Me Talk Progressive One Day: A Values Proposition
George Bernard Shaw famously noted that Britain and America were two nations “separated by a common language”.
As 2018 ends, the remark aptly describes where Americans stand in their own nation. While the Trump presidency has highlighted the schism within the United States, it’s a actually a continuation of a process begun with the election of Barack Obama in 2008.
Till that time American culture was predicated on the notion of character. People were judged by their deeds, their generosity, their sacrifice. JFK summed up the Horatio Alger spirit woven into the fabric of the common values when he challenged Americans in his Inaugural Address in 1961. “Ask not what your country can do for you. Ask what you can do for your country”.
But by the time of Obama’s inauguration, a new concept was in the land. Identity, not individuality. Driven by the Neo Marxists in the colleges, culture industry and, increasingly, the bureaucracy of government, a different value set has taken hold. It no longer was the duty of citizens to achieve and aspire. As Obama explained it in 2012, individuals were now subordinated to the mass.
“There is nobody in this country who got rich on his own — nobody. You built a factory out there? Good for you. But I want to be clear. You moved your goods to market on the roads the rest of us paid for. You hired workers the rest of us paid to educate. You were safe in your factory because of police-forces and fire-forces that the rest of us paid for… part of the underlying social contract is, you take a hunk of that and pay forward for the next kid who comes along.”
(Obama neglected to mention that the infrastructure of which he speaks so glowingly is the taxes collected from the factory owner or small business in the first place. Can you say Soviet industry?)
No matter. The diminution of self determination in the Obama doctrine has been extended by something new: the class consciousness of the state and the #metoo social warriors.
New metrics are applied. Racism, sexism, Islamophobia, cultural appropriation, homophobia, transgender bias, white privilege are the new value judgement for a generation. Cultural guilt is the coin of the realm. Abnegation. Surrender. They frame a new language adopted by everyone from SNL to the Supreme Court. As the Kavanugh confirmation hearing amply demonstrated, this new tongue is a cudgel to intimidate and crush opponents.
Trump’s greatest sin in the eyes of these arbiters of speech is refusing to talk progressive. In his refusal to abandon the JFK standard, he does not judge in terms of race or gender or culture. He refuses the collective. He thinks in terms of individual character. Guts, courage, determination, nerve, persistence. (It’s why he took such short measure of Justin Trudeau.) He will not talk pretty like them.
And it’s his refusal to knuckle under to the new language that so infuriates his critics. It’s the same defiance that drives the critics of clinical psychologist Jordan B. Peterson, whose 12 Lessons For Life has attacked the social critics beloved by Hollywood and Washington DC. He simply won’t succumb to the intimidation of speech that now divides western cultures.
The new speech arbiters make themselves out as sensitive, compassionate, decent. (In this Trump’s human failings are a goldmine.) But as Peterson reminds us, those who refuse to go along with these preening scolds will not receive sensitivity or compassion in return. Obedience is mandated, not requested.
As I described in this April 18 column A Stalin Comedy: How Totalitarians Corrupt Language And Torture Free Speech, the product of such ordered societies was scathingly lampooned in the 2018 film, The Death of Stalin. In the omnipotent state the characters “understand that honesty is one-way trip to the Gulag or two behind the ear. The evil triumph of Soviet communism was having people intimidated into voicing opinions they knew to be untrue. Molotov’s bitter denunciation of his wife, even as she is then restored to him from the Gulag, captures this pathos.
Watching the thugs desperately parsing their lies lest an unconscious Stalin revive to find them holding counter-revolutionary thoughts is the bleakest of comic gold. But The Death of Stalin is more than historical farce. It’s a reminder that the first step in the totalitarian playbook is corruption of language and thought, the willing suspension of free speech in service of group think.
It’s also a timely reminder that, even Stalin and his successors continued the unspeakable crimes catalogued by Solzhenitsyn, there was an army of useful idiots in the American cultural industry who denied the reality of the USSR and Mao’s China. Pete Seeger, Paul Robeson, Woody Guthrie and a host of others were still denying the realities on the ground in the USSR as Stalin, Kruschev and Brezhnev murdered or imprisoned millions.
Famously, Bernie Sanders, the avuncular avatar of new socialism, was honeymooning in Moscow in 1968, even as Soviet tanks rolled into Czechoslovakia.”
In 2019, Sanders and the new Democrat majority in the House of Representatives has set as their singular goal the silencing of Trump, the man whose 2016 election humiliated them. They will use the tools of culture and scorn to investigate or even impeach him. Their brutal efficiency will be cloaked in their decency, their moral superiority.
But scan the rhetoric of Maxine Watters, Maizie Hirono or Kamala Harris. Imagine them portrayed in The Death of Stalin. Now tell us why that’s an absurd proposal.
Bruce Dowbiggin @dowbboy is the publisher of his website Not The Public Broadcaster (http://www.notthepublicbroadcaster.com). He’s also a regular contributor to Sirius XM Canada Talks Ch. 167. A two-time winner of the Gemini Award as Canada's top television sports broadcaster, he is also a best-selling author whose new book Cap In Hand: How Salary Caps Are Killing Pro Sports And Why The Free Market Could Save Them is now available.