Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Apocalypse Right After I Get My Social Security Check!

If I had any sense I'd be in bed now -- I have to be up early tomorrow -- but I have no sense. Besides, my right-wing acquaintance, RWA1, posted a link on Facebook to this review of a forthcoming book by Reid Buckley, a brother of the late "fons et origo of the Right" William F. Buckley Jr. (According to this rightblogger, the 80-year-old Reid is "an analog conservative in a digital age.")

The review is a hoot, in its way; I am still not sure it is serious. I asked RWA1 (who commented that it "sounds like a stimulating book - just the antidote for euphoria") if the post hadn't really come from The Onion. No answer yet.

The reviewer, one Joe Rehyansky, declares himself tempted to tell Buckley to "Lighten up" (at least he doesn't want him to "Chill"), but concedes:
Still, all ’round us is the overwhelming and irrefutable evidence: a population unable to write coherently, speak clearly, or even think rationally; instant communications which have hyped us along the way toward a mass anti-culture that seeks the lowest common denominator in all things, finds it, and lowers it further still; a national debt approaching $100 trillion when one factors in the unfunded looming liabilities of Medicaid, Medicare, and Social Security; the most arrogant and ignorant president in, well, forever, and a universal suffrage composed largely of the Gadarene swine that elected him; a conservative movement revived but led to only a temporary victory by another of Reid’s older brothers, the late irreplaceable William F. Buckley, Jr. (nothing more than a rear guard action in the author’s view, now carried on by a National Review that has suffered a “terminal descent of the magazine’s wit”); and men who wear baseball caps at meals.
He can't be serious, can he? Rehyansky's prose is prime evidence of his own complaint about "a population unable to write coherently, speak clearly, or even think rationally," to say nothing of that "lowest common denominator", but who would judge the US by him? He goes on:
Reid believes that a return to small-government conservatism is impossible, and points out that even the founding fathers discussed the proposition that the republic they birthed and for which we now yearn was workable only in a small country with, the author adds, a homogeneous population. We fit the bill in those days: a population of 2,500,000 mostly rural freemen of primarily Anglo-Saxon stock who were at least aware of the Magna Carta and the freedoms passed down from their ancestors who had wrung it out of King John. Put it plainly: They were proud, you betcha. With the emancipation of the slaves and the mass migrations from continental Europe — especially Eastern Europe — and Asia, our national identity changed with our racial heritage, and so did our expectations of government. Our population is a hodgepodge of racial and ethnic incongruity, and is 124 times what it was when the founders established a government to serve white yeoman farmers.
I'm impressed that the Daily Caller gives space to such open and unapologetic racism in this day and age, but I wonder how RWA1, who is an immigrant from the Eastern Europe that Rehyansky sees as part of our problem, can read it without at least feeling a twinge. The Buckleys, it should be remembered, aren't Anglo-Saxons but Irish Papists, the kind of people about whom a distinguished Anglo-Saxon historian wrote around 1881, America "would be a great land, if only every Irishman would kill a negro, and be hanged for it." For that matter, "Rehyansky" is not the name of a "white yeoman farmer," but something more like a bomb-throwing nihilist from Petrograd. Yet he doesn't see this as interfering with his own grasp of the Magna Carta, or the freedoms other people's ancestors wrung from King John. Whatever the reason, that grasp is pretty feeble.

I like that bit about the US Constitution being "established ... to serve white yeoman farmers." Well, maybe a bit. But the Framers of the Constitution themselves were anything but yeomen.
Two were small farmers. A dozen ran plantations or large farms worked by slaves. Others were land speculators, financial speculators, thirteen were merchants, and "Thirty-five were lawyers or had benefited from legal education, though not all of them relied on the profession for a livelihood. Some had also become judges.[9]" While some of them may have been altruists concerned only to serve the yeoman, I think it's fair to suppose that the Constitution was also established to serve the interests of the kinds of men who wrote it. And so it has done, though I realize it's highly Politically Incorrect of me to say so.

And "a population of 2,500,000 mostly rural freemen of primarily Anglo-Saxon stock"? The 1790 Census, one of the first intrusions of Big Government into American citizens' lives, also showed about 700,000 slaves living here. But they didn't count as part of that homogeneous population. Neither did the Indians, but there's no way to know how many were living in what would later become the Continental US. I doubt either Buckley or Rehyansky is interested in assimilating either group, but if the freed slaves were ill-prepared for freedom, that was hardly their fault, and white racism ensured that they would be denied proper education after they were emancipated.

Rehyansky relishes the prospect that "those at the bottom will continue to dwell there, mired in sloth and indolence, squalor and ignorance, while the top gets lower and eventually we 'run out of other people’s money,' meet at the bottom and … Then what? Cannibalism, I suppose." But not before he gets his own loot from "other people's money" -- he welcomes government gridlock in the coming two years but, he adds frankly, "always provided, of course, that there be a residue of surviving federal activity sufficient to get my Army pension and Social Security payments into our bank. (Tennessee has not been allowed to print its own currency since 1865 and must therefore balance its budget, so my tiny state pension is secure.)" But then he's from the government and he's here to help, being "retired from the United States Army and the Chattanooga, Tennessee, District Attorney' Office." Productive work, like self-reliance, is for other people, as it was for William F. Buckley Jr. and his rich family.

This all reminds me of a charming passage from the Canadian-American journalist and Bush speechwriter David Frum's tract Dead Right (Basic Books, 1994) in which he complained in all seriousness:
Just as little Vietnamese children began their history lesson with "Nos ancetres, les gallois" during French colonial times, today little Vietnamese children in New York learn about "our ancestors who built Zimbabwe" and draw maps of Africa.
He had a point, in a way, but I've always wondered why it was any less strange to him that "little Vietnamese children in New York" should learn instead about, say, 'their' ancestors who landed on Plymouth Rock. I'm another one of those American mongrels that Reid Buckley deplores (German-Irish-French, according to my parents), and if I could learn about 'my' Pilgrim forefathers, why not also about my African forefathers who built Zimbabwe and my Asian forefathers who built the Great Wall? For that matter, Egyptian, Greek and Roman history were taught to me as part of my heritage no less than the Magna Carta and Shakespeare, and they are no more or less foreign to me than Zimbabwe or the Han Dynasty. But if the Magna Carta is inaccessible to people of Asian and African descent, it's just as inaccessible to Reid Buckley, Joe Rehyansky, and RWA1.