Strengthening Constitutional Self-Government

No Left Turns

America as a "Big Box Store"?

Peggy Noonan writes a stirring piece on American heroism and the reasons for it. America, is special, unique, admirable and awe-inspiring. It--as Reagan and Steve Hayward (below) has noted--is not a sick society. It produces men of a character not matched in the history of the world. It has produced a people who almost deserve the blessings of Providence. But do we continue in that vein? She posits that our reluctance about the issue of immigration illustrates more our doubts about ourselves than our doubts about illegal immigrants. We inspire people to come here, she argues, but in the way a big box store inspires people to shop. We don’t give them a sense of belonging to something larger than themselves anymore.

Read the whole thing. Think about what it says about America, about manliness, about what is required to keep a people free.    

Discussions - 43 Comments

Well, I don’t know...equating America with WalMart sounds like we are a sick society. I think we produce many noble individuals, but I have to wonder about the polity and our values (or lack thereof).

And my doubts are about the immigrants, not myself.

"It produces men of a character not matched in the history of the world." Sounds like Julie’s favorite hottie, Dick Cheney. You do think he’s still a hottie, don’t you Julie? Or were you thinking of George "Awol" Bush?

See what I mean. Our supposedly healthy society produced this Vaffanculo...I think Peggy has produced another miss on this one. America could be great, but currently I have my doubts.

Oh Puleeez! You people have been propping up, and making excuses for, and perpetuating the lies for "leaders" like Bill Frist, Tom DeLay, Halliburton-boy Dick Cheney, Scooter Libby, Karl Rove, and a president who can’t articulate his way out of his own Nukyoolar Power Pants. Then, Noonan offers military figures as heroes (and I agree that these are real heroes) and Julie completely forgets that women (Dorothea Dix, Harriet Tubbman, Rosa Parks, Susan B. Anthony) can be heroes, in addition to the manly men about whom she is in such a swoon these days.

Why don’t you look at the true fabric of this society for what it is: a blending of immigrants and their descendants, of women and rebels, of Irish and Asian and Hispanics and Blacks, and upstarts and people who find ways to love their country without a gun in the hand? Someone who loves something more than a profit, and the smug self-satisfaction of the instrumentally religious? Recognize someone other than yourself as valuable, and you might recognize plenty of heroes in this country!

Fung, again, your head is full of worms. I’m glad I don’t think like you. And what bigotry, as if only WASPS have guns in their hands. OK, so don’t give any credit to the builders of the country’s institutions, or the ambition that built the whole enterprise, or the brains that planned most of it. Let’s just focus on the "endless rabble of victims" that somehow constitute Fung’s Amerika!

There are plenty of valid things to criticize the President and the Republicans about without having to resort to making outlandish statements that tend to make people think you are unhinged or on the verge of being so.

Dain- What are you saying? That, in giving credit to immigrants and their descendants, I am somehow leaving out the founders and designers of our country? Are you suggesting that Jefferson, Hamilton, and friends were descended from Native Americans? Or, that white people, once arrived, are more American than are brown immigrants, and their descendants?

Dale, formerly TD: What? Can you clarify, a bit?

Fung, it is your 2nd sentence of your 1st post that I was refering to.

FYI, Annapolis grad Carter said Nukyoolartoo.

I’m not opposed to giving credit wherever it is are the one who can’t manage to praise white folks for having the foresight to set up a government that balanced individual and collective prerogatives, nor for creating the most dynamic and accomplished culture the world has yet seen. Have there been injustices? Of accomplished culture is sinless (name one if you can). What makes us great is that we’ve gone the extra mile so often to correct our mistakes and injustices. Few other cultures bother.

Well, for what it is worth, I am not planning on moving anywhere better, myself. But, there is plenty of room between letting "white folks" off the hook completely, and pointing out room for improvement.

You know, hispanics are considered white.

DM, not really. They are considered "white" for crime statistics (how convenient), but not for many other social purposes. Indeed, the Census uses the stupid "non-Hispanic white" label to refer to "white folks."

And Fung, I’m all for improvement...if the bar is raised to absurd standards. Expecting "white folks" to ignore their own self-interests in the name of "multiculturalism" or "anti-racism" is absurd. You wouldn’t expect such altruism (indeed, verging on masochism) from any other group, so don’t expect it of "white folks."

obviously I meant "if the bar is not raised to absurd standards" in the 1st line of the 2nd paragraph above.

Dale M. Formerly Texas D.,

Yes, but Jimmy didn’t say "power pants, and he disn’t say "catapulting the propaganda," and he didn’t say "uh..." before and after every other utterance.

That is one of the things I like about the President. He mangles the language. He appears to be a common man even though his family are rich north easterners and he went to Yale and Harvard.

Which is the part that you like? The part that assumes that most people in this country are so stupid that they identify with apparent stupidity? Or the part where he tries to act as though his roots are different from what they are? Or, the part where he comes from a position of privilege and hasn’t the honesty to recognize it?

He went to Yale AND Harvard?

I suppose y’all haven’t been to West Texas where the President, for the most part, grew up.

And, for, y’all to feign ignorance in regard to the President’s education is not becoming and rather shallow.

Then again, that pretty much sums up the liberal/Democrat/left’s arguments against the President.

By the way, I played high school football against boys from the area where the President grew up and I can testify that they are definately tough.

Dale- I have done my time in the Trans-Pecos. There are plenty of tough people around there, and I respect the culture -- the ranchers, the cowboys, and the border culture. But, there is a big difference between a Bush-style existence -- private planes to Kennebunkport, private schools, and such, and the "tough" people that you are referring to.

I was there for 5 years, and I am more of a Texan than he is.

"That is one of the things I like about the President. He mangles the language. He appears to be a common man even though his family are rich north easterners and he went to Yale and Harvard."

Ridiculous. First of all, most of the "common men" I know - and I guess I’m one of them - don’t "mangle the language" at all, at least not to the extent Bush does. And it’s not cute when he does. Love him or hate him, the man is simply not articulate. It is difficult for him to speak on any subject for more than a minute or two and remain coherent and drive home a point, particularly if he’s not just reciting a speech written for him. And yes, that’s the idea, he APPEARS to be a common man, a man’s man, a regular working joe, a no-nonsense cowboy, even though his background, his life of privilege, and his family’s elite status and connections make him as far removed from the average working American as is possible. It’s all part of the strategy, the public relations scam. Appearances have been most deceptive. I also don’t "feign ignorance" regarding Bush’s education. He went to Harvard and Yale, primarily because of his family connections, not his scholarly excellence, and he was a mediocre student.

And so you played football with some boys who come from GWB’s part of Texas and they are "definately" (sic) "tough." So does that mean that GWB is tough, or somehow a real common man, a real Texan (whatever that means), or anything at all?

As for GWB’s footbal participation... Haven’t I seen him in a cheerleading suit, with a big ol’ megaphone? A MANLY man!

Actually, the President is very articulate, just not in a public speaking forumn.

If you want to talk about politicians and public relations scams, all we have to do is go back to the previous President.

From the fake crying to the long speaches that truly said nothing to the numerous scandals. There is reason why he was called ’Slick Willie’.

You can make the assertion about Yale and connections getting him in, but not Harvard, where he obtained his MBA, which not even the "First Black President" had.

In regards to grades in college, the supposed intellectual Gore did just as poorly as President Bush did. The same goes for Kerry.

And, just a heads up, grades in college is not a very good predictor of what one will do later on in life.

You don’t like the President. That is fine. What I have a problem with is the consistent misrepresentation of him by you.

When I played 5A high school Texas football, I had the very juvenile attitude that those in cheerleading and in band were not as tough or macho as I was, especially since I was a linebacker. Today, after growing up, I realize how dumb that thinking was.

Dain said " See what I mean. Our supposedly healthy society produced this Vaffanculo."

It’s funny that the current events reference in "Vaffanculo"’s name escaped you. Apparently NLT’s fave SCOTUS justice, in representing the very best, most elegant, most sophisticated aspects of our government, has now taken to making obscene gestures to the press. Classy! Right up there with Cheney.

Dale said, "Actually, the President is very articulate, just not in a public speaking forumn."

So, please tell us where and how one can witness some of the President’s elusive articulateness. Is it only in a one-on-one discussion at the bar with him? Not many of us get the chance for that.

And Dale, what’s up with your consistent misspelling of speech as "speach"?

Fung, the President grew up in Midland, spending some of his time as a youth in Houston. He was part of the Texas Air National Guard for cryin’ out loud. He spent most of his adult life in Texas. From the oil business to being elected govenor twice he lived and breathed Texas. Heck, he was a minority partner in the Texas Rangers.

Fung, you spent 5 years in Texas. While that may make you a Texan, it, in no way, makes you more Texan than the President.

Seriously, what was that about? Come on.

All-American American, it is called not spell checking.

Too bad if you can’t get past that, but that is the nature of blogs and comments. Funny thing is, mistakes often get by paid editors, so I wouldn’t be too hung up that.

In regards to who I may or may not know, would it bother you if named dropped Ann Richards, the govenor the President replaced, or is just the fact that I named dropped Bush? (And, yes, I have had personal encounters with both. I am not a man of much influence or power, but I have had occasions to be around those that have both. You can take that whichever way you want. I don’t care.)

Dale- Give it up! A minority partner in the Texas Rangers! That makes him practically a Texas "everyman!." As for Bush’s National Guard stint -- that was about as easily perceived as his "private" articulate-ness. Maybe he’s a "Stealth" orator! Kind of like he was a "Stealth" guardsman.

As for the cheerleading: I don’t care, either, personally. That is just a jab at the recent "Manliness" milieu, and its adherents.

So Bush is really articulate in person, eh? It’s just the nerves that get him, I guess.

I wasn’t "hung up" on your misspelling of speech, just amazed, that’s all, as I’ve noticed you’ve done it repeatedly.

In all the noise above, we never did hear back from Julie. So tell us, Julie: do you still think Dick Cheney is a hottie? How about Justice Scalia? Is he a hottie too? And where do these stalwarts of society fit into the spectrum of manliness?

Stealth orator ... now that’s funny and I am not trying to be sarcastic.

Here is the antidote to the apparent Bush Derangement Syndrome on display here:

The obsession over who I do and do not find to be a "hottie" (a term I used with obvious tounge in cheek) is hilarious. As for manliness, the only thing I have to say about that is that is not very manly to worry about who some woman you do not know finds to be "hot." It’s wierd. As for cheerleading--not an unmanly thing at all if done in the right spirit. It tends to foster some of the best virtues of leadership like loyalty, advocacy, teamwork, discipline, and the ability to face both victory and disappointment with equal grace. I rather like cheerleaders--hot or not.

And Fung . . . it’s impossible to have a conversation with you but I can correct you here. I didn’t forget female heroes--they just didn’t come up in the context of the conversation. Who could forget someone like Margaret Thatcher (although I do wonder if she is a hero of yours)? While I admire women like Thatcher one does have to admit that they are even more rare that those of the male variety. It would be better, in my view, if we all had an equal respect for female heroines--who exhibit grace and dignity under fire and exemplify more of the feminine virtues. The real tragedy of our times is not that women do not get equal respect or opportunity to excel like men--it’s that they are not appreciated or admired for the things in which they do excel. We use the wrong measuring stick and try to compare incomparable things when we project this false male/female contest.

Julie - I would submit that female heroes didn’t come up precisely because they were not being considered. But, in the interest of a conversation, I will not belabor that point, and I will not pretend to know what others are thinking.

Still, I hope that the next time the paucity of heroes is discussed, then the people involved might remind each other that women count, too.

I am not much of a student of Thatcher, though I have been reading a bit, of late, about Golda Meier. My heroes tend to be more on the underdog side, the revolutionaries, and the rebels, more than the leaders. I’m a big fan of Nelson Mandela, because he was both.

Finally, I would disagree with your last point. I think that the problem IS that too many people refer to the "grace and dignity" of women, as though that is their only domain, and to the martial aspects of men as though that is theirs.

Male heroes can be heroic in their grace and dignity, just as females can excel as soldiers, leaders, and rebels.

No rational person disagrees with your last point, Fung. But to the extent that the male/female dichotomy is useful (and I think it is useful) the law of averages and laws of nature (meant especially as the end or purpose of a thing rather than as the origin or beginnings of a thing) in this prevail. It is wrong to EXPECT male and female bravery to look exactly the same in every situation. Do you really mean to posit that gender differences are meaningless or totally socially constructed? Only very fringy people or stubborn people still adhere to that insanity these days. How these differences play themselves out or should play themselves out in particular situations is a political question--meaning that it requires judgment (and no, not always or even usually the collective judgment of society). But judgment that is divorced from the nature of things is just as bad as judgment that is divorced from the particulars of things. Politics requires both knowledge of nature and of particulars--and is helped by a good healthy sense of humor (i.e., the understanding that we’ll never, ever, get it 100% right for everybody and in every case. Thus the occasional female hero of the type you laud may get less attention than she deserves when her name is not mentioned in a passing list on a weblog. But more often than not, she’ll get more attention than she deserves (when compared with her male peers) because of the notable fact that she is a woman. To cite a tired, but true cliche: the exceptions usually do serve to prove the rule.

Julie- As I have elsewhere, I would distinguish between sex differences (which I do not deny, and which are biologically rooted) and gender differences which represent social and cultural responses to those differences.

As social constructs, the value that we place on women and men CAN change, and that change will meet varying levels of resistance and support. If we support change in the direction of equal value of women (not perceiveing males and females as identical, but equivalent in value) then we might start by emphasizing possibilities rather than limitations.

In response to your last statement, I would (shocker!) put it in the opposite way: When a woman acts with bravery and courage in the face of tradition, opposition, and ridicule, then she should be viewed as ESPECIALLY brave, and not as receiving more recognition than she deserves.

In my view, Rosa Parks showed more sheer courage by sitting on that bus seat than ten fully outfitted soldiers, male or female. She was alone, she was Black, she was female, and her act of resistance was awe inspiring. Not "for a woman" but rather even more awesome considering the forces and traditions arrayed against her.

Yes ... all kudos to Rosa Parks. Who could disagree with that? But what about that kind of bravery was especially male. She sat. She didn’t FIGHT. She risked getting hurt, but her resistance was of the passive sort. It should be applauded to the heavens, I agree. It is no less brave than shooting bad guys in Iraq. But it IS different from shooting bad guys in Iraq--or Nazis in Germany if we want Fung to understand what we’re talking about.

My only point is that there ought to be MORE praise for the kind of female bravery displayed by Rosa Parks and other women like her. (If that was not grace and dignity under fire, what was?) Not less. Don’t kid yourself, Fung. In your perfect "gender neutral" world there will be less respect for that, not more. In your "gender neutral" society Rosa Parks would have had to stand up and shoot the police. I know you don’t mean for that to be case--you think your advocating a more civilized and gentle society--but that’s what your logic leads to. It always has led to more, not less brutality.

Julie- "But what about that kind of bravery was especially male.?"

My point is that our labels (male or female) for Rosa’s behavior are the cultural memes that can, and perhaps should, change. then, we might get over this disjointed celebration of "manliness" by many of the same people who ask "What would Jesus do?"

Jesus was not a "manly" man, nor were Martin Luther King, Ghandhi, Buddha.....

So, thee is no genetic constraint causing men to act "manly" or preventing that same behavior in women.

So, again, in my book, Rosa is JUST AS brave as was Spartacus. To then distinguish (using a socially constructed dichotomy) between female and male bravery is simply the first step in devaluing the type that comes out "lower" in the male dominated hierarchy.

By the way, Tahiti is pretty nice, and it is gender-neutral.

Here is an interesting story about a particular kind of hero:

Very interesting, indeed, Fung:

"While under fire on the island of Okinawa, Doss carried 75 wounded soldiers to the edge of a 400-foot cliff and lowered them to safety, according to his citation."

But he didn’t carry a gun!! I’m not sure if he was really manly, then. What say the NLT manliness experts?

Tim and Fung are amazingly willful in their cartoonish depiction of their opposition. It can be cute but it won’t teach you much. Too bad. That is why I continue to wonder whether conversation is at all possible. Fung, I’m not sure that we disagree about Rosa Parks. I think that her bravery is just as admirable as that of a Spartacus or Medal of Honor winner. But it is different. Why can’t things that are different be of equal value? I have two kids. They are very different. But I value them the same. Are you telling me that that is impossible because the cultural meme will dictate that I must value the more forceful of the two over the other?

If you are terribly worried about cartoonish men ignoring the value of feminine grace and dignity and courage when juxtaposing it to manly valor, then you have alot of time to waste. The fact that some stupid people don’t understand a thing does not make it any less true. Spend that wasted time defending the truth of the thing instead of wringing your hands over the fact that some people don’t get it. Geesh!

Julie, you have kids? You’ve never mentioned that before!

Julie - for what it is worth, I have honestly been trying very hard to have a civil conversation. I have tried not to be insulting or to engage in hyperbole. What is cartoonish in this exchange?

"Are you telling me that that is impossible because the cultural meme will dictate that I must value the more forceful of the two over the other?"

That is close, but not quite. I am saying that we must guard carefully to avoid doing that IF we couch the individual differences in static, value-laden terms like "male" and "female."

That is, Rosa Parks and Spartacus are different, yes. And they can be different and of equal value, yes. But, there is a "But..."

But, if we interpret Rosa as different from Spartacus BECAUSE her behavior exhibits femaleness, and his exhibits maleness, then we are explaining individual differences according to social constructs that do NOT reflect reality.

In a similar way, Dain has suggested that Blacks are better at sports than Whites are, due to a real difference. Suddenly, an athlete who has worked and trained all her/his life is interpreted to succeed due to innate differences, and not due to effort and discipline.

As soon as we impose these socially constructed labels onto socially constructed differences, then we immediately run the RISK (not certainty) of automatically valuing one less than the other.

Most cultures value "male" behavior over "female" behavior, but it is not the case that all cultures value men over women. Gender-stereotypical male behavior is seen world-wide as more valuable than does stereotypical female behavior.

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