Free Markets, Free People
As most of you know, I served on active duty as a USAF Security Policeman from 1984-1993. Three of those years were spent in Brunssum, The Netherlands, working on the International Military Police force at Headquarters, Allied Forces Central Europe (AFCENT, now known as AFNORTH). I noticed an interesting phenomenon while I was there. As any policeman know, sometimes, you have some unpleasant interactions with members of the community you serve. In general, those actions end up with you forcing that person to do something the really do not want to do.
In my experience, this type of unpleasantness usually occurred when dealing with a German, or an American. But there was something interesting about the outcome. When you forced a German to do something, every time they saw you after that, they would approach with a smile, “Hello, my friend! How are you?” It was almost as if they’d discovered during the confrontation where they stood in the pecking order related to you, and henceforth treated you with respect and friendliness.
Americans, on the other hand, didn’t react that way. Once a confrontation had gone against them, then every time they saw you after that, they’d shoot angry glares at you. Maybe they’d remark to a friend, “See that MP over there? He’s a dick.” Once you’d had that confrontation with an American, you were never going to be friends.
Frankly, Americans resent authority. We accept some measure of it as a necessary evil most times, but there are limits. We can be pushed, often quite far, but when we reach a certain tipping point, enmity quickly flares. We can have quite heated arguments as equals, then knock off and have a drink. But once we have a heated argument, then are forced to do something we don’t want to do…well, we don’t like it.
That piece of our national character is being tried this month.
Over the past couple of days, we’ve seen arguments about national health care erupt into incidents of local violence. Yes, we yelled at each other bit back in 2005 or so, when Social Security reform was on the table. But now we’re seeing thugs in SEIU T-shirts showing up and throwing punches at people who are gathered to demonstrate against the current version of health care reform. We’ve seen a local Democratic Party apparatchik shove a demonstrator in the face. Billy Beck has often said it, and now he’s saying it again: “You have always heard it here first: All politics in this country now is just dress rehearsal for civil war.”
At this rate, I’m afraid that it’s going to become painfully obvious that a large number of people in this country are not going to politely doff their caps to the local SEIU grandees, once they’ve learned their lessons like good Germans. Quite the reverse, in fact.
I’ve also said before–and every time I do, people like Oliver Willis call me crazy for saying it–we’re preparing this country to split apart. There are two political camps in this country: collectivists, and and indvidualists. (Forget party labels. The parties are, at best, loose approximations of those two camps.) It’s a fairly even split between the two camps. And the fundamental philosophies of those two camps have become irreconcilable, for a number of reasons, but primarily as a result of centralization of power in Washington.
Of course, the two philosophies have always been incompatible, but in a more federated America, the incompatibility didn’t matter as much. People in Wisconsin could be as progressive as possible, and no one in New Mexico cared much. And if people in Wisconsin or New Mexico didn’t like the local political climate, they could just move to somewhere whe the climate was more to their liking. But with the arrogation of so much power by Washington, that’s no longer an option. In a federal system, nobody in Texas much cares if some yankees in a state far away set up The People’s Autonomous Oblast of Massachussets. But if Bostonians think that some Alabama ‘seed in Washington is gonna force them to dance while handling snakes and speaking in tongues…well, you can’t square that circle.
Unfortunately, if the solons in Washington declare we must do X, there’s no way to escape the consequences of that decision. And so, every political decision is now fraught with national, rather than local consequences. As a result, the incompatibility between collectivists and individualists is reaching a boiling point. The centralization of power in Washington, and the nationalization of practically every domestic issue, has done nothing but poison our politics, and degraded our political discourse.
This has happened once before in American history. Between the founding of the country and the 1850s, Slavery moved from an issue of local sovereignty to a national moral issue. And as abolitionists gained power in both the house–and especially the Senate–it became clear to the Southern states that the abolition of slavery by Congress was inevitable. Once that happened, given the temper of the times, secession was inevitable as well.
Whether the Civil War was inevitable is a matter of debate. I tend to think that the peculiar character of Lincoln made it so. Given a different president, we might have two very different nations–and probably more, in what is now the United States.
By the same token, I don’t believe we are in for a shooting war between the Red and Blue states. Quite apart from the fact that people in the red states tend to be the people with all the guns, there seems to be a declining interest in both Red and Blue states to live under the same political regime. Blue staters are increasingly uninterested in delaying their march to Utopia by having to make concessions to Bible-thumping, gay-hating hayseeds, and Red staters are not willing to live in a Peasants’ and Workers’ Paradise run by Godless, unborn-baby-killing Commies.
We’re already struggling with the nearly impossible political task of how to reconcile two irreconcilable philosophies under a powerful central government. Having union thugs show up and deliver beatings and intimidation is only going to raise the anger level among Americans who feel they are being forced to do something they don’t want to do, increase their resentment, and push the country closer to dissolution.
And this won’t be a case like 1860, where 70% of the country successfully forced their will on the remaining 30%. We’ve got a nearly even 50-50 split between those two philosophies now. We’re too evenly divided to make force an easy, or even viable option. If things keep going in this direction, then I think we’re on the way to divorce court, where we’ll be citing “irreconcilable differences”.
The left has a very short and convenient memory – it apparently begins at January 20th, 2009 and has no memory of , say, 2005. And the left now thinks that what his happening with these townhall meetings is simply unprecedented and a new, low chapter in right-wing extremism.
But as Jon Henke reminds us, this is nothing new:
* NW Progressive Institute, March 2005: “a boisterous crowd which frequently interrupted the discussion with shouts and hard nosed questions. … Democrats in the audience who were interrupting the panel…. the crowd erupted in anger… Democrats in the audience started shouting him down again.”
* Savannah Morning News, March 2005: “By now, Jack Kingston is used to shouted questions, interruptions and boos. Republican congressmen expect such responses these days when they meet with constituents about President Bush’s proposal to overhaul Social Security.”
* USA Today, March 2005: “Shaken by raucous protests at open “town hall”-style meetings last month … Santorum was among dozens of members of Congress who ran gantlets of demonstrators and shouted over hecklers at Social Security events last month. Many who showed up to protest were alerted by e-mails and bused in by anti-Bush organizations such as MoveOn.org and USAction, a liberal advocacy group. They came with prepared questions and instructions on how to confront lawmakers.”
You must understand that when Democrats did it in 2005, it was political dissent. Now that the right is engaged in the same sort of behavior, it is “political terrorism”.
They really don’t like it when their own tactics are used against them, do they?
Irony, as we’ve all learned, is not something with which the left is well attuned.
For instance, until the Obama administration unleashed the unions, the townhall meetings were a little raucous, but not violent.
But now that the White House has all but explicitly condoned the demonization and thus the marginalization of those who disagree with his attempt to “reform” health care, and further called on the unions to send in paid operatives to “punch back”, we have violence.
The irony? This, from Dennis Rivera, health care chairman of the SEIU after six of his goons had assaulted a protester in St. Louis:
“These are the times to clearly speak out in a civilized way, and tell them we won’t be prevented by these terrorist tactics from participating in these town hall meetings,”
Always nice to know how the opposition defines “civilized way” isn’t it?
Yup, raising your voice in a townhall meeting and not just shutting up and listening to the nonsense the man or woman (does anyone understand what the word “representative” means?) who works for you is spouting is now a “terroist tactic” according to the SEIU.
Solution – assault people in a ‘civilized way’, bar those who disagree with the administration from a place in the meeting while packing it with handpicked union members and call it a “townhall”.
Pure, unadulterated cowardice on parade is what it is. Apparently the Dems are not only unaware of the irony of the situation, but also unfamiliar with the first law of holes. And trust me, they are digging a deep one with their present behavior.
UPDATE: What are union members from Chicago doing at a St. Louis townhall meeting?
We had a server problem which caused us to be down for a few hours and you to get the message “Bad Domain Name”. Naturally when something like that happens we have no way of letting you know what the problem is. The good news is, we’re back. Sorry for the inconvenience but, as we all know, life happens.
Peggy Noonan, in her WSJ piece today, said this:
We have entered uncharted territory in the fight over national health care. There’s a new tone in the debate, and it’s ugly. At the moment the Democrats are looking like something they haven’t looked like in years, and that is: desperate.
If you’re wondering what that desperation looks like, Steve Pearlstein of the Washington Post provides the example:
The recent attacks by Republican leaders and their ideological fellow-travelers on the effort to reform the health-care system have been so misleading, so disingenuous, that they could only spring from a cynical effort to gain partisan political advantage. By poisoning the political well, they’ve given up any pretense of being the loyal opposition. They’ve become political terrorists, willing to say or do anything to prevent the country from reaching a consensus on one of its most serious domestic problems.
Of course there’s no mention of the multitude of lies propagated by those pushing this legislation – like taxes won’t go up, like the public option won’t eventually drive private insurance out of the market, or like Obama’s promise about keeping your doctor and your insurance aren’t reflected in the current version of the legislation.
Nope, those who oppose it and actually try to bring these things to light are now “political terrorists”.
That is so over the top that it is hard to find the proper words to reflect my indignation. Dissent is now political “terrorism”. Again the desperate left shows it is immune to irony and completely blind to its own hypocrisy.
But it should come as no surprise that an ideology which is, at base an authoritarian one would want you to just shut up and let their elite decide what is good for you. Here are couple of vids to show you who the “political terrorists” are and what they’re thinking:
Democrats are playing a very, very dangerous game with all of this. If they continue to try to squelch dissent and mischaracterize the citizenry as it tries to express its views in opposition to what they’re doing, 2010 will be a bloodbath for them.
They need to realize that they’ve totally misread the tea leaves of the election and this is obviously not what the American people want. If they ram it through despite what polls tell us is majority opposition to this legislation, they may very well see a completely different Congress in a year.
Unsurprisingly, it wasn’t an “extreme right-wing mobster” doing the attacking. The scene was a townhall meeting in St. Louis, MO. The report is from the St. Louis Dispatch:
Kenneth Gladney, 38, a conservative activist from St. Louis, said he was attacked by some of those arrested as he handed out yellow flags with “Don’t tread on me” printed on them. He spoke to the Post-Dispatch from the emergency room at St. John’s Mercy Medical Center, where he said he was awaiting treatment for injuries to his knee, back, elbow, shoulder and face. Gladney, who is black, said one of his attackers, also a black man, used a racial slur against him before the attack.
“It just seems there’s no freedom of speech without being attacked,” he said.
So now we have violence introduced into these meetings where none existed previously.
And what’s been the only change?
The mobilization of unions to counter the protesters from the right.
Yeah, nothing can go wrong with that plan, can it?
UPDATE: Video of the attack.
Listen at about the 1:00 mark when one of the thugs that attacked him claims that Gladney “attacked America”. Also note that the black guy who runs away in the beginning is wearing a union tee-shirt as is the guy who is eventually arrested.