I Hope I Am Wrong


It’s been years since I last set down to write anything long form that’s remotely political, in fact 2008, if my search is correct.  In some ways, I can hardly recognize that passionately pedantic punk that felt the urge to scream into the void in the hope of persuasion by shouting (though my friends might argue about that on the occasions when I have more than a couple of gins in me).  I realized around that time that no one was really interested in what I was selling and that I could spend my life in a happier place by worrying about the things that I know I could change which is myself and to focus my time on those around me that I love. I know I’ve been better off for it.

However, I can’t pretend that last night wasn’t historic or momentous.  I am feeling the urge to write something not in the hope of being persuasive or to change the world, but because last night was tragic in a personal and long-term way.  It brought back memories and beliefs of my younger days that I don’t think I will be able to restore from this day forth and I want memorialize them somewhere.

At just before midnight last night when it was apparent what was going to happen, I had a sudden and vivid flashback to a time almost 15 years ago.  One night my dear friend Iva and I got into a heated and hours long debate about the idea that the US was headed towards nationalism.  As the child of citizens of the former Yugoslavia, she brought both logic and personal experience to her argument.  And yet, I could not be persuaded.

I argued fervently that America was different, not because we were special as a people but that we were special in situation.  A country founded purely on a set of enlightenment philosophical ideals, populated by immigrants of almost every country and religion and with a fundamental belief in pluralism couldn’t really be nationalist.  Yes, I wasn’t naïve enough to ignore our history of racial hatred and apartheid.  Nor was I naïve enough to say that we hadn’t had a certain segment of the population that subscribed to nativist and ethnic nationalist ideals; I was already quite familiar with Pat Buchanan.  However, I was unable to believe that as a young country with a complete lack of common ethnic, religious and cultural history that we could really ever become nationalists.  On that, I was wrong.

Last night I watched my country subscribe to a political philosophy that has destroyed the entirety of Europe twice in the 20th century.  Last night I watched my country subscribe to a political philosophy that has left piles of corpses, broken bodies and weeping widows around the entire globe.  Last night I watched my country subscribe to a political philosophy that throws away the enlightenment in pursuit of a philosophy that bestows rights and privileges upon its subjects on the basis of their religion, ethnicity and the coincidence of the geography of their birth.  Last night I watched my country scream an incoherent cry of rage at people who are now to be labeled as the other, as the not-quite-human, as the enemy. Last night I saw the ideals that has made me love my country abandoned, maybe forever.  Last night I saw no better angels of our nature.  But I hope that I am wrong.

Now I am left to put my trust in our political machinery to temper and restrain the normal products of the adoption of nationalism.  As a life long libertarian, that trust isn’t very sturdy in my mind.  I don’t see how a party unified in its abhorrence of intellectualism can be trusted to uphold the abstract ideals of classical liberalism.  I don’t see how a state equipped with an entire legion of well armed militarized police can be trusted to defend the people against authoritarianism.  I don’t see how a country divided at a moment of incredible prosperity and peace can heal itself under the strain of the chaos in front of us. But I hope I am wrong.

Now, I must go back to my quiet life.  I can’t go back to screaming into the void.  I can’t see the point and I don’t have the strength or will to do it.  I must go back to trying to see the best in everyone I meet.  I must go believing that people are fundamentally good both as individuals and in society.  I must start hoping I’m wrong.

Atlas Shrugged Turns 50

 Ayn Rand’s massive work Atlas Shrugged turns 50 this year and the editorials are starting the flow in.  The best so far has been from, ironically, the former editor of National Review, Maggie Gallagher.  Included in the editorial is one of the best descriptions of why Rand continues to appeal after all of these years:  

The key to Ayn Rand is that she pictured America largely from early films from Hollywood. As a young girl growing up in the grim world of communist Russia, she saw America as we dreamed ourselves to be, and she longed her whole life with a child’s intensity to make this vision real, to live in it. We respond to her novels because they offer us one deep strand of American self-identity — as individualists, yes, but individualists who together dream big dreams, conquer wild frontiers, invent the future, remake our very selves.


New Blog of Note

My friend Peter, owner of PowTen.com, has a new blog called RomanOkie.com where he will post about all things religious and specifically Catholic.  My own nasty opinions on religion aside, Peter is a thoughtful and contemplative man of faith who practices Christianity without the stink of irony so common today.  It should be a good read and something to add to your blog rolls.

Greenspan on Rand

Reason Magazine dug up this quote from a letter to the editor written by a young Alan Greenspan:

Atlas Shrugged is a celebration of life and happiness. Justice is unrelenting. Creative individuals and undeviating purpose and rationality achieve joy and fulfillment. Parasites who persistently avoid either purpose or reason perish as they should. [The New York Times reviewer] suspiciously wonders “about a person who sustains such a mood through the writing of 1,168 pages and some fourteen years of work.” This reader wonders about a person who finds unrelenting justice personally disturbing.

[Via: Hit and Run]

Happy Birthday Mrs. Rand

Ayn Rand
Ayn Rand

Today would have been Ayn Rands 100th birthday. Tonight I drink a toast to a remarkable woman with a remarkable mind who can truly hold claim to being part of the “motor of the world”. The greatest compliment I can give her is to say that my ideas have been transformed by hers, though through a process of a constant antagonistic fight. However, I can truly say that John Galt lives on in this one corner of the world . . .

Stay Away from The Ayn Rand Institute

Dr. Peikoff, “intellectual heir” to Ayn Rand and head of her institute has declared that he intends to vote for John Kerry for the sole reason that he isn’t a devout Christian. Rand must be turning over in her grave. That her “intellectual heir” would be supporting a candidate who claims that America’s great value is our sacrificing of ourselves for others is almost too much to believe. Now, of course, I wouldn’t support him voting for Bush either, but this is ridiculous. His hatred of religion has forced him to abandon the reason that is central to his philosophy. He has forgotten that the preachers of faith and the preachers of the state are one and the same. A lesson he should certainly revisit. Additionally, he should also remember that there is no compromise between good and evil. There is no middle ground which is yet to be discovered.

I highly recommend that if you wish to explore Objectivism that you read as much Rand as you would like, but stay away from the Ayn Rand Institute. They have abandoned their philosophy for hysteria.

Read the statement and listen to the full lecture here

[Watching: To Kill A Mockingbird – Universal Studios, Inc. – (02:09:28)]