Merle Haggard Corollary

The Grim Doctrine, Merle Haggard Corollary

The point about Schumpeter, below, echoes what old Merle was saying here:

The rights that the critic enjoys do not belong to him. They are earned by those who defend the society that allows them to exist. We could even say they are created by those defenders, as those rights exist practically only so long as the society that upholds them exists. The rights must always, newly, be created through defense.

The wealth that permits the critic to live a life of thought and speech arises from a system that also feeds a nation of farmers and working men. The man who uses the benefits American capitalism grants him to undermine it is not merely attacking his own position, which is his to sacrifice if he wishes. He is striking at the security of the rancher and the welder, which is not his to destroy.

The Haggard song warns: "I don't mind them... standing up for what they believe in; but when they're running down this country, they're walking on the fighting side of me." That is just where the fighting side should be. It is located at the point where the critic's criticism ceases to be constructive and wishes to destroy; at the point at which he is no longer speaking of how to build higher on our foundation, but rather charging that the foundation is bad.

Perhaps it is flawed; certainly it was uneven in its justice. Yet the world was flawed, and is still, and any stable foundation must match the stone on which it rests. If imperfect men could make a flawless foundation, its makers would find not one stone of this earth on which it could lay without rocking at every touch.

The rancher and the working man are closer to the edge of our civilization, further from its centers of comfort. They may not always put their thoughts as finely as those who have ever known privilege, but they know better than those what the edge means. The frontiers must be defended. We welcome ideas for improvement in our nation. We will never welcome disdain for what our ancestors built, what our children shall inherit.

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