Monday, October 30, 2006


“The past is a foreign country,” said British author L. P. Hartley, “they do things differently there.” True enough, but I wouldn’t have thought 23 years was long enough to get a time traveler out of state, much less to a different continent.

Twenty three years is the time that separates the censure of the late Democrat Congressman Gerry Studds and the resignation from Congress of Republican Mark Foley. Both cases involved sex scandals with Congressional pages.

In 1983 Studds was censured for having sex with a 17-year-old male page. This particular violation of Congressional decorum, not Washington D.C. law, had occurred ten years earlier. Studds conceded that intercourse with a minor page was “an error in judgment” but insisted that what happens in Congressional bedrooms should stay in those bedrooms.

Not only did Studds continue to serve in Congress (over the objection of Rep. Newt Gingrich), he was also reelected by his Massachusetts constituents—six times. There was no frenzied media demand to know what Speaker Tip O’Neill knew and when he knew it. (Ten years is a long time between indiscretion and punishment.) And there were certainly no serious calls for O’Neill’s resignation.

In 2006 Mark Foley immediately resigned after the outing of his instant message come-ons to pages. No physical relationship between Foley and the pages was alleged. A great hue and cry then ensued over Speaker Dennis Hastert’s oversight of the page program, and numerous calls were made for his resignation.

What happened in the two-plus decades that separated these incidents that accounts for the different responses?

One partisan observer suggested that the nation has become more sensitive about the safety of children in light of 24/7 news-channel stories featuring pedophile priests and on-line predators. If so, those sensitivities still aren’t applied to Representative Studds—who was recently eulogized as the first openly-gay Congressman and was repeatedly returned to office till he retired in 1996.

A more realistic assessment would point to 1994 as the watershed event that separates then and now. In November of that year Republicans gained control of the House of Representatives for the first time in forty years. That historical observation is another way of saying that “politics” is behind the moral indignation that has been expressed in the last six weeks.

I’m sure most folks will be “shocked, shocked!” at the thought of politics taking place on Capitol Hill and in the media. A more important point is that so many politicos now view morality as a mere tool to secure what they really prize—political power. Unfortunately, “realists” who view moral principles this way have nothing but the “will to power” to guide them once they are in office.

That’s a phrase from the past that was popularized by Nietzsche and exhibited in spades by the Third Reich and Stalin.

Friday, October 20, 2006


[Below is an article that was published in a few Southern California newspapers a couple of years ago on Father's Day. The sentiments reflect the priorities emphasized by Dr. Laura.]


“Happy Father’s Day.” It’s a greeting that sends pangs of regret through the guts of millions of American males, a greeting that echoes forlornly in the empty spaces of the heart.

Instead of memories of daily life--meals together, nightly routines, school visits—there stands a punctuated set of visits. A seamless web of association has been transformed into a series of photographs. Disneyland stands in place of, not beside, trips to the dentist. Like fabric with stitching embarrassingly stretched out, the tenuous threads call attention to themselves. Like pictures with no background, recollections of days together become two-dimensional--almost cartoonish in character.

Though “Happy Father’s Day” is a bittersweet greeting for the 15 million men who do not live with the children that bear their own traits, I cannot imagine what those words mean to the substantial fraction of that cohort (up to 50%) who haven’t seen their offspring in the last year. Nor can I conceive what the phrase might mean to the 15% of male divorcees who, according to author and philosopher Christina Sommers, see their progeny only once a year.

What I do know is that the promises that flowed so glibly from the mouths of sixties radicals appear naive and stupid in retrospect. A society where autonomy and self-actualization inevitably lead to happiness has proven to be a cruel mirage masking an emotional desert--a world in which more and more Americans have become, in the chillingly prescient phrase of Alexis de Tocqueville, “shut up in the solitude” of their hearts.

Unfortunately, American pundits seem unwilling to confront this truth. “Ozzie and Harriett” continues to be the derisive epithet employed by elites who refuse to admit the devastation that has been wrought by our reckless pursuit of personal goals. Indeed, a 50% rise in single-father homes is even praised for “tear(ing) down a long-standing conception that single fathers tend to abandon their kids.”

The truth, pointedly ignored by the Associated Press article cited above, is that abandonment and alienation are much more common than continued involvement by dads at a distance. The truth is that there is no substitute for being there--day-in and day-out. The truth is that “quality time” is a lie devised for Americans who are unwilling to face the real costs of their determination to put career and personal goals above everything else. The truth is that children, more often than not, suffer from our contempt for “Ozzie and Harriett” households.

It is no consolation to me that more mothers now feel the pangs of remorse that affect conscientious nonresident dads. Instead, I grieve for kids raised only by Ozzies, just as I commiserate with and encourage the millions of fathers who know how hard it is to sew together lives that are physically separated.

And to youngsters growing up in a society obsessed with individual success, I offer you this bit of grief-laden advice: There is a good reason why so many tombstones bear this eternal witness--LOVING HUSBAND AND FATHER.

Monday, October 09, 2006


State of Emergency: The Third World Invasion and Conquest of America by Patrick Buchanan

Pat Buchanan’s popular book, State of Emergency, is more than a litany of eye-popping anecdotes and statistics about the economic, demographic, and social impact of legal and illegal immigration. Buchanan does, of course, provide abundant information about these matters—how a tidal wave of unskilled labor has depressed working class wages, how the same migration of souls has altered the ethnic makeup of California and Texas, and how this influx has affected the safety of Americans victimized by aliens who now make up “over 29% of prisoners in Federal Bureau of Prison facilities.” Buchanan also tells readers that at least 300,000 “anchor babies” are born in the U.S. each year, that 54% of Los Angeles County’s 9 million inhabitants speak languages other than English at home, and that almost as many immigrants are in the U.S. today (36 million) as came to America between 1607 and 1965. Throw in data about the return of once-conquered diseases like tuberculosis, the nationwide growth of vicious gangs like Mara Salvatrucha, and the stark educational deficits exhibited by recent adult immigrants (31% of whom never finished high school) and you have what one might expect from a book with the aforementioned title.

At its core, however, Buchanan’s book is a work of political philosophy whose central question is posed in chapter nine: “What is a Nation?” According to the author, this vital inquiry has three possible answers. The first is that a nation consists of a common set of economic relationships. This view is dispatched with the remark by French historian Ernest Renan: “A Zollverein is not a fatherland.” The institutional status of today’s European Union reinforces Renan’s remark, and Buchanan drives home the point with this poignant observation: “For two centuries, men have died for America. Who would lay down his life for the UN, the EU, or a ‘North American Union’?”

A more popular “neoconservative” answer to Buchanan’s patriotic query is that the United States is a unique country whose roots are essentially creedal. By this reasoning, America is a nation composed of individuals, regardless of national origin or ethnicity, who subscribe to ideas elaborated in America’s founding documents. While Buchanan doesn’t deny that these ideas are part of what it means to be an American, he insists that national identity involves something more—something that can be recognized and felt apart from political convictions.

This “something more” concerns ethnicity, history, and tradition. Americans, Buchanan observes, created the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution—not vice versa. He also notes, uncomfortably for those educated in multicultural classrooms, that the colonists who composed those documents were overwhelmingly “brethren” from the British Isles. Democracy and the rule of law weren’t abstract concepts that grew on American soil like wind-blown seeds felicitously falling on good earth. They were traditions carried by English settlers who populated the territories that later became the United States of America. National roots, Buchanan insists, come attached to the historical soil in which they grew. They aren’t nakedly exposed tendrils floating in some international hydroponic solution.

American leaders from Washington and Hamilton to Teddy Roosevelt and Woodrow Wilson recognized this fact about national identity. The former wished to avoid large concentrations of foreigners, just as T.R. and Wilson denounced “hyphenated-Americanism” and divided loyalties. It wasn’t xenophobia that prompted these statements but rather the realization that nations rest on a shared background of culture, history, literature, and language—indeed, of shared ancestors. As even Patrick Moynihan observed, the nation is the largest group to which individuals see themselves ancestrally related. Negative illustrations of this truth are abundant in recent history: the violent rupture of the faux-nation of Yugoslavia, the splintering of the Soviet Union into more than a dozen nations with distinct ethnic roots, the divorce between the Czech Republic and Slovakia, the ethnic and religious wars that plague Rwanda, Sudan, and a host of African “nations.”

One of Buchanan’s most poignant arguments involves this “reverse scenario” thought experiment: “How many Americans, forced to work in Mexico, would become loyal Mexicans in a decade rather than remain Americans in exile? Why do we think that Mexicans are any less attached to the land of their birth?” It is a jarring question, especially when one realizes that “one in six [Mexicans] is already here” and that “Nearly 90 percent of all immigrants now come from continents and countries whose peoples have never been assimilated fully into any Western country…”

But what about the notion that we are “a nation of immigrants” and that what happened in the past will surely happen again? Buchanan uses a drawer-full of statistics and the testimony of various American leaders to show that 1) the United States was always, overwhelmingly, an English-speaking country culturally tied to the mother country, 2) immigration into the United States prior to 1965 was overwhelmingly from Europe, and 3) immigration in the past pales when compared with the influx in the last few decades. To emphasize this final point, Buchanan recurs to the debate that surrounded the 1965 Immigration Act, where the most liberal position advocated raising annual quotas from 156,700 to 250,000. Today, “between one and two million” immigrants, “legal and illegal,” come to the United States every year.

Moreover, strong political and cultural forces now discourage the assimilation of those coming from Latin American: dual citizenship, multiculturalism, the explosive growth of Spanish broadcasting in the U.S., Mexico’s desire to politically and economically exploit the loyalty of its émigrés, and the very real belief in “Reconquista.” All these factors, in addition to sheer numbers, undermine an assimilation process that transformed 40 million Europeans into Americans over a span of 350 years.

Throughout his book Buchanan asserts that patriotism, “love of country,” is the soul that animates a nation—a love rooted in common language, common ancestors, common stories, common religious faith, and common experiences. All these ties, however, are now under assault—from within by cultural critics who laud diversity and relish America-bashing—from without by immigrants bound by language, culture, and history to their own native lands. The prospect for America can already be seen in “Eurabia,” where governments struggle to find some social equilibrium between ethnic groups with radically different backgrounds and sensibilities. Ultimately, as Buchanan warns in his book’s first pages, what happened to Imperial Rome at the hands of unassimilated Germanic tribes will be the fate of the United States—unless Americans summon the will to reverse policies that their leaders have foisted upon them.

The depredations associated with open borders are realities felt most by patriotic working stiffs, not by diversity-minded globalists who seek to maximize economic efficiencies and minimize the appeal of all things parochial. The bonds between cosmopolitans and their native lands are tenuous at best—and at worse, adversarial. For jet-set egotists, cultures are like sampler tables at an international exhibition. None can demand their exclusive loyalty. To them Robert E. Lee’s fateful choice of Virginia over the Union is incomprehensible and perverse.

Beyond the political, economic, and ideological forces that contribute to America’s paralysis in the face of demographic dissolution, there is, I think, another factor that Buchanan doesn’t discuss. That factor is related to the elitist-populist divide and concerns the nation’s self-image. Put simply, if a country doesn’t believe in itself, it won’t bother to defend itself. And America, as shaped and envisioned by elites, isn’t a culture worth defending—a country devoid of religious devotion, a country stripped of heroes, a country populated by consumers who take for granted the sexualization of children and the dissolution of marriage, a country molded not by traditions and loyalties that spring from heart and hearth but by the capricious winds of intellectual fashion and the corrupt imaginations of television producers. If “love of country” is the nation’s soul, as Buchanan avers, it follows that the nation’s body must also be thought worthy of salvaging. Yet what possible reason would there be to make strenuous exertions on behalf the post-modern golem described above?

Buchanan’s book, however, is gloomy enough as it is—all the more so because his vision of national identity rings true on many levels. The only question is whether the culturally and historically rooted nation he honors is too far gone for the prescribed medicine: no amnesty, no “chain migration” or “anchor babies,” no dual citizenship, no welfare magnets, an immigration moratorium, a border fence, and deportation of illegals. It’s a pill that’s sure to stick in the throat of political leaders whose hearts are tied, more than anything else, to the patricidal approbation of elite opinion.

Wednesday, October 04, 2006


In his 1993 article, “Defining Deviancy Down,” Patrick Moynihan mentioned a New York Times headline that proclaimed the school year’s “first” shooting. Moynihan added sardonically, “first of the season.”

So far this season, as ABC News informs us, “there have been 25 shootings at or near schools nationwide. Several of the shootings—three in the last week—have been fatal.” This last comment rather understates the execution killing of at least five little Amish girls in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania.

Multiple killings bring out media analysts in a way that quotidian school murders do not. (A seemingly endless list of violent incidents, including “unsuccessful” attempts, can be accessed at The “reason” for these killings is generally sought in some specific cause—a twenty year grudge, copycat motives, the availability of guns, the absence of armed guards, Ritalin, video games, bullying, cliques. By focusing on the little picture, which is not a totally useless enterprise, we lose sight of the larger picture—perhaps intentionally.

Karl Marx did not, I think, get everything wrong. One of the common statements made by Marxist scholars goes as follows: “Only the whole is true, and the whole is false.” The comment means that one has to look at the big picture, and that the big picture, presently, is deceptive and rotten.

The big picture in our society includes rotten video games, guns, and Ritalin—but it also includes an obsessive fascination with death presented as entertainment on the CSI family of shows. Here corpses in various stages of decomposition are featured on every show for our viewing pleasure—juxtaposed inevitably with tantalizing shots of nubile bodies that appeal to another basic instinct. Episodes compete with one another to explore new depths of perversity—like raping and killing children.

The big picture includes, likewise, a phalanx of individuals who all insist on the right to do what they want—demanding that others consider their wishes while giving scant attention to matters of reciprocity or to the word “responsibility.”

The big picture includes a society where padded-bra kids are sexualized for profit and where free speech, a la Howard Stern, has devolved into a race for the bottom.

The big picture involves the unprecedented ceding of cultural power to morally vacuous individuals who pollute souls for a living. These electronic traveling salesmen, from Abercrombie and Fitch to Madonna to David Letterman, influence children, collectively, as much or more than parents.

Ponder the TV show Two and a Half Men. Attend to the loud and angry sounds that blare from the hot wheels of young males. Note the sophisticated psychobabble that avoids the terms “good” and “evil.” That is the ugly whole. That is a world where, in the words of Flannery O’Connor’s reflective Misfit, there’s “No pleasure but meanness.”