Beliefnet
At the Intersection of Faith and Culture

Rand Paul’s nearly 13 hour filibuster on the Senate floor last week was a stroke of political genius that still has not yet been fully appreciated.

Those who compose the base of the GOP lost much of their morale during George W. Bush’s second term.  When the Democrats took back the Congress in 2006 and Barack Obama won the presidency two years later, it all but vanished.

Spirits began to stir once more during the midterm elections of 2010, it is true, but since then, they’ve again been reduced to dust and ashes.  Anyone who doubts this need only consider that some four million self-identified Republicans refused to vote for Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan back in November.

Yet now, thanks to Rand Paul, and he alone, millions of Republicans from around the country have gotten their second wind.  They have been rejuvenated in a way, and to an extent, that the party hasn’t seen in years.

But even this understates the magnitude of what’s happened courtesy of Rand’s Senate stand, for it isn’t just that he reinvigorated the traditional base of his party.

Rand Paul’s move last week was a potential game-changer inasmuch as he garnered the respect and admiration, yes, but, also, the enthusiastic support of legions of just those voters who the GOP ceded to their competition long ago: independents, the young, and even some Democrats.

Even his critic John McCain acknowledged the influence that Rand Paul exerts over young voters when he castigated his colleague for exciting “impressionable libertarian kids in their dorm rooms”—you know, exactly those “kids” who would rather die than vote for most Republicans, but particularly the McCains of the party.

Many of us on the right have been arguing for quite some time that Republicans have what some have called a “messaging” problem.  As far as popular opinion is concerned, image has always counted for more than substance in politics.  For no people is this truer than our image-obsessed generation.

In other words, even if “the facts” are on a politician’s or party’s side, this by itself means nothing electorally speaking.  What does matter electorally, though, is that if those facts aren’t articulated passionately and in a way that provokes the popular imagination, those who possess them can go down to defeat. 

Rand Paul proved last week that he is well aware of all of this.

The substance of his filibuster concerns the issue of drone strikes against American citizens on American soil—an issue with which Americans from across the political spectrum are concerned.  However, it is the style with which Senator Paul packaged the substance of his speech that awakened Americans to this topic.

And it is the style that called forth their sympathies for Paul’s position while endearing him to them personally.

Frank Capra’s, Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, is vintage Americana.  The film captured the heart of a nation.  But it did so in more than one way.  Countless millions of Americans from across generations love this film—including those who have not seen it. It is one of those stories that all remotely decent persons are supposed to love.  Yet Americans love this story because, like an air-brushed photo, it helps them to see just how good they can be—both individually and as a country. 

Paul invoked–and evoked–all of those wonderful emotions that are wrapped up in the popular consciousness with this Capra classic. He styled himself the quintessential idealistic non-political, or trans-political, politician concerned with nothing more or less than defending the American Way against the power lust of “the people’s” elected representatives.

As a result, his political fortunes, as well as those of his party, are looking much brighter now than they looked before Mr. Paul went to Washington.           

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Last week, the president of Emory University, James W. Wagner, was censured by faculty members, and may even be forced to resign when faculty reconvene later this month to decide his fate.      

Wagner’s great sin, you see, is that in an article in his school’s magazine, he cited “the three-fifths compromise over slavery” as a paradigmatic illustration of the art of political comprise.  

In response to the backlash against this act of his, Wagner issued the obligatory mea culpa and deplored the “clumsiness and insensitivity” of his piece.

Still, the enlightened professoriate at Emory has thus far withheld its mercy. 

This week, Kurt Schlichter published an article that appeared at Townhall.com.  It had the catchy title: “Let’s Help Academia Destroy Itself.”  In addition to arguing that the contemporary university is a parasite on society—a “liberal tick,” is how he describes it—Schlichter welcomes the demise of academia on the grounds that it is a tax-payer subsidized “reservoir of leftism” that produces little except for an endless supply of unemployed and underemployed Democratic voters.   

This episode at Emory is not at all atypical of life behind the iron tower.  And while Schlichter is guilty of oversimplifying matters here and there, the essence of his analysis is spot on.  As an academic who also happens to be a conservative, it brings me no joy to assure the reader that I know that of which I speak.

Another person who is just as painfully aware of the grim realities of the contemporary university setting is Mary Grabar.

Hot off of the presses is Grabar’s, Exiled: Stories from Conservative and Moderate Professors Who Have Been Ridiculed, Ostracized, Marginalized, Demonized, and Frozen Out.  Grabar and six other academics, including yours truly, contributed to this anthology of insiders’ accounts of daily existence in the academic world.  Short, readable, and inexpensive, it is the ideal primer for parents preparing to march their children off for four or more years of college.    

Since I participated in this project, I will not review it.  I would, however, like to elaborate upon some of the themes that I sounded in my essay (and elsewhere).

The treasure that parents of college students and/or the students themselves can plan on pledging to the academic institution of their choice promises to be staggering enough.  At least as costly, though, is the intellectual toll that academia is guaranteed to extract from them.

To put it simply, as things stand at present, the ideal of a free marketplace of ideas to which academia is ostensibly committed to promoting is a fiction.  Between this ideal and the current reality, there exists a chasm that is as unbridgeable as it is glaring.  Only the self-delusional, the ignorant, and the deceitful can say otherwise.  For the rest of us, it requires spending all but five minutes in any given liberal arts or humanities department in the country to grasp the painful, ugly truth.

And the truth is that for many academics, not only is there no such thing as “the disinterested pursuit of truth.”  There is no such thing as truth.  I’m not kidding.  Truth, along with such related concepts as “reason,” “fact,” “logic,” and “objectivity,” are routinely treated as a Eurocentric social constructions by which white men have traditionally oppressed women, non-whites, homosexuals, non-Christians, and the environment.

World famous “post-modernist” philosophers, like Jacques Derrida, make it their task in life to “deconstruct” Western civilization so as to convict it of “logocentrism”—its faith in reason to access reality.

Far from challenging the prevailing status quo for no other reason but that it is the status quo, the average academic is an avowed apologist for it.  Yet even this way of characterizing matters grossly understates the extent to which academia suffers from a poverty of vision. 

It is more accurate to think of academia as a quasi-religious cult of a sort.  This is no hyperbole. Intellectual life in the university has been constrained by the straightjacket of the creed.  

Formally, of course, there is no such thing.  But, in practice, the creed is almost everywhere affirmed.  If it had to be summed up, it boils down to contempt—contempt for Western civilization generally, and America in particular.

More specifically, the creed demands that the entire history of the West be viewed through the narrowest—and most cartoonish—of lens: white, heterosexual, Christian men are villains, and everyone—and everything—else is their victims.  It isn’t just racism, sexism, classism, homophobia, Islamophobia, and any and every other conceivable crime against humanity for which Western civilization stands condemned.  Western (white) Man is also convicted by academics of specieism, bias against non-humans, and homocentrism, bias against the environment.

To be clear, the widely held belief among academia’s critics on the right that the university is a bastion of “moral relativism” is wide of the mark.  There are no real relativists among academics.  The latter are absolutists of the worst sort, crusaders or jihadists forever vigilant against deviations from the creed.  And those who style themselves as relativists tend to be the most committed of its guardians.    

The creed is more or less pronounced, depending on the institution. But aspiring college students and their parents should know that, with all too few exceptions, regardless of where they are in the academic world, the creed is impossible to avoid.   

originally published at Front Page Magazine 

 

 

Among “the rising stars” in the GOP that we hear more and more about, none shines as brightly as Rand Paul.

To repeat: if the future of the Republican Party can be said to have a face, those who love liberty should hope that is that of Senator Paul’s. 

Paul’s filibuster of President Obama’s nominee for CIA Director John Brennan is significant for several reasons.

First, Paul succeeded in doing what no Republican politician has managed to do from at least the time that Obama assumed the presidency: he raised the morale of Republicans, conservatives, and libertarians from the ashes to new heights.  Finally, one of the elected representatives of the party of “limited government” showed himself to be someone around whom they could rally.

Second, if he hadn’t done so already, Paul immunized himself against the sorts of smear tactics to which his father’s fellow Republicans routinely subjected him.  As a consequence of lacking his son’s political savvy, Ron Paul lent himself to being portrayed as a kind of fringe candidate. Rand Paul, in contrast, now commands the respect and admiration of just those mainstream Republicans who made sport of his dad.  In fact, a consensus seems to be emerging that Rand Paul promises to be quite the viable presidential candidate in 2016.

Third, Paul provoked some of his colleagues to join him on the floor.  Whether they would have initiated a filibuster in the absence of Paul’s lead is anyone’s guess.  However, for present purposes, their intentions are not relevant.  What matters is that Paul emboldened them to take a stand against the Obama administration.

Fourth, because of the actions of this one man, on this one day, the issue of drone attacks vis-à-vis our constitutional liberties has been thrust front and center in the media.  That is, people are talking once again about the Constitution.

Fifth, Paul beckoned forth criticism for his filibuster from Senate veterans John McCain and Lindsay Graham.  This only endeared Paul that much more to those legions of the GOP’s constituents who long ago grew disenchanted with their party precisely because of its McCains and Grahams.  It also enabled Paul to sharply distinguish himself from his critics without having to say another word.

Sixth, among those Republicans whose names are now being bandied about as possible presidential contenders in 2016, Rand Paul alone stands a strong chance of garnering, not just the support, but the enthusiastic support, of voters from across the political spectrum.  Those four million or so self-identified Republicans and libertarians who stayed away from the polls back in November because they refused to any longer vote for Big Government Republicans know that Rand, like his father, don’t just talk the talk when it comes to constitutional liberty.  Independents and many Democrats who have grown weary of the leftist excesses of the Democratic Party also find much to respect—and trust—in the Pauls.  Of no other Republican can the same be said at this time.  

There is one final reason why Paul’s filibuster matters. Not unsurprisingly, it seems to have gotten lost in much of the praise that has been heaped upon the Senator from Kentucky.

The points that Paul made during his nearly 13 hours on the Senate floor on Wednesday were just those points around which his much maligned father centered his political career.  They were just those points, in other words, for which many of the same Republicans who now cheer Paul the younger once blasted Paul the elder.

Ron Paul knew what America’s Founding Fathers knew: there is no liberty unless there is a wide dispersion of political power.  Unless a government is divided against itself, unless it is constrained by numerous “checks and balances,” the individual citizen will be forever at its mercy.  It is this insight that led the Founders to devise the Constitution.

And it is this insight that led Ron Paul to throw up as much resistance to the Republican Party’s prosecution of “the War on Terror” as he did.

Thankfully, for the lovers of liberty, the son shares his father’s commitment to the vision of liberty embodied in the Constitution. Rand’s filibuster was not motivated by partisan considerations. Like his dad, and like our Founders, he knows that government, regardless of party, is at no time more a threat to liberty than when it seeks to amass large concentrations of power for the ostensible sake of “keeping us safe.”

Hopefully, more Americans are once again coming to know this now thanks to Rand Paul.      

 originally published at World Net Daily

 

By way of an assault on the John Birch Society, the Southern Poverty Law Center has taken a shot at yours truly.  Upon reading Don Terry’s, “Bringing Back Birch,” it became painfully obvious that the Center’s reputation for lousy marksmanship is richly deserved. 

Equally obvious is that it is the ease with which it smears those who reject its far left ideology that accounts for why, despite its name, it has done nothing to help the poor.  After all, before the SPLC can hope to ameliorate the poverty of others, it must first address its own intellectual and moral poverty. 

Regardless of what Don Terry suggests, I am not now, nor have I ever been, a member of the John Birch Society.  Not unlike that of  Thomas Sowell, Walter Williams, and others, my work appears in the JBS publication, The New American, when it coincides with the magazine’s conservative and libertarian thrusts.  Had Terry done his due diligence, he would have discovered that I write for various publications. 

This, though, is neither here nor there.  What matters most is Terry’s treatment of my article, “‘Root Causes’ and Mass Murderer Adam Lanza,” a piece that appeared in The New American (and elsewhere) in the days following the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting in Connecticut.

According to Terry, in this essay I “bemoaned the fact that the absence of meaningful gun control was widely discussed in the aftermath of the mass shootings [sic?]” while “the ‘root causes’ of too many abortions and too few executions in the United States” wasn’t discussed at all.  This is bad enough, Terry thinks, but just when it didn’t seem that things could get any worse, “Kerwick turned to Lanza’s race and gender.”

Terry quotes the following lines from my article: “From ‘affirmative action’ to massive Third World immigration, from media depictions of white men as either ignoramuses or crazed ‘racists’ to the incessant barrage of giddy proclamations of an ever-diminishing white America, the assault on white men is comprehensive.”

He continues quoting me: “Is it impossible to believe that a young white man such as Lanza, who has been exposed to this systematic abuse his entire life, may not have been consumed with both self-hatred and rage?  For that matter, may not his cultural animus toward whites have figured in Lanza’s choice to leave a trail (judging from news photos) of mostly white bodies?”

Terry contends that if the JBS continues to publish pieces like mine, it will once “again be nudged towards the basement”—i.e. irrelevancy.  And even though he admits that near the end the article “Kerwick swears he’s being facetious,” he dismisses this as “a lame attempt” on my part “that sounds painfully like the old John Birch Society.” 

There’s pain here alright, but it stems from the spectacle of Terry’s cognitive and ethical limitations conspiring to render insurmountable to him the task of following a simple train of thought ranging over a meager 800 words or so. 

For starters, anyone who looks at just the headline of my article for more than ten seconds should suspect that I am not really interested in identifying “the root causes” of Lanza’s killing spree (or anything else for that matter).  Not only do I place “root causes” in quotation marks. By referring to Lanza as a “mass murderer,” I call him out for the agent of evil that he was.  And these specifics of the title set the tone for what follows.  

The application of the concept of “root causes” to any moral phenomenon arises from a confusion of categories.  Causes act upon matter—inert, mindless matter.  Scientists study causes.  Moral agents, in contrast, act on reasons. There are no causes when life is considered under the aspect of morality. Because a mass shooting is a morally significant act, it is wholly inappropriate, and offensive, really, to analyze it in terms of “root causes.” To exploit for it political gain by linking it to a “root cause”—like the alleged lack of “gun control”—that isn’t remotely connected with it is unconscionable.

I never “bemoaned” the fact that the “root cause” of the “absence of meaningful gun control was widely discussed” while “the root causes” of “too many abortions and too few executions” were not, as Terry says. If I can be said to have bemoaned anything, it is that there was talk—incessant talk—in the aftermath of Sandy Hook about “root causes” at all.

Yet it is true that I also wanted to expose the sheer hypocrisy of the left.

By now it should be a foregone conclusion to anyone who knows the leftist that on any given issue, his search for “root causes” always ends up exactly where he begins: the only “root causes” that exist are those determined by his ideological prejudices.  It is only for the sake of establishing this point that I mentioned “the root causes” of “too many abortions,” “too few executions,” and the race and gender oppression that I mockingly insinuated accounts for Adam Lanza’s murderous rampage.   

Not to give Terry more credit than he deserves, but it is hard to believe that he doesn’t know that I really was being facetious.  That it is more dishonesty than density of the intellect of which he is guilty is born out by Terry’s omission of a paragraph in my piece in which I identify Lanza’s Italian ethnicity as a possible “root cause” of his actions.  I write:

“Then there is the matter of Lanza’s ethnicity.  ‘Lanza’ is an Italian surname, and Italians and Italian-Americans are routinely portrayed as Mafioso and other violent thugs in the popular media.

“Maybe Lanza incorporated this image into his own self-understanding. Maybe this is why he chose to go on a shooting spree.”

No one—including Don Terry—believes that an Italian-American brought up reading Mario Puzo novels and watching Martin Scorcese gangster films is going to be prompted to shoot down a bunch of young innocent kids.  This stuff happens neither in real life nor in the gangster genre.

Incidentally, I mention the rise of atheism as a potential “root cause.”  I suppose it is because this doesn’t fit in too nicely with Terry’s spin that he omits this as well.

In any event, most distressing about reading the SPLC’s hit piece is being reminded that the vices of which it is guilty transcend political differences. 

Terry quotes a former editor of The New American who was fired from his post back in 2006.  According to Terry, William Grigg “became so angry that Kerwick’s commentary appeared” in his old magazine.  Grigg is reported to have said: “It is incomprehensible to me…that JBS would run such a specimen of ethnic grievance-mongering anytime—let alone in the immediate aftermath of the atrocity at Sandy Hook Elementary.” 

This has been my point: far from engaging in “ethnic grievance-mongering,” in ridiculing “root causes,” including and especially the “root cause” of race, I sought to undermine it.

Let me close here with the final paragraphs from the essay that has Terry and Grigg waxing indignant.  There is a reason that it wasn’t included in the SPLC’s brief against the Birchers: had Terry quoted it his case against me would’ve collapsed.

“Now for the punchline: I don’t for a moment believe that any of the foregoing ‘root causes’ are in the least relevant to Adam Lanza’s decision to gun down 20 little kids and six adults.  Yet they have at least as much to do with it as does the lack of ‘gun control’ on which scores of leftists rushed to hang this abomination.

“Lanza was an evil man responsible for perpetrating an evil deed.  As long as there are evil people in the world, evil will be with us.

“Maybe it is to the ‘root causes’ of why our generation fails to come to terms with this timeless fact to which we need to turn our attention.”

And maybe Terry, Grigg, and everyone else at the Southern Poverty Law Center should delve into the root causes of why they can’t seem to grasp any of this.