'Shut Up, Grandpa'
Collectivists of the Washington establishment, representing both major parties, have analyzed the 2012 election results and come to a lovely conclusion: old white men are the problem. The only difference of opinion between the two factions regards how one ought to handle it.
Democrat experts declare that laughable old coots are the natural core of the Republican Party, so one need only join the cool leftist majority and leave Grandpa in his kitchen chair to mutter to himself until death shuts him up for good. Republican experts, as the reluctant stewards of these cantankerous fogies, are more circumspect: they merely want to leave Grandpa ranting in the corner with his talk radio shows, while they attend to the urgent business of selling off his prized possessions (e.g. property rights, national sovereignty).
On one side we have the Debbie Wasserman Schultz and Paul Krugman types haughtily declaring that the Democrats are the party of women and minorities, and the Republicans the party of old white men. See how colorful, female, and young we look? See how monotonously white and graying they look?
On the other side we have campaign strategist Steve Schmidt, ACU chairman Al Cardenas, and others declaring that “Rush Limbaugh’s audience” should be ignored as a bunch of old white men who (apparently for that very reason) no longer represent America. Since when is “representing America” a matter of head counts and demographics, rather than of principles? Such thinking seems reasonable only to men who have lost the forest of encroaching leftist authoritarianism for the trees of electoral victory. (See how well their Constitution Fire Sale method has worked out so far!)
This mocking, bitter dismissal of the mature white male is a nearly poetic symbol – as if we needed another one – of the degraded state of civilization. Old men – whether white, black, olive, yellow, or red – have traditionally been regarded as the sage voices in their communities with regard to matters of public policy and private virtue. Having seen more, learned from mistakes, and grown weary of youth’s careless chasing after the chimerical “new,” they have commonly been appreciated as a steady source of common sense and moral rectitude. Age may not necessarily bring genuine wisdom, but it has traditionally served an invaluable function in humanity’s natural system of checks and balances: it casts a skeptical eye upon youth’s grand designs, thus raining on the often misguided parade of “progress.”
Before anyone else raises it, let me state up front that I know, and actually agree with, the counterargument to the effect that today’s “seniors” include the very gang that delivered the world into its current catastrophe. What I disagree with is the generic follow-up to this, namely, “So why should we listen to them?”
The answer is that we should listen to those among them who, during their lifetimes, watched friends and family succumb to the dark side, but had the courage and intelligence to resist, as well as to those who once embraced the “forward”-looking project of social progress, but have since come to a reckoning about the true nature of their youthful fantasies. The first group teaches us steadfastness; the second teaches us the indispensable lessons of one who has traveled to the underworld and lived to tell about it.
A few words, then, in defence of old white men.
I have had the good fortune of making the acquaintance of many of my American readers. Most of them are in a state of disillusionment, anger, and confusion about the current state of their country, and how to proceed from here.
The most poignant cases, however, are usually found among my older friends. Many of them are men who had not necessarily conceived of themselves as freedom fighters or guardians of any flame, but who have simply come to a realization in recent years that watching their society disintegrate is not a satisfying option. Some of them openly fear for the future of their children and grandchildren. Some are disgusted that freedom’s history of bloody sacrifice – of friends, fathers, and fellow citizens – is now being so cavalierly negated by an America eagerly welcoming the very chains that ordinary men gave their lives to break just a short time ago.
Two of these friends of mine, both grandfathers, have started up a talk radio program in Minnesota. They pay for the airtime out of their own pockets and solicit public support to stay on the air. And yet their program is as engaging and informative as any of the big name syndicated shows, and their guest list reads like a who’s who of serious conservative commentary: Roger Kimball, Bill Whittle, David Horowitz, Andrew McCarthy, and on and on, all the way down to yours truly.
Then there is another man who, in his sixties, decided he had had enough of the establishment media elite selecting which news is fit to be buried. He started up his own news aggregator, highlighting conservative (not Republican) news and views. Disappointments and frustrations have forced him to rethink the content and focus of his website, but he remains determined to make a difference within the context of the new media.
One of my regular readers is a man in his late seventies who insists on addressing me as “Doctor” out of genuine, even excessive, respect for the spirit of higher education, and who has become a dear friend by engaging me in some of the most thoughtful commentaries/discussions I could ever have hoped for. He is continually recommending books for me to read, suggesting topics for me to look into, and generally enriching my thought processes with his historical perspective, stoicism, and good humor in the face of disaster.
Here is the point: all of these men, like so many thousands of others, have watched in incremental horror as, over the course of their lives, the ground has opened up and swallowed their country. They know they cannot stop it from happening, that they are each of them a whispering voice against a screaming mob. Or if any of them did not know this, they learned it once and for all on November 6, when America held its first direct referendum on freedom vs. despotism, and freedom lost.
And yet they fight on. They understand that the task may be Sisyphean, but they feel bereft of alternatives. After their lives of productive work, building and rebuilding dreams, saving for the future, and hoping to reap the benefits of responsible self-reliance and good citizenship, they now see that they must spend the rest of their days either lamenting the loss of all they had loved and depended on in their nation, or rearming themselves once more for battle, like Nestor, Agamemnon’s venerable advisor.
To a man, they know that the America of which they were proud citizens is no more. All men, as they reach the final third of life’s marathon, gradually learn how to be resilient against the repeated blows of disappointment and loss. No one, however, having once lived semi-free, or at least in a country founded on principles of freedom, should have to face the ultimate loss in his final decades: the loss of the dignity of a life lived in liberty. Yet now, that contingent of mature men who in the face of exactly such an indignity are responding with courageous engagement, resisting civilization’s decline and fighting for a future they will not inherit, are being spoken of with supreme mockery by the very villains who have robbed them of their country, and with dismissiveness by those behind whom they had reluctantly thrown their support. This is the final stage of democracy unmoored from principle and historical perspective, as predicted by all the great critics, from Plato to Tocqueville. Mindless reverence for the young, the new, the emergent, the progressive, though selling itself as a doctrine of hope and optimism, is in truth a dogma of hatred and moral indecency. Its essential message of killing the past, eschewing all tradition, and dissolving all norms – “Forward!” – betokens a barely veiled disdain for reason, restraint, and mutual respect. It is the public unleashing of feeling and whim, which in theory and in historical practice always means the same thing: tyranny, coercion, and the denial of genuine practical equality, as the tyrant (or tyrannical majority) perceives other people as mere means to the satisfaction of his (or their) desires.
The moral indecency of “progressivism” reveals its self-delusions within its euphemistic vocabulary. “Equality” means the subjugation of some to the will of others; “freedom” means license to force others to conform to your wishes; “change” means forsaking time-tested truths and hard-won victories; and “empowering minorities” means mob rule – Wasserman Schultz’s “pretty amazing” dream of a “majority minority and female” ruling class.
In policy wonk terms, this indecency expresses itself in robbing insolvent Medicare to pay for ObamaCare with its death panel – in effect moving 700 billion dollars of debt from the “treat Grandpa’s illness fund” to the “morphine and lights out fund.” It expresses itself in efforts to “reach out to growing demographic groups,” thus leaving old white men to fend for themselves. It is here that one can see most clearly that “old white men” is “code,” if you will, for people who are sticklers for the Constitution, those who are “reverent of individual liberty” and “suspicious of centralized federal authority” (to borrow the language of the Department of Homeland Security’s new domestic terror watch list) – i.e., Americans in the strictest sense of the term.
Scene from a modern family holiday gathering: the children ignore their grandfather, mock his lack of familiarity with the latest drug slang, or with cool new songs like Young Jeezy’s “How It Feel (To Be A Real N***a)” – my favorite couplet: “Woke up this mornin’ on the 26th flo’/Parlez-vous francais to my French ho” – and laugh at his hopelessly old-fashioned views on junior high school orgies. Their parents, desperate not to “alienate” their already hyper-alienated sons, or to “lose the affection” of daughters who have been borrowing money from mom to pay for birth control since they were thirteen, laugh embarrassedly along with the children. They have long since given up urging them to spend five minutes twice a year chatting with Grandpa about his interests. (“Humoring him,” they used to call it.) Besides, they actually kind of like listening to some of that hip-hop stuff in the car, and Jane’s new “boyfriend” doesn’t seem half as bad as that last one who was always making “weed” jokes.
This is the current climate in microcosm. Old white men – which is code for conservatives – are being deliberately marginalized and trivialized by all sides of the political and cultural establishment. Even if you are a woman, a young person, or a “visible minority,” you are, in today’s political parlance, an “old white man” if you believe in natural rights, private property, and individual liberty. The rhetorical effort here is to dissuade anyone from siding with conservatism, which, according to this vernacular, is the politics of the past – antiquated, embarrassing, a little laughable.
I am only 45 years old, but I have known at least since I was 25 that progressivism, from its practical policies to its underlying assumptions about history and culture, is, to use the objective, scholarly language of the theoretical realm, a crock. That is to say, I have been an old white man since I was a young white man. A quick perusal of today’s conservative scene reveals that a few of the oldest, whitest men are in fact old black men (e.g., Clarence Thomas, Thomas Sowell, Walter Williams). Many old white men these days are women, of course, and many of them are not even old.
But even accepting the Washington establishment’s new, post-modern definition of the term, it is undeniable that we old white men are in the minority worldwide. Having so marginalized us at last, the young, female, minority majority is eager to mock and ridicule us, to break our will, to push us into giving up. If they get their way, we old white men will die alone and cold, in a house stripped of all its valuables, as they divvy up the loot, conscience-free, hardly realizing or caring what a waste they have made of good men’s legacies.
But history and reason will not be denied. Ridicule, loot, and euthanize the “old white men” at your peril. The progressive path blazed by the leading lights of today’s youthful, female, minority majority – George Soros, Andy Stern, Bill Ayers, Al Gore, Harry Reid – not to mention the fresh young minority girls who made it all possible – Marx, Lenin, Dewey, Marcuse, et al – will indeed lead America to fundamental transformation. America, when all is said and done (that is, very soon), will have been transformed, by design, from a grand old family home with portraits of its forefathers hung reverently in the stairwell, into that cold, cobwebbed, dilapidated fixer-upper that no one in his right mind would buy – except for the land.
There will be plenty of bargain hunters vying for the land. The “land of the free” is being transformed into “Land – almost free!” The heirs to this transformed future may not like the new landlords very much. For as Plato and Tocqueville taught, the next stage is tyranny.
(This article originally appeared at American Thinker.)