Mitt Romney is now the GOP’s presumptive presidential nominee. Mitt is also a Mormon. There has already been much talk over whether this last fact should be of any relevance to his bid for the presidency. A shocking number of people—it seems like most—think that Romney’s religious commitments should be off limits for discussion.
It shocks that so many Americans think this; it does not surprise.
In fact, we should expect that the children of the Age of “Judeo-Christian values,” “American Exceptionalism,” and the like should speak as though all faiths were at once interchangeable as well as immaterial to politics.
The concept of “Judeo-Christian values” is a useful fiction that, in conflating Judaism with Christianity, essentially denies both. “American Exceptionalism” is no less a fiction, but a particularly invidious one, for on its behalf, countless numbers of human beings around the world have lost their lives in America’s quest to promote Democracy and Human Rights.
Religion, if it is real, should make every difference vis-à-vis every aspect of a person’s life.
This, of course, doesn’t mean that any given politician’s religious commitments will necessarily conflict with his commitment to the Constitution. His faith may even require that, either as an American citizen or an office holder, he uphold it.
Or it may be silent on the question of politics.
In any case, a genuinely religious person can’t but be offended at the suggestion that his religiosity (or anyone’s, for that matter) can or should be bracketed off to one side when he enters the political (or any) arena.
This brings us back to Mitt Romney.
If Romney takes his Mormon faith seriously, then it is only upon pain of lying that he could deny his faith a central role in making him the person—and the candidate—who he is.
Yet consistency calls on Romney’s critics to acknowledge that if Romney’s faith is fair game, then so is that of Barack Obama.
The linchpin to discovering what makes Obama tick is Jeremiah Wright, his pastor and “spiritual adviser” and “mentor” of over twenty years.
Obama had donated thousands and thousands of dollars to Wright’s church. He arranged for Wright to officiate at his wedding service and to baptize his children. Such was Wright’s influence over Obama’s thought that our President entitled his second memoir after one of Wright’s sermons, a sermon within which the pixilated parson waxed indignant over his belief that “white folks’ greed runs a world in need.”
There are only two kinds of people who think that Obama’s worldview is not essentially that of Wrights: those who won’t think or those who can’t think.
To elaborate, either those who know nothing of either religion or politics or those who know nothing of religion could sincerely believe that twenty-plus years under Wright’s tutelage didn’t exert a tremendous influence over Obama.
So, yes, the faiths of Romney and Obama should be placed under a microscope this election season.
If Americans can transcend their racial fears and irrationalities, they will discover in no time that for all of its problems, it isn’t Romney’s Mormonism that threatens our secular government, but the Black Liberation Theology (BLT) that Obama imbibed from Wright. Recall, according to BLT, “the greed” of “white folks” rules over “a world in need.” The God of BLT is a deity who allies itself with blacks—or Blacks—over whites.
This is the theology on which America’s 44th president was reared.
Let’s look at Romney’s Mormonism. But let us also inspect, for the first time, really, Obama’s Black Liberation Theology.
Rest assured, while neither presidential candidate will much look forward to having his religious history examined, the President will be far more averse to such an inquiry than will be his rival.
This weekend is Memorial Day weekend.
This morning, on Bill Bennett’s nationally syndicated radio program, his substitute host exchanged reflections upon the significance of patriotism with a fellow from the Claremont Review of Books. I didn’t catch the latter’s name. In any event, though, it’s not relevant, for his view, as well as that of the host’s, is the prevailing view of patriotism.
We are all familiar with it: the American patriot loves his country because of the principles, the ideals, on which it was founded and for which it stands. The American soldier—the most heroic and admirable figure, from this perspective—fights first and foremost to protect and preserve the liberty of people everywhere.
To put it simply, American patriotism is primarily about defending, not the rights of Americans, but human rights. The American patriot, you see, is “a citizen of the world.” And the American soldier, as Ron Paul once said, is “the Universal Soldier.”
This account, however fashionable, faces insurmountable problems. It produces particularly acute problems for the self-avowed conservative.
First, since the American patriot’s is a devotion to principle, he may find himself obligated to side with other countries against his own! This will most certainly be the case if, at any given time, there are non-Americans throughout the world whose commitment to his ideals waxes as that of Americans appears to wane.
It is the universal principle that matters morally. That any country—including America—happens to affirm these principles is incidental.
Second, the popular view of patriotism is of a piece with a view of morality generally that, however common, fails spectacularly to resonate with us on a personal level.
If patriotism requires commitment to universal principles, this is because morality demands commitment to universal principles. Make no mistakes about it: this is exactly the understanding of morality underwriting the dominant position on patriotism. But if morality consists in the observance of universal principles like “human rights,” then one of two things follow.
Either the partiality that we have toward our spouses, our friends, and our families is beyond the moral realm altogether, or it is actually immoral. There is no way to avoid this conclusion. Any morality affirming universal principles requires impartiality. In glaring contrast, the intimate relationships from which we derive our identities—“the little platoons,” as Burke described them—require partiality.
Thus, either patriotism is a moral fiction or our “little platoons” are.
Finally, the most outspoken and impassioned defenders of the current view of patriotism are self-declared “conservatives.” As such, they talk tirelessly about “limited government,” “constitutionalism,” and liberty. But their understanding of American patriotism undercuts this talk.
The United States military is an organ of the federal government. Soldiers, then, are as much agents of the government as are tax collectors and politicians. However, as radio talk show host Dennis Prager—an unabashed proponent of the view of patriotism under discussion—has said often, “the larger the government, the smaller the citizen.”
A government—and military—that is expected to oversee the interests of 300-plus million American citizens must already be larger than any that the Founders could have envisioned. A government with a military that is expected to defend “the rights” of the globe’s six billion or so inhabitants is a monstrosity from which they would have recoiled in horror.
This Memorial Day weekend, let us rethink the prevailing orthodoxy regarding patriotism.
George S. Schuyler, a black cultural critic, was among the greatest popular writers that twentieth centuryAmerica had produced. A particularly astute observer of political circumstances generally and race relations in particular, a staggering array of the nation’s most well known publications from across the ideological and racial spectrums eagerly sought his services for over five decades.
Yet today, Schuyler is scarcely mentioned at all. Those who either weren’t around from the 1920’s through the 1970’s (when he died) or whose memory span is short wouldn’t even know his name.
While this is a tragedy, it is no mystery.
Schuyler pitted himself against those of his contemporaries, like Martin Luther King, Jr. and Malcolm X, who have since achieved iconic status. This, in large measure, is what accounts for the painful fact that the self-appointed guardians of our Politically Correct orthodoxy have sought to erase them from their official histories.
But while Schuyler’s relentless criticism of such famed “racially correct” heroes as King and Malcolm X accounts for the treatment that he has been accorded, it is crucial to grasp that his critiques were informed by his conservatism.
In fact, so unabashed was Schuyler regarding his politics that he entitled his autobiography Black and Conservative.
Schuyler opposed the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The previous year, he penned his case against it. “A proliferation of largely unenforceable legislation has everywhere been characteristic of political immaturity,” Schuyler wrote. Being a relatively “young nation,”America particularly has been disposed toward “enacting laws regulating social conduct,” legislation that is more a function of “politics” than “statesmanship.” Politicians pass laws “without too much attention to consideration of how and at what cost they are to be enforced [.]”
The Civil Rights Act of 1964 would prove to be but the latest attempt to “make people better by force” (emphasis original). This enterprise, however, “has been the cause of much misery and injustice throughout the ages.”
Schuyler is quick to condemn the attitude of the white majority toward “the so-called Negro” as “morally wrong, nonsensical, unfair, un-Christian and cruelly unjust”; still, he is just as quick to note, the fact of the matter is that this position “remains the majority attitude” (emphasis original).
Schuyler’s condemnation of whites’ view of blacks is not unqualified, though. “Anybody who has observed race relations during the past quarter of a century,” he remarks, “knows” that the white majority’s view of blacks “has been progressively modified [.]” And while “changes have been very slow since 1865,” there can be no denying that they have been “marked [.]” Moreover, “civil rights laws, state or federal, have had little to do with it,” for legislation has “been enforced and accepted only when the dominant majority acquiesced….” Otherwise, it has “generally lain dormant in the law books.”
In short, it is “custom,” most decidedly not law, that “has dictated the pace” of improving race relations.
Unlike his leftist rivals, the Kings and the Malcolms, Schuyler resolutely eschews the ideology of Blackism, an ideology according to which racial “reality” begins and ends with a severely truncated—and politicized—version of American history. Central to Blackism is a meta-narrative of perpetual White Oppression and Black Suffering. Schuyler, recognizing this “history” for the useful political fiction that it is, rejects it in favor of a genuinely historical—and global—perspective.
American whites should not be judged along the lines of some perfectionist—and, thus, wholly unattainable—standard. They should, rather, be judged against the backdrop of other flesh and blood beings. And when they are judged by this standard, they look pretty damn commendable.
“It might be said here parenthetically that nowhere else on earth has the progress of a dissimilar racial minority been so marked in education, housing, health, voting and economic well-being” as that of blacks in whiteAmerica. “Not one of the foreign countries whose spokesmen criticize and excoriate the United States can equal its record in dealing with a minority group,” Schuyler declares.
All of this notwithstanding, in the concluding paragraph of his brief against the Civil Rights bill, Schuyler clarifies that his “principal case against” it is an argument from liberty. The law would be but “another encroachment by the central government on the federalized structure of our society.” He asserts: “Armed with this law enacted to improve the lot of a tenth of the population, the way will be opened to enslave the rest of the populace.”
This is no stretch.
“Under such a law the individual everywhere” will be “told what he must do and what he cannot do, regardless of the laws and ordinances of his state or community” (emphasis added). Yet “this is a blow at the very basis of American society,” a society “founded on state sovereignty and individual liberty and preference.”
Schuyler concludes: “We are fifty separate countries, as it were, joined together for mutual advantage, security, advancement, and protection. It was never intended that we should be bossed by a monarch, elected or born. When this happens, the United States as a free land will cease to exist.”
The rhetoric of other “civil rights ‘leaders’” aside, the honest person, black or white—but especially white—can’t help but suspect that in far too many instances, such activists want to advance the interests of blacks—particularly themselves—at the expense of racial good will.
With Schuyler, such suspicions could never arise. He was not only a great black American, but a great American, a real apostle of liberty.
Jack Kerwick, Ph.D.
George S. Schuyler was among the most distinguished American writers and pundits of the twentieth century.
He was also a conservative.
And he was black.
Today, it is on the rare occasion indeed that his name is mentioned. Most of the members of our generation, black and white, have never heard of him.
There is a reason for this.
Schuyler, you see, had no patience for what he perceived to be the foolhardiness, opportunism, and utopianism of those of his fellow blacks who have secured for themselves a place in the pantheon of “civil rights” heroes.
For instance, of Malcolm X, Schuyler said: “Malcolm was a bold, outspoken, ignorant man of no occupation after he gave up pimping, gambling, and dope-selling to follow Mr. [Elijah] Muhammad [of the Nation of the Islam].” Blacks who would transform him into “a great Negro leader” invite “a serious indictment” of themselves. Schuyler numbered Malcolm among the “mediocrities, criminals, plotters, and poseurs” who he believed composed “the past generation” of “black ‘leaders’ afflicting the nation [.]”
Schuyler also had little regard for “the peripatetic parson,” Martin Luther King, Jr.
In 1964, when King was a recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize, Schuyler identified him as but the latest in “a succession of pious frauds” to be awarded the coveted prize “for the purposes of political propaganda [.]” That King didn’t deserve this recognition owed to the fact that “neither directly nor indirectly” did he make a single “contribution to the world (or even domestic) peace.” Schuyler added: “Methinks the Lenin Prize would have been more appropriate for him, since it is no mean feat for one so young to acquire sixty Communist-front citations, according to the U.S. government.”
King’s “principal contribution to world peace has been to roam the country like some sable typhoid-Mary, infecting the mentally disturbed” while “grabbing lecture fees from the shallow-pated.” The unrest for which King was responsible “packed jails with Negroes and some whites, getting them beaten, bitten and firehosed,” an endeavor that consisted in “bankrupting communities” and “raising bail and fines, to the vast enrichment of Southern law and order.”
Upon King’s death, Schuyler was not without some kind words. King was “talented and adroit,” he remarked, and “evidently,” he was “dedicated to the cause of improving race relations.” Yet these compliments Schuyler made within the context of a reasonably lengthy critique entitled, “Dr. King: Nonviolence Always Ends Violently.”
It was Schuyler’s position that King actually exacerbated race relations. “Countless mass demonstrations which started to advance a good cause have ended in clashes with police, looting, vandalism and killing rather than the goodwill and understanding originally intended.” Race-related problems are such that their resolution lies “in moderation and…innumerable compromises”—not “abrasive tactics that produce irritation and ill will rather than understanding and cooperation.”
Schuyler thought that King was “demagogic” and opportunistic. More than once, he “persisted stubbornly” to “the point of irresponsibility” in inserting himself in local situations that he was encouraged to avoid. Black activists from Alabama andFlorida implored King to stay away from Birmingham and St. Augustine, respectively—but King did not listen. As a consequence, his “persistence aided by the atmosphere of mob-mindedness among colored and white led directly to the deplorable events that followed.”
Schuyler notes that while no one can say “what help” any of this “was to race relations,” one thing is for certain: the publicity assured “more speaking engagements for Dr. King.”
King’s ends, Schuyler believed, were noble enough. “It was the methods he used which, considering the high emotionalism which surrounded his goals, were objectionable.” Simply put, “there are too many retardate, half-witted, criminally-inclined people in our population whose expectations have to be kept in check,” for it is they who “provide the fuel for great social conflagrations.”
Schuyler was a great lover of liberty. There is much else that he did for the cause of freedom. But here it is important to understand that it wasn’t primarily his conservatism that accounts for his being made to vanish from our collective memory.
First and foremost, it was his unrelenting criticism of contemporary racial orthodoxy and its heroes that explains this.
Jack Kerwick, Ph.D.