Let Me Tell You of the Days of High Adventure

Our own LTC Joel Leggett, USMC, has penned an essay on R. E. Howard's Conan as American mythology. The Abbeville Institute, of which I had not heard before Joel mentioned it to me, has published it under the headline "Conan the Southerner?" Well, Howard was a Southerner, but I took Joel's point to be that the Conan stories were explicitly American and not particular to a subculture.

Indeed, he has an interesting parallel with Tolkien:
[M]ost people accept the observation that America lacks its own mythology. To the extent the observation has any weight the same could be said of England. In fact, the lack of an indigenous English mythology is what motivated J.R.R. Tolkien to write the Lord of the Rings. Whether or not he accomplished that goal, he created stories that are loved all over the world.

However, an American author writing at about the same time as Tolkien did create an American mythology that continues to expand and thrive to the current day. The author was Robert E. Howard and the mythology he created centered on his most famous character, Conan.
I think Joel is quite right; we've discussed Howard's works in this space fairly frequently over the years. My view of the Conan books has changed over time. Once I thought that Howard's race-realism defied evolution, since races like the Picts and the blacks and the Stygians retain recognizable characteristics across millennia. In more recent years I've rediscovered the central role that evolution plays in Howard's works: evolution and natural selection really are at the core of his vision of humanity, and even the race that becomes the Cimmerians is described as having fallen all the way back to animality at one point, only to evolve into men (and barbarians) again. Joel touches on that later in his essay. I would say that the centrality of race -- and its inescapable qualities -- are good evidence for his proposition that the Conan stories are the (or at least an) American mythology. America is also trapped in its racial categories.

Nevertheless, for the most part Joel's essay is not about the issue of race, but about the American virtues, and how they are expressed in Conan stories.
Walter Russell Mead, in his book “Special Providence,” identified five core values that formed the basis of Jacksonian culture created by the Scot-Irish settlers. These values were self-reliance, equality, individualism, financial adventurism, and courage. Unsurprisingly, Howard used these same values to flesh out the personal code of the mythological Conan.
Virtue ethics is of course the correct ethics. Naturally, then, I strongly recommend that you read the essay in full, and that we should discuss it here.

They've already attacked Mom and apple pie

Glen Reynolds quotes a friend: "Trump maneuvered his opponents into attacking the Fourth of July."

You Can't Fight Betsy Ross

In the movie Fight Club, there's an extended sequence in which the guys explore who they'd choose to fight from historical periods.  Lincoln is named:  "Big guy, big reach. Skinny guys fight till they’re burger." Respect for the man who won the Civil War and gave his stunningly magnanimous Second Inaugural address is absent; the only measure of respect is how well he can fist-fight.

The current period has a similar feeling, except the once-honored dead are not present to fight back. Nevertheless, some few of them are strong enough to defend their reputations even from beyond the grave. Betsy Ross is likely one of these. For one thing, as a Quaker, she enjoys original abolitionist status. More than that, though, she occupies a particularly powerful archetype: she is America's Mother, as George Washington is America's Father. You cannot reject her without rejecting the whole, which is a road most Americans are unwilling to take.

Many years ago I read an article by a retiring professor of history, who for his whole career had surveyed incoming students about what they already knew about American history. He attested that, throughout his time, students had reliably volunteered the names of George Washington and Betsy Ross. Washington made sense, he said, because of the magnificence of his role; but Ross was unmentioned in the state curriculum except in very early primary education. Nevertheless, students who couldn't remember Cornwallis or Sam Adams would come up with Betsy Ross quite on their own. The human mind being what it is, a mother fits into a primal spot. America can't just have a father, or two fathers, or ten; like anything else, if it comes to be and flourishes, it must have had a mother too.

The President was prescient in his warning that allowing the Confederate statues to fall would call the whole into question. Thomas Jefferson may fall with the other secessionist slaveholders. But Washington won't, and Betsy Ross won't. America cannot let them go, and will not as long as she clings to life. Their enemies are fools, for they have chosen a foe too strong for themselves.


Some collected 'memes' on Independence Day.  But definitely follow the flag link to the "Spirit of Rebellion" essay, which is the proper reading for today.

I am on the road again for family business. Click the flag on the sidebar for the Independence Day post. 

Don't Tempt Me

'Making fun of members of Congress should be prosecuted,' says Congresswoman. She actually seems to believe that it might already be against the law to do so.

The CBP and AOC

Well, yesterday was quite a day for agent provocateur and Congresswoman Alexandria Occasio-Cortez.

After the Abu Ghraib incident, I don't think anyone can rightly just outright refuse to believe it is possible that guards at an American detention facility could be engaged in brutal and humiliating acts against foreign detainees. For that matter, American prisons don't always treat actual American citizens very well either. Still, the CBP denies her basic claims about detainee treatment; and while there's no reason to doubt that a Border Patrol-celebrating secret Facebook group might contain some pretty nasty memes, at this point it's too early to suggest that CBP membership in the group is widespread. That could be true; it was true for the Marine Corps in similar circumstances.

At this point it's unclear how the facts will shake out. Treacher is right that we must have answers. However, it should be clear that the best thing to do is to close these camps -- by returning everyone to where they came from, as quickly as possible, accepting no new persons. If they come claiming to be a family unit, by all means return them as a family unit. We can avoid the danger of mistreatment of detainees by detaining no one.

More on Marianne Williamson

Since she received such a rousing endorsement from Ymar, and Tex knows her family, perhaps she deserves a closer look. Here are a couple of pieces that dive deeper into the spirituality guru.

VICE: 'She knows you think she's a joke, but her campaign is not.'
With over 3.5 million social media followers even before the debates (and 2.7 million on Twitter alone as of Sunday), Williamson qualified much earlier than many of the other candidates who made the stage last week. She’d reached the 65,000-donor threshold by early May, faster than half the field (many still aren’t there). In late May, she hit 1% in a third reputable national poll, double-qualifying for both the last debate and the next one....

That’s also why she’ll be onstage at the next debate, and why she’s better-positioned than some other more seasoned politicians to reach the fall debates as well. Get a good laugh at Williamson’s expense? You’re not getting rid of her that easily.
National Review has a dive into her background.


I know it's Salon, and I shouldn't expect much, but even by those jaded standards, the explanation offered by Chauncey deVega (if that really is his name) for robust Trump support among "white voters" leaves me blinking rapidly.
The idea behind white identity politics is that there is a subset of white voters and/or white Americans in general who feel a sense of attachment to their group. They feel a sense of solidarity. They think that their race and their racial identity is important to who they are, and that influences how they see and view the political world. Tied up in that sense of identity is the belief that whites are losing out in the United States and that their status and their power are somehow under threat. Subsequently, these white voters are responding to that politically by supporting policies and candidates that they view as protecting their group and preserving its status.
I do support Trump's policies from a belief that they protect my interests, and I will grant that I perceive my interests as under threat. The source of the threat, nevertheless, doesn't take the form of dark skin, though it's true that a candidate who has nothing to point to but his skin (approvingly, and mine, disapprovingly) will arouse my suspicion. The argument has devolved to "Of course you only think that way because you're blinded by race, so listen to me while I obsess on race." Supposedly I'm motivated by fanatical loyalty to Social Security and Medicare (which I don't even like), primarily because they are the kinds of things white people like.

Chauncey's whole argument is that, Trump being indisputably contemptible, there's only one explanation remaining for my support: I'm evil, too. And how are people evil today? Only in one way: racism. Q.E.D. Even my otherwise inexplicable sense of oppression by "non-believers" can be explained by racism, because if you scratch the surface, white evangelicals are simply terrified racists who hate brown people.

And then it seems I overlook Trump's "gross disregard for the Constitution."  Where do people even get this stuff? Chauncey might as well be beaming Martian at me.

What to do? Chauncey advocates court-packing, "discarding any notions of civility and compromise," using social media to correct a pro-right advantage (you need special spectacles to detect that), and using
simple, clear direct messaging which speaks to both emotions and the facts: The Republicans are trying to kill you. The Republicans are making you sick. Republicans don't care about your family. Republicans don't want you to vote. Republicans are stealing your money and giving it to rich people. Donald Trump thinks you are stupid.
Would that primitive bludgeon of a message square any less with reality if you substituted "Democrats" for "Republicans"?  Is there anything left in politics of this stripe but projection?

Don't Be Ridiculous

They're being ridiculous.
One of the arresting officers at yesterday's #NeverAgainAction can be seen sporting a Molon Labe tattoo, a prominent slogan of contemporary fascism.
1) Those kids are only being arrested because they want to be arrested. It's a form of protest, probably negotiated with the police in advance to ensure they will receive light or dropped charges, good treatment, and short stays in detention that can be used as bragging rights as demonstrators.

2) "Molon Labe" as a sentiment is opposed to overbearing governments; I take it to mean that this officer is refusing to enforce gun control laws he might see as unconstitutional. That's the opposite of fascism, when even the actual officers of the state posit limits to state authority they would refuse.

Guns and the Anarchist

A left-leaning anarchist writes about guns.
In Stone Mountain, Georgia, when a group of us marched through the streets to celebrate the cancellation of a Klan rally on February 2, we were accompanied by local activists with rifles and ARs slung over their shoulders; the police kept their distance, which was an extraordinary sight for someone used to New York City’s ultra-aggressive, hyper-militarized NYPD. As the black militant liberation group the Black Panthers showed back in the 1960s, as the Zapatistas showed in the ’90s, and as anarchists in New Orleans showed during the aftermath of Katrina, when cops and other fascists see that they’re not the only ones packing, the balance of power shifts, and they tend to reconsider their tactics.

To be honest, the thought of a world in which the state and their running dogs are the only entities with access to firearms sends a shudder down my spine.

Leftist gun ownership is about protecting marginalized communities

Not everyone should have access to guns — domestic abusers, for example, have proven by their actions that they cannot be trusted with that kind of responsibility — and not everyone needs it. No one without a significant amount of training should be handling a firearm at all, which is why I think designated community patrols made up of well-trained, highly trusted individuals who are chosen by and held accountable to said community (and who do not hold any or less power than anyone else due to their position) is a far better and more equitable defense model than messy “everyone gets a gun!” rhetoric.

I’m also not interested in creating a parallel cultural universe wherein balaclava-clad “gun bunnies” pose for the ’gram (I’d much rather shore up support for Rojava’s all-women YPG Women’s Defense Unit). I’m interested in reclaiming the notion of armed self-defense from those who have long used it as a cudgel to repress dissent and terrorize marginalized communities, and emphasizing its potential as a transformative tool toward collective liberation.

There is a long history of leftist gun ownership, and a concurrent theme of state repression against it.
"Designated community patrols made up of well-trained, highly trusted individuals" is more or less exactly the original vision for local militias as the primary defense of a free state; and concerns about a militarized police are quite similar to the Founders' concerns about a standing army.

There are two criticisms I would make, all the same.

1) It's hard to square 'designated... highly trusted' with 'protecting marginalized communities.' When you move from a universal individual right that can only be lost by demonstrated criminality (I agree with the domestic violence disqualification, for example), you allow space for marginalization to occur. In fact, that is exactly how the racist roots of gun control worked: through processes of restriction to 'trusted' members of the community, which just so happened to disqualify people of a particular race. This subject, of which she makes much in her essay, is extremely well-known to those of us on the right; it's been one of our chief arguments for at least a couple of decades.

If you want to protect marginalized communities, you have to prevent marginalization of individuals. Otherwise, you'll find that your marginalized community gets marginalized one individual at a time. There are some clear and acceptable reasons to marginalize an individual, but the defense of an individual right is necessary to ensure that distrusted communities aren't shut out of the right to the tools they need to defend themselves.

2) It would be wiser to make common cause with the gun-rights right than to try to set up against us. The temptation to do that is clear in the current culture wars; we're just used to thinking of each other as opponents at least, enemies at worst. That said, there's an opportunity not to be missed here. She's saying very little I haven't said myself in these pages, from praise for the original pre-criminal Black Panther project to a defense of the general idea (inherent in the NRA's original mission, which provided firearms and training to Freedmen in the South) that the individual right to keep and bear arms is a necessary part of the defense of human dignity. The argument that we can't rely on the police to protect us? Regular feature of the Hall. The argument that having only the servants of the state armed all but ensures tyranny? All the time here.

If we can't find a way to be allies, we'll end up killing each other. That won't protect anyone's community. The idea should be -- as it was framed by the Founders, even if they did not actually live it out this way -- to set up these local militia as guarantors of a state of liberty for all. That's harder to square with anarchism than it is with citizenship, because it is something like citizenship that creates and binds individuals together with common duties toward one another that wouldn't exist naturally. Minarchism makes more sense than anarchism, in other words.

Funding the Trans*ition

It's the usual TIDES Foundation suspects, of course, but there's an interesting twist on why it's a priority.
Why do they care? The obvious answer is: money.

Melding this manufactured medical issue with civil rights frame entails the continuance and growth of the problem. Transgenderism is framed as both a medical problem, for the gender dysphoria of children who need puberty blockers and are being groomed for a lifetime of medicalization, and as a brave and original lifestyle choice for adults. Martine Rothblatt suggests we are all transhuman, that changing our bodies by removing healthy tissue and organs and ingesting cross-sex hormones over the course of a lifetime can be likened to wearing make-up, dying our hair, or getting a tattoo. If we are all transhuman, expressing that could be a never-ending saga of body-related consumerism.
The amounts being spent to advertise and advance this lifestyle choice seem vast until you compare it to the amounts that would be spent by a society that invests in a lifetime of additional medical supplies and treatments. If even an extra few percent could be convinced to do it, purveyors of such technologies would make back their investments many times over.

To a certain degree technological change makes these kinds of things likely. William Gibson was imagining cyber and biotech allowing people to alter their bodies decades ago; one gang he envisioned replaced their teeth with animal fang implants. We will be in charge in a new way, and that means we can treat the body as an opportunity for a kind of art.

Against that challenge, of course, stands the Aristotelian philosophy we've been discussing. Because it sees nature as the source of the good, it will be predisposed to reject adopting a lifetime of pharmacology to suppress hormones or provide humans with wolf-like teeth. The role of art, for Aristotle, is to perfect the goods inherent in nature but imperfectly or incompletely realized. Dental surgery to fix improperly-grown teeth is good because it improves the perfection of a natural good; pulling out the teeth and replacing them with wolvish fangs that do not fit the natural diet of a human being is bad because it works against rather than with the goods of nature.

"Well, we can change our dietary tract too, someday, at least in principle; and we can grow 'meat' in vats that will avoid any ethical problems with switching to an all-meat diet; and we can force, with drugs and surgery, our bodies to accept all this, becoming artists of ourselves."

Perhaps. But there is something to be said for being able to sleep under the stars, with no medicine and no technology, to survive on natural strength rather than technological infrastructure. Aristotle has an advantage here, even in spite of all the long years and great changes.

Hearty and Hellish!

Per Gringo and my conversation, in the Jug of Punch post below, it turns out that "Hearty and Hellish!" was actually the name of the album -- recorded live at a nighclub in Chicago in 1962.

"Hellish," they said. Well, "-ish" is the ultimate in approximations.

Deadly Force Authorized

You'll want to carefully consult your local laws to be sure how this works for you, but in most parts of America it would be considered reasonable to shoot someone if they tried to hit you with a crowbar or tire-iron. It would be less reasonable to shoot someone for throwing a milkshake at you, except if it became sufficiently commonplace that milkshakes were really chemical weapons.

Powerline wonders about how long this sort of thing will be allowed to go on. My guess is that it will go on for a while, until someone's patience wears out. Then, when the cost of this sort of behavior suddenly becomes much higher -- and especially if juries refuse to convict people for defending themselves, lowering the probable cost of defensive action -- suddenly it won't be necessary to worry about it that much.

UPDATE: Wretchard makes sense like always.
It's not surprising that the French Terror began with the purge of the moderates and the urgency of virtue. As Robespierre put it, virtuous men have no choice but to employ any means necessary:
If the basis of popular government in peacetime is virtue, the basis of popular government during a revolution is both virtue and terror; virtue, without which terror is baneful; terror, without which virtue is powerless. Terror is nothing more than speedy, severe and inflexible justice; it is thus an emanation of virtue; it is less a principle in itself, than a consequence of the general principle of democracy, applied to the most pressing needs of the patrie.
He also says "the combativeness of the last few days alarmed those accustomed to regarding themselves as civilized." Well. Oddly once I thought of myself that way; I wrote that the essence of a gentlemen was "to bear arms, in defense of country and civilization." Surely I still think that, somewhere in my heart. I've spent many years becoming educated, if not precisely civilized; I pursued and gained advanced degrees in both history and philosophy. Whatever it means to have a civilization, history and philosophy are at the core of it.

More and more, though, I think of the Conan quote from last week, and find that my eyes linger on my axe.

Ignoring Warning Signs

Bret Stephens issues a clear and sober warning:
Promising access to health insurance for north of 11 million undocumented immigrants at a time when there’s a migration crisis at the southern border? Every candidate at Thursday’s debate raised a hand for that one, in what was surely the evening’s best moment for the Trump campaign.

Calling for the decriminalization of border crossings (while opposing a wall)? That was a major theme of Wednesday’s debate, underlining the Republican contention that Democrats are a party of open borders, limitless amnesty and, in time, the Third World-ization of America.

Switching to Spanish?... Eliminating private health insurance[?]...

And then there are the costs that Democrats want to impose on the country. Warren, for instance, favors universal child care (estimated cost, $70 billion a year), Medicare-For-All ($2.8 trillion to $3.2 trillion annually), student-debt cancellation and universal free college ($125 billion annually), and a comprehensive climate action plan ($2 trillion, including $100 billion in aid to poor countries), along with a raft of smaller giveaways, like debt relief for Puerto Rico....

Throughout the debates, I kept wondering if any of the leading candidates would speak to Americans beyond the Democratic base.... [Nope!]

None of this means that Democrats can’t win in 2020. The economy could take a bad turn. Or Trump could outdo himself in loathsomeness. But the Democratic Party we saw this week did even less to appeal beyond its base than the president. And at least his message is that he’s on their — make that our — side.
Did anyone listen? No, they called him a "white nationalist" like he was a member of the Aryan Brotherhood or something.

How about Andrew Sullivan? Is he a Klansman too? He's actually asking that question, except he mentions "Japan" and "China" in place of his own name.

The thing is that these guys are really against Trump, and trying to keep the Democrats from making a massive mistake. This is as clear a warning as you could ask, from people who are your friends and want you to win. I've never seen this movie, but this clip has come up from time to time. It seems appropriate to the moment.

UPDATE: Colonel Kurt, who is less concerned what anybody calls him, sums up.
But it was the thought part where they came together in a festival of insane acclamation. They agreed on everything, and it was all politically suicidal. Yeah, Americans are thrilled about the idea of subsidizing Marxist puppetry students and getting kicked off their health insurance so that they can put their lives in the hands of the people who brought you the DMV.

Exactly who, outside of Manhattan and Scat Francisco, think Americans are dying to stop even our feeble enforcement of the border, make illegal immigration not illegal, never send illegals home once they get here and – think about this – take our tax money to give these foreigners who shouldn’t even be here in the first place better free health care than our vets get? That should go well in places like Wisconsin, Michigan and Pennsylvania. I eagerly await Salena Zito’s interview with a bunch of construction workers at a diner near Pittsburg who tell her, “It really bugs me, Lou and Joe here that those people coming into the country illegally aren’t getting free heath care on our dime. We all want to work an extra shift so we can give it to ‘em. We need a president who finally puts foreigners first! Also, we all agree we ought to give up our deer rifles because people in Cory Booker’s neighborhood can’t stop shooting each other.”

Spirituality and Such

A set of meditations from Presidential candidate Marianne Williamson (h/t Wretchard).