At the Intersection of Faith and Culture

At the Intersection of Faith and Culture

Some Initial Thoughts on Herman Cain

posted by Jack Kerwick

Republican presidential contender Herman Cain is all of the news at the moment. Cain, as everyone now knows, achieved a startling upset victory in the Florida Straw Poll.  With 37% of the vote, he received more support than GOP “frontrunners” Rick Perry and Mitt Romney combined. 

Cain is certainly an affable enough fellow, but in spite of the apparently pervasive perception among the GOP faithful—a perception that Cain himself has in no small measure labored tirelessly to inculcate—that his candidacy marks a radical departure from “politics as usual,” Cain has of yet to do or even say anything to distinguish himself from the Republican Party establishment.  In fact, not only has he failed to set himself apart from his party, but from his support of TARP to his endorsement of Mitt Romney in 2008, from his support of the military-centered crusade to export Democracy to the Middle East to his insistence on the eve of the economic collapse that there was no impending crisis, Cain has proven himself to be a party man through and through.    

But there is more.

To listen to Cain throughout these primary debates, one could be pardoned for thinking that he has never known of a government program or policy that, with just the right amount of care, couldn’t be salvaged.  Whether it is Social Security or anything else, Cain’s answer is always: Don’t end it, mend it.  It is reform, not abolition, for which circumstances call, as far as Cain is concerned.

This position has much to gain in the way of political expediency. However, it reflects an ignorance of the natures of both government and liberty that is at once appalling and, quite frankly, disturbing.  

Cain is no different from any number of the communists who I have met during my time in academia insofar as he speaks as if the woeful inadequacies of this or that governmental policy are a function of those specific individuals who, up to this juncture, have been entrusted with administering them.  That is, the corruption, costliness, and inefficiency attending to government programs and policies are accidental by-products of either the malevolent intentions or the incompetence or the negligence of past and present office holders.  In short, from this perspective, it is the folks implementing these programs and policies and operating these agencies that are responsible for their failures.  If only we get rid of them and replace them with ourselves, we can redeem our system of government.

Don’t end them, mend them.

But as any student of politics, of our constitutional arrangements, and, thus, our liberty, knows all too well, the problems from which Big Government suffers are intrinsic to its size and scope.  Communism failed, yes, but it would have failed even if angels had presided over its implementation.  Similarly, regardless of which party or group of individuals control the reins of the federal government, the ills that afflict it now will continue to do so as long as it remains the Leviathan that it is.  As long as the federal government is permitted to subvert the design of the U.S. Constitution—a design according to which it is assigned a subordinate role vis-à-vis the individual states—our situation will not change an iota. 

This brings us to our second point about Herman Cain. 

Cain’s vision of government reflects a misunderstanding, not just of the character of Big Government, but of liberty itself. Liberty, or at least the liberty with which Americans have always been enamored, is inseparable from the structure of government.  It is the wide dispersion of power, the decentralization of authority, in short, the divided government to which our Constitution gives expression that makes our liberty possible. To state this point another way, our liberty is located in the interstices of our Constitution, with its numerous “checks and balances.”    

Judging from Cain’s reluctance to eliminate any part of the federal government, it is only reasonable to conclude that he fundamentally misapprehends the relationship between government and individual liberty.

But like I already said, in this regard, he is not unlike the vast majority of his fellow partisans (as well as, of course, their leftist counterparts). 

There is one final problem with Cain.

He seems to think, along with Mitt Romney and a whole lot of other folks, that a presidential candidate with business expertise preferable to a one without this experience.  Not only, though, is this presupposition—and it is indeed a presupposition—anything but the axiom that it is usually treated as; a businessman turned politician could very well be the most dreadful of politicians. 

Business is an enterprise.  The country is not.  While some measure of individuality is, of course, permitted in a business, each of its members is expected to devote his time and energies toward the realization of the common end or “good” for the sake of which the business exists. In the case of business, this final end is that of profit.  In contrast, in a civil association, an associational type that Americawas originally intended to embody, there is no single or final end.  There is a staggering multiplicity of ends, each of which is chosen by the individuals whose ends they are.

Will a President Cain (or, for that matter, a President Romney) use the power at his disposal to impose uponAmericathe character of the one associational type with which he is most familiar?  Will he, that is, resolve to governAmericaas a business enterprise?

Those who love liberty will serve themselves, and their beloved country, well to look carefully at Cain.

Jack Kerwick, Ph.D.

The American Spectator and Ron Paul: Setting the Record Straight

posted by Jack Kerwick

Not too long ago now, The American Spectator contributor Jeffrey Lord authored a couple of articles within which he takes to task third place Republican presidential contender Ron Paul.  Because some of Paul’s most earnest defenders have already dealt in good measure with the first, it is on the second of these critiques of theTexas congressman that I will set my sights. 

Lord’s objective, to put it bluntly, is to expose Ron Paul as a faux conservative, a less than fully honest libertarian who aspires to “remake” the conservative movement in the image of his own “metaphysically” and morally corrupt ideology.  In Lord’s reimagining of the history of American conservatism, Ronald Reagan is the hero while Ron Paul is his nemesis, the “anti-Reagan.”

With all due respect to Lord, I find his argument more than a bit peculiar.  In order to convict Paul of the charge of ideological fraudulence and “metaphysical madness”—Russell Kirk’s description of choice for libertarians—he leads his readers through a series of mazes of names and quotations.  In and of itself, this attempt of Lord’s to supply us with something on the order of an abridged intellectual history of conservatism is to be commended, and the actual account that he articulates is not without value.  Still, while it is valuable as far as it goes, it doesn’t go nearly as far as it must if his case against Paul is to succeed.  Unfortunately, for Mr. Lord, as it stands currently, his argument fails mightily, and what is most ironic, it owes its defeat to nothing other than itself.

Outside of that of William F. Buckley, the two main voices that Lord calls forth in his effort to condemn Paul as an enemy of conservatism belong to Russell Kirk and George Nash.  The former is among “the fathers” of the postwar conservative movement that arose in the mid 1940’s, and the latter is an esteemed student of this movement, the author of the widely respected, The Conservative Intellectual Movement in America since 1945. 

Now, neither Kirk nor Nash ever refers to Paul himself.  But they do reference Murray Rothbard.  This, presumably, is germane to Lord’s analysis because Rothbard, apparently, is among those whose thought left an indelible impress upon Paul.

Being the historian that he is, Nash neither criticizes nor praises Rothbard but, rather, locates him—along with such luminaries of the classical liberal tradition as F.A. Hayek and Ludwig von Mises—within the libertarian branch of the early conservative movement. With Kirk, however, matters are otherwise.

Because Kirk’s reputation as a progenitor of “modern” American conservatism is questioned by none, and because he had no small measure of scorn for libertarianism generally and Rothbard in particular, Lord evidently thinks that by citing Kirk, he will render self-evidently irrefutable his indictment against Paul, for the latter, you see, drew intellectual sustenance from Rothbard. 

This argument, like all arguments of this species, is a double edged sword.  Indeed, how can it not be?  Once we embark upon the enterprise of implicating so-and-so in the doings of such-and-such on the basis of a relationship of a sort between them that some third party judges to be bad, it is all too easy for the accused to employ the same exact kind of reasoning against his accuser.  Lord, we will see, is especially vulnerable to being snared by the trap that he lays for Paul.

The first point of which we must take note is that for one intellect to be inspired by another, they need not fuse into one.  To any remotely educated person, I would imagine, this is a proposition the truth of which is obvious.  The “guilt-by-association” tactics that he employs against Paul notwithstanding, even Lord, with just some gentle prodding, will have to concede their illegitimacy. 

Saints Augustine and Thomas Aquinas are not only perhaps the two greatest Christian thinkers to whom Christendom can lay claim; they are among the greatest thinkers who have ever lived.  Yet Augustine was as ardent a disciple of Plato’s as Aquinas was a student of Aristotle.  In fact, it has been said that Augustine “baptized” Plato into the Christian faith while Aquinas did the same to Aristotle. Both Plato and Aristotle, living as they did centuries before Christ in the ancient Greek world, were pagans or heathens.  Would Lord or any one with a modicum of sophistication dare suggest that Augustine and Aquinas are “frauds” because they were inspired by Plato and Aristotle, respectively?

The examples of Augustine and Aquinas are but two among a virtual infinity of such examples that we could enlist to illustrate the folly of thinking that any two people must be intellectual or ideological clones just because the one is in some measure indebted to the other.  It may very well be an understatement to say that Lord is a champion of Ronald Reagan.  Would he, though, appreciate being identified with every policy and every action taken, every belief held and every word uttered by the Gipper?  We should hardly think so. 

Or perhaps we should approach the question of the character of Lord’s thought in a manner comparable to that in which he approaches the topic of Ron Paul’s conservative bona fides.  Lord all but claims that no genuine conservative would dare so much as insinuate that Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity—two figures upon whom he heaps endless praise—are anything but rock-ribbed, full throated conservatives.  But from 2001 to the end of 2008, Limbaugh and Hannity provided practically unqualified support to both President George W. Bush as well as his Republican dominated congress.  Yet this was an administration and a congress that were responsible for an historically unprecedented growth of the federal government.  There is scarcely anything that Bush and his Republicans did while they wielded the lion’s share of power that any observer with so much as a superficial acquaintance with it could sincerely and credibly confuse with conservatism. 

Since Lord is a fan of Limbaugh and Hannity and they were fans of Bush, presumably, Lord is a fan of Bush.  If so, that is his prerogative.  Still, before the next election, it would only be right for him, through his article at a mainstream right-leaning publication like The American Spectator, to inform readers that, in his judgment, in spite of their gestures to the contrary, neither Bush nor the members of his Republican congress have anything whatsoever for which to apologize.  They are conservatives and they governed as such.  In any event, if Ron Paul must buy everything that Rothbard sold lock, stock, and barrel because the former admired the latter, then, on the terms of his own reasoning, because Lord admires Bush and Republicans like Limbaugh and Hannity, we are left with no option but to conclude that he endorses every idea that they have ever pronounced upon.          

The point, here, should now be clear: just because Murray Rothbard had an impact upon Ron Paul does not mean that the latter necessarily subscribes to all of the former’s beliefs.  Rothbard is a self-professed anarchist.  Paul, in sharp contrast, is a “constitutionalist”—i.e. he is a proponent of government, albeit, constitutional government.

Secondly, when Russell Kirk delivers his verdict of “metaphysical madness” upon libertarians of the Rothbardian variety, he has in mind, not primarily their policy prescriptions as much as, well, the metaphysical presuppositions underwriting those prescriptions.  With their doctrines of “atomized individualism” and “the Rights of Man,” libertarians were, in his estimation, the heirs of such reckless “rationalists” and “logic choppers” as the philosophes of the French Revolution—exactly those against whom his hero and the “founder” of modern conservatism, Edmund Burke, set himself.  In fact, it was in response to the robust metaphysical delusions of the rationalism that was rapidly overtaking his generation that Burke gave rise to what has subsequently came to be known as conservatism.  

Neither Kirk nor Burke denies that there is a natural law, and neither denies that there is some sense in which human beings can be said to have “rights.”  However, these rights, far from being the “self-evident,” timeless and universal abstractions of the rationalist’s imagination, are in reality the products of a culturally and historically-specific tradition. 

Interestingly, Kirk’s The Conservative Mind, the very book from which Lord gathers his quotations of Kirk to convict Paul, via Rothbard, of “metaphysical madness,” is ridden with shots at Thomas Jefferson, the author of the Declaration of Independence.  Kirk is quick to remind readers that Jefferson, having availed himself while drafting the Declaration of Independence of the very same idiom of “self-evident” and “unalienable” rights upon which the radicals in France would eventually rely, was unsurprisingly an apologist for their bloody revolution.  At this juncture, Lord needs to be reminded that it is this rationalistic conception of rights, as it is expressed in the Declaration, that he and his ideological ilk invoke in justifying their bloody revolution—a Middle Eastern revolution that our last president euphemistically characterized as a “Freedom Agenda.”

Simply put, the very same grounds upon which Kirk judges libertarians of “metaphysical madness” he can just as easily draw upon to convict Lord and his neoconservative Republican brethren of the same, for underlying the libertarianism of which Paul and Rothbard are representatives and the neoconservatism to which Lord, Limbaugh, Hannity, George W. Bush, Rick Santorum, etc. have pledged allegiance is one and the same metaphysically erroneous (“mad”) conception of rights. 

Another consideration that militates against Lord’s insinuation that it is the standard libertarian foreign policy that Kirk disdains is the stone cold fact that the latter’s views on this subject are much closer to those of Paul than those of Lord.  Kirk, were he alive today, would be resoundingly lambasted by the Lords of our world for his “isolationism.”  Kirk, the man who opposed the first Bush’s invasion of Iraqand who spared no occasion to awaken his fellow countrymen (and women) to the mutually antagonistic relationship between war and liberty, would be regarded as persona non grata by today’s “conservatives.”  Indeed, perhaps it is because of this that, in spite of the incalculable contributions he made to the very creation of the modern American conservative movement, he is scarcely mentioned today.  

Third, Lord draws upon George Nash’s analysis of the conservative movement to imply that Paul and his defenders are being intellectually dishonest when they claim that his “noninterventionist” foreign policy is in keeping with the conservative tradition.  Yet if Nash can be said to contradict Paul on this score, he can also be said to contradict Lord, for according to Nash’s interpretation, Rothbard and the libertarians as much belong to the postwar American “conservative movement” as did Kirk and his “traditional conservatives” and James Burnham and his “anti-communists.”  On Nash’s reading, there would be no American conservative movement without these three groups.

Of course, Lord is free to quarrel with Nash’s narrative.  But he is not entitled to accept and not accept it at one and the same time.  From Nash’s perspective, Paul and Lord are both correct and incorrect when it comes to the relationship between “the conservative movement” and “interventionism”: some of its adherents have embraced a more aggressive American foreign policy while others have resisted it.

Finally, in the 2006 edition of his magisterial work, Nash adds to “libertarianism,” “traditionalism,” and “anti-communism,” two other components of the American conservative movement: “neoconservatism” and “the New Right” or “the Religious Right.”  This is relevant to the present discussion because Lord misleadingly suggests that “the conservatism” with which he contrasts Paul’s libertarianism is the original or historical article that Paul has only recently arrived on the scene to “hijack.”  In truth, it is Lord and his ideological brethren who are the real newcomers to the movement, for the only conservatism that they are interested in advancing is neoconservatism.  As Nash observes, neoconservatives are typically former “New Deal Democrats” and “socialists” who only recently, as far as the life of the conservative movement is concerned, have begun to awaken from the darkness that has blinded them. 

In spite of the shoddiness of Lord’s analysis and the lack of charity with which he treats Ron Paul, it is to his eternal credit that he takes the time to remind our contemporaries that the tradition with which they identify does indeed have a storied and complex history.  In this, he supplies us with an invaluable service.  

Jack Kerwick, Ph.D.

originally published at The New American              




Defeating the Case Against Ron Paul

posted by Jack Kerwick

Ron Paul is persona non grata among establishment Republicans and other party loyalists—including and especially those in the mainstream “conservative” media. 

On its face, the very idea that any self-professed lover of liberty should have anything but the utmost respect and admiration for Paul strikes us as a paradox of the first order.  After all, to hear Republicans tell it, liberty consists in just those things—“limited government,” personal and fiscal responsibility, the United States Constitution, etc.—of which Paul has proven himself as adamant and impassioned a proponent as any.  And yet, these very same Republicans deride him as a “nut,” a “fraud,” and, in some instances, a “racist,” an “anti-Semite,” and even an American hater.  Paul, they say, is no real conservative, for he befriends 9/11 “truthers” and “neo-Nazis.”

Occasionally, Paul’s GOP detractors suspend their efforts to assassinate his character by speaking to the substance of his positions on the issues.  However, no sooner than they suspend their campaign of besmirching his person than one fallacy gives way to another as the ad hominem attack is replaced by the straw man fallacy.  Whether through advertence or a genuine lack of understanding, it is never Paul’s actual views that they engage but their blatant misrepresentations of them.

Domestic Policy

Take Paul’s position on our drug policy.  His critics argue that he favors the legalization of recreational drugs.  They are mistaken.  What Paul favors is an end to the federal government’s ban on drug usage for recreational purposes.  That is, he believes that whether drugs should be legal or not is a question that properly, constitutionally, belongs to the states to address.  If the residents of a state decide that they would prefer to maintain the current policy of the federal government, then so be it; they have the right, as far as Congressman Paul is concerned, to make that decision. 

As far as his positions on marriage, prostitution, gambling, and virtually every other issue goes, his reasoning is identical to that which informs his perspective on drug policy: it is the individual states, not the federal government, that the Constitution entrusts with the authority to settle these matters.  Thus, Paul argues for the dismantling, not of all laws governing such activities, but of all federal laws designed to do so. 

Paul’s Republican critics would be well served to attend to the Paul Derangement Syndrome that has overtaken them.  You see, if Paul can be said to affirm the legalization of drugs and prostitution because of his stance that these are “states’ rights” issues, then, by parity of reasoning, every other self-proclaimed “pro-life” Republican who insists upon making abortion a “states’ rights” issue stands convicted of fraudulence, for they expose themselves as proponents of abortion. 

That Paul is as strong and consistent a foe of abortion no one who knows of his record as an obstetrician would think to deny.  This is telling, for it suggests that the distortions of his viewpoints spring not from ignorance, but bad faith.  Anyone doubting this should just bear the following consideration in mind: Because Paul thinks that drug usage, prostitution, and gambling, are matters with respect to which the federal government hasn’t the constitutional authority to speak, his objectors don’t hesitate to conclude that he champions their legalization.  Yet when he makes the same claim about the federal government’s role vis-à-vis abortion—that is, when he makes the same exact claim that they do about this issue—his fellow Republicans do not so much as remotely suggest that he advocates the legalization of abortion.  In convicting Paul of this, they would just as quickly condemn themselves.  So maybe, just maybe, they do understand his positions on these other issues but refuse to justly characterize them.

Foreign Policy        

It is really Paul’s position on foreign policy that incenses his critics to no end.  As everyone knows, Ron Paul staunchly opposes what he refers to as “militarism,” a doctrine—sometimes euphemistically described by its apologists as “American Exceptionalism”—that calls for America to essentially “police” the globe against “human rights” violators or, what amounts to the same thing, the enemies of “Democracy.”  Since this enterprise has, within the last decade, been prosecuted in the name of combating Islamic terror, it is principally Paul’s objections against the assumptions, implications, and tactics of “the War on Terror” that have earned him both the contempt and fear of his competitors.

To begin with, Paul emphatically rejects the proposition—treated as an axiom by the Republican Party—that Muslims hate us because of our liberties and freedoms.  Rather, it is a hyper-aggressive American foreign policy, he insists, with its occupation of and sanctions and wars against Islamic lands, that accounts for the rage that culminated in the attacks of 9/11. 

For this position, Rick Santorum and legions of other representatives of the GOP establishment have blasted Paul for “blamingAmerica” for the attacks.  There are, though, at a minimum, three fatal problems with their approach.

First, an understanding of an agent’s action need not involve praise or blame.  Descriptive statements are distinct from prescriptive statements: just because something is such and such a way doesn’t necessarily mean that it ought to be that way, and just because one thinks that such and such is this way doesn’t mean that he either approves or disapproves of it.  In our daily lives, most of us have no difficulty grasping this simple conceptual distinction between, on the one hand, explanation, and, on the other, justification.  For some reason, a little elementary logic of this kind manages to elude Paul’s Republican rivals when it comes to his stance on the motivations informing those Muslims who want us dead.

Second, from Osama bin Laden to the 9/11 commission, from former CIA agents who spent decades in the Middle East to political science professor Robert Pape who, to date, has conducted the most extensive research into the reasons underlying Islamic terror, there is no short supply of authoritative sources from which Paul can readily draw in substantiating his position on the 9/11 attacks. 

Finally, let us say for argument’s sake that Paul did intend to blame the United States government for inviting the 9/11 attacks.  That the government is not equivalent to the United States should be obvious to any and every lover of liberty.  If, by ascribing blame to the government, Paul can be said to be ascribing blame to America, then whenever any other Republican holds the government accountable for objectionable policies or outcomes—something that occurs incessantly—they too must be held to be “blaming”America. 

As it stands, Republicans do themselves no service in conflating the federal government with the country itself.  In hurling this bogus charge against Paul, they only contribute further to the growing perception among both the base of their party as well as independents that all of their talk of “limited government” and the like is just that: talk.


Paul has also taken considerable heat for failing to react with the same hysteria that the public has come to expect from Republicans when the subject of a nuclear armed Iranarises.  Now, few of us, including Paul, no doubt, wants for Iran to be armed, and few of us, including Paul, supports the Iranian regime.  Yet none of this is in the least bit relevant to the question regarding how America should proceed in preventing a determinedIran from acquiring nuclear weaponry.

Paul recognizes that such preventive efforts must consist of actions that can only result in death and destruction: whetherAmericaimposes sanctions or engages in military action of one kind or another, innocent Iranian (and possibly American) lives will be extinguished by our attempt to keepIranfrom obtaining nuclear energy.  He also recognizes that our military, already stretched to the snapping point, simply cannot afford (by any conceivable measure) to involve itself in but another “foreign entanglement,” especially in the Islamic world.

But if, as his Republican nemeses hold, Paul’s perspective on this matter is so unacceptable, then how is their view any better?  On the one hand, the prospect of a nuclear armed Iranis one that they resolutely refuse to entertain: it is imperative that we prevent this state of affairs from materializing, they swear.  However, on the other hand, not only have we long known that Iranwas pursuing nuclear power, it began to expedite its pursuit during the Bush administration. 

And yet, to date, no action has been taken to deter it.  Moreover, no concrete action to impede its efforts has even been seriously proposed.

“Racism” and “Anti-Semitism”

I usually refuse to dignify accusations of “racism,” “anti-Semitism,” and the like with a response, but they warrant some mention in connection with this defense of Ron Paul.

Paul favors the elimination of all “foreign aid.”  BecauseIsrael is among the nations of the world to which theUnited States supplies financial assistance, some, like David Horowitz, have charged Paul with being “anti-Semitic.”

It is strange indeed that those who never tire of lamenting the ills afflicted by the Welfare State against black Americans and others at home should find fault with a man who seeks only to liberateIsrael(and every other country) from the oppressive burdens of the American Welfare State abroad.  Paul is actually a friend toIsraelinasmuch as he wants for it to be able to give unabashed expression to its sovereignty—something that will be forever impossible as long as it remains dependent uponAmerica. 

Yet it is Paul’s detractors who want to maintainIsrael’s dependence uponAmericawho claim the moral high ground.  It is they who are supposed to be the best friends of Israeli Jews.

As for the charge of “racism,” the widely respected black thinker Thomas Sowell is among many who have long noted that, whether measured in terms of street violence or rates of incarceration, the federal government’s “War on Drugs” has had incalculable deleterious effects on blackAmerica.  Paul has labored indefatigably to end this war.  His accusers want to continue waging it.  And it is his critics, not Paul, who insist upon displacing, injuring, and killing untold numbers of non-white peoples (Middle Eastern Muslims) through “the War on Terror” or George W. Bush’s “Freedom Agenda.”  Paul not only wants to end the wars, at considerable cost to his presidential campaign and his popularity among the fellow members of his party, he has spared no occasion to articulate to audiences an understanding of the terrorists’ motives that counters the conventional Republican account that reduces the Islamic terrorist to an embodiment of raw, undifferentiated irrationality.  For this, this “racist” has been accused of “blamingAmerica.”

It is one thing to disagree with Congressman Paul.  It is another thing to throw one baseless allegation after the other against him. 

Jack Kerwick, Ph.D.

originally published at The New American as “The Case Against Ron Paul is Defeated” 



9/11 Ceremonies and Liberty

posted by Jack Kerwick

As the tenth anniversary of September 11, 2001 dawns upon us, Americans will come together to recall the happenings of that infamous day.  Ceremonies and even parades will occur in cities and towns around the country as television and radio stations allocate time for special programming and school children partake of numerous activities.

At the risk of sounding sacrilegious, to say nothing of heartless, I confess to having little patience for the pomp and circumstance to which we are treated year after year around the eleventh of September. 

For sure, the attacks of that day were as awful as any that this country has experienced during our lifetime. Those who personally suffered loss on that day are as deserving of our compassion as those who attacked us are deserving of our justice.  Yet from these facts it most certainly does not follow that there is an obligation on our part to annually engage in ritualistic expressions of our collective angst over the losses that we endured a decade ago. 

There is more than one reason for this verdict.

Ostensibly, we must annually commemorate 9/11 so that “we will never forget” what transpired on that day in our history.  But we are no more at risk of forgetting that event than we are at risk of forgetting the attack of Pearl Harbor; the assassinations of John F. Kennedy, his brother Robert, and Martin Luther King; the explosion of the space shuttle Challenger; and any number of other national tragedies that we refuse to commemorate by way of countrywide ceremonies.  Even if we tried, there isn’t a single one of us who lived through 9/11 that will ever be able to forget it.  In fact, not only are the images of the planes flying into the twin towers of the World Trade Center and innocent human beings jumping to their deaths forever ensconced in our minds; chances are we will remember what we were doing that day much more vividly than we will be able to recall the details of most days from our pasts. 

As for those who do not personally recollect 9/11, it is as impossible for them to “forget” it as it is impossible for us to do so.  The world in which we live is a world that is defined by the events of Tuesday, September 11, 2001.  The terrorist attacks that robbed 3,000 or so of our fellow Americans from us, though they occurred in the past, are still very much a part of our present.  At any rate, if countless ceremonies must be orchestrated each year in order to impress upon future generations the significance of 9/11, then comparable ceremonies commemorating every significant historical event should be no less mandatory as far as instructing our posterity is concerned.  But if the latter claim is ridiculous, then it is not obvious that the former isn’t equally so.  

Second, 9/11 was a tragedy of epic proportions for America.  Due to bureaucratic incompetence, a ragtag group of Islamic terrorists from the Middle East were wildly successful (from their perspective) in striking a devastating blow against the United States.  Admittedly, and thankfully, it didn’t take our country long after 9/11 to regain its bearings and strike back, but on 9/11, America wasn’t just sucker punched; she took a baseball bat to the skull. 

Why, we must ask ourselves, do we continually want to remind, not just ourselves of this ugly fact, but the entire world?

Third, it is more than just a bit ironic that it is precisely those Republican politicians and “conservative” media personalities who never tire of railing against the “victim mentality” that has overcome our generation who are usually the most vocal supporters of ceremonies commemorating 9/11.  Yet there could be no better illustration of this mentality, and the extent to which it has supplanted all others, than our conduct as a nation in the second week of September each year.  Again, September 11, 2001 is the date on which Americans were victimized en masse.  What is worse is that we were victimized as much by the negligence and incompetence of our own government as we were the 19 savages who, armed only with box cutters, changed forever the most powerful nation in all of human history. 

To a people devoted to liberty and the individuality that this liberty entails, public exhibitions of mourning one’s victimhood should be nothing less than anathema. It is achievements and victories, the products of strength, courage, genius, and all of the virtues the exercise of which liberty renders possible that such a people should celebrate.   On the other hand, though they will remember weaknesses, failures, and set-backs, they will steadfastly refuse to adorn them in grand displays for all time.

Our liberty is potentially diminished in another way through these annual national reminders of 9/11.  The ceremonies make it all too easy for our government to exploit this tragedy for the sake of amassing an ever greater scope over our lives.  Whether the office holders are Republican or Democrat, as long as Americans are constantly reminded by way of these public exhibitions of remembrance and mourning of the destruction that our enemies would love to visit upon us, the easier it is for the government to prey on that fear in order to grow and grow.

Fifth and finally, because of their ubiquity and grandiosity, the 9/11 ceremonies have the effect of inducing in Americans the belief that nothing short of patriotism itself demands that they support any and all actions that are done in the name of either avenging the victims of 9/11 or of preventing “another” 9/11 on our shores.  This, however, can only lead to all manner of abuse.

I will attend church this Sunday, as I usually do.  There, I will pray for both those who lost their lives on 9/11 as well as their loved ones.  I will not, though, be partaking of any 9/11 ceremonies.  

Jack Kerwick, Ph.D. 


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In this column, I recently argued in favor of a grand jury’s refusal to indict Officer Dan Pantaleo for the death of Eric Garner.  To my dismay (and, frankly, shock), a great many “conservatives” and “libertarians,” I’ve had the great misfortune to discover, disagree vehemently with the

posted 7:56:58pm Dec. 09, 2014 | read full post »

The "Eric Garner" Case: Truth versus Ideology
From the rough that is contemporary America, the grand jury that just decided that there were no grounds on which to indict Officer Daniel Pantaleo for the death of Eric Garner is the second diamond to be retrieved.  The first is the grand jury that refused to indict Officer Darren Wilson for the d

posted 10:02:40pm Dec. 04, 2014 | read full post »

How and Why TNT's "Dallas" Failed
Word broke last month that Dallas—TNT’s contemporary version of the spectacularly successful 80’s series—has been cancelled after three seasons.  The “Save Dallas” campaign designed to relocate the show to another network bore no fruit. To long-time fans like yours truly, this news i

posted 12:49:28pm Nov. 29, 2014 | read full post »

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