Is it wrong to say, “It’s their country now”?

Bill Carpenter writes:

Your recent saying, repeated frequently since the election, “It’s their country now,” is strong rhetorical medicine, but I don’t think we should confuse rhetoric with reality. “They” have usurped the government and many, many institutions, and much of the culture (meaning the beliefs and practices of the people) as well. That places the burden on “us” to expel them and retake the country, its governments, its institutions, and its culture. We thus dispute ownership; we don’t concede it’s “their country” now. It will only be their country if we yield to their occupation. We have a God-given duty to take back what was given to us, as every invaded, occupied, outraged people has.

The same holds for the flag. The fact that it is saluted by usurpers does not mean we should trample on it. We should accuse usurpers and traitors, and their unworthiness to carry our flag.

This is rhetoric, too, I know. But I think we need rhetoric that will help us advance, once we have properly formulated the dimensions of our disgust. Rhetoric embodies intentions, which are the basis of plans, which are the basis of action, which is the basis of redemption.

A certain amount of humility is due from conservatives that generally have taken the New Deal dispensation as a fait accompli except in various outbursts not intended to change anything. To the extent we have accepted the unconstitutional state, we have all been traitors. Now we have come to a new crossroads, where people can choose again which road to go down. Even someone who voted for Obama could still make the right choice for the future. The inevitable failures of socialism will educate many, even if a majority always believes there is always another rabbit in the hat.

LA replies:

Since the autumn of 2011, I have ceased believing, even as a last-ditch hope, that we have the means, whether within the law or without the law, to “expel them and retake the country.” So your objection to my mantra, “It’s their country now,” stems from a substantive disagreement about what is now possible in the real world.

You write:

A certain amount of humility is due from conservatives that generally have taken the New Deal dispensation as a fait accompli except in various outbursts not intended to change anything. To the extent we have accepted the unconstitutional state, we have all been traitors.

If this criticism is directed at me (as I must assume is the case since your entire comment concerns my statement that “It’s their country now”), I must demur. See my Traditionalist’s Credo:

I declare that this government is no longer a constitutional and moral form of government. I will deal with it, and I will obey its laws, and I will support it when it is defending our country from foreign and domestic enemies. I will vote in its elections and participate in its political debates. But I will never accept it. I aim at a restoration of constitutional and moral order.

By the way, the Credo was posted in August 2003, two months before Jim Kalb handed VFR over to me, meaning that the Credo has represented my “official” position since before I became the sole proprietor of this site.

Moreover, I have been saying at least since the mid-1990s (see, for example, my 1996 letter to Gertrude Himmelfarb) that the re-writing of the Constitution by the Supreme Court over the course of the twentieth century, particularly with regard to the Incorporation Doctrine which “incorporates” the Bill of Rights in the Fourteenth Amendment, thus changing the Constitution from a strict limitation on federal power over the states to a mandate for unlimited federal power over the states, had rendered America an unconstitutional polity, and that the only way to make it constitutional again was to dismantle the judicial and statutory structure of the modern liberal state. So it is untrue that I have accepted the New Deal dispensation as a fait accompli. Even more off-base—indeed, ridiculous—is Mencius Moldbug’s repeated accusation that I embrace FDR and everything he represents.

LA writes:

A correspondent tells me that it’s discouraging to our side for me to say, “It’s their country now.” Let us be clear that acknowledging the reality of the liberal transformation and domination of America does not mean that there is nothing for conservatives to do but give up. The liberal regime is not resting from extending its evil power over us, and we cannot and must not stop resisting its ever-continuing encroachments. Some battles may be won. But calling for continuing resistance to the liberal regime is not the same as saying that it is within our power to topple the liberal regime.

And there is much more for us to do: to build a new conservative or traditionalist movement that explicitly rejects the liberal regime and everything it stands for and thus offers a philosophical (and, we hope, at some point a concrete) alternative to it; and to build a traditionalist community, a remnant of the traditional West, that can survive and help traditional Western men and women survive, in whatever form that may take.

But, in my view, people who, in the manner of conventional conservatives, keep fueling the hope that we can win the country back from the left are deluding themselves, wasting their energy, and setting themselves up for repeated disappointments. However, if that is what one feels called to do, one should do it. As a person who for many years maintained the hope, however vanishing, that America could be won back, even when others were saying it was too late, I do not have the right to tell other people that they are wrong for still believing what I believed until a year ago. Each of us must come to these understandings in our own way and in our own time.

Bill Carpenter writes:

Thanks for your reply. I was not including you among the conservatives who have accepted the New Deal. I have found your reiterated objection to the Incorporation Doctrine enlightening, a complement to my own realization in law school regarding the “hypertrophy” of the Commerce Clause. I was thinking primarily of the practical political consensus that leaves the unconstitutional New Deal (and Progressive Era) edifice untouched to maximize votes. That is now untenable and unpatriotic. Thank you for your great work.

The correspondent LA replied to earlier writes:

But we do it because we love the country and still believe it is our country. Saying it’s their country is the way they look at it too, especially after this last election—women, minorities, immigrants, gays, young people, etc. Some are calling it a New America. Why make them crow even more by admitting to such defeat?

LA replies:

Because I think it’s true.

See my reply to Kathlene M. in this entry where I speak of “America 1.0” and “America 2.0.”

December 5

Laura Wood writes:

I know Mr. Carpenter speaks from loyalty and patriotism, but I think such optimism easily becomes complicity. If all parents had felt the same way about our public school system — that we should not give up on it and it could be reformed if only we came up with the right rhetoric to convince others of how bad it is —- the homeschooling movement would never have been launched. Homeschooling is a great example of what traditionalists can do when they give up. There are other ways we can create alternatives with the hope of eventual political independence. The recognition that our family courts are corrupt and will never be adequately reformed, is already inspiring a grass roots marriage movement that rejects civil marriage licenses. We must seek an alternative authority over marriage. We must pursue every possible way to evade and defy the corruption of the liberal state and to separate from it. That project is the basis for substantive and realistic hope.

Thomas Bertonneau writes:

Permit me to come to the defense of my old friend and graduate-school buddy Bill Carpenter, whose clearsightedness is dear to me. The essence of Bill’s remark is the old Christian counsel against despair. Bill’s urgency that conservatives not succumb to the demoralization of a defeated people is fully motivated and conservatives ought to heed it.

LA replies:

I say again that questions of “despair” versus “hope,” “pessimism” versus “optimism,” are a confusing distraction from the factual issue that we must face. The factual issue is: has the liberal-leftist revolution now achieved effective rule over America, a rule which conservatives have no realistic prospect of reversing within the present political, social, and racial order of the United States? I believe the answer is yes. Others believe the answer is no. But that is the issue, not the question whether we are “despairing” or “hopeful.”

Thomas Bertonneau replies:
I regret having to disagree with you. The factual issue, as you put it, and what I call the “demorale” issue, can be separated for the purpose of analysis, but existentially they cannot be separated. The factual situation tempts us to despair (every one of us has felt this), but despair we must not. No restoration of order on traditional lines in any form whatever will be possible without the attitude that Bill’s remarks express.

LA replies:

I have repeatedly shown my rejection of despair and indicated the general direction in which I think we need to move. So I have addressed both the factual issue and, as much as possible at this point in time, the demoralization issue.

However, you appear to be saying that our answer to the factual issue must be dictated by our concern about having the right answer to the demoralization issue. Your at-least implied argument goes like this:

(1) The belief that the liberal-leftist revolution has achieved effective rule over America will demoralize conservatives.

(2) Demoralization is morally bad and un-Christian.

(3) Therefore we must deny—and keep forever denying—that the liberal-leftist revolution has achieved effective rule over America.

Thomas Bertonneau writes:

The argument that you attribute to me does not describe my reasoning and does not lie behind it. Nowhere in my remarks did I say that conservatives should ignore the factual situation; never would I say that and never do I do it. I wrote that the essence of Bill Carpenter’s remarks was the Christian counsel against despair, not the Christian counsel against noticing the factual situation—there is no such Christian counsel. (There is no such Stoic counsel and no such Platonic counsel; there might be a liberal one.) [LA replies: I stand corrected. However, I must note that I did not exactly attribute that position to you; I said that it seemed to me that it was your implied position.]Whatever conservatives undertake in response to the factual situation, they will need to avoid despair because despair is debilitating and can become paralytic. Bill is absolutely right to remark that in the aftermath of the election, the gloomy factual situation tempts conservatives to despair. I am right to second him.

The immediate future is going to be extraordinarily difficult for conservatives, especially should the Democrats retake the House. Conservatives will need to learn how to live in extreme adversity, in a hostile environment where they are routinely reviled and persecuted, even more than they are now. They should fortify themselves psychically for this likely development. Organizing actual projects that are also practical will be part of fighting the temptation to despair. Home schooling one’s children, as Laura Wood mentions, will be part of fighting the temptation to despair.

Bill Carpenter writes:

You are like Nietzsche’s madman in Section 125 of The Gay Science. He comes to a city, announces in the market place that God is dead, and the people dismiss him. He walks away, shaking his head: “Is it possible, they do not know that God is dead?” You shake your head in wonderment and say, “Could it be these people do not know our old America is dead?” [LA notes: Any pedants out there may relax. For legitimate dramatic purposes, Mr. Carpenter has taken the liberty of conflating two closely related scenes from The Gay Science and Thus Spoke Zarathustra.]

The question I address is, “Is it better for us to say, ‘It’s their country now,’ or ‘How can we take back our country?’” Your “mantra” forces us to face how completely taken over we are, and maybe we need to keep saying that for a long time. It hasn’t led you to passive defeatism, nor Laura Wood. Maybe I am jumping the gun by wanting to get past the shock and horror before it has completely soaked in.

There is certainly much work to do on all sides. I sympathize with Laura’s warning against complicity. That is a pervasive risk, since paying taxes and complying with unconstitutional laws and failing to speak out at every opportunity all involve complicity to some extent. I’m not sure what Laura sees as “optimism” in my comment, however, since I don’t estimate the likelihood of success in the patriotic struggle.

In his epic poem The New World (1985), Frederick Turner depicts an America on the 24th century that has broken up into warring counties and post-urban sewers. He doesn’t spend a lot of time on how we got there, but it involves both the destruction of society through constitutional innovations and a not-unrelated religious renaissance.

Kathlene M. writes:

My husband was very depressed for about a week after the election. I was depressed for a day, then felt an odd peace, much like what Catholic blogger Elizabeth Scalia wrote around that time.

This election has provided a moment of clarity for traditionalists. Now we know the nature of the enemy and the battle we’re dealing with, if we dare to seek the truth and ask God what it is that we must do. The time has come for the sheep to separate from the goats.

Posted by Lawrence Auster at December 04, 2012 07:19 PM | Send

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