flawed and disruptive candidate like Trump.

There’s a lesson there: when people believe acting traditionally and respectfully gets their legitimate concerns libeled and dismissed, they stop acting as civilly.  If our national leaders (on both sides of the aisle) don’t start actively addressing these concerns–the very real negative effects of free trade and unfettered immigration, a lack of faith that our nation is secure, bloated, wasteful and ineffective agencies and programs, and a general sense that our whole government is just one great big racket for the well-connected–then the next standard bearer for them is likely to be even less palatable from a civil, traditional perspective.

The clock is ticking, the tinder is drier than it’s been in generations, and we have perhaps the most tone-deaf, insular and arrogant leadership class in our nation’s history.  Absent a miracle, I don’t expect this to play out well.

Based on their frantic cultural cleansing, it appears they don’t, either.

Remember, America.

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