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The Declaration and Identity Politics

Two recent Law and Liberty essays addressed identity politics in our day. Neither article spoke in its favor. One argued that the demand for recognition of all identities was impracticable, therefore undesirable. The other used identity politics as a template for critiquing the Supreme Court’s decision in Masterpiece Cakeshop. Together, they pointed to the increased salience of identity claims in our culture and politics. Of course, these commentators are not the first to note this fact. Rod Dreher, for example, has argued for some time now that the Left’s identity politics necessarily will, and in fact have, engendered a Right-response, including, but not limited to, the alt-Right. [1] You reap what you sow, especially if you sow dragon’s teeth.

On this Fourth of July, I thought I would bring the Declaration into dialogue with identity politics. Admittedly, there is a problem at the outset with dialogue between the parties.

A Serious American Mind

Proponents of identity politics most often ignore the Declaration. When they do speak of it, two apparently conflicting attitudes inform what they say. The stirring claim that “all men are created equal” is said to be sham statement, in reality restricted to white males, while, in the next breath, the document is said to limn positive “ideals” that History will fill in, in an ever-more egalitarian, emancipatory, and inclusive way. Neither way takes the text seriously.

The Declaration, however, is nothing if not serious. Serious about politics. Serious about human action. Serious about thinking well and about truth (“we hold these truths”; “let facts be submitted to a candid world”). Serious too about change, including revolutionary change. Serious therefore about community and its right order. Serious about making itself intelligible and persuasive to relevant audiences (while also discriminating between good and bad audiences).

In all these ways, its seriousness entailed the sovereignty of reason in the soul and required the rational control of sentiment or passion, especially the political passions: love of liberty and love of justice, indignation before injustice and fear before encroaching despotism. In its seriousness, therefore, the Declaration can serve as a template for, or, as need be, comment upon, the various proponents of identity politics.

Seriousness versus Indignation

The Declaration’s seriousness about justice and injustice is an important point of contact with identity politics and its proponents. Certainly, they come to sight as very much moved by a passion for justice, or more precisely, by resentment at injustice. How so? They are indignant denouncers, often of a vociferous sort.

Now, anger is, if not the, certainly a central political passion. Not by chance was it the first passion Aristotle treated in the Rhetoric. On the other hand, his analysis of partisan claims of justice in the Politics showed that each, at best, has a partial grasp of the truth, but mistakenly takes its view as the whole. It was the special task of “political philosophy” to display, then reconcile, these shortcomings, just as it was the rhetorician’s task to curb and channel indignation with his speech.

It is instructive, therefore, to contrast the Declaration’s seriousness of reasoning and purpose, its control of passion at the service of serious action, with the passionate indignation typical of many proponents of identity politics.  In this connection, one could ask Bret Weinstein (formerly) of Evergreen University or the Christakises of Yale University about the open-minded, dialogic character of the proponents they encountered.

Perhaps a step up would be to consider and compare texts, for example, the Platform of the Movement for Black Lives with the Declaration. However, here too one finds aggressive assertions followed by six groups of “Demands” that, taken together, indict (almost) all of America and American history and call for a total remaking of the country. America’s “revolution of sober expectations” (Martin Diamond), aiming to establish “new guards” for its security, contrasts rather starkly with a text that envisages “a complete transformation of the current systems”.

Many other instances could be adduced, but it is undeniable that indignation and indictment, deep indignation and wide-spread indictment, play an important role in identity politics. Confronting this fact, a dispassionate observer could be forgiven for recalling the adage that passion is a bad counselor, and the same observer could reasonably ask, what is the idea of justice, what are the facts of injustice, driving and fueling the passion? There is still a need “to give an account” of one’s views, no matter how passionately held. Facts must be adduced and ascertained, principles articulated and defended.

In connection with recent powder keg moments for identity politics, there are the awkward facts that George Zimmerman was acquitted by a jury of his peers and the FBI under Eric Holder exonerated Darren Wilson. “Hands up! Don’t shoot!” turned out to be unverified and most unlikely. The turn to “symbolic truth” afterwards was an acknowledgement of misjudgment on the plane of the particular and a petitio principii on the more general plane.

Justice against Justice?

The demands of identity politics, of course, do not always come in such direct and vociferous forms. In academe, for instance, we encounter them not just in shouting students, but in teachers and Deans’ offices posting notices about microaggressions. Certain talismans such as “diversity” go through all levels of the institution. Harvard University, a bellwether in these areas, has shown the two sides of this ideal and criterion, with separate ceremonies to celebrate the achievements of certain identities and, more darkly, denigrating the “personality traits,” i.e., character, of other racial and ethic groups when it comes to the all-important gatekeeping function of admissions. Thus, identity politics can range from the hot to the cool, from the overt to the back-room fix. In the name of a higher justice, it can violate ordinary justice.

The last claim is the nub. Deliberately ambiguous on my part, the sentence could be the protest of common moral sense against invidious discrimination, against violations of a fundamental principle of justice, treating equals equally and unequals unequally. On this reading, the Declaration’s individualistic notion of justice would comport with common sense, and would be an enlargement and a specification, precisely a political specification and enlargement, of its core intuitions. In this political community, it is individuals who have rights, not groups; the decisive group is the community of individuals that comes together in social compact to defend its members’ rights, as well as to exercise self-government for the sake of the “Safety and Happiness” of the community. Injustices and adjustments there will and must be, but they should be judged and addressed from within this framework.

On the other hand, the sentence could speak for identity politics, which believes that all identities, due to past injustices, are not currently equal, so rectificatory justice calls for the suspension of other forms of justice. When it has done its work, then the others can resume their place and work. This was Justice Sandra Day O’Connor’s view. It is Bill de Blasio’s today.

Abstract Individuals versus Concrete Identities

Certain contrasts thus come to sight. The Declaration’s notion of justice focused, fundamentally, on individuals and their rights, while race, sex, and gender were (largely) abstracted from. Identity politics finds this abstraction a hypocritical sham and a cover for injustice, starting with the black slaves denied their unalienable rights. Justice is human equality, identity politics agrees, but equality must be real, not merely legal or formal, and it must be across-the-board, for all identities. In the all-important area of race, the movement has been from affirmative action to quotas to proportional representation.

Identity politics is thus a continuation of a tradition of critique of the abstractness, the (mere) formality, and the hypocrisy of the classical liberal (“bourgeois”) notion of justice. Anatole France gave it a classic formulation: “Rich and poor are equally forbidden to sleep under bridges.” In this view, what are called “formal freedoms” are really masks of oppression and means of manipulation, both of minds (“false consciousness”) and bodies. Likewise, equality under the law, its equal protection for all, masks and perpetuates past and ongoing inequities.

What identity politics adds to this familiar litany is at least two-fold. It adds to the list of the oppressed, expanding from race and class and sex (women) to sex (homosexuals) and gender (transgendered), with the categories being constantly tweaked (LGBTQIA), precisely in response to the demands of identity. It also adds a new sovereign category and focus of justice: the group, rather than discrete individuals.

“Blacks” become as important in this optic as Martin Luther King, Jr. and Frederick Douglass, who are extolled primarily for their service to the group. The individual thus risks being defined primarily as a member and representative of a group. This is almost the reverse of King’s dream of a nation in which one’s children “will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.”

As the two eminent (and quite different) examples suggest, however, this is an act of injustice to superior individuals, and, mutatis mutandis, to all the individuals of the group, who, after all, do have the right to be judged on the content of their character. In a connected vein, when the group is defined in a partial or ideological way, as it often is, certain members, precisely those with different views of identity or justice, are tacitly excluded or decried as traitors. One begins to suspect that group-identity is too slippery to employ as a, much less the, criterion of justice.

Tertium datur?

A hopeful reconciliation of the two would suggest that each view needs something the other has and both need to give up something of themselves in return. The abstract individual with rights ensures that irrelevant factors, precisely factors such as race and sex and gender, are not inappropriately brought in to bias judgments of dessert or merit. When they are, they can be indicted as such. But no human being is simply an individual; identity matters, and justice sometimes requires factoring in components of identity. On the other hand, the abstract individual reminds those who want to make group-identity dispositive for justice that it runs the risk of injustice, including against its own members.

For its part, the Declaration was already aware of the need to complement its abstract individualism with distinguishing content. In view of its revolutionary and political purposes, it identified various moral categories that perfect and help define the free individual and “a free people.” These included items from the canon of the cardinal virtues, prudence and fortitude, high-toned virtues, magnanimity and manliness, and, in another direction, deference to the Supreme Judge and trust in Divine Providence.

It would seem that the various identities could likewise adopt them as norms for themselves, precisely as enriching their own identities. In so doing, they would find themselves speaking and acting with the seriousness of the Declaration.

[1] For examples, see Dreher’s “The Perils of Identity Politics” (November 9, 2016), “The Curse of Identity Politics” (August 13, 2017), and “Identity Politics Ruin Everything” (December 12, 2017).

Reader Discussion

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on July 04, 2018 at 09:43:20 am

[E]ach view [individualism and group identity] needs something the other has and both need to give up something of themselves in return. The abstract individual with rights ensures that irrelevant factors, precisely factors such as race and sex and gender, are not inappropriately brought in to bias judgments of dessert or merit. When they are, they can be indicted as such. But no human being is simply an individual; identity matters, and justice sometimes requires factoring in components of identity. On the other hand, the abstract individual reminds those who want to make group-identity dispositive for justice that it runs the risk of injustice, including against its own members.

Seaton eventually arrives at this balanced perspective. Alas, in an effort to make this conclusion topical, he frames the discussion as a reflection on the Declaration of Independence, which doesn’t seem like the best fit. To wit….

The Declaration, however, is nothing if not serious.

Quite serious—a serious work of propaganda. That doesn’t make it good or bad. But it does make it less than sincere. In short, I read the Declaration with an understanding of the objectives of the people writing and propounding it—and their objectives were not simply abstract philosophizing.

Serious about thinking well and about truth (“we hold these truths….”)

Consider: Which nations in 1776 had acknowledged that all men are created equal? The dominant governing philosophy of the day was the Divine Right of Kings—a direct contradiction of the Declaration’s claim. I wonder if , when a student hands in a paper and begins with a proposition that is contradicted by roughly 100% of the available evidence, and supports that proposition with the statement, “Well, it’s self-evident,” what grade does that student receive from our good Dr. Seaton, associate professor of philosophy?

This is not serious philosophy: this is propaganda. As Seaton notes, the colonists, as people everywhere, bridled under government policies. For example, they hated taxes raised by the Stamp Act. These taxes were designed to pay off the debt incurred in defending the colonists during the French and Indian Wars, but once the threat had subsided, colonists wanted nothing to do with these debts. Jefferson appealed to his fellow colonists’ sense of grievance by flattering them: “See? We’re equal to all those lords and kings! And what basis do I have for such a claim? Well … it’s just obvious, right?”

Well, sure, it’s obvious—to the people who crave to see themselves as the equals of kings. Of course, the statement “All men are created equal” means we’re also the equal of slaves. Indeed, Jefferson what rather explicit about this in his first draft—and his fellow members of the Continental Congress stripped that language out. Score one for serious propaganda; score zero for serious philosophy.

In connection with recent powder keg moments for identity politics, there are the awkward facts that George Zimmerman was acquitted by a jury of his peers and the FBI under Eric Holder exonerated Darren Wilson. “Hands up! Don’t shoot!” turned out to be unverified and most unlikely.

What makes these facts awkward? History shows that the Fugitive Slave Act legally resulted in many people being returned to slavery, and that state juries rarely convicted Klansmen of the crime of lynching. Should we therefore conclude that slavery was just and Klansmen didn’t engage in lynchings?

Similarly, a criminal jury also acquitted OJ Simpson of murder. Shall we conclude that OJ Simpson didn’t commit the crime? Or rather, shall we conclude that a clever legal team was able to exploit racial anxieties of the black jurors to gain a victory? And if black jurors can be influenced in this manner, why should we think that white jurors would be immune? And if we acknowledge that white jurors are just as susceptible to such tactics as black jurors—AND THAT THERE ARE A HELL OF A LOT MORE OF THEM—then we can acknowledge a racial bias built into the system. Of course, it’s not necessary to reach this conclusion; you could instead conclude that our system is free from racial bias—and thus, OJ really didn’t commit those murders. I find one side of this debate more plausible than the other.

On this reading, the Declaration’s individualistic notion of justice would comport with common sense, and would be an enlargement and a specification, precisely a political specification and enlargement, of its core intuitions. In this political community, it is individuals who have rights, not groups….

That may indeed accurately reflect the view conveyed by the Declaration. Curiously, we also read people arguing for MORE identity politics when they argue that the Free Exercise Clause/Religious Freedom Restoration Act recognize a right held be groups as well as individuals, and that government needs to be more deferential to the prerogatives of religious groups.

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nobody.really
on July 04, 2018 at 09:56:56 am

I like this essay much. I agree with it's thesis. I don't wish to be understood as cavilling, when I offer the following criticism. On the internet more broadly, it is quite common for all criticism to be understood as partisan attack--the critic must, of course, always be trying to tear down. Sadly, this kind of foolish, knee-jeek thoughtlessness happens everywhere in the conversation on the internet, including on occasion here. But of course, it is possible for criticism to be friendly.

Anyway, my remarks here are primarily for professor Seaton, and secondarily for others who write the posts to which we respond in comments like this one. I want to point out a particular rhetorical move, and suggest that it weakens, rather than strengthens, argument. It is a move to be used, I wish to suggest, only rarely, and only with self-conscious care.

Professor Seaton writes:

"In connection with recent powder keg moments for identity politics, there are the awkward facts that George Zimmerman was acquitted by a jury of his peers and the FBI under Eric Holder exonerated Darren Wilson. “Hands up! Don’t shoot!” turned out to be unverified and most unlikely. The turn to “symbolic truth” afterwards was an acknowledgement of misjudgment on the plane of the particular and a petitio principii on the more general plane."

This is synecdoche--a rhetorical trope, in which a part stands in for the whole. As I read his overall argument, Professor Seaton introduces this paragraph in order to suggest that proponents of a particular kind of identity politics are wrong when they identify law enforcement shootings of black men as a greivance. If this claim reduced to exactly two occasions--Zimmerman and Wilson--then demonstrating that in both instances the law enforcement personnel involved behaved correctly, would then prove that the greivance is groundless. It would prove that those who nurture in themselves a sense of having been wronged are incorrect to do so.

But of course that is not the case. The sense of anger and greivance that sustains this particular kind of identity politics does not originate just from these two instances. Demonstrating that in these two cases proponents of identity politics are incorrect does not show that the perception of having been wronged held by many proponents of Black Lives Matter is groundless, because those proponents point to a very great many other instances of taking of black lives by law enforcement officers, all of which, collectively, sustain their sense of grievance. We can't address that broader perception and that broader sense of what they consider entirely legitimate anger by speaking to just two cases, no matter how central those two cases were to sparking the movement in the first place.

Synecdoche, used this way, weakens the argument. It does so because, as soon as we analyze the argument, it is obvious that the claims advanced by its use do not, can not, perform the persuasive work the author employs the trope in order to do. Persons inclined to sympathize with Black Lives Matter--some of whom might be open to being persuaded by Seaton's broader argument--will be closed off to that argument because they so easily can indulge in a synecdoche of their own. We can easily imagine their thought process: if Seaton advances self-evidently weak arguments in this subordinate point, then the whole overall argument must be illegitimate, and I don't need to engage with it. That's fallacious reasoning too, but we certainly see public deliberation get shut down all the time on that kind of basis. If we want deliberation, best not to invite this kind of rejection.

This essay would be stronger if this paragraph were exised from the essay. It is not necessary to the larger argument, and it won't persuade anyone who is not already inclined to be critical of the identity politics Seaton wishes to critique. This kind of rhetoric only persuades people who already agree with the argument, and who thus don't need persuading. So this is an instance where less is more. But my larger point is that that is true for a good many other instances in which authors indulge this particular kind of trope.

I take Professor Seaton to be writing here for a broader audience, and especially for the purpose of deliberating with people who are not inclined a priori to agree with him at the outset. If that is the case--if the purpose of this essay is to make a deliberative contribution to our public discourse, tropes like synecdoche should be used only sparingly.

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Kevin Hardwick
on July 04, 2018 at 11:15:46 am

Having made a comment about the essay's rhetoric, let me turn to a more substantive point. And here, I suspect I am just not apprehending something in Seaton's argument, and write in the hope someone can help clarify.

Seaton writes:

"Proponents of identity politics most often ignore the Declaration. When they do speak of it, two apparently conflicting attitudes inform what they say. The stirring claim that “all men are created equal” is said to be sham statement, in reality restricted to white males, while, in the next breath, the document is said to limn positive “ideals” that History will fill in, in an ever-more egalitarian, emancipatory, and inclusive way. Neither way takes the text seriously."

So Seaton identifies two propositions, and suggests both proceed from a bad reading of the Declaration.

The first is the claim that Declaration is a sham, because the founders did not live up to its ideals at the time they wrote it. We don't have any record of debate in the Continental Congress over the content and meaning they understood in the phrase "all men are created equal," but we do know that the content and meaning of something quite similar was explicitly discussed in the Virginia Convention that debated and approved the Virginia Declaration of Rights. There, a number of delegates present worried that the Virginia Declaration of Rights might inspire slaves to get the wrong idea that these rights applied to them. Edmund Pendleton, a rather distinguished Virginia statesmen, pointed out that the language (he said) applied only to parties of the social contract. This was sufficient to allay the proslavery scruples of the delegates, and they approved the Virginia Declaration of Rights on that understanding. So, anyway, according to George Mason.

If, as seems likely, the Virginia Declaration of Rights had some influence on the Declaration of Independence, then this earlier episode is perhaps appropriate to bring in. It is not entirely unreasonable to suggest that in its original formulation, some but not all of the founders understood the Declaration's ringing proclamation of equality to apply only to white men. The caveat is important, because others among the men we count as founders--guys like Benjamin Rush, for example--understood the Declaration's statement of rights to be universal. (If you want to know more about this, and at the risk of being self-serving, see Lubert, Hardwick, and Hammond, eds., THE AMERICAN DEBATE OVER SLAVERY: 1760-1865: AN ANTHOLOGY OF SOURCES (Hackett Press, 2016)--https://www.amazon.com/American-Debate-over-Slavery-1760-1865/dp/1624665357/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1530715280&sr=8-1&keywords=American+debate+slavery+1760).

Does this amount to proving that the Declaration is a sham? No. But it does show that at the time, some of the founders struggled with the issues of race and slavery, and tried to reconcile support for the Declaration with support for slavery. We know that this effort unfolded over many decades and across many subordinate political conversations, and that by the 1840s some American statesmen gave up on the effort, and explicitly rejected the Declaration in order to defend racism.

To my eye, this historical record demonstrates that the Declaration is not a sham, because it ultimately is incompatible with racism.

More importantly, while it is perhaps easy to identify rhetrical excess and hyperbole, serious proponents of identity politics mostly make the same argument. They invoke the Declaration not to reject it, but rather to insist that it apply to them. That's the way, for example, that Martin Luther King argued, in 1963. The identity he claimed was defined by unjust exclusion from the ideals of the Declaration. Had he been successful, success in his own terms would mean losing that identity, because the excluded people would no longer be exluded.

Which brings us to the second argument: that proponents of identity politics identify some bloodless, ethereal, and abstract force, "history," which in some ineffable and unidentified fashion will further perfect the ideals of the Declaration.

But this too strikes me as a caricature of the actual arguments advanced by proponents of identity politics. The claim is not that we need somehow to perfect the ideals. That's not the argument that King made, nor is it the argument that Malcolm X made either. Rather, what needs to be "perfected" (scare quotes, because this is not their language either--King was an articulate theologian, recall, and aware of the connotations of this word) is human society and human institutions. The ideal of the Declaration establishes the goal, but as fallen, fallible humanity, we inevitably fall short (see, eg., King's letter from Bitmingham jail). Human life, lived properly, is about striving for ideals from which we inevitably fall short. The Declaration sets the aspiration--our job is to strive, as best we can, to approach it. We won't succeed. But maybe we can do better than we are doing now. The claim, then, is not that we can achieve perfection--very few people argue that, and those who do are foolish--but rather that we can do a better job.

And that strikes me as entirely compatible with conservatism. Conservatives surely don't want to argue "we have achieved perfection, and thus no longer need to struggle for justice." Nor do they wish to argue "there is no point in worrying about justice, because humans are so totally depraved that even the semblence of justice is unattainable." In between those two extremes is human striving, not for perfection, but simply for improvement.

So it seems likely I have missed something important in what Seaton is arguing. Can anyone help clarify this? Thanks in advance . . .

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Kevin Hardwick
on July 04, 2018 at 15:38:54 pm

Did the Declaration of Independence actually apply de facto to anyone *but* white men of property? And did the term
'men' in this case apply to women? (note that black men had the de jure right to vote before any women did, though we all know how the de facto bit went).

Identity politics is normally the effort by people who aren't white property owners to assert that the Declaration of Independence did indeed apply to them, even though the Constitution as originally written deliberately left them out (3/5ths of a man for one example, and Abigail Adams 'do not forget the ladies' for another).

I don't quite understand why it's wrong for black people to get upset when they are shot by police (insert numerous cases, including one just last week in Portland, Oregon). I also don't quite understand what is wrong about women becoming upset as the prospect to being forced to have children they don't want. Forced pregnancy is considered a war crime when other countries do it, or at least I understand the United Nations believes so.

But I guess us non-white male property owners just don't understand why we should just keep quiet.

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excessivelyperky
on July 04, 2018 at 16:12:13 pm

"I also don’t quite understand what is wrong about women becoming upset as the prospect to being forced to have children they don’t want. Forced pregnancy is considered a war crime when other countries do it, or at least I understand the United Nations believes so. "

Goodness gracious, are you serious? A bloody war crime?
Perhaps, Professor Hardwick can explain what type of defective rhetoric / logic this exemplifies?

would you concede that there is a difference between, as an example, a UN Peacekeeper forcibly impregnating some poor young child in sub-Saharan Africa and a woman in the USA who for one reason or another (excluding forcible rape, of course) becomes pregnant. The participation of the male partner (temporary or otherwise), we must now believe is on the same order of infamy as the vile and ruthless act of the Peacekeeper.

This type of argument DIMINISHES your own argument.

Now as for the 3/5th's Compromise, had you any understanding of the negotiations surrounding the proposed census and the manner in which the House of Representatives was to be filled, you would understand that the 3/5 th's solution WORKED to MINIMIZE THE INFLUENCE of the Slave Power. Please do more than simply repeat the typical leftist shibboleths. They have a tendency to upend one's argument.

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gargamel rules smurfs
on July 04, 2018 at 16:22:42 pm

Kevin:

Nicely stated!

I do not think you have missed anything in Seaton's essay. Rather, I suspect that you place more emphasis on certain rhetorical flourishes present in the essay.

As for the "abstraction" of History, let me say this:

While it may be true that some elements / commentators /academics do not situate History (or Progress, etc) at the center of social / cultural / political change, nevertheless, they ultimately seek to deploy the abstraction, "History" as an instrument / mechanism that is capable of compelling *positive* social change.
As succintly as possible:

Those whose starting point is a "perceived" and preferred *TELOS* inescapably are forced to posit some OVERRIDING force / mechanism that will inexorably lead to the Promised Land (Telos).

I do not think that Seaton expected that his rhetorical assertions / devices would be taken literally.
Well, at least I don't.

take care
gabe

BTW: Nice h(small "h")istory on the DOI and the Virginia Declaration of Rights. Informative, as always.

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gabe
on July 04, 2018 at 16:40:51 pm

Kevin:

Just came across this in which a Black Lives Matter activist asserts the claim that the Declaration is and always was a sham.
Thus, there is a tad bit more to the story than you perhaps acknowledge. Clearly. some see the DOI as an aspirational goal, still valid, but far from attained while others see it as a sham. should we expect anything else. People will differ in their own unique appraisals. this remains true for both the right and the left.

https://www.breitbart.com/big-government/2018/07/04/black-lives-matter-activist-shaun-king-the-4th-of-july-has-always-been-a-sham-always/

Incidentally, Frederick Douglass, like ML King, did NOT view the DOI as a sham.

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gabe
on July 04, 2018 at 17:53:08 pm

Wow. That’s certainly informative. And on this day especially, also really sad.

Frederick Douglass changed his mind about the Constitution, and broke with guys like Garrison and Weld (who rejected the Constitution as irretrievably tainted—a “covenant with death”) on the basis of the ideals in the Declaration. On that basis, Douglass said, the Constitution is “a great liberty document.”

It seems to me, anyway, much more hopeful to premise one’s call for reform on that kind of reading of the framing and of the founding. Douglass is surely right. What a sad loss of faith in our foundational principles.

Anyway, thanks for bringing this to my attention. Sigh. Things are worse than I thought.

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Kevin Hardwick
on July 04, 2018 at 18:02:57 pm

This essay attempts to address if not to reconcile the incompatibility of the natural rights principles and concrete political grievances expressed in the Declaration of Independence with the various, ever-shifting abstract grounds and group grievances of identity politics.

Yet, why bother? Except to humiliate, shame, reject and defeat its adherents and exponents, why take the effort necessary to give serious attention to the scam of identity politics which is, in essence, mere morally-unexamined self-gratification and intellectually-preposterous auto-eroticism by a generation of emotional and intellectual adolescents.

Two of the salient adolescent characteristics of identity politics discussed by the author are its "deep indignation and wide-spread indictment." I recently read an article discussing the acting out of a specific "indignation and indictment" tantrum in which schools are investigating removing the names of Founders that did “harm to humanity,” and “engaged in slavery, female oppression or whose actions led to genocide or infringed on the right to ‘life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.’"

How silly to engage in intellectual dialogue with or about such people. How ridiculous to take seriously those who cry liberty when they mean license, who decry the Founders "harm to humanity" while defending infanticide, who have incited the deaths of millions of prenatal children and still, today, tolerate their ongoing murder in the name of liberty, death on such a massive scale that in one mere year the social justice warriors of identity politics do greater "harm to humanity" in America than was inflicted by all the slavocracy of colonial and ante-bellum America, a slavocracy that the Founders set on a path to extinction and that their successors first banned and then destroyed, at the cost of tremendous self-sacrifice to the lives, liberties and properties of over 600,000 individuals (not groups.)

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Pukka Luftmensch
on July 04, 2018 at 19:37:45 pm

You are quite correct:

How silly to engage with those who so proudly proclaim their profound and prolific ignorance and who would rather allow their envy, anger and indignation to "perky-o-late" to the surface.

Perhaps, I should let their "license" percolate in my boiling cauldron. one can grow weary of a diet of Smurfs!!!

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gargamel rules smurfs
on July 04, 2018 at 22:16:14 pm

Rather than wasting time reading about the how the fools of identity politics view the Declaration, one's thinking is far better spent reflecting on the concluding two paragraphs of Calvin Coolidge's remarks on the 150th anniversary of the Declaration of Independence:

“In my opinion very little of just criticism can attach to the theories and principles of our institutions. There is far more danger of harm than there is hope of good in any radical changes. We do need a better understanding and comprehension of them and a better knowledge of the foundations of government in general. Our forefathers came to certain conclusions and decided upon certain courses of action which have been a great blessing to the world. Before we can understand their conclusions we must go back and review the course which they followed. We must think the thoughts which they thought. Their intellectual life centered around the meetinghouse. They were intent upon religious worship. While there were always among them men of deep learning, and later those who had comparatively large possessions, the mind of the people was not so much engrossed in how much they knew, or how much they had, as in how they were going to live. While scantily provided with other literature, there was a wide acquaintance with the Scriptures. Over a period as great as that which measures the existence of our independence they were subject to this discipline not only in their religious life and educational training, but also in their political thought. They were a people who came under the influence of a great spiritual development and acquired a great moral power.
No other theory is adequate to explain or comprehend the Declaration of Independence. It is the product of the spiritual insight of the people. We live in an age of science and of abounding accumulation of material things. These did not create our Declaration. Our Declaration created them. The things of the spirit come first. Unless we cling to that, all our material prosperity, overwhelming though it may appear, will turn to a barren scepter in our grasp. If we are to maintain the great heritage which has been bequeathed to us, we must be like-minded as the fathers who created it. We must not sink into a pagan materialism. We must cultivate the reverence which they had for the things that are holy. We must follow the spiritual and moral leadership which they showed. We must keep replenished, that they may glow with a more compelling flame, the altar fires before which they worshiped.”

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Pukka Luftmensch
on July 04, 2018 at 23:53:48 pm

I found the article interesting. I agree that identity politics is damaging to the principles expressed in the Declaration of Independence, but the Declaration did not erase the religious bigotry, xenophobia, sexism and racial enslavement that accompanied the settlement of America that continues as discrimination to this day. White identity is based on the racial supremacy that existed with western colonialism even as it involved the colonial settlement of the western hemisphere.

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Dan Slaby
on July 05, 2018 at 00:10:40 am

EP asks:

"Did the Declaration of Independence actually apply de facto to anyone *but* white men of property? And did the term ‘men’ in this case apply to women?

EP does not specify a time period, but I infer that the question refers to the late 18th century.

The answer to both is, for the first, mostly no, but with some exceptions. The answer to the second is the same, save with fewer exceptions.

In both cases, however, efforts to read the principles of the Declaration to exclude blacks and women ultimately failed. It ultimately proved impossible to square the Declaration with racism or slavery, or patriarchalism. (It remains unclear whether or not it is possible to square the Declaration with second wave feminism. It seems at least worth considering that the fact that women can bear children, and breastfeed children, may create some circumstances in which men and women ought, in some circumstances, to be treated differently in law, in which case men and women are not equal.)

So in essence, the judgment of political philosophy in the US, worked out over the course of many decades of political debate, is that those 18th century politicians who wanted to restrict the Declaration only to propertied white men were mistaken, and that the minority who argued for the universality of the Declaration were correct.

So in the end, does the fact that a bunch of guys a long time ago misunderstood our foundational principles, and perpetuated injustice as a consequence, carry any relevance at all for us today, when we try to figure out whether those principles, properly understood, are worth sustaining? I would suggest that the consequences of their error were (and are) deplorable. But I don't think that has any bearing on whether I should or should not strive to uphold those principles today.

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Kevin Hardwick
on July 05, 2018 at 00:28:59 am

Gabe--

I just read the statement by Shaun King, in which he quotes Douglass from 1852, to the effect that the fourth of july is a sham.

It seems to me that there is a distinction to be made between saying that the *Declaration* is a sham--which implies that the principles it articulates are false--and saying that the way we celebrate the Declaration in our public culture is a sham. The latter is what I take both Douglass and King to be saying.

So, perhaps anyway, there is a more sympathetic way to read that story. To say that celebration is a sham may, perhaps anyway, simply mean that we don't live up to the principles, and that we ought to. It may criticize our conduct and practice, rather than the ideals themselves. That's how I read "What to the Slave is the Fourth of July," for what that's worth.

I work hard, in my own conduct, not to nurture within myself the seeds of cynicism. One way I try to do that is, absent reason to do the contrary, to put a positive spin on other people's words. (Of course, buried in such a habit is a tendency towards pollyanna, so like so much else there is an Aristotelian mean here.) Anyway, it seems possible that one can do that for the words Shaun King wrote, as reported in the story. I have never heard of King, so perhaps he meant something else.

As always, I value your thoughts.

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Kevin Hardwick
on July 05, 2018 at 01:47:07 am

Kevin,

I think that a simpler way to analyze this is to start with the proposition "you take your revolution as you find it." It may be pleasing to privileged modern sensibilities to prefer that the country had been founded exclusively by abolitionists, or been fought for only by humanist philosophers. The stimulus to independence occurred in the midst of an institution that had been imported by imperialist monarchies, and was prosecuted by persons who held varying views of the status of negroes, or native americans, or Catholics. Complaining that the Declaration of Independence did not bring forth a fully formed state of grace, like Athena emerging from the head of Zeus, is like like complaining that you can;t make wine out of a grape seed.

The declaration, for its supposed lapses, seems to have established a country that has moved a considerable way down the path of human progress and human rights. Not that it has reached a destination, but one would be hard pressed to identify any say, fifty year period in the country that did not represent an improvement over the preceding half century. Of course, the language of Declaration is an abstraction; humans are not equal in any but a metaphysical sense. But this metaphysical sense matters, and that it was mentioned in the Declaration of Independence cannot be dismissed as a sham, as hypocrisy, or rhetorical throat-clearing. It got the ball rolling, and set a backdrop for abolition, the Reconstruction Amendments and subsequent civil rights gains. That the words of the Declaration of Independence left actual work to do seems a rather spoiled complaint.

Now one might ask if we have any reason to believe that this is true. While it is not possible to provide a mathematical proof of the assertion, a little experience does provide some insight. History contains multiple examples of revolutions that did not work out as well, either for the country involved or for humanity in general, as the Unites States's did on both counts. Furthermore, one may casually wonder why the drafters of Declaration did not claim that white protestant men are created equal. Surely, given the demographics at the time, this would not have excluded a significant number of those on the side of liberty. But the more general term was seminal; it contained within it a notion, not fully developed, and surely not uncontroversial, but which nonetheless contained enough truth to have established a great and enduring country, and leaves a legacy of liberty and dignity which continues to be built.

Joe

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z9z99
on July 05, 2018 at 07:22:30 am

In my well- educated opinion, yours are utterly ridiculous, outrageous assertions, that "... religious bigotry, xenophobia, sexism and racial enslavement... continues as discrimination (in America) to this day" and that "(w)hite identity (in America) is based on... racial supremacy..."

Such politically-explosive, morally-hideous, baseless accusations are either intentionally-deployed weapons of destructive ideology or the consequence of an appalling miseducation tantamount to mere anti-American political indoctrination. They are Leftist fabrications manufactured out of the toxic materials of anti-American propaganda, the kind of stuff the Soviets deployed against America during the Cold War.

Where is your data? Show us the studies that demonstrate we Americans are a racist, sexist, xenophobic, religiously-bigoted people. Point to a body of evidence to support your defamation of my country. What works of history or sociology or psychology or law can you cite to show that the United States in 2018 is plagued with religious bigotry, xenophobia, sexism and racial discrimination or that the "identity" of Caucasian-Americans is grounded in their sense of "racial supremacy?"

There is no factual support for your sliming of my country and its people, and what's worse for you is that you know what I say is true.

Maxine Waters talks like that, and she's an ignorant, hate-filled, racist fool!

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Pukka Luftmensch
on July 05, 2018 at 09:07:10 am

“Did the Declaration of Independence actually apply de facto to anyone *but* white men of property? And did the term ‘men’ in this case apply to women?"

The answer to both is, for the first, mostly no....

I'll concur with Hardwick, but for different reasons. I would not say that the Declaration applied de facto only to white men of property, because the Declaration did not apply to ANYBODY.

People sometimes confuse the Declaration with the Constitution. The Constitution is a governing document, with real application to real people. In contrast, the Declaration was part of an effort to build support for the colonists' campaign for independence from Great Britain. It had no "application" except in the sense that a Coca Cola commercial has an application.

It's worth noting that the Declaration has not always enjoyed the prestige it has today. Wikipedia reports that the first public celebration of the Fourth of July didn't occur until 1783. John Turnbull's famous painting of the signing of the Declaration dates from 1817. And that Congress didn't make July 4 a federal holiday until 1870.

Instead, following adoption of the Articles of Confederation, the Declaration largely fell out of the public eye. And when it returned to prominence, it did so in its original function--as a piece of propaganda: In the 1790s the Jeffersonian Republicans sought to bolster their standing relative to the Federalists by trumpeting Jefferson's role in the nation's founding, including his role in drafting the Declaration. In short, they sought to use the Declaration as a form of branding. The Federalists fought back, diminishing the significance of the Declaration, and emphasizing the role of their champion, Adams, in leading the campaign for independence.

Yes, in the years since 1776, many people have referred to the language of the Declaration for rhetorical purposes. We can ask what significance THOSE PEOPLE (for example, MLK) gave to the words of the Declaration. But we shouldn't confuse that with any legal force alleged to exist in the document itself--because there wasn't any.

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nobody.really
on July 05, 2018 at 10:49:40 am

Nobody said the declaration didn't apply to anybody.

But nobody is somebody and everybody knows that somebody can be anybody, even nobody.

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z9z99
on July 05, 2018 at 11:08:31 am

The DoI was not propaganda. It was the first state document of the United States of America, the formal announcement of the 2nd Continental Congress to the world that the English American colonies were declaring themselves a separate "People" from the British. It was an invitation for recognition by other countries. It followed the form of the Dutch Act Abjuration of 1581.

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EK
on July 05, 2018 at 11:08:48 am

"It’s worth noting that the Declaration has not always enjoyed the prestige it has today. Wikipedia reports that the first public celebration of the Fourth of July didn’t occur until 1783"

Gee, I wonder why that is? Could it be that we were engaged in an actual war for most of those years. Would it not be strange to ask of the Brits, "Let us stop hostilities for a day, while we Colonists celebrate OUR rebellion against YOU?

Yep, makes great sense; nobody.really can argue with that!

On a more serious note:

Yes, much of what you state as to the relative *lateness* of the respect afforded the DOI may be correct, albeit greatly exaggerated (look only to the private letters (and some public) of Madison, Adams, Jefferson, etc., you fail to account for the NEED for a national / cultural sustaining myth. I use myth not as a pejorative in this instance; rather, it is intended to indicate the common human need / desire toward community / polity and it is the mechanism most frequently chosen to foster common identity / purpose AND aspirational goals.

And here is the funny thing, nobody.
As Z99 says above, "It actually worked."

I am often amused buy both critics and hagiographers of the DOI and COTUS, both of whom would appear to believe, albeit for different reasons and with differing motivations, that the men who CRAFTED both DOI and COTUS believed that they had created a PERFECT, or at least a *perfectable* human polity / government.
Even a minimal familiarity with the relevant history would indicate that no such belief was held by any of The Crafters of this republic. They understood all too clearly the weakness of their fellow human beings; they understood all too clearly the limits of what they could THEN accomplish. And like any a good craftsman, understood both the strengths and the deficiencies of their structure(s).

We err gravely when we view either the original efforts / work product as a) perfect or b) so intended.
We err even more gravely when as a consequence of the initial perceptual / conceptual error we expect / anticipate such perfection to be made immanent.

Even worse, but far more commonplace, is the mistake of positing such an end state as our telos.

Jus' ain't nevah gunna happen!

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gabe
on July 05, 2018 at 11:46:43 am

Your opinion does not appear well-educated; the "we" of America includes quite a diverse group of people, the majority of whom do not share your opinion. Please refresh your history beliefs with factual accounts of slavery, xenophobia of Irish, Italian, Chinese, Japanese and Hispanic immigrants, religious bigotry against Catholics and now Muslims, and the failure to give women's rights to vote (until the 20s) and make their own health decisions (basically a patriarchal dominance ploy). The credible literature documenting these conditions is immense and you may find them easily by searching with Google Scholar. I can categorically state that I know what you state is a defensive denial of empirical facts, and not true.

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Dan Slaby
on July 05, 2018 at 12:01:18 pm

Try this for a history lesson

https://www.facebook.com/196848580832824/videos/217512792099736/

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Dan Slaby
on July 05, 2018 at 12:17:51 pm

Gosh, Dan, 'til Hillary and you educated me I was lost in my White superiority complex.

But now, after listening to her explanation of how white racists stole the election for Trump and after reading your clear and convincing evidence of rampant racism among White folks, I'm gonna change my deplorable ways.

Maybe I should read all of Maxine Waters' and Al Sharpton's speeches. Yep, I'll do that, but I also wannna go back to college so I can learn all the stuff you learned in college. Dan, your professors must have spoken new truth to old power, so they were up to date and lots better than mine.

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Pukka Luftmensch
on July 05, 2018 at 12:25:28 pm

Like I said, Dan, I'm gonna try real hard to change my ways and be like you.

It'll be difficult, but our country needs lots more thinkers and doers like you, more social justice warriors.

And your Facebook video on white racism is just the place for me to start my new journey..
Thanks so much for sending me the link.

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Pukka Luftmensch
on July 05, 2018 at 12:50:28 pm

Hey, isn't Facebook great?
Yep, they are so concerned with social justice that they DELETED sections of the Declaration for violating its community standards.

So, OK, Danny Boy (the Facebook pipes ARE calling) you are quite free to join and support THAT community which I have been lead to believe is comprised of solely non-white, non-male low-income persons BUT they do have the PRIVILEGE of determining who shall speak in the public square and WHAT they may say.

NOW that is PRIVILEGE, dear boy.

I suppose for Pukka and I, the only privilege to which we are entitled is the PRIVILEGE of absorbing your profound wisdom and astute observations about America.
Gee, I think I will keep my flag up for one more day!!!!

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Guttenburgs Press and Brewery
on July 05, 2018 at 12:53:44 pm

Gawd!
You mean there's two of us?
Is your white sheet all cotton or 50/50 cotton- nylon?
The 100% cotton is better in this heat.

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Pukka Luftmensch
on July 05, 2018 at 13:27:29 pm

This is pretty funny. Bravo!

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Kevin Hardwick
on July 05, 2018 at 13:46:09 pm

Please, guys. Let’s keep the focus on civil deliberation?

If you want to engage with me, to persuade me to agree with you, then you need to characterize my thoughts in such a fashion that I can say “yes, that’s what I mean.” Having done that, and then demonstrated rationally the flaws in my position, I might, perhaps, be moved to say “you are correct.” At the very least you and I will clarify the divergent assumptions from which we argue—so even if you don’t persuade me, you may persuade Joe, who has silently been reading along.

But if you mock my argument, and mis-state it in ways that I don’t recognize, then all you are doing is erecting a straw man. When you do that, you signal to me that you have no interest in engaging with my thought. That’s fine—who cares what I think? But you also fail to persuade readers like Joe, too.

So all you accomplish is to signal to guys who already agree with you that you are hip and cool, and a card-carrying member of the club. Or, to put it differently, you are practicing identity politics. You are proudly proclaiming both that you possess a particular identity, and that you don’t give a rat’s ass about talking through the issue at hand in a rational fashion with me.

There are lots and lots of places on the internet where that kind of identity politics can be practiced. It’s rather the norm, isn’t it? But it’s not very fresh, or interesting, or thoughtful, or reflective, or constructive. You won’t change anyone’s mind by indulging in it.

Surely this corner of the web is better than that.

In case it’s not obvious, I am calling out everyone in this thread, not just the person to whom I am directly responding.

This matters. Either we solve our public problems by deliberative persuasion, or we solve them by coercion and violence. Read Hamilton on the Whiskey Rebellion. I prefer deliberation. Shame on you if you would rather solve our public problems by killing people.

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Kevin Hardwick
on July 05, 2018 at 13:59:47 pm

Kevin,
Read the posts and see to whom they're addressed. No one was mocking you. The mockery was addressed to Dan and Perky.

Serious commenters like you invariably get serious replies. Trolls like Perky are mocked and kicked off the bridge; internet flames are doused with ridicule.

That is a necessary response by the learned in a cultural crisis. There are two reasons for not attempting to reason with barbarians at the gate: 1) they're at the gate and 2) they're barbarians.

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Pukka Luftmensch
on July 05, 2018 at 16:13:40 pm

Pukka—

I understand that I am not the target of your irritation . Nor do I disagree with your underlying sentiment. I framed my comment self-referentially on purpose, so that (hopefully) it can be read more universally.

I really am alarmed at the state of our public discourse. And I really am concerned that our public life is now under the same kind of strain as it was in the late 1790s, and in the 1850s. In the early 1800s we walked ourselves back from the brink; in the 1860s, we resolved our differences in a kind of partisan blood bath. When politics fails, slaughter all too often commences.

So I am not ready, not yet, to slaughter barbarians. Honestly, this is a moderately conservative, libertarian space, and a mostly reasonable one. When barbarians, who are not by nature inclined to conservative or libertarian views wander in, surely we should welcome them, for two reasons.

First, we should welcome them because if our public life is to be successful, we need to be able to speak with them either to persuade them, or to be persuaded. And of course, for every active voice in the conversation, there are an unknown number of quiet readers, who also are potentially persuadable. The alternative to a rhetoric of public deliberation is to invite the kind of revolutionary violence and disorder no conservative ever should welcome.

Second, even if we do not persuade them, they keep us honest. We don’t want to think in an echo chamber, where we talk only with those who agree with us. Our best principles remain vibrant because we do not take them for granted. Our beliefs work and live best when we recur to them at frequent intervals.

Just my .02, obviously. Lots of my friends on various sides of our partisan disagreements argue that my view of our present circumstances is too dark. But I really do see peril around us.

Kevin Gutzman, a friend and scholar who posts here from time to time, sent me a while ago a few lines from a poem by Macaulay, that (this is from memory, so forgive the inevitable errors) go something like this:

Up spake bold Horatio
The Captain of the Gate
Death comes to every man
Whether soon or late
And who could then die better
Than facing fearful odds
For the ashes of his fathers
And the temples of his gods.

Stand your post. Don’t despair. Do your best, in the faith that there are others out there doing the same.

That, for what it is worth, is the spirit with which I am trying to write here.

Warm regards,
Kevin

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Kevin Hardwick
on July 05, 2018 at 16:25:18 pm

Just in case anyone cares--

I looked up the poem, and sure enough, my memory is faulty. Here is the stanza as Macaulay wrote it:

Then out spake brave Horatius,
The Captain of the gate:
“To every man upon this earth
Death cometh soon or late. 220
And how can man die better
Than facing fearful odds
For the ashes of his fathers
And the temples of his gods,

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Kevin Hardwick
on July 05, 2018 at 16:27:49 pm

Gotcha,
Disagree but respectfully. No need to debate the matter, except you must beware the real goal of trolls: to disrupt under the guise of debate. It's a tried and true internet tactic.

The lines are from Horatius at the Bridge, a portion of Macaulay's Lays of Ancient Rome. Churchill quotes them in the recent film, "The Darkest Hour."

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Pukka Luftmensch
on July 05, 2018 at 17:23:45 pm

The DoI was not propaganda.... It was an invitation for recognition by other countries.

And this would be inconsistent with propaganda ... how?

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nobody.really
on July 05, 2018 at 17:35:22 pm

Macaulay's stanza circulated among scholars of a certain persuasion some years ago--several colleagues reminded me of its existence, all within a few months of each other. After Kevin drew the stanza to my attention, I went back and read the entire poem. It is easily the best set of lines in the work--nothing else in the poem struck me as especially memorable. There is a reason why Macaulay is considered a second tier poet, among the romantics. But at his best, he is quite sublime. I thought those lines captured something powerful, and they provided the focus for a useful if too brief email conversation with Gutzman.

I am glad that the movie has popularized the poem--I have been told it is worth seeing. The poem itself deserves to be remembered.

I am hardly an astute or learned literary critic, to be sure!. Still, my most learned colleagues--the ones I respect the most--all share a common aesthetic sensibility, which I associate to some degree with prudential and wise political judgment. There exists a connection between aesthetics and our public life that merits taking seriously--if nothing else, it helps us nourish within ourselves proper dispositions.

Anyway--I went back and reread the conversation here. I throw this out as a tentative observation: I can't imagine that anyone thoughtful or of good will can be anything other than immensely frustrated with our public life. I completely agree that malicious contributors can derail a conversation, every bit as thoroughly as can mockery. So its hard to argue with the conclusion that trollery merits our condemnation.

But what I saw from the two more egregious liberal commentators looked to me like a pretty standard, cookie-cutter repitition of liberal positions, advanced without a great deal of reflection (after all, we have several very thoughtful and well educated more or less (modern) liberal contributors here, who more hold their own just fine). These less thoughtful posters might be trolls, but what they wrote looked more like unexamined dogma than it did trollery. They reminded me of many of my students--people who are of good will, many of them smart enough, who fall back on conventional wisdom because they have never adequately challenged their own assumptions.

People like that, at least some of the time, can be persuaded. And I have hopes still, for persuasion. If we give up on that, we really are confronting then a constitutional problem that to my knowledge has never been successfully solved, short of coercion and violence. Not, at least, in the Anglo-US political history with which I am most familiar.

I have selfish reasons, of course. Whichever side wins, they will come first for the lawyers. But right next to them, primed for re-education, will be the university faculty! We can't have that, now can we? ;)

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Kevin Hardwick
on July 05, 2018 at 18:17:20 pm

Simply put,I know what you say is not true. Oh... and it is my country, too. Loving some one or some thing does not blind me to its shortcomings.

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Merlann Kay Heckt
on July 05, 2018 at 18:57:21 pm

You're an academic, apparently, and as thoughtful and agreeable as you are, I would suspect you may be an odd man out in today's intolerant, group-think academia. In any event, it appears to me that your perception of the Left's intentions, tactics, openness to reason and willingness to compromise is far more benign than mine. You think they're well-intentioned but merely misinformed; I think they're dangerously ignorant, more malignant than benign and already know all they want to know as they plot and execute national destruction.

So, you comment as you will and let's see how many minds you change from Left to Right. My observation is that individuals of the Left move right only when reality hits them in the face and that rational debate for them is not their Road to Damascus experience. Eric Hofer's "True Believer" is a better guide to understanding them than liberal asumptions about the power of rational persuasion.

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Pukka Luftmensch
on July 05, 2018 at 23:04:28 pm

Thank you for that quote from Calvin Coolidge.

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John Schmeeckle
on July 05, 2018 at 23:19:24 pm

Regarding equality, I am reminded of the 1813 comment by John Adams in a letter to Jefferson, deprecating the "absurd" sophistry of Rousseau, that the Golden Rule is all the equality that can be reasonably expected. I think there is more in that remark than meets the eye at first glance.

Regarding unalienable rights in the Declaration of Independence, they correspond to the fundamental duties of piety and benevolence (the two basic commandments of Jesus Christ) -- the source of happiness.

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John Schmeeckle
on July 05, 2018 at 23:34:46 pm

Pukka--

Fair enough--your words here are generous.

I would hardly wish to assert that all leftists are benignly ignorant. But I do wish to claim that some are. Some of them are very young, and confident of their unreflective assumptions. Remember too that, given where I work, it is likely I live in greater intellectual familiarity with leftists than those who work in other environments. It is at least possible I know quite a few of them, in greater familiarity than just their politics.

But all of this is tangential. The deepest claim I am making is that we, as citizens, must choose how we wish to live our lives. What has to be true, about the world in which we live, for our deepest aspirations for ourselves and our communities to be realized?

If we wish to live in a self-governing, republican political society--if a republic is a better place than a democracy or a despotism-- then we as citizens must nurture within ourselves the dispositions that make republics work. I submit to you that to make republican politics work, citizens must at least aspire to deliberate. Some habits of mind and conduct are more conducive to that than others. That's what has been the focus of my remarks, at least this evening anyway.

If we give up those habits, within ourselves, then we are enabling coercion and despotism. I don't want to do that. So I nurture them within myself--ultimately that is the only bit of the world I control, and that only imperfectly. I don't have a whole lot of optimism that my conduct will make a whit of difference one way or another, but its all i have got. And its better to die having stood my post, as it were, than to succumb to cynicism and despair, and not have made the effort.

You of course have to make your own choices. But as I understand your position, on the basis of the fragments we have exchanged today, you counsel despair and cynicism. All liberals, or almost all of them--half or more of our fellow citizens, neighbors, colleagues, even friends--are immune to reason, and motivated only by malice. So we should not try to reason with them, because that's just a waste of time. The only way to make them behave it to hit them in their nose--they only respond to brute violence. Delberation, at least with liberals, is a false ideal. It is unrealistic. Yours is almost certainly the more realistic position, but if I am correct, it also hastens the moment when our republic dies.

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Kevin Hardwick
on July 06, 2018 at 01:46:01 am

I would like to remind everyone of the definition of liberalism: Liberalism is a group of political, social and economic theories that centers on the values of individual liberty, equality, economic freedom, limited and democratic government and the rule of law.

I'm a liberal and cannot be shamed by being called a troll or using the word liberal as a slur. I found this article interesting, but found it diminished when it enters political diatribes and ignores the historical cultural context of its writing and application.

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Dan Slaby
on July 06, 2018 at 06:13:04 am

I am emerging from self-imposed silence not to comment but to thank this commentator and "Gabe"; also Paul Seton and others, for well-reasoned commentary and for structured arguments rather than assertions and accusations.

This site is my refuge from the cacophonous expression of confusion and fear that is the daily news in our time.

I have counted on liberty law site as a temporary shelter from the storm which threatens to engulf us. I am reassured that all is not lost!

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Latecomer
on July 06, 2018 at 10:24:24 am

"Me To:"

https://amgreatness.com/2018/07/05/the-heck-with-civility-this-is-war/

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Pukka Luftmensch
on July 06, 2018 at 10:29:00 am

I know, it shoulda been " Me Too."
This site would be better if it allowed editing after posting so as to correct spelling errors.

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Pukka Luftmensch
on July 06, 2018 at 10:34:04 am

Dan:

Perhaps, the response to which you object may have had something to do with the assertion that "white identity is based upon racial supremacy."
Such comments are somewhat less than likely to engender kind, considered responses.

At best such claims are debatable, at worst they are both factually and historically incorrect.
Given that all peoples, at one time or another, were enslaved, were viewed as "less than equal" to the dominant military or cultural group, and that this affected all racial combinations / nexuses, i.e. white folks enslaved by other white folks, black folks enslaved by other black folks, Southern Mediterraneans enslaved by Arab Islamists, etc., perhaps, we would enable a more fruitful and productive discussion were we to look to other factors than race and other miscreant actors and factors. Does the ambition / the thirst for power play any role? Does human greed play any role? Did the Islamists drive for the UMMA account for the rather profitable slavetrading and subjugation of Mediterranean peoples who happen to share the same genetic / racial histories in many cases (and yes, some islamist slavetraders were blacks trading in whites).

Not so simple AND not likely to, as i say, engender a moderated response.

"I would like to remind everyone of the definition of liberalism: Liberalism is a group of political, social and economic theories that centers on the values of individual liberty, equality, economic freedom, limited and democratic government and the rule of law. "

A seemingly sensible statement of beliefs. Yet, the devil is in the details.
Do you define *equality* in the same fashion as did the Crafters of the DOI and COTUS? or in the same manner as say Pukka, or Prof. Hardwick?

Clearly, I am NOT the equal of Mike Trout, the LA Angels centerfielder when it comes to baseball. But I DID have an opportunity to try. Of course, considering that I could never hit a curveball means I effectively had no chance. But that is neither discriminatory nor unfair.
Each of us has a modicum of talent. Each of us OUGHT to be able to apply those talents without facing *invidious* discrimination. That is all that is promised AND all that one can and OUGHT to expect. To expect otherwise is to invite a considerable and sustained attack upon the notion of "limited and democratic govern[nance] that you rightly admire.

Take care, keep the rhetorical claims sustainable and good luck!
gabe

peoples

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gabe
on July 06, 2018 at 11:15:51 am

Dan, you say you're not a troll, and I'll accept that, and you also say you're a "liberal" as you defined the word. So you're saying that the 21st century intellectual and political heirs of thinkers from John Locke, John Stuart Mill, and Adam Smith to Isaiah Berlin, John Kenneth Galbraith and John Rawls are of the opinion, which you also stated , that America today is a country of “… religious bigotry, xenophobia, sexism and racial enslavement... (CONTINUED as racial) discrimination… ” and that Americans who are Caucasians have a sense of “white identity (that) is based on… racial supremacy…”?

Just want to be sure what constitutes a "liberal."

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Pukka Luftmensch
on July 06, 2018 at 15:16:25 pm

The aspirations in the Declaration of Independence in context of the days it was written are much different than the realities of the colonies and subsequent history of the colonial settlement. There is no logical link in your associating the philosophical ideas with their failure of implementation in American history. What people believe and what they do are often quite different. My claim rests on historical evidence. Unfortunately people most often put preservation of privilege above moral principles. Religious people call it sin.

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Dan Slaby
on July 06, 2018 at 15:31:24 pm

The greatness of civilization lies not in war, but in its humanness; Confucian philosophy call it Ren.

Your war against civility will exhaust and defeat you.

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Dan Slaby
on July 06, 2018 at 16:08:21 pm

You didn't answer my question!

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Pukka Luftmensch
on July 06, 2018 at 16:13:05 pm

I answered your question; you didn't understand or agree with it.

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Dan Slaby
on July 06, 2018 at 16:34:35 pm

Of course, you miss the point:

Recognizing both the futility and the self-destructive nature of attempting rational debate with barbarians who are at the gate of the republic and hell-bent on its destruction is the indispensable act of defending and preserving the republic on which the very survival of civility depends.

In effect, when a man stands outside one's door, shouts out his intention to murder, then tries to break down the door, one's survival depends, literally, on believing him and on not opening the door and saying, "Let's reason this out, please."

The ideas which you represent have the destructive force of barbarians at the gate of the republic. Your cohorts of the Left are those barbarians; they harbor and openly espouse those destructive intentions, and they pursue them aggressively with overt, covert and crypto-violence.

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Pukka Luftmensch
on July 06, 2018 at 16:35:27 pm

Dan—

Your first sentence is written in the passive voice. Are you talking about the aspirations of all 18th century Americans? The aspirations of the guys who drafted it? Of the members of the Continental Congress who revised and then approved it?

This matters, because not all Americans agreed about the matter.

A follow up though: why do their aspirations matter more than, say, those of the Philadelphia Abolition Society, who sparked a minor crisis in the Federal Congress in 1790 when they petitioned Congress to end the slave trade. The debate over what to do with that petition demonstrated quite divergent interpretations of the principles of the Declaration, at a time in which some of its authors were still alive.

Having articulated principles in 1776, various statesmen in subsequent decades referenced them, as they tried to make sense of their own times. In the end, despite dedicated efforts of very smart proslavery thinkers, many southerners concluded that slavery and the principles of the declaration could not be reconciled. By the late 1840s guys like John C. Calhoun concluded that since slavery was good, the Declaration had to be mistaken.

Calhoun was of course wrong on both sides of that point—slavery is depraved and evil, not good; and the principles of the Declaration are not mistaken. But isn’t that the point? In concluding that, I don’t need to reference the judgments of, say, a certain Tom Jefferson in the year 1776.

We may, I suppose, be employing different concepts of moral truth. You may wish to argue that all moral truth is relative. But before you get too comfortable with that position (it may not be something you wish to defend at all), you should be aware that at least among main stream moral philosophy today, that position is largely rejected. See, e.g., Simon Blackburn, TRUTH; or Russ Schaffer-Landau, WHATEVER HAPPENED TO GOOD AND EVIL? Both of those guys represent well established and well received text book statements of the view that we can in fact speak intelligently about moral truth.

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Kevin Hardwick
on July 06, 2018 at 16:47:23 pm

Dan—

I agree with Pukka at least on this—he re-engaged with you, politely, and asked you a specific question. And your reply does not really amount to an answer.

Allow me to restate it: do you think modern proponents of classical liberalism, heirs to the tradition that Pukka limns for us above, would agree with your characterization of the contemporary US?

If you do, can you explain why you think so?

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Kevin Hardwick
on July 06, 2018 at 17:09:41 pm

Being called a barbarian is not polite. I would like to dispute your claim that the left created identity politics and have concluded that empirical facts of history are dismissed if they don't agree with your ideological leanings.

However, having had libertarian outlook most of my life, and voted for Goldwater when I became eligible to vote, I find the ossification of libertarian views and the rise of religious authoritarianism in the Republican Party not in keeping with my willingness to inquire into philosophy.

I hold that compassion is the basis of moral good, and cruelty the basis of moral evil. One cannot claim absolute right to liberty when it inflicts cruelty on others.

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Dan Slaby
on July 06, 2018 at 17:32:14 pm

Dan:

"I hold that compassion is the basis of moral good, and cruelty the basis of moral evil. One cannot claim absolute right to liberty when it inflicts cruelty on others."

And again, evidence that claims / assertions / disputations (perhaps) made by many commenters / commentators are oftentimes the product of the human tendency to *simplify*, to reduce complexity to manageable sound bites:

E.g., "...absolute right to liberty when it inflicts cruelty on others."

Would this include abortion? Would this include compelling a religious believer to participate in an activity which he or she finds morally repugnant? Would it include the forcible taking of property so that some other person may profit from it?

One would expect an answer in the negative. Yet, all of these cruel affronts to one person's dignity / beliefs are in fact permitted - indeed, if one is to believe many on the left, these cruelties are to be CELEBRATED as exemplars of individual liberty / gender equality, etc etc.

Try, if you may to infuse your arguments with a certain appreciation of the subtleties of human intercourse. I suspect that you may find that you will receive a more considered response.

Over and out!

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gabe
on July 06, 2018 at 18:09:39 pm

I speculate (just a wild guess) that one could adequately and quite fairly paraphrase Dan's ringing attempt to sound Jeffersonian as meaning that disfavored groups (i.e., prenatal infants, white males, the economically well-off and Caucasians generally) may justifiably be denied "the absolute right to liberty when (in the judgement of Dan and his fellow travelers) it inflicts (what they consider) cruelty on ( favored victim- groups of) others (or when doing so is appropriate to redress history's grievances.”)

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Pukka Luftmensch
on July 06, 2018 at 18:38:23 pm

Well said, Kevin Hardwick: "Lets keep the focus on...." And a very deliberative and enriching on-going dialog BTW.

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Anthony
on July 06, 2018 at 19:11:59 pm

Let me first answer your question about what I think the list of philosophers would think about my assertion: I don't think that any one of these philosophers would deny or disregard empirically established facts about discrimination.

Second, let me answer the question about (1) abortion rights - it is more cruel to force a biologically defective fetus to live a painful life deprived of health support because of a pre-existing condition or insist that a woman's bring to term a fetus when the physical person of a woman and her dignity was invaded by violence sexual behavior; (2) I agree that nobody should have their property forcibly taken from them and would like to remind you that the colonial settlement of America did exactly that to the Native American occupants; and (3) the transfer of wealth from the people to the rich is depriving working people of the property of their labor and endearing it to the inheritance of their descendents causing a moral hazard of wealth accumulation to an aristocracy which the founders were adamant against. I encourage you to revisit your beliefs to include consideration for the facts of history which make them questionable.

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Dan Slaby
on July 06, 2018 at 19:35:00 pm

You still have not answered my question!
As for the rest of your stuff, it's mere Democrat Party talking points. Yada, yada, yada!

BTW: I recall your saying you voted for Goldwater (who ran in 1964.)
So you did get at least one political judgement right, even if it was when you were young and imprudent:)
I'm surprised, however, that it was so many years ago. Based on the content of your writing, I would have guessed your age to be somewhere between that of a third-year college student and a recent grad.

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Pukka Luftmensch
on July 06, 2018 at 21:09:55 pm

Dan--

We are clearly talking past each other. Earlier, Pukka replied to you in what I took to be an intemperate fashion, I called him out on it, and he and I then had a constructive and polite concersation. I figured I had not persuaded him, and we both more or less agreed to leave it at that.

But then, rather amazingly, he re engaged with you, in the following post.

.........

Pukka Luftmensch says
July 6, 2018 at 11:15 am

Dan, you say you’re not a troll, and I’ll accept that, and you also say you’re a “liberal” as you defined the word. So you’re saying that the 21st century intellectual and political heirs of thinkers from John Locke, John Stuart Mill, and Adam Smith to Isaiah Berlin, John Kenneth Galbraith and John Rawls are of the opinion, which you also stated , that America today is a country of “… religious bigotry, xenophobia, sexism and racial enslavement… (CONTINUED as racial) discrimination… ” and that Americans who are Caucasians have a sense of “white identity (that) is based on… racial supremacy…”?

Just want to be sure what constitutes a “liberal.”

..........

Right? No name calling there. Polite. Civil even. Constructive. He asked you a question. This was an admirable thing to do. He suppressed his irritation with you, and re engaged.

You initially replied to me by saying that he had called you a barbarian, which is true enough. But you just completely ignored the post I pasted in, above, in which Pukka is making an effort to treat you civilly.

So meet him half way, right? Otherwise, your conduct is just as bad to him as his earlier was to you.

Somewhat later, you made an effort to reply to his question, but your answer is incomplete and half hearted.

You also responded to me by attributing straw man arguments to me. You accuse me of claiming that the left created identity politics, which I am pretty sure is not a claim I have made, nor is it a claim I wish to defend. I am confused why you would do that, actually, since it does not seem to have much bearing on the question Pukka and then I have posed to you. So it does not seem to be a relevant move, and it's certainly not a friendly one. Straw men, we can surely agree, should not have a place in reasoned debate.

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Kevin Hardwick
on July 06, 2018 at 21:17:39 pm

Nice try, Kevin!
In deference to the brevity of life and the limits of patience I'm terminating my participation in this conversation.

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Pukka Luftmensch
on July 06, 2018 at 21:21:52 pm

Dan writes, replying to me:

"I would like to dispute your claim that the left created identity politics and have concluded that empirical facts of history are dismissed if they don’t agree with your ideological leanings."

This is a straw man. I have made no such argument. Can you please back up, and engage with what I have actually written?

I can easily imagine that I have been unclear in places. I am more than happy to try to clarify, in those places where my prose is less than straightforward. But if you can't engage with what I write in such a fashion that I can read your characterization and reply "yes, that's what I am trying to say," then you and I can not have a constructive conversation.

Is that what you want--to have an honest conversation? Because I have gone out on a limb to defend your conduct, elsewhere, on the presumption that you do want to engage in reasonable conversation. But if you are in fact the troll that Pukka initially thought you were, then I will stop wasting my time, and will instead profer to Pukka my apology and bow out.

Erecting straw men, like the synecdoche trope I discussed much earlier in these threads, is trollish.

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Kevin Hardwick
on July 06, 2018 at 21:34:27 pm

I am quite sure that the caricature you offer here of the "left" fails to capture the argument or intent of most leftists. If it does, though--if what they really want is to break down the door to your house and murder you and your family--then the Republic is already lost.

Half or more of the US population is, if you are correct, murderous. The only way to make a republic work, if that is true, is to do some one or more of the following:

1. Consign all leftists to gas chambers, and then cremate the bodies;
2. Assign all leftists to reeducation camps, preferably with a lot of hard manual labor mixed in, and leave them there until you were really, really sure they have kearned their lesson;
3. Create gulags, maybe in northern Alaska, where we can segregate them all from the virtuous remainder, and in the meantime work them hard.

You get the point, right? If we have to become Hitler's Germany, or Stalin's USSR, or Mao's China, in order to deal with our internal, democratic divisions, then we have to give up on precisely that which we are trying to preserve.

I am not ready for any of those options. So short of that kind of coercive violence, what we have left is democratic persuasion.

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Kevin Hardwick
on July 07, 2018 at 00:48:09 am

Kevin,

I laud your efforts to try to shepherd a civil debate. If I may, I would like to offer an observation. There are several types of debates and reasons for people to engage in them. If it seems that two people are talking past each other, it is perhaps that they have different purposes in arguing. For the sake of simplicity, we may consider that an arguer has one of three types of positions:

1.) He has an idea of what his position is, but is a little insecure in it. He argues to better understand the grounds on which his position rests and seeks to strengthen it;

2.) He understands his position and is very certain of it, and he seeks to bring others to by by reasoned argument;

3.) He has a position and is quite certain of it, but cannot defend it, or bring others to it by reasoned argument, and thus seeks to maintain it by attacking contrary postions,

Let us for the sake of simplicity term the first category arguments of exploration, the second arguments of persuasion, and the third, arguments of conquest. The first category seems to be what you are attempting, to offer observations, interpretations, theories etc., and invite responses that may further inform, alter or perfect your opinion. The goal of this type of argument is understanding. The purpose is to find truth

The second category offers reasons, appeals and, in the term nobody.really used in his insight about the Declaration of Independence, propaganda in its non-derogatory sense. The goal of this type of argument is to convince others of a position of which the proponent is already convinced.; the purpose is to spread truth.

The third category offers logical fallacies, invective, sarcasm and epithets to throttle reason with emotion, because the positions being defended are more emotionally satisfying than reasonable . The goal is to delegitimze views contrary to one's own regardless of the truth.

This is obviously schematic, and specific arguments and arguers can be mixtures of the various types. But I would suggest that, if you offer hypotheses and observations, and get in response either platitudes or name calling, perhaps your effort is better reserved for those who share your intent. Again, this is just an observation. Feel free to disregard any or all of it.

I have noted certain patterns that seem to recur in the third category described above. The pathognomonic sign is early resort to name-calling. Sometimes this is rather slovenly, with a common tactic being the assertion that one's argument says more (always unspecified) about the person making the argument than it does about those to whom the argument is directed. The insinuation is that the person thus accused has a bad character, no specifics or data necessary. This is just a cheap way of calling someone a bad person, without evidence.

The second giveaway is the ready resort to ad hominem arguments; the baseless assertions that one is a racist or white supremacist or misogynist or climate denier. These arguments are almost always category errors and circular reasoning, but the value to the third type of argument is that they are name-calling. They delegitimize the target by associating it with emotionally unpopular groups, regardless of the truth or legitimacy of the assertion.

The next thing to be on the look out for is the straw man argument. The practitioner of this craft will delegitimize your argument by imposing a delegitimized argument upon you. The really good ones do this implicitly, not by stating an argument in any open way, but by replying to the straw man argument then daring you to defend it. The less skillful ones just say "What you are saying is..."

When these things are not enough, there is a tactic in the appendix of the playbook to look out for: the ranking gambit. This is a technique where certain counterarguments are off limits because they violate the assumed order of importance of grievances or interests or threats that the proponent treats as beyond dispute. Thus, if you for example say that defending assault of someone wearing a MAGA hat is like saying a sexual assault victim should not have worn revealing clothes, your opponent will flare into a supernova of indignation: "I can't believe you are comparing having a hat knocked off to RAPE!" Though the fallacy is obvious, the practitioner of this technique shifts the argument from an illustrative analogy to an accusation of minimizing the seriousness of something else. It is a species of deflection. Anytime there is an accusation of "comparing,"there is a good chance you have encountered this technique. Another species of deflection is the tu quoque fallacy. "Your guy does it too!" If you say something about some Hollywood hypocrite, and the response contains the word "Trump," or vice versa, there is a good chance you are in a third category of argument.

Anyway, just a thought. Have a good weekend.

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z9z99
on July 07, 2018 at 09:34:20 am

Months ago I stopped commenting on this site for reasons not relevant here. But in following Law and Liberty's blog from time to time I noted the unusually extensive comments on this particular article, so I read the article on identity politics and the Declaration and then read the comments.

One thing especially struck me: an intelligent discussion of a thoughtful article on reconciling principles in the Declaration of Independence with identity politics was converted into an unchallenged diatribe against the moral failings of America, its alleged myriad failures to live up to the principles of its Declaration. This remarkable downward shift in the discussion occurred precisely at the point when one commenter levelled this accusation:

"...the Declaration did not erase the religious bigotry, xenophobia, sexism and racial enslavement that accompanied the settlement of America that continues as discrimination to this day. White identity is based on the racial supremacy that existed with western colonialism even as it involved the colonial settlement of the western hemisphere."

What I find both remarkable and troubling is 1) the ease with which this commenter was able to derail an intelligent conversation, 2) the depth of his hostility to America, particularly his allegations of its pervasive racism, and 3) the fact that a defense was offered by only one commenter.

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timothy
on July 07, 2018 at 11:22:30 am

TO ALL:

I will use Timothy's last claim as a point of departure:

"...the fact that a defense was offered by only one commenter."

1) Timothy: good to see you back.

2) I dispute the above claim. More than ONE commenter did, in fact, support the DOI.

3) Oftentimes, it is a function of the word choices we make that set the tone for a discussion / debate.
As an example, in an earlier comment, I used the term *myth8 to characterize the aspirational objective of the DOI and indicated that I did not intend for the word to be read as a pejorative.
In one of nobody.really's comments, he used the term *propaganda".
Both of these terms have, over the course of time, and political discord / abuse, have become pregnant with unintended or secondary derogatory implications.
However, had either, or both, nobody and I used the term "organizing principle" the import / reception of that phrase would have had a significantly different reception by other commenters. I take nobody's "propaganda" and my "myth" to be equivalent to "organizing principle" As such it should be clear that more than one commenter supported the DOI.

4) Further, it ought not to escape notice that, at the behest, and a proper one I might add, of Prof. Kevin Hardwick, an attempt, indeed a concerted effort, was made to *engage* with those commenters whose rejection (perhaps, hostility to) of the DOI was apparent.
Yet, it should be noted that some commenters, including myself, while *engaging* with others encouraged those others to examine some of the underlying certainty and conviction of their expressed hostility toward the DOI.

5) Ultimately, this proved unsuccessful as even the Good Professor came to realize. Kevin's brief, yet informative, historical expositions on the "reality" of colonial times was insufficient to move the dissenters from their pathognomonic disposition / mode of argument (to employ Z99's term). I also made an attempt to induce a less simplistic, or less *confident* epistemological stance in the dissenters by offering countering narratives to demonstrate that the unfolding AND the "explication" of human, and in the particular, American history is not so simple, not so readily characterized, nor so reducible to either excellence or perfidy.
Again, failure was the result.

6) From this, regrettably, we might conclude that as some recent pundit has advanced (paraphrase here):
"Yep, it is a Civil War - no dang use being civil about it. Give it back to 'em"

7) and in that regard, I must admit to sharing the despondency, in Tocquvillean terms - the *unquietude*, that Kevin Hardwick, a gentleman and a scholar (and a" haberdashers delight" as the old phrase goes) admits to experience as even his gentle proddings and ministrations could not engender a proper and considered response from the dissent.

8) this is truly sad. Shall we "fire from ten paces?" Is this what remains?

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gabe
on July 07, 2018 at 13:33:11 pm

I think this thread has exceeded its useful life, and agree with Pukka that it is time to move on.

Before I do, I would like to express my gratitude to the several writers who dropped in to offer affirmation.

Z9Z99 (Joe, if I recall correctly?) wrote an extremely thoughtful and useful analysis of the spirit with which people engage in argument. I found that really helpful--I have cut and pasted it into a file, as I suspect I will find it helpful to re read from time to time. Thank you.

And thanks as always to Gabe, who has been a generous correspondent for a long time now.

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Kevin Hardwick
on July 07, 2018 at 14:07:58 pm

Excellent points, well taken.

Apologies for overlooking Gabe's (and ARGUABLY a couple of others') subtle, quiet "defense" of the DOI against an ungrounded, raucous rhetorical assault by a typically- ignorant representative of the forces of identity politics. My oversight was due, perhaps, to my reading quickly a large body of material this morning when I first noted the Law & Liberty article with its numerous comments (which is what piqued my curiosity in the first place.)

But the fact remains that there really was only one spirited defense (perhaps I should say counter-attack) that was grounded in the existential political realities of our current cultural circumstances: the intellectual futility of engaging in rational debate with the modern Left and the tactical stupidity of doing so since it plays into one of their most successful strategies: divert, dilute, divide and conquer. Reflect for a moment on what happened: One commenter made an outlandish comment reiterating the Left's usual litany of baseless, anti-American, race-baiting talking points and by so doing succeeded (ironically) in derailing the debate over the DOI and identity politics and converting it, instead, into a ridiculous circular firing squad of typical "classical liberals" typically expounding on the importance of civility and rational discourse. In effect, the DOI's defenders (for the most part, Gabe clearly excepted) dropped their important task (defense of the DOI) and took up (for the most part) a frivolous argument about who was displaying good manners and who was not, one or two commenter going so far as to offer gratuitous lectures to the one commenter who was most actively waging a realistic counter-attack based on political and existential realities.

I suggest 1) that the "diversion" was a tactical goal of the "outlandish comment," 2) that the diversion tactic did in fact divide the conservative voices and 3) that most of the commenters fell into the trap and in so doing behaved in a manner that is almost identical to the typical behavior of naive establishment Republicans who are lured by the media and the Democrats into attacking Donald Trump for his alleged lack of civility, rather than attacking the Left for its fatal assault on the foundations of civility.

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timothy
on July 08, 2018 at 09:00:10 am

Will you consider posting your thoughts on exactly why you "think there is more in that remark than meets the eye at first glance"? Also anything else on John Adams' thinking on "equality".

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Latecomer
on April 18, 2019 at 13:56:26 pm

There were 12,500,000 Negro people in West Africa kidnapped and enslaved and transported to the West. Of this amount { only ] 305,000 became slaves in the North American area during the period of 1600 to 1800. [ See Transatlantic Slave data base ]

By the time of the 13th amendment the 305,000 numbered 4,000,000. Once freed the Slaves found themselves virtually in a form of incarceration --and no way ---or desire --to return home. Now there are 23,000,000 Negroes in the United States. Assimilation is difficult if not impossible.

The demands now for "Identity" by slave descendents is a logical consequence. It's all about the annoying preoccupation about race. More like an physical appendage that arose unexpectedly on the body for which no medical solution is available but only surgery can effect a permanent cure.

At the time--years 1400 to 1800---there was nothing evil, wrong, or sinful about slavery. Nothing for which America has to repent or be thought guilty. That was the way it was in those days. If we are guilty of anything it is in not importing a million more slaves. Brazil imported 2,000,000. Today, almost every one is " a person of color". Identity is not a pesky issue.

In a monocultural society identity is not a perpetually disruptive issue.

Please, don't call me names.

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Martin Kessler a Correction

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