“The Cult of Malevolent Mendacity” .

There’s an appropriate appellation if I’ve ever read one. A while back Jack Cluth of The People’s Republic of Seabrook really pissed me off with a post insisting that the government was disrespecting soldiers killed overseas by shipping them home (*gasp!*) as air cargo!

I had a little something to say about that.

We exchanged comments.

Jack posted a Ted Rall “cartoon” that perpetuated the lie.

Jack then named me one of his “Dumbass Award Wieners,” and in the comments stated:

Jeez, Kevin…calling you an asshole would be a huge understatement, wouldn’t it?

Considering the source, I wear that tag with pride over on the left sidebar of this blog.

This particular bit of Moonbat mendacity still hasn’t died.

It seems that Mother Sheehan told the press just a few days ago that her son came home in a cardboard box, unescorted, and was unloaded with a forklift, along with other assorted and sundry male bovine excrement.

Gateway Pundit has the whole story, and all of the facts.

But facts don’t matter to the malevolent maligners lying bastards.

I found the Gateway Pundit link (and the title for this piece) through Van der Leun’s American Digest to The Anchoress’s post Judas & the Cult of Malevolent Mendacity. I heartily recommend you read it, and Van der Leun’s own post, Judas: A Saint for Our Seasons. I may be an atheist, but I know powerful and thought-provoking writing when I read it. And I know bullshit when I see it.

Dude, Take a Break!.

Apparently TSM has drawn a new reader. See #10 on my “Who’s on Your Site” below:

Ninety-six page views and almost two hours? That’s about 72 seconds per page without pause!

Dude (or Dudette): Take a break. It’ll all still be here tomorrow!

On England’s Continued Decline.

Read Theodore Dalrymple’s latest City Journal column, “It’s This Bad,” and try to convince yourself that what he describes is not coming here if the Left ever acquires control of the levers of power. Excerpts:

Returning briefly to England from France for a speaking engagement, I bought three of the major dailies to catch up on the latest developments in my native land. The impression they gave was of a country in the grip of a thoroughgoing moral frivolity. In a strange inversion of proper priorities, important matters are taken lightly and trivial ones taken seriously.

This is not the charming or uplifting frivolity of Feydeau’s farces or Oscar Wilde’s comedies; it is the frivolity of real decadence, bespeaking a profound failure of nerve bound to have disastrous consequences for the country’s quality of life. The newspapers portrayed frivolity without gaiety and earnestness without seriousness—a most unattractive combination.

The newspapers confirmed what I had long perceived before I left Britain: that the zeitgeist of the country is now one of sentimental moralizing combined with the utmost cynicism, where the government’s pretended concern for the public welfare coexists with the most elementary dereliction of duty. There is an absence of any kind of idealism that is a necessary precondition of probity, so that bad faith prevails almost everywhere. The government sees itself as an engineer of souls (to use the phrase so eloquently coined by Stalin with regard to writers who, of course, were expected to mold Homo Sovieticus by the power of their words). Government thus concerns itself with what people think, feel, and say—as well as with trying to change their freely chosen habits—rather than with performing its one inescapable duty: that of preserving the peace and ensuring that citizens may go about their lawful business in confidence and safety.

Read. Every. Damned. Word.

I am reminded once again of Kim du Toit’s explanation of why he and I and others comment on Albion’s decline:

(W)e Americans can’t help but be horribly fascinated by what’s happening to our British cousins.

I’m serious about this. The slight disturbances in the late 1770s and early 1810s notwithstanding, we Americans have always held our British cousins in the greatest esteem. No, that’s not strong enough. We love Britain, as much for our shared heritage and language as for the fact that when we’re traveling, it’s an enormous relief not to have to struggle with a map and a language guide.

I could fill these pages with news of similar atrocities happening anywhere in the world—the British Disease is by no means confined to Britain, as witnessed by car-burning being the recreational favorite of French teenagers—but, if I may be frank, I don’t give a rat’s ass what happens to France, to the French, or to any other country in the world for that matter.

But I care, deeply, about what’s happening in Britain nowadays, and if it seems any other way to my Brit Friends and Readers, then I humbly beg your forgiveness.

Dalrymple says much the same:

Therefore I have removed myself: not that I imagine things are much better, only slightly different, in France. But one does not feel the defects of a foreign country in quite the same lacerating way as the defects of one’s native land; they are more an object of amused, detached interest than of personal despair.

Contracts and Absolutes

A couple of days ago, fellow gun- and rights-blogger Publicola posted The Minority Retort, a long-delayed piece on the topic of the Rights of Man. Pertinent excerpt:

In most things Kevin & I are in agreement. However there are a few differences.
I refer you to the following posts:

What is a “Right”?
It’s Not All Faith
Rights, Revisited
History and Moral Philosophy

In these you’ll find the main difference between Kevin & myself: He’s a Contractualist whereas I’m an Absolutist. I think we both agree as to some of the problems society currently faces about Rights: namely that we are pretty damn apethetic in general about the most important ones.

Where we differ is in the origin of those Rights.

Publicola goes on to make his argument:

A Contractualist believes that Rights are strictly a construct of the social contract. In other words Rights are dependent on society agreeing that they are in fact Rights.

An Absolutist believes that Rights are inherent & exist independently of the social contract. Rights are an inherent thing not given to men by men, but bestowed upon us by Nature or Nature’s God (depending upon your belief system).

Please, read the whole post if you haven’t already.

Let me see if I can illustrate where I see logical flaws in Publicola’s arguments.

I’ll accept – to a point – Publicola’s definition of me as a “Contractualist.” I have, however, made the point that I do believe in at least one right that exists outside the social contract. In my six-part exchange with Dr. Danny Cline on this very same topic, I said this:

Yes, I did state that “A ‘right’ is what the majority of a society believes it is,” and I’ll come back to that, but I am in agreement with Ayn Rand in her statement:

A ‘right’ is a moral principle defining and sanctioning a man’s freedom of action in a social context. There is only one fundamental right (all others are its consequences or corollaries): a man’s right to his own life.

That right is, in my opinion, REAL, but it can be and has been trampled, folded, torn, spindled, mutilated, and – worst of all – unrealized, for the overwhelming majority of Man’s existence upon the Earth.

The source of this right?


Or Nature. Yaweh. Christ. Vishnu, Mother Gaia, Barney the Dinosaur. I don’t know, nor do I care overly much, but reason works for me.

I believe that right is “real” because I believe that – given the chance – average specimens of humanity will conclude through reason that they are of value (to themselves if no one else), and that their physical selves and the product of their labor belongs to them and not another. However, it is difficult to build a society based on this belief alone. (The AnarchoCaptialists think it can – and should – be done, but admit that they don’t know how.)

I went on to argue that this right, the right to one’s own life, is understood only if there is sufficient freedom both of time and thought to allow reflection on the topic. It’s “self-evident” only if you have the time and the freedom to consider the question.

For millennia, that was not the case. People lived ferally at the whim of nature, then in strict hierarchies and at the whim of their social superiors. The fruit of their production was not theirs. It belonged to clan and tribe and then king. Their lives were not their own.

Publicola argues that history does not negate the fact that the right existed even when it was unrecognized. I argue that, if a thing isn’t recognized, isn’t praticed, isn’t defended, it is for all intents and purposes non-existant. Publicola argues that rights are inherent and independent from society, but then states:

If a stone falls out of the sky & kills you that’s just part of the game. It sucks, & in a bad way but those are the breaks. The rock was not acting with malice when it landed on you. It was behaving as rocks behave in gravity.

If a person walks up to you & for no justifiable reason drops a rock on you & kills you, then we have action with intent. We also have a good use of why Rights were communicated.

People. Be it a person acting singly or a group acting as a government, people are the reason it was necessary to define & articulate & communicate what exactly a “Right” is. They are, in essence, boundaries to prevent action from or by other people that would halt or slow you down in seeking or trying to achieve something that is necessary & proper for you to do.

Rights, according to Merriam Webster, and agreed to by Publicola are:

something to which one has a just claim: as a: the power or privilege to which one is justly entitled b (1) : the interest that one has in a piece of property — often used in plural (2) plural : the property interest possessed under law or custom and agreement in an intangible thing especially of a literary and artistic nature; something that one may properly claim as due

I’ve used that argument myself. But note the one commonality. Rights are, by Publicola’s definition and mine only claimable against other people – that is, your society. You cannot claim the ocean violated your right to life if you drown in it because of an accident. Your family can, however, file claim in court if someone else was responsible for your being in the ocean in deadly peril.

That is, if you live in a society that recognizes your right to life.

If you don’t, then you’re SOL. Your “just claim” would just fall flat.

I quoted MaxedOutMama yesterday:

Liberty is an inherently offensive lifestyle. Living in a free society guarantees that each one of us will see our most cherished principles and beliefs questioned and in some cases mocked. That psychic discomfort is the price we pay for basic civic peace. It’s worth it.

It’s a pragmatic principle. Defend everyone else’s rights, because if you don’t there is no one to defend yours.

Rights exist when people are willing to defend them. Otherwise, they’re just some damned fool’s crackpot ideas.

I’ve discussed this before, too. I believe in “a man’s right to his own life,” and that “all other rights are its consequences or corollaries.” However, “all other rights” gets damned fuzzy damned fast. Certain Founders – among whom included James Madison, the author of the Bill of Rights – believed that enumerating some of the fundamental rights in the Constitution would lead to the denegration of other, equally important rights. I quoted James Irdell from the North Carolina ratifying convention:

[I]t would not only be useless, but dangerous, to enumerate a number of rights which are not intended to be given up; because it would be implying, in the strongest manner, that every right not included in the exception might be impaired by the government without usurpation; and it would be impossible to enumerate every one. Let any one make what collection or enumeration of rights he pleases, I will immediately mention twenty or thirty more rights not contained in it.

(From Professor Randy Barnett’s Restoring the Lost Constitution.) Irdell argues that the rights of humanity are, essentially, innumerable. Every single human being out there can come up with a “right” that they firmly believe in. Madison even tried to forstall this danger by writing the Ninth Amendment:

The enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people.

But the Ninth Amendment has become a meaningless inkblot, according to Robert Bork.

So who decides?

The society you live in, by general agreement.

That’s what defines a society.

And what defines the success of a society is whether the rights, privileges, and responsibilities they agree to result in the survival of that society.

I think you can see that the current French belief in the right to, as Nina Burleigh described it, “cheap medicine, generous welfare, (a) short workweek and plentiful child care” just isn’t going to pay off for them in the long run. Nor is England’s belief in the right to universal health care.

A society is defined by the rights, privileges, and responsibilities agreed to by the politically active majority (which may, in fact, be a tiny minority of the overall population.) When that politically active majority changes, so does the society. We no longer practice slavery. We no longer practice codified, legally sanctioned discrimination against blacks. A very vocal minority is currently attempting to change our society and manipulate what the current majority sees as our rights. Things change.

But the Absolutists say “NO!” They believe there are absolute, positive, unquestionable, fundamental, ultimate rights.

I know only one. An individual’s right to his own life. There are consequences and corollaries of that one right, but people will disagree on what those are, and some will even disagree with that one. Religious fundamentalists may argue, for example, that an individual’s life belongs to his diety. I believe that’s the position the Jihadists take. Their lives are not their own.

And this is why societies clash – fundamentally incompatible belief systems. A disagreement on what are and what aren’t rights. From David Hackett Fisher’s Albion’s Seed:

We Americans are a bundle of paradoxes. We are mixed in our origins, and yet we are one people. Nearly all of us support our Republican system, but we argue passionately (sometimes violently) among ourselves about its meaning. Most of us subscribe to what Gunnar Myrdal called the American Creed, but that idea is a paradox in political theory. As Myrdal observed in 1942, America is “conservative in fundamental principles . . . but the principles conserved are liberal, and some, indeed, are radical.”

We live in an open society which is organized on the principle of voluntary action, but the determinants of that system are exceptionally constraining. Our society is dynamic, changing profoundly in every period of American history; but it is also remarkably stable.

I think we’re witnessing a destabilization of our dynamic society. Of societies all over the world, in fact. What the Absolutists here proclaim to be Absolute Rights are, in fact, pretty radical compared to what history has shown us, and this is illustrated by MaxedOutMama’s quote:

Liberty is an inherently offensive lifestyle. Living in a free society guarantees that each one of us will see our most cherished principles and beliefs questioned and in some cases mocked.

What other society has ever been founded on a principle that embraces the radical idea that cherished principles and beliefs should be subject to question and even mockery? Yet the right of freedom of speech is one of those absolutes, is it not?

And if not, why not?


In reference to that upcoming piece responding to Publicola, I ran across an excellent post tonight which began with what will be my quote of the week for this week.

From MaxedOutMama (h/t Dr. Sanity):

Liberty is an inherently offensive lifestyle. Living in a free society guarantees that each one of us will see our most cherished principles and beliefs questioned and in some cases mocked. That psychic discomfort is the price we pay for basic civic peace. It’s worth it.

It’s a pragmatic principle. Defend everyone else’s rights, because if you don’t there is no one to defend yours.


More to come.

Guilt by Self-Association.

Haloscan runs blogads, and one for a film The God Who Wasn’t There has been running for over a week now. It advertises itself as a film exploring the idea that Jesus never actually existed, with blurbs from Newsweek and other reviews. I decided (being an atheist) that I’d click on the link just to see the site. Here’s the image that comes up:

This is a film that proclaims, “Bowling for Columbine did it to the gun culture. Supersize Me did it to fast food. Now The God Who Wasn’t There does it to religion.”


Bowling for Columbine lied about the gun culture. Blatantly.

Supersize Me lied about fast food. Blatantly.

So The God Who Wasn’t There lies too? And it isn’t lying about religion, it’s lying about Christianity – so even its advertisement is lying through misdirection!

No link to the page. I’m not giving these assholes a thing but my scorn.

(For the record, I’m fairly certain that Jesus of Nazareth was a real person. On the topic of his divinity, I’m somewhat less sanguine.)


Glenn Reynolds linked to a Salon.com piece by Nina Burleigh:

“I cringed as my young son recited the Pledge of Allegiance. But who was I to question his innocent trust in a nation I long ago lost faith in?”

Who, indeed? Reader Wagner James Au, who sent the link, writes: “My question is, why do anti-war liberals get so offended when people question their patriotism, when they spend so much time questioning it themselves?”

I read her piece, Country Boy, and my response to it was, almost literally, a RCOB.

Ms. Burleigh and I have worldviews so divergent that we might as well be of different species. There is no common ground upon which we could even begin to attempt rapprochement. And what bothers me most of all is that I see the land that we both live in becoming more and more divided between people like her, and people like me.

Let me fisk, for it is about the only thing I can do to purge myself of the emotions her piece inspired in me:

Country Boy

I cringed as my young son recited the Pledge of Allegiance. But who was I to question his innocent trust in a nation I long ago lost faith in?

By Nina Burleigh

Apr. 17, 2006 | When people give directions to the upstate New York hamlet of Narrowsburg, they always refer to the big red brick schoolhouse at the stoplight. Narrowsburg Central Rural School has been on the hill on School Street since 1929, educating four generations of local children.

Hardly anybody in town remembers a time when the campus — with its white doors, sloping green lawn, and Stars and Stripes snapping in the breeze — was not there. But last year, bankrupted by local fiscal mismanagement and the woes of the post-9/11 New York state economy, the little school was shuttered. When the last student skipped out of its double doors in the summer of 2005, janitors moved in with packing tape and boxes from a nearby egg farm to empty the classrooms. Among the pupils left behind was my son, a member of the last kindergarten class.

Our family first arrived in Narrowsburg in 2000, as city people hunting for a cheap house. For barely $50,000 we were able to buy the “weekend house” we thought would complete our metropolitan existence.

“Metropolitan existences” apparently come, without question, with “weekend houses?”

But soon after we closed on the home, we moved to Paris, spurred by the serendipitous arrival of a book contract. When our European idyll ended after two years, and with tenants still subletting our city apartment, we moved into the Narrowsburg house. After growing accustomed to the French social system — with its cheap medicine, generous welfare, short workweek and plentiful child care — life back in depressed upstate New York felt especially harsh. We’d never planned to get involved in the life of the town, nor had it ever occurred to us that we might send our son to the Narrowsburg School. But suddenly we were upstate locals, with a real stake in the community.

So, France is idyllic? I guess the Burleigh family (assuming they all use a common last name, which I find highly unlikely) left France prior to the, shall we say, recent unpleasantness the French have experienced. Cheap medicine and generous welfare? Paid for by those who actually work during that short workweek? France has an unemployment rate of between 9 and 10% (depending on your source), but its rate for the 26-and-under crowd is in excess of 22%. I guess Nina didn’t have to go shopping for a job during her two-year idle, er idyll.

Nothing like being insulated from reality to put rose-colored glasses on one’s outlook, is there?

In the fall of 2004, we enrolled our son in kindergarten at the Narrowsburg School. The school’s reputation among our friends, other “second-home owners,” was not good. “Do they even have a curriculum?” sniffed one New York City professor who kept a weekend home nearby. Clearly, Narrowsburg School was not a traditional first step on the path to Harvard.

Coming from a New York City professor, my first reaction is that he felt the hicks wouldn’t introduce Marxism until the second grade.

As far as I could tell, though, no one besides us had ever set foot inside the building.

No one in her circle that is.

When my husband and I investigated, we were pleasantly surprised. The school had just been renovated and was clean, airy, cheerful. The nurse and the principal knew every one of the 121 children by name. Our son would be one of just 12 little white children in a sunny kindergarten class taught by an enthusiastic woman with eighteen years’ experience teaching five-year-olds.

Isn’t that special! “Twelve little white children!”

I’m sure she felt properly guilty about that.

Still, for the first few months, we felt uneasy. Eighty of Narrowsburg’s 319 adults are military veterans and at least 10 recent school graduates are serving in Iraq or on other bases overseas right now.

In other words, “These people are not like us!

The school’s defining philosophy was traditional and conservative, starting with a sit-down-in-your-seat brand of discipline, leavened with a rafter-shaking reverence for country and flag.

Imagine that! Requiring children to sit down in their seats! The Neaderthals!

Every day the students gathered in the gym for the “Morning Program,” open to parents, which began with the Pledge of Allegiance, followed by a patriotic song, and then discussion of a “word of the week.” During the first few weeks, the words of the week seemed suspiciously tied to a certain political persuasion: “Military,” “tour,” “nation” and “alliance” were among them.

No, indeed. These people are NOT LIKE US!

But it wasn’t until our boy came home with an invitation in his backpack to attend a “released time” Bible class that my husband and I panicked.

PANICKED. Her word.

She and her husband are panicked by an invitation to a BIBLE CLASS.

Now, I make no bones about being an atheist (small “A”), but panic? What about the great Liberal openness? The dedication to embracing diversity?

As long as, I suppose, the diverse don’t include, you know, actual Christians.

We called the ACLU and learned this was an entirely legal way for evangelicals to proselytize to children during school hours. What was against the law was sending the flier home in a kid’s backpack, implying school support. After our inquiry, the ACLU formally called the principal to complain. She apologized and promised never to allow it again. While we were never identified as the people who dropped the dime to the ACLU, there was clearly no one else in the school community who would have done so — and the principal never looked at us quite as warmly again.

And why should she? The Burleighs contacted the ACLU (which probably doesn’t have a Narrowsburg branch office) rather than the principal directly.

Another characteristic of the Left – having other people fight their battles for them.

Shortly afterward, another parent casually told me that she wanted to bring her daughter’s religious cartoon videos in to share with the class, but couldn’t because “some people” might object.

Here I’m not sure if the other parent was trying to pass a message, or hadn’t been informed by the Great Christian Cabal that the Burleighs were Satan incarnate yet.

When we later learned that the cheery kindergarten teacher belonged to one of the most conservative evangelical churches in the community, we were careful not to challenge anyone or to express any opinion about politics or religion, out of fear our son would be singled out.

You mean like Liberals do when they outnumber Conservatives?

That’s called “projection.”

Instead, to counteract any God-and-country indoctrination he received in school, we began our own informal in-home instruction about Bush, Iraq and Washington over the evening news.

The kid is FIVE YEARS OLD.

Politically, Narrowsburg is red dot in a blue state.

What planet is this woman from? According to this map (PDF) of the red vs. blue counties in the 2004 Presidential election, New York is well over half red.

A “red dot in a blue state” my aching sphincter.

But that, too, is a characteristic of the Left – what they perceive is reality. Don’t confuse ’em with the facts.

It is not named for any small-town frame of mind, but for the way the Delaware River narrows at the edge of town, then widens into a serene, lakelike eddy that at twilight mirrors the lights of town and the ranch-style houses on the flats. The towering pines along the river are nesting spots for bald eagles that soar year-round in pairs above Main Street and swoop down into the river to sink their talons into trout sighted from a hundred feet up. That year, driving to school every morning along the water, my son and I witnessed the wind gradually scrape away the bright foliage, snow fall, and the ground freeze. In the white, leafless months, we could see the entire span of the Delaware River valley from the car, a long arc of pastoral perfection.

If you knew nothing else of the world, if you were just 5 or 6 or 10 years old, and this place was your only America, you wouldn’t have any reason at all to question the Narrowsburg School’s Morning Program routine. Hand over heart, my son belted out the Pledge with gusto every morning and memorized and sang “The Star-Spangled Banner.” I never stopped resisting the urge to sit down in silent protest during the Pledge. But I also never failed to get choked up when they sang “America the Beautiful.”

“I never stopped resisting the urge to sit down in silent protest during the Pledge.”

They’re not anti-war – they’re the other side.

But it’s OK, because “America the Beautiful” makes her choke up.

Listening to their little voices, I felt guilty for being a non-believer. When I was 5 years old, in 1965, did I understand what my lefty parents were saying about the Kennedy assassination, Watts and dead-soldier counts?

Apparently not, but it was enough to warp you into the woman you are today!

Who was I to deprive my son, or his eleven kindergarten chums, of their faith in a nation capable of combining “good with brotherhood?” In a 5-year-old’s perfect world, perhaps such places should exist.

But you didn’t let that stop you from counteracting any God-and-country indoctrination he received in school, by beginning your own informal in-home instruction about Bush, Iraq and Washington over the evening news!

That November, at the school’s annual Veterans Day program, the children performed the trucker anthem “God Bless the USA” (one of the memorable lines is “Ain’t no doubt I love this la-aand, God bless the USA-ay!”), as their parents sang along. About a dozen local veterans — ancient men who had served in World War II, and men on the cusp of old age who had served in Korea and Vietnam — settled into folding chairs arranged beneath the flag. When the students were finished singing, the principal asked the veterans to stand and identify themselves. Watching from the audience, I wondered if anyone would speak of the disaster unfolding in Iraq (which was never a word of the week).

Wait for it…

No one did. The men rose and stated name, rank and theater. Finally, a burly, gray-bearded Vietnam veteran rose and said what no one else dared. After identifying himself, he choked out, “Kids, I just hope to God none of you ever have to experience what we went through.” Then he sat down, leaving a small pocket of shocked silence. No one applauded his effort at honesty. On the contrary, the hot gym air thickened with a tension that implicitly ostracized the man, and by extension — because we agreed with him — me and my husband.

No one repudiated the Iraq war. No one applauded the hope that these children be spared the need to go to war (or be spit on when they come back).

Not even the Burleighs.

That’s another characteristic of the Left – complete unfamiliarity with people who have served in the military.

I have relatives who served in WWII, Korea, and Vietnam. I work with Vietnam veterans. NO ONE I know who has ever been in combat has ever suggested that they thought it would be a wonderful, uplifting experience for the next generation.

War sucks. People die. Often horribly. But if you ask them whether what they did was worth it, they – almost to a man – say “yes.” No one hopes that the next generation will see war. Expressing that sentiment is universal, and in no way requires applause for validation.

A “small pocket of shocked silence”? I doubt it seriously. Oh, I’m sure she interpreted it that way, but that’s not what it was. It was silent agreement. But Burleigh does not understand Red New York. It’s an alien environment to her.

After all, these people are religious!

A month later, just before Christmas, my son and I drove together into New York City with bags of children’s clothes and shoes that he and his sister had outgrown. The Harlem unit of the National Guard was putting on a Christmas clothing drive for Iraqi children. On the way into the city, I tried to explain to my son what we were doing, and — as best I could — why. As we crossed the George Washington Bridge and the Manhattan skyline spread out below us, I began to give him a variation on the “Africans don’t have any food, finish your dinner” talk. I wanted him to understand how privileged he was to live in a place where bombs weren’t raining from the sky. It was a talk I’d tried to have before, but not one he’d ever paid much attention to until that day, trapped in the back seat of our car.

In simple language, I told my son that our president had started a war with a country called Iraq. I said that we were bombing cities and destroying buildings. And I explained that families just like ours now had no money or food because their parents didn’t have offices to go to anymore or bosses to pay them. “America did this?” my son asked, incredulous. “Yes, America,” I answered. He paused, a long silent pause, then burst out: “But Mommy, I love America! I want to hug America!”

Out of the mouths of babes…

A month after the Christmas outburst, the first rumors that all was not well with the school began circulating. Fiscal mismanagement, high fuel and retirement costs, and the depleted state economy had created a huge and unexpected cash shortfall for the tiny district. The parents at Narrowsburg School soon had a figure: It was going to cost just over $600,000 to keep their school open for another year. Chump change in Washington and New York City, but impossible to collect in a town where the median family income is barely $45,000.

But NYC denizens can afford to come to the town and drop $50k on a “weekend home.”

By late June 2005, the little school’s fate was sealed. To my surprise I found I was deeply sorry about it.

The patriot-ization of our son was thorough enough to survive the summer. He decorated his birthday cookies with red, white and blue sugar, and in his summer camp program, when doing arts and crafts, those were the colors of paint he favored. “I made the stars red, white and blue — like the flag!” he exclaimed, holding a paper mobile he’d strung together.

Now it has been almost a year since my son scampered down the steps of Narrowsburg Central Rural School for the last time. We’ve since returned to the city, driven back to urban life more by adult boredom than our children’s lack of educational opportunities. Our son is enrolled in a well-rated K-5 public school on Manhattan’s Upper West Side;

I’m sure it has a curriculum.

not surprisingly, the Pledge of Allegiance is no longer part of his morning routine. Come to think of it, and I could be wrong, I’ve never seen a flag on the premises.

Of course not. That would be provincial.

But no one should question their patriotism.

My husband and I realized, though, that Narrowsburg did more than mold our boy into a patriot. He can, it turns out — despite the warnings of other city parents — read at a level twice that of his new peers.

Amazing how that “sit-down-in-your-seat brand of discipline” contributes to, you know, LEARNING.

Since we returned to the city, he has learned how to ride a bike, long for an Xbox, practiced a few new swear words and, somehow, learned the meaning of “sexy.” He has pretty much stopped favoring red, white and blue.

The kid is what, six? And she considers learning “a few new swear words” and understanding the meaning of “sexy” to be positive. So too, no longer “favoring red, white, and blue.”

But don’t question her patriotism. She tears up at “American the Beautiful.”

How soon childish national pride is shed, I sometimes think now, and not a little wistfully.

Ah, yes. National pride is childish. No country is better than any other, and we mustn’t make judgments. (But America is always wrong)

Just don’t question her patriotism.

Only once it was gone did I realize that, after our initial discomfort, my husband and I had begun to see our son’s patriotism as a badge of innocence. His faith was a reminder to us that the reason we are devastated by the war in Iraq and the Bush presidency is that we too love America. We too want to believe in its potential for good and brotherhood.


Love America? You don’t understand America. You denigrate America. You protest it, spit on it, defecate on it. It’s a foreign fucking country to you.

You want it to be FRANCE, with its idyllic cheap medicine, generous welfare, short workweek, plentiful child care, and expansive socialism.

That’s not America. Nor is it sustainable, as the French are unwilling to learn, but will.

Our family now visits the Narrowsburg house only on weekends and holidays. Sometimes we pass the stately red brick school building, so recently renovated with thermal windows and elevators for the disabled, a town landmark for 75 years. The flag still flies there, but the doors are padlocked and the windows are black.

But at least they don’t hold Bible study there anymore.

Ms. Burleigh, move back to France. We won’t miss you.

UPDATE: Burleigh gets hate mail. Like I said at the top of the post, Ms. Burleigh and I have worldviews so divergent that we might as well be of different species. There is no common ground upon which we could even begin to attempt rapprochement. Therefore I did not forward this piece to her. I knew in advance it would be useless.

Publicola Throws Down the Gauntlet.

Well, kinda.

I’ve had extensive discussions both here on the blog and in comments on the topic of the rights of individuals. In fact, on the left side of this blog are links to not two, not three, but seven posts specifically on this subject.

While praising my writing ability, and linking to my previous posts extensively (he’s just sucking up), Publicola takes me to task in a quite good essay (wrong, but good!) on the difference between – his words – Absolutists and Contractualists in The Minority Retort.

It will take me a couple of days to generate a response worthy of this well-thought-out post, but fear not! One will be forthcoming.

Publicola apparently isn’t allowing comments to his piece (or mu.nu is screwed up) but if you want to comment, mine are open.